Leadership Styles of Team Leaders
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Published: Wed, 14 Mar 2018
1 Executive Summary.
The Leadership assignment has given the opportunity to review policy of the role of team leader. This report concentrates on two production lines within the Sherburn plant raising the question are there similarities within the site, divisionally and other divisions within the Group. This assignment indicates a more Strategic plan should be considered, reviewing the level of support or currently available to the team leaders and to promote optimum performance from themselves and the followers they lead.
Team leaders seemingly have been selected for their expertise, currently there are few, if any followers emerging as potential team leaders, therefore companies reliance on the pool of people available in previous years if far less certain.
Has the strategy in previous years been successful? Or was there an element of good luck, rather than good management. The company should consider succession planning growing our own staff and managers and leaders in house. This will require investment and training at the grass root level while also allowing further consideration on recruitment policy for new employees entering the company at shop floor level.
As a result of a strategic review, the role of the team leader may emerge over the next few years as more of a coaching and mentoring role, exploiting their knowledge and experience to others in the workplace.
The aim of this leadership assignment is to reflect on the current leadership styles of team leaders, focusing specifically on the two Composite panel production lines at the Sherburn facility. The company historically has relied on promotion from within when it has needed to fill team leader vacancies. There is concern however in the senior management team that there will not be suitable candidates available in the current cohort should an increase in shifts arise. In recent years, there has been an embargo on employing staff on a permanent basis, instead relying heavily on agency staff.
Until the recent economic downturn the company had enjoyed growth over the last 10 years. However it has still not implemented a clear policy for recruitment to the shop floor from external candidates. This has created advantages for promotion for existing permanent shop floor workers, however a recent high turnover of staff due to transfers and redundancies may now have left a void of suitable personnel.
This assignment will examine the company’s strategy regarding team leaders highlighting current good practice, for example loyalty and experience, whilst also suggesting a strategy to build on their leadership responsibilities. Also specifically looking at their role within the workforce and how this can be developed to enhance the production team.
A production shift consists of 12 operatives inclusive of the team leader. Production increased during 2007, and it was necessary to have seven separate 12 hour shifts in operation. This was based on a permanent workforce of four shifts, whilst the extra personnel were sourced from local agencies. At present the lines are operating with a core workforce of three shifts, but this has recently been augmented to five shifts. Again the balance of the work force has come from utilising a local employment agency. The current lean structure has emerged as a result of internal cost reduction, as well as a transfer of key staff into new company ventures. In 2004 a more strategic move was made to bring the site into the Panels Division, and by the end of 2009 the plant had emerged more streamlined, with all areas of business reporting into the Divisional Operations Director.
In previous years the site has benefited from investment in new plant and products, and in particular the main focus of attention has been on the two composite panel production lines. Composite panel production is still Kingspan core business, and benefits from expertise both in manufacturing and sales. In previous years each line had its own production manager, although currently both lines are managed by one manager. This has been as a consequence of not replacing one of the production managers after he was successful in gaining promotion as Operations Manager in Kingspan USA. In addition, a former Operations Manager has recently been appointed as Operations Director in Kingspan Australia. Other staff changes have included Team Leaders from the Sherburn site being seconded to plants in Australia and Belgium during the recent economic slow down, although this has been for a relatively low volume of time.
3 Literature Review
The literature available on leadership is extensive, and continues with the theme of the question which is “To develop and Identify appropriate styles for team leaders”. Some of the selected theories are particularly relevant to the findings identified during the assignment. Far more extensive opinion is available and (Shackelton, 1995) suggests one of many definitions, “Leadership is the process in which an individual influences other group members towards attainment of group or organisational goals”.
3.1 Leadership Models
Table adapted from (MSc Acktiv, Direction, Leadership Styles, page 1)
Transactional Leadership.(Bass, 1999)
Goal Oriented, Objectives, Compliance.
Transformational Leadership (Bass, 1999)
Charismatic, Vision, Emotional awareness
Subordinate trust and willingness to follow
Many leadership models are based on the research by Bass on his theory of Transformational and Transactional leadership. In addition the following review of styles has been selected as they broadly distinguish the difference between an ‘Authoritarian’ or ‘Democratic’ type of leadership. All of the styles noted are dependent on the situation in the workplace.
Table adapted from (MSc Acktiv, Direction, Leadership Styles, page 9)
Source (by year)
Work Related and/ or Authoritarian, Autocratic
Person-Related and/ or Equalitarian, Democratic
(Tannenbaum and Schmidt, 1958)
Leader Control, Shared Control,
Shared Control, Group Control
(1998) John Adair
Contingency Approach, Situation
Group Needs, Individual Needs, Task Needs, Situation.
