Leadership is a process of persuasion. Leaders persuade others to pursue objectives held by the leader. Thus, the primary focus of leadership is on human interaction. Leadership is ethically neutral. There are good leaders and bad ones. Great leaders have the gift for inspiring and motivating people; they have vision and lift the spirit of people to accomplish great ends. The release of human possibilities is a basic leadership goal. However, there is also a dark side of leadership. The first leadership task is to make certain that there is a goal. The second task is to ensure that the goal is clear. Leadership must confirm that the team members understand the goal. Different theories of leadership propose different interpretations of leadership styles and leaders’ relations with subordinates. Thus, the task of leadership is not one of motivating people, for they are already motivated.
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In the article, “The Future of Leadership in Learning Organizations” Bass (2000) describes leadership as the issues of personality and unique personal qualities of a person. The author describes the main characteristics of transformational leadership and its practical application in learning organizations. “Transformational leaders raise the awareness of their constituencies about what is important, increase concerns for achievement, self-actualization and ideals” (Bass 2000, p. 18). Bass notes that leaders do not create motivation out of thin air. Rather, they unlock or channel existing motives. Effective leaders tap those motives that serve the purposes of collective action in the pursuit of shared goals. In this way, they align individual and group goals. Team leadership confronts circumstances that lead team members to withhold their best efforts. Effective transformational leaders direct the effort, restraint, drive, and discipline that result in optimal team performance. Team leaders create a climate in which members take pride in making significant contributions to shared goals.
Transformational leadership is influenced by motivational factors and intellectual capital. Wofford and Whittington (2001) suggest that shifting leadership function can often lead to confusion, which should be avoided with the effective management of team communications. Effective communication ensures that the team will know who is in charge and glues the team together. It is the lifeblood for goal achievement. One would think that with all the interaction necessary for effective teamwork interpersonal skills would be at a premium, but such is not the case. Exceptional interpersonal skills are not a key requirement for effective teamwork. That is, team members do not have to like each other socially. Good personal chemistry is an exceptional phenomenon among any group of people ( Katzenbach and Smith, 1993, p. 230). Rapport and empathy are not an effective team’s central focus, nor are personalities a main issue. The ability to focus on goals and the issues surrounding them is the primary concern. If team members respect each other’s competence, most personality problems will work themselves out. Furthermore, the more time a team spends on interpersonal relationships, the less effective it becomes. There is an inverse correlation between the time spent on “people problems” and team effectiveness. Effective and successful teams focus on issues pertaining to the team goal.
Social cognitive theory can help to explain leadership and its modern trends. Mccormick (2001) finds that the leader approaches the task of motivation by ensuring that each team member has the power necessary to accomplish the goal. This is more than just delegation; it is a sharing and expansion of power. Providing resources, information, recognition, important tasks, autonomy, discretion, and input into the leadership function are a few ways to empower the team and its members. The more power the team feels it has, the more effective it will become. “Self-confidence, an important concept in personality psychology, refers to people’s self-judgment of their capabilities and skill, or their perceived competence to deal successfully with the demands of a variety of situations” (Mccormick 2001, p. 22). There are two related aspects of team leadership that have an impact on goal setting and motivation: the leadership task and the leadership function. Both relate to how the leader manages the team and both bring focus on the task to be done; however, they are different in very specific ways.
Harvey (2001) underlines that people overestimate the leader’s role in creating high-performance teams. Combining individual strengths means influencing rather than directing. Influencing requires a different skill than managing in a hierarchical structure, where direction is more common. One of the most potent ways in which the leader can exert influence is by example. Although teams attach importance to what leaders say, they are more impressed by what they do. Leaders set an example through their behavior ( Kouzes and Posner, 1987, p. 198). One of the best examples a team leader can set is that of being a good team member. Influencing by example means being involved in doing “real work” instead of delegating. Other words that describe the leadership task include: developing, encouraging, facilitating, integrating, stimulating, resolving, listening, coaching, sensing, monitoring, meshing, guiding, refereeing, and deciding. Ultimately, the team must decide, the team must be in control, and the team must be the hero and get the credit (not the leader). Clearly, the leadership task is multifaceted, requiring extraordinarily diverse personal attributes. Leaders come in many forms, with many styles and diverse qualities, and with each developing the right personal approach. Their sole common attribute is their ability to make sure the goal is clearly defined and high-performance expectations are set. How goals and expectations are established is a matter of style, but setting them is a matter of performance and positive results.
