Brighton School of Business and Management Student Newsletter June 2010
Contributions from you, our students, are very welcome ~ if you have information, advice, website links, or ideas, that may be of help to other students, please send them to us.
Leadership- not just for others
One of the fallacies about Leadership is that it is only relevant to individuals who are working at very senior levels in the organisation.
Although this is true if we are discussing “leaders” in the traditional way, for example if we are talking of strategic issues, and the need for an organisation as a whole to have a leader or team of leaders, it is increasingly recognised that people at all levels can, and should, make use of what we call leadership skills and approaches.
In response to this new line of thinking, and to encourage our students to add leadership attributes to their portfolio of skills, this issue of the newsletter is devoted to looking at leadership in this way.
The following sections have been prepared by our Management tutor team, partly from our own articles, partly from articles from the sites shown on the left:
Learning to be a Leader
The good news is that you too can be a leader, and be an effective leader, as long as you learn the fundamental skills needed. The way these skills are applied on a day-to-day basis is what sets good leaders apart from ineffective leaders.
To be a truly effective leader requires a blend of many attributes, but by developing skills in four fundamental areas, you can lead people, and inspire them to change. You can also be dynamic and effective in how you tackle the problems and challenges you face on a daily basis.
The four fundamental skills are:
The ability to solve problems and make good decisions is extremely important for effective leadership. But decision making and problem solving are commonly taught skills – so, with all those problem solvers out there, why can good leaders be so hard to find?
The difference often lies in your approach to finding solutions. If you face a problem believing that you have to find the ‘right’ answer, this can actually lead to failure. You can analyse a problem forever, and still not be totally sure that your solution is the best. The only way to assess your decision is by looking back, after the fact. Even then, there are sometimes too many variables to determine whether or not you definitely chose the right action.
Effective leaders use practical and responsive approaches to decision making. They know you can’t wait to make a ‘perfect’ decision. When you’re in the middle of a situation, you have to be confident enough to do what needs to be done right now. This often means you must quickly evaluate the situation, and take the action that has a high probability of success.
Leaders make decisions under pressure that might not be perfect, but they’re consistent with the desired outcome.
Strong leaders also know that problem solving and decision making aren’t entirely rational processes. We all have emotions, so completely objective decisions don’t really exist. Successful leaders therefore use critical thinking – a technique that questions every step of your thinking process – to deal with the subjective side of decision making.
Ultimately, what sets apart effective leaders is that they know how to decide. They know when to take the time to use more analytical and thorough decision-making processes. They know when to engage the whole team, and when to make the decision on their own. As a developing leader, look for opportunities to make decisions in a wide variety of situations to help you gain that experience.
Leaders don’t simply solve problems that people bring to them – they look for problems that may be hidden. In other words, they often recognize potential issues before they become problems.
The quicker you discover a problem, the more time you have to find a solution, and the more able you are to tackle the problem before it becomes serious. Skilful leaders are proactive, and they continuously ask questions to help them get to the root of a problem quickly. This is something that good leaders often do instinctively when they first ‘find’ a problem.
Also, look for potential problems that may be caused by a solution – before that solution is implemented. The objective is to find a problem before it develops into a much larger, and potentially damaging, issue.
When you solve problems, you make sure the organization can continue on its defined path toward achieving its objectives. When you find opportunities, however, you can also focus on refining, or redefining, and improving the company’s overall direction.
As management expert Peter Drucker famously said, “The important question is not how to do things right, but how to find the right things to do, and to concentrate resources and efforts on them.”
Successful leaders find opportunities and use them effectively.
Be Flexible in your Approach
Good leaders use effective styles of leadership. You may find all kinds of problems and opportunities, and you may make great decisions to move the organisation forward – but if you can’t inspire people to take action, there’s little chance of success.
Most management and leadership thinkers agree that there’s not a single correct leadership style that everyone can use across all situations. Effective leaders recognize this, and adapt their approach as necessary. However, they always use authentic styles that naturally fit their personalities.
