It is appreciated that leadership literature in its breath and length has been explored by many scholars and commentators, often initiating a conversion as to the characteristics of a good and most effective leader. Indeed, leadership traits and contextual styles have been explored in detail more specifically in management literature, and this exploration can be used as a basis for one’s motivation to develop a personal leadership model. In this paper, I discuss my leadership model and explain what I believe are the main organizing ideas, traits, skills, and general characteristics of an effective leader.
Before describing my personal leadership model, merit is found in first comprehending and emphasizing the significance of a leader in any setting. As many a scholar would agree, a leader plays the role of motivating followers to be committed to the pursuance of set goals and objectives. Sadler (2003:24) for instance explains that without the emotional intelligence and charisma of a leader, many subordinates would not be adequately motivated to commit themselves in their various roles and responsibilities as may be aligned with the goals and objectives of an organization. While the precise or specific leader role that a leader plays in this context may not be expressly clear, there is no denying that a leader is a key determinant of what happens or does not happen within the organization, hence success or failure as far as goal achievement is concerned. True as it were, leadership goes beyond title and position, as it is a complex and multifaceted process involving not just the leader but also followers and the particular situation at hand. Evaluation and determination of an effective leader calls for one to take into account not just a leader’s expertise but also his or her personality traits and personal values. Such ought to be considered in the manner they may be relevant or applicable to a given situation (Hughes et al.: 63).
To a great extent, my leadership model builds on traits, skills, and relationships. In the leadership narrative, skills refer to one’s ability to perform a task well or as desired or expected (Skill, 2014). For one to be an effective leader, it is imperative that he or she possesses the right set of skills which in essence give him or her ability to perform well in various task, roles and responsibilities. In line with an assertion by Cunha and Heckman (2007: 32) that skills are more often than not produced through environmental influence, investment, and genes, I have no doubt that my natural intellect and educational training have equipped me with the relevant skill set to perform my duties and functions in my placement within the organization, even in my capacity as a leader. The current emphasis on skills cannot make much sense if the role of personality traits in this context is ignored. To present that personality traits occupy a central place in my leadership model would seem to contradict an assertion by Stadgill (1948: 64) that one never becomes a leader merely on the basis of a combination of a couple of traits. Stadgill made this inference after reviewing leadership literature that made him to conclude that there are no specific universal set of traits or personal characteristics that make an effective leader. However, I must state and emphasize my position that personal traits form an integral part of my leadership model and discussing my preferred leadership approach while ignoring them would not be optimal. I elect to disagree with Stadgill and assert that traits are an aspect of leadership that cannot be ignored. True as it were, how a leader handles situations and responds to developments comes down to his personal characteristics: who he really is. As concerns the implied traits, it is believed that they set aside leaders from the ordinary lot (Kirkpatrick, & Locke, 1991:49). Specific traits that are definitive of my personal leadership model include integrity and honesty, motivation, drive, knowledge, and cognitive ability. While the listed traits may not fully describe who I am, they give insight into what I am and what I possess that makes me an effective leader. For effectiveness in leadership, it is imperative that the leader acts decisively and be able to formulate a vision for his or her followers, set goals and expectations for them, and motivate them to act towards achieving the same. In this vein, leadership traits gain relevance for even through them, one is able to acquire relevant skills that make him or her an effective leader. In other words, it would be hard or even impossible for any leader to possess the right skill set for leadership if he or she, in the first place, do not have the right traits. Thus, it seems logical to present that in the implied leadership model, skills are the interface or link between the traits possessed and actions taken in the capacity of leadership. The manner in which these elements relate is illustrated as in the diagram below:
The traits theory explored by researchers such as Hughes and colleagues (1996) gains relevance in this conversation in that it explains how one’s personal traits determines what the person does in different situations or circumstances. According to these authors, there are only limited circumstances under which traits do not determine what decision is made and what action is taken: when authority dominates. Thus, save for instances where authority dictates what must be done, it is one’s traits that determine what he or she does. Only under such circumstances does a leader cease to influence his subordinates through his or her traits, hence actions. It is my belief that the most important traits of an effective leader are integrity and honesty, cognitive ability, drive, and knowledge. I believe that I possess them and thus consider myself an effective leader. I illustrate how they apply in this model in the context of transformational leadership discussed in the next paragraph.
