February 11, 2022
Editor’s Note: Leadership and Performance Beyond Expectations, by Bernard M. Bass, (Free Press, May 1985) is a primary contributor to this column, as noted in the text.
If you could change your leadership style, would you? Do you think there is a reason to change? How did you learn your leadership style?
There’s a good chance you learned about leadership from your mentor, and it worked for them. Your mentor probably learned about leadership from their mentor. Learning leadership from your mentor may not be a bad thing, but there may be a way to make your leadership more effective. Maybe their leadership style was effective for them, maybe not. Maybe it was a different era, and we can no longer afford to do business that way. When I was a young sailor, I learned much of my leadership style from a fellow sailor who was everything you didn’t want in a leader. That’s why it’s important to reflect on leadership styles.
Let’s talk about leadership styles in the emergency dispatch realm. The Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) often has a hierarchy or chain of command married after the local law enforcement department, which is set up as a para-military organization. This hierarchical set up only seems to make sense due to the demands of the job that is performed. However, changing our view in regard to leadership style may get even better results. Instead of looking at leadership styles like we always have, we can look outside of our comfort zone and possibly make changes.
With every call you take you are exercising leadership. With every decision that is made in the PSAP, leadership is being performed. Bernard M. Bass developed the Full Range of Leadership Theory (FRLT). Bass divided the FRLT into three different leadership styles: Laissez-Faire Leadership, Transactional Leadership, and Transformational Leadership. You have probably seen all three at some point in your life. We are going to concentrate on the Transformational Leadership style.
Transformational Leadership: A style of leadership in which individuals stimulate and inspire followers to achieve extraordinary outcomes and, in the process, develop their leadership capacity by responding to individual followers’ needs by empowering them and aligning objectives and goals to benefit all stakeholders and the broader organization. This leadership style also includes the 4 I’s. (See Editor’s Note)
- Idealized Influence (II-A; attributed): Builds trust by inspiring power and pride in followers by going beyond individual interests and focusing on the interests of the group and its members.
Idealized Influence (II-B; behavioral): Acting with integrity, leaders talk about their most important values and beliefs, the moral and ethical consequences of their actions, and focus on a desirable vision of the organization.
- Inspirational Motivation (IM): Leaders articulate shared goals and mutual understanding while providing a vision to obtain goals and expectations.
- Intellectual Stimulation (IS): Leaders assist and encourage others to engage in innovative thinking and look to solve problems beyond the “outdated” way of thinking about current problems.
- Individualized Consideration (IC): Involves understanding and sharing in others’ concerns and developmental needs and treating each individual uniquely to maximize and develop his/her full potential.
The easy way to explain this leadership style is taking account of the individual’s and organizational needs.
Whether you are in a designated leadership position or not, you have the ability to be a transformational leader on a daily basis. As an emergency dispatcher, you will need to get the caller to trust you and share information with you—all while showing empathy so you can obtain the information needed to get the required help to them. As a leader, you have the chance to take care of your people while ensuring the needs of the community are met. Transformational leadership is more than making sure you have coverage in the PSAP; it is ensuring that your people know they are valued and appreciated.
We know that strong leadership is important to the success of an organization, especially in an organization like a PSAP. Often, we fail to look for ways to become more effective in our leadership styles. We are comfortable, we have always handled situations this way, and it worked for my mentor. Many times in the past, leaders have looked past the needs of the individual, but we can effect that change. Studies have shown that leadership can be learned. Leadership styles can be changed.
The most important aspect to this is the desire to make it happen. Take the time to see if you are part of the problem or a part of the solution dealing with the success of your PSAP in regard to leadership styles. Once leadership styles are determined in a PSAP, we can then look at organizational commitment.