This article is part of our ongoing series on Leadership Principles for Young People, where we reflect on how young people could develop their eadership skills given the different trends and issues in the world today.
Here are the articles in the series so far:
We’ve been talking about the concept of leadership in the past few weeks already. But what is it really? How can young people exhibit leadership in their different contexts?
According to John Maxwell, leadership is influence! He said that “leadership is more, if not much more, influence rather than position. Being in a position in an organization does not guarantee that you are a true leader.
Warren Bennis, on the other hand, said that “Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.”
By the way, if you want to learn more about Warren Bennis and his thoughts on leadership, I encourage you to read Jef Menguin’s blog. He has been writing about his insights and reactions on Bennis’s book..
Before anybody can be a leader, he should believe in and subscribe to the vision of the organization. If there is no such vision, then the leader should have the courage to lead the organization into crafting a vision. A leader who does not believe in the vision of the organization he leads has no business leading. The personal vision of the leader must coincide with the vision of the organization.
How are visions cultivated?
A leader may come into his personal vision via two ways. First, he may have nurtured a passion for something, say for example, a passion for social change, or a passion for service and excellence. You could say that Bill Gates had passion for computers and built an empire out of that. Likewise, Christopher and Ma. Victoria Bernido had passion for teaching and reaching out to the kids in their home province. Passion can be translated into a personal vision. This is an excellent way for someone to become a leader.
Some leaders, however, find out that responsibility is thrust into them by circumstances. For John Wood, responsibility was thrust into him when he realized the importance of literacy in Nepal.
No matter where you are in your leadership journey—whether you are pursuing your passion or responsibility is thrust into you, you should be able to draw upon your internal reserves to make it work. In short, you better give it your best shot! Leadership, after all, is developed best through practice and experience. The more you lead, the more you become a leader!
Styles of leadership
Three styles of leadership have been identified by Kurt Lewin and his colleagues in 1939: Autocratic, Laissez faire and Democratic.
Autocratic or Authoritarian Style. With this style of leadership, all decisions are made by the leader. Most of the time, the leader simply ignores initiatives and suggestions from followers or subordinates. This kind of leadership style works best when the situation demands quick decisions and very confidential information.
Perhaps, this style of leadership can be seen in the way that Apple Computers guards its trade secrets and products.
Democratic or Participative Style. In contrast with the previous style of leadership, the democratic style takes into account the voices, opinions and suggestions of subordinates. The leader makes decisions only after consulting subordinates. Through this style, groups within the organization may feel more valued. As such, they become motivated better. In a very large organization, however, it is quite difficult to get everyone’s participation in decision making.
Laissez Faire or Free Rein Style. This style of leadership allows subordinates to deal with the situations they face by themselves. They can decide by themselves even without direct input from the leader. In a situation where teams are empowered to deal with their own special situations, this works best. Although if this became the norm in an organization, it may appear chaotic from the outside.
Please keep in mind, that different situations may call for different styles of leadership. If the organization is dealing with emergencies and the leader has more experience in dealing with it, then autocratic style may be the best option. On the other hand, in an organization with high expertise and high motivation, then laissez faire could work best. While the democratic style is more of the middle level style and allows leader and subordinates to work side by side.
Leadership theories abound in various books and websites. It would be impossible to cover every leadership theory in this blog post. But I am posting several theories that may be applicable to the situation of young people in the Philippines and all over the world.
Transactional leadership. Transactional leadership theories treat the leader as the initiator of several transactions between leaders and followers. The main system of pursuing the organization’s vision is through the use of rewards and punishments. A transactional leader believes that followers work best if they are either rewarded or punished. The approach is a bit linear and simple—if a follower does things according to the leader’s specification, he gets a reward, otherwise, he gets punished.
Transformational leadership. Transformational leadership, on the other hand, focuses on creating change in individual followers and in the system as a whole. This leadership theory recognizes the leadership potential in every follower. When this theory is implemented, the leader can enhance the motivation, morale and performance of his subordinates. This leadership theory may be implemented through the four elements of transformational leadership identified by Bernard M. Bass. Steve Wolinski presented these four elements.
Idealized Influence. This component states that transformational leaders act as role models and that followers will seek to emulate their behavior. In addition to being considered generally extraordinary leaders, the three attributes that ideally are demonstrated through Idealized Influence are a willingness to take risks, consistent (versus arbitrary) behavior, and high levels of integrity and ethics.
Inspirational Motivation. This component states that transformational leaders behave in ways that are inspirational to followers and provide meaning and a sense of challenge to their work. This is achieved in three different ways: involving followers in the development of a preferred vision for the future, communicating clear expectations, and by demonstrating a clear commitment to the shared goals and vision of the group or team.
Intellectual Stimulation. This component states that transformational leaders include followers in addressing organizational problems and stimulate and support them in being as creative and innovative as possible in identifying solutions. The leaders accomplish this by encouraging followers to challenge assumptions, reframe problems, and approach existing problems in novel ways.
Individualized Consideration. This component states that transformational leaders give individualized attention to each follower’s professional development by acting as a coach or mentor. The key element of this component is that customized learning opportunities are designed for each follower based on that person’s unique needs and desires. These learning opportunities are often delegated action learning tasks that the leader assigns and monitors.
I believe that transformational leadership is probably the best leadership theory that takes into account the welfare of followers and subordinates alongside the organizational vision, mission and goals.
Servant leadership. Robert Greenleaf coined the term servant leadership in 1970. He said that “The servant-leader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is leader first, perhaps because of the need to assuage an unusual power drive or to acquire material possessions…The leader-first and the servant-first are two extreme types. Between them there are shadings and blends that are part of the infinite variety of human nature.”
“The difference manifests itself in the care taken by the servant-first to make sure that other people’s highest priority needs are being served. The best test, and difficult to administer, is: Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? And, what is the effect on the least privileged in society? Will they benefit or at least not be further deprived?“
Servant leaders devote themselves to understanding and addressing the needs of subordinates and followers. Likewise, they also develop subordinates toward fulfilling their potentials. They also help facilitate personal growth of individuals within the organization and build a sense of community in the organization.
Machiavellian Leadership. In politics and in business, a lot of leaders, however, practice Machiavellian leadership. This occurs when a team leader or an executive is too intent on achieving goals without regard for the welfare of subordinates and followers. These kinds of leaders adhere to the Machiavellian principle that the end justifies the means. As long as you win, it doesn’t matter how you do it.
Entrepreneurship and innovation
A leader needs to incorporate entrepreneurship in his leadership style. The twenty first century is full of challenges for traditional organizations. Those who could not deal with these changes can easily fall into oblivion.
Warren Bennis said that “the manager accepts the status quo; the leader challenges it.”
A leader could not successfully challenge the status quo without entrepreneurship and a penchant for innovation.
Challenging the status quo—that is what a lot of young leaders do best! They are not yet exposed to the traditions of organizations and the usual way of doing things. As such, they can easily look for opportunities for entrepreneurship and innovation. This is increasingly becoming a world for young people. In the near future, more and more leaders will rise from the ranks of the young people and the context of leadership will change dramatically!