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In the modern day business environment, organizations are constantly forced to exhibit innovation and enhanced performance so as to remain relevant and profitable in an ever increasingly competitive arena.
The input of both the individuals and groups in the organization is invaluable to the achievement of organizational goals. Whereas the potential of groups and teams is monumental and crucial and as such indispensible to the organization, there comes a time when the fate of the organization may hang on the very shoulders of an individual.
This paper argues that the effort of one person can make a significant difference in the life of an organization albeit with the unreserved involvement and cooperation of the other key members of the organization. This paper will begin by giving a brief outlook of the environment in which this individual is to function.
It will then proceed to define the traits that may make this one person turn around the fate of the organization. A discussion articulating the conditions under which the person may fail in his attempts to impact the organization will also be given. This will be in an effort to elaborate that good leadership ability is mandatory for the one person to make a difference.
The organizational context
Morgan (2006) defines an organization as an institute, group or an association which has a specific purpose and goals. In order for a group to deem itself as an organization, there must be observable elements of cooperation and coordination within the members of the group in accordance to a pre-prescribed format.
As such, key to the establishment of any organization is the presence of some common and quantifiable goals which are to be pursued collectively. In an organization, the role that an individual plays must be looked at against the background of the overall effects that his actions may have on the entire organization.
Traditional organizations have been characterized by rigidity and structural form whereby emphasis on an individuals input has not been as pronounced. The traditional organization is modeled around pre-defined plans and set goals which are all directed towards the optimization of performance by the organization (Malhotra 2000, p.1). Most of the activities are designed such that they adhere to organizational routines that are inherent to a well established structure.
Present conditions have called for a restructuring to the manner in which organizations function. Nadler’s study (cited in Malhotra 2000, p.1) indicates that the traditional organizational structure was build for a relatively stable and predictable environment. This is contrary to the present day environment which is characterized by an increased level of instability and the risk of unforeseen changes in the business environment for organizations.
This new environment in which the organizations find themselves calls for a reassessment of organizational practices. One of the reassessments made is the placement of even greater emphasis and value on the input of the individual so as to ensure that the organization survives the various competitive forces that constantly threaten its existence.
The role of the individual
Bearing in mind the factors discussed above, the organizational structure is constantly being modified so as to be aligned with the various realities that arise in the business environment. As such, the role of the individual has been propelled to the forefront and may indeed act as the last line of defense in instances where the tradition means of relying on group achievements has failed.
For a person to make difference, he must possess some particular character traits. A study on “leadership skills and traits” by Stogdill (cited in Bolden et.al. 2003, p. 7) highlights the various traits and skills. This traits include; innovation, charisma, confidence, diplomacy, ability to take responsibility among other traits. Most of this attributes are a prerequisite for an individual to make a positive impact in the organization.
Creativity is one of the skills in an individual that can be used to make a difference to the organization. Over the last decades, creativity and innovation has progressively become the defining factor of successful and failing organizations. Shavinina (2003, p. 607) asserts that this innovation has become paramount to the survival of organizations.
She goes on to note that in most occasions, innovation springs from an individual’s initiative. It can thus be argued out that an individual possessing creativity and innovation can use this ability to positively impact the organization. This can be through the proposal of novel ideas or through the reinventing or discovering of more efficient ways of running certain aspects of the organization.
In certain circumstances, the preserving of the corporate culture of the organization can make the difference in the organization. This is especially so when the culture has been responsible for the successful execution of tasks in the organization over a long period of time. This being the case, it is obvious that the success of an organization can be jeopardized by any move that threatens to weaken the corporate culture of the organization.
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Morgan (2006, p.128) states that corporate cultures develop “as an ethos created and sustained by social processes so as to bury out differences”. This means that the culture is a means by which the various disparate members of the organization can forge some form of alliance and thus work towards. Jenster and Hussey (2001) assert that a strong culture may be further reinforced in an organization by a strong charismatic figure.
Key to making a difference in the organization is the ability of the sole figure to ensure that everyone involved buys into the ideas and concepts that they are trying to advance. Sahskin (2003, p.178) articulates that actions that produce a feeling of charisma towards a leader figure will invariably lead to an increase in the likelihood of the followers to ape the actions of the leader.
However, it should be noted that making the people follow a “model individual” may only be effective for a short term basis. The Education of key people in the organization about the assets and issues associated with the work environment may be a more effective and long term measure (Huszczo 2004, p.212). An individual who embraces the more encompassing role of an ambassador is therefore more likely to make a difference to the organization rather than relying solely on charisma.
At the present, most economies in the world are working towards recovering from the credit crunch that hit almost all countries in the world. It is a reasonable assumption that most organizations were forced to make changes that included cutting on costs or laying off employees so as to remain profitable. In such times, there is need for a flame of optimism to be fanned in the organization.
Bolden et. al (2003, p.16) state that an optimistic nature is one of the defining behaviors associated with a transformational leader. A person who can enthusiastically talk about the needs of the organization and draw a compelling image of the bright future that all in the organization can look forward to is capable of making a difference in the organization.
In all organizations, there arise contentious issues which elicit different reactions at some point in time. How these issues are diffused may spell out the difference between the subsequent success or failure of the organization. The presence of a person who can manage the crises in a diplomatic fashion may be crucial to the success of the organization. Diplomacy entails the using of power and authority carefully so as to achieve positive outcomes by being unanimous or arriving at a consensus (London 2002, p.259).
Failure of the individual
Whereas the individual can be seen to be a potent force acting for the good of the organization, there may be instances whereby this individual can lead to the failure of the organization. Cyert and March (1992, p.31) present the organization as a coalition of individuals who have goals.
There therefore exists the potential for internal goal conflict due to the diverse individuals that make up the organization. An individual may be tempted to project the goals that reflect on his/her personal values. Solo (2000, p.69) asserts that the economy in place favours the collective goals and those values that reflect the needs of groups rather than personal groups. This being the case, any emphasis on the individuals values may negatively impact the organization.
Ambition and an achievement-oriented nature are some of the traits that are inherent in a person who set out to make a difference in the organization (Bolden et al. 2003, p.7). Whereas these traits are desirable and necessary for this task, they may have detrimental effects if they are exhibited in an exaggerated form.
If an individual is overly ambitious, he may be tempted to act in ways that are beneficial to him/her at the expense of other members of the organization. This may alienate him/her to the other members of the organization who may then proceed to sabotage his activities thus negatively impacting the organization.
This paper has argued that the role of an individual can make a difference in the organization if properly directed. The paper has discussed the prominent aspects in present day organizations that make the role of the individual more pronounced as compared to past times. It has been proposed that an individual possessing certain character traits that are mostly attributed to leaders can make a difference in an organization. However, it has been articulated that some of this traits can be detrimental to the organizations well beings.
As such, a compromise should be struck to ensure that those skills and traits which yield positive trends are capitalized on while the traits which are negative are minimized. From the discussions presented in this paper, it can be authoritatively stated that while the role of the individual is crucial to the success of the organization, it should always be looked at in respect to its effect on the entire team since the organizational goals can only be effectively achieved with the support of all the members of the organization.
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