Leadership and communication in regards to organization behavior

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Organizations have now come to agree that success does not depend only on their systems or processes but also and more so on the effectiveness of their workforce.

'Organizational behavior' is the study of how people and groups act in an organization. Its purpose is to study people-organization relationships and to build better relationships by achieving 'human objectives', 'organizational objectives', and 'social objectives'.

Organizational behavior comprises of a wide range of topics however I will be covering only a few topics here which include 'motivation', 'leadership' and 'communication' in this paper.


It is defined as "The forces within a person that affect his or her direction, intensity and persistence of voluntary behaviour."

Principles of motivation

a) Accuracy of Role Perceptions: Goal-setting Theory

In this theory role perceptions are people's beliefs about what they have to accomplish on the job and how they have to achieve those goals. Therefore people facing a task know what has to be done, how long it will take and who has to carry out the task. Hence this role guarantees that the energy devoted to the task will be directed at the right activity and will get the correct results, thus wasting unnecessary time and energy on unimportant work.

People should be committed to the goal so the goal should be set carefully because if the goal is too difficult it will be met with less commitment. The goal that is set should also be specific and it should clarify what is important and what level of performance is required to achieve the goal.

The strategy to accomplish the goal should be simple otherwise performance could decrease. This happens when people switch to a new strategy from one which they were used to. For example, if a person knows one word processing program he may be reluctant to try out a new one as he may feel his work will suffer.

Sometimes even committed people have their limits of performance giving you minimum results and will therefore not rise to the challenge of accomplishing the goal set. Setting a goal might work well for a simple job but not for one that is complex and difficult to sustain. It encourages game playing, in which employees work only when the job is goal-oriented and slacken off when it is not.

b) Abraham Maslow's Theory of need hierarchy

Abraham Maslow's theory of hierarchy of needs explains that there are two levels of needs - higher and lower - however the higher level does not apply until all needs on the lower level are met.

Therefore this means that if you have needs such as personal security or safety your biological needs must first be fulfilled. Without sleep we are unable to focus on any other needs, so the most important needs are ranked higher than others.

Maslow's needs are depicted in the shape of a pyramid:

1. The need of self realization

2. The need of esteem and appreciation

3. The need of proximity and love

4. The need of safety & security

5. Biological and physical needs, such as sleep, breathing, food, sexuality, etc.

The need of self realization - is the most important need. In order to achieve this need all lower needs should be fulfilled. This need - self realization - is about using your talents and abilities because you can and you want to. As a result of achieving this need you will be able to realize all your dreams and ambitions in life.

In short Maslow says that we first require to see our physical needs being fulfilled only after which can we achieve our dreams and goals in life.

However not everyone is able to achieve all the needs at the lower levels, you may get stuck at a need and skip it according to Maslow's theory. If you reach the highest level - self realization - before achieving other needs, you will be using your talents and abilities to compensate for lack of realization of other needs. You will be trying to prove to others that you are worthy in spite of love and appreciation (the missing needs).

Maslow's theory has been criticized in that his methods have been questioned. Not everybody requires all the needs listed in the hierarchy in order to reach the final need in a positive manner as some persons may use their talents and become the best that they are capable of without even any appreciation for it. Therefore his theory has not been proven scientifically correct.

c) Equity theory

J. Stacey Adams calls efforts, rewards and other similar issues in the workplace as 'inputs' and 'outputs'. Inputs are basically the effort we put into our work and output is what we get in return for our work.

These terms stress that what people put into their work includes factors besides working hours such as time spent on study for qualification, level of experience, etc and what people get in return includes things besides money such as status and promotion.

If a person puts in a certain amount of input and receives an output and feels that the input output ratio is not that beneficial as compared to others then it leads to de-motivation of employees.

Sometimes giving someone a promotion or a pay rise has a de-motivating effect on others. Some people reduce effort and application and become dissatisfied or sometimes difficult. Other people try to improve their outputs by demanding for higher pay, or looking for another job.

