Leadership Theories and Areas of Application

Leadership Theories and Areas of Application

SOWK 611 – Summer 2014

Leadership In Social Work

26 August 2014

Assignment #4

Even though leaders have always led because of a position held, when the correct leadership approach is used in social work this change the outcome. If the wrong leadership approach, or no leadership at all is used this can lead to confusion, conflict, and a result that does not help the person that needs help. Douglas MacArthur said it best when he said: “A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions, and the compassion to listen to the needs of others. He does not set out to be a leader, but becomes one by the equality of his actions and the integrity of his intent” (Kruse, 2012). Listening to the needs of others is one vital aspect for social workers.

Most Important Leadership Approaches

The two leadership approaches that I find to be most important in the field of social work are the situational life cycle and the authentic approaches. In the situational leadership approach, the leader will not use just one style, but will adapt their leadership style to conform with the maturity of the subordinates and the tasks that need to be accomplished. Situational leaders will be able to adjust the amount of emphasis on the tasks or the relationships with the subordinates in order to complete the mission. For me this means that the situational leader is very flexible depending on what the mission calls for.

Hershey and Blanchard’s (1982 & 1993) situational leadership theory has been recognized by the military and other leaders as a relevant method of leadership (Vecchio, Bullis, & Brazil, 2006). I can relate to this in the military after spending 24 years in the U.S. Marines. A leader in the Military especially must be able to adapt to many situations and many different personalities and relationships. This is also a very good leadership to use in any setting because the leader can show their willingness to be flexible and make changes when necessary.

Authentic leadership is being true in your actions, values, and beliefs. One good example of this was this saying my father used to tell me: “Say what you mean, mean what you say, and do what you say.” To me, this means that you will be a man or woman of your word and you are authentic. Authenticity is a sure way to get people to follow you as a leader. An authentic leader also shows their ethical and moral values which can be very attractive to subordinates. On the other hand a leader that is not authentic would be considered unreliable, unethical, lacking morals, and possibly a poor leader.

Authentic leadership, I believe is one of the most important leadership approaches because it shows the company you work for, your peers, and subordinates that you are honest. I believe that honesty is one of the best attributes a person can have. Authenticity show people what to expect from you and builds trust. Avolio, Luthans, and Walumbwa (2004) have defined authentic leaders as “those who are deeply aware of how they think and behave and are perceived by others as being aware of their own and others” (Avolio, & Gardner, 2005). This sounds like a leader that is very self aware and very attuned to how they behave. I believe a very important aspect of leadership.

Most Important Leadership Approaches in Field

The two leadership approaches I believe are most important in children and family concentration, and with veterans are transformational and servant leadership. Two important leadership approaches in my current internship are transformational leadership and servant leadership. These two approaches are very similar, not the same, but they can complement each other very well. Transformational leadership is a process used to get employees to buy into the organizational objectives. Leaders will give power to their employees to meet these objectives and by providing the employee with this empowerment, they will improve the employees performance (Stone, Russell, & Patterson, 2004).

Servant leadership is when the leader gets others involved in the process of making decisions. Servant leaders are very ethical and thinks of others before themselves. While showing a genuine care for their employees they also build upon the quality of the organization. Placing the organizations goals above any personal goals is a large part of servant leadership (Spears, 2010). A servant leader fits into many organizations and can be easily used to enhance an organization that is in need of direction. By using this approach, the employees will enjoy working in an environment where their voices are heard.

I believe that the transformational approach used in a setting that serves veterans and children would prove to be very effective. Both of these areas can be very demanding and an employee should not need to constantly need approval to make a decision. By giving the employees the desired outcome and providing them with tools needed, employees will strive to provide great results. Similarly, the servant approach could work very well with veterans and children. The servant approach shows the veterans that they genuinely care while also giving them a sense that you are there to help them My current internship is with veterans and this is an area that the clients constantly complain about. They feel as though the case managers do not listen to them and do not give them the required attention.

The servant approach working with children can provide the children with the sense of security that they desperately require. Especially abused children, they may have trust issues which would be warranted, but by giving them this security, they could start the healing process. The servant approach could help the client grow be more willing to work towards their goals.