Whilst it is true that, technically, there is no one leadership style that suits all business situations, taking a flexible approach and applying a leadership style to suit the current situation is, in effect, a leadership style that does suit all situations – because it is a style that makes use of all the available styles, as and when appropriate to the circumstances.
Leaders aren’t created overnight. Strong leadership is something you need to work on every day. It’s more than learning how to solve problems and make decisions – you must focus on making your organisation, or your part of it, better through everything you do.
This means that you need to understand how and when to make a decision, recognize problems before they appear, constantly look for opportunities to improve, and be aware of your natural leadership style but also be prepared to adapt that style depending on the situation.
By displaying these fundamental skills, thoughtfully and consistently, people will believe in you, and trust your decisions and actions.
You will have learned how to be an effective leader.
Leadership is traditionally discussed from the point of view of examining the style, the effectiveness, of the “leader” – the person in charge, the individual who is, usually, formally given the authority and the responsibility to make decisions on behalf of the group that she or he leads.
However, there are other ways to look at leadership – other attributes that are not always present in the individual formally nominated as the leader.
One of these alternative views it to look at leadership as being the capability to generate positive change – to innovate, to inspire, to persuade others to change direction.
This is thought leadership.
Whenever you advocate a new idea to your colleagues or boss, you show thought leadership. It isn’t necessary to have inspirational influencing skills, which is necessary for senior executives because they need to win over the entire organisation and beat off their internal competitors for top jobs. Also, to initiate organisation-wide change, it helps to be inspirational. But a thought leader focuses on smaller scale changes – ideas for a new product or changes to an existing one. Thought leaders can persuade others using logic, evidence or an actual demonstration of a prototype to win support.
To be a thought leader, you need to immerse yourself in your professional domain and search for new things to say that add value to your organisation’s objectives.
Traditional, top-down leadership depends on personal credibility or character because such leaders are asking people to join them on a difficult journey and they have a great deal of power over their followers. Hence, we need to trust them.
Conversely, the thought leader could have weak interpersonal skills and an indifferent character. They could be loners or eccentrics. All that counts is the credibility of their new idea. This is why we can buy innovations offered by odd creative types who we would not entrust to manage any part of an organization. If you can demonstrate the value of your idea and explain it with conviction, you might not need inspirational influencing skills.
Thought leadership is based on rebelliousness – the willingness to risk group rejection in the pursuit of a better way of doing things. Hence, thought leadership is not a learned skill. Only the content of your discipline or field is learned.
Thought leaders are saying, in essence, that they know of a better way of doing things.
Traditional, top-down leadership is portrayed as a collaborative effort between leaders and followers to achieve shared goals. But thought leadership has a more competitive edge.
Thought leadership ends when the target audience accepts the idea. It may be that you are using hard evidence to persuade others to avoid dumping a current process for a passing fad. In this case, your leadership does not result in any action taken.
This is a key point because it enables us to define leadership as the initiation of new directions and categorize the implementation of new ideas as a managerial activity. This is particularly important because we tend, traditionally, to focus on the “person in charge” of a group as the leader who may both champion a new direction and implement it. Hence we think that leadership is about managing change.
The real value of examining thought leadership is that it helps us to see that there is a critically important distinction between leadership and management. When executives move from championing a new idea to managing and monitoring its implementation, they are switching hats from leadership to management.
Leadership is about the initiation of new directions – management is about implementing the changes.
Leadership Values and Ethics
Successful leaders know what they value. They also recognise the importance of ethical behaviour. The best leaders exhibit both their values and their ethics in their leadership style and in their actions. Your leadership ethics and values should be visible because you live them in your actions every single day.
A lack of trust is a problem in many workplaces. If leaders never identified their values in these workplaces, the mistrust is understandable. People don’t know what they can expect. If leaders have identified and shared their values – living the values daily and visibly – this will create trust. To say one sentiment and to do another will damage trust – possibly forever.
