What is leadership?
How can leadership qualities be promoted?
How does a bad leadership experience impact a workplace culture?
Real-life leaders in the 20th century
Influential Leaders in Modern Times
Servant Leadership and Youth Programs
The Qualities That Define a Good Leader
A. Defining Leadership
B. What is Leadership?
C. About Leadership: Boldness and Good Judgment
D. Effective Leaders
F. Starting Early: Youth Leadership
H. What Does Leadership Mean to Me?
I. What Does Leadership Mean to You?
J. Personal Leadership Philosophy
Title: Effective Leadership Skills and How to Acquire Them
Essay Hook = This essay describes the meaning of leadership and defines the characteristics and qualities of effective leaders. It discusses the manner in which leadership skills can be developed and assesses the importance of leadership in organizations seeking to achieve specific aims. Leadership styles, such as servant leadership and transformational leadership, are analyzed and qualities such as boldness, good judgment and emotional intelligence are examined to show how they support effective leadership. The paper concludes with a discussion of what leadership means to different people and how leadership styles can reflect an individual’s own subjective take on leadership and how it should be demonstrated.
As Schyns and Schilling (2013) show, organizations thrive on effective leadership and suffer in numerous ways from bad leadership. Leaders are responsible for projecting the vision and values of an organization and for making decisions based on good judgment that will ultimately benefit all stakeholders in the long run. While there are many styles of leadership—from transformational leadership to democratic leadership to servant leadership—there are certain characteristics that are common among all effective leaders.
This paper will examine leadership characteristics and show how they can be developed in tomorrow’s leaders.
What is Leadership? A Leadership Definition
Leadership is defined as the ability to “empower followers” (Conger 17) through guidance, example, and encouragement. Leaders vary in terms of style: some are bold and transform their followers by instilling in them a vision of what they can achieve and how to achieve it. Other leaders are humble and inspire their followers by serving them, identifying their needs and ensuring that those needs are fulfilled. In either case, the objective is the same: leaders seek to motivate their followers to reach their maximum potential. A leader is one whose primary concern is with the positive and progressive direction of the organization of which he is a part: his concern is not with his own standing or achievements but rather with the success of those around him. If a leader is not focused on helping his followers succeed, then he is more likely to be a destructive leader than a constructive and effective leader.
Leadership is not a new idea. Civilizations throughout all history have recognized leaders and celebrated good leadership in a variety of forms. Generals like Julius Caesar, statesman like Solon and Pericles, artists like Wagner and Shakespeare, religious men like Augustine, philosophers like Socrates, social justice advocates like Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr.—all of them have been lauded as possessing the qualities and characteristics of leadership. What is it that sets them apart? The “Great Man” thesis posited that leaders are born—yet as ideas of leadership have evolved over the centuries (especially in the modern era), new theories have formed that raise new questions about leadership and shed light on new aspects of leadership development. For example, many researchers are now focusing on how leadership skills can be promoted among adolescents (Morton & Montgomery, 2013; Larson & Tran, 2014; Marshall, Parker, Ciarrochi & Heaven, 2014). Their studies indicate that leadership youth programs can be helpful in providing adolescents the tools and experiences they will need in order to develop leadership traits. These same studies have shown that family stability and self-esteem also play a large role in helping young people to grow leadership qualities, such as emotional intelligence, good judgment, boldness and creativity. At the same time, not everyone possesses the same congenital gifts and talents, and some individuals are more predisposed to embracing leadership positions than others. Thus, even though research shows that leadership styles, skills, and characteristics can be learned, evidence still exists that some leaders are born with a natural talent for leadership.
About Leadership: Boldness and Good Judgment
Leaders can perform a number of services for organizations, groups, firms and followers. Some of what they are expected to do regardless of the environment or context of their role consists of the following criteria, as noted by Zenger and Folkman (2015): Leaders should:
These seven characteristics help to define the concept of the leader. At the heart of this concept are the elements of boldness and good judgment. Together, these elements help support a leader’s character and ability to execute the other aspects of leadership. Boldness helps a leader to challenge the status quo, to turn standard operating procedure on its head and look for new and innovative processes that can more effectively achieve organizational aims. Boldness helps a leader to be creative, to think outside the box, to collaborate with others and imagine possible solutions to problems. Boldness helps a leader to achieve success, to keep driving towards the goal despite setbacks and obstacles. Boldness inspires perseverance, dedication, commitment and creativity in others. It energizes a group of followers, who can draw emotional, intellectual and social support from a positive leader who is willing to give feedback, advice, guidance and assistance whenever necessary—but who is also willing to listen, include, consider, and reflect.
