Leadership theories refers to the approach that a manager adopts in order to exercise authority in the work place and be able to direct staff towards meeting the organizational mandate as outlined in their job descriptions. It is the way that a manager resorts in order to discharge all the sum total of responsibilities that entails management and leadership. Leadership theories have just recently been advanced and well understood, earlier literature that is available which attempted to identify and classify leadership theories focused on personality aspects that defined leaders and which defined followers. It was not until 1939 when, Kurt Lewin as the lead researcher was able to provide a well documented and thorough research of leadership theories at the time in a study that formed frameworks and references of future studies in leadership theories and styles. The results and finding of the research were published in the U.S Army Handbook.
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Current available literature on leadership theories in the context of modern organization is still varied in terms of the number of the main leadership theories. In the journal of Harvard Business Review, Schmidt and Tannenbaum has summarized the four common leadership theories that can be identified in modern organizational leaders.
First theory of leadership is referred as Autocratic or authoritative style, as the name would suggest it refers to an approach where a manager maintains and run an organizational with a tight leash on the apparatus of power. A manager is this type of style expects his word to be law and employees do not have room to present their suggestion for consideration. Decisions are made at the highest level of an organization and handed down through established protocols to be implemented across the appropriate levels by the employees through existing organizational procedures. In this type of leadership motivation among employees is very minimal or nonexistent and the techniques that are used to provide motivation apply a combination of threats and promises such as benefits and retributions (Tannenbaum & Schmidt, 2008).
The other type of leadership theory is bureaucratic style of management. In this type of management a manager requires that all work procedures within the organization be done in such a way as clearly outlined in the organizational manual or according to the set policy. Regardless of situations that are unique and in which the organizational policies might not apply, a bureaucratic leader is more likely to insist on sticking to the organizational way of doing things (Tannenbaum & Schmidt, 2008). This leadership kills creativity in the work place and might give rise to work burn out, however it is appropriate in a work setting such as in laboratory research environment where all variables of interests are carefully controlled in order to achieve desired results.
The third type is democratic leadership style also referred as participative style since it strives to involve employee in organizational management and decision making. In this type leadership a manger understands that employee are more informed in some instances than their leaders and can therefore provide valuable insight that can enable informed decisions at the management level. It makes an employee feel important and appreciated at the work place and is therefore a very motivating method of running an organization. By involving employees in organization management and decision making serves to impart this skills in their routine job requirements besides grooming them for their next career levels within the organization (Tannenbaum & Schmidt, 2008). However this style is only effective in an organization where employees are skilled and very knowledgeable in their areas of specialty since they are less likely to make work related mistakes that might be costly to the organization.
The final and fourth leadership style is the Leissez-Faire a French word that loosely translated describes lack of interest, and rightly so because in this case a manager is almost detached away from the intricacies of organization and employee management. Much leeway is given to employee to use their best judgment and achieve individual or teamwork requirements, meet targets and work deadline (Hofstede, 2007). The manger hardly ever supervise employee or follow up on their progress but relies on internal organizational systems. As with the democratic style this style too should be adopted where the employee are qualified and competent in discharging their duties without direction and are mature to achieve self motivation.
This being the styles that a manager can use in organization and people management, there are other factors that are crucial in determining which leadership style a manager is likely to apply or indeed must apply in order to efficiently provide leadership. One is the managers personality type that is usually determined by the level of education, skills, experience, and previous work environment, this factors will significantly determine which approach a manager will use. For instance previous work environment could shape a managers future leadership roles to match with that experience.
Another factor is the personality type of the organizational employees that is also shaped by other factors such as skills, competence, experience and their level of position. Depending on the employees personality a manager might not have choice on the type of the leadership to use (Kovacevic & Builder, 2010). Finally an organizational values, traditions, and policies will also provide bearing as to how an organization is run and a manager might find that deviating from previous manager’s leadership approach might result in management crisis.
Geert Hofstede, the Germany psychologist who researched the revolutionary findings that provided the first measurable evidence between association of culture and organization in what he termed as power distance, explains that the approach that a leader adopts to manage people is as a result of the attitude of the manager towards the employees (2007). Positive leaders he notes are likely to adopt the democratic or Leissez-Fare style that places much trust in employees and sets to achieves motivation through providing rewards. Negative managers on the other hand are more predisposed to adopt authoritative leadership style that uses set of punishments to achieve employee cooperation and ensure motivation.
Leaders also use consideration and structure in employee and organizational management. In consideration the managers seeks to ensure that employees concerns are addressed and their need met. A manager therefore is aware that these way employees are more likely to perform well in discharging their duties through undivided attention. The other approach is structure where a leader approach to employee management is through increased task and job output assessment. The focus is on continuously providing employee with duties as the only way to measure employee performance (Hofstede, 2007).
