Leadership Theory and Practice Part 2: Leadership Lessons
Our study of leadership this semester began with a discussion of the importance of vision (Bor, 2021a). Galperin also stresses the importance of vision in lesson 5, Vision is Everything. Although it is frequently quoted, I think these words from Alice in Wonderland do capture the essence of Galperin’s thoughts on vision. “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there” (Galperin, 2012, p. 51). In the book, from Good to Great, Collins tells us that developing a vision is not about creating a plan and putting energy into it. Rather it is about only doing those things we can get passionate about. Chip and Dan Heath, authors of Switch describe vision as a “destination postcard” (Galperin, 2012, p. 51-61).
My vision for the future is to build a community that engages as many people as possible with Judaism. The pandemic has shown me that people are interested in living Jewishly, but it needs to be in a way that fits into daily life. Utilizing online and asynchronous platforms allow more people to participate and engage with Jewish practice. Practice itself can and should look different than it did before the pandemic. Instead of requiring members to come to the building to worship, rituals can take place in an interactive, beautiful way from the comfort and safety of home. It is possible and, in some cases, ideal, to build community in a virtual space. During the past year, people have joined our community from all over the country. It would be impractical for them to travel to our building, but they have contributed greatly to our online space. People for whom travel is difficult or impossible have also joined our community from the comfort of home. I believe this is the way of the future not just for the Jewish community, but for all communities of faith.
Vision however is “merely dream” without action (Bor, 2021a). Leadership is necessary to implement any visionary changes in an institution. Leadership is the skill required to prompt people to action. It is my hope that with the leadership lessons I have learned during the semester, I will be equipped with the tools necessary to lead the Jewish community of the future.
Lesson 2: There are many styles of leadership. Some styles of leadership focus on the leader, others focus on the relationship between the leader and the followers.
I did not think of leadership in a nuanced way prior to taking this course. I saw extraverted, charismatic leaders and assumed that all leadership should look that way. I have become aware of the many styles of leadership through study in this course. Leader focused approaches (trait, skill, behavioral) are only a few of the many styles of leadership. There are many situations where a more relational style of leadership may be more effective.
Leader-oriented styles of Leadership
The trait approach is focused on identifying traits that make a successful leader, including intelligence, self-confidence, determination, integrity and sociability. The five-factor model of the trait approach focuses on extraversion, conscientiousness, openness, low neuroticism and agreeableness as defining leadership traits. This model is intuitively appealing, but it does not allow for leadership development or flexibility when presented with different leadership challenges (Bor, 2021a, Northouse, 2013, p. 63-95).
The skills approach, like the trait approach, is a leader-centric model that evaluates
ability to use one’s competencies to accomplish goals and objectives through skills that can be learned and developed. There are different models of this approach including Katz 3 Skills model which emphasizes technical, human, and conceptual skill and the Mumford
Comprehensive Skills model (Bor, 2021b, Northouse, 2013, p. 100 -132).
The behavioral approach evaluates leadership in two general domains: task behaviors that help group members achieve their objectives and relationship behaviors that help group members feel comfortable with themselves, each other, and the situation (Bor, 2021c, Northouse, 2013, p. 135 – 162).
The Ohio State study evaluated leaders in terms of initiating structure and consideration. The University of Michigan study found two types of independent leadership orientations; employee orientation which emphasizes human relations, and production orientation which emphasizes the technical aspects of a job. The Blake and Mouton managerial grid further expands the behavior approach evaluating two factors in leadership; concern for organizational production, and concern for people (Northouse, 2013, p. 141).
Relational styles of Leadership
The Situational leadership model focuses on leadership in specific situations. An effective leader is one who adapts his style to match the developmental level of his followers. The Leadership Styles chart details recommended leadership styles for specific situations (Northouse, 2013, p. 169).