These latter qualities are part of the good judgment side of an effective leader. Good judgment stems from one who is reflective, who is thoughtful about what goes on around him, who considers the viewpoint of others, including all stakeholders, and who listens so as to better understand the facts. Good judgment helps a leader to make an accurate assessment of a situation, to gather all the relevant information and data, and to read the layout. Good judgment enables a leader to then decide on the right course of action, to try a procedure that makes the most sense given the information presented. Together, boldness and good judgment form the heart of good and effective leadership.
Figure 2. Bold leadership
Effective leaders are ones who can harness the skills and abilities they possess in order to marshal their followers towards the achievement of the organizational goal. The goal should be defined by the leader for the followers, with a vision of the process by which the goal may be achieved clearly provided to the followers so that they have a concrete picture of what is expected of them. For a leader to be followed, he must be clear, concise and comprehensive.
A leader must also be one who is trusted by his followers. This means a leader should possess qualities that support trust in a relationship—such as honesty, integrity and transparency. A leader should have the ability to communicate well with others: his body language should be expressive of confidence but also of empathy and interest in what his followers are doing. Empathy is a major part of emotional intelligence, which has been shown to play a fundamental role in effective leadership (Sanders, 2006; Cacamis & El Asmar, 2014). Emotional intelligence is the tool whereby an individual is able to read another person’s emotional output and respond with the appropriate words, gestures, expressions or ideas that help to support, stabilize, and develop the other person’s emotional state. Empathy enables an individual to put himself into another person’s shoes, so to speak—to see the world through that person’s eyes and obtain a feeling for what that person is likely experiencing at the moment. In nursing, empathy is important in providing optimal quality care. In management, empathy is important because workers need to know that they are appreciated, respected, supported, and understood—otherwise conditions for resentment, ill will, and neglect can be fostered. A leader who demonstrates emotional intelligence is a leader who will work to create positive organizational culture that is based on mutual respect, appreciation, and consideration.
Styles of Leadership: Servant Leadership and Transformational Leadership
Servant leadership is a style of leadership that enables a leader to put the needs of followers before his. The concept of servant leadership may seem incongruous at first (how can a leader be a servant?) but it is actually reflective of the fundamental reality of what it takes to be an effective leader: a leader truly must serve—either a higher vision or purpose (such as an organizational aim) or the needs of his followers (i.e., the leader helps the followers by supporting them as they develop their own skills and grow into the type of worker that will achieve goals and overcome obstacles). As Hunter, Neubert, Perry et al. (2013) note, a servant leader is one who acts as a role model, who inspires by his humble example, and whose agreeableness allows him to help others and serve them by fulfilling whatever needs they may have, whether personal or work-related. The servant leader is one who demonstrates true and observable care and concern for his employees or followers and whose main concern is to make sure that they have everything they need to get the job done. A servant leader dedicates himself to his followers and leads essentially from behind, and Jesus Christ is often identified as a prototypical example of the servant leader.
Transformational leadership is a style of leadership that focuses on leading from the front: the leader targets specific developmental goals for his workers and trains them in the method and manner of growth by which those goals may be achieved. The transformational leader, like the servant leader, is focused on building followers into highly effective and self-sufficient workers—but the approach is oriented more towards setting goals and then giving followers the tools needed to achieve the objectives. Emotional intelligence is particularly important for transformational leaders because it provides the leader with a sense of how to communicate most effectively to his followers in order to elicit the necessary responses. An example of a transformational leader in the 20th century is General George S. Patton, whose methods of inspiring and motivating his soldiers to achieve objectives were rooted in the transformational style of leadership—i.e., identifying clearly obtainable goals and then motivating and training individuals to achieve their objectives.
