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Introduction

The extant literature on leadership largely concur that leadership characteristics depend on an individual’s self-awareness. Moreover, the research opines that the courage to hold leadership position is often self-driven. The self-confidence that a leader displays appeals to the subjects, and spurs them into upholding the individual as their leader. Despite its perceived radiance, leadership responsibilities come with a number of challenges that must be addressed in order for individual leaders to succeed in managing their teams. Whether the organizations involved adopt the most sophisticated styles of leadership or not, the challenges are usually evident in all direction positions. The current paper evaluates issues/challenges/problems of leadership using Kouzes and Posner five-point model. Using an experiential case study, the paper demonstrates the usefulness of Kouzes and Posner five-point model in solving leadership problems in organizations. Before presenting the experiential case study, the next section discusses Kouzes and Posner five-point model for better comprehension of the same.

Kouzes and Posner Five-Point Model

Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner conducted a research project in 1983 that led to the creation of ‘The Leadership Challenge’, a research aimed at realizing people’s actions when at their personal best in leadership (Kouzes & Posner, 2008). The researchers commenced their study by asking ordinary individuals to give accounts of their extraordinary experiences, which made the finding patterns of success easier. After the preliminary examination, the two researchers devised a personal best leadership survey comprising of thirty-eight open-ended questions. The survey purposed to collect data from leaders in various fields in order to come up with the right success patterns. After the extensive research and careful analysis, they identified the five practices of exemplary leadership that are common in all cases of successful leadership (Kouzes & Posner, 2008). Thirty eight years later today, the research findings remain relevant in all organizations that require different types of leadership. Thus, it demonstrates that leadership is not a valence jump from a normal member to a leader; instead, it is a gradual process with many involved strategies according to the five practices.

 

Case Study

I am a member of a Chicago Kangaroos, a professional volleyball club that once had accolades for winning several competitions. Like many other sports organizations, our club has leaders, starting from the managers to the team captain. Recently, our team has been undergoing problems that are directly related to leadership. The club has suffered several defeats due to lack of a team spirit that can spur leadership against the giant rivals. The leadership structure of the club, and particularly the team, was poorly arranged and no effort was made to improve the team strategy and tactics against the opponents. Moreover, the club had no rules established to manage team training. In most cases, members practiced in clicks of three or so players, which resulted in lack of harmony while playing against competitors. In our team, each player had different style of play, while the opponents always appeared more organized. 

As a team, most of us never had good socialization processes and poor indoctrination of the club. Consequently, team knew little of each other, and was even divided into subgroups of the players. Communication within the team was poor, since there was no clearly appointed captain to lead the group; thus, different people claimed the position. Communication on and off the court is rarely there as few members show up for practice; and even if they did, they conducted their own training sessions in self-formed groups. Most of my teammates saw no purpose in plating for the team since no one recognized the effort they made. Even as we lost our matches, the club management, who rode on our initial victories and past good image, continued to recruit more players without bothering to investigate the current issues. The coach seldom appeared for trainings, and when present, he discouraged the team by pointing out how worthless the players were. Moreover, as a team, we rarely had meetings outside the court and whenever our sponsor-organized events aimed at bringing the players together, my team members stuck to their formed groups. In brief, the problem with the team was lack of clear leadership, which resulted in other issues such as weak team spirit, poor performances, low club revenue collection, losses, and threat of the club collapsing.

Reflecting on the leadership issues experienced at Chicago Kangaroos, the next section entails a discussion on how Kouzes and Posner’s framework can be useful in solving the leadership challenges in sports.

Discussion

Like Chicago Kangaroos, many organizations experience certain leadership challenges. In good leadership practice, however, it is important to accept the possibility of challenges in order to achieve the best leadership practices (Al-Haddad, 2014).In their book, Kouzes and Posner present the reader with varied life experiences that are vital in better comprehension of the practices and commitments contained in the framework. While Kouzes and Posner’s examples contribute to the readers’ understanding of the various situations in effective leadership, certain examples are complex and may confuse the reader. For instance, in part five, Enable Others to Act, Kouzes and Posner seek to explain the commitment of leaders to “strengthen others”. However, in the explanation, the two authors concentrate on the leader’s influence in creating an engaging atmosphere for the group members. Furthermore, they explain that group members become self-determined and empowered to improve personal decision-making. When reading about ‘strengthening others’, the reader might not have the thought about self-determination as an important component of the framework until later explanation presented by the authors.

Clearly, the model is resourceful for future leaders regardless of the field of expertise. The framework eases the understanding of the Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership. Furthermore, it provides a series of attainable examples derived from real life situations that the reader can reference in his own leadership journey. Creating an experimental case study of a leadership issue in an organization that uses the Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership outlines the practical approach to the challenges that may arise from the well thought-out framework.

With regards to the current case study, Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner demonstrate how any person can be a leader, regardless of age and experience, and no leadership vacuum should be felt in an organization. The five points identified in their effective leadership framework are evident when leaders make extraordinary decisions. The five practices are described in the next sections of the paper providing real cases that outline the various critiques of the framework, and how they relate to the case.