Servant leaders provide a commitment to the growth of people, help to build community, stewardship, provide foresight, a conceptualization, a persuasion, awareness, healing, empathy, and great listening skills (Spears, 2010).

Power Analysis

I would like to believe that I have display referent power. I have been very outgoing and willing to work with everyone. Although I have only been at my internship for 3 short months, I believe I have built a reputation of a hard worker. I have been able use my influence bolster our group activities, stay involved, and keep maintain our group at high levels. A role model is what I have tried to be with my peers. Our work environment has been very low stress and very productive . According to Podsakoff and Schriesheim (1985), research has shown that referent power is positively correlated with subordinate affect (Erkutlu, & Chafra, 2006).

Although I do not consider myself as a person that is in power at my internship now, I do feel that I have some legitimate power. Legitimate power can be determined by the position a person holds. As an intern, I have the responsibility of holding morning meetings, I facilitate and co-facilitate three groups. This does put me in a position of power in our organization. It would also be possible to make things happen simply because I am in a position of authority (Hughes, Ginnett, & Curphy,  2012).

As I reflect on my behavior in a leadership position, I believe that there is still a great deal to be learned with my use of referent power. I do not really have any subordinates that I lead in my internship position except when I am the facilitator of a group. I do believe that people have been very respectful in my current internship. There could come a day that this is not going to be the case. If a person is mandated to receive counseling, this could pose a challenge. When people are willing to be led the job is much easier than when they do not desire to be there.

The use of legitimate power in my internship is there, but I need to maintain a sense of my position. I am still in a learning role and I do not want to be too confident where I begin to be arrogant. There is a big difference and this could lead to the abuse of legitimate power. In my opinion, anyone can tell people what to do, but to get them to want to do it with you or for you is a skill that I want to attain. I do believe that legitimate power can make some leaders believe that they have some privileges because of the position that is held.

I have been placed in positions of legitimate power that did not yield the desired results. I was placed in the leadership position for our morning meeting early on in my internship. I was very eager for this position and volunteered. I was not aware of the required paperwork involved not what was to be covered during the meeting, I was so eager to be in this position I didn’t even ask. When the meeting was to begin, I felt as though I was in the ocean by myself when I realized what am I supposed to accomplish. I very quickly realized there is a great deal of preparation that needs to be done by the leader of this meeting. The next time I came very prepared after asking many questions.

The impact that my leadership approach has had on others would be that they may believe that I am to laid back at times. I have tried to keep a calm demeanor. I think that because of past very high stress positions have helped me to remain calm under very stressful situations. I have been in combat on three occasions and I personally believe that there is not higher stress that this. I am calm because of these experiences not because I do not care or I don’t know what to do. I have always been willing to fight for a person’s rights and to ensure that people are being treated fairly. I am very far from being an expert in the field of social work and willing to ask for help when needed. I have even asked help from people that have been in this field shorter time period than myself. Letting go of pride to learn something is alright, admitting I have been wrong is fine, and teaching someone who is much less experienced than I am is very good.

Areas of Application

A group is thought of as “two or more persons who are interaction with one another in such a manner that each person influences and is influenced by each other person” (Hughes, Ginnett, & Curphy, 2012, p.393). Forming a group of people does not make the group effective. A groups effectiveness can be altered by the size of the group. If the group is too large, there may be members that are not actively involved or the group could have many side bar conversations that could be distractive to the group. Groups can be more effective if the group members set up guidelines or rules for the group to follow.

Effective groups have many thing in common to include working together or apart, but each group member is aware of what the other group member are doing. The group members all take on different roles and responsibilities. They work as a team and help each other as much as possible. They are able to resolve disagreements amicably and do not make any personal issues more important that the mission of the team (Oakley, Felder, Brent, & Elhajj, 2004). An effective group will be comprised of members that have bought into the idea of working as a group instead of individual efforts.

An effective leader is able to use to the team’s best interest their strengths. A leader needs to use their strengths to their advantage. Strength Based Leadership has identified that employees that do not work to their strong points are only 9% engaged in their jobs vs. 74% of the employees that do work in areas of their strengths. If the leader places their employees in their strength area this is a huge benefit for the organization. Effective leaders will also surround themselves with the employees needed to complete the mission. Effective leaders are able to develop their employees talents into strengths (Rath, & Conchie, 2009).

