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Leadership Essay Examples
Over the course of the quarter, my understanding of leadership has transformed from an indescribable factor to concrete awareness of the tangible things that make a leader truly effective. I also learned that leading in a virtual setting is even more of a challenge. That said, I now know a multitude of ways that a leader in a virtual team can be effective, many of which I saw firsthand in my team. A leader’s willingness to communicate is undoubtedly one of the most important aspects, as it requires consistent communication and serves to build overall cognitive trust. One’s ability to be a transformational leader represents another crucial aspect, particularly to our team in the Everest Simulation, where meeting self-esteem and self-actualization needs w ould’ve improved our team’s performance. Furthermore, a leader’s ability to quell social loafing while not necessary a definitive skill also remains vital to a team’s overall success. After all, if a leader can promote unmotivated members to participate, group cohesion improves and so does work output. This class and the group work within it showed me that a high willingness to communicate, the ability to be a transformational leader, and the capability to motivate loafing members all make for an extremely effective leader in a virtual team.
Perhaps one of the most critical pieces of effective leadership in virtual teams I observed this quarter is the leader’s WTC, or willingness to communicate; without it, their credibility as a leader is threatened (Yoon). This involves consistent communication with team members. In virtual teams, there is a reduced amount and quality of information and less common information as a whole (Yoon). If the leader maintains communication about group tasks and goals with the team, the lack of information problem can be circumvented. Our leader did a fantastic job of this during parts one and two of the paper we wrote. She set and maintained process-related goals, which is the way goals are accomplished and which include frequent and consistent communication among team members. She first emailed individual members about what part of the paper they’d do best; she then made sure that everyone had a voice on an issue before moving on ,a recommendation of Furst et al (Furst et al.). She also checked in with all of us via email multiple times a week and made sure we were on schedule. By doing this, she monitored team progress through technology, one of Malhotra’s suggestions for virtual leaders (Malhotra). Moreover, she exchang ed phone numbers with the team so that we could all her anytime‖ with questions. In this way, our leader’s high WTC promoted cognitive trust in our team. Cognitive trust is trust that one’s team members are competent, reliable and responsible (Yoon). Our leader’s reliability was demonstrated through her consistent contact with all of us, and her responsibility was evident through the work she herself put into the paper. Leading by example and writing notes within the paper, on what to do next, kept the whole team organized. Her consistent communication kept everyone in the loop. A high WTC stands as one of the most important aspects of an effective leader, and our team leader possessed it in spades.
Another aspect o f effective leadership in virtual teams is that of transformational leadership, something I actually wish our group leader exhibited more of. While transactional leaders hinge their actions on punishments and rewards, transformational leaders’ effectiveness is dependent on how much they help tea m members complete goals (Burns). Such leaders also satisfy team member needs up to levels four and five on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Physiological, safety , and belonging needs are met by transformational leaders; so are self-esteem and self-actualization needs (Yoon). Our team, particularly during the Everest Simulation, had a few members who felt extremely lost and confused when they signed on. The situation begged for a strong transformational leader. While our leader promoted physiological needs and safety needs, especially regarding the simulation’s structure and rules, she did not encourage self-esteem or self-actualization. One of our members would have really benefitted from being told he was competent enough to handle the task a self-esteem issue. He had a barrage of concerned questions before and during the simulation that exhibited his anxiety over his ability to perform the task at hand. Moreover, our leader did not actively work to bring out everyone’s potential, a self -actualization issue. This is demonstrated by the fact that she did not evaluate or value individual member’s goals their potential and instead focused on the group goal only. Had our leader ensured that everyone felt confident and self-assured about their own role in the simulation, our members may have been more willing to share their unique goals and information (Hinds and Weisband). The Common Information Effect, where unique information is not shared within a team, wouldn’t have affected our team so negatively (Furst et al.). Team member participation would have likely increased as well, because no one would feel that they risked embarrassment for being wrong or confused. Transformational leadership is a key element of an effective leader, and a leader that can satisfy all five levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs will likely have a confident, effective team.
