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Leadership and Followership, Essay Example

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Essay

Leadership is one of the most important aspects of any organization and community because it helps guide, provide structure and organize the outcome of the company or group.  The goal of any leader should be to properly motivate followers to engage in productive and efficient tasks towards achieving specific goals.  Many cinematic films show leadership in sports and the military, while very few works outside of the academic community discuss leadership in terms of the corporate environments.  Leadership is highly prevalent within these settings and is absolutely crucial to creating a close-nit group environment and motivating individuals to work together to achieve the goals of the organization or group.  The leadership and followership experiences I have faced have played an important role in my understanding of leadership, and the readings of the course have also become important factors in developing my concept of leadership and followership.

There are several leader and follower roles that I have performed during different times of my own life with different individuals and in different circumstances.  For instance, I have been a team captain for my sports team in a number of situations, including high school and youth athletics teams.  It is always important for the team captain, and leader of the team, to help keep the rest of the players organized and motivated to persevere during difficult times.  There were situations where our teams faced adversity, but myself and another team captain were able to work together and share the leadership roles to keep our team motivated and working together.  I have also been involved in youth groups in church where we were responsible for following the youth pastor during our church groups.  Followership is important, especially when thousands of youths are convened together within a church concert.  I took many demands and followed the instructions of the youth pastor to help provide a successful concert and the entire event was a extremely fun and exciting.

From the story “Lessons from Geese” there are many valuable leadership lessons that can be taken from the behaviors of geese.  For instance, it is said that by flying in a ‘V’ formation, each goose flaps its wings to create uplift for the other birds that follow behind.  As each goose works together and follows the one in front, the entire flock can add a much larger flying range than if each goose were to fly alone (Ambler, 2006, par. 1).  This lesson truly shows the importance of working together and following the leadership of others.  If people work together in a group, they are able to achieve so much more than if they were to work alone.  In addition to this lesson, there is another that states that as the lead goose begins to become tired and weary from flying in the front, it will rotate to the back of the pack and allow for another goose to take the lead position (Ambler, 2006, par. 3).  Essentially, this action is telling us that it is very important for leaders to understand that leadership can be shared with others that have various skills. This is very similar to my previous situation as a team captain where I shared leadership responsibilities with another individual.  In order to ensure the best results for the entire group, the leader must be mature enough to admit his or her weaknesses and allow for others to take the lead during difficult times.

The lessons gained from this story are important, and I will actively apply them to my own workplace now and in the future.  Although I have very little power, leadership is not necessarily the power that a person has in the infrastructure of an organization, it can be the impact that a person has on a group of people.  There are many projects in my company that require much research and the examination of tedious details.  By asking others for help, I can help instill a teamwork mentality that can help apply the leadership and teamwork lessons learned from the story of the geese.  Furthermore, I can also offer my help to people around the office whenever I have spare time.  By doing these two simple actions it helps people to begin to think about how they can help me and others, as well as how I can be of service to them.  Working as a team is crucial and we cannot always take on the entire workload as many people would like to believe.  As the lessons from geese show, sometimes it is best to avoid being prideful and admit when we are not strong enough to perform a given task so that someone else can help pick up the slack.  By asking others for help, we are not showing a weakness in character or inability to perform; we are simply putting the organization ahead of ourselves.

The leader-follower relationship and leader-member exchange has contributed very much to my own understanding of leadership in my workplace.  Continuing from my previous example as a team captain, many of our teammates did not want to do a lot of the preparatory work associated with being involved in an athletics team.  We had weight training and conditioning exercises that needed to be finished to help prepare us for performing at our best abilities, but unfortunately not everyone had the same desire to succeed.  People quickly became tired and immediately began to question the worth of performing the work.  As each teammate began a cost-benefit test, it became clear that many of the followers did not share the same belief in hard work and hold a “team first” mentality.  This is a common challenge for any leader because if the leader is not able to show the followers the importance of hard work and putting the organization first, then as my example shows it can result in poor results for the entire team.

The followers must maintain loyalty and follow the leader with what is best for the entire group in order for everyone to be successful.  It is the job of the leader to help string along all of the subordinates and motivate them to do what is necessary to accomplish the goals of the entire group.  Occasionally, a leader may face the challenge of dealing with a follower that is no longer completely loyal or questions the leader’s decisions.  This can often be the cause of dissention among the group and harm the cohesiveness that the leader is responsible for building and maintaining.  Therefore, the leader-follower relationship holds responsibilities for both parties.  First, the leader must do what he or she can to maintain cohesiveness among the group and work to keep the followers motivated to achieving the tasks that are necessary for the entire organization to be successful.  If a follower steps out of line or loses sight of what is important, the leader has a responsibility to do what he or she can to persuade and motivate that individual to change their ways.  However, there are constructive ways to communicate the leader’s displeasure with followers and this is essentially based upon the leader’s specific leadership style.  Some leaders lead by their actions and others lead by their vocal abilities to motivate their followers.  Still, this relationship is not one-sided and is crucial for the follower to play his or her role for the organization, and the leader-follower relationship, to be successful.

