Leadership is a human quality made up of inborn and acquired attributes that can influence and transform the behavior of other human beings. This essay identifies leadership attributes and behavior of one individual and will attempt to explain how his influence on the people touched by his leadership style and behavior shaped my personal leadership style I will use a process of analysis that will integrate prevalent leadership theories to support reasonable conclusions.
However, the judgments, assertions and conclusions are limited to a personal but objective observation of the actions and behavior of one individual over a segment of his lifetime. My most important leadership role model: Uncle George A common perception in the leadership-follower relationship is of a person directing another to do something (leader) and the other obeying (follower) a perceived superior to inferior roles (Kelley, 2008).
This recognized script evolved, the new scripts (Behavioral, Contingency, Transactional and Transformational) introduced, reflected behaviors engaging leaders and followers in a symbiotic relationship or somewhere in between. Meanwhile, leadership studies where battling each other with updates and innovations some people were unknowingly practicing spontaneous leadership styles not yet rated by scholars.
These unrecognized practitioners were influencing family members, coworkers and church parishioners with a consistent behavior pattern that today I can associate with prevalent leadership theories and analyze it to define under a multidimensional (Bass & Avolio, 1989) perspective a personal leadership style. Prevalent leadership theories include for the purpose of our analysis Trait, Behavioral, Theories X and Y, Contingency, Transactional and Transformational approaches.
I will borrow from aforementioned approaches, attributes identifiable in the behavior pattern found in our chosen subject of leadership to discriminate among leadership theories, to arrive at a leadership style conclusively. Among the people who were unknowingly practicing varying degrees of leadership styles when exhibiting a consistent behavior pattern in their community of practice, was my uncle George.
A man born during the first quarter of the twentieth century right in the middle of the great depression, who learned from childhood the economic commitments of adulthood survival and the values of intangibles such as honor, respect, love for country and family unity. Self-taught and curious advanced the movie of life by taking shortcuts to opportunities immigrating to countries economically strong like the United States. Before marriage and after his mother death uncle George, the oldest son assumed a leadership position in his family looking after his sisters and a brother, a financial burden that continued after marriage.
It was during that period of his life that I met him and perceived from him a strong commanding persona, tall, blond, with blue eyes the look of someone bound to be somebody (Allport, 1961). Today, I associate this portrait with Type and Trait theories (Allport, 1966) and certainly enough the community of my uncle’s peers confirmed these theories by adding collectively some superiority to his looks and demeanor (Allport, 1966) making uncle George informal heir to some degree of charismatic power within their social group (House, 1977).
My uncle was competitive but kind, friendly but respectful, gregarious beyond the limits of his kind, conservative but expressive, a self-appointed guardian of social justice but accommodating to self-interests. At this stage of his life, his leadership style was consistent in the community and at home featuring a democratic, participative, transactional leadership style with followers influenced by attributing charisma to perceived personality and physical traits (Burns, 1978; Allport, 1966; House, 1977).
As a head of his own and of his fraternal family, his behavior was patriarchal a combination of authority outlining rights and duties to family members subject to economic constraints and life management risks with a sympathetic understanding of their potential for failures growing up. He walked this behavioral line during a growth stage of both families, maintaining a nourishing hand open to anyone in need of support and guidance. He was a contingency leader adapting to situations and using different leadership styles flexibly (Fiedler and Garcia, 1987).
At work, my uncle George chose pharmaceutical sales, as a career it was a natural choice after working as a pharmacist assistant for years before the sales position move and distinguished himself with his gregarious personality, story telling, a contagious sense of humor combined with stage presence and a baritone singing voice. Armed with charisma and a nourishing personality this people oriented person (McGregor, 1960) began to enjoy the fruits of promotion, sharing financial gains with all family members, becoming the brother, the uncle and the relative to go to when in need.
Uncle George inquired freely about everyone whereabouts, gave free advise and encourage dreams and achievements. Sometimes, introducing payback as the carrot and effort as the stick (Wren, 2004) for those he saw able of accomplishment and spiritual energy of trust in the Lord and Lady Luck to those he thought needed powerful forces to come to the rescue. At any rate, in uncle George’s eyes, everyone was entitled to the pot at the end of the rainbow and for that thought, every family members of three generations he touched, felt individually “special” (Mayo, 1977) and became the best they could be.
