- What are some ways to become a flexible and adaptive leader? In the short term? In the long run? Explain using examples.
Leaders must understand and become aware of their situation and environment, which will help them identify constraints and demands to make it more favorable toward their goals, according to Yukl and Gardner (2020).
The first step for leaders to be adaptive and flexible is to provide more direction to subordinates with interdependent roles. For example, a leader needs to establish a stable organization chart and must ensure that each member is coordinated. A short-term goal is to plan and anticipate any critical tasks and prepare the tasks for them. Examples include providing a clear objective to the subordinates and monitoring those who are liable for the task. When less time is available to provide support, encouragement, and recognition to individual subordinates upfront (Goodstadt & Kipnis, 1970), more problems will arise with subordinates being handled in a more impersonal manner. This creates a situation where they are likely to receive warnings and punishment after the task or have a performance problem (Kipnis & Cosentino, 1969).
Long term ways for leaders to adapt are to provide more instruction and coaching to an inexperienced subordinate. Yukl and Gardner (2020) suggested that leaders need to discover the weakness of their subordinates and build on them instead of disparaging them. For example, leaders need to be more supportive of someone with a highly stressful task or newcomers acclimating to the organization. Sources of stress may include unreasonable demands (e.g., abusive customers), an uncontrollable environment (e.g., natural disasters, pandemic, and social unrest). People in such situations have more need for emotional support from leaders and coworkers. If people are working with the backing through stressful times, they are likely to succeed and, in the long term, will build collegiality with other teammates.
- Think about a manager/coach you have had an opportunity to observe. What specific tasks related and relationship-related behaviors did this leader use, and how effective did the leader appear to be?
According to Yukl and Gardner (2020), task-orientated behavior is focused on accomplishing tasks efficiently while relations-oriented behavior forces on building trust, cooperation, and just satisfaction. Due to unfortunate circumstances, I have had seven different jobs since graduating from college in 2013. However, it was through working in these companies that I observed different managers and experienced different work cultures.
While most of the managers that I work with are very much tasks-focused, there are a few managers that focus on both tasks and relationships, which I found very impressive, and watching them leading as an example makes me want to work just as hard as them. My supervisor at the College of Nursing, while very stern and detail-oriented, always worked on building rapport. While I frequently found the amount of attention to detail insufferable (e.g., mandating “hello” in email greetings instead of “hi”), she adequately provided a pathway for me to reach her level of expectation. One of the many examples includes approving funding for me to take technical courses from Augusta University Continuing Education. She also had a keen observation skill, and once she realized what my strengths and weaknesses were, she adjusted the tasks appropriate to my skill. She looked out for tasks that involve creativity, such as designing flyers and photographing for events for Staff Council and would cordially approve my travel request and time adjustment, so I can make it to those events and let my creativity shine.
However, I have had a destructive leader who was incredibly task-focused, so much so that he sacrificed the working relationship with his team. My short-time boss at Savannah River Site (SRS) wanted to get things done and often time trampled through lawful procedures and omitted approvals from the upper executives. He often got impatient because SRS has always been known for its complicated bureaucracy and red tape. He would request me to order things without consulting with the procedure. As a newcomer who was not acclimated to the SRS bureaucracy, I unwittingly followed his directions.
The goals he accomplished ended up causing problems down the road. The first order of merchandise had to be canceled because it was sent without the approval of a contract. It resulted in wasted time for our vendor and legal issues as the SRS is funded by taxpayer money. The second time we ordered large banners but without consulting the design with upper executives first. We ended up receiving complaints about the design, and we had to take them down, which resulted in wasted funding and storage space. While I got along with my boss well because I follow his instructions as he stated, other members of the team did not follow because of their pre-existing understanding of the procedures. He would become reactive and got into heated arguments, and before long, he was out of SRS. I had to learn all the procedures correctly, and I realized what a devastating impact that my actions, under an oppressive leader, have caused for the company.
