Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Leadership Development: Leadership Theories and Decision-Making

This post is part of a series on leadership development.

As noted in a previous post, I have been attending leadership development presentations on a monthly basis at Franklin University. Today we heard from Dr. Timothy Reymann, the Chair of the Business Administration, Management and Applied Management Programs at Franklin. Below are my notes on his topics of discussion, as well as some reflections.

What is leadership? 

A leader has the ability to influence others. It isn’t directly linked to a position within an organization. Simply sharing ideas with others can have a great impact on others and on an organization. Leadership also includes helping move others toward a specific or shared common goal. Importantly, great leaders start off as great followers. Dr. Reymann shared an example of Dr. Tom Seiler, the Dean of the College of Business at Franklin, who exemplified followership at many levels as he progressed in his career.

Leadership Styles

Dr. Reymann outlined some of the major theories of leadership being discussed today. I'll give a brief outline of these below.
  • Transformational Leadership – transformational leaders focus on helping the people they lead to change and improve. They do the following:
    • Build Trust – Work hard and pull through for your people.
    • Act with Integrity – Work hard, stick up for your people, own your mistakes.
    • Inspire Others – Show what is possible. Encourage the growth mindset.
    • Encourage Innovative Thinking – Model and reward creative thinking.
    • Coach Individuals – work with specific people individually to help them move forward
  • Authentic Leadership – The focus here is leadership that is transparent, ethical, and worthy of the trust of the followers. Apparently the Millennial generation wants leaders who are transparent and trustworthy.
  • Transactional Leadership - this is typically seen as less-effective, today. I see this as a remnant of past societal needs - in the industrial society, this kind of management style was probably important, but in our current society, people need to be able to do their work without constraint. Transactional leadership tends to employ micro management strategies wherein they are "all up in their employees' bidness" and don't allow them to move forward with faith and confidence.
  • Servant Leadership – The servant leader’s goal is to develop others and not to develop his or her own interest. Listening, empathy, and foresight are key skills. It is based on principles of Christianity – the leader is there to develop others and have them carry on as leaders.
  • Full Range Leadership – This model seems to show the big picture and help leaders move from totally apathetic to passive, to transactional, to transformational. Transformational seems to be the best fit for the knowledge society, according to this model. I tend to agree, though I might mix in a little servant leadership (as they appear to be very similar). 

“A leader is best when people barely know he exists. Of a good leader, who talks little, when his work is done, his aim is fulfilled, his followers will say “We did it ourselves.” Lao-tsu

Decision-making in Leadership

Reymann identified 8 steps for decision-making. These align well with the “scientific” or “analytical” approach to decision-making. Very often we are making split-decisions instead of using critical thinking approaches. The main thing is to take enough time to make the right decisions.
  1. Identify relevant facts – gather solid data.
  2. Identify ethical issues for the decision – make sure you take care of your ethical obligation.
  3. Identify stakeholders – who will be affected by the decisions? How?
  4. Identify possible consequences and alternatives – predict what will happen when decisions are made and actions taken
  5. Think long-term – how does this decision affect our people and our organization in the long-term? Come up with a 3-5 year plan for increasing your successes.
  6. Identify relevant obligations – what are you obligated to do? What if your decision was published in the newspaper? Would you be comfortable with it?
  7. Think creatively about courses of action – create many options.
  8. What does your gut say? – Get a sense of what your instincts tell you to do. Decisions will tell you what the right decision is.

Other Notes

Self-awareness– without an awareness of your own thinking strategies, emotional intelligence, communication abilities, you will not be able to make the changes necessary to affect positive change.

Risk-taking – leaders must encourage risk-taking among the people they lead. They must not point out when errors are made because this will encourage “playing it safe” and hiding mistakes.

 Leadership Development – to develop yourself toward increased leadership, do the following:
  • Have a clear goal – know where you want to go and how you want to impact the world.
  • Have a clear path forward – evaluate yourself and identify what you need to do to prepare yourself to move forward effectively. Map out how you will do it and get moving!
  • Obtain a mentor – find someone you can go to lunch with, someone that you can rely on for guidance. Ideally, this should be someone who has done what you wish to do in your career. Perhaps have several mentors!
  • Risk-taking – do scary things and do your best. Take risks, try your best, learn from the experience, and try again! If you never take the leap, you will always remain where you are.

30 seconds of reflection

(In these leadership development meetings, we are always directed to reflect for 30 seconds. This is my reflection). I would like a clear path forward toward the fulfillment of my goals. Much of this includes gaining an objective view of my current abilities so that I can identify how to really change and improve myself. I've realized that I really need to get clear feedback and guidance from the people that I work with so I have a clearer picture of what my strengths and weaknesses are. This will be scary and potentially painful, but it may yield a practical path forward.

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