The leader-follower relationship also suggests that the follower has a responsibility to obey the wishes and demands of the leader and to concentrate on performing tasks for the benefit of the organization.  There may be times where the follower believes that the leader has made a mistake in judgment.  For instance, there was a time when one of my teammates believed that I and the other captain had made a mistake in calling for a team meeting after practice to discuss our strategy against an upcoming opponent.  He began to make his displeasure known to other members of our team and it began to cause a rift between the captains and some members of the team.  This example shows that while we did not uphold our responsibility of speaking with the teammate and keeping him motivated and interested in following us, he did not maintain his portion of the responsibility of following the leader.  Instead, he openly showed his displeasure because he had plans after practice and our team meeting was an inconvenience.  He was thinking of his own selfish needs instead of the needs of the team.  Regardless, it is important for the entire group that group members continue to follow the leader or the success of the entire group can become tarnished.

Risks and mistakes are very critical components of leaders learning to improve their own leadership style and working more efficiently to motivate others.  This fact is thoroughly discussed by Kouzes and Posner in their own research.  However, in my own workplace I have also taken many risks.  There was a scenario where I was the low-man-on-the-totem-pole within the organization and had very few responsibilities except to obey the orders of my manager.  Unfortunately, my team leader in the organization was not doing a good job and was usually arriving late to work and performing poor quality work that was impacting the rest of the group as well as myself.  I decided to take a risk and enter a leadership role by representing the rest of the team and bringing our complaints to the manager to try to resolve the issue constructively.

The manager was very receptive to our discussion and accepted many of the changes that I suggested within the workplace.  On the other hand, he also expressed the importance of following the chain of command within our company in order to avoid any future problems and discussions that did not follow the company policies.  I made the mistake of not confronting the team leader to discuss many of our group’s problems with his performance.  Instead, I went straight to the manager which was against company policy.  Although I was never rewarded or reprimanded for my actions, there were marked improvements in the team leader’s behaviors and the quality of work he did after my discussion with the manager.  The rest of the group knew that I had been successful in the conversation with the manager, but I still learned that company policy and the chain of command were also very important to follow in future problems. This was one of my earliest lessons as a leader in the workplace.  In this scenario, however, I began to show leadership and coach upwards to help my manager make the best decisions possible regarding this issue.  This suggests again that leadership is not based on a person’s position of power, and I can be a leader in my company by constructively and professionally voicing my opinion to my manager.

The concept of community is very important within any organization or group where leadership has an important role in impacting the successful achievement of goals.  The leader plays an important role in developing this close community.  In many cases it can involve creating a membership and group association that all employees are proud to be apart of.  Community helps provide members with motivation to want to achieve high results and perform well for the benefit of the organization.  For instance, my company has a “Best Performance Group” that has been created to award individuals for strong performance in the workplace.  This group is publicly recognized by the managers at our annual company picnic and a plaque is placed in the main hallway so that everyone can see them.  Many co-workers and managers offer words of encouragement and support for individuals that perform well, so it has become an honor that many people want to earn.  This close-nit community in our workplace works hard to perform well and show support for those individuals that are doing a good job.  Our community is constructed based on company cohesiveness, which as previously discussed, plays an important role in the community and can also help motivate individuals to persevere during difficult times.

The leader can create this spirit of community in the workplace through four distinct activities.  First of all, the leader can verbally speak with every subordinate to emphasize the close interaction of all group members in a community.  The leader can also perform group-building activities and workshops that create group cohesion.  Next, the leader can reward successful individuals within the community and publicly recognize them so that the entire community can recognize the individuals’ achievement.  Finally, the leader can compare the group or community with competitors’ achievements in order to create a sense of rivalry or constructive competition that can help increase the productivity of the community.  Leaders may face many challenges such as the challenges of non-loyal followers.  These four activities may be difficult with individuals from different backgrounds or that have never experienced the community environment in a workplace before.  If a leader is trying to instill a new program into an organization or change a culture to become more productive, it can be a challenge if followers are stuck in their old ways and unwilling to follow the leader.  Still, it is the responsibility of the leader to implement this community experience and properly motivate the subordinates to work efficiently and help the organization be successful.

Bibliography

Ambler, G. (2006, July 18). Leadership lessons from geese. Retrieved from http://www.thepracticeofleadership.net/2006/07/18/leadership-lessons-from-geese/

Clark, D. (1997, May 11). Concepts of leadership. Retrieved from http://www.nwlink.com/~donclark/leader/leadcon.html

Goodworth, C. (1988). The Secrets of Successful Leadership and People Management, Oxford: Heinman Professional Publishing.

McNamara, C. (1997). Overview of Leadership in Organizations. Florida: Authenticity Consulting, LLC.

Vroom, V. H. and Yetton, P. W. (1973). Leadership and decision-making, Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press.

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