Leadership is not defined by a position. Rather, it is an energy that anyone can bring to life. It is about the ways in which we can access our personal power to create the lives we wish to live both personally and professionally.
Leadership has nothing to do with titles and roles and responsibilities. Leadership is all about vision, values, and connection to self and others.
Take a moment to consider what leadership means to you. Do you find yourself in a role where others look to you for guidance? Is it all about showing others the way? Is it up to you to have all the answers? Do you feel like you are going it alone?
Perhaps, you find yourself working collaboratively with others. You have certain roles and responsibilities, but you feel part of a team that is like-minded and moving in the same direction. There is a feeling of synergy and focus fuelled by inspiration and enthusiasm. Everyone feels a sense of commitment to the broader vision. There is investment.
Which sounds like more fun to you?
Historically, we have confused leadership with management. There is a big difference. Management is a function and often involves characteristics of the first scenario discussed above. Leadership is visionary and embodies the values of community and creation.
The Role of Personal Leadership
Everyone can step into a place of personal leadership regardless of role in an organization or within community. Personal leadership involves the capacity to bring our individual visions to life; to take the steps we are guided to take to create a reality we wish to experience.
This is the starting point if we wish to step into leadership in a broader capacity. Become the leader in your own life. Connect to yourself so you can tap into inspiration and take action from that place. As you master the ability to feel your inspired intentions, and the courage to take guided action, you will naturally become a leader to others.
I am not talking about morphing into a paid position of authority; however, this may also be an outcome. What I am suggesting is that as you walk your walk, your natural capacity for leadership and co-creation will emerge and become magnetic to others.
This is the difference between attempting to manage other people and becoming a powerful leader capable of inspiring others.
Letting the Past Guide Us
Your personal inspiration is an aspect of your soul. Your soul contains that information you need to fulfill your mission and purpose here in the world. Those ideas that get you excited and fill you with enthusiasm are your soul’s way of speaking to you about what you are here to contribute. You know it when it speaks because it feels right.
So much of the wisdom we contain is found at the soul level. Some believe that we came here with it already encoded into our being and with our full agreement and commitment to bring our gifts into the world. Some also believe that this wisdom is a gift not only from our Creator but also from those who have come before us.
Whether you believe in this spiritual perspective or not, there is no denying that we can gain much knowledge and guidance from those who walked this Earth before our arrival. And, we can pull on this Ancient Wisdom to guide our steps into the future.
Cynthia Ruiz is the author of Cherokee Wisdom: 12 Lessons to Become a Powerful Leader: Self-Help principles rooted in Native American traditions, and she has held high-level positions in both the private and public sectors and has received over 50 awards and accolades for her leadership and service to one of the world’s largest cities – Los Angeles. Cynthia currently serves as a LA City Commissioner overseeing the multibillion-dollar pension portfolio for City employees and is particularly passionate about helping to develop the empowerment of women. Listen to our interview below:
Transformational Leadership in the Context of Social Work
Social work leadership has transformed into actual practice from research. While the primary definition of transformational leadership remains the same, researchers and experts believe its practical implications show more promising and better results – especially in the context of social work.
Leaders who work in close collaboration with their subordinates to achieve a common goal is what transformational leadership is all about. However, when it comes to its implications, a real transformational leader possesses specific behaviors and traits beyond that definition. He or she is someone who does not only work with the team but also motivates and inspires an organization to work towards a shared vision.
For a leader to do that, he or she must have the inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation, body language, and individual consideration for the society as a whole. When it comes to social work, the vision does not only limit to the group members but people beyond that.
For all these reasons, transformation leadership remains an imperative factor for the success at individual, organizational, and societal levels.
Traits of Transformation Leadership That Are Important in Context of Social Work
Social work in itself is a transformed organization. The way social campaigns are led has changed substantially with regards to how leaders should act. The effort and contribution of transformational leaders help in creating a work environment where the team members are committed to what they are assigned. Leaders support interactions to ensure providing stability to the employees and other team members working in favor of the organization.
Here are the top transformational leadership traits that give social work its best form.