A last, cr itically important ele ment of an effective leader in virtual teams is the leader’s ability to quell social loafing. Social loafing team member unreliability and feelings of unimportance often occurs as a result of the Ringelmann effect, which is the tendency for individuals to be less productive as a group gets larger (Kidwell). Loafing members, especially in a group with a transactive memory system in place, like ours, can seriously inhibit team success. This is because a transactive memory system divides the cognitive work load between members (Yoon). Therefore, if one member doesn’t pull their weight, a piece of the group work goes missing. In our team, we divided pieces of the paper between the six of us. Our leader tried to keep everyone motivated, but two of our members just did not do much work at all. This forced the rest of us to do extra work in order to cover for their social loafing. It also affected our group cohesion negatively. If a leader can maintain communication with all members preferably consistent communication team members will be less likely to ignore their leader because they feel important. However, our leader used email as a primary means to communicate with them. Hinds and Weisband state that ―e -mail allows little in the way of real- time feedback‖ and that it can lead to ―extensive information sharing without the same level of shared understanding,‖ (Hinds and Weisband). This notion was reflected in our group I know this because our leader expressed frustration to me that her detailed emails were not being read and absorbed by a few loafing team members. She could have utilized technology more effectively through phone calls or Skype, perhaps and it goes to show that a leader’s ability to limit social loafing will have a substantial impact on the team’s success.
To be an effective leader in a virtual team, one must possess a high willingness to communicate, the capacity to be a transformational leader when necessary and the ability to limit social loafing. These skills were largely demonstrated to me firsthand within my team; we wouldn’t have completed the paper so successfully without our leader and her skills in those areas. Communication builds trust; transformational leadership boosts self-esteem; a lack of social loafing promotes cohesion. All of these things lay the foundation for a team to work efficiently and effectively. If there’s one thing to learn from these skills, it’s that above all, interaction stands as a pivotal requirement of an effective leader in a vir tual team. I’ll carry that knowledge with me as I move forward and into the job market.
- Burns, James MacGregor. Leadership. Open Road Media, 1978. Print. Furst, Stacie , Benson Rosen, and Richard Blackburn. “Overcoming Barriers to Knowledge Sharing in Virtual Teams.” ScienceDirect, 2007. Web. <http://www.sciencedirect.com.ezproxy2.lib.depaul.edu/science/article/pii/S00902 61607000265>.
- Furst, Stacie , Benson Rosen, and Richard Blackburn. “Managing the life cycle of virtual teams.” Academy of Management Executive, 2004. Web. <http://web.b.ebscohost.com.ezproxy2.lib.depaul.edu/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer? sid=2af7c239-15c1-4d8d 80b6902d023064c9%40sessionmgr198&vid=2&hid=112>
- Hinds, Pamela, and Suzanne Weisband. “Knowledge Sharing and Shared Understanding in Virtual Teams.” National Science Foundation, Web. <https://depaul.ares.atlassys.com/noncas/ares.dll?SessionID=P040012840S&Ac tion=10&Type=10&Value=443644>.
- Kidwell, Roland. “Loafing in the 21st century: Enhanced opportunities — and remedies — for withholding job effort in the new workplace.” ScienceDirect, 2010. Web. <http://www.sciencedirect.com.ezproxy2.lib.depaul.edu/science/article/pii/S00076 81310000893>.
- Malhotra, Arvind, Jeffery Stamps, and Jessica Lipnack. “Can Absence Make a Team Grow Stronger?.” Atlas Systems, Inc. 2004. Web. <https://depaul.ares.atlas- sys.com/noncas/ares.dll?SessionID=P040012840S&Action=10&Type=10&Value =443638>. Yoon, Kay. “Lecturettes.” DePaul University, Chicago. 2014. Lecture.
Leadership has been described as a process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task (Chemmers, 1997). According to Blake & Mouton (1964), there are four types of leadership which are autocratic, human relations, democrati c and laissez faire (Warrick, D.D. 1981). An autocratic leader gives high emphasis on performance and a low emphasis on people. To get the job done, an autocratic leader relies on power and hard work with minimal employee involvement. However, a human relations leader gives low emphasis on performance and a high emphasis on people. This type of leader relies on teamwork and good relationship to get the job done. Next, a democratic leader gives high emphasis on performance and people. The leader motivate and managing individuals in order to reach organizational as well as their own personal objectives. Lastly, a laissez faire leader gives low emphasis on performance and people. The leader just do enough to get the job done and leave people alone as much as possible. Every school leader has its own way to choose their leadership style. Furthermore, there is another type of leadership which is servant leadership. Servant leadership is a form of democratic leadership, as the whole team tends to be involved in decision-making. This leadership has some interesting characteristics for the leader to apply it in their organization and management
In 2013, the National Education Blueprint 2013-2025 was released which outlined 11 shifts that will need to implement in our education system. The fifth shift in this plan is to ensure high-performing school leaders in every school. A high-performing principals/ headmasters in primary schools are important to ensure the successfulness of school performance. International research on school leadership shows that an outstanding principal – one who is focused on instructional and not administrative leadership can raise student outcomes by as much as 20% (Education Blueprint 2013-2025, 2012). Therefore, types of leadership practiced by the headmasters are important because it will give either positive or negative impact to the schools community.
