I thought about this topic yesterday when I noticed a couple of my team members, both in leadership positions, trying to resolve a conflict by using email. On each email sent, I was copied and the more I was copied, the more I realized these leaders were not communicating and the issue was not going to be solved via email. I am sure many of you, in leadership positions, have seen this type of email back a forth. In other words, the communications was ineffective, both parties misunderstanding.
As organizational leaders we have an obligation to communicate effectively. There are important messages that we must get across to our team as well as communicate upward in an effective manner. We want to ensure the right message is sent and received. DePree (1989) writes that communication is more about listening or receiving, than it is about the sending. In other words, we may be sending the right message, but if the receiver is not receiving what we send, we may be in for an awakening. Therefore, DePree (1989) suggests follow up with asking questions about the message the people may have received. In addition, DePree states that we should not be afraid of giving too much information because the one point we don’t share, may be the one the employee needed to complete their understanding circle. DePree (1989) writes, “There may be no single thing more important in our efforts to achieve meaningful work and fulfilling relationships than to learn and practice the art of communication” (p.96).
In the case of a conflict, or issues trying to get resolved via email, it was evident that each party in this case was not receiving what the other sent. I intervened and gave coaching on communicating and to “not use emails to fight with each other”. What are your thoughts? Have you seen this before? Have you intervened or coached on email conflicts?
Do we define leaders differently today than we did 40 years ago? If so, what considerations have changed the way we define leaders?
I think that if this was a yes or no question, the answer is yes…we define leaders differently today that we did 40 years ago. Society has changed, organizational values have changed, technology has changed and shareholder expectations have changed which forces leaders to have a different focus. In addition, 40 years ago, organizational change may have been an item of discussion, a minor discussion, but the companies generally looked at true 5 to 10 year plans.
What has changed in organizations to define the leader differently? According to Higgs (2003), organizations are Wall Street focused and shareholder value has become an obsession. Higgs stated that leaders must make decisions that affect the company’s future based on intangibles, “which include the quality and depths of leadership in an organization”.
Today, leaders must be able to plan and implement change quickly. Technology is changing, more jobs are being outsourced and consumers are demanding things now. Leaders of today are judged based on their ability to manage these changes and ensure organizational success in a fast paced society. Leaders of today deal with more complex issues such as continuous mergers, buy outs, takeovers, layoff and restructures. This complicates the issues with dealing with employees to the extent that more organizational stress is created and leaders must understand how to gain employees’ commitment to change. Although change is taking place, (lay offs, restructures, mergers, sell offs, etc.) the leader must still be able to provide an environment of motivation.
Capezio and Morehouse in Weiskittel (1999) defines leadership as “the ability to influence individuals or groups to think, feel and take positive action to achieve goals.” Some say that leadership is about building relationships. Other may say that leadership is about getting the job done, or being task focused. Leadership is actually about being task focused and about building relationships. This brings to light the fact that leadership must actually be a blend of both characteristics.
Many of us know what transformational leadership is about. The transformational leader is one who can get followers to go beyond their own self-interest for the good of the group or society. As we have entered the 21st century, we may need a different type of leadership….a leader that can blend task focus and relationship focus. The Blended Model of Leadership is a model that meets the needs of the organization in the twenty-first century. The leader having the ability to adapt to this model can effectively face the changes that are rapidly approaching. This leader can deal with cultural and diversity issues brought on by the changing workforce. This leader can also face ethical issues and be the type of leader that will have commitment to a higher level of organizational ethics.
There is more to come this week as we compare the blended model with situational leadership. Meanwhile….any thoughts?
I believe dysfunctional organizational behavior and organizational failure can be attributed to poor leadership within an organization. Bass (1990) tells us that an overbearing leader has a tendency to enable employees to become dependant. In a 1975 Likert study of three processing plants, the research concluded that authoritarian leadership deteriorates motivation, creates dissatisfaction with company policy and creates behaviors that are not conducive to motivation and productivity (Bass, 1990). In additional studies, data suggested that organizations with democratic and participative management styles had productivity and earnings increases as much as 15 to 45% more than the authoritarian led organizations (Bass, 1990). Dysfunction in an organization can lead to job dissatisfaction and higher employee turnover rates. This leads to the thought that leaders must continually improve.
