Monday, February 1, 2010

National Park Rangers and Leadership

• Leadership is the activity of influencing people to strive willingly for group objectives. - Terry, G.R., Management of Organizational Behavior, p. 90

There are many academic definitions of leadership. I believe that the one above most concisely captures the essence of this many times attribute. Leadership is an essential skill for a successful National Park Ranger. Leadership for a park ranger must be learned, flexible, and adaptable to a varied spectrum of individuals and situations.

One needs to understand that leadership is not only established by administrative position. Being a supervisor or manager does not necessarily mean a person is making use of leadership skills and techniques. Often times individuals fall into the trap that they are leaders and should be followed based solely on their position in an organization.

Leaders can be found at all levels of an organization. The leader may be an employee that others look to for guidance or example. Here are some of the sources of power people use to influence others;

• Control of Information - to share or not

• Referent Power - what an individual stands for or symbolizes

• Expert Power - expertise, knowledge, and experience

• Reward Power - control of positive rewards

• Coercive Power - control of punishments

• Legitimate Power - organizational right as established by the institutions values

If you take an honest look at those you have worked with in the past that you thought of as good leaders, you may be able to trace the attributes that made you respect them to one or more of the above sources.

Not every person in every situation reacts positively to the same leadership styles and techniques. The successful National Park Ranger must become a master at assessing a situation and applying the appropriate tools from their leadership tool bag to control or direct a group toward a common result.

More on leadership to come.

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