Development and Growth on an Individual Level
The best leadership traits are those that help an individual with self-actualization. Referring to the hierarchy of needs by Abraham Maslow, self-actualization stands at the top of the pyramid because it enables an individual to see beyond their self-interest and work in favor of the people around.
This helps transformational leaders to work selflessly with the values and vision of the team as a whole, including the society. It’s the growth factor that facilitates him/her for this moral development and principles.
Transformational leaders have subordinates and team members who perform beyond expectations. Research reveals that organizations, where transformational leaders are utilized, have better outcomes than planned.
The sense of trust and sustainability from the authority is a useful motivational factor that influences team members to outperform themselves every time. As a result, the overall performance of the organization and its contribution towards the shared vision also improves.
Organizational Change and Development
While transformational leadership has a clearly defined structure, it has an impact on every level of the organization. When it comes to team motivation, it helps the member become more inspiring, stimulating, and caring especially concerning their learning and working environment.
In short, it won’t be an exaggeration to state that transformational leadership has a ‘falling dominos effect’ on each department and the entire organization. While at authority level it helps with setting the vision and direction of the organization, at employee levels, it sets out the outlines for operations.
The phenomenon helps the company meet new challenges and perform better than expectations.
The Application is wider than Social Work
Society is and will always remain one of the most crucial areas where transformational leadership plays its role. However, the overall implication of the idea is much broader than that.
A variety of settings can benefit from the positive traits and behaviors of transformational leadership. Whether it is health care, nursing, education, or finance, the idea has proved more effective than any other form of leaderships. In addition to social work, it can also be applied to industrial and militaristic settings.
Since transformational leadership encourages the values of the people around, it plays a vital role in areas like social justice, equity, personal empowerment, self-knowledge, service, citizenship, and collaboration. This phenomenon can completely reshape the goals and how teams and organizations work and can also be used in conjunction with other leadership styles for better outcomes.
Abusive Bosses Experience Short-Lived Benefits
Being a jerk to your employees may actually improve your well-being, but only for a short while, suggests new research on abusive bosses co-authored by a Michigan State University business scholar.
Bullying and belittling employees starts to take its toll on a supervisor’s mental state after about a week, according to the study, which is published in the Academy of Management Journal.
“The moral of the story is that although abuse may be helpful and even mentally restorative for supervisors in the short-term, over the long haul it will come back to haunt them,” said Russell Johnson, MSU associate professor of management and an expert on workplace psychology.
While numerous studies have documented the negative effects of abusive supervision, some bosses nevertheless still act like jerks, meaning there must be some sort of benefit or reinforcement for them, Johnson said.
Indeed, the researchers found that supervisors who were abusive felt a sense of recovery because their boorish behavior helped replenish their mental energy and resources. Johnson said it requires mental effort to suppress abusive behavior – which can lead to mental fatigue – but supervisors who act on that impulse “save” the mental energy that would otherwise have been depleted by refraining from abuse.
Johnson and colleagues conducted multiple field and experiments on abusive bosses in the United States and China, verifying the results were not culture-specific. They collected daily survey data over a four-week period and studied workers and supervisors in a variety of industries including manufacturing, service and education.
The benefits of abusive supervision appeared to be short-lived, lasting a week or less. After that, abusive supervisors started to experience decreased trust, support and productivity from employees – and these are critical resources for the bosses’ recovery and engagement.
According to the study, although workers may not immediately confront their bosses following abusive behavior, over time they react in negative ways, such as engaging in counterproductive and aggressive behaviors and even quitting.
To prevent abusive behavior, the researchers suggest supervisors take well-timed breaks, reduce their workloads and communicate more with their employees. Communicating with workers may help supervisors by releasing negative emotions through sharing, receiving social support and gaining relational energy from their coworkers.
Co-authors are Xin Qin from Sun Yat-sen University, Mingpeng Huang from the University of International Business and Economics, Qiongjing Hu from Peking University and Dong Ju from Communication University of China.