3.2 X Y Theory.
Almost 40 years ago Douglas McGregor (1960) introduced his X Y Theory in his renowned book “The Human Side of Enterprise” in which he explained his behaviour based theory. McGregor was able to identify two contrasting sets of assumptions people make about human nature, these sets were named Theory X and Theory Y. This theory was based on two basic approaches to people and can be applied to all levels of the workforce. Bennis (1960 cited in McGregor 1985) Foreword vii “Theory X and Theory Y certainly existed before McGregor. But he named them, labelled them”.
Research suggests a Theory X Manager can possess a more pessimistic view of others, and this style makes assumptions that people are not fully motivated to work. According to (Kopelman et al., 2008) Theory Y assumptions are based on employees “(1) that individuals are not inherently lazy, (2) capable of self direction and self control (3) capable of providing ideas/suggestions that will improve organizational effectiveness”. Therefore these personal attributes suggest that with the appropriate style of management and objective, the individual is more likely to participate in “decision making, personal and organisational goals”. In contrast (Kopelman et al., 2008) the Theory X style reflects the opposite and negative view, “that employees are lazy, are incapable of self direction and autonomous work behaviour and have little to offer in terms of organisational problem solving”
3.3 Continuum of Leadership styles
The model is based on the principle between the level of freedom that a manager chooses to give to a team, and the level of authority used by the manager.
(MSc Acktiv, page 5, Leadership Styles)
This simplified model shows that as the leader allows the team’s freedom to be increased, the role and authority of the leader within the team becomes less. (Tannenbaum and Schmidt, 1958) explain that a manager preferring to use the left hand side of the scale exhibits a high degree of control. In contrast the right hand side of the scale demonstrates the manager who has released that higher degree of control. Research suggests although most subordinates prefer to have a more democratic style of manager, most believe that their managers operate in an autocratic style.
As well as considering the different types of leadership, it is also necessary to identify any other factors that could influence how to manage a workforce, three areas of which are particularly important
Forces in the Manager.
Forces in the subordinates.
Forces in the situation.
(Tannenbaum and Schmidt, 1958) go on to suggest a manager’s ability to pursue a longer term strategy is often restricted by dealing with the day to day problems. If a manager was in a position to pursue a longer term strategic view and the following points would be paramount.
To raise the level of employee motivation.
To increase the readiness of subordinates to accept change
To improve the quality of all managerial decisions.
To develop teamwork and morale.
To further the individual development of employees.
This model suggests that the manager’s choice of style within the range will be highly dependent on the work environment, the manager, and the followers.
3.4 Five Bases of Power
(Shackelton, 1995) raises the question that “what sources of power do people have at their disposal and from where does that power eminate”. Perhaps the most recognised model being the Five Bases of Power introduced by (French and Raven, 1959) The model is based on five general sources of power (Stodgill, 1974) refers to the five kinds of power.
Reward power: depends on ability of A to provide rewards for B.
Coercive power: is based on B perception that A can provide penalties for nonconformity.
Legitimate power is based on the internalization of common norms and values
Referent power is based on B’s identification with, or liking for member A
Expert power is based on B’s perception of A’s competence.
(French and Raven, 1959) proposed the idea there are divided into two main groups; these are described as personal (expert and referent) Expert power is the power of knowledge, this power base although not always limited to the leader, for example new leaders are sometimes dependent on the expert knowledge of the followers, a competent leader would consider additional training to fill the knowledge gap. Referent power is more dependent on the relationship between the leader and the follower, this relationship may be built on over a period of time.
(legitimate, reward and coercive) Legitimate power is mainly dependant on a person’s organisational role, often exerting power through requests or demands. Reward power exists through the power of been able to give a raise or promotion, or often simply paying a compliment to an employee. Coercive power is the opposite of reward power, summarised as an ability to control others in a negative or fearful manner.
3.5 Action Centred Leadership.
Perhaps one of the most influential Leadership writers John Adair is most recognised for his famous “Action Centred Leadership” (ACL). John Adair’s theory is symbolised by the three interlocking circles describing the balance required between the main three elements.
This contingency based theory of Leadership focuses on the situation to influence the style required, Charles Handy (Handy, 1993) describes the Adair model by emphasising “the importance of distinguishing the individual from the group”. Handy summarises the need for a functional approach which has eight elements, explaining the situation must dictate the leadership style used, and this style should be developed to include the needs of the followers.
