Over the course of centuries much has been written and discussed regarding what makes a great leader. Many books have been written and many studies conducted. Look up the word “leader” or “leadership” and very simple meanings of the words can be found. As many can attest, leadership is not an easy skill to master. In my experience leaders can only be effective through development of their leadership skills and an understanding of what true leadership is. Being a leader is more than instructing people what to do and how to do it. Leadership is about building relationships, making connections, collaboration/partnerships, motivating and mentoring. Take a minute and think about your past and current leaders: What kind of leader are they? It has been my experience that good leaders know that although they are the “leader” the “one in charge,” it is the staff/team that will contribute significantly in understanding problems, finding practical solutions and successful implementations. As instructed in texts such as Organizational Behavior by Schermerhorn, Hunt, & Osborn (2007) leaders set the goals, foster an environment of innovative solutions along with collaboration and teamwork within their organization. Here is something to ponder as written by Sergiovanni, Thomas J (2007) Rethinking Leadership, A Collection of Articles: A leader in your organization which you personally admire because of their ability to handle people but you do not agree with the person’s goals. If you compare to a lender whom you do not like but whose ideas make a great deal of sense, which one of the two leaders would you be more willing to follow? Goal setting, planning, commitment and implementation are key factors to effective leadership. Elements found in effective leadership systems in any organization are leaders, followers, ideas and action (Sergiovanni, Thomas J 2007).
Management styles are another critical theory that must be understood and fine-tuned depending on factors such as office culture and employees capabilities (Klingner, Nalbandian 2003). In many situations of change, I have found from experience that an effective strategy to deploy is an authoritative management style with the expectation that it moves to a coaching and mentoring management style. Establishing clear objectives for all subordinates, setting obtainable goals, providing motivation for staff members to achieve their objectives and goals, and holding those accountable for their successes and shortcomings are key factors to a successful implementation and ongoing practice of authoritative management.
A good boss is strong, decisive, and firm but fair. He is protective, generous and indulgent to loyal subordinates (Handy, 1985).
In many case studies highlighted in Organizational Communication, Approaches and Processes, (Miller 2009), employee’s job satisfaction can depend upon the management style of their leader. An effective leader should select an appropriate management style that will coincide with the university culture and employee readiness to advance. Authoritative management is an opportunity to provide long term vision and direction to your subordinates. Additionally, clarifying with your staff the overarching mission of your department or university and identifying how their contributions add to the mission can be invaluable and motivating for staff to hear and understand. For authoritative management to be effective the leader must set standards, give direction, have the ability to persuade and provide feedback on task and work performance.
Managing change to ensure success requires use of a wide range of strategies, as I have found during my long customer service management career. Strategies can include winning staff support by allowing bottom up advice on appropriate decision making and reporting structures and ongoing managing and feedback of technology and monitoring its effectiveness within your department. Additionally, show appreciation to your staff by including some sort of reward system and/or monthly activities for engagement and team building. Ideas for these can range from staff retreats to having fun on a game day, or a contest for a paid lunch outside the office. These are just a few ideas that can help support a positive and effective workplace atmosphere.
Having a plan and setting clear attainable goals, getting your team engaged and involved will make many challenges more attainable. Identify your areas of responsibility and clearly define staff roles and desired outcomes. How can your responsibilities help the mission of your department or university? Utilize the strengths of your team. Get to know your staff and their capabilities and overall desires. Start to involve your staff in decisions and keep them informed of larger campus initiatives. Goals are important, but they don’t need to be groundbreaking. Be clear about what you want to do and why you want to do it. Understand that employees look to you for guidance and strength. Lead by example. A busy leader must also bolster enthusiasm and a positive work environment. A leader looks for opportunities to motivate and mentor staff (Schermerhorn, Hunt, & Osborn 2007).
