This is something of a summary of the many definitions of leadership and it is indeed hard to define leadership effectively – James MacGregor Burns (1978) in his book Leadership, cites one study with 130 definitions of the term. One can point to examples of good leaders, e.g. Jack Welch, the head of General Electric, or Lou Gerstner as I.B.M. in the 1990’s, both of whom turned around the fortunes of their respective companies due to their effective leadership.
Effective leadership is therefore important in an organisation, but with so many different definitions as to what makes an effective leader, it surely must be possible to narrow down and focus the varying definitions so that one is able to functionally grasp an approach to leadership that is applicable in an organisational context. Handy (1993:97) points out that like motivation, the search for the definitive solution as to the idea of leadership has proved to be a kind of endless quest for the Holy Grail in organisation theory, but according to Fiedler (1967:108), ‘the acid test of leadership theory must be in its ability to improve organisational performance’.
We can then look at leadership in terms of improving strategies of management control and the refinement and use of day to day tactics for managers to regulate the workforce and its behaviour. We can therefore explore leadership more effectively by looking at what leaders do and what they are as well as looking at the notion that managers adopt different leadership styles. Linking this with other aspects to do with organisational analysis (e.g. the environment and culture), conclusions can then be drawn as to the implications and understanding of leadership in today’s global economy.
Mullins (1996:246) agues that Leadership is related to motivation, interpersonal behaviour and the process of communication. Good leadership also involves the effective process of delegation. The leadership relationship is not limited to leader behaviour resulting in subordinate behaviour. Leadership is a dynamic process Leadership then is virtually important in all levels of the company, be it from top management level right down to shop floor level. The leader needs to know how to visualise what is the best for the company and the employee and subsequently create a team spirit around him which fosters such achievement.
This helps to integrate the individual into the team goals of the organisation and stresses the importance of what people do. It should be noted that some contemporary debates focus on the difference between ‘leaders’ and ‘managers’. There are many arguments which suggest that managers and leaders are essentially one in the same thing, but I feel that an important distinction should be made between the two – Leaders decide where to go, managers are the ones who facilitate the following.
This is supported by the likes of Bennis and Nanus (1985) and Kotter (1990) – Kotter produced a useful table to highlight the differences between the two Management Leadership Planning and Budgeting Establishing direction Making detailed steps and timetables Developing a vision for the future for achieving results and plans for achieving the vision Organising and staffing Aligning people The allocation of tasks and staffing Communicating the vision so that to carry them out; also delegating others understand it and agree with it responsibility Controlling and Problem-solving Motivating and inspiring.
Monitoring the results of a plan, Energising people towards the vision identifying problems and solving them so that they overcome barrier Outcomes: order and predictability Outcomes: Change Produces predictability so that others Produces definite changes such as can rely on consistent results new products, or new directions This is an important distinction to make as it helps us understand what sort of person is required to be an effective leader and following on from that, what then are the different traits of leader and what impact do different leaders with different styles have on different situations?
One of the most widely used methods of analysing leadership is the Traits approach. This suggests that leadership consists of certain inherited characteristics, or personality traits, which distinguish leaders from their followers – the so-called ‘Great Person’ theory of leadership. This approach focuses attention on the man or woman in the job and not on the job itself. Empirical work has shown that certain characteristics are more prevalent in some leaders more than others – Lord et. al (1986) conclude that leaders tend to be more dominant, extrovert, intelligent, masculine and conservative than non-leaders.
Kirkpatrick and Locke (1991) suggest that leaders can be distinguished by the traits of self-confidence, drive, honesty, motivation and knowledge. Although the trait approach had seen significant revival in recent years, there is still no clear distinction between effective and non-effective leaders. Furthermore, Mullins (1996) argues that subjective judgement comes into play with this and that the list of possible traits is so long that there isn’t always agreement on the most important, but if one looks at Norman’s (1963) ‘Big-Five’ factor model of traits, one can suggest a more comprehensive framework for this type of analysis.
