Organizational leadership is a type of leaderships within modern organizations that focuses on both the larger picture (the organization) and the individual people within the organization. It also focuses on empowering the individual person without regard to their level in the organization. This approach in leadership recognizes that all people within an organization can, and should be leaders whether they are at the top, middle, or bottom of an organization. Although organizational leadership is too complex an idea to discuss in a short article such as this one, there are five key components of organizations leadership that can be identified as the core and soul of the concept of organizations leadership. These core principles are discussed here.
World view refers to the ways in which each an individual looks at the world. It is a composition of the perspectives, attitudes, thoughts and beliefs that shape how an individual perceives and regards the world around them. The concept of worldview is highly important in an organizational context because of a number of reasons. First, it is necessary to consider that each person within that organization have their own worldview which determines how they perceive the world. This worldview determines how the individual acts and how they feel about certain issues within the organizations. Secondly, apart from these individuals having different views, these views are not only diverse but also may be conflicting. Managing these conflicts in an effective way is critical for proper organizational leadership. Thirdly, apart from the worldviews at the individual level, the organization itself has a worldview which is a composition of all the worldviews of the individuals within such an organization.
Organizations thrive on the strengths of the individuals in a firm. However, while people may have their own unique strengths, they also have weaknesses. As a result, organizational leadership is more about encouraging and empowering strengths while at the same time managing weaknesses. While doing this, it is important to remember that different people have different worldviews and this affects the way they look at issues. This also determines what strength and weakness the individuals will have at their exposure. Strength encompasses three critical elements;
- Talents – natural, consistent abilities that an individual has
- Knowledge – bits of information and lessons has learned and internalized
- Skills – ability to carry out a function successfully
Strength has certain elements that are critical and which organizational should be able to manage. Talent is one of the main sources of strength for an individual and involves the repeated patterns of thought and behavior. This has to be managed effectively in order for the talent to be of any use to the organization. Knowledge is also another important element of strength in an individuals. This includes facts that an individual has learnt and internalized, either explicitly or implicitly, over time. The third element of strength is skills. A skill is the mastering of the process of carrying out an activity, and makes use of both talent and knowledge.
Ethics are an important aspect of organizational leadership. Ethics involve making critical decisions within an organization and which may involve fuzzy moral situations where the line between right and wring is blurred. In organizations leadership, managers may find themselves in many situations where they have to make such decisions. Ethics therefore involves balancing issues such as justice versus mercy, long term benefit versus short-term benefit, the needs of the individual versus the needs of the organization, and many such fuzzy issues.
In organization context, or any context where two or more individuals are interacting, communication is more than just conversation, phone calls and messages. In fact, even though these things are critical part of communication, it is possible for them to be present without effective communication taking place. The best definition of communication therefore is that it is an interface for people to interact with each other. In proper and effective communication, the right messages and information are passed from one individual through both explicit and implicit methods, but openly and clarity for understanding. Organizational leadership calls for the best understanding and interfacing between the individuals, with openness and honest as well as sincerity. For communication to be effective, it requires those involved to have an understanding of the Values, Assumptions, Beliefs, Expectations (VABEs) that guide the decisions of others.
Leadership is more than just having managerial roles. The best leaders are not the ones who depend too much on the structural powers and authorities that are bestowed to them by the organizations power structures, but those who are able to inspire people to a certain goal. They are able to understand the vision of the firm and then find a way to communicate this to those they lead. Managers are not necessarily leaders and leaders are not necessarily managers. A leader is not fearful of rejection and is a selfless person who places the interests of those whom he leads ahead of his or her own needs. Good leadership has certain elements that are critical, especially in the context of organizational leadership. These include honesty though always telling the truth, trustworthiness, fairness when making decisions about other people, and respect for everyone and recognition of the different VABEs of others. The tenets of good leadership therefore are as follows;
- honesty through always telling the truth
- trustworthiness by always keeping one’s word or promises
- Fairness when dealing with other people
- Appreciating other people’s world views and respecting others
Leaders use different theories and philosophies, either consciously or subconsciously. According to Lowe, Kroeck and Sivasubramaniam (389) leaders can be classified into two brad categories, such as Theory X and Theory Y managers.
- Theory X managers are self focused and assume that people are not and cannot be self motivated. He believes that people need to be pushed and to be micromanaged in order for them to reach maximum productivity.
- A theory Y manager/leader prefers to believe that people can get their own internal motivation to be effective and productive, as long as they are given the tools and motivations to do the job.
As a result, this kind of manager resorts to treating his people as partners and allows them as much autonomy as possible. In organizational leadership, there is no need for a Theory X versus Theory Y manager/leader. Managers in organizational leadership are able to know which leadership theories and philosophies to use in which situation based on the needs of that situation. They can even combine these two theories to come up with a leadership style that is most appropriate for a situation. James G. Clawson explain this in a more concise way in his “Level Three Leadership”:
- Level 1: Pure theory X leadership; visible behavior: the leader orders, commands, threats, intimidates, and gives incentives and bonuses.
- Level 2: Combination of theories X and Y – through conscious thought: Arguments, rationale, use of data, references, evidence, manipulation.
- Level 3: Theory Y leadership - Understanding of VABEs: creating vision, purpose definition, honesty, openness, emotional connection, empathy, ethics.
Good leaders can use a host of strategies to be effective;
- Modeling the way for those they lead and leading by example
- Enlisting the talents of others
- Challenge the status quo
- Empowering others and giving people autonomy as appropriate
- Setting goals and building trust so that their team can have
- Encouraging their followers through positive reinforcement
Lowe, Kevin,. Kroeck, Galen, and Sivasubramaniam, Nagaraj. "Effectiveness correlates of transformational and transactional leadership: A meta-analytic review of the mlq literature."The Leadership Quarterly, Volume 7(3) (1996): PP. 385-425.