Away from the traits and skills aspect of my leadership model, I need to state that it empathizes relationships between leader and followers. Here, reference is made to Pardey (2007:14) who explores two types of leadership approaches, mainly transformational and transactional, whose main difference can be noted in the manner they identify with leadership and management respectively. Whereas a transactional leader is more concerned with the task at hand and the relationship between him and his followers/subordinates as purely transactional or based on exchange, a transformational leader is more committed to this relationship and works towards its development and growth (Judge,& Piccolo, 2004). In light of the latter, my model emphasizes that I show great commitment to building the said relationships so that even my subordinates will, in their own right and capacity, play their role in as far as maintaining and improving this relationship is concerned. Healthy and tension-free relationships in teams are said to be best achieved through authentic and effective leadership (Guenter et al., 2017). The personal traits of integrity and honesty, cognitive ability, drive, and knowledge gain relevance in this respect since, for instance, with the establishment of a culture of honesty and integrity within the organization, subordinates will borrow a leaf and learn to appreciate why these are important in the pursuance of organizational goals and objectives. They will learn to be honest in their duties and pay attention to the concept of integrity in all their undertakings. More importantly, I am aware that the easiest way of instilling these qualities in my subordinates to the effect of building a culture of honesty is through leading by example. The old saying of ‘preach what you drink’ could not be more applicable in this context. Such a culture will make it easier for leaders to foster teamwork, creativity, and ultimately improved performance even in a multicultural environment (Hoever et al., 2012: 984).
Further on cognitive ability in the context of transformational leadership, this trait is concerned with a leader’s intelligence. It has been shown that successful leaders are more intelligent when compared to the general population. I believe this trait will apply to the effect of making the most optimal decisions and motivating subordinates to weigh and consider the implications of their actions and omissions. Application of this in the current leadership model will significantly contribute to the development of a culture of smart problem solving, as opposed to a situation where decisions would be made without much consideration and actions taken without weighing what their consequences would ultimately be. Hunsaker (2005: 7) and Sacramento et al. (2013: 142) emphasize the importance of problem solving skills in the context of effective leadership.
By and large, I can infer that my personal leadership model builds on traits theory and transformational leadership and would most likely lead to the development of a culture of not only integrity and honesty but also a strong relational emphasis within the organization. Mutual respect would thus develop between myself and subordinates who would be keen to follow my example. It will also lead to the development of better working relationships among members of the organization for they shall be united in a common sense of purpose as far as the pursuance of organizational goals is concerned. In my capacity as a leader I will have set a vision for them and instilled in them a strong desire and motivation to work to achieve this vision.Currently, the transactional leadership style is employed; it considers working relations as being defined by pure exchanges. This is in opposition to transformational leadership that is a definitive feature of my leadership model. An important objective motivating the application of my model as explained here is tocultivate within the organization a culture of continuous transformation and learning as well as honesty and integrity. This will enable genuine input from subordinates and ultimately help in the establishment of a rewards system where performance is recognized and rewarded. Aspects such as information provision and sharing will also be a central aspect of the culture that will be established bv this model. This will specifically be important for healthy relations that are also elevated as a predicting factor for successful and effective management and/or leadership as would be facilitated by information sharing and provision (Nelson et al., 2010: 132)
In conclusion, my leadership model builds on traits theory and the transformational leadership style where I believe my traits will not only determine the decisions and actions I take as a leader but will also influence others’ perception of me and the organization at large. The working attitudes of followers are likely to be shaped by my qualities as their leader. Indeed, if my approach to leadership and work were to to be practiced by other members of the organization serving in various capacities, there is no doubt that a culture of integrity, honesty, and continuous transformation would be established. Improved relations between management and subordinates as well as among subordinates will facilitate the sharing of a sense of common purpose, thus ultimately improving individual and collective performance.
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