Foundation of Leadership
Since the beginning of time, humankind has observed one sure thing for sure which is that people always need a leader in order to survive in ever changing conditions. There are several leadership theories which got improvised with time. Here, I have mentioned three leadership theories which inspired me the most and based on that I have developed my own hybrid leadership method. This type of leadership is unique on its own and is capable of accomplishing short and long term targets.
Leadership Model & Philosophy:
My leadership theory is based on three existing leadership philosophies – servant leadership, ethical leadership and situational leadership. I believe that leadership should not be an autocracy because a single person may have higher skill than other but when we combine the decisions of multiple minds we can achieve something greater which we cannot be achieve when a leader is acting alone. I think that distributing authority among the followers will generate a sense of importance in them which is otherwise absent in autocracy where the weight of the say of a person who is at the bottom of chain of command is negligible. Chanakya wrote in his book Arthashastra that “the king [leader] shall consider as good, not what pleases himself but what pleases his subjects [followers]” (Chanakya).
Generally the shape of the leadership hierarchy can be described as a pyramid where the leader is at the top and below are the followers. This type of arrangement shows that in traditional notion of leadership, the leader has a few followers who are closest to her and then they lead the people below them and so on. This type of arrangement inhibits the growth of the team because this model generally favors experience over skills. While I do believe that experience is a good metric for growth, the talent of new and younger people with better skillset should be taken into consideration too and their say in the decision should be equally important as other followers. So I believe that the pyramid we discussed above should be as flat as possible so that the leader is in direct reach with all the followers. This may increase the burden on the leader because now she is in touch with an order of magnitude more people than before but the growth in the level of motivation in the team should compensate that.
The second theory I’m referencing here is ethical leadership. “Ethical leadership is leadership that is directed by respect for ethical beliefs and values and for the dignity and rights of others.” (Watts, 2008) While it is very hard to stick to the ethics of the society, it is necessary to practice ethical leadership because it generates a sense of trust and fairness in the followers which is most of the times absent.
My third reference is situational leadership model developed by Paul Hersey. The fundamental part of situational leadership model says that leadership philosophy should not be rigid and should change depending on the situation. My observation says that the most successful leaders are those who adapt to the situation, who makes decisions not only on a set of beliefs but according to the requirement and current scenario. A leader should also be opportunistic. Here opportunism does not refer to the traditional sense of opportunism which is the practice of taking advantage of current situation for personal gain. Here opportunism denotes a sense of eagerness to do something better. The leader should always seek to perform better than what is expected of her by catching every opportunity she gets. Sometimes it can be hard to cling to the ethics while an opportunity arrives but the decision process should become easier once the leader gets more experience.
If we combine these three theories, we get a leader who is ethical, believes in distribution of power and who always strive to be stronger. It should be noted that this type of leadership can be fragile in nature because not all people believe in ethics when the situation approaches to extremity. The amount of authority which is shared among followers should be precisely maintained because a sense of power is essential for a leader to retain authority.
Reflected Best Self:
One important thing which has not been discussed yet is the individual skill of the leader. The managerial grid model should be referred if we want to gain insight about individual skill and welfare. The graphical representation of managerial grid model has concern for people as X-axis and concern for production as Y-axis. Here individual skill generally boosts concern for production because a leader who is highly skilled in a profession, higher than her follower, would expect high gain according to her skill. This false sense may deteriorate the performance of the followers because they cannot keep up to the leader’s expectation. This leads to depression and disregard towards the welfare of the followers. I believe that the individual skill in a profession is less important than domain knowledge. So we can conclude that our philosophy is more aligned with team style of managerial grid model where high concern is paid both the people and the production. At last we can say that “Leadership is the process of making sense of what people are doing together so that people will understand and be committed” (Egner, 2009)
When it is time to become a leader myself, I consider myself persuasive and firm. My strength is in making people believe in me. I can persuade anyone if I have a correct cause even if the person is initially not interested in the cause. I think this is the most important skill I have which makes me stand out among other people. It should be noted that by persuasive I didn’t mean manipulative. There’s affine line between being persuasive and being manipulative. When one is being persuasive about a cause which is false and degrading, we can say that she is being manipulative. Being manipulative is against my ethics and I strongly believe that every leader should follow the ethical guidelines. Leaders should be a key source of ethical guidance for employees (Michael E. Brown, 2005).