You must identify what you hope to achieve within the organization. Are you looking at managing positions and therefore managing people’s day to day activities, or are you focused on achieving the organization’s mission? Provide guidance but let your staff take ownership of their processes. Let them be involved and responsible in identifying new ideas or solutions. Ultimately, you need to have your employees focus on the overarching mission of your organization. You must look at your employees as assets and not as positions to manage (Klingner & Nalbandian 2003).
It is becoming common practice to hear terms such as “managing teams” as opposed to terms such as “micromanaging” or dividing duties and responsibilities to individuals. Leaders set the tone for high expectations. Leaders create enthusiasm within their unit and department as a whole, and they establish credibility by successfully executing a set of directives that should be planned and implemented effectively and with optimal timing. The manager’s focus should be on the group as well as the member. Interpersonal skills now become critical in team management (Sergiovanni, 2007).
Studies have shown that shortages in competencies and/or technical skills in employees will result in continuous training needs in organizations. Current demographics of the workforce, along with an increase demand for professional and technical skills, suggest major gaps in employee skill sets (Sergiovanni, 2007). The American Society for Training and Development has reported that the average American company is spending more per employee and providing more internal trainings than ever before. Training, as a whole, must be a part of the department or university strategic planning. Cross training within your department has now become more important than ever before. This provides opportunities for new perspectives and review of established processes to see improvements are possible with or without the use of new technology.
Meet with your staff on a regular basis, as a group, and individually, to discuss office standards, protocol, daily expectations, reporting structure, to set up future team meetings, and to explain the need for cross training within the department. Establish an office mission statement, discuss ongoing expectations, and set up weekly or biweekly 1:1s with staff. Work with your team to create process flowcharts and an understanding of your processes. Find areas of overlap or opportunities to improve processes. Create a production calendar with staff to include all major projects, goals and/or deadlines and activities. Review current policy and procedures with staff to ensure consistency and understanding across your department. Understand what relationships need to be established or fostered throughout the campus community, specifically for your areas of responsibility. Establish individual goals for yourself and staff, add reasons why goals will be useful, include specific actions that will be taken to help achieve the goals, and include a date of goal completion. Follow up with staff on goal setting and expectations on a regular basis.
Accept it or not, everything you do as a manager contributes to other’s perception of you as a professional. Strive to make these perceptions positive. I have learned that while it is important to be collegial with subordinates, you are ultimately the boss and should not engage in unnecessary activities or engage in gossip with your staff. I also learned the importance of communicating your frustrations and disappointments directly with your staff, colleagues, and superiors, rather than searching for a way to avoid the conversation or conflict.
When given the opportunity to be a great leader you will lead your unit with the experience and lessons you have learned at the forefront of your mind. In addition, you should rely on the other members of your leadership team for guidance and mentorship on how to be an effective leader. One lesson I have always practiced throughout my professional career is this: Don’t be afraid to try and to make a mistake, but never make the same mistake twice.
Handy, Charles B (1985). Understanding Organizations: Penguin
Sergiovanni, Thomas (2007). Rethinking Leadership, A Collection Of Articles: CA Crown Press
Klingner, Donald & Nalbandian, John (2003). Public Personnel Management, Context and Strategies. New Jersey: Prentice Hall
Miller, Katherine (2009). Organizational Communication, Approaches and Processes: Wadsworth Cengage Learning
Schermerhorn, John, Hunt, James, Osborn, Richard (2007). Organizational Behavior: John Wiley & Sons, Inc
Arturo Torres, MA, UNLV Assistant Registrar. With over 12 years of experience in the Registrar and Admission offices in higher education, Arturo brings administrative and operational experience and a positive “Can Do” attitude that drives innovation, solutions and morale. Arturo received his Bachelor’s Degree in Public Administration, Law Enforcement from Nevada State College in 2013 and a Master’s Degree in Public Administration, Non Profit Management from the University of Nevada Las Vegas in 2015. Combining his work experience along with his expertise in public administration, Arturo aims to continually move student support on college and university campuses to be more innovative, efficient and community centered (virtual/physical). Arturo has grown, learned and has had effective, innovative, and interesting ideas at PACRAO which has help him create and implement successful strategic plans.