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К содержанию номера журнала: Вестник КАСУ №4 - 2008

Автор: Панова Ю. В.

It is hardly to imagine any society, organization or even small group of people not having at least informal leader among them. A leader says, “I will go; follow me”. (Robert K. Greenleaf, 2002, p. 29), and people follow as they need someone to follow, even if “the path is uncertain, even dangerous”. Certainly if there is no leader, there will be no progress as everyone would listen only to himself and no decision would be taken. It was naturally established in the society that everyone in group should strictly obey a leader. Moreover, people have got used that they have to do everything for their leader, saying in other words to serve their leader. This model of behavior worked for many years and contributed to the progress of any organization or society. However the situation has changed during the last years. People stopped to show their initiative, express their ideas on the solving one or another problem that ultimately led to depression in many spheres of social and business life. Specialists in management and exactly in HR management started to think over the new forms of leadership which are able to improve the situation, relationship and understanding between leader and team.

One of the first researchers who made a revolution in the new forms of leadership and HR management was Robert K. Greenleaf. He offered the movement which is called Servant leadership and has come known as the Grandfather of this movement (Larry C. Spears).

In his most famous book “Servant Leadership” he describes the concept of this movement. He says that “the servant leader is the servant first.” (Robert K. Greenleaf, 2002, p. 27). Under this phrase he undermines the idea that servant leadership begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. In other words any progressive leader has to serve his team, to care of his people, to listen to them, to be fully aware of needs and problems of everyone in the team. Actually it is not so easy to execute as in the minds of employees and leaders as well there is still an old concept of leadership and relationship between leader and employee. However many companies and organizations all over the world try to follow the principles of servant leadership as it has been practically proved that this theory works and contributes to the prosperity of the company.

In my article I investigate and analyze the principles of servant leadership and how they work in a commercial company. The data for the article I took from literature and interviewing the directors of some commercial companies as exactly they could give the true information regarding the company’s leadership. The ultimate goal of a commercial company is getting a profit. Actually any enterprise – trade, service or production one is established and acts for achievement of its main goal – getting a profit. In order to achieve this goal leader of company should have the concept how to get a profit and also a team intended to establish stable and prosperous company. For this purpose let us consider and analyze the core values of a commercial company.

Actually any company wants to become stable and prosperous at the market. Though the goal is almost the same for all the companies, the ways of goal’s achievement are quite different. Every company has its formal or informal core values, which it believes and follows in order to achieve its main goals. The following analysis is made basing on the results of interviews with commercial company leaders and literature, as I’ve mentioned earlier. Thus the data for leadership analysis are generalized however there are some differences in leadership of different commercial companies, of course. Thus, leaders of a company conditionally divide the policy into internal and external ones.

The external policy includes the following clauses:

1) Widening of influence sphere vertically and horizontally. Actually “widening vertically and horizontally” is a new, but already fixed term in a business sphere. “Horizontal widening” means widening in one branch, just establishing larger and more developed sectors of your business. As for the “vertical widening”, it means the development of new directions in your business. Successful vertical and horizontal widening provides the fixing of the position at the market which leads to the achievement of the main goal of the company.

2) Creation of positive image. This direction of external policy is also one of the most important ones. Positive image contributes to the forming of trust from business partners and the society itself. This all is also aimed at the achievement of the main goal – widening vertically and horizontally and consequently – getting a profit.

3) High competitiveness which is dependable on three main factors:

- New technique/technology;

- System of management;

- Staff.

Really, if your company uses outmoded facilities or applies out-of-date system of management, it finally leads to the collapse of this company. The third factor – staff or your team is very important as the dynamics of company development is directly connected with this factor. The company’s success depends on the services provided by this company, the services, which depend on the professionalism of the employees working in this company and if company leaders neglect people, if they do not listen to them, do not invest in staff’s professional and personal development, the achievement of main goal is certainly impossible.

Analyzing the data given by the majority of commercial companies, I can say that the external policy of a company is tightly connected and even subordinate to internal policy of the company. As it was said the staff plays very important even the leading role in company’s success as it depends almost exclusively on people’s professionalism. Thus the basis of internal policy is the selection of staff united by the common goal – the establishment of stable and prosperous company.

