The Role of Leadership in Organizations

Leadership is a process in which a  leader attempts to influence his or her followers to establish and accomplish a goal or  goals. In order to accomplish the goal, the leader exercises his or her power to  influence people. That power is exercised in earlier stages by motivating followers to  get the job done and in later stages by rewarding or punishing those who do or do not  perform to the level of expectation. Leadership is a continuous process, with the  accomplishment of one goal becoming the beginning of a new goal. The proper  reward by the leader is of utmost importance in order to continually motivate  followers in the process.

Role of Leadership in Organizations

There are basically three models on Leadership: Trait, Attitude and  Situational. In the trait theory certain inherent characteristics of the individuals were  given importance. Other who did not possess such characteristics was considered as  ineffective. This theory was questioned as it did not against the development of  leadership through training. In the Attitudinal approach, the leadership was  considered as the behavior of the individuals when involved in accomplishment of  tasks with the group members. The Situational approach  focused on the observed behavior and not the inborn qualities of leadership. In this  approach, the behavior of leaders, and their group members and situation is  considered important.

Leadership in Organizations

What is that differentiates successful organizations from the rest in this competitive world? It is effective and dynamic leadership. However, there is often a shortage of effective leaders. The organisations continue to look for suitable and effective leaders. Managers who can substantially contribute to the growth of the organization are sometimes the scarcest resource. Hence, on all sides there is a continual search for persons who have the necessary ability to lead effectively.

In an organization where there is faith in the abilities of formal leaders, employees  will look towards the leaders for a number of things. During drastic change times,  employees will expect effective and sensible planning, confident and effective  decision-making, and regular, complete communication that is timely. Also during  these times of change, employees will perceive leadership as supportive, concerned  and committed to their welfare, while at the same time recognizing that tough  decisions need to be made. The best way to summarize is that there is a climate of  trust between leader and the rest of the team. The existence of this trust brings hope  for better times in the future, and that makes coping with drastic change much easier.  In organizations characterized by poor leadership, employees expect nothing positive.  In a climate of distrust, employees learn that leaders will act in indecipherable ways  and in ways that do not seem to be in anyone’s best interests. Poor leadership means  an absence of hope, which, if allowed to go on for too long, results in an organization  becoming completely nonfunctioning. The organization must deal with the practical  impact of unpleasant change, but more importantly, must labor under the weight of  employees who have given up, have no faith in the system or in the ability of leaders  to turn the organization around.

Leadership before, during and after change implementation is the key to getting  through the swamp. Unfortunately, if haven’t established a track record of effective  leadership, by the time one have to deal with difficult changes, it may be too late.

Preparing For the Journey

It would be a mistake to assume that preparing for the journey takes place only after  the destination has been defined or chosen. When one talks about preparing for the  change journey, one is talking about leading in a way that lays the foundation or  groundwork for any changes that may occur in the future. Preparing is about building  resources, by building healthy organizations in the first place. Much like healthy  people, who are better able to cope with infection or disease than unhealthy people,  organization that are healthy in the first place are better able to deal with change.  As a leader one need to establish credibility and a track record of effective decision  making, so that there is trust in oneself, ability to figure out what is necessary to bring  the organization through.

Slogging Through the Swamp

Leaders play a critical role during change implementation, the period from the  announcement of change through the installation of the change. During this middle  period the organization is the most unstable, characterized by confusion, fear, loss of  direction, reduced productivity, and lack of clarity about direction and mandate. It can  be a period of emotionalism, with employees grieving for what is lost, and initially  unable to look to the future.

During this period, effective leaders need to focus on two things. First, the feelings  and confusion of employees must be acknowledged and validated. Second, the leader  must work with employees to begin creating a new vision of the altered workplace,  and helping employees to understand the direction of the future. Focusing only on  feelings, may result in wallowing. That is why it is necessary to begin the movement  into the new ways or situations. Focusing only on the new vision may result in the  perception that the leader is out of touch, cold and uncaring. A key part of leadership  in this phase knows when to focus on the pain, and when to focus on building and  moving into the future.

After Arrival

In a sense one never completely arrive, but here we are talking about the period where  the initial instability of massive change has been reduced. People have become less  emotional, and more stable, and with effective leadership during the previous phases,  are now more open to locking in to the new directions, mandate and ways of doing  things.

This is an ideal time for leaders to introduce positive new change, such as  examination of unwieldy procedures. The critical thing  here is that leaders must now offer hope that the organization is working towards  being better, by solving problems and improving the quality of work life. While the  new vision of the organization may have begun while people were slogging through  the swamp, this is the time to complete the process, and make sure that people buy  into it, and understand their roles in this new organization.  Playing a leadership role in the three phases is not easy. Not only does one have a  responsibility to lead, but as an employee oneself, one have to deal with ones own  reactions to the change, and ones role in it. However, if one is ineffective in leading  change, one will bear a very heavy personal load. Since one are accountable for the  performance of oneself unit, one will have to deal with the ongoing loss of  productivity that can result from poorly managed change, not to mention the potential  impact on ones own enjoyment of ones job.

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