During my last teaching practical, I noticed that the school headmistress practiced a combination of democratic leadership and servant-leadership styles. Based on my experiences and observation, I believed that this school leader possesses some characteristics as democratic and servant leader. Some of the democratic characteristics are being a decisive-decision maker and also a good communicator. In addition, she also has some characteristics of servant leader such as being empathy, persuasive and community builder. I really admire her leadership styles because I can see that the school communities are comfortable to do their work and the school performance also increases from year to year.
The first characteristic of a democratic school leader is being a decisive-decision maker . ‘The leader is a decisive decision maker who emphasizes team decision -making but also makes some decisions alone (Warrick, D.D. 1981) ‘ . I still remembered the time when we had a school meeting where the headmistress came out with an issue and gave the freedom for the teachers to voice out their views or ideas. I rarely see this type of leadership in school. Usually, the school leaders will come out with their own decision and ask the subordinates to follow their pla n. However, it is different with my school headmistress’ leadership styles. She facilitated the discussion and encouraged the teachers to share their ideas and then synthesizing all the available information into the final decision. She also even asked the teacher trainees to contribute ideas for the school. I was touched with the discussion and hope that I can have a good leader like her in my future teaching.
The second characteristic of a democratic leader possesses by the headmistress is being a good communicator. In democratic leadership, ‘c ommunication is open, two-way and genuine (Warrick, D.D. 1981 )’. Whenever she talks either in meeting or in informal discussion, she always ensures that there is two-way communication. She was able to create an environment where the teachers feel very comfortable not just receiving information, but also sharing information with her. In addition, she was also able to build trust among the teachers through her genuine communication. She always being honest in whatever she says and that make me proud of having a school leader like her. In addition, she is also a good listener when she communicates with others. Listening refers to a deep commitment of listening to others, possessing high level of attentiveness, devoted to understanding the communication of others (Autry, 2001; Bennis and Goldsmith, 1997; Frick and Spears, 1996; Greenleaf; 1970/1991; and Secretan, 1996 in Crippen, 2005). Thus, I can say that my headmistress is an effective leader because she has both characteristics of being a great communicator and also a good listener.
Thirdly, the headmistress also practices one of the characteristics of servant leadership which is empathy. I can see that she strives to understand and empathizes with others. Empat hy is described as ‘identifying with the thoughts, feelings, and perspectives of others’ (Secretan. 1996 in Crippen, 2005). During the teaching practices, I observed that the headmistress frequently go around the school. She entered the teachers’ room and check on the teachers’ progress. Sometimes, she asks about our well -being and also discusses about the problems in class. Moreover, whenever she meets with her students or the school staffs, she always tries to have simple conversation like asking about health and so on. By reaching out to students and teachers and extend a caring attitude, the headmistress actually present an inviting and safe atmosphere to the school community. This type of environment also can encourage teachers and students to become productive and successful in their work and study. This idea is supported by Greenleaf (Spears, 1998a in Crippen, 2005 ) that ‘individuals grow taller when those who lead them empathize and when they are accepted for what they are’.
Fourth, the school headmistress is a persuasive leader who seeks to convince others, rather than coercive compliance. During the meeting, the headmistress has not put a lot of energy into getting people to follow her idea but the teachers are willing to follow her decision. I still remember her word ‘this is the way we should do it and here is why’. She is not only able to come out with good ideas but also able to persuade others to accept the changes.
