The existence of a majority of social, business, and political institutions depends on quality leadership, which makes it vital in all areas of life. A good leader has to possess the necessary skills and strengths to distinguish themselves among corrupt, dishonest, and morally bankrupt bosses who are currently in charge of corporations and conglomerates. Today, the crisis in the mortgage and finance industries uncovered the failure of leaders to promote positive changes and instead emphasized their selfish tendencies and greediness. As a result, the public’s trust in chief executive officers (CEOs), presidents, and governors is at an all-time low, according to Daft (2016). I have served in managerial and leadership roles for the past 15 years. Thus, I have entered the world of leadership at a turning point, which made me think of the concept in a different light. In order to increase employees’ confidence in me, I had to shift my mindset.
First, once I faced the challenge of coordinating people as a Senior Clerk, I decided to consume as much content about being in charge of others as I could. I have read multiple books to help me define leadership, which was the first stage in my growth as a good leader. Daft (2016) argues that it is “an influence relationship among leaders and followers who intend real changes and outcomes that reflect their shared purposes” (p. 5). I really like this explanation since it includes the element of leadership which I find the most crucial – common goals. Over the course of almost two decades working in finance and administration, I have learned firsthand how important it is for all members of the team to have shared aims. The task of a leader is to clearly define realistic objectives and inspire their followers to adopt them in their work. Having a common purpose positively reflects on employees’ productivity, performance, and commitment.
At the beginning of my professional journey, I tended to focus too much on “hard” skills. I have completed numerous rounds of corporate training, all of which centered around management and organization, rather than leadership. As an Accountant, Administration Manager, and General Manager, I learned that communication skills and an ability to empathize with and motivate others were exceptionally important. I made a mistake of prioritizing cost-effectiveness, optimization, and outcomes, rather than adopting a new leadership mindset and delivering targeted results by shifting the focus to empowerment, collaboration, and changes. Through personal exploration and development, I came to the same conclusion as Daft (2016) that leadership involves “creating a vision for the future, designing social architecture that shapes cultures and values, inspiring and motivating followers, developing personal qualities, and creating change within a culture of integrity” (p. 27). I would add that leadership is essentially like any other skill which can be mastered through self-reflection and studying to accompany the practical experience.
The second chapter of the book focuses on specific traits that distinguish great leaders. Ever since I started learning more about management and leadership, I have formed a fascination with studying biographies and professional backgrounds of the world’s most successful CEOs, entrepreneurs, and political figures. I immediately noticed that the people I chose to learn more about emphasized self-confidence, initiative, and personal responsibility as essential characteristics of any effective executive. Daft (2016) includes a variety of studies, which demonstrate that general intelligence, integrity, as well as interpersonal skills, are crucial for a good leader. However, modern realities dictate new requirements for anyone interested in filling in a leadership position. A positive attitude, selflessness, and cheerfulness in a boss are often prioritized by 21st-century employees.
As for my personal experience in displaying the aforementioned traits, I have found it extremely hard to establish a balance between integrity and optimism. I realize that, in my current position, 12 of my direct subordinates expect me to be honest, which is a foundation of a trusting relationship with them. Integrity is reflected in their commitment and motivation, both of which are essential for creating reliable social architecture within my team. On the other hand, I sometimes have to face the dilemma of remaining an ethical and truthful leader, while trying to inspire confidence in my team by appearing overly optimistic. My solution has been to continue being honest with my staff while choosing not to disclose certain information in order to ensure the employees are confident in me and my actions. In addition, Daft (2016) stresses the importance of a leader possessing “high motivation that creates a high effort level,” which he refers to as “drive” (p. 40). The author provides an example of Marissa Mayer, a former Vice President at Google and an ex-CEO of Yahoo, working 100 hours a week (Daft, 2016). I recognize that it is crucial for a boss to show their own commitment to the team’s shared objectives by working hard. However, I believe that overworking is not an effective approach in the long run, which is why it is vital for a leader to learn how to manage their responsibilities in a time-efficient manner and coordinate personnel accordingly.
The second chapter contains many lessons that I can apply in my current position as an Accountant/Administrator. First, after reading the content of it, I have reminded myself of the importance of focusing on developing my strengths rather than dwelling on weaknesses. Daft (2016) describes a leader as having three types of roles, including operational, collaborative, and advisory. I have discovered I gravitate towards operational leadership based on my skills and natural talents. I prefer to structure my work around specific goals, existing plans, deadlines, which is reflected in my leadership style through the use of vertical hierarchy. It may be a more traditional approach, but it suits my tendency to be analytical, well-organized, and results-oriented. Second, I learned about the idea of combining autocratic and democratic styles. I can use the concepts of individualized leadership in my organization because I have a rather small team of subordinates, which would make the process of forming dyads easier.
