Reflective Leadership

Article / Leadership

Reflective Leadership
Bomo Albert-Oguara , Manager, Nigeria

Leadership is about changing perspectives in logical progression towards changes in organisational surroundings.

The literature on leadership has tended to create a dichotomy between managers and leaders in the organisation.While the former tends to uphold organizational rules and procedures,involved in the day to day decision-transactions,the leader however involves himself in higher order things such as strategy,visioning,sharing enduring values,taking followers to where they ought to be rather than where they want to go.It is axiomatic that it is in the nature of man to settle into his comfort zone and will not want any thing to disturb or disrupt him.Change is anathema when settled in.Transformational leadership therefore must uproot without destroying the root;it must not prevaricate, yet be gentle.Tough empathy an author called it.
Whereas,Bass(1985) has created a transactional-transformational continuum whereby the transactional manager can transmute into a transformational leader,it is figured that both traits can be imbued in a person.Transformational leadership in other words builds on the transactional.For higher order performance which transformational leadership has come to associate with,Goleman (2000) states that such a leader must be imbued with Emotional Intelligence.It is the presence of EI in the transformational leader that distinguishes him from the transactional manager.Such is the criticality of EI as a differentiator in the leadership typology.

Leadership In Practice:
No where is reflective leadership relevant than in change management.Lawson&Price(2003) in their article,'The Psychology of Change Management',in the Mckinsey Quarterly,suggest that for leaders to achieve the goals of change management ,there is the need to change the mindsets of people in the organization.Transforming the fortunes of an organization on the cusp of poor performance requires persuading employees to see the organization in a new perspective different from what it is to what will be.
Lawson&Price,further argue that for employees to change their behavior towards the organization,there is the need to create the need for change in their minds for the shift to take place.Four conditions need to be present for mind shift to take place,they reckon.And these are:

Purpose-people must have or achieve cognition of their experience in the organization.There must be sync between the goals of the firm and their goals and beliefs or what i call goals-belief convergence.Creating a new purpose therefore entails banishing dissonance created by a poorly led organization.This assertion is based on the work of Leon Festinger in 1957 and used by the authors.

Reinforcement Systems: in practice,Skinner's theory of motivation states that positive reinforcement conditions people to embrace a course of action.His studies used rats.Organizational theorists however hold the view that the following measures in the organization lead people to embrace change.These are structures,management and operational processes,measurement procedures,setting targets,performance measurement,reward systems(financial and non-financial)The presence or absence of these drivers in the organization determines the extent to which change management measures will achieve their desired goals.Change management therefore is atmospheric.Inferentially,i contend that a leader must be true to his or her inner promptings when dealing with people in an organizational setting.His or her actions and decisions must endure time,be eventful and iconic when judged by history.This is what distinguishes the transformational leader from the transactional one.

The Skills Required For Change: new skills in change management,it is suggested, must be brought into the organization if the desired behavioural modification will be achieved.Telling a sales or marketing team to be customer friendly, for instance must be followed by imparting knowledge of how to achieve it to them,before performance becomes meaningful.On a personal note,i was confronted with a similar situation in my company.Customer complaints were hardly attended to.As a matter of fact,to the sales and production staff,customers hardly mattered.But it is because of the customer that makes a business remain in business."He moves is money and the business collapses.....the customer is our boss.It is because of him that we remain in business"(Jack Welsh,GE).
The customer must in the middle of the business.Arising from my interactions with our customers in one on one as well as group meetings a customer relations framework was created for the front and back office teams.Regular CRM weekly lectures were given to the two teams,reinforced with outside training programs for sales and marketing staff.Measurable performance framework was instituted to gauge outcomes.Part of this lay in the number of complaints per day,number of poor /bad prints per day,turn around recorded,time it takes for complaints to be addressed and so on and so forth.All these at the end of the year would dovetail in the annual appraisal for individual employees.Annual appraisals need not be routinized,rather it should be an exercise for real performance improvements in the organization Too often we have come to see annual appraisals as rituals that must be carried out whatever may be.It should be seen as a change management tool,for organizational renewal.

Consistent Role Models:Leadership attributes are consistent with role modelling.As a leader you empathize with the follower-ship,showing interest in what affects them,what inhibits their performance,seeking ways to assist in overcoming these inhibitions;getting involved in their career goals,mentoring and coaching.
Behavioral modification in people in the organization in the face of change can be beneficial where role modelling is confirmed and seen by the follower-ship as deep rooted and deeply influencing(Lawson&Price).

Change management Outcomes:it is counter-intuitive to state that it is not easy to turn around the fortunes of a company through change.It is stated so due to the oft recognized difficulties experienced by practitioners in behaviour modification in employees during turn-around.The literature recognizes that the innate desire of human beings to develop and grow energizes them. Employee rationalization of their place in the organization's schema is to the extent of their deeper understanding of how or why their contributions matter to the firm.Therefore,it is the leader's role or place to provide the meaning ,thus creating the needed connect between employee aspirations and those of the organization.This inter-mediation as a concept goes beyond metric;it is more art.

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Other Views by this Author: Empowering Managers to Lead: a Reflection | Beyond the strategic plan

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