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Leadership Style and Theory

Leadership Style and Theory

Leadership and Style Theory This assignment begins by describing some of the key ‘Style Theories’ of leadership that have been suggested over the sixty years. It then investigates the author’s own style of leadership by conducting a small piece of research using Blake & Mouton’s Managerial Grid (1964). The results from the completed questionnaires are then used to evaluate the author’s style as perceived by colleagues (the leadership team) and subordinates. A third set of results are then obtained when the author also completes the questionnaire to use as explore the possibility that others’ perceptions may differ from that of the author.

This analysis will then allow a personal reflection of the author’s own style to be undertaken and personal development needs to be noted. After determining the author’s style of leadership the assignment will ask the question “Is one style of leadership sufficient to address the needs of all management situations and of all people situations? ” This discussion will give examples of different situations and refer to the other theories that may support the author’s conclusions.

Many leaders, in the past, were born into leadership but there is no place in today’s society for leaders that have not earned their right to lead. The success of every organisation relies upon its leader’s ability. There has been a wealth of literature written about leadership and hundreds of definitions have been suggested. One such definition that is pertinent within schools is that; “Leadership is concerned with gaining commitment to a set of values, statements of “what ought to be” which then becomes the heart of the culture of the school. ” (Beare, Caldwell & Millikan, 1989)

Leadership is not about giving orders or directions. It is the influence of people that motivates them to achieve a shared purpose and it must be seen “as responsibility rather than rank and privilege” (Drucker, 1988) Leadership, however, is not to be confused with management. The two are intertwined, as leaders can be managers and vice versa but the actual concept of the two terms is different. Leaders must be able to motivate people. Their role departs from merely ensuring that tasks are performed to a recognised standard; this is the role of the manager.

It facilitates a culture that convinces people to strive to achieve, not just because of an obligation, but because they truly desire to. A good leader is able to persuade others that they are all working collectively toward the same purpose. They must also have the vision to develop an organisation. They must grasp opportunities and be willing to take risks to succeed. “Managers maintain things and Leaders change things” (Gillen, 2002 p. 43) One of the many theories that have been suggested is known as Style Theory. This theory is concerned with the behaviour that is adopted by leaders towards their subordinates.

It suggests that if a leader possesses the appropriate style of leadership then they will be able to motivate people beyond that of the minimum required. The leader, however, is not necessarily born with these qualities as Trait theory would suggest. They may be developed with training and experience. They can learn to become leaders. The heart of style theory is that people will respond to some styles of leadership better than they will to others. The four main styles that are suggested tend to fall into the following broad categories; concern for task, concern for people, directive leadership and participative leadership.

At one extreme a leader would give orders with no discussion or involvement of subordinates. This method of leadership was prevalent until the second half of the twentieth century. After this time other modes of leadership emerged. Many of the newer forms of leadership involved the involvement of subordinates in the decision making process, a truly democratic move. It is suggested that the behaviour of the leader will determine the success or failure of an organisation. The following paragraphs describe some of the theories that have been put forward about leadership styles.

Kurt Lewin (1944) suggested three styles of leadership that could be adopted by a leader; • Autocratic – where the leader makes all the decisions and all direction is given by the leader. This style is not generally considered to be the most effective means to maximise performance of a team. There are, however, occasions when this style may be appropriate. In an emergency, for example, it is useful to have someone able to take control and ensure urgent action is taken. One area where an autocratic style is still used to great effect is within the armed forces.

Here it would be completely inappropriate for group members to question decisions or directives made by the leader. Possible life and death situations like this require complete obedience of the followers if catastrophe is to be avoided. • Democratic – where the leader makes decisions by consulting the team. The democratic leader values input from his team, seeking opinions but still remain in overall control. The democratic leader is able to motivate individuals by empowering them to direct themselves. Laissez-Faire – where the leader exercises little control over the team, leaving them to organize their own work. The leader does not participate in this process and this may lead to a team with little motivation or direction. Douglas McGregor (1960) split organisations and leaders into two groups; the traditional ‘Theory X’ and the more modern ‘Theory Y. ’ • Theory X leaders believe that people have an inherent dislike of work and will avoid it if at all possible. They feel that most people need to be controlled, directed and threatened with punishment in order to persuade them to make any kind of effort.

