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Selfreflection Paper Leadership Potential

CHAPTER 1 – Introduction

Leadership has always been an important topic in behavioural and social science (Den Hartog Koopman, 2001). Research related to leadership mainly examines why performance differentials between leaders exist. It provides theoretical arguments explaining why a certain leader is better than the other. By doing so, it explains the factors that influence leadership effectiveness. But, what are some of these factors then?

Fortunately, researchers have come up with a large number of factors that tend to influence effective leadership yet. Antonakis et al. (2001), for example, state that leaders can become more effective if they are able to transform themselves into someone people would like to follow. Therefore, being a transformational leader is said to be detrimental in becoming a more effective leader. One of the four dimensions of transformational leadership is charisma (Banks et al., 2017). Basically, this implies that leaders can become more transformational if they use the right charismatic leadership tactics. Another factor that tends to influence leadership effectiveness is someone’s personality. Antonakis (2011) came up with a list of personality traits that is linked to effective leadership. Following this list, it can be derived which combination of personality traits is optimal to become an effective leader. A third factor that tends to influence leadership effectiveness is power. Power can be defined as the ability to influence followers (Yukl, 2002). The ability to influence others depends on a leader’s types of power and associated influencing tactics (Yukl and Tracey, 1992). Therefore, a leader’s ability to influence his/her followers partly depends on the use of the right influencing tactics. In sum, the abovementioned theories state that charismatic leadership tactics, personality traits, and influencing tactics are three of the many factors that tend to influence leadership effectiveness. The main goal of this essay is to provide a theoretical framework regarding the abovementioned three factors and show how they relate to effective leadership. Besides that, another goal of this essay is to self-reflect about my own leadership potential regarding these topics. Therefore, this essay will also discuss my own leadership potential based on related self-assessments and exercises done as part of the course Cases in Leadership.

The remainder of this essay is structured as follows. The next chapter addresses the literature review of this essay, where various definitions and previous theories will be discussed. In chapter three, called the methodology section, a brief outline of the assessments and exercises is presented. Chapter four outlines the results of the assessments and exercises. Here, limitations and insights of the assessments/exercises will also be discussed. The final chapter concludes and outlines a personal development plan.

CHAPTER 2 – Literature Review

This chapter contains the literature review of this essay. Firstly, I discuss the charismatic leadership tactics that are considered to be positively related to leadership effectiveness. Secondly, I provide literature content regarding personality traits that seem to positively and/or negatively influence leadership effectiveness. Finally, I describe the relationship between influencing tactics and leadership effectiveness.

2.1 Transformational Leadership and Charisma

Transformational leadership is about offering followers a purpose that exceeds short-term goals and focuses on higher order internal needs (Judge and Piccolo, 2004). According to Judge and Piccolo (2004), transformational leadership is positively and significantly related to the rate of leader effectiveness. Therefore, it can be stated that leaders become more effective if they are able to be transformational. The question that then arises is: What determines whether someone is a transformational leader? Transformational leadership is characterised by four dimensions, namely inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation, individualized consideration, and charisma. As mentioned in chapter one, this essay solely focuses on the impact of the fourth-dimension charisma. Charisma is the ability to communicate a clear, imaginative, and inspiring message that motivates an audience (Antonakis et al., 2012). Antonakis et al. (2012), conclude that charisma is a learnable skill that can be trained through practicing certain charismatic leadership tactics (CLT). CLT’s will help a leader to become more influential, trustworthy, and leader like in the eyes of others. In essence, their research showed that managers with relatively low initial charisma ratings were able to make themselves more charismatic in the eyes of their followers by practicing these so called CLT’s. Basically, this invariable implies that practicing CLT’s will easier make leaders become transformational and therefore more effective leaders in general. I follow Antonakis et al.’s (2012) research that there are a dozen available key CLT’s to practice and use. Nine of them are verbal tactics, whereas the remaining three are non-verbal tactics. The nine verbal CLT’s are: metaphors, stories, contrasts, rhetorical question, three-part list, expressions of moral conviction, reflections of group’s sentiment, the setting of high goals, and conveying confidence. The three nonverbal tactics are: animated voice, facial expressions and gestures.