Baruch (1998) and Boyce and Herd (2003) underline that the leader’s task is to ensure that the team sets and maintains explicit high-performance expectations. With high-performance standards, the team is committed to achieving challenging goals. Clear goals and high-performance expectations are at the heart of the leader’s task–independent of his or her style. Gender stereotypes influence the perception of leaders and their impact on other people. If the leader sets high performance standards, chances are that the goal will be reached. This phenomenon is known as a “self-fulfilling prophecy.” Teams that constantly expect more of themselves perform at higher levels. Baruch (1998) states that while actions such as refereeing, resolving, and even monitoring the team are within bounds, a leadership task that the team leader must not perform is to evaluate ideas. The leader can help resolve conflicts, but evaluating–including rejecting or promoting ideas–is out of bounds. When evaluation becomes necessary, the entire team should participate. The team possesses more information than any one individual so the whole team is in a better position to evaluate ideas than is the leader.
The leader’s task is to ensure that the team sets and maintains explicit high-performance expectations. With high-performance standards, the team is committed to achieving challenging goals (Boyce and Herd 2003). Clear goals and high-performance expectations are at the heart of the leader’s task–independent of his or her style. If the leader sets high performance standards, chances are that the goal will be reached. This phenomenon is known as a “self-fulfilling prophecy” (Baruch 1998). Teams that constantly expect more of themselves perform at higher levels. While actions such as refereeing, resolving, and even monitoring the team are within bounds, a leadership task that the team leader must not perform is to evaluate ideas. The leader can help resolve conflicts, but evaluating–including rejecting or promoting ideas–is out of bounds. When evaluation becomes necessary, the entire team should participate. The team possesses more information than any one individual so the whole team is in a better position to evaluate ideas than is the leader (Bass, 2000).
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The theories mentioned above allow to say that for an army commander transformational leadership style is the best approach to follow. In military, consensus requires unity but not unanimity or concurrence. Consensus may or may not represent the majority. In the final analysis, staff agree to support the team decision even though members may still disagree with some aspects of it. Many times, consensus represents compromise. Compromise may come after working through conflicting ideas. Individuals should not be forced to compromise their ideas just because they are tired of talking about the subject. Leaders should protect minority opinions and viewpoints and encourage and stimulate creative solutions. A continuing leadership task challenges the team to work through conflicting ideas. Compromises should be avoided until all alternatives have been completely explored (Bass, 2000).
In order to improve leadership skills, a person should take into account situational variables and consequences of his decisions. Other leadership tasks include ensuring that the team is staying on the topics at hand and not wasting time. A danger to teamwork is that it may become a social forum. This is because people generally try to get along in teams. They can drift off track, and it is the leadership’s task is to keep them focused on the task (Harvey, 2001). The leadership task may also require the leader to act as a “quarterback” and signal caller–assigning tasks and ensuring that everyone has the right information. The traditional view of the leader as someone out in front or the charismatic individual with the strong personality, directing the team and receiving credit for the results, is not what is inferred by the term signal caller. The team leader may not be out in front, nor should the team leader get all the credit for positive results. In a team environment, the team gets credit–all members contribute and all members share in the success. The team leader is primarily the signal caller, who resolves conflicts, inspires motivation, and contributes to goal attainment (Boyce and Herd, 2003).
In sum, the leadership function is different than the leadership task. The leadership task concerns influencing and the leadership function, team process. The leadership function has more to do with who is in charge or leading the team at a particular point and time. Objectivity is also important. The thoughts and feelings of others cannot be accurately predicted–even in closely mixed groups. In other words, we are not good at judging what other people think of us. Rather than worrying, team members are more productive if they concentrate objectively on the issues at hand. Objectivity is another of the ground rules for team membership, and is a topic in which team members should be schooled. People can be taught to act more objectively and to sort out personality issues from substantive issues. Teams that can objectively concentrate on issues are more effective.
- Bass, B.M. 2000, The Future of Leadership in Learning Organizations. Journal of Leadership Studies, 7 (1),18.
- Baruch, Y. 1998, Leadership – Is That What We Study. Journal of Leadership Studies 5 (1), 100.
- Boyce, L. A., Herd, A. M. 2003, The Relationship between Gender Role Stereotypes and Requisite Military Leadership Characteristics. Sex Roles: A Journal of Research, 49 (1), 365.
- Harvey, M. 2001, The Hidden Force: A Critique of Normative Approaches to Business Leadership. SAM Advanced Management Journal 66 (1), 43.
- Mccormick, M. J. 2001, Self-Efficacy and Leadership Effectiveness: Applying Social Cognitive Theory to Leadership. Journal of Leadership Studies, 8 (1), 22.
- Wofford, J. C., Whittington, v. L. 2001, Follower Motive Patterns as Situational Moderators for Transformational Leadership Effectiveness. Journal of Managerial Issues 13 (1), 196,