Although the assignment of specific theory in understanding the leader's behavior clearly demonstrates overlap in theory -- indicating that the leader may employ various degrees of leadership theory in order to achieve the best possible outcomes -- application of concepts such as influence and power also demonstrate a wide breath of applicability and utilization. For instance, my current leader utilizes different forms of power in order to achieve influence with different groups of followers and subordinates. In dealing with his bosses, my boss employs expert power. My boss makes a strong case for change or improvement based on his understanding of his department and the needs of his employees. However, in addressing leaders from other departments, my boss employs both expert and legitimate power. If resources or tools are needed from a different department, my boss makes the request based on a clear, legitimate need and his experience with his current department.
Finally, in dealing with direct subordinates, my current boss employs a wide range of power techniques. In most instances, my boss will appeal to subordinates by utilizing rewards to help motivate us to complete a specific project. Further, my boss is open and flexible, enabling him to use referent power; subordinates generally like my boss and are willing to follow because of their general affection or commitment to their leader. Unfortunately, there are instances in which my boss must use coercive power in order to achieve results. This situation occurs when my boss is under a strict deadline and subordinates are not responding in a positive and productive manner. Although this type of power is not commonly used by my boss, I have seen this type of power used in order to ensure the completion of a specific project or program. While coercive power does indeed produce results, it does tend to prompt some negative emotions among followers.
When placed in this perspective, it becomes evident that understanding my current leader and boss is a substantial challenge when attempting to place his actions and behaviors into one specific category. While it is possible to argue that my boss utilizes a specific type of power to leadership behavior a majority of the time, in reality, my boss must adjust his leadership behavior and style in order to meet the unique needs of the situation and the environment. Unless my boss makes these changes, he will not have the tools and resources needed to ensure success for his career or department. Thus, it becomes evident that leadership is not a linear process; rather, it is a process of adaptation which enables the leader to employ personal traits and experience to choose the best leadership practice and behavior to achieve a specific goal. For this reason, it seems reasonable to argue that in practice, leadership cannot be as neatly compartmentalized as it can in theory.
Goals and Outcomes
Overall, this reflection paper clearly demonstrates the challenges that exist when it comes to understanding leadership in practice. Even though theory provides a clear understanding of the specific attributes of the leader and the overall outcomes that can be achieved, in practice, leadership appears to represent more of a continuum of behaviors and actions which draw from a number of different theories, concepts and ideas. What this effectively suggests is that what is observed or achieved in leadership practice may not be commensurate with what the leader expects based on theory. In this context, the question that arises is "How then should leaders structure leadership practice to achieve the best possible outcomes for the organization?"
Arguably, there are no easy answers to the question. However, when one looks further into the leadership literature, it becomes evident that there are some steps that the leader can take in order to effectively bolster leadership practice and achieve successful outcomes for the organization. For instance, ethics can play a significant role in the development of leadership practice. Although overlooked in the context of this investigation, ethics can provide the leader with a clear understanding of the specific issues impacting the organization. This information and an understanding of what is and is not acceptable for the development of the organization can facilitate the development of leadership practice that has a positive impact on the organization.
Additionally, the leader can acquire a basic understanding of leadership theory so as to develop a personal theory of leadership practice. While the leader will have to embrace the idea that this paradigm will need to be flexible overall, development of a guiding leadership theory will provide the leader with a clear understanding of personal strengths and weaknesses as well as an understanding of the type of leader he or she would like to be. A more integral comprehension of these issues should enable the leader to improve leadership practice and achieve positive results in terms of power, influence and the ability to effectively motivate followers.
In the opening of this investigation, the central focus of this paper was iterated as elucidating the challenges that exist when it comes to understanding and evaluating leadership and its overall impact on the organization. Through a synthesis of leadership theory and practice, this research clearly demonstrates the challenges that arise when it comes to translating leadership theory into practice. Even when efforts are made to examine leadership practice in the context of theory, it becomes evident that practice is not as linear as theory. While leadership theory can inform and create understanding of leadership, in practice, leadership draws on a number of different theories, motivations and concepts in order to create the leader's overall leadership profile. From these observations it was then argued that without definitive understanding of leadership in practice, steps must be taken by the leader to develop consistency and cohesion in leadership provided in the real world. Review of organizational ethics along with the development of a personal leadership paradigm appear to be the most salient means by which new leaders can prepare themselves for the practical challenges of providing leadership in the real world. These techniques will help me in my efforts to develop leadership practice in my career.