During my working career there has been one manager who stands out as a business leader who I respect and admire. Anne was my manager for 6 years (managing a team of 10), and then invited me to join her for a further 3 years (managing a team of 15) at her new place of employment before she moved on to other opportunities. In total Anne has been my manager for 9 years, and has mentored me professionally for a substantial part of this time.
Anne’s style of leadership is transformational. As a transformational leader she works with the goal of transforming the team to encourage constant improvement. She creates a vision for the future to share with everyone so they can work together to achieve the shared goal and vision. Anne is very authentic, self-aware and displays empathy towards others. Her conflict management style is to hold team members accountable for their actions. (Campbell, A. 2016).
“There isn’t one style that works perfectly in every situation. But if you come up with a style that’s suited to your business and your team, you could be well on your way to leading a successful team” (Campbell, 2016).
Researchers have found that different styles of leadership can influence employee’s behaviour towards them. Transformational leaders are defined as charismatic and inspiring, resulting in more engaged and devoted employees. Employees who report to a transformational leader found more challenge, meaning and significance in their jobs and this helped maintain a positive work environment. A transformational leader has a lot of trust and confidence from their employees. (van Loveren, 2007, pp 7-9).
Anne’s takes a rational approach to decision making. Her preference is to gather the information, do some analysis and develop options. In making her decision she evaluates the team goals and ensures they align with the organisational goals and strategies. She will usually consult with the team, but also appreciates that the team trusts her and is confident in her decisions. If there is no consultation period, Anne discusses her decisions with the team and elaborates on how she came to her decision, and is happy to receive feedback. She keeps them informed throughout the whole process.
A leader who has a fairly autocratic style through the need to make a lot of quick decisions can still be open and honest with team members about their decisions and how they made them. Doing this will make the team feel more engaged and the leader will have greater insight in to the factors to consider for future decisions (Campbell, 2016).
Furthermore, managers should observe employees to assess the organisation’s strengths and weaknesses, and then tailor goals, communication, and organisational strategies to the employees (as cited in Hatch, 1997). Hatch believed that organisations generally make better decisions when they listen to and collaborate with employees instead of just making decisions independently and persuading employees to adapt (van Loveren, 2007, pg 12).
There have been times when Anne needs to make a decision where she is not seeking team input and the team does not feel consulted with, or part of the decision making process. At times, Anne will have difficulty from some team members when seeking engagement to carry out the work which results from the decision. For example, there have been many times when Anne was asked to make a decision by management on a confidential matter (mostly human resource issues), and it is not appropriate for her to consult with the team. Another situation is when we have to provide information to a Minister within a very short time period. In this situation a decision needs to be made quickly and Anne has to act based on the information she has without input. Anne could still use the team meeting to explain how her decisions were informed to continue to build the trust and confidence within the team, giving them greater ownership in the decision-making process and empowering them.
The research conducted by van Loveren (2007) evaluates the relationship between internal communication and job satisfaction and finds that when employees share in the decision-making process, there was greater job satisfaction. Many researchers conclude that “organisation structure, leadership style, and decision-making have an effect on employee relationships. Positive relationships between employees and managers have found to affect job satisfaction and organisational success” (van Loveren, 2007).
We work for a diverse multi-cultural organisation and for Anne it has been challenging when she communicates with the team, as it is easy for messages to get “lost in translation”.
Gibson, 1996, describes communication as the process of transferring information, meaning and understanding from sender to receiver. The Shannon and Weaver model of communication (1948) while also introduced noise as a factor in communication. Noise is the physical disturbances like environment and people, which does not let the message get to the receiver as what is sent. (Businesstopia)
Multi-cultural communication is considered to be a noise factor which has an effect on communication, but in the workplace you cannot remove this “noise” factor. Anne has needed to consider our multi-cultural team and tailor her approach to how she communicates, verbally and non-verbally.
In his blog, Neo (2015) lists four factors which can present communication challenges in multi-cultural organisations. These are direct versus indirect communication, trouble with accents and fluency, different attitudes toward hierarchy and authority, and conflicting norms for decision making.
For example, when Anne speaks to the team about strategic organisational goals she uses appropriate language and avoids using acronyms to increase understanding. She also has an awareness of body language, knowing that for some team members a nod of the head will indicate agreement with what she is proposing, and from other team members, it will merely indicate that they are listening.
Another example is accents. Anne has emigrated from Britain and has a strong British accent, which at times is quite difficult to understand. She also speaks fast and to the listener, words can be merged as a result. This can be frustrating for those team members who speak English as a language which is secondary to their country of origin. For some team members “many non-English speakers can feel unnoticed and unappreciated in the workplace because they have difficulty conveying what they want to say in their non-native language” (Neo, 2015).
Neo (2015) suggests that successful organisations create a culture of awareness that inspires employees to respect one another through diversity and training. Having this mutual understanding encourages new ideas, different perspectives and greater collaboration amongst team members.
In our organisation we have implemented a programme of Cultural Intelligence and the staff have an awareness of cultural barriers to communication and the effects it has on relationships within the workplace. The implementation of this programme has enabled Anne to hold discussions on this subject during team meetings and we have spent significant time discussing the potential issues and how we can counteract the effects.
Why do you think your selected leader is successful in their role?
I believe that Anne has been successful in her team manager role because she has a diplomatic way of dealing with people with an emphasis on team collaboration and joint decision-making. Her leadership style is the preferred method of employees as it allows them to have greater challenge and offers significance and meaning in our roles. Team members feel that they are contributing to the success of the team, and organisation, and confidently operate in a high-trust workplace. Anne has been very successful at creating positive workplace relationships through her communication and leadership style, and in adapting the team to embrace the multi-cultural workplace. I consider myself very lucky to have had such a manager as Anne and would hope that others are lucky enough to experience this for themselves as we spend many hours at work during our lifetime and it would be nice to enjoy it for the most part.