Everyone manages. We manage our finances, time, careers, and relationships. We tend not to think of these activities as “managing” or of ourselves as being “managers.” Nevertheless, they are. These examples of managing or being managers are relatively simple and straightforward, even though we may find many of them fraught with difficulty. It is when the concepts of managing or being a manager are applied to organizations that complexity increases—almost always exponentially. At this point it becomes necessary to study and understand the theoretical bases of management. The practice of management and the classical enunciation of management principles can be traced to the 19th century.
The development of management as an academic discipline based on a body of knowledge that can be taught is a recent development and is generally attributed to the work of Peter F. Drucker in the latter half of the 20th century. That body of knowledge is taught in graduate schools of business and in programs that prepare managers of public health departments, programs, and health services organizations, such as hospitals, clinics, and long-term care facilities. This chapter provides a basic introduction to management theory and problem solving, and concludes with a brief discussion of negotiation and alternative dispute resolution.
Managers are persons who are formally appointed to positions of authority in organizations. They enable others to do their work and are accountable to a higher authority for work results. Primarily, the differences between levels of managers are the degree of authority and the scope of their accountability for work results. Line managers manage people and things; staff managers, such as the human resources department and the fiscal office, support the work of line managers.
Management Functions and Decision Making The five management functions of planning, organizing, controlling, directing, and staffing are brought to life and connected by decision making, which is itself a subset of the essential process for managers that is known as problem solving. Little that managers at all levels in an organization do falls outside the purview of the five management functions. Management theorists and practitioners may choose one or two of the five functions as most important, but this is not borne out normatively. When one considers the full range of what managers do (or should do) as they perform their work, concentrating on a few to the exclusion or diminution of the others will invariably cause problems for the organization. Decision making is an inherent activity of managers, and they make decisions within and among the five management functions.
Decision making is part of the process of problem solving, which also includes problem analysis. Performance of the management functions and the decision making of problem solving should be evaluated using explicit and measurable criteria. In addition to engaging in the five management functions, managers must utilize specific skills, play various roles, and evidence a number of competencies.
Managing and Leading Some theorists and academicians distinguish managers and leaders, based on the view that managing is more caretaking and maintaining status quo (transactional) whereas leading is more visionary and dynamic (transformational). That distinction may be more important pedagogically than in practical application, however, especially at the organization’s operating level. Senior managers must ensure effective current organizational activities and that an organization’s future is envisioned. Using this vision, the organization can be transformed as needed.
As they work to achieve organizational objectives, managers use technical, conceptual, and interpersonal skills. These skills are applied in various proportions, depending on the manager’s task and level in the organizational hierarchy. Usually, senior managers make greater use of conceptual skills, whereas middle- and entry level managers use a more even mix of the three.
The research of Henry Mintzberg found that managers have different roles, the general categories of which include interpersonal, informational, and decisional. Each may be segmented. For example, the interpersonal role includes figurehead and influencer, informational includes monitor and spokesperson, and the decisional role includes entrepreneur and negotiator. Successful managers integrate these various roles and are likely to engage in them without making a clear distinction.
Another way to understand managers’ work is to identify their competencies, some of which are found in the categorizations discussed earlier. Conceptual, technical managerial/clinical, interpersonal/collaborative, political, commercial, and governance competencies are used in different proportions by managers at various levels of the organization.
Most theories view leadership as grounded in one or more of the following three perspectives: leadership as a process or relationship, leadership as a combination of traits or personality characteristics, or leadership as certain behaviors or, as they are more commonly referred to, leadership skills. In virtually all of the more dominant theories there exist the notions that, at least to some degree, leadership is a process that involves influence with a group of people toward the realization of goals. I will say on the front end that, in my opinion, leadership is a dynamic and complex process, and that much of what is written these days tends to over-simplify this process. My goal here is to provide an overview that keeps things simple, without crossing into over-simplification, and for the most part refraining from any critiquing of the various theories. I will leave that to my fellow bloggers for now. Trait Theory
This theory postulates that people are either born or not born with the qualities that predispose them to success in leadership roles. That is, that certain inherited qualities, such as personality and cognitive ability, are what underlie effective leadership. There have been hundreds of studies to determine the most important leadership traits, and while there is always going to be some disagreement, intelligence, sociability, and drive (aka determination) are consistently cited as key qualities.
Skills Theory This theory states that learned knowledge and acquired skills/abilities are significant factors in the practice of effective leadership. Skills theory by no means disavows the connection between inherited traits and the capacity to be an effective leader – it simply argues that learned skills, a developed style, and acquired knowledge, are the real keys to leadership performance. It is of course the belief that skills theory is true that warrants all the effort and resources devoted to leadership training and development
Situational Theory This theory suggests that different situations require different styles of leadership. That is, to be effective in leadership requires the ability to adapt or adjust one’s style to the circumstances of the situation. The primary factors that determine how to adapt are an assessment of the competence and commitment of a leader’s followers. The assessment of these factors determines if a leader should use a more directive or supportive style.
Contingency Theory This theory states that a leader’s effectiveness is contingent on how well the leader’s style matches a specific setting or situation. And how, you may ask, is this different from situational theory? In situational the focus is on adapting to the situation, whereas contingency states that effective leadership depends on the degree of fit between a leader’s qualities and style and that of a specific situation or context.
Path-Goal Theory This theory is about how leaders motivate followers to accomplish identified objectives. It postulates that effective leaders have the ability to improve the motivation of followers by clarifying the paths and removing obstacles to high performance and desired objectives. The underlying beliefs of path-goal theory (grounded in expectancy theory) are that people will be more focused and motivated if they believe they are capable of high performance, believe their effort will result in desired outcomes, and believe their work is worthwhile.
Transformational Theory This theory states that leadership is the process by which a person engages with others and is able to create a connection that results in increased motivation and morality in both followers and leaders. It is often likened to the theory of charismatic leadership that espouses that leaders with certain qualities, such as confidence, extroversion, and clearly stated values, are best able to motivate followers. The key in transformational leadership is for the leader to be attentive to the needs and motives of followers in an attempt to help them reach their maximum potential. In addition, transformational leadership typically describes how leaders can initiate, develop, and implement important changes in an organization. This theory is often discussed in contrast with transactional leadership.
Transactional Theory This is a theory that focuses on the exchanges that take place between leaders and followers. It is based in the notion that a leader’s job is to create structures that make it abundantly clear what is expected of his/her followers and also the consequences (i.e. rewards and punishments) for meeting or not meeting these expectations. This theory is often likened to the concept and practice of management and continues to be an extremely common component of many leadership models and organizational structures.
Servant Leadership Theory This conceptualization of leadership reflects a philosophy that leaders should be servants first. It suggests that leaders must place the needs of followers, customers, and the community ahead of their own interests in order to be effective. The idea of servant leadership has a significant amount of popularity within leadership circles – but it is difficult to describe it as a theory inasmuch as a set of beliefs and values that leaders are encouraged to embrace.