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Face The Challenge - Sample Section, Chapter 3

Chapter Three - Leadership Fundamentals

"Leadership Fundamentals" outlines the fundamental leadership characteristics, principles, and personality components of successful leadership interaction skills and the underlying motivational aspects of a leadership philosophy that are fundamental to a broader understanding of the characteristics of the Leader-Subordinate relationship; and effectively improving a Leader's motivational skills and leadership philosophy or attitude.

 


3.1 Leadership Interaction.  The principles of sound leadership apply whether the Leader is responsible for a vast multinational company with tens of thousands of Subordinates or a small segment (unit) of that organization with only two or three direct reports; with the only variable being the potential magnitude or repercussions of his or her actions or decisions (Fayol).  And regardless of the scope of his or her position or span-of-control, every action or decision made by a Leader is analyzed, dissected, and critically interpreted by each of his or her Subordinates.  With no action or decision being so small or inconsequential as to escape this  diagnostic evaluation in terms of its potential impact on each Subordinate's security or self-interest.  Consequently, Leaders who demonstrate the qualities most valued by their Subordinates (e.g., fairness, foresight, determination, trustworthiness, job expertise, open-mindedness, compassion, or appreciation) consistently achieve a higher degree of influence over their Subordinates' output than those who appear to be completely out of sync with such expectations.  A Leader's general interactive style and leadership skills therefore ultimately determine his or her Subordinates' esprit de corps and competency levels.  As "the attitudes, the habits, [and] the expectations of the Subordinate will be either reinforced or modified to some degree as a result of every encounter with the boss [Leader]" (McGregor, HSE p200).

 

(A) Incontestably, Leadership effectiveness is influenced by both the direct and indirect messages that Leaders send to their Subordinates.  And what Leaders say, imply, write, or demonstrate through policy changes, performance reviews, terminations, acquisitions, selection of new employees, or their personal demeanor are all part of the total message that is received by their Subordinates.  This process is inescapable; for again, what Leaders do or how they act will always speak far louder than whatever they actually say (Emerson).  As "every phase of line management's job is accomplished through people; consequently, every act of management [at every echelon] influences the quality of human relations in the organization" (McGregor, LM p169).  Thus a Leader who repeatedly demonstrates faith in his or her Subordinates to achieve the objective, who demands high proficiency standards, and who works diligently to maximize their potential will rarely have cause to be disappointed with their performance.  For invariably, great "coaching [leadership] is not how much you know.  It's how much you can get your players [Subordinates] to do" (Oail Andrew "Bum" Phillips, American Football Coach, 1923-20?? ).

 

(B) To further clarify their leadership philosophy, Leaders should consciously look for opportunities or situations that can serve to illustrate their operational perspective as to how they want things done or how they want their supervisors to in turn treat their own Subordinates.  However, precedent setting examples are best selected as events unfold rather than being staged or explained hypothetically; and must be well balanced in view of the circumstances so as not to appear melodramatic.  For if a Leader overreacts to a situation or in effect uses an elephant gun to kill a fly, he or she is certain be negatively interpreted by his or her Subordinates regardless of the underlying merits of the action taken or the value of the lesson purportedly being taught.  And though a specific incident may accurately illustrate the Leader's ideals or principles, any over-zealous demonstration may lead to a misunderstanding of his or her character and unproductively intimidate his or her Subordinates.  But regardless of the nature or relative importance of any particular situation, Leaders can expect that how they handle it will be widely circulated and discussed among their Subordinates long after its occurrence; and much like tossing a stone into a still pond, the resulting ripples of such interactive experiences take on a far greater magnitude than the initial kerplunk.  Thus depending upon how momentous the event and how they responded to it, Leaders may initiate a positive, long-standing precedent or negatively skew their Subordinate relationships or attitudes, some irreversibly.

 

(C) Therefore Leaders should develop the daily habit of evaluating all their Subordinate interactions in behavioral terms; so as to assess the quality and virtues of the long-term message they are sending and how it is actually being received.  In this way, Leaders can favorably amplify the impact they have on their Subordinates by developing a greater understanding of the motivational aspects inherent to each of their personal interactions, decisions, or behaviors.  As each of these actions has a positive, negative, or neutral affect on how Subordinates feel about themselves or their Leader.  Subsequently determining how motivated they will be to accomplish their objectives and exerting a far greater influence on productivity than the superficial positive reinforcement techniques commonly used to recognize constructive Subordinate behavior on a daily basis (e.g., "you did a great job today").  Thus in the broader scheme of things, "the boss [Leader] can be autocratic or democratic, warm and outgoing or remote and introverted, easy or tough, but these personal characteristics are of less significance than the deeper attitudes [e.g., trust, candor, honesty, or fairness] to which his [her] Subordinates [ultimately] respond" (McGregor, HSE p134).  And for self-evaluative purposes, the greater majority of a Leader's actions or behaviors should be carefully analyzed with regard to how they effect one or more of the rudimentary elements of motivation, including: (i) commitment, (ii) responsibility, (iii) exuberance, (iv) character, (v) respect, (vi) confidence, (vii) loyalty, (viii) dependability, (ix) recognition and appreciation, (x) development and growth, or  (xi) personal achievement; and the specific influence or personal impact they have on each of his or her Subordinates.  So at the end of each day, Leaders should reflect upon how their actions have impacted each of their Subordinates from this broader motivational context, and resolve to curtail those behaviors that they deem to be counterproductive.  For "if men [women] think that the ruler [Leader] is religious [introspective] and has a reverence for the Gods [common values and fairness], they are less afraid of suffering injustice [abuse] at his [her] hands" (Aristotle, Greek Philosopher, Pupil of Plato, Tutor to Alexander the Great, 384-322 B.C.), and are far less likely to consider him or her to be insufferably arrogant.  They are also more apt to voluntarily shoulder greater responsibility for their assigned objectives working for someone who goes beyond the normal superficial level of most Leader-Subordinate relationships than for someone who remains interpersonally aloof.

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Copyright 2006 by H. Garrett Hayward from Face the Challenge: The Leader's Success Handbook