Definition Of a Leadership
It is widely accepted that leaders play a critical role in organizations and communities. However, the definition of a leader has been controversial. According to Locke (2009), leadership is defined as a process that involves inducing others so that they can take action whose end is the achievement of a common goal. To Locke and Sadler (2003), leadership incorporates three elements: a relational concept, a process, and an action. Leadership does not exist except when one is talking about the relation with followers. The absence of followers implies the absence of leadership. When defined in relational concept, effective leaders have been described as those who are good in inspiring and relating to their followers. Leadership has also been defined regarding a process in that for one to be described as a leader, he/she must do something. To proponents of this theory, leadership involves more than just holding a title or any other position of authority. However, although a formalized position of authority can exist to facilitate a leadership process, Locke argued that simply occupying such a position is not enough to make one a leader. A leader is also required to induce others to take some form of action, and a leader can employ various approaches to induce their followers to take some action toward a common goal. Some of the approaches leaders can employ to induce his followers to take action include modeling by setting an example, organizational restructuring, communicating a vision, legitimate authority, team building, goal setting, and rewarding and punishing (Locke, 1999).
It has been argued that the way leaders implement plans, provide direction to their followers, and motivate their people to varying from one leader to another thereby resulting in various leadership styles. Some of the leadership styles include autocratic, Laissez-Faire, participative, transactional, and transformational (Johnson, 2017; Northouse, 2012). Johnson (2017) described participative leader as one who employs a democratic style of leadership. Such leaders value input from peers and team members. However, the responsibility of making the final decisions rely on the leader. On the other hand, transactional leaders provide either rewards or punishments to peers or team members according to their performance results. Transformational leaders, however, rely on a high level of communication to their team members to meet their goals. Such leaders motivate their followers or employees and enhance efficiency and productivity through a combination of high visibility and communication. A transformational style of leadership requires that the management is highly involved in the achievement of the organizational goals. Leaders who employ transformational leadership style focus on the big organizational picture and delegate smaller assignments or tasks to the team members to accomplish so that they can achieve the overall organizational goal (Johnson, 2017). Northouse (2012) added that transformational leadership involves a process where the leader engages with followers and creates a connection that boosts not only the level of morality but also the level of motivation for both the follower and the leader. He further pointed out that transformational leaders are attentive to the needs as well as motives of their followers and strive to make sure that their followers reach their fullest potential. In the case of Booker and Newark residents (Cohen, 2014; Russakoff, 2014), Booker strived to ensure that the people of Newark access the best education system in the country. He wanted to make Newark public school system to be a model of how best public schools should be run in the country. Booker’s idea was to transform one of the worst performing public education systems to be the best it can be in the whole country. His chances of success in this endeavor were going to be influenced by many factors.
Organizational Performance Improvement
Leaders not only have a potential to improve organizational performance but also a failure of organizations to achieve their performance goals. A study of leadership styles suggests that leaders can influence their organizations in various ways. Choudhary, Akhtar, and Zaheer (2013) examined the influence of two comparative leadership styles on the outcomes of organizational performance. Their findings suggest that transformational leadership has more influence on organizational learning than servant leadership. The researchers further found out that a higher level of organizational learning is responsible for a higher organizational performance. The authors then suggested that leaders can choose a style of leadership that can help them to achieve what they want to achieve in their organizations. Their results are similar to those of Noruzy et al. (2013) who also found out that transformational leadership has a strong influence on the organizational learning as well as knowledge management. Transformational leadership style also has a huge impact on the innovation within an organization. Overall, the researchers’ findings revealed that transformational leadership has an influence on the organizational performance. Leaders who wish to enhance their organizational performance can, therefore, opt to choose transformational leadership style. Although a lot has been studied on how leadership can influence organizational performance, Peterson, Smith, Martorana, & Owens (2003) argued that leaders are also responsible for the failure of their organizations. According to the authors, leadership personality is one of the factors that can determine organizational success and organizational failure. They pointed out that if the top leadership personality is bad, the organization can increase the chances of organizational failure. However, if the personality of the top leaders in an organization is appropriate, the organization has an increased chance of succeeding in its mission.
