The paper "Leadership in the Workplace" is a great example of management coursework. Historically, strong dynamic leadership has been a good predictor of successes to come, and to a large degree it hardly matters which yardstick is used to measure success: inspiring leadership tends to lead to community longevity, membership growth, financial vigor, etc. Theoretically, leadership can be centralized or shared, however, we yet to witness a thriving decentralized, shared-power group that relies on more than a handful of its most responsible and assertive members to provide ongoing vision and inspiration.
Responsibility, accountability, and initiative are commonly shared roles, but charisma-a leader's ability to promote a vision and to evoke enthusiastic participation from those involved-is a rare (and potentially dangerous) quality (Cober, 2007; 479-494). Charisma usually attracts respect, admiration, and loyalty-feedback that tend to result in ego gratification for the leader that can become addictive and an end in itself. But that's another story, material for a future column. For the sake of exploring what's possible, consider the "leaderful" group, a model for shared responsibility and participation. This is a term often used by organizations with democratic values when they're envisioning how they want things to be, with many members encouraged and empowered to take on leadership roles.
Typically, attempts to implement this model result in many folks assuming responsibility for general management roles: organizing the work, creating and administering budgets, assigning tasks, checking in with team members and offering encouragement, brainstorming logistics, monitoring progress, and making reports (Cober, 2007; 479-494). However it's rare for the charismatic role to be widely shared, and it commonly shows up at the organizational level rather than at the project level which is likely a workable arrangement, since the camaraderie that frequently results from working closely with others can energize the decentralized project teams, especially if team members are able to tap into the inspiration and motivation generated in the larger group setting. In that light, a critically important strategy for building effective communities and social change organizations is to clarify and better articulate our overarching visions and to find ways to translate that idealism into enthusiasm for doing the work.
Some people come by that skill naturally, and we should encourage them to use it and to teach it to a large degree it's a learnable skill that we can cultivate and nurture (Kark, 245-255, 2003).
Once we learn to spread around the charisma, we can look forward to greater success in accomplishing our common goals, and the profound satisfaction that comes from participating with enthusiasm. Organizational life depicts the barometers leaders' moods. An angry reply, a wrinkled brow, or a cutting edge comment from the boss, and making the utterance is an out-a storm. Everyone is warned with the boss's clouded expressions to cover up.
Potentially innovative ideas are banished to the cellar. Windows overlooking the competitive environment are shuttered, and people with better ideas put their heads down and retreat to the safety of their cubicles. Sunny dispositions, particularly when consistent, encourage the opposite reactions (Malone, 2000, 162). The leader's mood is the single most powerful emotional influence on the work environment.
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