2.2 Personality Traits

Explaining leadership effectiveness by observing individual differences in personality has been and still is a focal topic of research in leadership. Personality is about the general ways of thinking, feeling, and acting, which together characterizes someone as an individual (Costa et al., 1995). Up to the present, numerous researchers have come up with personality traits that potentially affect leadership effectiveness. Traits can be defined as individual characteristics that are assessable, vary across individuals, display temporal and situational stability and forecast attitudes, decisions, or behaviours and outcomes (Antonakis, 2011). According to Bouchard and McGue (2003), the heritability of personality traits is approximately 50%. Therefore, it can be assumed that the remaining 50% of a person’s personality is shaped by the environment in which someone is embedded. Antonakis (2012) came up with an individual-difference model that shows that there are certain traits that predict leader success. Basically, this model has been the widespread recognition that all personality traits can be clustered into five core personality dimensions that are either positively and/or negatively related to leadership effectiveness. The five personality dimensions are: neuroticism, extraversion, openness to experience, agreeableness, and conscientiousness. Neuroticism refers to the demonstration of anger, vulnerability, and a feeling of anxiety or depression. Extraversion is about tapping warmth, being gregarious, assertive, active, adventurous, and positive. Openness to experience refers to being imaginative, aesthetic, open to emotions, curious, and unconventional. The facets of agreeableness include being trustful, frank, soft-hearted, compliant, modest, and compassionate. Conscientiousness includes self-confidence, self-discipline, orderliness, goal orientated, and deliberativeness. The relationship to leadership effectiveness is positive for the dimension’s extraversion, openness to experience, and conscientiousness. On the contrary, the relationship is negative for the dimension neuroticism. Finally, a conflicting relationship to effective leadership is found for the dimension agreeableness (Antonakis, 2012).

2.3 Power and Influencing Tactics

Influencing tactics are defined as attempts to influence a person’s actions so that he/she carries out an immediate request (Yukl and Michel, 2002). But, how does the literature explain the notion that influencing tactics possibly positively affect leadership effectiveness? This essay bears on the leader-member exchange (LMX) explanation provided by Yukl and Michel (2002). They state that the quality of the exchange relationship between a leader and a follower is described by the LMX. The LMX theory assumes that leaders have insufficient amounts of social, personal and organizational resources to equally distribute among their followers. Therefore, leaders must select with whom they keep high-quality social exchange relationships and with whom they keep low-quality economic exchange relationships. High-quality social relationships are based on trust and liking, whereas low-quality economic relationships are only based on the formal employment contract (Wu, Tsui and Kinicki, 2010). Zhang, Tsingan and Zhang (2013) have provided evidence for the notion that a follower’s wellbeing is positively affected in a high-quality social relationship. Since the LMX theory does affect individual and organizational effectiveness, it, as a result, affects leadership effectiveness (Zhang, Tsingan and Zhang, 2013). But, what influencing tactics are then available to become a more effective leader? And, how are they related to LMX?

I follow Yukl and Michel’s (2002) research, stating that there are eleven available influencing tactics. Among them, the influencing tactics rational persuasion, ingratiation, appraising, consultation, collaboration, and inspirational appeals are expected to be positively related to LMX. Yukl and Michel (2002) find that rational persuasion requires follower’s credibility to be effective. Secondly, they state that ingratiation improves leader-follower’s relationships if it’s seen as genuine. Thirdly, they conclude that appraising is positively related to LMX, because leaders are more likely to provide career advice to followers when they are highly competent. Fourthly, they assume that consultation and collaboration are positively related to LMX because it requires shared objectives and mutual trust to be effective. Fifthly, they believe that inspirational appeals are positively related to LMX, because high levels of trust make followers more sensible to leader appeals. Yukl and Michel’s theory expects a positive relationship for the abovementioned influencing tactics, because follower’s credibility, genuineness, competency and mutual trust require high-quality social relationship. Furthermore, the research of Yukl and Michel (2002) finds that a negative relationship is expected for the tactic pressure. Their theory states that pressure can undermine personal trust, and because of that, leaders may not use this tactic to followers with whom they have a high-quality social relationship. Finally, Yukl and Michel’s research (2002) states that the tactics exchange, legitimating, personal appeals and coalition are expected to be unrelated to LMX. Exchange tactics tends to be ineffective, because there tends to be little need for exchanges in a high-quality social relationship. Legitimating tends to be unrelated to LMX, because leaders are more trusted to make legitimate actions in high-quality social relationship, but, on the other hand, have little need to use legitimating tactics in descending influence attempts. Coalition tactics are unrelated to LMX, because previous research finds that this tactic is seldom used in the U.S. (Fu and Yukl, 2000). At last, personal appeals are unrelated to LMX, because personal appeals are not feasible in low-quality economic relationship and are unnecessary in high-quality social relationships.

CHAPTER 3 – Methodology

To self-reflect about my own leadership potential, I will now briefly describe the exercises and assessments that were provided during the course Cases in Leadership.

