This essay will discuss leadership, the various definitions and theoretical concepts in context to leadership. The different qualities and characteristics of an exemplary leader and identify leadership styles in congruence to health care and self. It will also discuss the importance of reflective learning and various models which aid in reflection are also discussed and using a reflective approach identify strengths and weakness of own leadership and learning styles, and develop a personal development plan to review the strengths and strategize an action plan to overcome the weaknesses.

Leaders are ordinary people who do extraordinary things as asserted by Kouzes and Posner (1995).Leadership definitions are more often confusing and ambiguous because of the use of indefinite terms to describe phenomena such as authority, power, management, administration, and supervision Yulk (1989). Leadership is defined under multiple dimensions. Weihrich and Koontz (2005) defines leadership as influence, they compare it to an art or process of influencing people so that they strive readily and enthusiastically towards the attainment of group goals. Another definition on leadership views it as the use of interpersonal skills in achieving specific goals Sullivan and Garland (2010). Yet another leadership definition asserted by Bitpipe’s (2006) is that leadership is a management skill that focuses on the development and employment of vision, mission and strategy as well as the creation of a motivated workforce. Hughes et al (2006) suggest that the wide range of definitions can contribute to a better and greater understanding of the various factors that influence leadership, as well as present different perspectives on the concept.

Leadership is a term hard to contain within a certain number of theories. However various theorists describe the various paradigms of leadership. Leadership theories are dynamic and change over time. The earliest theories on leadership were during the 1900-1940 which were the basis of most leadership research. The two theories widely discussed were the Great Man theory and Trait theories.

The Great Man theory from is developed from the Aristotelian philosophy which asserts that certain people are born to lead whereas others are born to be led. The theory further suggests that great leaders arise when situations demand it. Trait theory asserts that some people have certain characteristics or a personality trait that makes them better leaders than others. Gofee and Jones (2000) cited in their work that early theories of leadership focused on personality traits of leaders, as though leadership was a characteristic that resided in some people not others. The various traits associated with the theory are intelligence, knowledge, judgment, decisiveness, oral fluency, interpersonal relationship and creativity to mention a few.

Behavioral theories were developed during the human relation era between1940-1980. The theory strongly emphasized on the leaders’ style of leadership. Lewin and White (1951) and Lippit (1960) isolated three main leadership styles associated with the theory namely authoritarian, democratic and Laissez- Faire. The authoritarian style of leadership is in which the group are motivated by coercion, strong control is exercised at all times by the leader over the group. The flow of communication is always downwards. The decision making is vested in the leader and criticism is always punitive. Authoritarian leadership is helpful in well defined group actions. This style provides group members a feeling of security. The productivity of the group is high; however creativity and autonomy are compromised. It is most useful in crisis situations. In the democratic style the leader less control is maintained on the group, members are directed through suggestions and guidance, communication is didactic, decision making is shared. Emphasis on “we feeling” and equality, criticism is constructive. Democratic style of leadership is appropriate for groups who work together for extended periods, promotes autonomy and growth in individual work. The style is effective when cooperation and coordination between groups are required. The Laissez-Faire style of leadership is one where the leader is very permissive and has less or no control over the group. The leader motivates by support and only upon request from the members. No criticism is performed. It can be used when all group members highly motivated and self directed. This type of leadership style is used to bring about creativity. It is most appropriate in poorly defined problems and to create solutions with great extent of brainstorming.

Situational and contingency leadership theories concepts emerged during the 1950-1980 period. The theory of contingency approach outlined by Fidler (1967) suggested that no one leadership style is ideal for every situation. He argued that task to be accomplished and the power associated with the leaders’ position are key variables. Benis and Nanus (1985) further strengthen the theory by stating leaders cannot lead without power, and also referring power as the currency of leadership. Situational approach to leadership was developed by Hersey and Blanchard (1977). Their model of leadership effectiveness predicts leadership style is appropriate in each situation based on the level of the followers’ maturity.

The next theory to evolve in the argument of theorists which added complexity to leadership was the interactional theory. The basic concepts of these theories were that the leadership behavior is usually determined by the relationship between leaders’ personality and specific situation. Brandt’s (1994) interactive leadership model suggests that leaders develop a work environment that fosters autonomy and creativity through valuing and empowering followers. Brandt states that this type of leadership gives the leader greater freedom while simultaneously increasing the leader’s responsibility. However as an advantage there is lesser need in resolving conflicts between followers.