Critics have also argued that people might not only distinguish equity in terms of the inputs and outputs of, but also in terms of the overshadowing system that determines these inputs and outputs. "Thus, in a business environment, one might feel that his or her pay is equitable to other employees, but one might view the entire pay system as unfair" (Carrell and Dittrich, 1978).


Equity theory has several implications for business managers:

People determine the total of their inputs and outputs. This can mean that a working mother will accept lower pay in return for more suitable working hours.

Different employees give more importance to inputs and outcomes. Thus two employees having the same experience and qualification levels and performing the same work for the same pay may different opinions about the fairness of the deal.

Although it is acceptable for senior staff to receive higher pay, there are boundaries to the balance of the levels of equity and employees can find heavy executive pay very demotivating.

Staff opinions of inputs and outcomes of themselves and others may not be entirely correct and therefore these need to be managed effectively.

A good example of where motivation has been used can be seen in the case of 'Fortune 500'

'Fortune 500' is a list of companies ranked according to 'Fortune' magazine depending upon the gross returns of each company. Fortune 500 companies such as 'General Motors', 'Ford Motor', 'Hewlett-Packard', 'Dell', 'Intel' , 'FedEx', 'Microsoft', etc use various motivational techniques to help motivate their employees. These include:

Promoting a healthy balance between work and personal life in order to motivate them. Employees are offered unlimited sick leave, extra vacation time and more personal days so as to ensure a good balance between work and personal life. This motivational method can therefore be used to create a positive environment in the workplace.

'Fortune 500' companies also provide their employees with educational packages so they are able to complete a college degree or receive a new degree to advance in their careers. By using these packages employees get a better understanding of the business environment. Organizations sometimes provide on-the-job training to help employees improve work skills.

'Fortune 500' companies provide employees with a variety of incentives to drive them to perform better. These may include bonuses on the basis of work performance or increases in pay. Non-traditional incentives may include gym discounts and childcare reimbursement.


It is defined as "influencing, motivating and enabling others to contribute towards the effectiveness and success of the organizations of which they are members."

Principles of leadership

a) Trait theory

Early research on leadership found that those individuals who occupy leadership positions have exceptional leadership qualities as compared to those who are not leaders.

It was also found that if you are intelligent and fluent in speech then it contributes in a great way to leadership. Attributes such as the ability to show skill and diplomacy are also another form of traits that 'successful' leaders appear to have.

Ralph Stogdill(1974) concluded that 'specific patterns of traits appear to interact in a complex way to give advantage to an individual seeking a leadership position'.

There seem to be many criticisms to the trait theory.

Firstly research fails to consider the framework within which leaders find themselves.

Second it encourages inequality between the leaders and the others and does not give any importance to the followers in the leadership process.

Third, research is determined from a cultural point of view. For example Anglo-American and Asian scholars might have different views on positive leadership traits. In Asia people speak seven different languages, and are a part of many different religions starting from Buddhism to Hinduism to Christianity and Islam.

Those aspects that appear as positive for Anglo-Americans may appear as negative aspects for Asian scholars.

b) Path-goal theory

This theory states that motivation, job satisfaction and the performance of the members in an organization is all affected by the leaders. In the path-goal theory the leader's basic task is to smoothen the employee's path towards the goal.

Leaders use four types of behaviour styles to help employees in leading them towards their goals:

Directive style : used when he leader has to communicate work and maintain performance standards.

Supportive style : used when there is a need for the leaders to be concerned about the employees and support them in any way possible.

Participative style : used when leaders want to share decision-making power with employees.


oriented style : used when the leaders set motivating goals for their and expect high levels of performance and confidence from them.

The leader selects the style that is best suited and can help the employees to achieve their goals. Leaders can use many different styles to simplify the situation and apply the most suitable style.

It is a very difficult process since it takes into consideration many conditions and analyses those conditions to choose the most appropriate leadership style.