- Think about your current or previous experience as a member of a work or social group. How much influence do you prefer over decisions made by the leader? Does it depend upon the task? What are the reasons for your preference? (Hint: think about issues of delegation and empowerment)
I have worked for both private and public companies and have seen the good, bad, and the ugly. One of the ugly side that I have seen is through a private company’s tyranny of nepotism. My distaste for nepotism grew ever stronger in the wake of recent social movement where privilege is identified, and the impact that nepotism has on other people’s chances for success is devastating. For that reason, I do not think leaders should have much power in the decision itself, especially hiring or firing of an employee. Instead, leaders should focus on their power to empower others to participate in making decisions, but not the decision itself. That will help the decision to be made with consideration from a different perspective and will increase the chances that the decision will most likely benefit everyone.
Even if the decision is for a different task, I often feel the decision is best by a group instead of the leader itself. It gives chances for everyone to voice their thoughts, which will help nurture further leadership and empowerment. However, I also believe leaders should be able to make objections or recommendations to the associates based on real-life experiences. At the same time, I think leaders should continue to be willing to learn and listen to criticism regardless of how many years of experience they have. Leaders are best when they can respect the old tradition but bring new ideas to harmony, especially in such an ever-changing market and social environment.
I learned the downside of shared decision power through my people management experience in student organizations. Through those experiences, I learned to delegate and to provide guidance and support for my teammates. Many times, I observed that other officers often talk about big plans and use the meeting opportunity to shine, but after the meeting, they often forget their tasks or duties. My leadership role at that point is more critical through support and reminders instead of doing the task for myself. I cannot lead if I cannot go through the footsteps of my followers. I often go through with the steps of the associate officers in their shoes. The most influential leader, which, in my opinion, is proven through my many years of working experience, are leaders who lead by example and who are adaptive and open to learning or criticism.
While a leader could easily make all the decisions and do everything on their own, they might not be able to handle customer relations or suppliers or the underlying reasons for underperformance. There are times when the leaders need to step up and make decisions in case of emergencies. Still, the general rule of thumb should be that the more significant influence that the leaders have in the decision, the more they should be ready to accept all the responsibility and any consequences that follow.
- Why do you think it is very difficult to measure leadership effectiveness?
According to Yukl and Gardner (2020), large numbers of studies on leadership behaviors have been reviewed and analyzed; however, the interpretations often are inconclusive. Many research methods for analyzing research are performed through a qualitative approach, such as interviews, surveys, etc. The evaluation or measurement of a leader’s effectiveness can be subjective. A leader’s behaviors do not necessarily link to a subordinate’s job satisfaction.
Also, while Yukl and Gardner (2020) stated that some studies have linked leadership effectiveness with an objective measure, such as sales goal, profit margins, leadership is only a small cog in the bigger machine of operating a company. Those types of standards are strongly impacted by the surrounding economy, market trends, and public policy. Effectiveness through those measures also has a critical flaw, which is that leaders often perform not based on their personal preference but on the company’s culture or rule. As a result, the effect that is being measured is not about a leader but the company’s policy.
Last but not least, another underlying reason why measuring leadership effectiveness is difficult is individual perception and attitude (Yukl & Gardner, 2020). Even the subordinates’ private life could impact how they interact or feel about someone’s leadership. There are unpredictable factors that make it incredibly difficult for a study to be statistically proven or to identify the correlation between variables. Employees’ response towards a leadership has other influences other than the leadership itself. I have often seen political preference impact the working relationship at SRS. Bias is usually affiliated with each political party. That bias can create a negative impression or an unreasonably positive one without having any relation to the person’s skill or working capability.
I believe that leaders and their leadership are at the mercy of others. This includes their subordinates, the company as a whole, the third-party vendors, customers, partners or affiliates, the market, or the social climate. Leaders play an essential role as they are the connecting points between all these factors, and every leader’s leadership style could vary a little based on their personal preference. A leader’s evaluation should never only be studied from their subordinate’s point of view because of the divergent tendency of their role.
Goodstadt, B. E., & Kipnis, D. (1970). Situational influences on the use of power. Journal of Applied Psychology, 54, 201–207. https://doi.org/10.1037/h0029265
Kipnis, D., & Cosentino, J. (1969). Use of leadership powers in industry. Journal of Applied Psychology, 53, 460–466. https://doi.org/10.1037/h0028668
Yukl, G & Gardner, W. (2020). Leadership in Organizations (9th ed.). Pearson Education, Inc.