Confrontational leadership is another leadership style that has been used by leaders in the past. One of the most notable examples of a confrontational leader is Malcolm X, who took up the issue of social justice and confronted numerous authority figures around the nation as he sought to establish principles of truth and justice among his followers. Eubanks, Antes, Friedrich et al. (2010) define the confrontational style of leadership as one in which the leader puts forward a policy and challenges others to conform to it. This type of leadership is very bold and is only supported so long as the policy put forward by the leader is based in good and true principles.
Starting Early: Youth Leadership
Recent research has uncovered a need for organizations to develop “effective leaders and leadership behavior” (Day, Fleenor, Atwater, Sturm & McKee, 2014, p. 63). The development of leadership behaviors is something that organizations are finding is necessary in the 21st century because many firms, groups, and businesses require a firm hand at the helm in order to steer the many parts of the ship. Without the necessary leadership characteristics firmly possessed, the individual tasked with leading his followers will be ill-equipped to provide any actual help. He will, in short, be a bad leader whose effect is corrosive on the organization (Schyns & Schilling, 2013). To prevent a negative influence on a company’s culture, businesses see the need to develop leadership skills in individuals.
Youths are receiving more and more attention as discussion grows of where tomorrow’s leaders will come from. Training young people to embrace the challenges, responsibilities, duties, and ethics of effective leadership is now seen as an essential part of the overall grooming of the next generation of leaders.
Leadership for Students
Students can develop leadership skills by applying to and taking part in youth programs that focus on acquiring leadership techniques, ideas, and qualities. These programs are often spearheaded by organizations, after-school program administrators, church groups, organizational development teams, clubs, and other activities-related enterprises. Students can participate in these programs beginning at a very early age: Boy Scouts of America, for instance, teaches leadership skills to children and educates and trains them well into adolescence. Students can also grow their leadership skills in school by taking part in student government and other extra-curricular activities, such as athletics, drama, music, debate, etc. The research indicates that students are open to new experiences because they are defining their own identity and their own principles as they mature and apply themselves to the real world (Larson & Tran, 2014). There is, however, a great deal of complexity involved in the development of leadership skills in youths, and much of that complexity stems from the social system in which a youth is situated: factors such as family life and structure, education, personal ideals, personal traits, and behavioral and mental health all play a part in the extent to which leadership skills are acquired in adolescence.
What Does Leadership Mean to Me?
For many people, leadership is something that they define for themselves based on their own experiences. They see examples of leadership everywhere—in school, in films, in politics, in their families, in society, in sports, in their churches, etc. Their sense of what it means to be an effective leader is formed in part by the leaders they come into contact with and in part by the principles that are instilled in them as they mature. Thus, while theories of leadership and leadership styles may provide some guidance in how we think about leadership, the reality is that many people view leadership uniquely and compose a picture of a good leader that is based on several different reference points that are unique to their own experience.
For me, my sense of leadership is based on the principles that I have taken to heart over the years and the examples of leadership that I have seen from individuals I admire. In many cases, the best examples of leadership I have received have come from my own mother and father. They have demonstrated numerous times how to lead, guide, instruct, assist, teach, inspire, motivate, and nurture and I feel that I would not be the person I am today without them. Their leadership has given me important values and taught me to set goals for myself so that my life has direction, purpose and meaning.
What Does Leadership Mean to You?
Not everyone, however, will use my example of effective leaders to define their own concept of leadership. Some will turn to characters in books or in films; others will look to real life—to popular figures in the public realm who have demonstrated leadership abilities that can be emulated by others. Leadership does not have to mean or be the same thing for all people. What matters most is that we think about leading, think about what would effectively help others, what would induce a positive change or support in the lives of others, and then take the ideas obtained through that reflection and apply them in practice. This is ultimately all it takes to be a leader—to be thoughtful, mindful of others, thankful for one’s abilities, and desirous of seeing everyone obtain a good goal in the future. Even if one does not take on a leadership role in an organization, at some point everyone is responsible for leading their own lives. The responsibility inherent in leading one’s life is truly no different from the responsibility inherent in the leading of a company: in order to achieve positive returns, one has to invest in oneself and in one’s peers or community.