Defining the task: Evaluating;
Planning; Setting an example
In order to identify individual styles of leadership, production team leaders were given a questionnaire to complete, team leaders based in the despatch, maintenance and offline departments were also invited to complete the questionnaire in order to establish a more balanced view of the associated departments. The objective of the questionnaire was to obtain a brief overview of attitudes and opinions, with the intention of further discussion after the report had been submitted.
4.2 Company background.
The Kingspan Group is an Ireland based company that was founded in the late 1960’s as a small engineering business. The Group was initially involved in the manufacture of steel frame buildings, but has expanded over the years and now operates through four business sectors including insulated panels and boards, off-site and structural, environmental and renewable, and access floors. The company primarily operates in Europe and the US, and currently employs approximately 6,700 people, and states that its ambition is “to be a global leader in sustainable business and establish a leading position in providing ethical renewable and affordable best practice solutions for the construction sector”.
The Group’s Annual Report 2009 states that they had a difficult year, with turnover dropping 33% to €1.125 billion, and operating profit falling 60% to €62.7 million, (Datamonitor, 2010) however the management team feel they have continued to achieve a number of successes, and feel confident about the future.
This assignment however is focused specifically on the Sherburn site, which is part of the Panels Division. This plant dates back to 1947, and was bought out by the Kingspan Group in 1998. It is located in a rural area of North Yorkshire, and is approximately 30 miles away to the nearest major urban area and motorway network.
Overall the Division operates across 14 locations comprising of 5 manufacturing sites and 9 sales offices. In 2009 divisional turnover was €449M. The Sherburn site contributed €79M, representing 18% of the divisional turnover. Sales were predominantly through the UK and Benelux markets. There are three product streams on the Sherburn site, and the turnover was split between Panel 65%, Structural 25% and Fabrications 10%.
Key commercial issues facing the Division include the general economy; availability of credit customers and main contractors; price erosion, as well as increasing raw material costs leading to a squeeze on both volume and margins. Significant key performance indicators are plant utilization, rejects, line speed, material variance, labour variance, and metres produced.
The respective management team members including Materials, Health & Safety and Production were also included in the survey to provide a comparable view between team leaders and managers. Although the report is specifically focused on team leaders’ leadership styles, the comparable attitudes are likely to have a direct effect on how much scope a team leader has available. I included myself in the management survey. Only production team leaders were informally interviewed, but discussion with the Production Manager was also included regarding recommendations. There were no formal introductions needed for the assignment. All observations related in the findings are based in the workplace. I have known the team leaders for a number of years as my current role as Quality Manager requires almost daily contact.
Further Information was obtained from the Personnel department regarding the organisational structure to identify the total number of team leaders on the Sherburn site. Currently there are 215 full time employees, of which 169 staff report to the operational side of the business. This number includes 24 team leaders. The ratio of current agency staff to permanent staff in the assignment area is 50%. The need to introduce a 5th shift has arisen during the assignment. Due to a flexible shift agreement, one weeks notice is required to communicate a shift pattern change. In March 2009 there were significant redundancies on the site which included permanent operators in this area. Company policy dictates that there is no ‘last in’, ‘first out’ agreement, therefore encouraging volunteers. The majority of the redundancies in the assignment area therefore were volunteers. The perceived advantage is that people have a financial incentive to volunteer for redundancy, leaving more opportunity for the people who want to remain working for the company. However one disadvantage has been that a number of competent operators took the voluntary package. It has not been possible to obtain an up to date job description for team leaders however as this is currently under review.
This particular questionnaire was selected as it provided a straight forward, basic line of questioning to help the understanding and application of McGregor’s XY Theory concept. The questionnaire should be viewed as a reflective tool as well as a learning aid and broad indicator. I offered little explanation as to the theory behind the questions, and also advised that questions are not given a great deal of thought but should be answered spontaneously. I also reassured all participants that there is no right or wrong answer and individuals that their responses would be confidential to me and they would not be named in the final analysis. As a result I am satisfied the all people contributed effectively to the survey, and therefore I would expect the answers to be credible. The questions focused on their individual preference of how they would view a situation, and the style in which they are managed. In addition questions asked how they would prefer to be managed, with the latter giving an insight into the personal preference of management they may adopt. An example of the questionnaire is attached as Appendix 1.
