In this report, a research regarding leadership was conducted through observation and interviewing of an effective leader. The leader that was chosen for this research report is Tan Kee Boon Valdric. Valdric was a commissioned officer in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF). Singapore Armed Forces is a military organisation and its main purpose is to protect Singapore from any form of external threats. Upon commission, he was assigned to be the platoon commander for my platoon during national service in the 40th Singapore Armour Regiment (40SAR) and later on in our reservist unit at 473 Singapore Armour Regiment (473 SAR).
By observing and interviewing him, the observation and interview results were compared with each other to see if there was any coherence in the results. These results were later compared in the reflection portion of this report to identify the complexities of leadership, the new understanding that was gained from this research and how undertaking this research and gaining new understanding of leadership would benefit my leadership abilities.
Observation during National Service and Reservist
As a platoon commander, Valdric would often plan and conduct many activities, exercises and trainings in camps. While planning for such activities, he would have to assign tasks to various personnel to complete the different tasks required of such activities. For instance, when conducting an Individual Physical Proficiency Test (IPPT), he would have to assign personnel to do various tasks required for the activity to proceed smoothly. When conducting such routine test activities in camp, he would often just assign tasks to soldiers in the platoon without further explanation as most of the people in the platoon are experienced and competent in doing the tasks. However, when assigning tasks to the newer inexperienced soldiers in the platoon, he would often give advices and guide them.
For instance, when he was assigning tasks to the new batch of inexperienced sergeants who had just completed their training course, he would follow them and guide them accordingly on how to go about completing their tasks and encourage them. This changing leadership style based on the level of experience of personnel under him can be seen as a form of situational leadership II. Situational Leadership II is a model of contingency leadership in which leaders select different leadership based on their behaviour and the level of competency and capability of group members whom they are leading (Dubrin 2011). According to Blanchard (2010), situational leadership II model has four leadership styles which are namely directing, coaching, supporting and delegating which effective leaders adopt based on matching the level of competence of their group members.
In Valdric’s case, when assigning tasks to the new inexperienced sergeants, he could be seen as choosing to exhibit a coaching leadership style which requires more supportive and directive behaviours and while assigning tasks to experienced personnel, he would exhibit a delegating leadership style which requires a less supportive and directive behaviour of the leader. Based on this observation, it could be seen that Valdric applies the Situational Leadership II model to alter his leadership style based on the level of competence and experience of his personnel.
When problems or difficulty arises during activities or duties, Valdric would always keep calm and be open to suggestion for ideas and would accept any idea that sounds feasible in handling the problems or difficulties that arises. By keeping his composure and accepting feasible ideas suggested by those in the platoon, it can be seen as having self-confidence and flexibility which are some of the personality traits of an effective leader (Lussier & Achua 2009). On a few occasions, difficulties such as a sudden vehicle breakdown occurred during training.
Instead of panicking, he kept his composure and called the sergeants and commanders together to discuss what they should do. Valdric would often decide upon a solution through participative discussion and consultation of personnel that are of lower ranking, usually the sergeants, in the platoon. During the planning of training programmes, which was something he had to do monthly, he would always discuss with the other commanders, the sergeants, in the platoon and decide on what training programmes they should include for the upcoming month.
Participative leadership style in decision making is a style in which the leader would discuss and consult with members of a lower rank in the group before making a decision (Barman 2009). It can be seen that Valdric exhibits this participative leadership style through his use of participative discussion and consultation in planning training programmes.
Valdric was always planning and thinking of ways to improve the platoon’s efficiency in terms of expertise skill levels and physical fitness which are crucial attributes required of soldiers in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF). He would always plan new goals and visions to constantly improve the platoon’s expertise skill level and fitness and then communicate and inspire the platoon about the importance of constant. This constant seeking of improvement through creating new goals and visions to improve the platoon and efficiency of the military organisation could be seen as exhibiting a socialized charismatic leadership style.