This is an example of the Pygmalion effect, a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy (Mayo, 1977) in this respect uncle George behaved as a Transformational leader and a pioneer of a Human Relations movement (Bass, 1990). Similarly, at church uncle George was a chorus voice and a dynamic participant of church social events and religious gatherings. Uncle George was a walking testimonial of fervor and emotional support to his church’s brothers and sisters in Christ, when in crisis.
Weddings, baptisms and funerals seldom missed, always willing to enhance the events with a congratulatory voice or an encouraging advice and a tear here and a tear there (Bass, 1985). No one was surprised when the funeral hall was flooded with family and friends, some workplace friends and others friends from uncle George’s personal wanderings when reaching out to others and from sharing loving helping hands to church parishioners (House, 1977).
All those who knew him and he called friends were present at the funeral service to acknowledge a transforming personality trustworthy and loyal (Bowers & Seashore, 1966) that grew in them to become a transformational leader (Bass, 1990). I was his first nephew, the first generation he was going to influence by example, modeling a role of an uncle and many times a father’s image. In my early days of exposure to my uncle George, I watched him play a leading role in clinical visits to physician’s offices and win over secretaries to gain appointments and access to physician’s time, beating competitors waiting for their sales call moment.
It was all due to personality and charisma (Bass, 1990) with the female secretaries and due to product knowledge and self-confidence with the physicians (Bass, 1990). This combination of task efficiency (Burns, 1978) and people skills (Navahandi, 2006) encompass varying degrees of leadership styles integrating the Contingency approach (Fiedler, 1967) and the multidimensional make up embedded in Transformational leadership to measure leadership behavior and predict outcome (Bass & Avolio, 1989). I continue to observe uncle George’s behavior as life went on confirming his consistency with family responsibilities.
One example that comes to mind occurs when his son in-law, a lawyer, was divorcing his daughter and the settlement went to arbitration. I had convinced my uncle to invest in a real estate property to collect rent thinking in retirement income, which he did. His daughter needed financial assistance to hire legal representation and Uncle George sold his only investment and gave her daughter the funds she needed. This was the last piece of property he ever owned again and cost him to end up in subsidized housing until his last days.
This inspirational example of self-denial is indicative of a transformational leader transcending self-interest for the benefit of a team member in crisis and in this case a family member (Bass & Avolio, 1989). When he was dying of cancer, bedridden, in pain waiting to die, his daily apology was for the trouble he was causing those around him dispensing care while thanking God for his gift of life and joy of a family. Uncle George influenced my life from childhood to adulthood, my achieved dreams were his dreams seen through my eyes I felt he realized his dreamed business successes watching me attain mine.
He was my inspiration to excel. In sum, my uncle George was indeed a transformational leader in situations demanding ethic and moral, self-denial, inspiration and commitment to others, (Bass & Avolio, 1989). He was also a Contingency charismatic leader with transcendental ideas and referent power (Bass & Avolio, 1989; French & Raven, 1959) that moved followers to trust themselves. He was the kind of leader to have if trouble was around. He would have explained a transactional and transformational (Burns, 1978; Bass, 1985) aspect of the situation. I always knew where I stood with him but I knew he would not let me standing alone.
Uncle George influenced the child, the adolescent and the adult in me by example in a successful leadership role in diverse situations that changed my perception of what a father was what an uncle could be and what a human being has the potential to become. The behavior pattern I learned from ranged from the exercise of legitimate authority (French & Raven, 1959) being the head of the family, using referent power perhaps unaware how much family members looked up to him while projecting ethical, moral and respectful behavior effecting Transformational leadership (French & Raven, 1959; Burke & Wilcox, 1971).
According to Fiedler, available studies did not validate one best leadership style and Fiedler suggested an assessment of the situation and context to determine the best style and behavior to lead with the understanding that interdependence is required to be an effective leader (Fiedler, 1967). My personal leadership style is within this context with a tendency to imitate the transformational magic touch uncle George possessed, when I believed I was his favorite nephew and his unaccomplished dreams were mine to achieve and share with him.
A curious thing, the other 11 nephews, believed it too.