Question 1: “To indicate whether the situation and management style is X or Y”
Question 2: “To indicate whether the person prefers being managed by X or Y”
questions are sourced from (Businessballs)
0 – 15 = Strongly X Theory Management, 16 – 44 = Generally X Theory Management
45 – 59 = Generally Y Theory Management, 60 – 75 = Strong Y Theory Management
The findings Appendix 2 suggest the team leaders believe they are managed by and work in a more autocratic, transactional environment. (McGregor, 1985) argues this situation could reduce the overall leader’s ability to influence the team leaders, and in turn produce the opposite effect restricting the team leaders with the opportunity to influence the Manager. Interestingly, the view of the management team members working both indirectly and heading this department, believe they offer team leaders a more Theory Y democratic style of management. Although this view may have been expected to some extent, as the majority of both team leaders and managers questioned would prefer a more Theory Y democratic work place environment. This demonstrates the team leaders and managers generally are of similar opinion.
Research suggests many managers tend towards Theory X, and generally get poor results. More enlightened managers use Theory Y, which produces better performance and results, and allows people to grow and develop. It is likely in reality that few of the managers have much personal insight into this theory and are therefore unlikely to display those characteristics by choice.
5.1 Style of Leadership
Leadership has many levels for example from the head of a government, to a person running a small team. This assignment is limited to a small area; however the Leadership qualities and style of the Team Leader will greatly influence the performance of the department, division and company as a whole. (McGregor, 1985) page 189 states that”if leadership is a function – a complex relation between leader and situation – we ought to be clear that every promising recruit is not a potential member of top management”. He further explains that Leadership is an essential role across a wide range of management positions within the wider company structure, and some individuals are able to prove to have “outstanding” Leadership abilities. He also raises an important observation that many of these individual leaders would not be ideally suitable or successful in more senior management positions within the company. This observation can be applied to the Sherburn site plant currently operating a multi 12 hour shift pattern, 24 hours a day over 5.5 days with a total of 156 production hours. In reality the Team Leader is the most senior person on site for up to 60% of the total shift hours. The Leadership required for this role can require many aspects of unforeseen issues and the Team Leader will be expected to posses problem solving skills, as well as support for the followers who are dependent on their leader as the leader is also dependent on the follower, the Team Leader. This assignment is based on the Team Leaders who are regularly the most senior management for the majority of the hours available during the week.
5.2 Preferred Style
The findings suggest that Team Leaders are reacting to the situation and the majority score their preferred style as Theory Y, suggesting they have a transformational attitude. (Bass, 1999) in his introduction describes “Where as transformational leaders uplift the morale, motivation, and morals of their followers, transactional leaders cater to their followers’ immediate self interest”. Although the opportunity is limited, these qualities and outlook can substantiate how the Team Leaders can respond to a change in shift pattern and personnel within a short notice period. They use a transformational approach to organise the core team to retain the efficiency of shift and plant performance. The skills required, particularly when the core knowledge of the shift is diluted to man the extra shift, perhaps helps explain part of the reason why all current Production Team Leaders have been promoted from within the company. There is a requirement for the Team Leader (Stodgill, 1974) for expert and referent power, which is often grouped and referred to as personal power and is a useful Leadership quality to possess during the short notice situation changes encountered by short notice shift pattern changes.
5.3 Current Situation and Style
The team leaders generally believe they are operating in Theory X style environment. Current policy is as a result of uncertain market conditions, consequently for this reason the company is understandingly reluctant to commit to a longer term plan. (Tannenbaum and Schmidt, 1958) suggest the benefits to a “long run strategy”. The current ratio of agency staff stands around 50%. Likewise core skills required to run the line could only be described as adequate. Furthermore this may only be a short term solution to run with this ratio of agency workers, but even so this is functional and keeps within operational overheads. Inevitably this situation cannot be described as best practise. Could it be that there is little management theory in application and the situation for recruitment and promotion is simply circumstantial and organic ie by good luck, rather than managed and even less obviously led. For the team leader to establish the four components of transformational leadership, communicating a vision to the full shift is difficult, however charismatic the leader maybe. Even so despite this situation that the team leaders offer leadership, performance targets are generally met. As a result of the high percentage of agency staff the situation dictates the Transactional view discussed. There are also other less visible performance targets that do not receive the attention that may be beneficial to the company, both in terms of performance and quality.