Workplace ethics take the same route. If the organisation’s leadership has a code of conduct and ethical expectations, they become an organization joke if the leaders fail to live up to their published code.
Leaders that exhibit ethical behaviour powerfully influence the actions of others.
Your Personal Values
The following are values that true leaders, at any level in an organisation, should display:
ambition, competency, individuality, equality, integrity, service, responsibility, accuracy, respect, dedication, diversity, improvement, enjoyment/fun, loyalty, credibility, honesty, innovativeness, teamwork, excellence, accountability, empowerment, quality, efficiency, dignity, collaboration, stewardship, empathy, accomplishment, courage, wisdom, independence, security, challenge, influence, learning, compassion, friendliness, discipline/order, generosity, persistency, optimism, dependability, flexibility.
It may well be impossible for any individual to display all of these characteristics, but as a leader, you should at least choose the values and the ethics that are most important to you, the values and ethics you believe in and that define your character. Then live them visibly every day at work.
Displaying your values is one of the most powerful tools available to you to help you lead and influence others.
In keeping with this month’s theme, here is information about Leadership in our courses portfolio:
Our Professional Diploma in Leadership focuses on Leadership skills and attributes and on related knowledge areas such as Business Strategy, Managing Change, and Business Ethics.
These two qualifications are amongst the most popular with employers in all business sectors, as they cover the main topics that middle managers need to have knowledge and understanding of, and cover Leadership as well as other critical disciplines such as Quality Management, Financial Awareness, Managing Change, and Project Management.
Our Advanced Diploma in Management Studies ADMS, designed for specialists and managers working at strategic, corporate decision-making levels, has leadership elements woven in to every one of its modules.
For details of these courses, please visit: www.brightonsbm.com/coursesoverview.htm
Study Resources of the Month
As this issue is focused on Leadership, here are some recommendations related to that topic:
Understanding Leadership: A Framework for Thought and Practice
Thomas and Staub. Publisher: Sage Publications
Boundary Spanning Leadership: Six Practices for Solving Problems, Driving Innovation, Transforming Organisations
Ernst and Chrobot-Mason. Publisher: McGraw Hill
The Leader’s Guide to Radical Management: Reinventing the Workplace for the 21st Century
Denning. Publisher: Jossey Bass
On our website we now have a direct link to the Amazon Management Books section ~ to use this go to our Study Bookshops page.
Please see the links, above in the left hand column, for websites that contain valuable information, articles, reports, case studies, and reflections on Leadership.
Student Recommended Resources
Related to last month’s topic of career development planning:
“I often browse these websites http://careersadvice.direct.gov.uk/ – http://www.quintcareers.com/career_development_journal.html – http://www.cipd.co.uk/default.cipd ~ our thanks to Audrey
“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way” ~ John C Maxwell
“We’re here for a reason. I believe a bit of the reason is to throw little torches out to lead people through the dark” ~ Whoopi Goldberg
“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader”~ John Quincy Adams
“It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, when you celebrate victory, when nice things occur. As the Leader you should take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership” ~ Nelson Mandela
“Waste no more time talking about great souls and how they should be – become one yourself!” ~ Marcus Aurelius Antoninus
“Don’t compromise yourself. You are all you’ve got” ~ Janis Joplin
Useful Study Links
Each of the websites listed here have a range of articles, reports, case studies, discussions, best practice checklists, and links to other sites:
advice, guidance, articles, on leadership issues
Centre for Creative Leadership institution offering research findings in areas of creative leadership
information, guidance, advice, on all things workplace related
many sections on leadership issues
the Women Gurus Network
management and leadership models, cases, examples, illustrations
maintains a ranking of the world’s 50 most influential business thinkers ~ East and West ~ with links to articles on these, and to other related sites
consultancy offering free articles and an electronic newsletter on leadership issues
extracts from Harvard Business Review articles
Chartered Management Institute searchable databases which members can use to access journal articles and other publications