Defining experiences will come to individuals over time and help them to refine the way in which they view themselves and the world around them. The key to growth is to continue aspiring to learn. In many industries, the concept of continuing education is important because it enables one to stay abreast of what is happening in the industry and how members of that industry can apply those lessons. In nursing, for example, nurse practitioners promote the concept of continuing education because it helps them to provide the latest in critical and quality care to patients. In real estate, agents are expected to complete so many hours of continuing education every year so that they stay abreast of the ethical, practical and legal requirements of their profession. For anyone in any walk of life, continuing education is a way to maintain a posture of integrity. This integrity can serve to cultivate an awareness of how integrated and interconnected all of life is, and how much the various elements of society depend upon one another. Stakeholders in communities, schools, businesses and organizations all play a part, either directly or indirectly, in the growth and movement of the individual members of these groups. Therefore, an individual who is open and awake to the way in which people impact one another is already capable of leading. Leading is about being aware, and building on that awareness will be the fruits of experience. These experiences will define for you, just as they do for all people, what it means to be a leader and how you can best effect leadership in your own surroundings.
Personal Leadership Philosophy
My personal leadership philosophy is based on the principles of servant leadership: I believe that in order to lead one should be able to set the right example for others. A leader must, therefore, possess the attributes that he expects and desires of others. A leader should also be willing to devote himself to his followers so that they can obtain their goals. Servant leadership places the leader at the service of his followers and promotes empathy, selflessness and devotion, which are characteristics of leadership that I find admirable.
One’s personal leadership philosophy does not have to conform to another’s principles but rather should be an extension of the values that the individual himself holds dear and attempts to uphold in his own life. A personal leadership philosophy is much like a manifesto that helps characterize an individual and show others what it is important to them. An organization will typically consider a person’s leadership philosophy and how well it fits with its own culture before hiring the individual. And just because one’s personal leadership philosophy does not fit well with one organization does not mean that the individual will not be better suited with another group. Indeed, there are many different organizations around that world that have many differing views on leadership and values. As one grows and comes into contact with these different groups, he can decide upon a course of action that will place him with a firm that values and upholds the principles and ideas he himself deems important.
Defining one’s values is a major step in becoming a true leader, as everything that one does will stem from the principles that serve as an individual’s moral and behavioral foundations. A person who has defined his values for himself cannot be a leader of others, because he will not have a sense of what it means to be committed to an ideal, a principle, or an objective. Definition is critically important to organizational success and thus crucially important to leadership. A leader must be able to define both for himself and for his followers the values of the organization.
In conclusion, leadership is an integral part of human life. Leaders are evident in families, in schools, in workplaces, in churches, in social groups, and in one’s own life. Indeed, everyone must be a leader of his own life as he matures into an adult and makes decisions for himself. What makes a person successful in this regard is his ability to Challenge create, achieve, inspire, energize, assess and ultimately decide what is best for both himself and for his followers if he is in a position to have them.
Leaders must be bold but they must also have good judgment. They must be able to communicate effectively and they must be capable of empathy. They must demonstrate emotional intelligence skills and be reflective so that they can consider multiple points of view and see how both they and their followers can benefit from objective criticism. Leaders must be focused on growth according to principles that inspire and motivate others to achieve clearly defined aims and objectives. For these reasons, leaders are essential to organizations and can help to transform an organizational culture that is depressed and dysfunctional into one that is positive, rewarding, inclusive, and successful.
Leadership skills can be developed from an early age and are impacted both by natural talents and abilities and by personal experiences. Schools and youth programs can help train children and adolescents in acquiring leadership skills. Families and peers offer a social structure in which youth can practice and demonstrate leadership qualities and grow into a responsible adult capable of gathering information and making a good judgment.
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I consider myself a democratic leader because I am relationship- and people-oriented. I believe that policies and decisions made in a group setting are best for all involved. Democratic leaders emphasize theme work and are willing to share responsibilities. I like to lead through cooperation, not by bossing around others. This means that I would seek to promote policies through group discussion, and place strong emphasis on teamwork. I believe that an effective manager not only encourages, but listens to input of the workers; an effective manager not only instructs the worker, but shows how the instruction should be carried out; the effective manager eliminates inspectors, and instead teaches the worker the value of doing their own inspection, fostering their own self-worth on the job and their part in making the company works. Effective leadership thus enhances job satisfaction, efficiency and work production (Huber, 2006).
