Developing leaders

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Despite the vast amount of writing on the subject by both academics and practising managers, it is extremely difficult to give a precise and agreed definition of leadership. Nor is there agreement on one best model or style of leadership. If leading writers cannot agree on the nature or essential characteristics of leadership, how can we ever be certain about what makes an effective leader? What are your views? Discuss.

Introduction:

For various organisations today developing leaders has become a very important issue. There is an absolute need of leaders in times of change and uncertainty, even at other levels of management with rising expectations of people at work. - Adair. J. 1934. Shared beliefs, values and expectations in societies and organisations can be created by effective leadership and can modify interpretations and understanding of issues and events of their followers. Leadership is needed at all the levels of organisations and not just the top. The design of leadership actions is influencing people to modifying their behaviour. These influenced people can be referred to as followers, the two main reasons why they play an important role in the leadership process is: there is no leader without a follower; all leaders have been followers at some point of time. 'Leadership is a process used by an individual to influence group members toward the achievement of group goals in which the group members view the influence as legitimate.' -Howell. J, Costely. D. 2001. Destinies of corporations are not necessarily ensured by managerial leadership. Influencing thoughts and actions of other people inevitably requires the power of leadership. There are three risks that generate due as a result of such power. First, associating power in order to get immediate results; second, various ways people can lawfully accumulate power; third, loss of self-control to gain more power. -Harward business review

Models of leadership:

Trait Theories

The trait approach assumptions made after analysis of leadership is that certain characteristics such as personal, physical and social; are naturally present in leaders. In order to select the precise set of people to become leaders the assistance of these sets of traits and characteristics were recognized. Physical traits consist of being in late twenties or early thirties, enthusiastic, sharp, tall and striking. Getting an education from the right school and being socially well known are Social background traits. Social characteristics are inclusive of being appealing, delightful, charismatic, famous, helpful, and political. Personality traits include being self-confident, adaptable, assertive, and emotionally stable. Task-related qualities include excelling, acceptance of duty, taking initiative, and being focused towards results.

Trait theories are designed to trace down traits for selection of leaders since many situations are linked with traits related to leadership effectiveness. Tests and interviews are used in order to support the trait approach to understand leadership during the selection of managers. Trait theory has failed in identifying a set of traits that will give consistent difference between leaders and followers. There is no similarity between any leaders. In addition, none of the leader possesses traits in whole. Traits are suggested to be situation based if leaders are compared as per different situations. In order to take situational conditions into account, traits were de-emphasized.

Behavioural theories

Identifying determinants of leadership in order to train the people to be leaders was behavioural theorists' intension. Ohio State University and Michigan University conducted studies and identified two behavioural dimensions that point to two general types of leader behaviours. The first - employee orientation suggest emphasis on employee's feelings and interpersonal relationships. The second - initiating structure, or production orientation - suggested a focus on tasks with a view to attaining objectives. Dimensions most important for fulfilment and output were questionable in Research findings. Nevertheless, job contentment and high group productivity are associated with employee oriented leaders. -Armandi. B, Oppedisano. J, 2003

Theory X and Theory Y:

Leaders view employees in various ways which is depicted in Theory X and Theory Y. Mangers under Theory X have a belief that main motivation for employees is money and also that they possess poor work habits. Subordinates are dedicated workers, are supportive and mostly have optimistic approach; these are the beliefs of theory Y managers.

Theory X

  1. There is an inborn dislike among average humans towards work, therefore would try to avoid it if possible
  2. Because of this human characteristic of dislike of work, most people must be controlled, directed, and threatened with punishment to get them to put forth adequate effort toward the achievement of organizational objectives.
  3. Humans in general favour being guided, evade duty, have relatively modest aspirations and above all demand protection.

Theory Y

  1. In work, play or rest the physical and mental effort is same.
  2. There are other means to bring out organizational objectives than threat of punishment for external control.
  3. The rewards associated with a particular achievement have a relation with Commitment towards objectives.
  4. Under normal conditions an average human being learns to seek responsibility and not just accept it.
  5. In the population there is a wide distribution of capacity to put into effect a comparatively soaring level of thoughts and creativity in resolving organizational problems.
  6. The intellectual potentialities of an average human are semi-utilised considering the modern industrial life conditions. -enotes, 2010.

