Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Good leadership is hard but possible

Life has sent me several things that have recently made me think about leadership and what it means to be an effective leader.

I’ve been wanting to do more in my community so I’ve applied to do a leadership programme. As I prepared for the interview, it made me think of the concept of leadership that the programme was built on was different from the kind of leadership that I learnt about as part of my master’s degree.

The required readings of my Leadership unit focus on the more traditional sort of leadership, the kind that you assume involves running an institution or organisation. This unit spoke about different sources of power such as Reward, Coercive and Legitimate power which are the kind of power that I’ve often seen at work.

Most often the Coercive and Legitimate type is used to make sure the wheels of the team go round and everything runs smoothly, so the theory goes. My old text book defines Coercive Power as the ‘capacity to punish or withhold positive outcomes as a way of influencing other people’ and Legitimate power as the ‘capacity to influence other people by virtue of formal authority, or the rights of office’.

But as you can imagine these are the basic tools that new mangers refer to in attempt to ‘lead’ their teams but we all know that it take more than coercion and a job title to get respect from those below you.

I must admit that effectively leading a team at work has to be one of the hardest jobs around as there is a real skill to it. But either you’re good with people or you’re not! I am always surprised when people who have weak emotional intelligence put their hands for such positions of power. It leads to a toxic environment that brings the worst in people and a miserable place to be.

I am sure that many of you have had jobs that were tough or dull but because the manager was good and the other people were cool you didn’t mind.   

What makes it hard for everyone (including the ‘leader’) is when those who aren’t gifted with good people skills are so often promoted beyond their interpersonal skill level. The effect is that people become unmotivated and disengaged but somehow this is ignored by those who hire and fire. It seems that the only requirement for promotion to these roles is having hubristic tenancies. 

One of the questions that I had at the interview for this leadership programme was to describe a leader at work that I admired. The person that I immediately thought had a senior position but isn’t a leader of a team but because she had great skills in this area I used her as an example. She is supportive, respectful and doesn’t purposely go out to shame and humiliate. She also understands the tough work environment as well as has the ability to bring out the best in people and to motivate staff.  

But don’t fear people!

Leadership is more than just telling people to pull their socks up.

It seems that the whole notion of leadership has evolved overtime from the ‘Boss’ at work or in the home to include advocacy on behalf of those whose voice isn’t loud enough to be heard.

One man who ran a youth development camp I went on when I was at uni describes leadership as “action that makes the world I touch a better place”. As you can see it is a general definition and could include anyone that stands up for minority groups or for a colleague that is being bullied.

I hate to be Captain Cliché but “I want to be the change I want to see in the world” and I am to improve the lives of other people with disabilities.  

This is the kind of leadership I that I want to get involved with.

I have no interest in being a manager or leader in the work environment but to do want to do this program so I can learn how to advocate for others and make a difference in the community. I look forward to starting and developing the skills to improve the lives of others who aren’t so fortunate.   


Campling. J., Poole. D., Wiesner. R., Ang. E.S., Chan. B., Tan. WL., and Schermerhorn. J.R. (2008) Management (3rd Asia-Pacific edition) (Brisbane, Qld: Wiley Publishing Company)

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