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Leadership Action Plan Essay Paper
Leadership, Action, Plan, Essay, Paper
Leadership in Organizations
Leadership is both an art and a skill. Some people are naturally gifted leaders while others must learn and practice the skills. I have always been someone who likes to contribute to the conversation or project in a meaningful way, but I do not tend to take charge or drive the task forward. I started my current job about seven months ago and I am not a manager or a leader by assignment.
As I have become more comfortable with my role in the office and my interactions with colleagues, I am starting to look for opportunities to lead. The readings from class provide both a theoretical and practical foundation for this leadership action plan which I hope to implement between now and the end of my performance year.
Through previous leadership experiences, I started to develop my style, and this course has helped me understand what I should change to be a more effective leader. I tend to default to a combination of Goleman’s (2002) coercive and affiliative styles. I tell my team members “go do this” and hope they will do so because I have invested in building positive relationships based on trust and open communication.
Goleman (2000) has taught me that I will be more successful using the authoritative and coaching styles. In my experience as a team member, I know I am most invested when a leader says “come with me” and then takes the time to help me develop the necessary skills to succeed. I need to work harder to take these approaches to leadership rather than fall back on my comfortable but less effective patterns.
Style alone is not enough – leaders must also have substance. Good leaders know how to use influence and the power of persuasion to guide their teams toward the desired end result. Cialdini (2001) talks about six principles of persuasion and of them, I think the most critical is the principle of liking.
People are much more inclined to follow and work hard for a leader they like. Throughout my career, I have found it is fairly easy and highly beneficial to be liked. I’ll try to smile and say hello when passing people in the halls, find non-work commonalities like favorite lunch spots, offer simple compliments, and say thank you.
These small efforts have gone a long way toward building good will and this is critical to my job since I am often asking my colleagues to provide me with information or attend meetings I arrange.
I feel I can improve my powers of persuasion by capitalizing more on Cialdini’s (2001) principle of expertise. I am one of only a handful of people in my office without an advanced degree, and this is also true of the people I interact with outside the office. While I cannot add letters after my name quite yet, I can derive authority from other expertise and make that clear to people.
For example, most of these same colleagues have worked on Capitol Hill so mentioning my three and a half years there helps build commonality and make me more of an equal. People respect the Representatives I worked for, helping to validate my expertise and my worthiness of a seat at the table. I need to be more willing to draw attention to this background.
As an employee, I have been most willing to follow leaders who know how to motivate, cultivate talent, and give people the tools to thrive. When given the opportunity to lead, I will draw on a motivational tool I have found very useful in my career – setting goals and following through on them. Latham and Locke (1979) provide an eye-opening look into the power of goals.
They show that goals are a critical factor to motivating all levels of employees whether the goals are set by management or set through a participatory process including the employee. My current trade association depends highly on goals at the organizational, department and individual level.
Compared to my previous jobs where I was told to “do my best,” or “make the member look good,” setting my own goals and being rewarded for achieving them has made me a more motivated and productive worker. When I am in a management position, I will ensure my employees set ambitious but achievable goals with my support and encouragement.
Another key to leading productive and motivated employees is to ensure that employees are appropriately rewarded for the tasks they are supposed to complete. Kerr (2001) teaches how tricky this task can be. Often, incentive structures will reward behavior A, even though the desired behavior is B. For example, companies often reward the highly visible behavior of being physically present in the office, but they struggle to reward creativity and ingenuity because those desired behaviors are less obvious. As a leader, I will address this problem in two ways.
The first is by lessening the emphasis on physical presence through structured flexible work agreements such as a day of telework per week. The second is by encouraging employees’ to set goals around the less visible metrics, even though they are harder to measure, and then to evaluate them accordingly. This approach requires a higher-than-average degree of trust in employees, but giving them more room to be autonomous and creative will result in higher self-worth and productivity. I want to foster these traits in my teams, just as my boss does now.
Employees are also most likely to thrive when given the opportunity to work to their full potential in a supportive environment on an effective team. As Hackman (1987) explains, the success of work groups depends on three related factors including the amount of effort put into the task, the knowledge and skill of each member, and the strategy by which the group approaches the task. Although I am not a leader yet, my boss is coaching me on how to build effective teams.