In the reflection of the previous chapter, I have discussed the importance for a leader to identify the most suitable strategy depending on their own set of skills, strengths, weaknesses, and abilities. However, a great executive should recognize the significance of situational variables on leadership outcomes. Such factors include the readiness level of subordinates, time constraints, a predetermined path of desired rewards, quality or commitment requirements, as well as the existence of the necessary resources (Daft, 2016). Thus, a good leader should examine and evaluate the aforementioned factors in order to select the most appropriate style of task allocation, communication, and decision-making. Developing such diagnostic skills contributes to the concept of entrepreneurial leadership discussed in chapter 2. Especially in the industry that I work in, leaders must recognize the challenges of current economic instability and find mechanisms to remain flexible in order to ensure organizational sustainability in performance and productivity.
Being easily adaptable is a crucial factor in risk assessment and management, which the financial industry is far too familiar with. As an Accountant/Administrator, I have a responsibility to maximize the efforts of my subordinates. Daft (2016) suggests “Hersey and Blanchard’s situational theory, Fiedler’s contingency model, the path-goal theory, the Vroom–Jago model, and the substitutes-for-leadership concept” as the primary tools to choose which situations call for various leadership approaches (p. 91). On the one hand, since the start of my professional journey, I have been aware of a leader’s role in minimizing the effects of unforeseen changes or organizational transformations. On the other hand, this chapter has equipped me with a number of instruments to choose the most appropriate leadership style based on the given scenario. I now realize how important it is to examine the level of expertise and formal training my followers possess in order to allocate my time and organizational resources accordingly.
I find the substitutes-for-leadership concept the most applicable out of those described in the chapter in regards to characteristics of the tasks I give my followers. One of my primary concerns as an Administrator is combining task- and people-oriented leadership. This model has helped me to transform my leadership approach by assessing follower and task characteristics and prioritizing highly structured tasks, and automatic feedback for less-experienced members of my team. Thus, I can make the leadership process more time-efficient and productive by providing minimal task direction to highly skilled employees. This is exceptionally suitable for my role as mostly an organizational leader, which I often assume based on my personal strengths.
Apart from the traits I have discussed earlier, it is evident that a good leader has to master the art of self-reflection. In order to coordinate the actions of others, one must first understand themselves. In chapter 4, Daft (2016) focuses on unique characteristics such as personality, attributions, cognitive style, values, as well as decision-making patterns, all of which a leader must be aware of. Daft (2016) offers the Big Five model to assess “whether individuals score high or low on the dimensions of extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, emotional stability, and openness to experience” (p. 126). Personally, I find this tool to be highly unreliable since my professional experience of dealing with many people has demonstrated that individuals’ responses to certain scenarios often differ based on external factors, mood, and attitudes. Therefore, I appreciate that the author dedicates a section of chapter 4 to discuss everyone’s unique values, perceptual distortions, and attributions.
It is crucial for an effective leader to not only define their own instrumental and end values but to determine how these beliefs affect their attitudes. Values reflect assumptions one has about their professional environment. Leaders in favor of Theory X tend to focus on controlling, coercing, and threatening their followers because they assume the average human being inherently dislikes work (Daft, 2016). I am a proponent of Theory Y since I believe people like working and commit fully to the task at hand if they can relate to the cause and care about organizational objectives. After learning about both theoretical frameworks, I realized that I had to put more emphasis on ensuring my team had a shared vision and common goals. Moreover, although it may be hard to exude confidence working in a volatile financial industry, I now recognize the significance of a positive attitude in ensuring my followers’ commitment to the established objectives.
Chapter 4 has been invaluable in teaching me the ways to deal with people with different personality types. Although I frown upon making assumptions about and judging others, Daft (2016) demonstrates how having internal and external attributions is beneficial for leaders. The main concern in assigning the cause of a person’s behavior is prioritizing external attributions. I notice that whenever I try to justify my own behavior, I focus on environmental factors; however, when I assess the actions of my subordinates, internal attributions take over. As a leader, it is my responsibility to treat my followers with respect and strive for understanding, which is why I have to find a balance between assessing someone’s personality and taking into consideration external factors.
