Revisiting leadership in practice
This week we’ve addressed how leadership is defined and how it can be practiced, which goes directly to answering the big question at the foundation of this course: what is leadership?
Here Andrea sums up the main points for you to takeaway and start applying in your own leadership practice.
Power and influence
Leadership is defined as the process of influencing a group of people towards a common goal. To influence people we must use our power.
Managers have positional power, that is, the role they inhabit comes with power. However, it’s possible to change your role to one in which you can draw more deeply from your existing sources of power or acquire new ones.
The difference between management and leadership
This is where we draw a line between management and leadership (and there’s lots of material available that discusses this). For example, leaders are visionary and propel change, whereas managers strive to maintain the status quo.
A simpler way to understand whether you’re leading or managing is to think about which sources of power you use. If you’re using personal power such as expertise and charisma, it’s likely you’re practicing leadership rather than management. However, the line between management and leadership isn’t always clear, which is something we’ll discuss at greater length in subsequent courses.
Approaches to leadership
To practice leadership, there are a number of different influence techniques you can use. To decide which one is most appropriate, think about everything else involved in the leadership process: followers, goals, and the context or situation in which leadership is practiced. Some techniques will be better suited to certain people and situations than others, so do your homework and choose wisely.
Understanding individual differences
This homework involves a greater understanding of not just yourself (the potential leader), but also your potential followers. Because we all have unique backgrounds and histories, our individual differences shape how we behave and enact leadership in the workplace. There are various ways in which we’re different (eg our demographic characteristics and personality), but these aren’t things we can do a lot about.
The role of perception
What will be incredibly useful for you and how you practice leadership will be a greater awareness of perceptions, both in terms of how you perceive the environment around you and how others may have a different view.
We’ll always have different ways of viewing the world and we should appreciate that; indeed, as leaders we must always strive to find a balance between treating people equitably while recognising difference.
Our perceptions become problematic when we don’t make the effort to work beyond our perceptual shortcuts or seek out more and different types of communication, and ensure that, as leaders, our perceptions aren’t leading to poor decision-making.
We all have the potential to be blind to important information and issues, so, to ensure that leadership in our workplaces is as effective and sustainable as possible, we have a duty to ourselves and others to both do better and be better.
Based on what you’ve covered in this course, what are some changes you can make immediately to work beyond your perceptual limitations and enhance your power and influence at work, and ensure you’re perceptions aren’t getting in the way of your leadership?
Share your thoughts in the comments as well as reading and commenting on other posts to explore some more ideas.
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