Socialized charismatic leaders are leaders who would use their influential powers to try and motivate groups and people in the organisation to improve organisation effectiveness and efficiency (Gardner, Avolio and Walumbwa 2005). Valdric’s desire to constantly improve the skill level of the platoon in order to help improve the progress and efficiency of the SAF is similar to a socialized charismatic leadership style.
An interview was conducted to find out more about how Valdric felt about his leadership characteristics and what he thinks are some of the leadership characteristics required to be an effective leader. Through the interview, a better understanding of his leadership characteristics and experiences was captured.
From the interview, Valdric felt that some personality traits like self-confidence, trustworthiness and flexibility were key personality traits required to be an effective leader. He believed that self-confidence was required as he felt that leaders should have a certain level of confidence in order to lead. The second trait that he believed was a pre-requisite for effective leaders was trustworthiness as he felt that effective leaders need to build trust between his followers and himself in order to effectively lead them.
Flexibility was another personality trait that he felt was important as he believed that leaders should be flexible so that they can change their leadership styles depending on the different environment and situation they are required to work in. Based on the interview results regarding personality traits, it can be seen that personality traits of self-confidence and flexibility are consistent of what with the observations results in which personality traits of self-confidence and flexibility was observed in Valdric.
Another finding obtained from the interview session with Valdric was that he would change his leadership style based on the level of experience and expertise of the group members that he led. Valdric believed that group members who are inexperienced and lacking in skill required more nurturing and support from leaders and in such situations, leaders should give more specific instructions and support to help group members to gain experience and learn the skills required for the job efficiently.
When questioned about another scenario in which he was leading a group which consists of experienced and skilled members, Valdric mentioned that he would switch to a less directive leading style in which he would be less specific in terms of giving instructions but he would continue to support his group members in terms of motivating them and encouraging them to keep the morale level within the group high. This finding is coherent with the observations results regarding how Valdric manages and assigns tasks to personnel in the platoon based on their level of experience.
Based on the observation and interview results, it can be seen that Valdric uses the contingency approach to leadership to lead effectively. The alteration of leadership style based on the level of experience of the group they are leading is based on the situational leadership II model (Hellriegel and Slocum 2007). Valdric also felt that leaders should have different leadership styles and the ability to match the correct leadership style to the correct situation. He felt that given a situation, if the leader chooses the incorrect style to lead, it would wane the effectiveness of situational leadership.
Another important role for leaders is decision-making for the group or organization. Valdric felt that decisions made by leaders would affect the effectiveness of the group or organisation which they are leading. In his opinion, the decision made by the leader should be a decision which is agreed upon by majority of the individuals in the group or organisation. To achieve this, Valdric mentioned that he often call for meetings with group members to discuss about issues and problems before he makes a decision.
This was coherent with the observations results. Both the observation and interview results converge to show that Valdric uses group participation in decision-making. The use of such meetings to discuss ideas and suggestions before the leader makes a decision can be seen as a form of participative leadership style in decision-making. A leader exhibiting participative style involves his group members in the decision-making process by allowing group members to voice their opinions before the leader himself makes the final decision (Saxena 2009).
However, Valdric mentioned that there are some disadvantages in the use of participative leadership styles during decision-making. In situations when there are a wide range of differing opinions in the group, it can be extremely difficult to obtain a consensus on a decision that is accepted by everyone in the group. Furthermore, he also mentioned that in situations when a decision needs to be made quickly, this leadership style would not be as effective as it tends to consume too much time before the leader makes a decision.
Reflection and Improvement
From this assignment, I have learnt about the various complexities of leadership through analysing and reflecting on the observation and interview results. From analysing the observation and interview results a comparison can be made between my findings regarding the complexities of various leadership styles and the theories taught in this leadership and management course.
Based on my observation and interview results regarding participative leadership style, I learnt that although leaders exhibiting this style allows group members to have a feel of participation in the decision-making process and creates a sense of belonging to the group which further drives them to work harder for the leader, this style may become ineffective when there are various differences in opinion and it is often too time consuming.
