Understanding the Meaning of Leadership

What does it mean to be a leader? There are many answers to this question. Recently, I interviewed a colleague/subordinate of mine to find his views on leadership and gain an insight into his leadership style. Interviewed Walter Levin, who is the Director of Security. Before getting into his personal leadership style I wanted to find out what he thought a leader was. He told me that he felt a leader was someone with patience and the ability to think and appeal to employees. He furthered the discussion with his thoughts on what makes a good leader. Walter Levin said that a good leader was “…very understanding, supportive and able to help employee(s) [sic] to create work/life balance.” Walter Levin, personal communication, July 24, 2017). In describing his own leadership style Walter stated that he draws on his employees as a resource and frequently includes them in decision making. He adds that“… together leaders and subordinates can accomplish much.” (personal communication, July 24, 2017). He sees himself as “more democratic than autocratic” Walter, personal communication, July 24, 2017). He motivates employees by acknowledging and rewarding work and accomplishments as well as being supportive of staff. He views his discipline style as progressive, addressing the person before the situation Walter, personal communication, July 24, 2017). He wants to make sure the person is OK and then look to see if that affects the situation. He escalates the disciplinary actions as necessary. “But, the goal is to work with the employee and give tools to perform better,” he says (personal communication, July 24, 2017). The above summary shows that he is very employee centered (Daft, 2016, p. 48).

Based on the Ohio State Studies and the Leader Behavior Description Questionnaire, he leans toward the consideration structure because he cares about subordinates’ ideas, feelings, etc. (Daft, 2016, p. 46). His leadership roles are more collaborative and advisory; he is encouraging, flexible and looks to guide and support his staff (Daft, 2016, p. 43). With the path-goal theory there are four types of leader behavior. Walter seems to inherently lean toward the supportive and participative leadership style, even though all styles can be adopted based on the situation (Daft, 2016, p. 77-8). He likes to be understanding and flexible. He has been in his field for many years; this gives him expert power, a soft power (Daft, 2016, p. 374). He has experience and knowledge in the Security field. He knows what he is talking about in respect to his job; this is valued by his subordinates. Walter made an interesting statement about power. He said, “Power could be given, but do you have the ability to execute?” (personal communication, July 24, 2017). This shows that he knows that his position inherently offers power, but it is the way one decides to use hard and soft power that makes an effective leader. Looking at the leader frames of reference, it is clear that Walter views his position from a human resources frame (Daft, 2016, p. 377-8). This point of view sees people as the most valuable asset and resource that an organization has (Daft, 2016, p. 377-8). He shows this because he cares about employees’ personal life, their work/life balance and their professional development (personal communication, July 24, 2017). Even though this frame is the most closely related to his leadership style the other three styles can be worked on for his own professional development (Daft, 2016, p. 377-8). Listening to him discuss his views allowed me to learn more about him as a leader and how he operates his department. This allows me to reflect on my leadership style in relation to his so I can find ways for us to work even better together as leaders. I will be looking to interview other leaders under my umbrella with the same questions because this allows me to open the dialogue and hopefully use it as a teaching tool.

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