The modern theories of leadership led way to the development of transactional and transformational leadership. Burn’s (2003) came out with a novel addition to the interactional theory suggesting that both leaders and followers have the ability to raise each other to higher levels of motivation and morality. This concept was identified as transformational leadership. Mc Guire and Kennerly (2006) identifies transactional leaders as leaders who sets goals, gives directions and uses rewards to reinforce employee behaviors related with accomplishing established goals. Longnecker (2006) states that the transformational leader inspires and motivates followers not only as a role model but also by recognizing the uniqueness of the follower and being creative. Martins and Henderson (2001) argues that by developing shared values and sense of purpose, transformational leaders can alter how staff sees themselves and their organization.

Servant leadership developed by Greenleaf (1977) greatly influenced leadership thinking of the 21st century. The leader puts service of his/her employers, customers and community as the number one priority. Greenleaf argued that to be a great leader, one must be a servant first. Howatson and Jones (2004) assert that leadership is about ‘leaders serving the needs of followers and empowering them rather than the organization’.

Other modern theories of leadership styles include principle agent theory, emotional intelligence, authentic leadership, thought leadership and quantum leadership. Shirley (2006) outlines the five distinguishing characteristics as purpose, values, heart, relationship and self discipline.

The Kouzes and Posner (1995) model on the characteristics of exemplary leadership stated that leaders should have five main qualities. ‘Inspiring a shared vision’,’ modeling the way’, ‘challenging the process’, ‘encouraging the heart’ and enabling others to act. In a study of the role of leadership in modernizing and improving public services, Hartley and Allison (2002) describe three different aspects of leadership which they describe as the ‘three Ps’: ‘the person’, ‘the position’ and ‘the process’. Leadership roles adapted from Kotter (1990) and Northouse (1997) asserts that leadership produces change and movement, vision building and strategizing, aligning people and communicating and motivating and inspiring.

The study conducted by the Hay group in 2007 to ascertain whether leadership styles of various ward managers can affect levels of staff satisfaction and in turn patient care using a 3600 leadership and work climate assessment identified six different leadership styles namely ‘directive’ , ‘visionary’ , ‘affiliative’ , ‘participative’ , ‘pace-setting’ and coaching.

Reflection gives us a thorough record and it is a well established tool for learning as asserted by Benner (2001). The theories of reflection are approached through various aspects included the works of four writers namely John Dewey, Jurgen Habermas, Donald Schon and David Kolb.

Dewey (1933, p.9) defines reflection as an ‘active, persistent and careful consideration of any belief or supposed form of knowledge in the light of the grounds that support it and the further conclusion to which it ends.’ Another definition consistent with the definition of Dewey ”Reflection in context of learning is a generic term for those intellectual and affective activities in which individuals engage to explore their experiences in order to lead to new understandings and appreciation.”Boud et al (1985, p.9).

Dewey has two aspects of reflective thinking, the state of doubt and an act of searching. The Boud et al process suggests that the reflective process is initiated when the individual returns to the experience, recollecting what has taken place and replaying the experience. Finally revaluation takes place.

There are different categories of models of reflection which are structured, hierarchical, iterative, synthetic and holistic. Structured models include two works on reflection by Johns (1993, 1994a, 1994b) describes reflection as a simple task to do without expert guidance and good support. The reflective model put forth by John’s is in context to health services and is termed as guided framework of reflection. Smyth (1991) developed another structured model. He stages the model into four stages. The first stage involves describing the moment; second stage encompasses informing what the moment describes itself as. The next stage is to confront the moment and knowing how the moment was like. The final stage called the construct describes how the person would do things differently.

Of the best known hierarchical models; Mezirow (1983) developed a model where reflection is described in seven levels. ‘Reflectivity’ which forms the base of the level is described as the act of becoming aware of a specific incident or inferring meaning acting. The second level is ‘affective’ it is described as the way one feels about the way one perceives, thinks or acts. Thereafter in the third level called the ‘descriminant’ the person asses the efficacy of his/her perception and try to realize the reality of the context in which he/she works that is identify the relationship to a situation. The fourth stage or level is ‘judgmental‘ , making and becoming aware of your value about perception , as whether they are positive or negative. The sixth level is called the ‘psychic’ level where one recognizes about one’s self about the habit of making precipitant judgment about the people based on limited information. The ‘theoretical’ level forms the top of the model which is becoming aware of the underlying assumptions.