A study conducted by Gallup revealed that leaders are much more effective when they possess the following attributes according to employees: trust, compassion, stability, and hope. Trust is vital to keep the employees and is built by the behavior of the leader. Employees want their leader to have compassion about them and show they actually care about them. A leader that has stability will display the strength and discipline even when things could be better. This gives their employees a sense of calm in the organization. They see and feel the confidence and stability in their leader. Hope is the assurance towards their future and gives the employees something to live and strive for (Rath, & Conchie, 2009).

Dealing with Conflict

One area that is unavoidable in all organizations is conflict. An effective leader can be able to defuse conflict. Conflict has many sources and a good leader will be well versed in these in order to resolve them. Conflict can arise when group members or employees have differences of opinion, competition, high levels of stress, differences of values and beliefs, and conflict in roles within the organization (Hughes, Ginnett, & Curphy, 2012). Other areas that can cause conflict are disrespect, cultural differences, gossip, and many others. Conflict is not always bad and can help to enhance productivity

I think that communication is a key element to avoiding conflict. A leader that is able to communicate with their employees will be able to calm down situations and keep the conflict at a healthy level. Thomas (1976), identified five ways to manage conflict. They are competition, accommodation, sharing, collaboration, and avoidance. I like sharing and collaboration. Sharing is compromising where both parties have to give in some and both parties get something, seems fair to me. Collaboration is trying to satisfy both parties. Both parties have to work to reach an agreement. I believe this is also a fair method in which neither party has an advantage (Hughes, Ginnett, & Curphy, 2012). Managing conflict is another area that a manager can build confidence in their employees or on the other hand ruin their own reputation if not handled properly.

My communication skills are an area that I would love to improve in. I believe I have a very calm demeanor and maybe sometimes too calm. I can also speak too quickly sometimes and not think about what I am going to say before I say it. This can be bad at times, especially is highly stressful times. I also have a roughness about me at times from the many years I spent in the military. My tone of voice can sometimes make people feel as though I do not care. Once a person get to know me as a manager, there are no problems, but initially I can be very demanding.


I do believe that I will be placed in a position of leadership in the social work field and hope to my life experiences to become an effective leader. American businessman and entrepreneur, Sam Walton once said “Outstanding leaders go out of their way to boost the self-esteem of their personnel. If people believe in themselves, it’s amazing what they can accomplish” (Walton, Unknown). I believe if a leader is able to instill confidence in their employees or team members they have completed half of the battle.


Avolio, B. J., & Gardner, W. L. (2005). Authentic leadership development: Getting to the root of positive forms of leadership. The leadership quarterly, 16(3), 315-338.

Erkutlu, H. V., & Chafra, J. (2006). Relationship between leadership power bases and job stress of subordinates: example from boutique hotels. Management Research News, 29(5), 285-297.

Hughes, R.L., Ginnett, R.C., & Curphy, G.J. (2012). Leadership Enhancing the Lessons of Experience (7th ed.). New York, N.Y.: Mcgraw-Hill.

Oakley, B., Felder, R. M., Brent, R., & Elhajj, I. (2004). Turning student groups into effective teams. Journal of student centered learning, 2(1), 9-34.

Rath, T., & Conchie, B. (2009). Strengths based leadership. City: Gallup Press.

Spears, L. C. (2010). On character and servant-leadership: Ten characteristics of effective, caring leaders. The Journal of Virtues & Leadership, 1(1), 25-30.

Stone, A. G., Russell, R. F., & Patterson, K. (2004). Transformational versus servant leadership: A difference in leader focus. Leadership & Organization Development Journal, 25(4), 349-361.

Vecchio, R. P., Bullis, R. C., & Brazil, D. M. (2006). The Utility of Situational Leadership Theory A Replication in a Military Setting. Small Group Research, 37(5), 407-424.

Walton, S. (2001-2014). Brainy Quotes. Retrieved from http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/s/samwalton163394.html

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