Leadership skills are skills that can be honed; however, the leader must be aware that the skills are dull and are in need of honing. A leader must be aware of their current state and the current level of skills and have a desire to improve on the current level. Leaders generally receive very little feedback on how they are doing as a leader. Leaders are appraised on their engineering skills, their mathematical skills, budgeting skills, or maybe their project management skills, but honest feedback on their ability to lead does not come as it is needed. Therefore, Whetten and Cameron (1995) recommend that leaders conduct ongoing assessments of their leadership ability. It is okay to ask your peers or your direct reports what you can do to be a better leader. And if needed….just as a team fluctuates through the team building phases, a leader must also be flexible and change roles as required.
What are you doing to continually hone your leadership skills?
Wheatley (1999) wrote that “chaos is the last state before a system plunges into random behavior where no order exists”. As leaders we need to be ready when our organization faces chaos. On September 11, 2001, we found that chaos can strike at any moment whether we are ready or not. We saw this again when we saw the crises take place within corporations that were taken into bankruptcy by their leaders. We saw chaos again when Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005. More than likely, we will see organizational chaos and more crises causing organizations to crash. Look at the last few years…..the mortgage industry, housing, the overall economy, the for-profit higher education world.
Wheatley (1999) stated, “We live in a time of stirring storms, both natural and human made”. When we see organizations fail, we sift through them trying to figure out the possible cause or who to blame…..often, more so, who to blame.
The crises that we may see can be as small as organizations not meeting their budgets, or they can be as extreme as buildings being demolished by terrorists. They can be as small as a minor building fire or as devastating as three hurricanes hitting within six weeks and destroying everything in the path. As organizational leaders we need to be ready for the small emergencies and the major crisis.
As leaders, we prepare for whatever comes our way. We try to stay ahead of any issues that may negatively affect our organization. We are not perfect…but at least we are aware that we need to plan; therefore, we plan. As a leader, what major chaos are you planning for today, that will impact your organization tomorrow?
Ireland and Hitt (2005) stated that not just leadership, but strategic leadership is important to carry organizations through to success. Strategic leadership is a leader’s ability to “…anticipate, envision, maintain flexibility, think strategically and work with others to initiate changes that will create a viable future for the organization”. It is important for strategic leaders to communicate a shared vision and build an organization of community instead of an organization of employees. Building an organization that is more of a community would enhance the leader’s ability to discourage opposition since the organization would be as one. A community environment would also allow the leader to use influence from the perspective of ensuring the organization was going the same direction.
Loup and Koller (2005) stated that as leaders introduce change, opposition can be reduced if the people in the organization, including department leaders, know what is in the change for them. Loup and Koller (2005) stated that leaders must listen and when sharing their strategy or change process, and….speak from the heart.
Ireland and Hitt (2005) indicated that organizations that build internal community relationships are more successful in sharing knowledge and learning is more apt to occur. In addition, there will be less opposition to strategies and changes brought forth by the leaders of the organization. This, in turn, will allow the organization to improve competitive advantage.
From the perspective of being people focused, I agree with Ireland and Hitt and Loup and Koller. I think that if we are able to build an organization where people feel like a community, more so than just employees, they will be more open to change. In addition, the organizational leaders will work more closely together instead of opposing strategies.
Any thoughts on what type of communication techniques are required for leaders to build organizational communities?
Broom (2003) wrote that power can be used in positive ways and to accomplish organizational goals. In order to accomplish this energy must be focused, we must think systematically, empower others, use support systems, use different skills and gain knowledge in different areas and seek out up to date information.
Harrison and Kouzes (1980) wrote that just the word power “arouses strong emotions and vivid fantasies”. Groshev (2002) stated that until recent years studies of organizational power had been focused more on the masculine and the terms were more focused on men. We heard about the wealthiest men, the men with the most influence and control of things, verbal authority, leadership, victory in sports and physical strength. Groshev goes on to say that the results of their research indicated women defined power as personal influence rather than through relationships. The research further showed that men and women define power in different ways.
Power can be used to influence in the negative or the positive. Power can be abused or it can be used to build successful organizations and develop people to become organizational leaders and future managers of corporations. Broom (2003) stated, as managers, we must “access the untapped capacity we individually have for personal power”. Futhermore, he stated that we must be able to use our power to influence because we cannot reach our organizational goals alone. We need to build relationships with our peers, our subordinates and the people at higher levels of management. Power is needed just as we need to understand organizational politics. Bolman and Deal (2003) stated that the organization is a political arena and the “arena plays an important role in determining what game will be played, who will be the contestants and what interests will be pursued”.
As a leader…..how effective are you at using power in a positive way?