How to Practice Leadership

Remember that learning effective leadership isn’t a simple “3 easy steps ” process, rather, it’s a complicated approach to one of management’s most critical functions.

Be a Leader

Before you can practice leadership, you must realize that there’s no single style of leadership that will work in all situations. Adaptability becomes a key term in the practice of leadership. When Charles Darwin discussed survival of the fittest he was talking about all species of living things, he could just as easily have directed his observations to managerial leaders. It’s true that leaders must adapt to the leadership environment or risk extinction.

Therefore, an analyst of the factors which make up every leadership environment is important. Many management theorists agree that there are specific, identifiable factors or ”forces” at work in a leadership environment. These are:

1. Forces within the manager. These ”personality characteristics” were discussed earlier in our study of leadership traits and leadership guidelines; for example: intelligence, courage, responsiveness to others, cooperativeness, enthusiasm, and so On.

2. Forces within the subordinates. Researchers agree that the performance and general behavior of subordinates are strongly influenced by factors such as the need for independence, sense of responsibility, knowledge, experience, and interest in the job at hand.

3. Forces within the situation. These include concerns such as the type of organization, worker effectiveness, and the pressures of time and cost.

These forces have always been a part of the work environment, but now that we know their impact on management there is a wide- spread acceptance of a system known as MBO-Management by Objectives, which takes these three forces into account as part of its application. This system could just as easily have been called LBO-Leadership By Objectives for this reason. In order to effectively manage by objectives, you must first effectively lead by objectives. Thus, the procedures of MBO are virtually identical to the procedures called for under the practice of leadership we’ll call LBO.

The key to both MBO and LBO is the establishment of compatibility between management and employee goals (objectives) before the work begins toward achieving those goals. Once established, these goals become benchmarks for evaluating performance.

In practicing leadership by objectives you’ll concentrate on the following activities:

1. Identifying the organizational goal – the cornerstone of LBO is, of course, identical to the cornerstone of MBO: You must first identify your goal before trying to reach it. lf you don’t know where you’re going you’ll never get there.

You wouldn’t think of going to an airport and taking the first plane out (unless you were trying to run away from something or someone). Rather, you would have a purpose in mind, a destination, a goal. You would buy a ticket to get you where you wanted to go, and then you would get on the right plane to take you there. Yet it’s amazing how many managers operate without ever establishing goals.

2. Helping subordinates understand the goal – this step embraces communication. Some managers are superb at setting goals, but they never seem to achieve anything. Many times this failure results because they didn’t tell anyone else about these goals.
Or if they told someone, they didn’t make sure that person understood them.

As you read this paragraph, you might imagine how easy it is for most managers to say, “I establish goals and I tell my people what they are; this is basic to good manage- ment.” Now imagine that manager walking into work tomorrow and asking the first sub- ordinate there: “How do you think our plan is working?” All too often the subordinate’s likely response would be: “What plan?” Shocking as it may seem, many managers haven’t really set their goals, or, if they have, they haven’t communicated these goals to their subordinates.

3. Helping subordinates plan for goal achievement – once you’ve established your goal, and have communicated the goal to your subordinates, you must plan how you’re going to reach it.

Let’s go back to the plane situation for a minute. Suppose that you wanted to fly to Chicago. You would go to the airport, purchase a ticket to Chicago, climb aboard the right plane, strap yourself into your seat, and fly in the direction of Chicago. Now let’s sup- pose, after you were in the air about 20 minutes, you called the stewardess to your seat and said to her, ”What time will we reach Chicago’s and she answers, “Chicago?” How would you feel? A little sick, maybe! Either you’re on the wrong plane or the people who are flying this plane just don’t know what they’re doing! Obviously, to fly a commercial airliner to Chicago takes an enormous amount of planning. The flight plan has to be completely mapped out, elevations and flight time must be established, clearances must be received, and so on. Yet many managers establish a goal that may be comparable to a plane flight, yet do little or no planning as to how the goal will be reached.

4. Making sure the activity gets started – so far you’ve established a goal, you’ve informed the proper people about the goal, and you’ve mapped out a plan for reaching it. Again, you can die on the vine if you don’t take the next step. You must start activity toward your goal; you must make things happen.

5. Keeping activity pointed towards the goal – once you get activity started, don’t rest satisfied. Keep the activity under surveillance, making sure that it’s properly oriented and pointed in the right direction.

6. Providing inspiration and enthusiasm – many activities start with a flourish and die with a flutter. All during the progress toward your goal you must provide the inspiration and enthusiasm to maintain a high pitch of activity. Don’t let down, not even for a day.

7. Evaluating the results – all along the road, from the starting point to achievement of the goal, you must evaluate the results. If plans need to be changed, change them. If the goal needs to be adjusted, adjust it. If progress is being made, commend those responsible for the progress. If progress isn’t being made, find out why and take corrective action as soon as possible.

8. Rewarding those who help with goal achievement – once you’ve achieved your goal, reward those who have helped you. This reward can take many forms. It’s enough to say, how- ever, that the reward must be appropriate to the amount of energy exerted. Those who exerted a great deal of energy should receive larger rewards than those who exerted less energy. Rewards build a solid foundation for future goal achievement.

Source: Industrial Management course