Leadership and Initial Self-assessment

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Before I started writing this paper I put a lot of thought into the phrase "leadership development" and what it really meant to me. After all, I took this college level leadership class for professional development. I felt that the premise of this course was that leaders could be developed. If so, what are the factors that influence the development of leaders? Is there a single influence which dominate this development process? Do I have the ability to create my own leadership style and grow beyond the confines of conditional and environmental factors? I acknowledge the importance of a person's upbringing, education, and environment in the creation of the person's leadership style but these factors are largely external. I know for me, before I joined the Army, it was a common belief that leaders were born, not made. But as I grew in the Army I realized that effectiveness as a leader depends less on some innate trait you are born with, and much more on specific principles that anyone can follow. During the course of this class I also realized that learning about leadership means you have to recognize ineffective as well as effective leadership. It means understanding the dynamic relationship between the leader and the follower.

According to Bernard Bass in Stagdill's Handbook of Leadership, there are three basic ways to explain how people become leaders. The first two explain the leadership development for a small number of people and the third is the most widely accepted theory and the premise in which the handbook is based. First way; some personality traits may lead people naturally into leadership roles; this is the trait theory. Second way; a crisis or important event may cause a person to rise to the occasion, which brings out extraordinary leadership qualities in an ordinary person; this is the great event theory. Third way; people can choose to become leaders. They can learn leadership skill; this is the transformational leadership theory. (Bass, 1989) I concur with this explanation based on my observation of soldiers assigned to me as they grow into junior leaders.

Transformational leadership was a term coined by political scientist James McGregor Burns in 1978 in his book "Leadership." He wrote that: "Transforming leadership occurs when one or more persons engage with others in such a way that leaders and followers raise one another to higher levels of motivation and morality…transforming leadership ultimately becomes moral in that it raises the level of human conduct and ethical aspirations of both the leader and led and, thus, has a transforming effect on both." (Burns, 1978) I submit that my ultimate goal is to adapt a transformational leadership style but I recognize that it is a development process. In my initial personal assessment on leadership potential, I assessed myself with leadership potential but lacked in the managerial department. I also stated that I didn't see the need to change this shortfall because good leaders will have good managers working for them and they would ensure stability and efficiency. What I have discovered, after completing this course is that I still believe the initial self-assessment to be true. However, I find myself to be more of a manager than a leader in my current leadership position, and that good leaders were first good managers. Managers and leaders are not inherently different types of people, and many managers already possess the abilities and qualities needed to be effective leaders. The bottom line is that leadership cannot replace management; it should be in addition to management. Both leaders and managers are concerned with providing direction for the organization. Managers focus on establishing detailed plans and schedules for achieving specific results, then allocating resources to accomplish the plan. Leadership calls for creating a compelling vision of the future and developing farsighted strategies for producing the changes...
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