Contingency leadership:

Building on the findings from behavioural approaches, Fielder suggested that leadership styles were either relationship or task oriented. He created the least-preferred co-worker (LPC) questionnaire for managers to complete, to measure their leadership styles. Respondents were asked to describe the co-worker with whom they have worked that they liked the least by responding to a list of adjectives. If the least preferred co-worker is responded to in relatively positive terms (high LPC score), the style is labelled "relationship oriented." If the co-worker is described in relatively negative terms (low LPC), the style is labelled "task oriented". Fiedler believed that a person's leadership style was fixed, and that the right style needed to be matched with the right situation. Fiedler suggested three contingency variables for defining situations:

  1. Leader member relations: the level of assurance, belief and value leaders are given by their subordinates.
  2. Task structure: the degree of formalization and standard operating procedure in job assignments.
  3. Position power: the influence on power based activities of a leader such as appointing, dismissing, order, promotions and salary rise.

Each leadership situation resulting from these contingency variables could be classified as "very favourable," "favourable," and "unfavourable" for the leader. Task oriented leaders perform well in extreme situations that would either be very favourable or very unfavourable. Relationship-oriented leaders performed better in moderately favourable or moderately unfavourable situations. Because leadership behaviour is fixed, according to Fiedler, effectiveness could only be improved by restructuring tasks or changing the amount of power the leader had over organizational factors such as salary, promotions, and disciplinary action. - Howell, J.P. & Costley, D.L, 2006.

Path-goal theory:

Based on the expectancy theory of motivation, path-goal theory suggested that the leaders work is to support the followers achieve their goals, guide them through the right path to provide direction and assistance required to assure the compatibility of theirs and the organisations goals. Effective leaders' main aim is to clear the route in order to help their followers to go from point of confusion to where they need to be to achieve their goals. (Expectancy and instrumental linkages)

A leader's behaviour as a source of satisfaction and motivation is accepted by subordinates. The four possible leader behaviours are as follows:

  1. Directive: makes the subordinates aware of the expectations from them, programmes job and provides guidance regarding task accomplishment.
  2. Supportive: is friendly and demonstrates concern for employee needs.
  3. Participating: the subordinates are consulted for their suggestions; these are then used before coming up to a decision.
  4. Achievement oriented: has great expectations from followers as to performing to their best after setting challenging goals for them.

The assumption of Path-goal theory is that there are flexible leaders and they alter their style according to given situation. Behaviour outcome relationship of the leader is moderated on two contingency models, projected by the theory:

  1. Environment: outside the control of subordinates-task structure, authority system and work group; and
  2. Subordinate characteristics: locus of control, experience and perceived ability.

Environmental factors determine the type of leader behaviour required if subordinate outcomes are to be maximized; understanding of the leader and the environment depends on the personal qualities of the followers. Research has demonstrated that employee performance and satisfaction are likely to be optimistically influenced if either the employee or the work settings are compensated by the leader. -Yukl. G, 2010.

Situational Leadership:

The basis of Situational Leadership theory of Hersey-Blanchard is on the amount of (task behaviour) direction and (relationship behaviour) socio-emotional support which depending upon the maturity level and followers situation, must be provided by a leader. The extent up to which a leader gets engaged to spell out the individual group's duties and responsibilities is called Task behaviour, telling people different ways of doing it is included in this behaviour. One way communication is used in this behaviour by the leader. The extent of two way communications that the leader engages in is known as relationship behaviour. This behaviour includes supporting, paying attention and helping. The followers' maturity level should be determined by the leader considering appropriate style of leadership to be used in a situation, which the leader is aiming to achieve with his followers efforts. With the increase in followers' maturity level, task behaviour should be reduced by the leader gradually increasing relationship behaviour up to an extent where in a reasonable level of maturity is reached by the followers. The suitable leadership style can then be determined on the basis of identified maturity. -Yukl. G, 2010.

