A memorable group of authority figures during my experience as a sales representative for a residential solar company in California taught me techniques I could use to influence others as a leader. First and foremost, I was motivated by their charisma. As Manning (2014) emphasized, charisma is a special personal quality that generates others’ interests and causes them to follow. Charismatic leaders generate commitment to a cause, unleashing the potential energy of others, as they are merchants of hope and full of optimism. Specifically, they brought R.J. House’s 1976 theory of charismatic leadership to life as they were dominant, ambitious, self-confident and had a strong sense of purpose.
They were able to bring a sense of adventure and were also emotionally stable to protect their objectivity and judgement. In other organizations, I had authority figures who had great charisma but were not emotionally stable. Simon Sinek (2014) would highlight that the lack of emotional stability resulted in the followers not feeling safe. Alternatively, I had a different authority figure who was not charismatic but was definitely emotionally stable and made me feel safe. So, I have come to highly respect the authority figures who have both charisma and are emotionally stable. Also, as the authority figures at the solar company recognized what needed to be done and did it, I was influenced to diligently complete tasks.
However, the authority figures at the solar company also had a paternalistic style, which Manning (2014) described as having high concern for production combined with use of rewards in exchange for compliance and loyalty. The way they carried out the paternalistic style ultimately led to me leaving the company. I saw that care for their followers was a reward that was contingent upon production as opposed to them being unconditionally caring towards the whole team. Instead of sacrificing one for all, as Sinek (2014) explained, they were so committed to personal success that they would not sacrifice the self for any of the followers. Additionally, the authority figures would over-manage as opposed to give responsibility because the need for control came along with their drive to succeed. They would also belittle or diminish their followers, which Manning (2014) highlighted as something that caring leaders never do. I am so glad to have learned from my experiences as a follower as they informed the techniques I used to influence others as a leader moving forward.
That said, particularly in situations where I led people who had a different working style than me, I focused on building friendship with the followers from the get go. As part of doing so, I prioritized radiating charisma, cultivating comfort, and expressing their strengths directly to them. I did so while maintaining a casual demeanor so that I expressed myself as an equal. Additionally, I would focus on my thoroughness in task competition to show that I cared about what I was doing and then identified the most important aspects of the results I needed from them. I then offered them a lot of flexibility in terms of how they wanted to get things done based upon their unique characteristics. At the same time, simply modeling my thoroughness instilled a motivation in them to do the job well. I have implemented this strategy both in situations where I had formal authority and did not have formal authority. It is particularly successful in situations where I have formal authority because the followers respect my lack of a hierarchical approach when I could have used my status to act otherwise. As a result, they felt motivated because I was with them as a friend every step of the way.
Also, Manning (2014) portrayed a leader as a value creator. Particularly in situations where I was leading people who had a different working style than me and I did not have formal authority, I would share a lot of values and link it to reasons I enjoyed the job. We would bond over that, even if we had a different working style. The reasons I shared about why I appreciated my current situation were both in terms of tasks that the position involved and little attributes of the specific company. It would also stimulate the followers to brainstorm their own set of values that served as a source of motivation. Also, most frequently in situations where I did not have formal authority, I would focus on leading by example as Manning (2014) emphasized that leaders must know the job and do it well. Even in a situation without formal authority, I have the ability to influence others by being a top-producer and having a deep care for the followers around me.
Manning, George. 2014. The Art of Leadership. New York: McGraw-Hill
Sinek, Simon. 2014. “Why Good Leaders Make You Feel Safe.” TED. YouTube. May 19th, 2014. Video, 11:59. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lmyZMtPVodo
Comment by Professor Robert Gnuse:
Mary, good correlation with text, as charismatic leaders often garner the best/positive results as they increase positivity/cohesiveness from teams and increase motivation from others towards a common goal. Depending on the task to be completed, the employed style/approach should change accordingly. Those that do not know how to intermingle the two often have higher failure rates. Good application of the assignment to your real-life situation. Do you think you support a free-rein/participative leadership style? Some lead one way and follow under a different approach/style.
Good explanation regarding how you have been able to modify your method of implementation (fourth paragraph).
Good use of the source materials to validate your claims. Some facets that many do not value sufficiently is good communication, knowledge and intelligence. Would you rather work for someone that simply dictates what you do or one that can empathize and support your actions?