Fifth, I identified that the school headmistress also possesses one of the servant leadership characteristics which is a community builder. (Novak, 2002 in Crippen, 2005) encourages schools to move into the community (through their service and real life problem solving) and move the community into the school through parent groups or community members becoming involved in school planning. During the teaching practical, I found out that the headmistress is the real community builder. There are many activities in the school plan that has involvement of school community and also the community outside the school. For example, Maulidur Rasul program is one of the Islamic programmes that had been organized by the school which needed the students and teachers to meet with the community who live outside of the school. From what I heard, the teachers and also the students were walking from the school to the nearer villages at that time. They were reciting selawat for Prophet Muhammad from house to house and the school headmistress received positive feedbacks from the villagers. Beside, the headmistress also organized a gotong- royong program where there was an involvement of parents and students in decorating and cleaning the school areas. The outcome of this activity is really impressive and successful because it involves both communities who live inside and outside of the school to contribute their ideas. (Starrat, 2003 in Crippen, 2005) states that ‘…in order to cultivate civil learning communities the school leader must work with parents on projects to coproduce structures and procedures through which teachers’ and parent’ concerns can be heard and acted on’.
(Fullan, 2001 and Mortimore, 1995 in Azian binti Ahmad Shaharbi, 2010) assert that in this globalized era, a head teacher needs to practice professional leadership which includes firmness in making decisions, having realistic objectives and emphasizing on uniqueness as a leader in school. (Chan Yuen Fook, 2000 in Azian binti Ahmad Shaharbi, 2010 ) opines that the nation’s educational aspirations will not reach its objectives if the school leadership focuses only on administrative chores when the school leadership field today is much more dynamic, complex and demanding. Therefore, in order to fulfill the fifth shift in National Education Blueprint; to ensure high-performing school leaders in every school, the head school not only led the students to have high achievements in academics and co-curriculum, but more importantly to the opportunity to make difference in school. However, their responsibility of being a leader is very challenging to them. (Fullan ,2001; Deal and Peterson, 2000; and Abdul Shukor Abdullah, 2004 in Azian binti Ahmad Shaharbi, 2010) exposed that there are weaknesses in the school leadership. One of the challenges in school leadership is the role of the school leader to be a facilitator and also an activator to the teachers. A facilitator is a leader with outstanding human relation skills that include the abilities to build individual relationships with parents, teachers, and students; collaborative teams with staff members and parents; and a schoolwide community of leaders (McEwan, Elain K., 2003). On the other hand, an activator is an individual with gumption (e.g., drive, motivation, enthusiasm, energy, spunk, and humor) enough to share with staff, parents, and students (McEwan, Elain K., 2003). The headmistress is lacking in this characteristics despite of her good relationships with the school community. It is proven by (Mansor Abd. Aziz, 2001 and Hasrat Abdul Rahman, 2001 in Azian binti Ahmad Shaharbi, 2010) that the role of a head teacher in a school is just as an administrator and not as a professional educational leader as hoped by the MOE which includes the role as an educator, act as mentor towards the teachers as well as a leader who is able to generate the teachers’ loyalty so as to be more committed and productive.
Besides, another challenge in the school leadership is the head school’s role as the change master. The change master is a flexible, futuristic and realistic leader, able to motivate as well as manage change in an organized, positive and enduring fashion (McEwan, Elain K., 2003). Conversely, the headmistress in my previous school was over emphasizing on students’ result in examination and thus neglecting the teachers’ psychological needs. She shows a good personality like being caring, empathy, and genuine in her words but she does not really understand the teachers’ feeling. The teachers in that school also do not have the confidence to voice out their emotion because of the power hold by the headmistress in the school organization. Thus, it is truly said by (Chan Yuen Fook, 2004 and Herbert, 2006 in Azian binti Ahmad Shaharbi, 2010) that they are many school heads who practice the autocratic leadership style with formal procedures, neglecting the teachers’ psychological needs, suppressing the teachers’ creativity, overly emphasizing on academic achievement and putting aside their roles as leaders who have to generate quality human capital for the purpose of education development.
As a conclusion , there are various types of leadership styles and the head teachers are expected to practice various leadership styles in administering schools as each leadership model has its own strengths and weaknesses. One obvious weakness is that not all the leadership models can be applied in any situation or context (Rahimah 2003; Ross 2006 in Azian binti Ahmad Shaharbi, 2010). Therefore, to fulfill the education aspiration of producing a high prestigious leader in every school, a head teacher must be wise to adapt various leadership styles in his administration to suit a particular school, situation and the different needs. ‘ A variety of leadership practices results in more effectiv e leadership instead of merely relying on one particular style’