Management and leadership are important components of many businesses these days, and it is crucial for anyone who wishes to pursue a career in these fields to be able to develop their own, effective style of management and/or leadership to be successful in their position. In this paper, I will address my own experience of working for a travel agency as a manager. I will describe the leadership style I employed at my job, and explain the basic principles that formed my approach. I will also explain how I plan to make use of the ideas presented in this course and what I want to change or retain in my leadership and management approaches. The possible changes that might have been implemented at my work, as well as my perception of myself as a leader or a manager, will also be discussed.
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How I currently lead
Currently, my leadership style falls between the definitions of democratic and transactional styles of leadership (Suwannapirom 2005). It means that I attempt to give my team members enough freedom in making decisions, but I still try to reward those who perform best.
For instance, I have some experience of working for a travel agency, where I began as an office manager, but then I was given a chance to take part in managing a small project. I took up the responsibility, assembled a team (which can be defined as a project team (Shriberg & Shriberg 2011, p. 177)), and we started working on the task. At the time I already had some experience, but many members of my team were more experienced than I, so I chose the democratic leadership style.
I knew that the team members needed to participate in discussions about our following steps and decision-making, as some of them were better at the business than me. My work was to encourage them, inspire them, and help them to coordinate their actions between our business meetings. I also needed to help them to reach agreements in our meetings, for in some cases the perceptions of separate team members were inconsistent with each other.
I also employed some elements of the transactional leadership style, for I wanted to reward and additionally encourage those team members who performed particularly well, by praising them or awarding them where possible, as well as to offer assistance to less experienced team members when they needed it.
The core principles that underlie my approach to leadership
The principles on which my approach to leadership was based were rooted in my perceptions of employees. I think that those workers who are experienced and competent enough can, in the majority of cases, perform well without being told what to do from above. I believe that strict and authoritarian directing, for instance, would only hinder their progress, make them angry and depressed, and undermine their performance.
On the other hand, employees in many cases need coordination to maximize their efficiency. They also might require inspiration, because there often exist personal factors that hinder their work. So, as I was working with experienced employees, my job was to provide coordination and cooperation (which was more a manager’s work rather than a leader’s (Shriberg & Shriberg 2011, p. 135-136)), as well as help them overcome some problems that meddled with their job.
On the contrary, new, inexperienced employees in most cases require guidance and help with their work. It is important to make them build their knowledge of the business themselves, instead of simply telling them what to do. Therefore, I need to offer them the required guidance to help them utilize the knowledge they possess in the way that is needed for performing the tasks at their current position, as well as to help them build the new knowledge and attain their own positive experience. It is paramount to support them where they need it and praise them where they did their job well.
How I will lead in the future in the light of the ideas presented in this course
The ideas presented in this course allowed me to improve my approach to leadership in several ways. For instance, I realized that I made not enough stress on the ethical side of the job. I believe that the style of leadership I used to practice could be labeled as ethically neutral (Shriberg & Shriberg 2011, p. 26-27). The team I used to work with had some ethical components present in it; besides, the firm I worked for had quite a strong customer-oriented organizational culture (Rao 2010, p. 293), so I believe that my ethical neutrality did not cause any harm. But I realize now that in the future I will need to put more emphasis on ethics, for not every company or team would hold to the ethical principles unless they are purposely demonstrated by the leader.
In this course, I was also able to learn some valuable information about working in a multicultural environment. Although my team was only comprised of Australians, the very nature of the tourist business implies the involvement of multicultural issues and the need for culturally responsive practices (Shriberg & Shriberg 2011, p. 45-52). Although our project was centered around a tourist program in Europe, we still might have used, e.g., Geert Hofstede’s cultural dimensions theory (Soares, Farhangmehr & Shoham 2007) to help create the proper advertisement.
In the future, if I continue working in the tourist business, I will utilize this theory and the findings of the GLOBE project (House et al. 2004) to provide my customers with better information about the country they are going to. I will also have to develop the skills of multicultural leadership (Shriberg & Shriberg 2011, p. 53). This will be useful in the future, for I may have to work with international teams and in a multicultural environment.
I will also make sure to pay more attention to environmental issues. In my previous job, I did not pay very much attention to these issues myself, they were handled by team members. But in the future, it is paramount that I grow as an environmental leader (Shriberg & Shriberg 2011, p. 251-256).
What kind of leader I want to be
In my future career, I want to be an effective and flexible leader. I believe that there is no universal model of effective leadership that would be suitable for any organization; the type of leader needed is highly dependent on the specifics of the organization, types of employees to be managed/led, and the branch of industry the firm specializes in.
For instance, there are examples of successful software companies that work without managers, leaders, or hierarchies at all (Kelion 2013). Kelion (2013), however, stresses that such an organization, “Valve”, approaches the hiring process very carefully, employing only highly professional and motivated workers. If I am ever to work in a similar organization, perhaps it is even best to use the laissez-faire style of leadership in some cases (Hackman & Johnson 2013, p. 40-48), combined with the servant leadership principle (Shriberg & Shriberg 2011, p. 76), offering support and guidance when it is required, but not meddling with the work of the programmers.
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On the other hand, it is arguable that the “bossless” way of organizing a firm might not work in other types of companies. In such a situation, I still find the democratic style of leadership preferable, for the employees often have some valuable decisions to offer. Besides, it is known that Australians have a small Hofstede’s power distance index (Hofstede’s 5 dimensions n.d, p. 9), and, therefore, more authoritative styles of leadership would fail in this environment.
