Friday, March 21, 2008

Leadership

There was a fairly interesting happening in the world of sports this past week and it had nothing to do with your March Madness office pool. The Boston Red Sox were set to leave for Japan where they would play their opening games for the 2008 season. In order to get the players to agree to play in the game Major League Baseball promised $40,000 per person to make the trip. Days before they were set to leave, the Red Sox players found out that only they would receive the money and not the trainers, coaches, and other support personnel. Upon finding this out the players unanimously decided that they would rather forfeit the three games instead of seeing the rest of their “team” not receiving the same benefits as they were to receive.

Whether the players are right or wrong, greedy or thoughtful is beside the point in this matter. We all know that $40,000 is more than many people make in a year and that the ballplayers make enough to where they could have just forfeited their money to the others. What is of interest in this story is a simple matter of leadership.

Somewhere in the Red Sox organization someone has done an amazing job of getting each and every individual within the organization to believe in the concept of team.

Authoritarian, Participative, and Delegative are the three basic types of leadership that are practiced by anyone in a position where they are responsible for the performance of others. No one is better than the other, and any good leader blends all three styles within their leadership structure.

The process of authoritarian leadership involves the leader making the decisions for the people they are supervising. This type of leadership frequently gets mistaken for abuses of power, but in reality you are saying “I know what needs to be done and I know exactly what you can do to make it happen”.

Participative leadership is when a leader gathers information from those they work with and then makes the final decision. This is the most democratic style of leadership where you say “I want your input before I make the decision I need to make”.

Delegative leadership happens when a leader allows those that they are leading to make the decisions for them, but still holds themselves accountable for the decision. In essence you are saying “I trust that you will make the correct decision for us, and I will stand by whatever you choose”.

Solely relying on any one type of leadership is not really leadership at all because the results earned will be attached with employee backlash.

The authoritarian leader eventually begins to degrade those that they are leading and garners much earned resentment for not allowing people to use their valued input in the decision making process. Authoritarian leaders begin to lead through fear and threats, where they will get results, but at the cost of high turnover rates.

Primarily participative leaders will face followers who believe that the leader is taking credit for decisions that are not totally theirs. These leaders will receive accolades for accomplishments that they do not have full ownership over, while the team is not fully recognized for their talents.

A leader who is strictly delegative will create employees who believe that they are more capable than the leader because they are the ones making the decisions. A delegative leader also leaves the door open to absolve themselves of failure because they did not make the decision therefore it was not their fault.

The reality of leadership is that you have to wear many different hats because you will face many different situations. There are times when you must put your foot down and say this is the direction we are moving in. You will also face situations where you need the input of others before you can make the proper decision and there are situations where you need to trust that you have trained your team well enough to make a decision that you believe in as well.

The goal of leadership is to empower those that you are leading so that they form an understanding that no one person is greater than the whole, you included. When that bond is formed, you know that you have achieved success as a leader and can comfortably move forward with your group knowing that each person, no matter their title or status, is striving for fairness and success for all.

The fairness sought by the Boston Red Sox players says more about their leadership than their recent success, but don’t fool yourself and think that their success has nothing to do with their leadership.

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