Iterative models are the models that are based upon the idea that the reflective process is described as a cycle and that in depth awareness and increase of knowledge and skillfulness arise from repeated ‘clockwise’ movements. Gibbs reflective cycle (1988) is a six point cycle which starts from description of an event asking a question like what happened, secondly describing the feeling at point of event, thereafter evaluating about the experience whether it was good or bad. Then making an analysis of the situation and making sense out of it. The fifth point of the cycle is about concluding the incident in terms of what could have been done. Finally drawing out an action plan what would you do if the experience arises again.

Atkins and Murphy (1994) developed a cyclical model by drawing in consideration and works of others. They state that it is possible to begin the reflective process by reflecting on achievements. The first point of the cycle begins with the awareness of uncomfortable feeling or thought, then describe the situation where the feeling and thoughts occurs, thereafter analyze feelings and challenge the knowledge and in the next point in the cycle which is the ‘action’ where a new experience is generated. The strengths of these two models are that it encompasses knowledge, feelings and action in one learning cycle. Another variant in the iterative model is the Bouden et al (1985). The second variant is that of Ghaye et al (1996b) which is based on action research literature put forth by Donald Schon.

I undertook the assessment of my own leadership skill using 3600 leadership questionnaire based on the work of Kouzes and Posner (2003). The leadership questionnaire helped me identify my strengths and weaknesses. My strengths outlined according to the 3600 questionnaire were determination, competent and strong communicator and networker. I could identify my strengths as a leader with the above theories of leadership. The weakness of my leadership skills outlined from the questionnaire was that I lacked the quality of inspiring and empowering others.

Personal development plan (PDP), is a tool that can identify areas for further development and encourage lifelong learning. It acts as a process of planning, monitoring, assessment, and support to help staff develop their capabilities and potential to fulfill their job role and purpose. To identify my preferred learning style I undertook the Honey and Momford (1986) learning styles questionnaire and identified my preferred learning style as a strong reflector and a pragmatist and a moderate preference as that of a theorist. The best way that a reflector would learn is by observing individuals or group at work. They usually review what has happened and think about what they have learned, prefer doing tasks with tight deadlines. However a reflector learns less when acting as a leader or role playing. Doing things with no time to prepare and while being thrown at deep ends.

Using the Gibbs model of reflection (1988) I was able to describe an incident which helped me learn about a new experience. The incident took place at the lecture hall 7020 in my university. I had an opportunity to learn about communication and personality. I learned about the Myer’s-Brigg’s inventory on the types of personalities and the dichotomies which elicited the personality traits. I thought about the dichotomy and was able to relate and identify my personality trait. Before learning about the inventory on personality I was not aware of my traits. The experience has helped me to understand and make me aware of myself and also to regard different personalities other than mine. Thus helping me to understand people with different personality traits and build up a harmonious interaction. The learning has helped me formulate an action in my personal development plan to enable me to inspire others as a leader and empower them. The Gibb’s cycle (1988) is a cyclical process; it’s easy to understand and is very malleable and flexible. All the most Gibb’s cycle has helped me develop a personal development plan action.

The Myers-Briggs type indicator is based on the Carl Jung’s theory of personality. The model identifies human behavior and personality styles in four dimensions. Bar and Bar (1989) who did study and administered Myers-Briggs type indicators in various managers and executives suggested that leaders must develop excellence in all eight areas to maintain consistent leadership. The dimensions are life attitude under which categories are extroversion or introversion. The second dimension is perception under which the category is sensing or intuiting. The third dimension is judgment under which categories of thinking or feeling are described. The fourth dimension is outer world orientation which holds categories of judging or perceiving.

The core issue of leadership throughout the essay exemplifies the dynamic nature of leadership. The reflective learning process is a very important aspect of leadership within health care Transformational and transactional leadership qualities are regarded to the lie within leadership ability which demands high quality care Avolio and Bass (1998). The learning style helps a leader to understand the specific learning needs by developing a personal development plan involving reflective thinking. Great leader are not made and not born.


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