I believe that I would be a good leader because I believe that all effective leaders recognize that their power to achieve organizational objectives comes from having a motived workforce who shares in the organization’s vision. In addition to my ability to establish clear visions and identifies ways to achieve goals, I am a people-oriented individual who believe that people perform at their best when the work that they do enables them to achieve their highest potentials both as human beings and as employees. This means that I do not take an authoritative approach to leading. Rather, I believe in empowering every employee. For these reasons my leadership style is best reflected in the transformational model of leadership. By definition, a transformation leader is a “leader who motivates followers to perform to their full potential over time by influencing a change in perceptions and by providing a sense of direction. Transformational leaders use charisma, individualized consideration, and intellectual stimulation to produce greater effort, effectiveness and satisfaction in followers” (Huber, 2006, p.19).
According to Robins and Davidhizar (2007), health care organizations need to constantly evaluate individual nurse managers to promote transformational leadership qualities because positive transformational changes in nursing produce a beneficial trickle-down-effect health care delivery. Huber (2006) indicates that the transformational leadership concept is vital to the nursing practice because it promotes the development of a culture of excellence and that organizations with transformation leaders have traits such as “pride and satisfaction in the work, enthusiasm, team spirit, a sense of accomplishment, and satisfaction” (p.21). McGoldrick, Menschner and Pollock (2001) state that transformative learning helps nurses to change the way they think about themselves from a professional standpoint because transformative learning aims to refrain the thinking of the individual to self-reflection.
Robins and Davidhizar (2007) found, for example, that employees who work with managers who lead in a positive and encouraging manner become more contented and satisfied with positions, which translates into increased patient satisfaction. This is due largely to the four main activities in which the transformational leader engage: establishing a vision, providing meaning for employees through the building of a social architecture, maintaining organizational trust and placing emphasis on the importance of building employee self-esteem (Huber, 2006).
Assessing My Decision-Making and Problem-Solving Style
Problem-solving/decision-making is a very important aspect of the leadership process. Sullivan and Decker (2005) point out that leaders must be able to use critical thinking skills effectively when making decisions or attempting to solve problems. This means, being able to make assumptions, interpret and evaluate data, explore alternatives, identify information, and analyze and question implications for each solution. When I am faced with a problem, I have a tendency to make decision based on my intuition and experience. For example, if I had a patient who was agitated and my care plan is not meeting the needs of the patient, I would be tempted to solve the problem by asking for help from a supervisor or a coworker. In some cases, I would also rely on past experiences and try methods that I have used with other patients. On one occasion I had a patient who had a pressure ulcer and complained a lot about lying on her side.
However, I could not allow the patient to lay on her back because it would make her condition worse. To solve this problem, I tried other methods such as distracting her through the television, talking, use a pillow or reading a story to get her to minimize and not focus on the discomfort. In some cases, I also engage in trial-and-error for some patients for whom the normal care procedure may be insufficient in achieving desired results. However, I also used an organized method to solve problems that do not require immediate action. For example, if I am having problems with a co-worker, I would define the problem, identify the source of the problem, and then choose a number of solutions that would best address the problem. For each solution, I would also assess the alternatives, the advantages/disadvantages of each solution and their short-term and long-term implications.
Assessing My Ability to Set Priorities
Setting priority is an important facet of everyday life, whether dealing with families, work or play. I believe that I am proficient in setting priorities because I set priorities based on whether the decisions I make will achieve the intended goals. For example, during my college years, I decided that it was crucial for me to work while attending school. While my larger goal is to earn a degree so that I can achieve upward mobility, my number one priority is to be efficient on the job and fulfil my work responsibilities. This means that if my school schedule should conflict with my job responsibilities, I would rather make the necessary change to my school schedule. This is because school is a long-term goal whereas my current employment facilitates that long-term goal by providing me with an income as well as experience that would enhance my future endeavors.
Thus, one way that I set priorities is based on the importance of activities, tasks or responsibilities. I also set priorities based on the time-sensitiveness of the task. Because I set priorities based on the utility of the task, action or event to my short-term and long-term goals, I tend to rely more on strategy than on emotions when prioritizing. However, I am able to modify my plans based on extenuating circumstances. Refining a plan, for example, may become necessary when an earlier plan does not go as intended. I am therefore open to reassessing my plans and making revisions to make them more effective and goal-oriented.