This is coherent with the theories regarding the complexities of democratic leadership style or participative leadership style. One of the common problem that leaders exhibiting participative leadership style during decision making was that such the use of such group meeting requires too much time (eds Muenjohn, Boucher & Tran 2010). This shows that what I have learnt and understand through the conducting of this research is coherent with the theories that I have learnt in this leadership and management course.
Another similarity in finding which I have made from this research that is coherent with leadership theories is regarding the situational leadership II model in which leaders selects an appropriate style of leadership based on the level of experience of the members in the group which they are leading. From the observation and interview results, I have learnt that in order for situational leadership to be effective, a leader has to be flexible enough to change his leadership style to correctly match the situation.
If a leader is not able to match his leadership style to the situation effectively, the effectiveness of situational leadership would be diminished and the use of this model for leadership could result in more problems rather than effectiveness. This is consistent with what was mentioned in the theories regarding the effective use of situational leadership styles such as the situational leadership II model. For situational leadership model II to be effective, leaders have to be able change their leadership style, in terms of supporting and directing, to match the level of experience of the group members they are leading (eds Muenjohn, Boucher & Tran 2010).
A failure to do so would bring about an effective leader that would hinder the development of their group members or followers and indirectly affect the development of the organization as a whole (Blanchard 2010). Based on this, it can be seen that the findings that I have made regarding leadership styles such as participative leadership style and situational leadership is similar to what is taught in the theories in the course.
In the process of conducting this research, I have learnt that many of the leadership styles are useful but they have flaws as well. Most leadership styles are effective if used at the correct time. However, if a leadership style is used inappropriately, it may bring about more problems and lead to leadership ineffectiveness. For instance, from this research, I have learnt that the use of participative leadership style in decision making is effective in helping the group makes a decision that is based on consensus of everyone.
However, the use of participative leadership style in decision making may become ineffective when a decision has to be made quickly. One of the flaws of a participative style of leadership in the decision making process is that it often requires too much time before a consensus on the decision is made (eds Muenjohn, Boucher & Tran 2010). Other than the use of participative leadership style, the use of contingency approach of leadership styles would also lead to ineffectiveness if leaders use the wrong contingency leadership style for the wrong situation.
For example, situational leadership II requires leaders to use appropriate leadership styles that can be more supportive or directive based on the level of competency and experience of the group members (Hellriegel & Slocum 2007). Based on situational leadership II, an effective leader would adopt a leadership style that is more directive and supportive when leading group members who are inexperienced. However, if a leader uses a leadership style that is less directive and supportive instead of one that is more directive and supportive, it may bring about ineffectiveness among the group due to ineffective leadership.
In the process of conducting this research, I have understood that leading a group of people effectively is not a simple task. In order to be an effective leader, an individual has to learn how to effectively manage the group of people he is assigned to lead. In organisations, members of the organisations tend to have varying characteristics, working style, behaviour and experiences. Leaders would probably have to lead groups of people with varying characteristics or work with different groups of people throughout their lives.
In order to be an effective leader, a leader has to be able to switch their leadership style to one that matches the people or situation they are leading in order to be effective. To be able to lead groups effectively regardless of situation, flexibility in a leader is required. According to Gamage (2006), effective leaders are usually flexible, allowing them to alter their leadership styles to one that is most appropriate and effective in whatever situation they are in. This means that for a leader to be able to use the contingency approach to leadership and be effective, flexibility is essential.
Personally, other than the time I was serving National Service as a sergeant, I did not really have many opportunities to take on a leadership role. Hence, from this research, I have gained many insights that would be extremely useful for my leadership practice in the future. The importance of flexibility is one of the key takeaways from this research. During the time that I was serving National Service, I tend to use the same leadership style to lead my soldiers regardless of situation as I believed that it was the most appropriate and suitable leadership style for me.
However, through this assignment, I learnt that there are many leadership styles that are effective and that a leader should be flexible to change their leadership style to one that best fits the situation in order to become an effective leader. Reddin (1970, cited in Gamage 2006, pp. 102) mentioned that the effectiveness of leadership styles depends on the situation. This means that leadership styles can either be effective or ineffective based on the situation in which they are used. If a leadership style is used in the wrong situation, it would be ineffective.