Transactional versus transformational leadership

Transactional leaders, guide followers by instructing them their requirements for the task in the direction of achieved goals. Nevertheless, followers are inspired to go beyond their self interest by those who are visionary and charismatic, for the betterment of the organisation. The followers concerns and developmental needs are give special attention by Transformational leaders, help them look at existing problems in a distinctive new manner, and are able to excite and inspire followers to achieve goals. The transformational leader has charisma but differs from the charismatic leader in that he or she encourages subordinates to question established views including those of the leader.

Overall research evidence (Hater and Bass, 1988) indicates that transformational leadership, on comparison with transactional leadership, has a stronger correlation with lower turnover rates, higher efficiency, and higher employee contentment. Superiors' view of Transformational leaders is that they are more competent, superior performers and more promotion based.

This discussion has focused on leadership as a personal characteristic that impacts others regardless of task or situation. Perhaps transactional leadership or those processes discussed in contingency theories are really focusing on being a good manager - matching behaviour to situations. The charismatic, visionary, and transformational leaders behave as such because they inspire or excite individuals to perform based on their belief in the person, his or her viewpoint, and/or vision for the future. These types of leaders are relevant to today's workplace which is characterized by flexibility, change, and innovation. - Armandi, B. & Oppedisano, J. 2003

Characteristics of a leader:

  1. Mission: Leaders are aware of their mission and existence of their organisation. A mission explaining clear, understandable and descriptive purpose of the organization is often written by a superior leader. Employees must identify this mission and struggle to achieve its targets.
  2. Vision: A vision based on the organisations target goals needs to be clear enough for encouraging people to imagine the possibilities and real enough to gain the followers confidence with a view to willingly achieve it.
  3. Goal: Functioning of goal should be measurable and specific like vision. In order to achieve your purpose output and results need to be measured readily; unaware of the true success pursuing a plan or strategy would be a waste of time, money, people, and equipment.
  4. Competency: Being an expert in leadership it is necessary to be noticed by your organisational staff, stakeholders and the public; being an expert in leadership. Unless you are noticed either by academic degree or specialized experience and have the ability to lead your company to success, it is going to be tough to be as much respected, admired or followed.
  5. A strong team: Effective teams of experienced, recognised, and capable individuals who can supplement any cancellations in the leader's skill set are assembled by a skilled leader. This ability distinguishes leaders from others. However, the leader must willingly accept his incapability towards certain jobs and find colleagues trust worthy enough to fulfil those shortages. The leader must understand issues and act on the created solutions after building the team.
  6. Communication skills: If the executive is unable to convey the mission, vision, and goals to the stake holders of organisations internally and externally, it is of no use to have them. He must contact key individuals through various forms of correspondence regularly. Face-to-face interactions, is the best way of conveying message to the people.
  7. Interpersonal skills: Leaders seem more approachable as they are comfortable with people and are more open than shy towards approaches. These qualities result in a better interaction with the staff. Employees are also motivated towards doing a better job. Such relation develops a belief that the boss is more concerned with them, their performance and output. Furthermore, a comfort level is generated towards resolving issues with the boss without the fear of consequences of unsolved issues.
  8. A "can do it" attitude: Almost everyone across cultures is motivated by the factor, Achievement. A person's credibility throughout the organisation increases if that person's vision is clear, can lead towards attaining goals and gains results in time.
  9. Inspiration: Employees need someone for guidance and motivation and the entrepreneur needs to act as one. There are times, when employees need to be inspired by word or action. Human Resources hopefully hire self-motivated individuals. The leader needs to step in at times to suggest or encourage employees in order to deliver optimum performance, despite the smooth running of production and service delivery.
  10. Ambition: Employees should always strive to achieve improvement and success; and the same must be portrayed by their leaders. Employees try to project goal oriented behaviour of the boss as he is someone who works to establish higher goals. -Entrepreneur, 2010

Leadership styles and effectiveness:

The styles and behaviours that a person learns are also as important as inherited personality traits. Regardless the opinion of others the goals are set up by strong autocratic leaders; their followers, without further questions are commanded to carry on the tasks assigned. However, Consultative leaders in their goal setting process request for their followers' ideas and opinions but the goals and tasks are ultimately determined by them. Democratic leaders have an equal participation in the decision making process along with their followers and leave the final decisions on the group. Laissez-faire leaders, give complete independence to its members to take whatever actions they feel necessary.