In other words if the situation was based on a longer term strategy, enabling both team leaders and followers to emerge, the change in the situation could start to filter through into the workforce structure thus starting to enable a more democratic environment. Although during selection for the suitability of the individual, expertise and experience may have been the overriding consideration rather than an assessment of leadership skills, this scenario is likely to be no different from many other companies in this sector. (Zaleznik, 1977) asks “What is the ideal way to develop Leadership” and he suggests “every society provide its own answer”. Describing most companies as following a relatively conservative approach to leadership through succession to power rather than the development as a Leader. As discussed, team leaders due to the responsibility during out of hours shift pattern demands, should not be classified as merely working foremen or first line supervisors, even on occasion as a consequence of short term planning working on the shift due to a lack of trained operators. Their role of team leader could be classed as a junior management level, and in reality has little real organisational influence other than the role of ensuring the production target is achieved. If a more strategic view was developed it could ask if our current team leaders might be capable now, or in time with support and managed direction, to deliver increased leadership.
This current embargo policy limits the role of the follower, however there are exemplary followers in the work place, and the team leaders rely on this core group to operate this key areas of the line, (Amabile et al., 2004) describes “Followership has to be addressed by the respective leader. As followers are of different types, the leader has to look into their roles in a team to strengthen the team effort.” Likewise this idea highlights the problems of building interaction between the followers within the team usually with a high percentage of agency staff. Although not typical, one of the agency workers has been employed through the agency for three years and during this time he has established himself as a competent main line operator. Furthermore this argues the point some agency employees can also be classed as exemplary and in fact are essential to the overall team. As (Hughes et al., 2009) points out the follower is as essential to the leader, as leader is to the follower. This relationship has built on the shop floor over a period of time, where each can learn to observe the others style and personality, to help each other in accomplish the team targets.
The turbulence over the last 18 months does not appear to have had an adverse effect on team leader morale, although frustrations are evident primarily due to a reduction of shift operators as a cost reduction exercise.
Forming a team is fundamental to ensure efficient running in this type of production environment. Particular core skills to facilitate this production target are required. The need for team leaders and operators to be multi skilled has recently been highlighted to a greater extent, as the shifts now move personnel between the 2 lines to maintain labour variances targets and Key Performance Indicators. This plant operates 24 hours, and relies on a minimum of 12 operators per line to ensure compliance to Operational, Safety and Quality Standards.
There is a dependency on full attendance and adherence to planned holidays, although of course in the real world unforeseen absence is inevitable, however this assignment has highlighted a lack of training for main line functions within the shift personnel. Therefore we should review our operational training matrix, based on five shifts in the short term, but also six shifts for the longer term, thus starting to change the current short term outlook to a more strategic plan. This will enable the team leaders to train and mentor within the shift. A budget to support internal training is required.
A review of the team leader roles and responsibilities is required, particularly as team leaders spend much of the time reacting rather than planning. As previously stated the company has relied on experience and promoted from within, but there should be consideration given to opinion on suitable candidates in the current workforce.
The role of the shop floor operator should also be reviewed. During my assignment I was surprised to discover one of the agency employees who perform a main line operator function has been employed through the agency for three years. This example is perhaps typical why a more transformational based style of management would not be achievable in the short term. This also highlights the need for a longer term strategic view, taking into consideration the components needed to enable a core group of followers and team leaders to develop together.
These suggestions will be a departure from what has understandably been a difficult time due to the economic slow down, however there are reports within the company of recovery. The long term order intake is currently the highest since 2008, although the economic climate is far from secure. This situation should be closely monitored, as the economy improves a strategic plan will be in place. From experience the order requirement can increase very quickly.
The Sherburn production facility is considered the most flexible within the division, as there are eight products produced on two production lines. The need to develop increased product changes with shorter production cycles has challenged the leadership to be more focused. This remains one of the key challenges the team leader faces, having to respond to the constantly changing production programme, with a possible high percentage of inexperienced agency staff. Therefore a review of current skills within the shifts is required to enable team leaders to maximise the efficiency of their shift.
As the company expands and recruits more personnel, during the selection process this structured approach should give consideration that all candidates should be viewed as potential team leaders. This may lead to an additional role for current team leaders who this will be to offer support and help mentor new recruits.
On reflection my first assignment at this level is very different to both in my previous shop floor supervisory, management positions and current quality role. I have only ever been previously able to apply practical experience to report writing; this concept has tested my abilities. I sense my attitude is changing, to reflect on the subject matter learnt over the last few months. At times during writing this assignment I have had to regroup, keep calm, move on, and start sections again. The learning is been used in the workplace. The next assignment is an opportunity to learn from this experience, work with a more structured approach, having overcome the initial step.
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