“Leadership is about bringing people together to create something bigger that anyone – including the leader – could accomplish alone”. Really in order people unite by the common goals, they have to understand and wish to follow the core values of the company. But how are these values taught and practiced? How is it possible to show an employee the importance of vertical and horizontal widening, creation of positive image and high competitiveness? Interesting was the fact that company leaders said that it is useless in most cases to fix or write down all these postulates of external policy as their employees start to understand the importance of these values when they start to feel that they are very important parts of the company. If a company’s directors’ board grants every employee the prospect of career growth, the opportunity to earn as much as he can and wants to, an employee is eager to work for the prosperity of a company. Thus it would be better if the core values of a company are not directly stated, they are not written on the paper and employees do not have to learn them as something obligatory, but “not having sense” as it happens in many companies where employees do not understand the essence of core values, what they learn them for and consider them as something “unpleasant and demanding a lot of time”. The most successful way of core values teaching is the informal one. In most cases it happens like this – leaders of a company encourage an employee to work, to develop personally and professionally giving him the real opportunities for that. When the employee starts feeling as an important part of the team, that he is making contribution to the overall prosperity - he makes his own conclusions about the company’s prospects as he considers them as his own prospects. While the processes of work, company leaders demonstrate commitment to core values, employees have the opportunity to see the personal contribution of leaders to the overall prosperity and development that leaders really care not only of their future but of the future of the company and every employee.

Thus leaders of company consider such an approach to core values practice the most appropriate and effective one as in this case the core values are not forced or forged they are driven from self conclusion and personal experience of employees.

Except for growing as professionals I can say that it is extremely important when employees are also growing as personals. Really in order to become a good manager you need to be a strong personality with such features of a character as responsibility, will and, of course, care as while becoming a manager you’ll have people under your control and now you have not only to control them, but, first of all take care of them. Company leaders consider their employees becoming “healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants” (Robert K. Greenleaf), though new leaders are not always becoming servant leaders at the very beginning of their personal career as leaders. Starting to work as a manager, a former employee forgets sometimes that he also was an employee just a couple of days ago. A new “leader” becomes only a leader at first, which means that he is able to keep everything under his control. He does not have enough power and forces to care of his new employees as appropriate and timely care of people is harder then to control them. They become dictators instead of servants and need time in order to estimate the significance of being servant to his employees. Company leaders consider this situation as one of his problem in sphere of leadership and management. Actually they said that they try to find the way-out though their attempts do not bring very good results yet. They explain this problem by two factors. The first one is that every person is a personality and has its own personal peculiarities, which determine the way of behavior. The second factor is that every “beginner” makes mistakes at the start of his career and not only at the beginning, but also while his professional growth – thus they think that mistakes are inevitable and it is impossible to avoid them. Actually they are right as everyone in any job makes mistakes, though they suppose that it is possible to prevent the mistakes in any way.

Another important principle of servant leadership is the communication between a leader and an employee. Certainly all the leaders communicate with their employees - otherwise the working process is impossible: no decision is taken and no problem is solved. In any case the word “company” or “organization” means the joint actions of people – in most cases leaders and employees - for the achievement of the concrete goal or goals. However the communication between leaders and employees in different organizations may be different.

The analysis of leaders’ communication is based on the ten key principles offered by R. Greenleaf in his book Servant Leadership. I will identify some of them basing on the concrete examples from the interviews with companies’ leaders.

The first principle which seems to be the most important one in the process of communication is the ability to listen or according to R. Greenleaf “Listening receptively to what other have to say”. Here, first of all, I’d like to emphasize the ability to listen from the side of leaders. Leaders have to listen to others not only concerning their problems, but, first of all – to the ideas and suggestions from employees regarding joint activity. If leaders neglect the suggestions of employees and do not allow them to take part in the process of decision taking, there will be no contact and understanding between leaders and employees as leaders show their employees that they do not trust them. An average manager in a company is granted the right to run his own sector, of course, consulting with company leaders. However very important questions are solved only by the leaders, or, they at least take the final decision. Thus, company leaders listen to the opinions of the employees regarding many questions and problems; take the decisions together, though some of the important questions they decide only with the board of directors.