A research team led by Renis Likert at the Michigan University identified two distinctive styles after many years of study, which was referred to as job-centred and employee-centred leadership styles. The job-centred leader makes sure that specific procedures are followed by subordinates while performing their task. The behaviour of followers influenced by this leader depends on legal power, reward and punishment. The superior organizational performance can be achieved by creating a work enough which is supportive enough, according to an employee-centred leader. Ohio State University's leadership study group which was headed by Harris Fleishman, found leadership styles consisting of similar contrasts, which was referred as considering and initiating structure by them. The job-centred leadership style is same as structure commencing style, there is a similarity in consideration and employee-centred style of leadership. Both the research groups initially expected that a leader capable of demonstrating both high initiating structure and high consideration would in all circumstances be victorious and efficient. -Answers.com, 2010.

Conclusion:

The essence of effective leadership becomes difficult to identify due to the multitude of different theories. The conditions that create leadership acts need are taken care of at every level of management and in every subunit in large organisations. The leadership functions can be played by any member in the organisation, the leadership functions are mainly for people who are elected, appointed or informally recognized as leaders for a collective activity. Depending on the researchers' methodological preferences leadership has been studied in various ways and leadership definitions. Only a narrow aspect of leadership is dealt by most researchers, and most observed studies fall into distinct lines of research such as trait, behaviour, power and situational approaches. Theories can be differentiated on other basis through the relative focus on leader or follower. For many years leader characteristics was the main focus of any research and objective of leader influence, is what followers had been studied as. There is a need for a more balanced approach. Leadership effectiveness is evaluated by most researchers in terms of penalty for followers and stake holders of other organisations, but from researcher to researcher the choice of outcome variables has considerably differed. There are many important aspects in which criteria differ, including how urgent they are and whether their measures are subjective or objective. Multiple criteria must be taken into consideration when evaluating leadership effectiveness, in order to deal with the complications and diverse preferences of a variety of stake holders.

References:

  1. Adair. J, 1934; Developing leaders, pg. No. 1.
  2. Howell. J, Costely. D. 2001; understanding behaviours for effective leadership, 2nd edition, pg. No. 1-2.
  3. Harvard business review,
  4. Armandi, B. & Oppedisano, J. (2003), Leadership theory and practice: a "case" in point. Management decision, 41. Available from: http://www.emeraldinsight.com/Insight/ViewContentServlet?Filename=Published/EmeraldFullTextArticle/Articles/0010411012.html [Accessed: March 18, 2010].
  5. Enotes, 2010, Theory X and Theory Y: Encyclopedia of management. Available from: http://www.enotes.com/management-encyclopedia/theory-x-theory-y [Accessed: March 23, 2010].
  6. Howell, J.P. & Costley, D.L. (2006). Understanding Behaviors for Effective Leadership, 2nd edition, pg. No. 41-45, Pearson publication
  7. Yukl, G. 2010. Leadership in organisations; 7th edition. pg. No. 168-173, Pearson publication
  8. Yukl, G. 2010. Leadership in organisations; 7th edition, pg. No. 173- 179, Pearson publication
  9. Armandi, B. & Oppedisano, J. 2003, Leadership theory and practice: a "case" in point. Management decision, 41. Available from: http://www.emeraldinsight.com/Insight/ViewContentServlet?Filename=Published/EmeraldFullTextArticle/Articles/0010411012.html [Accessed: March 18, 2010].
  10. Entrepreneur.com, 2010, 10 Characteristics of superior leaders. Available from: http://www.entrepreneur.com/humanresources/employeemanagementcolumnistdavidjavitch/article204248.html [Accessed: March 23, 2010]
  11. Answers.com, 2010,Leadership: definitions, synonyms. Available from: http://www.answers.com/topic/leadership [Accessed: March 23, 2010].

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