In other words, I want to be a flexible leader, one that can switch from one style of leadership to another depending on the current needs of the employees. But mostly I incline towards more democratic styles of leadership, offering assistance and motivation where they are needed.
What I want to make sure I keep doing
In my future work, I would very much like to retain my ability and habit to keep studying and absorbing new information quickly. This has proven extremely useful, as I was able to learn numerous specifics of the business while working, and I was trusted with managing the project. I would also like to keep learning from my more experienced colleagues and other leaders, for without this skill, I will be stuck in the same place for a very long time.
I also want to maintain my micromanagement practices, that is, keep observing what the members of my team do carefully (while not seeming to be too persistent at the same time) to better coordinate them. It is important not to forget that even if I obtain a very high position, I will still need to coordinate people and help with particular tasks and problems, just on a different level.
What I want to stop doing
In my professional activities, I would like to stop being too friendly with the members of my teams and having too informal relationships with them. Good relationships between employees, as well as between employees and management, are paramount, but it is also necessary to maintain some distance if you are a leader or a manager, because otherwise some of the people in your team might take advantage of you and your relationship with them.
I also wish to stop doing too much work myself and to learn to better delegate various tasks to the members of my team or to those whom I coordinate. My having too friendly relationships with the team led to situations when I tried to delegate some tasks, but was too easily persuaded to do them myself. Therefore, I need to learn to delegate jobs better and insist on it more (Luecke & McIntosh 2009), which is also important for proper time management (Forsyth 2013).
I also would like to be more comfortable with admitting my weaknesses. It is important to be able to do so, for in some cases when these flaws are perceivable, but one finds it hard to admit having them, it creates a negative image of this person. Of course, I should not reveal my crucial weaknesses if they emerge (but, of course, it is unreasonable to deny them if they are too apparent), but work on them instead. Still, I should get used to admitting my minor flaws, for in some cases it is rather difficult to do.
What I want to start doing
First of all, I need to feel more comfortable in a dynamic environment. The firm I worked for had quite stable personnel, and very few people came or went away. But I believe that it is likely that I will have to work in a place where there are many new people all the time, and for this purpose, I need to be able to get used to new people fast.
I also need to be able to deal with interpersonal challenges easier and more effectively. At my work, I was, in many cases, able to reconcile the perceptions of my team members, but I did so with a lot of effort. Of course, reconciling various points of view is not an easy job on the whole, but I must learn to do it with more ease.
And it is also my opinion that I need to start practicing more ethical leadership. I already mentioned that my style of leadership and management was rather ethically neutral so far and that it was compensated by the inclinations of the team, as well as by the organizational culture. But there certainly exist companies without such tendencies, and if I work for them, it will be my duty to introduce ethical component into the firm (Shriberg & Shriberg 2011, p. 28-29).
What changes I would make in how I lead and/or manage men my previous work setting
In my previous work setting, as I already mentioned, I would need to start delegating more responsibilities to others. I would need to become somewhat harder to persuade to do jobs myself and learn to say “no” when I was asked to do so by my colleagues.
I also needed to pay more attention to the execution of the job by the workers on time, as some of the members of my team did not meet their deadlines. Even though I carefully observed their work, I sometimes was not able to find out what caused these lags. Therefore, if I had to manage the same team, I would pay more attention to these lags and either help to find ways to overcome them or re-delegate these responsibilities to others.
Whether I see myself as more of a leader or more of a manager
From what was told above, it is evident that my job was closer to management than to leadership. I believe that I am quite well-suited for a manager, for I can coordinate the work of my team members quite effectively, as well as to observe the work of employees and offer assistance where they need it. Despite the drawbacks that were exposed while I was working as a project manager, my performance proved to be rather good. It is also my firm belief that these drawbacks can be overcome if I work on them hard enough and if I gain more experience.
On the other hand, I also think that I potentially might become a good leader, and/or practice managerial leadership well (Shriberg & Shriberg 2011, p. 140-141), for I can rather quickly grasp a new situation and find out what it is better to do and how it is better to deal with it. This enables me to offer some good perceptions of the situation and propose some creative methods to deal with it. Enough, to be a good leader, I will first need to get more experience and knowledge in the area I will work in. But, in my opinion, it is quite natural, for one needs to have a vast amount of general knowledge, to know much about their particular field, as well as to have enough experience to be a truly good leader.
To sum up, it should be noted that my current leadership style is a mix of democratic and transactional styles of leadership and that I am generally more inclined to democratic rather than authoritarian styles. I like to provide guidance, support, and assistance rather than simply tell people what to do; this is based on my perceptions of employees as professionals and individuals. Of course, it is also important to take into account the specifics of the people and organization – in some limited cases, democratic leadership might not be the best choice. Therefore, I want to be a flexible leader, but I still would prefer to remain democratic.
Also, thanks to this course, I have realized the importance of ethics in leadership, as well as the need for environmental leadership, and I will try to implement these in my future job. There are some skills and activities I want to retain or develop, as well as some things I wish to stop doing in my future job; it would also have been useful if I had done it at my previous work. Also, I believe that nowadays I would be a good manager, but to become a great leader, I need to obtain more knowledge and experience.
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