However I’ve already said “listening receptively to what other have to say” means listening to both working and personal problems. A servant leader has to know about personal problems and achievements of his employees as sometimes personal life may influence your job. Here I think that “listening” is tightly connected with such a principle of Greenleaf as “Awareness and perception” as a servant leader while listening to others becomes aware of their needs and problems. Unfortunately not all company leaders want to be aware of the personal needs of their employees as they do not consider it as something referring to or influencing the process of work. However the personal problems may influence the working process as employees are not robots but ordinary people and there are only few of them who can work not paying attention to personal problems. Certainly in case I do not speak about such personal problems as a quarrel between husband and wife, though it may also cause problems in job. An employer has to know about such problems as large financial ones or problems with health of an employee or his nearest relatives. Certainly the personal conversation won’t solve these problems however an employee feels moral support and an employer knows the reason of his possible low working efficiency.

I’d like also mention one more leadership principle, which is also very important for creating a good atmosphere in a company is “Building community in the workplace”. For employees it is very important to feel safe – morally and physically at the workplace, otherwise the labour productivity is decreasing. “Leadership creates a safe place … a healthy place for people to work and grow” is eager to be a suitable expression for all the companies. If employees feel safe and protected even having some problems in their life, they know that they are necessary for a company. A very good example of community in a workplace are bonuses and corporate parties. It is a common rule to give bonuses for good job and I consider it to be very good method for labour productivity increasing. When an employee receives bonus and he knows that it is for his good job, he will try to do work well and his work is valued. As for the corporate parties they contribute to building community in the workplace as employees have an opportunity to meet in informal environment, to know each other better, they feel again that company needs them as leaders usually make presents at such parties, praise their employees and try to do everything in order employees feel safe and relaxed.

Thus, servant leadership of a commercial company may be characterized by such main principles as listening receptively to others, awareness and perception, and building community in the workplace. These principles are the most prominent ones. The presence of all these principles proves that leaders care of their people first of all. Care of people, in its turn, is the most important factor, in servant leadership. Servant leader always cares of his employees and is not afraid of showing it. Analyzing the data from interviews and literature I’ve come to the conclusion that more and more company leaders are the servants caring of their employees and many principles of servant leadership are characteristic of their companies. However while analyzing company leadership, I’ve seen some points which need to be improved and I’d like to make some recommendations for that.

As I’ve already stated there is such a problem that “new leaders” at the start of their career as a manager of a project behave not like “servant leaders” though “commanders”. In my opinion the reason is in the following. Leaders give opportunities and grant their employees the power to run the section, which he is responsible for. However they slightly lead the employee and reveal a great power of persuasion. Thus a “future” manager is always under slight control of his leader and as a new manager is not able to run well not having good advice and experience. When he starts to run his own business or section he leads the company as an authoritarian leader. Moreover I think that this problem is tightly connected with the fact that company leaders take decision, especially regarding very important questions and problems by themselves not including the employees in this process. It may also influence the “future leaders” in such a way that they want to be more autonomous and take decisions by themselves. That is why at the start of their career as leaders they try to show that they are able to decide themselves, to control people and run the company themselves. I think that the way-out here is that company leaders will listen to their managers even by taking very important decisions, showing them not only care but also respect and trust. Probably company leaders can lessen their power of persuasion and consider the offers from their employees as they can also provide significant ideas. In any case they have to try to take decisions together or at least try to involve the employees in the process of decision taking, allowing them to express their opinions in very important questions as well.

Thus, nowadays many companies come to the conclusion that the democratic style of leadership or “servant leadership” bears its fruits more and more. Company leaders start to understand that employees serve you and struggle for the prosperity of a company only if they feel that they are also “served” – by assistance of their employers. Many companies try to introduce the principles of servant leadership as it becomes evident every day that the “authoritarian” style is effective only for short time and does not contribute to company professional prosperity and development.

REFERENCES

1. Commercial company N., October, 05, 2007, Ust-Kamenogorsk, Kazakhstan (interview)

2. Greenleaf, R. (2002). Servant Leadership. Paulist Press. New York/ Mahwah, N.J.

3. McCrimmon, M. (2004). Kouzes and Posner on Leadership – A Critique. Retrieved October, 01, 2007 from http://www.leadersdirect.com/

4. McCrimmon, M. (2006). What’s Wrong with Leadership Theory? Retrieved October, 01, 2007 from http://www.leadersdirect.com/

5. McCrimmon, M. (2006). Zaleznik and Kotter on Leadership. Retrieved October, 01, 2007 from http://www.leadersdirect.com/

6. Spears L.C. Servant Leadership: Quest for Caring Leadership. Retrieved October, 10, 2007 from www.greenleaf.org



К содержанию номера журнала: Вестник КАСУ №4 - 2008


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