Lesson 2: Using Power Effectively

Lesson 2: Using Power Effectively

There are so many descriptions and definitions of leadership that it is virtually impossible to discover one definition that is accepted by everyone. However, leadership is often described in terms of some type of power relationship between the leader and followers. By using the concept of power development and power sharing, we can gain a better understanding of what the leader can and cannot do for the organization. It comes down to realizing that a leader ’ s potential for success diminishes when his or her power is not validated by the followers in the workplace.

Dubrin (2007) believes that leadership involves the ability to acquire from the employees the respect and support that is necessary to accomplish the goals of the organization. Leaders may possess several types of power. Legitimate, reward, and coercive power are usually found in the leadership of a bureaucratic organization, and charisma and expertise are usually found in the leadership of newer, organic organizations. Charisma and expertise are highly valued in organizations experiencing rapid change, which probably includes the majority of businesses in modern America. These two types of power are usually found in the individual; they are not given to people along with a supervisory title. They are what make exceptional leaders.

The leader is responsible for creating a vision that the organization will embrace and that will encourage people to move toward accomplishing many goals, including a safe and protective place to work. If a leader has charisma supplemented by expertise, it becomes much easier to persuade employees to accept a new vision and the change it brings. Hammer (2007) argues that leaders are responsible for developing the culture of the company to emphasize accountability and for helping managers to develop an understanding of the need to be responsible for processes rather than
activities. In order to do this, leaders must foster the development of a bond between management and workers. Rice (2007), for example, argues that leaders need to be able to go beyond competence and be able to build bonds with employees and customers. These qualities are necessary to build the trust required to make great things happen.

For the business to succeed at accomplishing its major goals, leadership must involve the sharing of power with every worker in the company. There is no goal more important than keeping the employees of the company safe and healthy at work. Every worker in the company also shares in this responsibility for the safety and wellness of himself or herself and of coworkers while producing goods and services for the business. Leadership for occupational safety and health involves forming partnerships with all employees to reduce the incidence of threats to the workers ’ safety and health while at work. According to Dubrin (2007), the leader who is gifted with charisma has the ability to communicate a vision of a workplace that is capable of inspiring workers to accomplish the goals present in the vision. The vision articulated by the leader is capable of attracting others to want to be part of the vision. It brings workers together in wanting to be part of the successful completion of the vision.

Kouzes and Posner (1995) also discuss the leader ’ s role in enabling others to act. In the case of occupational safety and health this role is paramount because followers are the key ingredient necessary to make and keep the workplace free of hazards. Collaboration among managers and workers can build the spirited team that is so necessary to produce the extraordinary effort that will keep the workplace safe and free of disease. Manning and Curtis (2007) point out that clarity of purpose can result in decisions that inspire others to follow the vision put forth by the leader. This clarity of purpose allows everyone to understand the reasons for the decisions made by the
business.

The Institute of Medicine (2003) reports that small businesses employ more than half the workers in this country. One – third of all worker mortality occurs in workplaces employing ten or fewer workers. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health believes that this epidemic of mortality in small workplaces is a result of a lack of onsite occupational safety and health professionals and an inability to recognize and control workplace hazards. Compounding this problem is the fact that OSHA in recent years has gotten away from an emphasis on regulation and now favors a “ voluntary compliance strategy, ” defined as reaching agreement with industry associations to, basically, regulate themselves. This new strategy is fi ne for a large business with resources available to employ occupational safety and health personnel. The small business does not have the resources to police the workforce for hazards and therefore needs to provide its own leadership for hazard identification and abatement.

According to OSHA (2009b), a safety and health management system is “ an established arrangement of components that work together to attain a certain objective, in this case to prevent injuries and illnesses in the workplace. ” The elements of this system are all interrelated and require the involvement of management and employees because a problem in one part of the system will probably affect other parts of the system. The manager must supply the workers with the required resources and authority to discover the hazards in the worksite. Once the hazards are uncovered, the appropriate training must be given to all employees to prevent these workplace hazards from becoming catalysts for workplace health and safety problems. Measurement
of leadership effectiveness in this area is difficult. How do you measure that which didn’ t happen?

OSHA (2009a) points out that without strong leadership where top executives have not only up – to – date knowledge concerning safety issues but also the willingness to correct problems, these issues will never be resolved. A leader must show the resolve to accept nothing less than zero defects when it comes to health and safety. This requires a leader who has developed the appropriate leadership style to make the health and safety vision into reality.

 

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