The seventh chapter of the book centers around the concept of followership, which is rarely recognized even by experienced leaders. Subordination is founded on interdependence, which is why it is crucial for those in charge to gain a better understanding of lower-ranking employees’ concerns, needs, as well as responsibilities. According to Robert E. Kelley, there are various styles of followership, including an alienated follower, a pragmatic survivor, an effective follower, a conformist, or a passive follower (as cited in Daft, 2016). Daft (2016) argues that effective followers “display the courage to assume responsibility, to challenge their leaders, to participate in transformation, to serve others, and to leave the organization when necessary” (p. 218). As for their needs, subordinates want clear direction, competence, integrity, and inspiration from their leader. In addition, executives have to be forward-thinking and facilitate an atmosphere of open discussion and contribution. Almost every leader is also a follower, which is why those who succeed at managing both up and down play the most vital role in ensuring organizational effectiveness.
This chapter has been one of the most insightful ones in the entirety of the textbook because I never acknowledged how important it is to look at the leader-follower relationship from the perspective of subordinates. First, the content of this section helped me understand my staff better and determine their needs. As a result, I have made some changes to “enhance the abilities and contributions of followers are by offering clarity of direction, providing opportunities for growth, giving honest, constructive feedback, and protecting followers from organizational intrusions” (Daft, 2016, p. 218). It has been exceptionally beneficial for me to find the most effective methods of providing feedback. Now, I prioritize less-experienced employees, ask about external factors that may have contributed to their mistakes, critique their performance solely, and discuss possible solutions to prevent such slips from happening. Another important lesson from chapter 7 is that leaders are unofficially “required” to take full responsibility for the mistakes a member of their team might have made. As an inexperienced Cost and Management Accountant, I made the mistake of getting into an intense argument with a Financial Director of the organization I had been working for at the time. The reason for my indignation was a 10-minute speech of said Director targeted at me due to a mistake in financial statements made by a Junior Accountant I was in charge of. As of now, I acknowledge the importance of taking full responsibility for the actions of your subordinates since their mistakes are, in fact, a direct reflection of your competence.
In the previous reflection, I have mentioned the qualities effective followers should possess. Chapter 8 explains how leaders can facilitate the appropriate working conditions to ensure their subordinates work productively and increase organizational efficiency. Daft (2016) argues that one of the main tasks of any executive or manager is to motivate their staff by prioritizing positive motives and identifying methods of meeting employees’ higher needs. According to Maslow’s hierarchy, everyone has to satisfy various types of needs, including physiological, safety, belongingness, esteem, and self-actualization needs (as cited in Daft, 2016). A good leader will create a comfortable work environment as well as provide their team with opportunities for growth and advancement in order to meet followers’ higher needs. Daft (2016) claims that it is rather hard for those in charge to find a balance between organizational objectives and the individual needs of each employee. Apart from Maslow, Herzberg and McClelland were avid proponents of a needs-based leadership approach. Other motivation theories, on the other hand, center around extrinsic rewards and punishments as the basis of building long-term relationships with followers.
Chapter 8 has been rather polarizing since I found some arguments unconvincing or purely unrealistic. I often look at the task of motivating my subordinates through the lens of reinforcement. I agree that utilizing extrinsic punishments and rewards can be effective and lead to the desired outcomes. Although giving away rewards seems to have a variety of benefits on employees’ motivation, the opposite can be said about punishments. My professional experience as an Administrator/Accountant has demonstrated that monetary punishments rarely work. After the Human Resources (HR) Director decided to impose a small fine on employees who consistently show up late to work, the number of unpunctual individuals had increased. According to a consultant invited to our corporate office, once a fine was imposed, the HR department eliminated any form of moral turmoil employees might have experienced after being late to work, which was instead substituted with a monetary “pay-off.” Other important insights I have gained include the methods of increasing empowerment. As an Accountant, I have to give my subordinates varied financial tasks and facilitate autonomy. It is also crucial to provide opportunities for progress and define meaningful goals for the whole team.
Although I have defined my leadership role as solely organizational, planning and managing groups of people requires cooperation between individuals, which means that efficient communication is an essential skill for me. Any successful leader has to possess the appropriate tools to engage their followers and unite them around shared goals. Individuals in charge of others must utilize a variety of strategic conversation techniques in order to facilitate open communication and ensure each employee feels valued and seen. According to Daft (2016), one of the main responsibilities of an effective executive or director is to “get people talking across boundaries about the vision, key strategic themes, and the values that can help the group or organization achieve desired outcomes” (p. 283). Through open communication, a leader can build trust, increase employee commitment, as well as embed the vision and strategy into the minds of followers. There are a variety of communication channels one can use, all of which have their own set of advantages and disadvantages, including such factors as richness, the level of dissemination, or the speed of receiving feedback.
