Unit 430 Leadership Topic 10: Emerging leadership issues
Corporate social responsibility
Porter and Kramer (2006) contend that the main reasons organisations should consider their corporate social responsibility obligations are:
Moral obligation: Sustainable development: License to operate: Reputation:
According to Porter and Kramer (2006: 83): All four schools of thought share the same weakness: They focus on the tension between business and society rather than on their interdependence. Each creates a generic rationale that is not tied to the strategy and operations of any specific company or the places in which it operates...The result is oftentimes a hodgepodge of uncoordinated CSR and philanthropic activities disconnected from the company's strategy that neither make any meaningful social impact nor strengthen the firm's long-term competitiveness.
It is argued that the way forward for CSR is for business and society to focus on the interests and values they share in common. Organisational success is dependent on healthy economies, communities, and governmental support. Additionally, society benefits from successful organisations in terms of improved standards of living and conditions through job provision, infrastructure creation, technological innovations, etc. By focusing on this symbiotic relationship and making CSR part of a firm's long-term action plan, both society and the organisation stand to benefit.
Porter and Kramer (2006) argue that by focusing on its value chain, an organisation can begin to map out many of the social consequences of its activities. Social variables significantly affect an organisation's ability to compete. Once an organisation identifies and understands the social ramifications of its actions, it is in a better position to create strategies that cater to CSR, as well as long-term competitiveness.
That Australians are still discussing gender biases, minority groups, religious differences and the like, implies that as a nation we are still some way from understanding the key differences and similarities amongst our fellow citizens. Organisational leaders today need to be conscious of this
journey and its implications for leadership.
Quite apart from any moral or ethical obligation based on the ideas of equality and fairness, organisations within Australia are legally bound, to a certain extent, to foster diversity within the workplace. The bases for diversity are enshrined in Australian legislation, including the:
* Racial Discrimination Act 1975
* Sex Discrimination Act 1984
* Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Act 1991
* Disability Discrimination Act 1992
* Workplace Relations Act 1996.
In their article, 'Making differences matter: a new paradigm for managing diversity', Thomas and Ely (1996) have identified two common approaches to managing diversity in the workplace: the 'discrimination-and-fairness paradigm' and the 'access-and-legitimacy paradigm'.
The 'discrimination-and-fairness paradigm' reflects the approach outlined by the Public Service and Merit Protection Commission (2001). This paradigm analyses diversity in terms of equal opportunity, fair recruitment and employee treatment practices and compliance with legislative requirements. However, although staff come from an increasingly diversified pool, often the work activities do not change. People are required to 'assimilate' and take on board the values of the majority in the organisation.
The second approach, the 'access-and-legitimacy paradigm', first appeared in the late 1980s. The primary driver of this approach was the business need to appeal to new consumer groups and market segments emerging in multicultural societies. Thomas and Ely (1996) identify a number of limitations to this approach: Diversity within the organisation is often motivated by short-term considerations (e.g. the need to quickly gain access to a niche market). Whilst organisations celebrate the differences of each group, they do little to understand them or learn from them, and fail to integrate new values into the culture.
Thomas and Ely propose a third approach to diversity—the 'learning-and-effectiveness paradigm'. This approach draws on both traditional paradigms, but encourages workplace diversity to drive change within organisations and actually alter workplace practices and approaches. With genuine organisational leadership commitment and support, the 'learning-and-effectiveness' approach to managing workplace diversity can become a source of competitive advantage for the company.
Women in leadership
Manning and Curtis (2007: 255) suggest a number of obstacles women may face when climbing the corporate ladder:
* Lack of cross-training and work-experience opportunities. Often, women are discouraged from taking on traditionally male leadership positions even at the ground levels of an organisation. This, in turn, limits their exposure to essential work experiences and reduces promotional opportunities.
* Lack of encouragement from senior-level executives who play a vital role in grooming the next generation of leaders. Many male leaders select other males to mentor and coach for leadership roles.
* Comparatively reduced number of opportunities for promotion coupled with the psychological effects of disillusionment over career progression limitations and inequalities in pay.