Newark schools had been performing poorly for a very long time. Booker had noted declining performance and had yearned for a time when he can intervene. His time to transform the poor education system of Newark came after his election as a mayor for Newark. The Newark education system was in a crisis. In situations of crisis, leaders emerge. Leadership involves motivating others toward a common goal. In the context of Newark education system, the common goal was to improve the declining academic standards and create a national model on how to overhaul an entire school district. As a leader, Booker believed that he was the much-needed leader to lead the Newark out of the education crisis. Booker had a vision of turning Newark education system to be the best in the country. Booker noted that to succeed in turning his vision into reality, one of the most critical resources was funding. Consequently, as a determined leader, he sought funds from philanthropists to help him achieve his vision. After communicating his vision for Newark, many philanthropists donated their money to help Booker realize his vision. One of the people who was attracted by Booker’s vision was Mark Zuckerberg who donated his $100 million to help in the transformation of the Newark education system (Russakoff, 2014). After obtaining sufficient funds, it was time to implement his vision to bring an overhaul of the education system.
Although Booker had demonstrated exemplary leadership skills and transformative ideas about the Newark education system, he failed to realize that implementation of a vision requires the cooperation of more people than financiers. At some point, Booker was reminded by Zuckerberg to choose a competent leader who can become the Superintendent. As a good leader, Booker need not be reminded about the need recruit a person to lead the change or the characteristics of a person who could help transform the failing education system of the Newark. Zuckerberg idea to Booker was that he should choose a transformational leader as an assurance that the vision of transforming the Newark education system was going to be successful. Booker had spent a lot of time looking for the funds, but he dedicated little time in investing in proper leadership structures. For example, he should develop a sound leadership structure that was going to work with him to implement the vision. A sound leadership structure would have helped him to plan how the funds would be obtained and how it would be spent. Furthermore, the leadership structure would have devised better ways in which the funds obtained was going to be effectively utilized. Booker had a very weak leadership structure. He only managed to appoint Superintendent in a hurry. Although Anderson, the superintendent, demonstrated that she was up to the task, still there was a lot of weakness in the overall leadership structure. Anderson manner of engagement won the hearts of many people suggesting that she had good leadership skills. However, Anderson came without an agenda but a clear vision. According to her, the most important thing was to define success, and she found it as something simple. This is a further indication of poor leadership in the transformation process. This was demonstrated in the manner in which the decisions were made. From the given information, there was poor decision making in matters pertaining the education system of Newark. Booker and Anderson made key decisions without making a second thought to find out if they were going to work or they were going to face some challenges. Throughout the, there is no evidence of the presence of a sound leadership structure.
Newark Education System
The promise of $100 million gifts was made by Zuckerberg. However, several months later, Booker, the Senator, and Christie, the governor had neither a good transformational leader not a reform plan for the education system. This demonstrates a leadership ineptitude since both would have nominated people they were going together early so that they can prepare reform plan as a team. In fact, it was not until Zuckerberg send a mail to Booker that he began to search for competent superintend. Although Booker had sold the vision to the people, people only realized that the plan to overhaul the Newark education system was just good only on paper. According to the critics of the transformation plan, the solutions were poorly thought out, and they could make negligible positive impacts on the education system. The education programs that were going with the new education system had not been developed while transportation was not even fully tackled. Further, things that were initially promised were never realized. Booker’s idea of educational transformation in Newark failed because of lack of clear strategy. There was too much focus on securing financial assets but little time was devoted to organizing a strong team that was going to draft a working strategy. Not only did Booker and Anderson failed in the development of a sound leadership structure but also in their approach.
Booker and Anderson's approach suggest that their ideas were final. They believe that the ideas they had were the one people had been waiting for. The two leaders forget the importance of involving those whom the change was going to affect: stakeholders. Following the lack of the major stakeholders, there was weak support from the public. The best approach would have been to make the people of Newark also own the process of transformation by giving them a chance to contribute toward the transformation process. For example, there was a need to inform the people about the need for the change, how the change could be brought about, and who were going to be affected by the change. The strategy employed by Booker and Christie was a top-down approach where there was minimum interaction with the members of the public. And when the public was involved, it was later in the stages of the implementation. For example, a community advisory committee which was to help in the implementation of the Newark transformation plan was created two years after the money had been released when most of the money had been spent on teacher contracts and charter schools. This implies they were created at a time their contribution to the effective management of the funds were no longer important.
