Leadership in Organizations

I have been spending the past few days in a completely different word than Bucknell. The United States Naval Academy is hosting their annual leadership conference. I feel somewhat out of place here amoungst the students in their uniforms. This organization operates on a much different set of standards and traditions than the Bucknell organization. It has been an irriplacable expericence to here about how leadership roles are taken by the students here at the academy.

While here we have discussed what traits make the best leaders. My favorites have come from Vice Admiral Ann E. Rondeau. She says that good leaders listen and learn first and use conversational leadership (or lead by asking questions). If someone does not know the culture of the people she is leading, then it is impossible for her to lead them properly. She told a story of when she entered her first ship. Because of where she came from she was legally in charge of other members of the ship who had been in the service much longer than she had. She felt that it was her duty to learn about the people on the ship and their cultures and traditions in order to lead them effectively. Vice Admiral Rondeau also believes that good leaders are passionate about what they do. How can a person lead others if she does not believe in the cause or goals of that organization? 

When we speak of leaders today, some minds may turn to the managers and C-level employees of a company, but are these people really the best example of leadership? Can a leader be born out of a position that is not in the lime light? Looking back at what we have been talking about at this conference I would conclude that anyone can be a leader, but that it is not always the best call to look to management for the best leaders. As we have learned from Organizations and Organizing management in today’s society typically comes up through rational-legal means, that is they ascend by following the norms of the organization (whether that be most productive, best at organizing, etc.). I would like to propose that leaders rise up from a more charismatic stand point. Leaders understand their people and know how to inspire them to do great things. They gain respect not because they are legally guaranteed it, but because they earn it by gaining the trust of those around them. 

I would like to part with two questions for you to  ponder (and respond to if you are interested):

1. What do you believe are the true qualities of a leader?

2. Are managers always good leaders?

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5 Responses

  1. It is nice to see that for once someone else does not believe that the “upper-management” of an organization is the best leader to look towards. I have always thought that in order to be a good leader you have to ask questions from those who you feel exemplify good leadership skills, just because someone is at the top of an organization does not mean that they got there because they are a strong leader. In today’s society it seems that we are all credentialists, it does not matter what you have done or what qualities you have as a person, if you can produce that one piece of paper or certification that states “you can do this” you will move mountains.

    Experience is not everything in today’s society when in reality it should be, in order for organization’s to have, and then in return to produce strong leaders, so that we don’t have companies like Merrill Lynch who felt that spending millions of dollars on decorating should be a priority, and if you have to lay off a few people they just think oh well, at least I have my nice new office. And who thought that even after such a devastating 4th quarter loss, he should still hand out bonuses for the holidays. Those are not qualities of a leader, in my mind a leader should stand out from everyone else for the good that they do and the effort they put into an organization.

  2. I agree that leaders are not necessarily bred from the position that they are given. I think that the best leaders understand the people they lead. They also have to lead by example. One cannot expect followers to accept a leader if the leader says “Do as I say not as I do.” People have little tolerance for hypocrisy.

    Manager are sometimes good leaders. It all depends. Sometimes though, managers that are promoted employees do not make good managers as they are just really good employees and the skill sets required for each position can be very different. You can see this sometimes in restaurants that are run by the cook. The cook may make the best pizza in the world and be the owner, (making him the manager) but he may know little about people and even less about accounting.

    Sounds like your leadership conference was pretty interesting.

  3. Although I agree with most of what was said, I don’t think I can agree with your following statement:

    “Looking back at what we have been talking about at this conference I would conclude that anyone can be a leader”

    Yes, leaders can come from all different backgrounds and the most significant ones may not be someone you expected, but I don’t think that anyone can be a leader. There may not be a concrete, defined list of characteristics that every leader must have, but there are certainly some guidelines. In my mind, leadership requires a personality, someone who will not merely dictate, but accept critiques and judgment in order to make better decisions. There are many people that I know personally who I would be scared to see in leadership positions. You have lazy, lying, and ill-advised people who would not be able to direct and work to achieve a particular goal. This kind of ties into your questioning of managers. I find that some managers are successful in what they do. Take Jon Mackey for example (the CEO of Whole Foods). He has created an amazingly successful company and created policies that many others would never dream of using. To categorize managers into one group is to categorize college students into one group — everyone is so different, comes from different backgrounds, and possesses such vast qualities that it is impossible to say that managers are always or always not good leaders. We just have to accept that some people can handle the role of leader, and others can not.

  4. I think the difference between normative and behavioral views of the firm are critical here. She says (normative) that this is what a leader should do. How we would we assess her behavior?

    What is leadership? How can we research it?

  5. The true qualities of a leader:

    The person has to be capable and have working knowledge of the environment they are operating in. People who are under the leadership of a person will respect him/her for abilities that they can see and believe in. Dennis Hawley, VP of Facilities, explained how he was able to be an effective manager without being a “bad boss” – he personally meets and shares expectations with every facilities new hire, from custodian up. He makes it a point to make people feel the value of their contributions.

    Managers as leaders:

    There are different ways in which managers get to be managers. Some study management and begin working in the field of management, and receive promotions as deemed appropriate by the organizations. Others, like Dennis Hawley who is an engineer by profession, are picked out by current organization leaders to become future leaders and are given management roles. Depending on how managers are recruited, evaluated, and promoted, it may or may not be a good idea to look for good leaders in management roles. Organizational culture and environment are major factors in deciding this one.

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