* Double standards that signify women need to be more competent and skilled than their male counterparts in order to be accepted. The quote below demonstrates the extent of double standards witnessed by some female leaders.
It has been argued that many women in leadership roles will employ transformational leadership, preferring to build relationships with followers and to lead more democratically. It is important to note, however, that pursuing this line of argument (traits and behaviour) may encourage the proliferation of stereotypes.
To ensure the organisation's long-term success, current leaders must ensure that their succession plans take into account diversity issues. They need to bear diversity in mind when they look at their:
* recruitment and selection policies and procedures
* leadership development initiatives
* mentoring and coaching programs
* empowerment and delegation skills.
The ability to observe, understand, and pick up on the subtle nuances of another culture, and the ability to adapt to (and perhaps mimic) the socially
acceptable behaviours of others has a name—cultural intelligence, or CQ. According to Earley and Mosakowski (2004), there are three main elements to cultural intelligence: the mind (cognitive), the body (physical) and the heart (emotional).
Too often, we in the West believe that there is only one way to get things done—and that is our way. People possessing a high cultural intelligence are often able to suspend judgment, listen to the other side's arguments and propositions and evaluate the points made objectively and based purely on their merits. Those with low CQ often fail to convince others of the merits of their perspective because they are hindered by their own arrogance.
Virtual and global teams
Recent innovations in information technology have made it possible for organisations to adapt their work practices to suit their global needs. Putting together an effective and cohesive team can be difficult at the best of times. Geographic dispersion, time differences, further complicate this task.
The challenges of leading virtual and global teams: Geographic distance, Technology & Telecommunications, Communication, Motivation
To cope with the demands of leading either a virtual or a global team, leaders should develop their:
* cultural intelligence and cultural sensitivity
* virtual communication skills (e.g. learn how to conduct effective 'webinars' and videoconferences)
* cross-cultural communication and negotiation skills
* time-management skills.
Perhaps in response to the leadership challenges outlined in the previous sections, a new theory of leadership is emerging—authentic leadership.
In their book, True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership, George, Sims and Gergen (2007: 8) describe the nature of authentic leadership through the life stories of many leaders: What emerges from these stories is that virtually all the leaders interviewed found their passion to lead through the uniqueness of their life stories. Not by being born as leaders. Not by believing they had the characteristics, traits or style of a leader.
Not by trying to emulate great leaders.
The essence of authentic leadership is leading in a way that is true to yourself. Your followers do not want to be led by a stereotype of what you think a great leader should be. They want to be led by someone who is genuine, honest, trustworthy, and deals with people and issues with underlying integrity. Studies have found that truly effective and successful leaders are authentic. Authentic leadership is not about role-playing; it is about projecting a true reflection of your 'self' to your followers. Having said that, effective leaders are very good at choosing which parts of themselves to share with others.
Goffee and Jones (2005) identify four main qualities that are important for authentic leadership:
1. Manage the perception others have of you
2. Know yourself and others
3. Use where you come from
4. Conform—but only just enough
To develop your authentic leadership skills you should:
1. Understand your own purpose. Be clear on your goals and what you want to achieve and accomplish.
2. Be passionate about your goals and the direction you want others to take. Live and breathe your goals each and every day, and maintain the passion even in times of dissent amongst others around you.
3. Develop your emotional intelligence—your self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skill.
4. Acknowledge your personal weaknesses and own up to mistakes. Seek out honest feedback from your core support group, encourage open communication and take the time to evaluate and act upon constructive criticism. Leaders seen to 'mend their ways' quite often earn even more respect from their followers.
5. Engage with your staff, empower them to develop their skills and give them the requisite opportunities they need to succeed. Provide them with feedback regularly and develop their leadership skills.
6. Act as a role model and demonstrate self-discipline in everything you do. The adage 'actions speak louder than words' holds especially true in the authentic leadership context. If your followers sense any form of hypocrisy, their support for you can diminish rapidly.
7. Seek out opportunities to gain experience in different environments, including other countries, and try to extend yourself beyond your comfort zone.