They also uphold the view that the average human dislikes responsibility and has little ambition more than the wish to be secure. • Theory Y leaders, however, believe that the average person is willing to take responsibility and is quite capable of exercising imagination, ingenuity, creativity in solving problems and self direction to achieve company goals. It assumes that people work hard and desire to perform well. Theory X methodology still survives and an example of its operation is evident in many shop floor production line environments.

Individuals are given set tasks to perform and are not required to think beyond these tasks. Theory Y methods work especially well when managing other managers who, by nature of their position, tend to be participative. It can also be seen where the aims of the organisation and individual are integrated with a common aim. The two descriptions are extremes and the author believes that a combination of the two may be necessary to lead successfully because human nature dictates that there are both willing and unwilling people and an array of intermediate states.

Resis Likert (1961) conducted a great deal of research into human behaviour, particularly in industry. He asserts that good use of their human assets must be made. His work could be compared to that of McGregor (1960) but Likert divides his leadership styles into four main systems as follows: • System 1 – Exploitative autocratic is where decisions are imposed on subordinates and threats and punishment are employed. The leader displays very little confidence or trust in subordinates and does not attempt to seek any contribution from them. • System 2 – Benevolent autocratic is where some trust is evident.

The leader will occasionally seek ideas and opinions from subordinates. It exists in a condescending form and rewards are used to motivate. • System 3 – The consultative system is where leaders have considerable but not complete trust in their subordinates. The leader still continues to be in ultimate in control of decision making. • System 4 – The participative or democratic system is seen as the idyllic system. Here leaders demonstrate complete confidence in their subordinates. The leader actively seeks the opinions of subordinates and mutual goals are set.

These goals then become the goals of all the personnel and not just those of the leader. Likert’s (1961) ‘System 1’ can be directly compared to McGregor’s (1960) ‘Theory X’. Both demonstrate no trust in the individual believing that they are unable to suggest constructive ideas and are not willing to work. ‘System 2’ is a slightly more yielding approach to the same theory but the authoritarian style is still engaged. ‘System 3’ begins to compare with McGregor’s ‘Theory Y’ as considerable consultation and trust are apparent but the influence and final decision remains with the leader. System 4’, however, can be directly compared to ‘Theory Y’, where there are shared aims and the team work together to achieve them. Likert believes that most organisations are at system 2. 5. Statistics show that moving to the more ideal systems 3 or 4 could increases productivity by 20-40% and quality within the organisation would also improve. The additional benefit would be a more contented workforce. Blake and Mouton (1964) identified the five styles of management listed below. They set out to convey the idea that leadership styles are founded upon varying degrees of concern for people and concern for production. Country club management would be evident with high concern for people and low levels of concern for production. This leader would give a great deal of attention to peoples’ needs, interests and problems but demonstrate little concern for production. Without this concern for production, the organisation would become inefficient and would not survive. • Impoverished management would be typified by a lack of concern for both people and production. This style would definitely prove to be a recipe for disaster evident from poor performance and an unhappy workforce. Dampened pendulum or middle of the road management illustrates a moderate concern for people and production. This style would probably provide satisfactory results but it would never realise the full potential of the workforce or the organisation. • Authoritarian or task management shows a very high concern for production but at the expense of concern for the individual. This leader emphasises the achievement of objectives through management tactics rather then leadership qualities. • Team management is typified by very high concern for both people and production.

The leader’s objective is to create teams that work well together and share common goals. [pic]Figure 1 The Blake & Mouton Management Grid (Figure 1) is a tool designed to establish the leadership style of an individual. It is a graphical representation of responses received from a questionnaire. This questionnaire consists of a number of statements, about the leader’s behaviour, that are gauged as being true or false on a scale of one to five. The results are then divided into two sections; concern for people and concern for production and the total scores from each section are plotted onto the grid.

Their point of intersection reveals the style of leadership adopted. The perfect situation is achieved when there is a balance between task orientation, where the leader is concerned with the task in hand, and employee orientation, where the leader shows concern for people, providing support and encouragement. Likert’s (1961) ideal may not work for all organisations as it could be argued that production line working does not lend itself to this form of leadership as there is little opportunity for input by employees on the shop floor and a reward system may be better employed in these circumstances.