However, if the same leadership style were to be used in an appropriate situation, it would be seen as an effective leadership style. What is important is that the leader needs to know which leadership style is appropriate for whatever situation they are given. From this, I have learnt that flexibility is an important trait that leaders should possess or develop and developing flexibility would allow me to be able to use the contingency approach of leadership styles better.
Other than flexibility, another key takeaway that I have obtained from this research that would help me in my future leadership role was the understanding of using a contingency approach of leadership which requires me to select the correct leadership style for whichever situation in order to be an effective leader. Based on the theories taught in this course and the results of this research, I have come to an understanding that there are no ineffective leadership styles.
All leadership styles are effective and the only reason why some people view certain leadership styles as ineffective is because they fail to match the correct leadership style to the situation (eds Muenjohn, Boucher & Trans 2007). From this, I learnt that there is no such thing as ineffective leadership style and that I should focus on matching leadership styles to situations in order to be an effective leader in the future.
In conclusion I believe that in order to be an effective leader, one must be able to understand the complexities of leading and how to handle these complexities. The leadership theories taught in this course and the insights gained from conducting this research has allowed me to gain a better understanding of some of these complexities of leadership. Some of the key takeaways that I have gained from this research were the importance of flexibility in a leader and the use of contingency approach to leadership style especially the situational leadership II model.
The theories in this course have provided me with a basic understanding on leadership and through conducting this research, it further reinforced what I have learnt and understood from the course by allowing me to observe the application of some of the leadership theories. Through the observations and interview, I have learnt about various complexities of some of the leadership theories such as using a participative leadership style in the decision making process and the use of situational leadership II model. I believe that this understanding and knowledge that I have attained would greatly benefit me in my future endeavours as a leader.
Barman, K 2009, Leadership Management: Achieving Breakthroughs, Global Indian Publications, New Delhi.
Blanchard, K 2010, Leading at a Higher Level: Blanchard on Leadership and Creating High Performance Organizations, FT Press, Upper Saddle River, New Jersey.
Dubrin, AJ 2011, Essentials of Management, 9th edn, Cengage Learning, USA.
Gamage, DT 2006, Professional Development for Leaders and Managers of Self-Governing Schools, Springer, Netherlands.
Gardner, WL, Avolio, BJ and Walumbwa, FO (eds.) 2005, Authentic leadership theory and practice: origins, effects and development, Elseiver, USA.
Hellriegel, D and Slocum, JW 2007, Organizational Behaviour, 11th edn, Thomson South-Western, USA.
Lussier, RN and Achua, CF 2009, Leadership: Theory, Application & Skill Development, 4th edn, Cengage Learning, USA.
Muenjohn, N, Boucher, C and Tran, N (eds.) 2010, Leadership and Management, Cengage Learning, Melbourne.
Saxena, PK 2009, Principles of Management: A Modern Approach, Global India Publications, New Delhi.
1) What are some of the skills that you think a leader should possess? Why?
2) What are some of the traits that you think an effective leader should possess? Why?
3) What are some of the leadership roles that you think leaders have and which leadership role do you think is the most important?
4) When making decisions for your group as a leader, would you consult your group members before making a decision? Why?
5) Between building relations with group members and completing the task, which do you think is more important for a leader?
6) What are some of the ways by which you motivate people in your team as a leader?
7) How would you describe your leadership style as?
8) In your opinion, should an effective leader change his leadership style to match different situations or stick with the same leadership style for all situations?
9) When leading a group of inexperienced member, would you alter your leadership style to cater to them?
10) When leading a group of highly experienced and skilled personnel, how would your leadership style be different?
11) Do you think an effective leader should be more directive or supportive?
12) If there was a conflict among members in your group, how would you attempt to resolve the conflict?
13) Do you think that constant improvement is required for leaders and their groups to be effective?
14) Is effective communication required for a leader to lead his group effectively?