The first exercise we had to do was related to charismatic leadership tactics. The idea was that everyone had to prepare a two-minute speech in fifteen minutes and then had to present it to their group members. During the presentation, the group members had to observe the presenter’s use of charismatic leadership tactics. After doing so, all group members would provide the presenter feedback about his/her use of charismatic leadership tactics. They would, for example, mention which charismatic leadership tactics were used extensively and which ones were maybe lacking or missing. Based on the received feedback, people could reflect on their own current use of charismatic leadership tactics and adjust and/or practice their way of presenting if necessary.

The second exercise we had to do was related to the topic of personality traits. We had to fill in a personality test that is based on the big five model of personality. This so-called NEO Five Factor Inventory comprises sixty questions and measures each personality dimension by twelve items. An example question/statement would be as follows: ‘I easily make friends’. A five-point rating scheme is then used to describe how accurately each statement describes you. This rating scheme varies from the extremes very inaccurate to very accurate. After completing the test, the answers could be filled into a scoring file, which equally assigns specific outcomes to all big five personality dimensions. To self-reflect on the individual result of the questionnaire and compare with others, everyone could relate their scores to a given norm group.

The third exercise we had to do was related to the concept of power. More specifically, we played a star power game. The star power game is a trading- and bargaining game. All participants had to take five random chips out of a bag. This bag consisted of five different coloured chips who each were attributed a specific value. People had to trade and bargain with each other without showing their chips. Everyone had the goal to accumulate the highest score as possible. After a trading round, all scores were recorded. Based on relatives scores, the group was then divided into three subgroups: A subgroup with the highest scores, a subgroup with average scores, and a subgroup with the lowest scores. In total, we played three rounds of bargaining and trading. In between each round, there was a bonus game, where each subgroup could divide some bonus points to a few, but not all members, of the group. Bonus points were only given to subgroup members if the entire subgroup unanimously supported the decision. If this was not the case, a majority vote could exclude no voters from the bonus game. The star power game was a good way to observe others and your own bargaining and trading skills. It gave pretty good insights into how people wanted to influence others in order to become more powerful and how changes in power positions eventually led to different behaviours.

CHAPTER 4 – Results, Insights, and Limitations

4.1 Inspirational Speech

Table I renders the charismatic leadership tactics that are available and indicates which tactics I at least once used during my inspirational speech (see appendix I).

TABLE I: Charismatic Leadership Tactics

Table I presents the available CLT’s. The second column indicates whether I used the CLT’s once myself.

Charismatic Leadership Tactics

Used by me

Verbal

Metaphors

Yes

Stories

No

Contrasts

Yes

Rhetorical questions

Yes

Three-part list

Yes

Expressions of moral conviction

Yes

Reflections of group’s sentiment

Yes

The setting of high goals

Yes

Conveying confidence

Yes

Non-verbal

Animated Voice

Yes

Facial Expressions

Yes

Gestures

No

Table I shows that I have used a vast majority of the CLT’s when I presented my inspirational speech. Personally, the most important insight of this exercise is that I didn’t realize how natural and extensive I used CLT’s. Since this implies that I probably already come across as a charismatic person, I will not alter my current way of presenting that much. However, I do think this exercise gave me some points of improvements to work on. I will try to be more aware of the use of CLT’s when presenting. The inspirational speech I prepared was just one example of where I did use them in the right way. But, that doesn’t mean I do so at other times as well. To ensure that this will indeed be the case, I will think about the CLT’s in advance of a presentation from now on. Moreover, I am aware of the fact that I don’t use the non-verbal tactic gesture that much. Previously, I found it overdone to make use of obvious hand gestures. But, knowing that this is a key tactic to become more charismatic, I will definitely try to do this more extensively from now on.

Although the theory about CLT’s is helpful to become more charismatic, I believe the theory has one important shortcoming. This is the notion that the use of CLT’s will directly make you a more charismatic person. I believe that authenticity and spontaneity play an important role in becoming charismatic. So, being aware of the CLT’s is one thing, but using them in an authentic- and spontaneous way is another.

4.2 NEO Five Factor Inventory

Table II gives an overview of the results of the NEO-FFI personality test that I’ve filled in.

TABLE II: NEO Five Factor Inventory

Table II presents the results of the NEO-FFI Test.

Table II shows that I have above average scores for the dimensions of openness to experience, conscientiousness, and extraversion. The opposite holds true for the dimension agreeableness and neuroticism, where I score below average. The results of the individual dimensions are basically all in line with the described literature about the relationship between personality dimensions and effective leadership. The fact that my current personality indeed fits a role as an effective leader, did not surprise me. I see myself in the descriptions of the dimension where I score above average. I like to explore myself and connect with people, but, while doing so, I will always rationally think about the actions I undertake. The same holds true for the descriptions of the dimensions where I score below average. I am aware of the fact that I sometimes can be less agreeable than others. I tend to directly and honestly communicate my opinion, even if this could sometimes be confronting. I also don’t easily step back for a challenge and would not describe myself as a vulnerable person. Overall, the main insight of this exercise was that it again confirmed the expectations that I have about myself.