McGregor’s (1960) ‘Theory X’ ceases to exist in its original form. Employees will no longer accept threats in the workplace as a form of motivation. It is suggested that many people would place job satisfaction before that of financial recompense. It could therefore be argued that theories encompassing people’s self fulfilment desires and esteem needs play the more important part in the twenty-first century. To determine the leadership style adopted by the author, the managerial grid designed by Blake & Mouton (1964) was utilized as a basic research tool.

The questionnaire (Appendix I) was given to six leadership team colleagues and to six subordinates. The author also completed the questionnaire. This self evaluation was undertaken to give a basis for comparison with the results that would be obtained from the other two groups. The average scores from each set of results (Appendix II) were then plotted onto the managerial grid (Appendix III). These results were then compared to investigate the possibility that the three groups may each possess different perceptions of the style adopted by the author.

A score of 9/9 would be indicative of a perfect team leader. As can be seen by the average scores plotted on the grid (Appendix III), the author is perceived to be a ‘Team Leader’. The average scores were as follows; People / Task Self evaluation 6. 6 / 5. 8 Leadership team 6. 5 / 6. 8 Subordinates 7. 3 / 7. 2 It is interesting to note that the self evaluation produced the lowest scores with less concern for task than people. These scores were positioned in the lower portion of the team leader quadrant. The results indicate that the author is more people orientated than task orientated.

This result was a surprise because the author considers the task to be important than people. However, it could be suggested that perhaps these results reflect only the style that the author would like to adopt rather than reality. The next highest scores were from the leadership team, placing the author further towards into the ‘team leader’ quadrant with an almost equal score for both categories. The last set of results, produced from the subordinates, placed the author firmly in the centre of the team leader quadrant with a virtually equal score for both people and task.

The opinions of the subordinates in this exercise were a surprise to the author who had presumed that they would have given a lower people score and a higher task score. The author will now discuss some of the individual statements that were used in the questionnaire. Statement 2 (Nothing is more important than accomplishing the task) and 14 (Nothing is more important than building a great team) may appear to be a paradox but a good leader can achieve both. Indeed, one of the U. S. Army mottos is, “People and mission first”

The author scored reasonably highly for both statements showing that one can accomplish the task and also consider people’s welfare. When considering statement 10 (When correcting mistakes, I do not worry about jeopardising relationships) it might be thought that a ‘people person’ would receive a low score for this question as they would not wish to compromise relationships by criticising faults in others. The author would debate whether worrying about jeopardising relationships would benefit the individual. If a leader really cared about the person, would being friends be more important than guiding the person in the correct behaviour?

If the mistakes were not corrected then the individual would continue to repeat the error and consequently fail to improve. The response to this question could differentiate between the ‘country club leader’, who wishes to be friends with everyone, and the ‘impoverished leader’, who is afraid to rock the boat, from the real ‘people leaders’ who are concerned with coaching to improve the team. Statement 6 (I encourage my employees to be creative about their job) was marked highly by the author and the subordinates but not by the leadership team.

The fact that the leadership team have this perception does not directly affect the author’s role. It is important, however, that the subordinates feel that they are trusted and encouraged to develop their roles as this can only benefit the author as a leader. Statement 17 (Counselling my employees to improve their performance or behaviour is second nature to me) was scored much higher by the author than either the leadership team or the subordinates. This is an area that obviously needs to be addressed by the author.

Now that the author’s style of leadership has been determined as a team leader, does this one style equip him to deal with all eventualities? The author would argue that this is not the case. Support for this argument is evident from Blake and Mouton’s (1964) suggestion that leaders tend to have one dominant style but that many have a reserve style in the event that the first style is unsuccessful. A single style cannot create the perfect leader. We must consider two other theories that raise important points to concur with this statement; the ‘Contingency’ approach and the ‘Situational’ approach.

Hersey and Blanchard (1977) created the Situational Leadership theory and included four situational leadership styles: directing (or telling), coaching (or selling), supporting (or participating) and delegating. They believe that a situational leader adapts their behaviour to fit the current situation or the person being led. They identified four leadership styles described below. • The ‘Directing’ style (high direction, low support) gives defined roles and a great deal of direction to subordinates. This style is appropriate when dealing with inexperienced staff or when the work is menial or repetitive.

