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Kamala Harris Leadership in Politics

Introduction: Background Information about the Leader

Kamala Harris conquers many peaks in the rank of the first woman, the first woman of color, and the first woman of Indian descent. One such achievement is the post of vice president, which she took in January 2021. This representative of the Democratic Party could even become President, but her campaign did not go well. The vice president was born in Oakland, California, in an immigrant family – her father came from Jamaica, and her mother – from India. She studied at Howard University, majoring in political science and economics, and then in law at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law (Weinberg & Palaniappan, 2021). Most of her professional activities were associated with the latter specialty. In 2003, she took the post of the district attorney of San Francisco, and in 2010, the attorney general of California, where she was also the first black woman. She earned herself an excellent reputation, which helped Harris get to the Senate in 2017.

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In the United States of America, the vice president is the second most important person in the executive branch, and the President is the main one. Despite the prejudice that the vice president can only be a replacement for the President in the case of resignation or death, the duties are quite broad. The incumbents also head the Senate and the upper house of Congress, head committees, work on specific issues, represent the President on diplomatic missions, and act as advisers. A team is working with the vice president, and Harris has appointed women to three top roles (Wright, 2020). They are aimed at helping society after the virus, developing education, and solving other problems.

Leadership Practices

The vice president’s personal qualities help her be a strong leader that manifested in her activities and practices. Griebie et al. (2020) analyzed Harris’s personality and characterized her as a charismatic leader with high dominance, justified by her ambition and extraversion. Kamala Harris always demonstrates her willingness to fight injustice – from the age of 13, when she held her first protest with her younger sister (Pidgeon, 2020). Then, she continued the struggle as an attorney – she protected people’s rights. For example, she defended California homeowners by winning a large amount of compensation during the foreclosure crisis (Weinberg & Palaniappan, 2021). In the new post, Harris is focused on fighting inequality, injustice, and protecting the population.

The vice president uses inspiration and her example to lead followers. McNamara and Akesson (2021) note Kamala Harris’s confidence, ability to withstand pressure, and reliability. Her position on issues crucial to society and the fact that she was successful as a woman of color resonates among citizens. For example, on Twitter, there is a whole movement accompanied by #KHive in support of Kamala’s activities (Zhou, 2019). Being an inspiring leader more than a manager, Kamala also has a strong personality, which means she evokes obedience and respect (Griebie et al., 2020). The vice president claims that she likes to work with the team. For example, while making difficult decisions, she learns her team members’ points of view (Silman, 2018). Although she shows considerable autonomy, Harris would not have been able to reach all the achievements without delegation of authority. Considering these features, she is more likely to use incentives with employees – motivated to help people, combining this strategy with insistence and rigor.

In her work, Harris focuses on achieving goals since her activities should serve the benefit of citizens. For Harris, “Being a leader means that you’re going to have to make difficult calls. You have to have the courage to do what’s right, even if it’s not popular” (Silman, 2018, para. 7). As a politician, she feels responsible to citizens and is oriented on tasks. Harris believes that the team should do everything possible to achieve goals. Her focus on the job is also evident in each detail’s painstaking study since it is not the announcement of plans but the work on them that leads to changes. In 2016, she helped students win a compensation case, but they faced bureaucratic obstacles. Then, Harris initiated the creation of a website to help overcome these obstacles and, throughout its development, tested it – in case of errors, developers would return to the beginning (Scipioni, 2020). Thus, in the process of performance evaluation, the vice-president checks the task precisely.

Leadership Theories

Leaders are defined by the influence they have on people in achieving common goals. The position held or income level does not determine the leader since voluntary recognition and adherence are necessary, distinguishing leadership from other methods of influence. There are several theories proposing approaches to understanding the different types of leadership. They study people’s actions, which allow them to gain power and become leaders.

  • Situational leadership argues that all actions cannot be combined into a single style since situations and circumstances change, and it is necessary to apply different actions depending on them. According to this approach, to use situational leadership, it is crucial to understand the level of readiness and competencies of an employee (Cherry, 2020). Depending on it, leaders should apply the necessary approach – directing, coaching, supporting, or delegating.
  • The behavioral approach focuses on how leaders behave while working. For example, it was found that they can be focused on the task – giving instructions, monitoring the performance of work and organizing workers, or on people – taking care of the employees’ feelings (“What do leaders do?” n.d.). Both approaches have shortcomings, and it is not clear which one is better. Another aspect of this theory is how the leader makes a decision – authoritarian style – independent decision-making, democratic – together with employees, laissez-fair – employees make decisions alone (“What do leaders do?” n.d.). Their effectiveness depends on the circumstances and the problems that need to be solved.
  • Transformational leadership is motivational, and leaders are role models for employees. Moreover, they organize the subordinates’ work in such a way as to take into account their weaknesses and strengths (Fox, 2019). At the same time, servant leadership is different from other theories (Fox, 2019). This approach argues that leaders’ activities are aimed at ensuring the common good and achieving high goals. They lead by inspiring and demonstrating the vision of the future, which is essential to achieve.
  • According to Leader-Member Exchange (LMX) theory, two groups of people stand out at work. The first – In-Group – is more competent in the managers’ view and becomes closer to them, and is more likely to be promoted on the career ladder (Juneja, n.d.). The second – Out-Group – does not show such abilities or enthusiasm and remains out of close relationships with the manager, dealing only with everyday tasks. By applying this theory, leaders can define how their employees were divided into groups and provide the second one with more training opportunities. However, it is worth considering that some employees may not be enthusiastic even after receiving new opportunities. In this case, they will only distract the manager, who should be focused on achieving the organization’s goals.

References

Cherry, K. (2020). The Situational theory of leadership. Verywell Mind.

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Fox, M. (2019). Transformational leadership vs. Servant leadership: 3 key differences. Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

Griebie, A. M., Immelman, A., & Zhang, Y. (2020). The political personality of 2020 Democratic vice-presidential nominee Kamala Harris [Working Paper No. 1.0]. College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University. Web.

Juneja, P. (n.d.). Leadership-Member Exchange (LMX) theory. Management Study Guides.

McNamara, S. & Akesson, L. (2021). Lessons to learn from Kamala Harris and her leadership style. Training Journal.

Pidgeon, E. (2020). Secrets behind Kamala Harris’s powerful leadership. CEO Magazine.

Scipioni, J. (2020). Kamala Harris explains her leadership style (it’s a strategy Bill Gates uses, too). CNBC Make it.

Silman, A. (2018). How I get it done: Kamala Harris. The Cut.

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Weinberg, T. & Palaniappan, S. (2021). Kamala Harris: Everything you need to know about the new vice president. ABC News.

What do leaders do? Behavioral approaches to leadership. (n.d.). M Libraries.

Wright, J. (2020). Harris assembles staff as she builds her vice presidential portfolio. CNN Politics.

Zhou, L. (2019). The #KHive, Kamala Harris’s most devoted online supporters, explained. VOX.

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