The work of Likert at Michigan and the Ohio state studies (Mullins, 1996) meant that rather than identifying people by their leadership traits, one could look at their behaviour and their styles in terms of effect on group performance. The Ohio studies indicated two dimensions of leadership behaviour – ‘Consideration’ and ‘Initiating Structure’. Consideration refers to the extent to which the leader establishes trust, mutual respect and rapport with the group, associated with two-way communication and the human relations approach to leadership. Structure refers more to how much the leader defines and structures group interactions towards the attainment of formal goals.
This aspect is organisationally focused to achieve organisational goals. The best known application of style approaches to leadership, is Blake and Mouton (1964) Managerial Grid (republished as the Leadership Grid in 1991), which focuses on concern for production and concern for people. The four corners and the centre of the grid provide five basic combinations of degree of concern for production coupled with degree of concern for people:
Blake and Mouton found that from their experience of using the grid, that the ‘team-manager’, while perhaps not an achievable style, is nevertheless worth aiming for. It is important to look at leadership style, because this can often affect production through people. The ‘9,9’ style of leadership correlates positively with bottom line productivity, ‘9,9’ orientated leaders enjoy maximum career success and there is now greater knowledge about the correlation between extreme grid styles of leaders, and mental and physical health.
The situational approach offers us a combination of the trait and the style approaches. Dawson (1996:223) wrote of this approach that This argues for a fit between leaders’ characteristics, followers’ attitudes and behaviour and situations in terms of task and organisational characteristics including history. Just as the search for one best way to organise was overtaken…by an understanding that organisational arrangements should fit the context, so there were parallel developments in the study of leadership.
This sort of approach to leadership was adopted by Fiedler, who poses the question as to what it is about leadership behaviour per se which leads to effective group working. Effectiveness is defined, in a very hard nosed way, as how well the group performs the primary task for which it exists. Focusing on the behaviour of the leader, Fiedler identifies two major leadership styles – Relationship motivated leaders and Task motivated leaders. Relationship motivated leaders get their satisfaction from good relationships with others. Their self esteem depends on how others regard them and they encourage subordinates to participate.
Task motivated leaders on the other hand, are strongly concerned to complete successfully any task they have undertaken. They lead by giving clear orders and having standardised procedures for subordinates. They feel most comfortable working from clear guidelines. The implications for Fiedler’s research, along with others such as Hershey and Blanchard (1988), shows that different leadership styles can be appropriate in different situations. Fiedler’s work in particular shows that the performance of the leader depends as much on situational favourableness as it does on the style of the person in the leadership position. The crucial factor is that the style of the leader and the work group situation should be matched.
In today’s economy, most of the thinking behind leaders fitting into situations has led to the development of the idea of transformational leadership and with this, we can then look at the implications leadership has as a whole, on other organisational processes. It was Burns (1978:227) who first coined the phrase transformational leadership and Bass (1990) notes that Superior leadership performance – transformational leadership – occurs when leaders broaden and elevate the interests of their employees, where they generate awareness and acceptance of the purposes and mission of the group and where they stir their employees to look beyond their own self interest for the good of the group Essentially, transformational leaders may do this in one or more ways – they can be charismatic to their followers and inspire them; they may meet the emotional needs of each employee; they may intellectually stimulate employees. Attaining charisma in the eyes of one’s employees is central to succeeding as a transformational leader.
Charismatic leaders have great power and influence and therefore employees want to identify with them therefore having a high level of trust in them. Transformational leaders are individually considerate, paying close attention to differences among their and acting as mentors to those who need help and development. Thirdly, intellectually stimulating leaders are willing to show their employees new ways of looking at old problems, to teach them to see difficulties in problems and to identify rational solutions. One of the most dramatic examples of transformational leadership in terms of organisational revitalisation in the 1980’s, was Lee Iacocca, the chairman of the Chrysler Corporation (Morgan 1989:163). He provided the leadership to transform a company form the brink of bankruptcy to profitability.
He created visions of success and mobilised large factions of key employees towards enacting that vision while also downsizing the workforce considerably. As a result of his leadership, by the mid 1980’s, Chrysler had earned record profits, had attained high levels of employee morale and had helped employees generate a sense of meaning in their work. Leadership then, makes its presence felt throughout organisations and their activities and it seems that employees not only do a better job when they believe their manager is a transformational leader, but they are also much more satisfied with the company. Transformational leadership does not however provide a universal remedy for all problems, nor is it necessarily best practice in all situations