Being a leader in a factory where a production line environment is employed would require this style of leadership. There would be little opportunity for employees in this environment to become involved in decision making or to offer their thoughts on the running of the company. • The ‘Coaching’ style (high direction, high support) is useful for individuals that have moderate competence but lack commitment. This style can be employed to increase motivation and also to ensure the completion of tasks. The ‘Supporting’ style (low direction, high support) shares decision-making between leaders and followers and can be used effectively for individuals who are competent but lack confidence or motivation. • The ‘Delegating’ style (low direction, low support) can be employed for individuals who possess both competence and commitment. The leadership role then becomes one of facilitation rather than managerial. The Hersey and Blanchard model bridges the gap between style and contingency theories of leadership. It concentrates on style but also introduces situational factors into the equation.

This theory relies upon the leader being able to switch styles when appropriate and also need to be fully aware of their employees’ capabilities and motivational state. The object of these styles is to build the capability of individuals. Fred Fiedler (1967) brought together three situational variables to determine the most effective style of leadership to be employed according to the situation present at the time. • Leader-member relationships. Good relationships with a high degree of trust would be more likely to bring about support from the followers, whereas poor relationships may cause mistrust and an unwillingness to co-operate. The structure of the task. When the task is clearly stated with clear goals, methods and standards required then it is more likely that the leader would be able to exert influence over subordinates. If this is not the case then subordinates may feel lost and unclear of what is required, causing de-motivation of the followers. • Position power. The leader may have more influence over the performance of subordinates if they have been invested with a high level of authority. These three factors bring about favourable and unfavourable situations for the leader.

Good relationships with the subordinate, the task clearly stated and a high level of authority bring about a very favourable situation for the leader and a task oriented style can be effectively employed. This style can also be used when there is an unfavourable situation brought about by poor relationships with the subordinate, the task is not clearly stated and there is a low level of formal authority. When, however, the situation is neither favourable nor unfavourable then a person-orientated style would be more effective. It is clear from these theories that the adoption of a single style of leadership will not suffice.

A number of factors have to be considered before deciding upon the appropriate style to be employed. Although, in an ideal world, the team leader style would be the most effective style to adopt, there are many situations where this style would not be effective. Let us look again at the factory worker who may perform the same monotonous task day after day. What would motivate this person to produce more or to increase the quality of work? The author suggests that a reasonable working environment would help, as would a considerate and supportive leader, but the main incentive is usually finance based.

Many factories work on the basis that the more an individual produces the more they will be paid. Here ‘Transactional Leadership’ is also employed to motivate the workforce and an autocratic style is adopted. Rewards are given when output and quality are high. Even in education, where the work performed is varied and interesting, if the person feels undervalued in a financial sense then it would be difficult to achieve motivation. In the armed forces, as discussed previously, an autocratic style must be employed with clear roles and expectations defined.

An autocratic style is also required in an emergency situation. A fire within school would require strong leadership where the leader would make quick decisions and directives would be given and responded to without discussion. If a leader adopted a team leader style in a situation where an individual was accustomed to being told what to do, the individual may feel stressed and may actually prefer to be directed. The author suggests that a leader must be able to make use of various styles of leadership and have the ability to approach, and judge, each situation before adopting a style.

Further support to the theory that leadership style must be in a constant state of flux is given by McGregor (1960, p. 182) when he suggests that leadership reflects four main variables: • The characteristics of the leader • The characteristics of the followers, including attitudes and needs • The purpose of the organisation and the tasks to be undertaken • The environment, including social, political and economic forces Ultimately there are many different working situations and many different individuals whose requirements, aspirations and expectations can vary considerably.

It is the author’s opinion that a good leader must possess the ability and the flexibility to adapt and manage the style of leadership to accommodate individual situations. Bibliography: ADAIR, J (2002)Effective Strategic Leadership, Pan Macmillan Ltd. BLAKE, R. R & MOUTON, J. S (1964)The Managerial Grid, Houston: Gulf BLANCHARD, K HYBELS, B &Leadership by the Book, Harper Collins Publishers HODGES, P (1999) COLE, GA (1996)Management-Theory and Practice, Continuum DAFT, R L (1999)Leadership Theory and Practice, Harcourt Brace College Publishers

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