Insult to Injury: U.S. Workers Without Paid Sick Leave Suffer from Mental Distress
Only seven states in the United States have mandatory paid sick leave laws; yet, fifteen states have passed preemptive legislation prohibiting localities from passing sick leave. Despite this resistance, paid sick leave is starting to gain momentum as a social justice issue with important implications for health and wellness. But what are the implications for the mental well-being of Americans without paid sick leave? Little was known about their relationship until now.
Researchers from Florida Atlantic University and Cleveland State University are the first to explore the link between psychological distress and paid sick leave among U.S. workers ages 18-64. Results of their study, published in the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, illuminate the effects of exacerbated stress on Americans without paid sick leave who are unable to care for themselves or their loved ones without fear of losing wages or their jobs.
The researchers found that workers without paid sick leave benefits reported a statistically significant higher level of psychological distress. They also are 1.45 times more likely to report that their distress symptoms interfere “a lot” with their daily life and activities compared to workers with paid sick leave. Those most vulnerable: young, Hispanic, low-income and poorly educated populations.
“Given the disproportionate access to paid sick leave based on race, ethnicity and income status, coupled with its relationship to health and mental health, paid sick leave must be viewed as a health disparity as well as a social justice issue,” said LeaAnne DeRigne, Ph.D., co-author of the study and an associate professor in the Phyllis and Harvey Sandler School of Social Work within FAU’s College for Design and Social Inquiry. “Even modest increases in psychological distress are noteworthy for both researchers and policy makers since we know that even small increases in stress can impact health.”
The study included 17,897 respondents from the National Health Interview Survey(NHIS), administered by the U.S. government since 1957 to examine a nationally representative sample of U.S. households about health and sociodemographic variables.
“For many Americans, daily life itself can be a source of stress as they struggle to manage numerous responsibilities including health related issues,” said Patricia Stoddard-Dare, Ph.D., lead author of the study and associate professor of social work at Cleveland State University. “Making matters worse, for those who lack paid sick leave, a day away from work can mean lost wages or even fear of losing one’s job. These stressors combined with other sources of stress have the potential to interfere with workplace performance and impact overall mental health.”
The researchers used the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale (K6), considered the gold standard for assessing psychological distress in population-based samples in the U.S. and internationally. With a theoretical range of 0 to 24, higher scores on the K6 represent increased psychological distress and scores above 13 are correlated with having a mental disorder of some type.
Results from the study showed that those with paid sick leave had a lower mean distress score compared to those without paid sick leave, who had significantly higher K6 scores, indicating a higher level of psychological distress. Only 1.4 percent of those with paid sick leave had a K6 score above 12 compared to 3.1 percent of the respondents without paid sick leave.
The most significant control variables indicated an increase in the expected psychological distress score among those who were younger, female, in fair or poor personal health, had at least one chronic health condition, were current smokers or did not average the recommended range of seven to nine hours of sleep per day.
Approximately 40 percent of respondents in the NHIS sample did not have paid sick leave; approximately half of the respondents were female; more than half were married or cohabitating; three-quarters indicated that their highest level of education included at least some college; and 62 percent were non-Hispanic white. The mean age was 41.2 years. Most of the respondents (79.1 percent) worked full-time and 82.7 percent had health insurance coverage. Respondents were in families with a mean size of 2.6 persons and 39.3 percent reported having children in the family. Approximately 32 percent had an annual family income of $35,000 to $50,000, and more than one quarter were below the poverty threshold.
DeRigne and Stoddard-Dare caution that even though there is concern about the potential burden on employers if paid sick leave laws are passed, it is important to be mindful of the overall situation regarding productivity loss and workplace costs associated with mental health symptoms and psychological concerns among U.S. workers. Furthermore, the personal health care consequences of delaying or forgoing needed medical care can lead to more complicated and expensive health conditions. U.S. workers with paid sick leave are more likely to take time off work and self-quarantine when necessary, without the worries of losing their job or income while also not spreading illness to others.
“Results from our research will help employers as they think about strategies to reduce psychological stress in their employees such as implementing or expanding access to paid sick days,” said Stoddard-Dare. “Clinicians also can use these findings to help their patients and clients as can legislators who are actively evaluating the value of mandating paid sick leave.”
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