Existing communication challenges leaders have to overcome include social media as well as delivering messages in times of crisis. One great insight I have discovered in chapter 9 is the advice for leaders to stay visible when there is an issue threatening organizational stability. Avoiding hiding and giving a runaround leads to employees’ increased trust in and reliance on the person in charge. One of Daft’s arguments that I support is promoting the use of social media as a tool to facilitate open communication. I realize the significance technology has in a new era of digital communication. However, for every worker, there has to be a strict distinction between their personal and professional accounts in order to ensure conversations between employees and their bosses remain professional and private. Although it is illogical to deny the impact social media has on the majority of industries nowadays, open communication does not depend on the use of Facebook or Instagram.
Another important notion examined in this chapter is the significance of storytelling. A couple of years ago, I became friends with a marketing executive at a company I worked for at the time. Over the years, she has taught me to engage with my subordinates. One of the elements she has always focused on was telling stories as a way of getting an emotional response, thus influencing my followers. Ever since she has shared this “technique” with me, I start every single monthly presentation with a short story, which would reflect our successes or failures over the given time frame.
It is undeniable that the world nowadays differs significantly from the realities of the 20th century. The United States has one of the most diverse populations, which is reflected in the workforce as well as a rapidly-changing customer base. Leaders have to utilize all the available resources and tools to ensure their organization can keep up with the new environment. Globalization poses a number of unique challenges for corporations, political groups, and other institutions, which means that effective leaders of the 21st century should be able to solve these issues by committing to embracing inclusivity and supporting women and minorities. Daft (2016) defines diversity as “differences among people in terms of age, ethnicity, gender” (p. 329). However, the author specifies that thinking of diversity in terms of this limited set of dimensions is not inclusive since people differ by nationality, income, lifestyle, personality, military experience, and a variety of other factors.
It is essential for organizations to include people of distinct backgrounds in discussions and decision making in order to keep thriving. Apart from its ability to equip leaders with a unique perspective on things, diversity is beneficial for establishing trusting relationships with diverse customers as well as developing individual employee potential (Daft, 2016). Different backgrounds of personnel members can contribute to an open discussion, and the insights gained from it can be utilized to reach organizational objectives.
As the 21st century leader, I face a challenge of managing people different from me. There is an invisible bridge between me and some of my direct subordinates because of the stark distinctions in our backgrounds. It has been exceptionally hard for me to grasp the full scope of hardships members of my team had to go through. A good leader can easily recognize victims of prejudice, stereotypes, and harmful effects of the glass ceiling. While working as an Administration Manager, I have had formal training in cultural competence. However, I believe theoretical knowledge is not enough for a leader. I have traveled all over the globe, which taught me significantly more about tolerance than any textbook did. I believe leaders need to acquire hands-on experience in dealing with people of different backgrounds. This way, they can identify these individuals’ needs and create organizational changes to meet these needs.
Diversity is exceptionally important for leaders working for global organizations, which may require traveling and cooperating with diverse groups to achieve shared goals. After finishing chapter 11, I have contacted my boss and expressed my concern over the lack of employee affinity groups or sponsorships specific to the financial department within my organization. Such initiatives support the inclusion and advancement of minorities and women and help a lot of young professionals, including some of my colleagues and close friends.
One of the most important tasks of an effective leader is creating and maintaining organizational culture. Daft (2016) defines it as “the set of key values, assumptions, understandings, and norms that is shared by members of an organization and taught to new members as correct” (p. 431). First, companies possessing a high-performance culture help employees relate to one other, which leads to the development of a collective identity. Second, having a strong set of values and rituals distinguishes a business on the market and helps to respond to changing customer needs. One of the primary objectives of a leader is to contribute to the creation of a responsive, high-performance culture and to close the possible culture gap, which refers to a set of conditions when “an organization’s culture is not in alignment with the needs of the external environment or company strategy” (Daft, 2016, p. 453). In order to accomplish the aforementioned tasks, directors and executives use stories, ceremonies, symbols, specialized language, and other tools to instill the appropriate values.
As for my organization, although it has external attributes of an existing culture, including corporate colors, logos, and ceremonies, there is a lack of shared values and underlying assumptions among employees. As one of the leaders of the financial department, I can use my influence, resources, and years of professional experience to articulate a certain cultural vision among the members of my team and reinforce it daily. Despite being spiritual myself, I find it hard to imagine how faith can contribute to the development of a high-performance culture. While it is important for employees to find a bigger purpose behind their work, I believe it is more effective to focus on organizational objectives rather than prioritizing the individual beliefs of each subordinate I have.