Although a personality test such as the NEO-FFI can definitely provide useful insights into someone’s personality, the internal validity of the test has some limitations. The first limitation of the NEO-FFI tests is the fact that it is filled in by the person itself. Morgeson et al. (2007), state that self-reports could lead to social desirable responds rather than honest answers, making it a not so reliable measure of personality. Another limitation of personality tests is the inability to account for situational factors (Lord et al., 1984). The contingency leadership theory paradigm states that effective leadership depends on the situation (Den Hartog and Koopman, 2001). Since the results of the NEO-FFI test are static in nature, they can’t provide valuable information about more dynamic theories as the contingency leadership one.

4.3 Star Power Game

Table III gives an overview of the influencing tactics that I used myself during the Star Power Game.

TABLE III: Influencing Tactics

Table III presents the available influencing tactics. The second column indicates whether I used the tactic myself.

Influence Tactics

Used by me

Rational Persuasion

Yes

Ingratiation

No

Exchange

Yes

Apprising

No

Coalitions

Yes

Consultation

No

Collaboration

Yes

Pressure

Yes

Personal Appeals

Yes

Inspirational Appeals

No

Legitimating Tactics

No

Table III indicates that I used six of the eleven influencing tactics in order to improve my bargaining position and associated power. These are rational persuasion, exchange, coalitions, collaboration, pressure, and personal appeals. Relating these influencing tactics to the expected relationship they have on effective leadership, I conclude that my use of rational persuasion and collaboration are the only influencing tactics where literature found a positive relationship for.

For the influencing tactic pressure, a negative relationship was established. My use of the influencing tactics exchange, coalitions, and personal appeals are unrelated to effective leadership. I find it a surprising result that I only use a third of the available influencing tactics that could significantly improve my power position. I am now aware of my current and inefficient use of influencing tactics, and I aim to use them more efficiently in the future. The main insight from the exercise itself was that it was really interesting to see how people, including myself, behaved differently when their power position changed during the game. The lesson of this game was that it was a representation of the society we live in, where the rich are in control, can set the rules, and always have an advantage over the weaker. The weaker, on the other hand, have difficulties climbing up the latter, and could hardly compete against the well performing group. It showed how important and unfair power can be in order to become influential. This also directly is the main limitation of this theory. You can be a true talent in influencing others, but if your initial power position doesn’t allow you to be influential, this theory has some practical implications. Another limitation of this theory is the fact that there was no clear distinction between a leader and a follower. I, for example, was not assigned to lead the rest or follow someone. Because of that, the conclusions made on the basis of the Star Power game and related LMX-theory might not be reliable to explain leadership effectiveness.

CHAPTER 5 – Conclusion and Personal Development Plan

This essay aims to explore the theoretical and practical effects of CLT’s, personality traits, and influencing tactics on effective leadership. Results indicate that I extensively use charismatic leadership tactics when I present an inspirational speech. Results also indicate that my current personality fits a role as an effective leader. Finally, results indicate that I currently don’t use all available influence tactics to be as powerful as possible. For every assessment and/or exercise, I have discussed several insights and limitations, and I have also provided recommendations to myself how to improve and/or maintain my leadership potential. Obviously, this essay only covers a relatively small part of the literature regarding effective leadership. Although the results indicate that I have the potential to become an effective leader, I still have a lot of work to do. To start with, I think I can learn a lot from other leaders. Therefore, I am really looking forward to experience what the life of a full-time employee is about. By starting my career, I would place myself in an entire new setting, which will result in a lot new challenges that I have to solve for. I hope this enables me to develop a unique leadership style over time. One that fits me and the environment I live in. I would, for example, like to work with a diverse set of people with different backgrounds, cultures, norms, and values. I believe that such an open and diverse network of people provides me the perfect conditions to keep developing my leadership potential. I also intend to look for an inspirational mentor/leader who I can observe and learn from. I feel that the combination of learning by doing and observing is key to become an effective leader. Overall, I would say that I’ve learned a great deal about leadership by writing this essay. I now am aware of the CLT’s, personality traits, and influencing tactics that are available to leaders and I will incorporate this knowledge into my future way of leading. On top of that, this essay made me admit that leadership is contingent and that there’s no right or wrong way of leading. Leadership is an ongoing learning process for everyone, including myself.

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