It is a real difficult task to analyse the various parts of the theory in 'real organizational situations'.

One of the main reasons for its criticism is that often the leader is placed with comparatively more responsibilities as compared to the employees. Thus it will increase the dependence of employees on leaders and hamper their independent growth.

c) Behaviour theory

"Behavioural leadership is the study of actions or behaviors that define a leadership style". this theory mainly focuses on the tasks performed by a good leader. Effectiveness in leadership can only be determined with the right behaviour. Theorists have said that in order for a leader to show this effectiveness, their behaviour must change according to that particular situation.

According to research programmes(University of Michigan and Ohio State University 1940), the researchers classified leadership behaviour into two elements i.e. 'task behaviour' and 'relationship behaviour'.

Task behaviour is concerned with determining the limit to which a leader would concentrate more on the quality of production or on the accomplishment of goals.

These behaviours are also known as "production-centred" and "task-oriented leadership styles".

Relationship behaviour exists when the leader communicates with his or her followers about their needs and problems and satisfying their needs and helping them overcome their problems.

However the behaviour theory has also been criticised as it does not show clearly how leader's behaviours are related to the performance outcomes. The relationship between production and relationship behaviours and performance results is quite unconvincing.

It has also been found that the behaviour approach like the trait approach lacks the ability to find simple answers to complex questions.

Furthermore researchers have concluded that there is no 'best way' to lead as it is believed that in order to show perfection of a particular leadership style it depends on the situation.

An example of good leadership where the Behaviour theory has been used is in the case of 'Costco'

Jim Senegal has steered his company 'Costco' to yield impressive results for the past five years. Costco is believed to be one of the largest warehouse club chain in the United States. Due to its success its revenues and stock are growing at amazing rates.

Jim is also better known as being very friendly with all the Costco employees. He is very simple with a name tag 'Jim' and also answers his own phone and not through a secretary, he also has a very simple office at headquarters which does not even have walls. Other CEOs may spend a lot of money to do up their offices but Jim allows himself a salary of just $350,000 a year. He did this because he did not want to be paid more than the other twelve employees on the floor. Although other CEOs of big companies get salaries in the millions he has a one page contract that also says he can be terminated for not doing his work.

His returns are the lowest in the retail industry five times less than Walmart his rival. Where other CEOs would not like to be seen earning less and not doing so well, Jim is 'different' and is loved for this by all his employees.

However if leaders do not behave ethically it can have the following implications:

Sometimes leaders behave unethically. This happens because leaders hold their interest as more important than other organizational stakeholders or prefer to ignore the damage they cause to others. Leaders must avoid behaving unethically due to the harm it causes others. When leaders behave unethically they risk losing their reputation (the high repute that employees gain when they behave ethically) in the workplace.

Shareholders need to protect their reputation because their ability to earn a living depends entirely on the way they behave on day to day, a week to week and month to month basis. Not behaving ethically can have serious consequences. A leader with a poor reputation will face difficulty finding employment with other companies.

If stakeholders find that leaders are behaving unethically then they might refuse to invest in that particular organization which as a result will become unpopular and will therefore put the leader's job at risk.


Communication is defined as "the process by which information is transmitted and understood between two or more people".

There are 3 kinds of perspectives on communication

a) Functionalist approach

The functionalist approach or mechanistic is considered as the major approach in management studies, and sees communication as a planned or an unplanned action. This approach views the organization as an individual unit and different communication acts help in shaping and determining the operations of that unit. Communication takes place as a chain where the weakest link determines the effectiveness. The functionalist approach views communication as a 'metaphorical pipeline' through which information can be transmitted between the sender and the receiver. Under this approach employees follow three basic means of communicating information.