In our office, that generally involves bringing together the most appropriate lobbyists and policy subject matter experts based on the topic at hand. My department includes about 60 people so creating teams often requires careful analysis. When giving the opportunity to lead, I’ll focus on building stronger teams by ensuing the organizational context provides task specific performance objectives in addition to broad yearly performance goals, something our current teams often lack. In my opinion, building effective teams is one of the most difficult but most important aspects of leadership and I know I have a lot of room to improve in this area.
A key responsibility of a leader is preventing groupthink, a trap even the most optimized teams must be cautious to avoid. As Janis (1971) explains, groupthink occurs when group members are so determined to create an amicable atmosphere that they coalesce around an idea without realistically considering alternative courses of action. For better and worse, I am a people-pleaser and will self-censor to avoid creating conflict especially around colleagues who outrank me in the office hierarchy.
When given the opportunity to lead, I will need to overcome this tendency, and Janis (1971) has a lot of remedies for avoiding the groupthink trap. I will try to start all conversations in a neutral manner, and I will also tell my team members upfront that they are encouraged to question my ideas and those of their peers without any risk of negative repercussions. I’ll also bring in outside experts to add a fresh perspective and break through any biases or blind spots the core group may have inadvertently developed.
Most importantly, I’ll hold a second-chance meeting before the final work-product is submitted to give anyone involved one last opportunity to raise questions and concerns. Many business decisions have far-reaching implications and as a leader, I will need to be very careful not to harm the credibility of my team’s work by failing to explore all possible solutions to a problem.
Leaders and their teams do not exist in a vacuum. Therefore, it is import for leaders to network in order to further their goals both small and large. Ibarra and Hunter (2007) explain that good leaders must participate in three forms of networking: operational networking within an organization, personal networking outside the organization and strategic networking to leverage operational and personal networks toward future goals.
As a 23-year-old starting my career in congressional politics I quickly learned the necessity of operational and personal networking. I will be a better leader if I improve my strategic networking skills and leverage my connections when trying to set and achieve ambitious goals for the future benefit of the company. My job now involves strategic networking at an organizational level – building coalitions between my organization and like-minded others to advance shared goals. If I can translate these skills back down to a personal level, my future teams and I will thrive.
Business is about profit, but it is nevertheless important that leaders earn profit while abiding by a code of ethics and values. Badaracco (1992) argues leaders operate within four spheres of commitment as a person, as an economic agent, as a company leader and beyond the firm’s boundaries. They keep these commitments by answering four questions about consequences, rights, integrity and practicality. Good leaders learn to weigh these often-contradictory principles when making decisions.
Wrestling with these contradictions is absolutely a skill that takes time, practice and good mentorship to master. This type of decision-making is probably the aspect of leadership with which I am the least comfortable because I have had authority to give final sign-off. My current boss is a decision-maker and a wonderful mentor. Going forward, I need to better tap into the expertise she has built over a twenty-five-year career in order to prepare myself for a future promotion onto the leadership ladder.
The world of business is a pyramid, and very few people make it to the top. Right now, I am finding success as a mid-level professional staff member at a trade association. By executing this leadership plan at my current level, I hope to prove I am worthy of more formal leadership responsibilities.
This goal I have set for myself is ambitious and challenging. It will not be easy, but striving toward my goal of becoming a leader and manager helps motivate me to be a better employee every day. I have a lot to learn, but I work hard, and I know my effort will ultimately pay off for me, my colleagues and my employers, present and future.
Badaracco, J. L. (1992). Business Ethics: Four Spheres of Executive Responsibility. California Management Review, 34(3), 64-79.
Cialdini, R. B. (2001). Harnessing the science of persuasion. Harvard Business Review, 79(9) 72-79.
Goleman, D. (2000). Leadership that gets results. Harvard Business Review, 78(2), 78-90.
Hackman, J. R. 1987. The design of work teams. In Lorsch J., Handbook of Organizational
Behavior. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
Ibarra, H, & Hunter, M (2007). How leaders create and use networks. Harvard Business Review, 85(1), 40-47.
Janis, I. L. (1971). Groupthink. Psychology Today Magazine, 5, 43-46, 74-76
Kerr, S. (2001). On the Folly of Rewarding A, While Hoping for B. In Staw, B. M. (Ed.) Psychological Dimensions of Organizational Behavior. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall (Original work published in 1975, Academy of Management Journal, 18 (4), 769-783)
Latham, G. P., & Locke, E. A. (1979). Goal setting—a motivational technique that works. Organizational Dynamics, Autumn, 68-80.
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