The case of addressing Newark’s school’s problems give an excellent case on leadership practices, traits, team leadership, and organizational elements that were responsible for the overall outcome of the process. Through their practices, leaders can shape the outcome of the organizational goals. For example, Booker had a good vision of transforming Newark poorly performing public schools to charters. He believed that by converting a public school to run charters independently, the performance would improve. According to the Leadership Challenge (2017), five practices of exemplary leadership include modeling the way, inspiring a shared vision, challenging the process, enabling others to act, and encouraging others to act. Booker modeled the way by coming up with an idea of transforming Newark schools. He identified the problems facing public schools and the advantages that can be gained by changing public schools to charters. He also identified the challenges of running chartered schools. One of the great obstacles was funding. Through his practice of shared vision, Booker sold his idea to many people especially the corporate philanthropists who were willing to make a change in Newark. Booker’s inspired others by selling his vision, and in the process, several philanthropists including Zuckerberg contributed the necessary finances that were needed to achieve the vision of education excellence in Newark. Booker knew that transforming the public schools to charters was not an easy process because not all people share the same idea. However, he went ahead to challenge the process and introduce the changes anyway. This is where he went wrong. Instead of seeking the participation of many stakeholders including the members of the public, Booker seemed to push the idea on the people through Anderson. Consequently, he receives little public support during the implementation of his strategy. He would have succeeded if he had sought public support before introducing the changes. The people need to understand why the changes were necessary and how the changes could benefit them. Further, they would have also felt proud by owning the process of change. One of the practices of exemplary leaders is also their willingness to enable others to act. To implement his ideas, Booker knew that he needed people to help him. As a result, he appointed Anderson and gave her all the necessary support to ensure that the plans were implemented successfully.
Newark School System
Leaders possess various traits which characterize them which include emotional stability, dominance, enthusiasm, conscientiousness, social boldness, tough-mindedness, self-assurance, and compulsiveness. Other traits include high energy, intuitiveness, maturity, team orientation, empathy, and charisma. In the case of Newark school systems transformation, leaders involved in the transformation process demonstrated some of these traits. For example, Zuckerberg and other philanthropists like Bill Gates were so emphatic about the school children in Newark that they offered their monetary help to transform the situation. However, in his approach to the transformation process, Booker demonstrated poor intuitiveness. He failed to evaluate all the factors that were necessary to make the plan successful and also factors that were going to be barriers toward the realization of his vision. High energy is a trait of a good leader. Booker had high energy, and he spent a lot of time persuading, traveling, and selling his vision of the transformation of the education system in Newark until he attracted a lot of attention. Dominance is another trait that can be observed from Booker and Anderson. Both demonstrated the ability to be assertive in their thinking styles and also in their attitude in which they dealt with others. Zuckerberg, Booker, Christie, and Anderson (Cohen, 2014) demonstrated a lot of enthusiasm in the education transformation in Newark. All the four were expressive, energetic, and active in ensuring that the change process was implemented. On the trait of tough-mindedness, Booker showed that he was tough-mind when he chose to proceed with the reform process while he knew that some people were not comfortable with the process. Both Anderson and Booker also demonstrated that they were self-assured leaders. They exhibited self-confidence and resilience in their actions. For example, when the first plan failed to produce positive changes, Anderson came up with the second plan that was known as One Newark (Moss, 2014) which she believed it could work. During the transformation, the leaders exhibited a lot of teamwork. They worked for hand in hand to draft plans and supervise the implementation. They also worked together to overcome obstacles that were standing in the way of the reform process. The reform process, however, became a failure despite billions spent on the consultancy and implementation of the recommendations suggested by the consultants. Opponents of the reform process argue that the failure was caused by several assumptions (Kamenetz, 2011). The Booker’s team ought to have included the participation of many stakeholders so that they could also contribute towards the success of the plan.
It has been shown that successful leaders possess certain traits (Kirkpatrick & Locke, 1991; Zaccaro, Kemp, & Bader, 2004). Alternatively, leaders who are not successful do not possess traits that are common among successful leaders. According to Kreitner (2008), modern leaders ought to be emotionally intelligent. Goleman in Kreitner (2008) pointed out that emotionally intelligent leaders ought to possess traits such as self-awareness, social awareness, self-management, and relationship management. Courage has also been identified as an appropriate leadership trait and includes the elements of purpose, will, rigor, candor, and risks (Kreitner, 2008). Other characteristics that have been identified to be common among successful leaders include empathy, consistency, honesty, direction, communication, flexibility, and conviction. According to Tracy (n.d.), the seven characteristics of highly effective leaders are a vision, cooperation, courage, integrity, focus, humility, and strategic planning. Booker and his team will have been successful if they possess all these traits. They would have managed to transform the Newark education system into the nation;\’s best as they had visualized initially.
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