. MISUNDERSTANDING LEADERSHIP The title statement relates to a broad misunderstanding that hinders the development of leaders in the work place; the misconception that leadership cannot be developed. This misconception hinders companies’ optimal productivity in the current economic circumstances where change is constant. When one looks at the related literature it is clear that there is general agreement that leadership is something that can indeed be developed.
It is, however, not a case of taking just any person and developing him or her into a leader, as personal qualities and characteristics are important; as well as the presence of a pro-leadership development culture in the workplace. 2. REASONS FOR THE MISCONCEPTION The roots of the misconception about leadership development lie in the views held by people and companies about what constitutes a leader. Conger (2004: 136) says that people, when thinking of leaders, think of popular individuals like Mahatma Ghandi or Margaret Thatcher.
These people can be described as ‘bigger than life’ and people thus think leadership is something unattainable to the more ordinary. She goes on to say that many workplaces reinforce this misconception by believing that people with the leadership potential will emerge through a process of natural selection – the cream will rise to the top. The result is that many companies see formal training as only being part of management development and neglect leadership development in the process. Today there is no more doubt that management and leadership are two separate concepts.
It is, however, true that a manager may possess leadership qualities and that a leader in a company may also play a managerial role (Ruvolo, et al. 2004: 10). The difference is that management focus is on the transactional and that of leadership on the transformational. The main purpose of managers is to maximise the output of the company or organisation they work for by ensuring that administrative processes are implemented rigorously. To achieve this, they undertake the following functions: organisation; planning; staffing; directing; and controlling.
Leaders, on the other hand, influence others to accomplish an objective and direct activities in the company or organization they work for in a way that makes it a more unified and reasonable entity. This definition is similar to Northouse’s (2007: 3) definition: “Leadership is a process whereby an individual influences a group of individuals to achieve a common goal”. 3. LEADERSHIP NEED AND DEVELOPMENT Leaders are neither developed nor born; rather leaders emerge due to the culmination of a number of factors and influences.
Many factors shape an individual into becoming a leader including genetic predisposition, family environment, school experiences, hardships and training (Conger, 2004: 136). Therefore, in order to develop leaders in the work environment, it would be important to identify the individuals who have these predispositions; individuals with confidence, determination, drive and empathy. Another very important factor is that it must be the individual’s own decision to develop as a leader.
It is, therefore, not entirely untrue that leaders will rise to the top no matter what, but the company climate must also be conducive to leadership development. Conditions and processes in the work environment must allow individuals to develop their capabilities as leaders. Ruvolo, et al. (2004: 12) state that leaders develop leaders. Mentoring is thus an important component of leadership development. Secondly, a person must be willing to constantly reflect on their style of leading. To optimise personal reflection, a leader must not be afraid to ask for feedback.
All people have blind spots or a shadow side and therefore need feedback from other people who they work with to shed light on this side of their personality. These sources of feedback could be peers and subordinates as well as superiors. The work environment should be conducive for the person to ask for this feedback such that there is no fear of negative consequences. Thirdly, individuals must be willing to – and be allowed to – take the opportunity to lead in different contexts. In other words, they must not be afraid to move outside their comfort zone.
Fourthly, it is not always good for someone to assume a leadership position when it is not appropriate. This may do the person (and potentially the company) more harm than good. It is therefore important for an individual to get the opportunity from an early age to be in a leadership position, with varying levels of responsibility. This will allow someone to develop her or his leadership skills. The last criterion for leadership development in the workplace is that superiors shoul allow someone to make mistakes during their leadership development process. This will however not be without responsibility.
The person must be able to identify exactly what it was they did wrong, learn from it, and become a better leader through the process (Conger, 2004; Financial Management, 2001; Ruvolo, et al. , 2004). Leadership development is essential for companies to survive the modern day economic climate where constant change is the order of the day. Leaders who have forethought and the analysis capabilities to know when to challenge the status quo in order to bring about change in the company or organization to enable it to cope / survive these changes are essential.
The strength of the following commanded by a leader is also essential as people have to trust the vision of the leader and work as a cohesive unit to bring around the change needed. A conservative managerial approach will not be enough to guide an organization through such changing and challenging times (Tichy and Ulrich, 2008). 4. CONCLUDING STATEMENT ON LEADERSHIP It is clear from what has been discussed that leadership can indeed be developed, but genetic predisposition and life experiences do have an influence on leadership development. Leaders in the workplace are developed through mentoring, self reflection and job related experience.
Companies therefore have to get rid of the misconception that leaders will emerge no matter what and see to it that the environment is conducive to the development and training of leaders and not only managers. Companies need leaders to survive the ever changing economic landscape. They need forethought, analytical capabilities, a loyal following and the ability to bring about change which only leaders can provide.
5. REFERENCES Conger, J. A. 2004. Developing leadership capability: What’s inside the black box? Academy of Management Executive, 18(3), 136-139. Financial Management. 2001. Good leaders are made, not born. Editorial, September. Northouse, G. (2007). Leadership theory and practice. 3rd ed. Thousand Oak, London: New Delhe, Sage Publications, Inc. Ruvolo, C. M. , Petersen, S. A. ; LeBoeuf, J. N. G. 2004. Leaders are made, not born: The critical role of a development framework to facilitate an organizational culture of development. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 56(1), 10-19. Tichy, N. M. ; Ulrich, D. O. 2008. The leadership challenge – A call for the transformational leader. In Ott, Parkes ; Simpson (ed. ) Classical Readings of Organizational Behavior. Belmont, CA: Thomson-Wadsworth.