The current global environment undergoes major transformations and continues to surprise even the most experienced leaders. Digitalization, economic instability, inflation, urbanization, and political controversies all contribute to a growing need for major organizations to adapt in accordance with the reality of the 2020s. A good leader does not simply allocate tasks and control their completion but manages uncertainty and risks when changes are needed. As a role model, a leader can facilitate transformations within an organization by describing a creative vision to their subordinates and articulating values specific to the culture of change and flexibility. Daft (2016) describes the eight-stage model of implementing big changes – “light a fire for change; get the right people on board; develop a compelling vision and strategy; go overboard on communication; empower employees to act; generate short-term wins; keep up the energy and commitment to tackle bigger problems; and institutionalize the change in the organizational culture” (p. 468). However, I do not agree with going overboard on communication since it might feel spurious to the followers and create a sense of distrust and uncertainty, which is the opposite of the desired effect. In my team of 12, whenever there are changes, I try to communicate in concise and well-structured messages before starting an in-depth dialogue regarding my subordinates’ possible concerns and questions.
Chapter 15 has convinced me to integrate frequent brainstorming sessions and foster creative intuition among the members of my team. I have been a proponent of keeping the financial department focused solely on performance, profit margins, and deadlines. However, I failed to realize that fostering creativity among individual employees meets their higher needs of self-actualization by providing them with the necessary autonomy and the opportunity to be an integral part of the daily operations of the department. Creativity is exceptionally important in employee engagement and empowerment, as well as organizational innovation.
Daft’s The leadership experience has taught me a lot about effective leadership, which leads to organizational success. Having 15 years of experience serving in managerial positions has helped me to reflect on the readings and assess the application potential of the concepts described by Daft (2016) within my organization. I now recognize that the primary purpose of leadership is inspiring others by creating a shared vision and common goals. Although my strengths include analytical thinking, precise planning, and optimization of administrative processes, I have learned that such “hard” skills have to be combined with efficient communication techniques and motivational strategies. The book has also shown me the methods of combining different leadership styles, including democratic, autocratic, and individualized, and choose the right one for each specific situation. If I need immediate results and members of my team are less qualified than I would prefer, I will use autocratic methods to ensure the highest level of productivity and organizational performance. As I have mentioned before, Daft (2016) has taught me to determine my weaknesses and strengths, which dictate my leadership style. However, one particularly important insight has been the idea of maximizing my strengths instead of focusing on weaknesses.
The textbook has been invaluable in providing me with the most efficient instruments for creating a trusting relationship with my followers. Having a team of 12 direct subordinates requires me to deal with different personality types on a daily basis. Daft (2016) has taught me to first understand my own attitudes, values, and cognitive patterns, which would help to assign internal and external attributions to my followers. Chapter 7 is one of the most insightful sections of the book for me since it includes conceptual and pragmatic discussions of followership. I have changed the way I think about management after reading this chapter. The only path to successful leadership is to possess enough knowledge and experience to manage both down and up.
I have acquired indispensable knowledge about motivation, including Maslow, Herzberg, and McClelland’s needs-based approaches as well as theoretical frameworks centered around extrinsic rewards. I have learned that a good leader has to foster conditions for their followers’ self-actualization. Effective organizations give employees opportunities for autonomy, growth, and advancement, which empowers them and positively impacts their creativity and engagement. Although I prefer the world of numbers and financial statements, in my current position, I still have to manage a group of people, which makes communication skills exceptionally important. Daft (2016) emphasizes how crucial it is to choose the right communication channel, utilize storytelling for a greater emotional impact, and recognize the power of social media. One of the lessons I value the most from chapter 9 is the idea that leaders have to remain visible and open even in times of crisis. In addition, an effective executive ensures diversity is valued within his team and provides potential minority employees with sponsorship opportunities. Having subordinates from different backgrounds creates a culture of innovation, collaboration, and tolerance, which is another crucial lesson I have learned from part 4 of the book.
The last section of Daft’s The leadership experience has provided me with the most effective tools for fostering innovation within my organization. First, I have rediscovered the impact of corporate culture on employee engagement and commitment. I now recognize how important ceremonies, symbols, stories, and values of a company are to create a collective identity among workers as well as respond efficiently to the rapidly changing needs of customers. Second, I have learned about the role the culture of change and innovation plays in increasing employee performance and organizational success. In conclusion, the textbook is full of invaluable lessons that can be applied within any type of corporation, volunteer group, or political institution.
Daft, R. L. (2016). The leadership experience (7th ed.). Cengage Learning.