Model the Way

Personal credibility is the most important quality that people look for in leaders. Furthermore, credibility is a foundation of great leadership. If people do not believe in the leader, they will not follow the policies or principles represented by the leader. Therefore, titles could be granted to a person but leadership is earned (Boynton, 2013). People in leadership model the way by finding their voices and affirming non-biased values amongst the group members. In the case study, it is evidence that the management, and particularly the team coach, does not model the way for the Chicago Kangaroos.

It should be clear from the case that leaders are respected for their beliefs, and principles they indoctrinate into their team members. It is the practice that lacks in the Chicago Kangaroo team. The beliefs are worth standing for since no one would vouch for oppressing believes for leadership. Moreover, leaders ought to be clear in their guiding principles; it will assist them in finding their own voices. Nonetheless, they must be able to give voice to their values clearly and authentically. However, imposing their value on others is not a definite ticket to commitment (Savage, 2012). Leaders have to engage others in common aspirations. Modeling the way begins with the clarification of personal values and comprises of creating and affirming shared ideals that all can embrace. The philosophy is contrary to the scenario under study, where members of the team force their way into leadership, rather than wait for approval of others.

Good speeches about common values are an effective strategy. Exemplary leaders are aware that their behavior earns them respect. They are faced with the challenge to practice the values they preach, since everyone will only believe in their doctrines if they have self-confidence. Commitment in leadership is built through simple, daily acts that create progress and builds momentum (Savage, 2012). The team coach should embrace the strategy of the model instead of criticizing the team for poor performance. The examined case study is distinguished by the fact that all that is required is relentless effort, steadfastness, competence and attention to detail. No case of grand gestures created lasting impacts in leadership. Instead, the will to work side-by-side with someone, showing the values practiced, being supportive during times of uncertainty, and asking questions to draw focus lead to effective leadership practices accordingto ‘Model the Way’ perspective by  Kouzes and Posner (2008).

In brief, the coach must model the way and lead the team into the right direction if the club in order to gain its lost glory. However, the practice is demanding and can push a leader to abandon his physical and psychological needs in order to satisfy the levels set by the subjects. Fear to come out as selfish or inconsiderate has pushed leaders into making decisions that end up bringing harm. The actions eventually affect their credibility. Indeed, effective leadership involves setting example for others to follow. Contrary, actions that are directed to please others is not modeling the way for others (Kouzes & Posner, 2007).

The next section discusses Kouzes and Posner model’s Inspired a Shared Vision perspective, and how it can help solve the team issue.

Inspire a Shared Vision

Chicago Kangaroo team members unveiled the several times they imagined exciting achievements for their club, and at individual levels when describing their personal best visions. The success would mirror the vision of the leader as well. Leaders are defined by the images of their organization’s future. Therefore, the team leaders inspire a shared vision by including and enlisting others within a common vision. In order to turn around the club performance, leaders look into the future, imagining the great opportunities that are to come when certain policies are implemented. Indeed, a great leader passionately believes in making a difference. Furthermore, she has the desire to improve situations with time. An effective leader will set a goal that will lead the organization to be better than before. However, not only the visions are required for success. Leaders are obliged to harmonize their ideas to those of their constituents (Kouzes & Posner, 2008). Moreover, the opinions of followers on the vision are equally important. Team members can only support a leader once they have accepted the vision as their own.

To enlist others in a vision, Chicago Kangaroo club managers and the coach are obliged to fully understand their constituents and learn to share their dreams by speaking the same language. The players must believe that the leaders understand their wishes and carry their interests at heart. To regain positive spirit, players need assurance that adopting the vision presented by their leader will be of benefit to them. From the case study, the team captain and the coach should understand the importance of enlisting the group members in their visions. They should explain the benefits of the visions they have for the team and club. The coach should create a unity of purpose by showing members how the dream is beneficial to all. Making the ideas alive requires vivid language and understanding of the constituents. The players’ attitude towards the vision depends on how the leaders feed the inspiration to them. Leaders uplift their subjects’ spirits by explaining perspective concerning the improvement of their current life situations in future (Church, 1995). Consequently, team couch and managers should involve their constituents in their plans for the future in order to inspire a shared vision.

In addition to inspiring a shared vision, the Chicago Kangaroo leaders can challenge the process.

Challenge the Process

For leaders to motivate their constituents to greatness, they have to seek and accept challenges that accompany leadership (Kouzes & Posner, 2008). No successful leader testified to having a challenge-free experience in achieving their personal best. Similarly, Chicago Kangaroo leaders must challenge the process through risk-taking, experimenting and considering previous mistakes. They must understand that leaders are pioneers; they are willing to take risks in order to discover opportunities for their constituents. Leaders are motivated to work towards change, and use the impact of the change to make others follow their policies (Kouzes & Posner, 2008). However, it is not a requirement that leaders discover certain goals. Sometimes, other individuals in the organization through the guidance of a leader create suitable conditions.            