Let us now do an analysis of leadership style in practice using examples of known organizations that are managed by leaders that we are familiar with. Google incorporation recently found in early 2000 is now worth billions of dollars and has revolutionized the way internet search is done; they have the most efficient online search engine which is the company trademark (Kovacevic & Builder, 2010). Google CEO Eric Schmidt organizational leadership perhaps is the single most significant factor that has contributed to the success of the organization besides it ability to continuously launch online innovate products compared to their rivals, Microsoft incorporation.
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Microsoft Incorporation that was establish decades ago by it founder and present CEO Bill Gates has been in the business of developing consumer software’s and recently has increasingly ventured towards cutting a niche of market share that is presently found online. Microsoft incorporation has decades of experience in consumer development products and marketing strategies that rivals Google, now it biggest competitor and the undisputed leader on online advertisement and its search engine that’s can now been enabled through use of 36 languages (Kovacevic & Builder, 2010).
Microsoft Incorporation strengths lies in it experience and domination of the market for many years and it organizational strengths. Bill Gate the leader and CEO of Microsoft has over time adopted leadership style that has been instrumental in defining Microsoft organizational values, traditions and management approaches at other levels. The management style that Bill Gate has now used for a long time and which defines Microsoft Incorporation is the one where employees are managed top down by their manager with the managers exercising great control and clout in decision making process (Kovacevic & Builder, 2010). Bill Gates is the leader who has largely shaped the vision and organizational direction that Microsoft has so far taken over the years.
Being the founder of the company it is right to assume that Bill Gates would exercise more control and authority on where he would want his company to head. But this authority is in no way limited to making important decisions in that pertains to the future of the organization. In employee management Bill Gates has put internal mechanisms that provide oversight of employee’s performance and usually provide direct supervision to ensure that organizational project are on course and employee are adequately involved in the process. Each department manager is supposed to oversee and provide directions to junior staff on the shape that project are expected to focus on in line with decisions made at higher levels. This leadership style of Bill Gates therefore seems to be a blend of democratic and authoritative, which tends to lean towards authoritative style (Kovacevic & Builder, 2010).
As a result employee creativity is hampered and channeled to focus towards pre-arranged lines of ideas on which they are managed in order to deliver. For instance decisions arrived at board meetings of senior management personnel might decide that Microsoft as an organization need to focus more on developing an online search engine that is more superior to Google in order to remain competitive, as recently happened. Then employees are given directives that are supposed to implement this strategy without deviations, an employee who might be having a fresh idea that could be pursued to redefine the organization product might therefore have no platform for presenting such an idea and the organization innovativeness is likely to slump back as is now the case at Microsoft Incorporation (Kovacevic & Builder, 2010).
In Google Eric Schmidt prides himself in running an organization where less time and effort are delegated in terms of employee management. Back in 2002 when Eric Schmidt was hired as the CEO of the Google Incorporation he never realized that an organizational vision and direction could be largely defined by the creativity of the employees. The Google Incorporation founders Larry Page and Sergy Brin are even less involved in providing leadership and employee management. The leading factor that is used in staff recruitment at Google incorporation is the ability of a person to be creative. At Google incorporation employee are not managed per se but are put in very small teams of 3-5 persons and have as much leeway on any area they wish to focus that they believe hold potential of defining future opportunities with consumers.
After a team comes up with an idea that they think the company should pursue they present all the facts in support of the idea including the budget requirement and possible time frame that might be required before initial results can be achieved for assessment, additional resources that would be necessary are also requested at this point (Tannenbaum & Schmidt, 2008). The report is then presented to a committee comprised of very senior and experienced employees that would go through the report for vetting based on its strengths, resource requirements, time frame, and relevance of the application to consumer among other variables.
Since employees are in an environment that continuously nurtures and encourages creativity at work place, more ideas keep coming from the employees that are as varied as the breath of products that Google incorporation keeps launching in the market place with an astonishingly regular rate. It is this Leissez-Faire leadership style by Eric Schmidt that is also the culture of the organization that has enabled Google to remain competitive and above all define new frontiers in the industry that some years back was unheard of. In just about ten years Google Incorporation has launched more consumer online products and applications than Microsoft has achieved in the decades that they have been operational (Kovacevic & Builder, 2010).
The future of Google as a company is going to be more influenced by the diversity of it employee which is the key to its strength besides the Leadership style that continues to encourage workplace creativity. As is now the norm Google is in a position to continue dominating the market share not only in online products but will continue chatting the future and the shape that future products will take and where online market wars will occur (Tannenbaum & Schmidt, 2008).
- Hofstede G. (2007). Culture and Organizations: Software of the Mind. New York: McGraw- Hill Publishers.
- Kovacevic, L., & Builder, A.U. (2010). Google Incorporation Vs Microsoft Incorporation.
- Retrieved April 9, 2010 from http://www.builderau.com.au/strategy/soa/Google-vs-Microsoft/0,2000064882,339290499,00.htm
- Tannenbaum, R., & Schmidt, W. (2008). How to Choose a leadership Pattern. Harvard Business
- Review, 733(23), Retrieved April 9th 2010 from http//www.havardbusinessreview.org
- U.S. Army Handbook. (1973). Military Leadership. Washington DC. Government Press.