The Path-goal leadership model focuses on removing obstacles from the path of the followers to achieve success (Bor 2021e, Northouse, 2013, p. 199-224). The leader-member exchange model is centered on communication between leaders and followers, specifically communication with the in-group of followers who are always willing to go above and beyond and with the out-group, those who need a more formal job description of requirements (Northouse, 2013, p. 230 - 261). Lesson 3, Trait Leadership: The traits that I feel describe me best are different than those my friends and family believe describe me best. I completed the Trait questionnaire myself and then gave the questionnaire to 5 friends and family members to complete (Northouse, 2013, p. 90). I then calculated the scores from my questionnaire and that of my friends and family members. I described myself as conscientious, diligent, perceptive, and self-confident. According to my scores, I believe perceptiveness is my strongest trait. According to my friends and family, my strongest traits are outgoing personality, friendliness and self-confidence, and my weakest traits are sensitivity and persistence. I found it most interesting that I am outwardly perceived as outgoing, but I do not perceive myself that way. I notice that when I am in a role that requires an outgoing personality, I can be outgoing, but I find it to be very tiring to be that way all the time. One important thing I learned about myself in studying the trait theory is that while I can be outgoing, it takes energy on my part and I need to build in quiet, personal time to recharge. Lesson 4, Skills Leadership: I am well balanced between technical, human and conceptual skills. I am slightly stronger in technical and human skills and slightly weaker in conceptual skills. During our study of the skills leadership model, I completed a skills inventory to assess my abilities in three domains: technical, human and conceptual skills (Northouse, 2013, p. 128). Technical skills are proficiency in a specific type of work, activity or process. Human skills are the skills necessary to work well with other people. Conceptual skills are the ability to work with ideas or concepts. I scored in the moderate range on all three categories, and scored slightly higher in technical and human skills(17) than in conceptual skills (14). According to this model and this assessment, I should work to strengthen my conceptual skills to advance to the higher levels of leadership within an organization. I think I will have many opportunities to do so through my participation in the Social Action committee and through my involvement with the upcoming strategic plan implementation process. Both tasks require “big picture” thinking and implementation. The social action committee requires me to work with lay leadership to choose a social action project and outline all the steps necessary to successfully complete that project. The strategic planning implementation requires working with members of the strategic planning committee to broaden our reach in the community and grow our membership. Both tasks involve working with big ideas and translating them into executable, practical steps. Through this process I hope to learn what is reasonable to expect from volunteers, what goals are reasonable to achieve within a specific time frame and how to motivate and engage committee members from week to week. Lesson 5, Situational Leadership: It is important to adapt my leadership style to meet the needs of my followers and the situation at hand. The Situational leadership model provides a path for adaptation based on the needs of the followers. Case Study 5.1 was particularly resonant for me because I have been in the “shoes” of both marathon runner and running coach, just like the people involved in this case study (Northouse, 2013, p. 181). In the study, the running coach, David has three groups of followers training for the New York City Marathon. One group of runners are new to marathon training and need highly directive, highly supportive coaching from David. The second group of runners are at an intermediate level with previous marathon training experience. The third group are elite runners looking to take their performance to the next level. I made the same mistake David did when I had the opportunity to coach new runners preparing for a 5k. I did not even ask everyone’s level of experience and I essentially coached toward my own personal ability level, rather than the needs of the people in the group. My followers were primarily like those in the first group of this case study. They needed not only social and emotional support, but also technical education in what equipment to use, what distance to run and what food to eat. Now that I am aware of how to adapt my leadership to meet the followers and the task, I would approach this role very differently. I would start by asking the group members about their experience with running. If the group is primarily new runners, I would plan not only running sessions, but also educational sessions on the importance of proper equipment and nutrition. I might invite guest experts in to lead those sessions in which my expertise is limited. My leadership would not be diminished by sharing the spotlight with others. I would be more effective in this situation because my followers would be better prepared to run their best on race day. Lesson 6, Path-Goal Leadership: Dialogue between leader and follower is essential for the leader to be aware of the obstacles to success. The Path-goal leadership model focuses on removing obstacles from the path of the followers to achieve success. These obstacles may be physical, such as an uncomfortable workspace, or task related, such as poor workflow. This model takes burden off the leader to do each individual task. Instead, the leader acts as a facilitator enabling the followers to complete their assigned tasks successfully (Bor 2021e, Northouse, 2013, p. 199-224). One experience I had with path-goal leadership as a follower taught me the importance of proper communication between follower and leader. In this case, I was leading a local chapter of a national choral program. I had experience with conducting a choir, but I did not have experience with hiring a charter bus to transport the choir, or in preparing a budget at the beginning of the year to share anticipated expenses with parents. I focused primarily on the musical preparation and not on the other aspects where I had less experience. When the time came for us to make travel arrangements for our annual festival, I felt overwhelmed and unprepared to make those arrangements for the group. The arrangements we ultimately made also cost more than I anticipated. Although we all ultimately made it to the festival, it could have been a much smoother process with proper advice from those in the organization with more experience in this type of logistical planning. I wish that my leader would have been more directive in approach, rather than letting each person figure it out on their own. According to the path-goal leadership questionnaire, directive leadership is my preferred style because there is no guess work. The expectations are clear from the beginning and it is easy to know whether I am on track for success. Although directive leadership may not always be appropriate, communication is required for the leader to know