In 2012 I was brought upon my first and hardest decisions as a leader and in 2020 the second. My name is Kimberly, I come from a sports background and own a flourishing Pilates and rehab studio. My studio is a business that counts 4 colleagues. My first colleague whom I will call Ann for reference, has been with me 7 years. She was the first to come into what was a one man show. I hired her because I was overloaded with work and had a very long waiting list that needed some help. How did I direct my choice? This was difficult, as finding co-workers in my job is not so easy. I really needed to give continuity to clients when I was not there for any reason. So, I was on the search, I interviewed many people with different levels of training and competence. Was I looking for someone with high competence that was ready to go, or someone with low competence that I could train?
My final choice came to Ann. I recognize myself as a leader who has high flexibility in different situations and could help my followers by either supporting them or directing them. I was not surprised that one of the more widely recognized approaches to leadership is the situational approach. (Northouse, 2016, pg.93) The theory is based on a leader that is capable to adjust his/her style to different situations. (Northouse, 2016) I knew I could adjust my leadership style because one of my first job experiences were a ski coach to a under 13 team. Those years I learned that if I wanted to be effective, I would have had to implement different approaches and styles to each child in order to get the best result out of them.
I surely knew that by hiring a person that had low competence I could train them in the missing areas. Northouse defines someone that has low competence and high commitment as a D1 (pg.96) This was a choice I had to face, this would make the process longer and require more energy from me as I would have to spend time to train them. A D1 though has high commitment so this implies that they would be loyal to the purpose. The reason I was looking for a co-worker/ follower in the first place, was to give continuity to clients. In order to give them our full attention in the hour they came and to fulfill our duties as trainers we need to be highly committed to a purpose day after day, commitment was indispensable. As I interviewed others, I saw that if I chose a D3 for example that had high to moderate competence and variable commitment, (Northouse, 2016, pg.95) I would have had someone ready to teach. This though may have been a downfall in the long run as a D3 is variable in commitment and with time we may have lost the true essence of the studio’s work, that of honoring each hour of our clients’ time.
With time, looking back at my choice in 2012, eight years have passed. I have hired 3 other people and applied the same thought for each one. I analyzed who I was interviewing and knew that if someone rare in Europe would present themselves with high competence in my field it would make life much easier. The most important thing would be that I would have to be forced to evaluate what level of commitment the individual possessed. Their determination would have to change as the job has days filled with complex challenging tasks and days that involve repetitive unchallenging clients. The second would need much determination, commitment and less competence. So, my supportive leadership at times would not be needed. Other times my support would be key, as the tasks at hand need leadership support to maintain follower’s motivation. (Northouse, 2016, pg.120)
My time and patience was also taken in consideration with each person. I knew that if I hired a D3 for example that shows moderate to high competence an commitment, (Northouse, 2016) I would be faced with the uncertainty of them being at work everyday to make a real difference for someone. D3’s commitment isn’t always at the top. Ann had very high commitment from the begging and quit her job unknowing exactly what was waiting for her behind those doors. We have been working together for 8 years, so I guess my choice was not to bad! This year though after opening a new beautiful space Ann’s commitment dropped. Ann suddenly showed less interest in what she has been doing for 8 years and on what she has pledged on being a life changing journey. I was used to direct Ann the first 6 years and it was just recently that I stopped as she was demonstrating the need to excel. Therefore, in the path-goal theory I was more focused on the achievement. Ann’s clients were happy with her following them and not asking for me. I forgot though that Ann is someone that is always stressed about why life treats her so bad or so good. She demonstrates external locus of control. External locus of control is characterized by someone believing that outside forces determine life events (Northouse, 2016, pg., 119) Just like her. Path-goal theory suggests that directive leadership is best because it parallels followers’ feelings that outside forces control their circumstances. (Northouse, 2016, pg.119)
Blanchard et. Al. (1993) states that followers usually start out motivated and eager to learn, then become discouraged and disillusioned. Why did Ann then learn the business and suddenly become less committed? Was it because she needed more direction being someone that believes in external forces? Situational Leadership has no research findings to conceptualize follower’s commitment, therefore it remains unclear. (Northouse, 2016, pg.101) I know though that on my side the more she became competent and had high expectations in who she was following as a client the less I supported her. I thought she needed goals and more challenges so I gave her harder cases. I shifted from a S2 directing leadership style where I was High in direction and High in support to delegating S4 style, the exact opposite. (Northouse, 2016) I did not take under consideration that a new space and the extra clientele would change the dynamics. I supposed she could perform as she had shown in the past few years. I did not take under consideration that followers will be motivated if they think they are capable of performing their work. (Northouse, 2016,pg.116) My expectations along with the clients who were expecting even more made Ann doubt her performance. I thought my leadership was highly flexible but I found myself not applying my support in that particular situation. Instead I expected her to work harder in our new location since it was beautiful, and we were overflowing with costumers. I believe my greatest skill is that of begin a highly motivated person and this is what generally makes me a good leader. This skill was lessened by the great stress a big move like the one I made had one me.
A leader must be willing to tackle complex organizational problems. (Northouse, 2016) Organizational issues came up, I should have known our big move would have created obstacles. It turns out that with the lessened commitment of Ann I saw the problem that was inexistent in our old studio where she was thriving. My followers were afraid of not meeting the level of expectations, expectations that I put on them as well as clients. I put my best effort to understand and eliminated obstacles such as the path-goal theory suggested making Ann excel. Ann’s well-being was essential to our social good and the progress of our company. I depend on my followers performance. Therefore, this time better than all others I can say Leadership is a process whereby an individual influences a group of individuals to achieve a common goal. (Northouse, 2016, pg.6) In order to influence one must always modulated their leadership style to the situation as in this case.
Northouse, P. G. (2016). Leadership: theory and practice (7th ed.). SAGE Publications, Inc.