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Discerning the Leadership Trap

Organisations, whether big or small, rely on the management and leadership for direction success. Leaders are position to steer organizations towards victory. In case of business companies, leaders are at the helm to supervise the whole production and see to it that profits are coming in. The history is filled with great leaders who have accomplished much in their respective nations and organizations. The truth is: leaders create history. When wonderful leaders go, they leave unforgotten imprints and lasting legacy. Thus, leadership is never an easy or a laid-back task.

It comes with a price and also a prize. Many leaders are groomed, sent to trainings and mentored for the position. Those who have been awarded or given the high role of leading have with them a wealth of experiences. As people do know, aside from other factors, leaders dictate the rise and fall of organizations. It must be acknowledged that there are many existing organizations and companies who are experiencing leadership problems and conflicts. This has a significant impact not only on the management of the organization but on the whole operations as well.

Even the best-brained or the most intelligent leaders are often caught up in a wire of organizational dilemmas. Having the most charismatic or brightest people on the leadership board is not a guarantee of success. If such is the case, where does the problem lie? The problem does not rest on the leaders alone. Bradford and Cohen (1998), in their article, The Leadership Trap, identified the contribution that followers give in any leadership conflict. According to the authors, the behaviours of both the leaders and followers must be looked into in trying to solve a leadership problem.

Members have their share in the leadership problem. They wrote that the leader-follower relationship is a reciprocal system wherein the leaders have influence on how the followers act or obey the leaders. This is one aspect of what they term as the leadership trap. This puts to surface the relationship embedded in the leader-member roles. This is the meat of the leadership problem as the relationship is bypassed and ignored. The leadership trap speaks about the magnified position of the leaders and the limited role of the followers which revolve around a cycle.

This vicious cycle can only be broken if changes are initiated within. As a cycle, one action leads to a chain of reaction. It must be put to mind that in the same way, one positive change yield positive energies in the whole chain. Likewise, the leadership trap shows the traditional concept of leadership in which a top-bottom approach is applied. Leaders are seen to have all the power or authority in planning, decision-making and problem-solving. In short, leaders do all the stuff and carry all the responsibilities.

Followers, on the other hand, are subjected to the part of subordinates. Followers are thought to have limited contribution and they cannot initiate actions. They are confined to their respective job descriptions and are told to follow orders. The authors also dubbed this leadership trap as heroic kind of leadership. Here, the leaders assume every bit of responsibility while followers obey. The leaders do consultations but they have the final say over every issue or decision. When followers are confronted with tough problems, they look up to their leaders for solution and escape.

Furthermore, they identified the symptoms of heroic leadership as: expectation on leaders to assume responsibility; delegation of tough problems upward by subordinates; subordinates are only concerned with their respective territories, not with the over-all goals; weak teamwork and coordination and over-management by leaders. Bradford and Cohen explained that this heroic leadership becomes a vicious cycle difficult to break unless an intervention is applied. It also results to a typical blame game where no one wants to take full responsibility on setbacks.