Assessing My Delegation Skills
Sullivan and Decker (2005) define delegation as a “process by which responsibility and authority for performing a task (function, activity, or decision), is transferred to another individual who accepts that authority and responsibility” (p.144). Delegating a task is an indication to the other person that you are placing your confidence in him or her regarding their competence and trustworthiness to effectively perform the task. When I am about to delegate a task to someone there are a number of questions that I ask myself. These include: what is the task to be delegated? What is the complexity or simplicity of the task? How much decision making is involved in completing the task? I possess excellent critical thinking skills and is able to analyze information effectively. For this reason I believe that I am good at delegating task. I usually consider the individual experience with the specific issue, the individual’s background with similar tasks, the person’s reliability and on-task behavior as well as the emotional maturity required for the task.
Assessing my Communication Skills
To facilitate team work in the transformational leadership setting, it is important to have an effective communication system that provides complete and accurate exchange of information that guides decision (Conrad & Poole, 2005). Tate (2005) observes that to be proactive, the leader needs to use clear language when interacting with coworkers and knowing how to listen to others, including staff and patients (Tate, 2005). Tomey (2004) indicates that communication is a process which involves giving and receiving information through verbal exchanges, gestures, writing, and the use of technology. I consider myself to be fairly competent in the area of communication.
For example, I have good interpersonal communication skills. I can read body language, facial expression and can use these modes of communication to get desired results. I am also competent in oral and written communication. I am able to articulate my ideas and have sufficient vocabulary to have meaningful exchanges with others. I am also good at making others understand my stance on certain issues. I am also able to use technology such as a computer and a phone to communicate. For example, I can send e-mails, use an online chat room, send a text message.
Assessing my Conflict Resolution Style
According to Sullivan and Decker (2005), conflict management is a time consuming and difficult process. To resolve conflicts, management has to listen to both sides of the issues and identify compatible solutions. Based on this assessment, I believe that I possess good conflict resolution skills since I am always willing to listen to others’ position before reacting. I am also good at negotiating. Sullivan and Decker (2005) indicate that the purpose of negotiation is to achieve agreement. My desire to avoid confrontations that can be distracting and unproductive, provides with a keen sense of looking for common grounds on which people can find agreement. Also, I emphasize the importance of diversity when dealing with others so that people can understand that having different ideas or ways of thinking does not have to cause conflicts. As a result my key strategy is to use collaboration in which I encourage others to find ways of working together to achieve shared goals.
Identifying Strengths and Weaknesses / Plan of Action
Two areas in which I consider myself to be proficient or competent are decision-making/problem solving and delegation. However, I have deficits in the area of communication and conflict resolution. In the area of communication, I have difficulty in the transmission of the message due to having a strong accent which makes my speech difficult to understand at times. To address this issue, I will see a speech therapist to assist me with pronunciation and speech rate. This is very important because a leader has to work in a fast-paced multidisciplinary healthcare environment that requires others to quickly understand what he or she has to say. In the area of conflict resolution, I tend to take the “flight into fantasy” approach, which involves thinking about something else in order to be protected from stress.
The consequence of this is that it does not address the needs of the parties. To overcome this problem, I will try to incorporate the confrontation approach. This approach allows the leader to deal with the issue and put it to rest (Sullivan and Decker, 2005). As a democratic leader ,I will effectively seek to bring together the synergy of my subbordinates in order to achieve our specific objectives.It is imperative that as a leader I strive to approach my leadership style in a comprehensive and transformational manner.My decision making will aplly critical thinking skills in order to solve problem.Priority setting,goal delegations and conflict resolution are pertinent to my leadership style and objective.
Conrad, C. & Poole, M.S. (2005). Strategic Organizational Communication in a Global Community (6th ed.). Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth. Huber, D.L. (2006). Leadership and Nursing Care Management (3rd ed.). Pennsylvania: Saunders Elsevier. McGoldrick, T.B., Menschner, E.F. & Pollock, M.L. (2001). Nurturing the transformation from staff nurse to leader. Holistic Nursing Practice (16)1, 16-20. Sullivan, E.J. & Decker, P.J. (2005). Effective Leadership & Management in Nursing (6th ed.). New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc. Tate, C.W. (2005). Leadership in Nursing. New York: Churchill Livingstone. Tomey, A.M. (2004). Guide to Nursing Management and Leadership (7th ed). St. Louis, Missouri: Mosby.