Leadership style sets the tone of a recreational agency. Some lead by example, others lead with an iron fist. Let’s examine the two leadership styles to determine what is best for your leadership role.
Transformational leadership creates a learning environment for staff members. It fosters trust, and inspires employees to work toward a collective vision through intrinsic process motivation. Transformational leaders are effective communicators, share information, and have a strong vision. The style heightens employee aspirations and focus employees on the goal. The leader serves more as a coach than a supervisor. Less absenteeism occurs, as people want to be at work, because they feel valued.
Transformational leadership has four key components:
Idealized influence – serves as a role model, encouraging staff to do as he/she does;
Inspirational motivation – motivates the staff through shared vision and enthusiasm;
Individualized consideration – expresses a genuine concern for employee’s well being and is attentive to personal needs;
Intellectual stimulation – challenges followers to be innovative and pioneering, always questioning the status quo.
There is a misconception that transformational leaders are weak, yet these managers are constantly challenging employees to achieve more and push the envelope creatively.
On the other end of the spectrum, transactional leadership focuses on a punishment and reward system. The chain of command within the organization is clear. Obeying the instructions of the leader is primary goal, and subordinates need to be carefully monitored.
This form of leadership is common is business, notably for hourly employees who are replaceable and have little personal investment in their work. Leaders use punishment and reward systems and attempt to correct undesirable performance while it is happening. Unsatisfied employees do not come to work, as they feel undervalued and replaceable.
Transactional managers serve an administrative role by utilizing a short-term perspective, accepting the status-quo, and copying processes year after year. The manager does not inspire a vision, does not effectively communicate goals, nor foster collaboration. Typically, they remain in middle management roles and cannot ascend to senior executive, as they fail to see the big picture.
A director of a youth dance studio hires instructors as independent contractors to teach dance basics and create routines for a holiday recital. The leader has set many rules for the teaching staff, mostly as a result of incidents that have occurred in past years.
For instance, instructors must submit their substitute requests in August for the September to December class session. Last minute teacher substitutes are not permitted, except with a doctor’s note, and are cause for immediate dismissal of the teacher. All instructors must contribute time, outside of class hours, to prepare for the holiday dance recital. Typically this means additional practices, answering parent questions, sending e-mail blasts, and day-of-show duties. This time is unpaid; however, if an instructor wishes to maintain a job, one must donate the extra time.
The program director has a clear vision of how the end product of the recital should look. The director chooses music, costumes, run order, and writes the final script. Although the recital is a creative endeavor, the instructors’ creative role is through choreography only. Because the instructors are not invited to participate in the creative process, the environment is not developmental, and staff feels replaceable. For this reason, there is a high turn-over rate, which is what has lead to the large number of rules and restrictions in the contract. Talented instructors do not want to stay for the long term, as the instructors feel undervalued and unappreciated. The recreational agency has a transactional leader at the helm.
A progressive approach that melds both transformational and transactional leadership styles would reach a more positive outcome in the recreational forum. For instance, although the director may have an idea of the recital’s format, a brainstorming meeting should take place in the summer to involve staff in the creative process. Ideas and suggestions need to be voiced, discussed, and vetted. Even if not all the ideas are put into action, instructors need to feel valued and included in the process. Along the way, the director should keep instructors informed of why choices were made to proceed in a particular direction. The communicated will take more effort on the part of the leader, but it will ultimately lead to more participation and a learning organization. Many recreational directors are worn out from lack of resources and an increasing demand from customers and budget requirements, and do not have the energy to be a transformational leader. However, for the purposes of fostering a positive, learning environment, the inspiration and stimulation must come from the leader as a role model.
Some leaders may be frustrated by the give-and-take process of brainstorming and creativity, as one believes they have all the answers. However, a leader cannot see oneself as the authority on a subject. Instead, one should be a coach in the process, guiding the team toward their own decisions and outcomes. When ownership of the end product, such as the dance recital, rests with the team, not solely the leader, a learning organization is achieved.
With regard to hourly staff, the manager can combine the two leadership styles, as hourly staff needs a more concrete structure to follow for break/lunch times, list of duties, and extrinsic rewards. The manager can still lead by positive example with hourly staff, and provide team building sessions when appropriate. The hourly staff should feel part of the overall team, even if staff is not all part of the creative process. Effective leaders make all staff members feel valued.