the needs and desires of the followers. Lesson 7, Leader-member exchange and Nurture People Who Matter: As a leader, my success is contingent on my relationships with followers, both those of the in-group and those of the out-group (Northouse, 2013, p. 230 – 261, Galperin, 2012, p.17-26). Out-group members need a more formalized job description while the in-group are willing to do whatever is needed. Galperin says this in a slightly different way when he encourages leaders to “nurture people who matter.” Sometimes those in the out-group need to be “nurtured out” to find a place where they are a better fit. According to Galperin, leaders will spend almost half their time nurturing those who matter and nurturing out those who do not fit. I was surprised by the high percentage of time Galperin devotes to nurturing relationships. Much oof this time will be spent on completing work related tasks together, but it still seems like a lot of time devoted to others. I also found it painful to read about nurturing someone out of the organization who does not fit. As a follower, I have found myself trying to fit on a team that doesn’t really fit me. As a leader, I have participants that stay in the group even when it is clear they would rather spend their time elsewhere. Intellectually, I know it is best for both parties to “nuture out” those that do not belong. Emotionally, this can be very difficult to do, but those who do not fit in the group take time and energy away from nurturing the rest of the team. We recently encountered an issue like this where it was clear early on this individual did not fit. Instead of doing as Galperin suggested, we kept trying to make this individual fit for almost a year. In the end that individual was “nurtured out” and we wasted a tremendous amount of time and resources in the process. We should have followed Galperin’s advice no matter how painful it would have initially been to do so. Lesson 8: It is crucially important for leaders to invest in partnerships, even those in opposition to me (Galperin, 2012, p.27 – 44). Galperin’s book made me think about partnership in a very different way, particularly in synagogues and other Jewish institutions. Many times, the professional staff acts out of fear of losing membership or donations. I always felt the lay leadership had tremendous power and the staff had to tread lightly to keep the board and the members happy. Galperin instead describes this relationship as a brit, a covenant between the parties. Covenantal relationship involves treating people humanely, being family-friendly and fun, treating people with gratitude and helping people to feel valued. It is also important to remember that the lay leader-professional relationship is a partnership, not a hierarchy. Galperin’s words also made me rethink relationships with those who may not agree with me. Although our positions are different, we are in relationship because we both care deeply about the same issue. As a leader, I will strive to make all my partnerships covenants of mutual respect and gratitude. I will also strive to find common ground even with my opposition. Lesson 9, Emotional Intelligence: Leaders must be true to themselves and their followers to lead in an authentic way, regardless of their specific leadership style. Our study of leadership this semester has made me more aware of the importance of emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is the ability to perceive and apply emotions to life’s tasks, and to manage emotions within oneself and relationships. The underlying premise of emotional intelligence is that people who are more sensitive to their emotions and their impact on others will be more effective leaders (Northouse, 2013, pp. 76-77). These people are also more likely to be true to the goals of the organization and to their own personal goals. When those two goals are in conflict, those more closely in touch with their own emotions are more likely to either reconcile the two or leave to join another organization with which their values more closely align. As a leader, I will pay more attention to my own emotions and the emotions of those on my team. I will also be more thoughtful in choosing my work to make sure that my goals align closely with the goals of the organization or team. I have been most inspired by leaders that genuinely believe in the work they are doing within an organization. I also feel at my best in a leadership role when I am committed to the ideals of the organization and believe in the work I am doing. Lesson 10: As a leader, it is crucial to zero in on what’s important to be inspired and stay inspired. This lesson is a combination of the last two lessons in Galperin’s book. I combined them because I feel they are two aspects on the same continuum. Galperin points out that in our modern lives, we are inundated with things to do. We are all busy, and often the most difficult thing to do is to filter the critical from the trivial. The job of a leader is to focus on what is critical and to let the smaller issues recede into the background. Not everything is equally important and as a leader, I will be judged by the essence of what I do, not the small trivial tasks. The best way to filter tasks is to ask what requires my unique skill set. The rest should be delegated to someone else or not done at all. In addition to filtering, it is important to learn to say no, even if it may upset someone. When you begin to say no, you have greater clarity on what is truly important and needs to get done. The one thing that can never be delegated is my inspiration and charisma as a leader. Galperin suggests the following question to determine leadership priorities: what would make you feel that you have done your job well? Focus on doing that work first. I found this lesson to be particularly useful in my professional life. There is seemingly no end to the small tasks that are not crucial to my leadership but somehow make their way on my to-do list. Although it is often easier said than done, Galperin’s advice to do the crucial tasks and delegate the rest is good advice to those of us feeling overwhelmed or in need of focus. I will also use this lesson in my work as a reminder not to get weighed down in the small tasks and to focus on those things that make me an inspirational leader. I think this is one of Galperin’s greatest lessons in the book. There are always small tasks that need to get done, but they cannot get in the way of the big important tasks that only the leader can do. I also feel much more comfortable delegating responsibilities to others, knowing that it will free up my time to really focus on the work of leadership. Bibliography Bor, Hana. (2021a). Chapter 1-2 PowerPoint slides. Bor, Hana. (2021b). Leadership chapter 3 PowerPoint slides. Bor, Hana. (2021c). Leadership chapter 4 PowerPoint slides. Bor, Hana. (2021d). Leadership chapter 5 PowerPoint slides. Bor, Hana. (2021e). Leadership chapter 6 PowerPoint slides. Bor, Hana. (2021f). Leadership chapter 7 PowerPoint slides. Bor, Hana. (2021g). Leadership chapter 8 PowerPoint slides. Bor, Hana. (2021h). Leadership chapter 9 PowerPoint slides. Northouse, Peter G. (2013). Leadership theory and practice (8 ed.): SAGE. Galperin,M. (2012). Reimagining Leadership in Jewish Organizations: Ten practical lessons to help you implement change and achieve your goals. Woodstock, VT: Jewish Lights Pub.