By being firm, I meant that I stand my ground when it comes to following my own decision. Making decisions is easy but following them until we succeed is hard. Sometimes being ethical also means being harsh. If a follower is degrading the performance of herself and others by spreading false information she should be faced with fair decision. Making this type of decisions is never easy but if we do not do that than it can affect our team or our society as a whole. Being firm is also important because it shows strength of the leader. A leader should lead by an example so if the leader shows strength, the followers will do too.
My weakness I believe and other have pointed out is that I take my decision in high regards than other people’s decision. This contradicts with the quality of a good leader I have said about earlier where the leader listens to everyone and employs all the feedback in decision making. I firmly believe that a leader should listen more than talk. Listening to followers will give a leader insight about the situation below her which is generally hidden behind the wall of bureaucracy.
I have gathered the above feedback from my colleagues and relatives about my leadership skills. There is also something that I believe is my weakness but it did not show up in the survey. It is my hastiness in making decisions. Sometimes decisions made in haste without proper insight over the subject may lead to failure. A strong leader should always take enough time to think about a decision before making it because at a large scale, a single decision may affect thousands of lives.
Leadership Development Action Plan:
I would like to be a leader at all stage of my life and at each level of my life. The three level of leadership model developed by James Scouller divide leadership in three levels – public leadership, private leadership and personal leadership (Scouller, 2000). Public leadership refers to the notion of influencing more than one person. It is the traditional sense of leadership where a leader leads a crowd. Private leadership concerns leader’s one-to-one interaction with individual. Although being a leader means uniting a group of people but a group is made up of individual people and it is essential that you should develop a general strategy that can cater to each and every individual. Each person differs with other person in terms of ambition, confidence and experience. One thing that worked on one person may not work with other person. These first two leadership levels are outer or behavioral levels. The third level ‘Personal Level’ is an ‘inner’ level. It concerns with the inner abilities of a leader. It is about being a leader of ourselves, being a leader from inside. It is the most important thing because you only can motivate other people if you are motivated yourself. I want to be a leader at each of these levels.
I always consider my followers’ welfare as my first priority because as a leader one have the follower as her resources using which one can accomplish a greater task but when she loses these resource there is no way by which one can do that. In no circumstances I will put my followers in harm’s way. I will also never abandon them if they fail to accomplish a task because making mistakes is human nature and we cannot punish someone who has devoted herself to the cause but made one mistake against many other good accomplishments even if the mistake is critical. A good leader should also face the consequences of the actions taken by her followers so I will always try to defend my followers in hard situation by taking the blame on myself.
I would like to lead a group of people towards the goal of eradicating destructive diseases like ebola and such from our planet. The outbreaks of such diseases are widespread in third world countries which have little or no infrastructure for dealing with such outbreaks. The result of this is the death of thousands of lives every year. The ebola outbreak of 2014-15 resulted in more than ten thousand deaths and a threat of mass epidemic that can disrupt the humankind. I would like to lead a group of concerned individuals to such outbreak-prone areas and help spread the education about the prevention of such diseases and help people who are affected by them.
In next five years I would like to form such group. Activity like this does not always results in perceivable difference but hopefully in next ten to fifteen years I will be able to educate hundreds of people who then can defend themselves in such outbreaks. Even if I save one life by my efforts, I will consider that a great achievement because as it is written in the holy Kuran “to save a life would be as great a virtue as to save all of mankind.”
With time, different leaders have immerged around the globe. All of them created their own way of leading which was followed by others later on. As described above, I believe in a leader who is who is ethical, believes in distribution of power and who always strive to be stronger. This kind of leader can walk along with constant changing atmosphere who can sustain for longer period. And I believe in a future which is led by someone who has the above mentioned qualities.
Chanakya. (n.d.). Arthashastra. https://archive.org/details/Arthasastra_English_Translation.
Egner, T. (2009). Behavioral Leadership – The Managerial Grid. Norderstedt, Germany: Druck and Bindung.
Michael E. Brown, L. K. (2005). Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes. sciencedirect, 117–134.
Scouller, J. (2000). The Three Levels of Leadership: How to Develop Your Leadership Presence, Knowhow and Skill. Cirencester: Management Books.
Watts, T. (2008). Business leaders’ values and beliefs regarding decision making ethics. Morrisville, NC: Morrisville, NC.