Verbal : 'face to face department meetings', 'briefing groups',


Non-verbal : 'gestures and facial expressions'

Written : 'internal memos', 'notice board', 'newsletter', 'email'

b) Interpretivist approach

This approach tries to understand human communication as something in an organization rather than something that manages an organization. Interpretivists have said that human beings do not behave predictably as claimed by functionalists. Thus we might be able to assume how some people in an organization may react to a particular message in a particular way. Some employees will do one thing and some other employees something else when provided with information.

c) Critical approach

This approach wishes to reveal the hidden but 'pervasive' power that 'post-industrial' organizations have over their employees. The functionalist approach focuses more on developing the efficiency of the organization, whereas the critical approach is more focused on the communication process in the organization such as stories and metaphors as a source of power.

According to Lisa Chapman the main principles of communication to be bore in mind are:

Until and unless management fully understands and supports the fact that organizations require a lot of communication, the organization will remain affected. Very often management witnesses the need for communication by having to witness the lack of it.

Internal communication occurs effectively only with effective communication skills, including listening skills, speaking skills, questioning skills and sharing feedback. These can be perfected with regular practice and the important outcome produced is the fact that others value your hearing and you value theirs.

'Sound meeting' management skills too ensure effective communication in the workplace to a large extent.

One way of improving communication in an organization is that each person should take the responsibility to inform the other person when they don't understand a particular communication or could suggest how that person could communicate more effectively.

With today's increasingly varied workforce, you sometimes believe that you have successfully conveyed information to the other person, but you aren't aware of the fact that they interpreted you differently than you expected. Unfortunately, you won't be aware of this problem until you witness a major problem arising out of this confusion.

Another frequent problem is that the management sometimes does not value communication as important so they're not aware of what they have conveyed to whom even when they have expected everyone to know the information.

At times management i.e. leaders and managers assume that just because they are aware of some piece of information, then everyone else is too. Usually staff aren't aware of the information that the management communicates amongst themselves until and unless they deliberately convey information.

Communication problems can arise when inexperienced management interprets its job to be solving problems and if they're aren't any problems, then there's nothing that needs to be communicated.

There are communication problems when inexperienced management thinks that their only job is to solve problems but if there are no problems in the workplace then the management does not communicate with the employees leading to lack of communication

An example of good communication where the functionalist approach has been used to the utmost is that of 'Starbucks'

In 2008 Starbucks starting facing problems as it had experienced slow sales and a high rate of competition. But Starbucks recovered from its problems and did manage to travel all the way to success because Howard Schultz was able to successfully foster a two-way communication by using the 'functionalist approach' to communicate with his employees.

He started by predicting where should 'Starbucks' be heading and sent memos to all the employees.

He then communicated various transformation plans showing the changes that were required to be implemented to help the company recover. These transformation plans consisted of three main objectives which were

'to improve the current state of US business'

'to re-ignite the Starbucks experience', and

'To build for the long term'

These plans were executed by Starbucks over a period of time with the objectives that were borne in mind by the employees.

As a result Starbucks was able to enjoy a profitable amount of sales because of Howard's remarkable communication strategy.

However the functionalist approach could also be misinterpreted and used adversely as can be seen in the case of 'Toyota'

According to 'Deep Focus', an online magazine (January 27, 2010) 'Toyota seemed to be mishandling the communication of their safety issue'. Toyota had recently recalled a large amount of cars followed by a product sales and production stoppage. But a) They had previously released a video of their CEO Akio Toyoda claiming that this was not true and b) They communicated the production stoppage via the press.

When something like this happens everyone turns to the manufacturer and also to each other and when the manufacturer issues a press release, consumers are forced to discuss the lack of action with each other and when these people are connected via social networks such as 'Facebook', the number of discussions increases.

Where Howard Schultz used the functionalist approach to his fullest advantage Akio Toyoda used this approach to the detriment of the organization.


From the above three factors that I have touched on - Leadership, Motivation and Communication - I believe these will help immensely in improving the functionality of an organization. If you have an intelligent leader (a Manager) with exceptional qualities who can spur on his workforce with the correct motivational techniques and is able to communicate with them and through them to the business world at large, then you will have an organization which will keep on rising with a very content workforce that will be working hard towards its success.

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