The club leadership must stay open to receiving ideas from the players. The leaders’ ability to accept and support good ideas from other members shows the will to challenge the system. Sometimes, players might have better solution to winning than the coach, which is the reason for the coach to incorporate the players. In addition, the club leaders should be quick to support and adopt innovation. Nonetheless, they must know the various processes involved in improvement. They take time and resources to experiment on the idea and even face risk failure (Kouzes & Posner, 2008). Not all experiments turn out as planned after all. Mistakes are a part of innovation. To be a good leader, the coach must work on fixing the mistakes instead of going around throwing blame or abandoning the experiment. The leaders must understand the importance of learning when faced with a problem, such as in the highlighted case. By challenging the system, they are able to achieve the impossible, and get back to the winning ways.

Adopting to change is not an easy process; leaders are therefore obliged to create an environment that allows the integration of change, especially for the newly recruited players. The coach can create a psychologically strong team by ensuring that all team members understand the magnitude of change. The process should involve a gradual way that does not make the occurrence of change overwhelming to the team. It is up to the leader to devise a plan to enable the team member to approach change (Kouzes & Posner, 2008). The plan helps build confidence that even the greatest of challenges are solvable. In doing so, the club leaders strengthen the commitment and will of the members to work with them in future. The leadership of the club must be aware that extraordinary things are achieved through a gradual process through hard work and providing a challenge to the system. 

Enables Others to Act

With the issues at hand, the team can find its way out by allowing other people within the team to act. The club leadership should enable others to perform by championing collaboration and strengthening team members. In the case study, players explained that teamwork had major contribution to their success earlier (Kouzes & Posner, 2008). Teamwork is achieved through collaborations, and so, the club leadership should device modules that encourage partnership in practice. In order to achieve maximum success from the team, the leaders must involve all those who must make the dream work. Leaders enable anyone to achieve maximum success in their practice. From the case study, our volleyball team lacked a leader to enable other team members to act. Teamwork is built on trust, but our leaders never trusted in us. They overlooked the fact that managers and couch are obliged to create a trusting atmosphere around team members. Once the trust is established, members enjoy great teamwork, which is built on mutual respect. Additionally, risk taking is common in leadership, and it is through trust that people make risks. When trust is missing, nothing positive can be yielded from the organization.

In Chicago Kangaroo, members have training in cliques, and work in groups, rather than as a team. The situation shows lack of collaboration and trust. Creating a friendly atmosphere in an organization where everyone is involved and supported by each member is the key to success. From the support and collaboration, the club can achieve teamwork, which is every leader’s goal. Through the practice of trust and collaboration, leaders are able to transform constituents into leaders as well. Commitment and support structures created by leaders are slowly replacing the traditional command and control structure. Modern leadership is more of presenting the constituents with the sense of personal ownership and power (Kouzes & Posner, 2007). When players are provided with discretion, authority and information, they are bound to achieve extraordinary results (Dixon, 2014).

Encourage the Heart

The players at Chicago Kangaroo lacked the team spirit and will to win. They needed someone to encourage them to keep fighting despite the string of defeats. Given the struggles to success, leaders should show acts of care and uplift team members’ spirit in order to keep pushing their constituents further. Exemplary leaders set high standards and have high expectations of their organizations (Kouzes & Posner, 2008). In order to achieve the set goals, leaders regularly motivate and recognize the efforts made by their constituents in meeting the expectations. The team under analysis has contrary situation, as the coaches only criticize the team performance instead of encouraging them. In order to increase productivity of the team, the captain and the coach are to devise an atmosphere where all the players feel proud and appreciated as part of the team

The leader’s duty is to appreciate people’s efforts and create an atmosphere of celebration whenever there is an achievement. There are several ways for a leader to encourage people. In the current case study, simple individual and group recognition would boost the players’ morale. When people feel unappreciated and unimportant in their purpose, they are bound to give up. For example, a small party after good training can help the players. The club leaders should create a feeling that shows the players that whatever contribution they have for the organization is appreciated.

Conclusion

The paper was set to evaluate a challenge/ issue/ problem in a case organization using Kouzes and Posner five-point model. The Chicago Kangaroo club was depicted as troubled organization that requires effective leaders. The discussion has shown that the leadership at the organization can be built successfully by employing Kouzes and Posner five-point model. Through demonstrating how to model the way, inspire a shared vision, challenge the organizational process, enable others to act, and encourage, the discussion has illustrated the usefulness of Kouzes and Posner five-point model in developing sound leadership in organizations. To achieve effective leadership experiences, leaders are obliged to promote teamwork as everyone’s involvement in production creates an environment for consultation and work harmony. Moreover, it is important that a leader builds team spirit and appreciates all the constituents’ effort towards the success of the organization. In brief, Kouzes and Posner five-point model demonstrated that leadership is an ongoing process of knowing oneself, and understanding and constructing reality around the environment.

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