Dr. Dale Mancini
August 10, 2009
Effective leadership is crucial to an organization’s success. There are several common characteristics that effective organizational leaders share. Without these characteristics, initiatives and change can fail. Leaders can take many different steps to help keep projects from failing.
Leaders need to be self-aware of how their actions are perceived by those they manage (Moment, 2007). Employees will sometimes mirror the behavior of managers. Aghdaei (2008) talks about the philosophy of “shadow of a leader,” where the leader demonstrates the wanted behavior (p. 16). Leaders should model hard work for employees (Weiss, 2000). Aghdaei (2008) states that “when you repeatedly demonstrate meaningful, positive behavior, people are motivated to follow” (p. 16).
Leaders must have enthusiasm for their work so that it spreads to those whom they supervise. That involves leaders believing in the company in which they work. “The ability to inspire loyalty and build relationships is a key component of leadership” (Newcomb, 2005, p. 35). “The CEO who wants to be a true leader must be the most vivid example of the culture at work. Only then can the CEO inspire passion in the rest of the team” (Hesselbein, Goldsmith, & Somerville, 2002, p. 124). To get the best out of workers, leaders need to be able to motivate them (Moment, 2007). Leaders should look to all of their employees for new ideas and solutions (Hesselbein, Goldsmith, & Somerville, 2002). Leaders should also “cultivate, champion, and then support” new ideas and “provide an environment for the development and expression of the entrepreneurial spirit (Hesselbein, Goldsmith, & Somerville, 2002, p. 88). Leaders create the organizational climate to which followers react (Hrebiniak, 2005).
Strategic planning is crucial to guide leadership (Choen, 2008). Leaders must make clear and specific goals and objectives, be able to communicate those, and make sure that the goals are measurable. Planning and having a strategy are important in order to make initiatives succeed. Managers have to move ideas and initiatives to executable steps that their team can implement (Maddock & Viton, 2008). A leader has to clearly communicate what is needed (Weiss, 2000). If the employee does not understand what to do, then the initiative is set up for failure.
Effective leaders must establish a culture of accountability. “Leaders need to be held accountable to the organization for results, [a] plan must be accountable to the outcomes, and the employees must be accountable for their actions” (Newcomb, 2005, p. 36). There needs to be measurable goals for which everyone can be held responsible. “Without clear responsibility and accountability, execution programs go nowhere” (Hrebiniak, 2005, p. 25).
Leaders also need to know how to handle and address failure. Hesselbein et al states that “failure can become the next step of learning, the beginning of another new creative idea” (Hesselbein, Goldsmith, & Somerville, 2002, p. 89). Failure can be a learning experience and should not necessarily be punished. Also by punishing failure, employees may be more reluctant to suggest innovative ideas for fear of failure.
Leaders must organize and manage employees. While innovation requires the organized efforts of others to work (Hesselbein, Goldsmith, & Somerville, 2002), the result of not involving everyone is that increased resistance to change can appear (Dooley & O’Sullivan, 2001). Gratton and Erickson (2007) report that “a team’s success or failure at collaborating reflects the philosophy of top executives in the organization. Teams do well when executives invest in supporting social relationships, [and] demonstrate collaborative behavior themselves …” (p. 103). Lack of widespread company support can make initiatives fail (Strebel,...