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Leadership Theories Essay

Classical and humanist management theories have had a major influence on modern theories of leadership. Making effective use of appropriate models and theories critically examine whether this is the case.

In order to answer this question, it will be appropriate to look at how classical and humanist theories emerged and outline some of their theories relating to management. Further discussion will be on the role of management in comparison to that of leadership with concluding arguments on how far these theories have influenced modern leadership.

The stride towards industrial development in the 19th century led to the emergence of classical management theories with several approaches. One such approach was how managers should act, manage task and deal with day to day problems of managing the business (Mullins 2004). Example of theories on the above approach is command and control by Henri Fayol, bureaucratic organisation by Max Weber and scientific management by F W Taylor.

Fayol cited in Dilys Robinson (Training Journal, Jan 2005) favoured the idea of management organising task and managing people through a hierarchy system. He saw senior level managers as having authority not only by virtue of their position within the organisation but also on the increasing amount of decisions that managers had to make. Senior level managers cascaded orders through a command chain system to employees and had almost no interaction with workers.

In addition Fayol taught that managers and workers had to abide by certain principles for the greater good of the organisation. For instance manager’s had to treat workers with some degree of fairness whiles workers on the order hand were expected to accept and follow plans from one leader, sub-ordinate their interest and not step beyond their responsibilities.

In the same way Max Weber in Derek Pugh & J Hickman (2007) like Fayol supported the idea of a formalised organisation structure as it legitimised authority and helped to remove problems that authority based on tradition and charisma created. He was also concerned about the likelihood of managers using their authority to abuse workers within the hierarchy system hence his idea that the relationship between the organisation and managers had to be impersonal in such a way that managerial roles are assigned and their authority based on competence.

Additionally, Taylor in Dilys Robinson (Training Journal, Jan 2005) suggested that managers must be responsible for organising work and the task given to selected and trained workers to perform in accordance to the way managers deemed it. His idea seems to assert that there is one best way of performing task and that work task should be tailor made to fit those who have to perform them.

Alternatively, humanist theorist which began to emerge on the background of classical management started to teach that workers were not only motivated by reward factors and that consideration of human needs was also a key in motivating workers. Humanist theories also began to look at the behaviour of employees within the organisation. Examples of humanist management theories are Douglas McGregor’s X and Y theory and Rensis Likert’s management systems and styles.

Douglas McGregor under theory X proposes that in certain situations managers must use their authority in order to get things done and achieve desired results. Under theory Y, also based on certain assumptions he proposes that managers must be more democratic in their approach as this will motivate staff to contribute more to the organisation.

Furthermore Rensis Likerts in Derek Pugh & J Hickman (2007) identified four varying types of management styles bordering on the exploitative – authoritative, benevolent – authoritative, consultative and participative system. The first is characterised by imposed decisions and use of threats and the second the use of rewards mainly to motivate staff. The third is were motivation is by rewards and some participation and the fourth seen as the best solution in that management have confidence in their workers, real responsibility is felt by all, communication is abundant, team-work exists and where motivation is on economic rewards based on agreed set goals between management and staff. McGraw Hill (1967) the human organisation, agrees that all organisation should adopt this. (http://www.accel-team.com/human_relations/hrels_04_likert.html)

However in modern organisations the exploitative – authoritative style of management is less than ideal as this usually results in staff feeling more de-motivated and demoralised. Staffs are also more likely to rebel and challenge management by lodging their grievances with internal or external arbitration systems that are in place today.

From the above, it can be that whiles views generated by the classical theorist thinks managers can only lead effectively through a formalised structure, by rules and command, humanistic views provides an alternative as to how managers must lead, they must consider the needs of their workers, encourage participation to motivate and utilise the full potential of workers for the good of the organisation.

To further develop this discussion, it would be useful to examine what management and leadership involves as arguments abound as to whether management and leadership are the same or not. However the difference between the two has been shown to be in what both does. Management as a term is generic in meaning and is defined by Terry and Rue in Ernest Dale (1969) as a process or form of work that involves guidance and directing of a group of people toward organisational goals and objectives. It also covers many areas such as planning, organising, problem solving, controlling and putting appropriate structures in place. These are now seen as functions performed by individuals who have been assigned formal roles as managers.

Leadership in contrast is defined by Richard L Daft, Patricia G lane (2007) as ‘an influence relationship among leaders and followers who intend real changes and outcomes that can reflect their share purpose’. Mullins, L. J (2004) also defines leadership as ‘getting people to follow’ or getting people to do things willingly. From this definition what stands out is that leaders must have followers whiles management use available resources such as people to get things done. Tom Swanick & Judy Mckimm in ABC of Clinical Leadership supports this by citing management as involving the directing of people and resources to achieve organisational values and strategic direction established and propagated by leadership.

One example of what distinguishes leadership and management is when it comes to authority, leaders do not derive authority from a hierarchy system as managers do. An example of this is a case study in John Adair (2007) which was conducted at the laboratory of a molecular biology. The study found out that it was an environment which assigned offices did not exist and all workers regardless of position integrated with one another. It allowed ideas to flourish and be shared which lead to great works being produced by the laboratory.

Mullins (2007) mentions also that in the performance of work task under the 7 S’s within the organisational frame work, leaders often make use of what is called the soft S’s, style, staff skills and shared goals whiles managers use the hard S’s which is structure, system and strategy. Zaleznik (1977) cited in Brooks (2005) lends his support and suggests that managers during conflict situations usually focus on achieving compromise to maintain order and do so in an unemotional and lay back manner which does not result in change.

For example the parties involved in a conflict may resolve their differences through compromise but does it guarantee that such a conflict will not arise again. Bennis and Nanus (1985) cited in ABC of clinical leadership give additional weight to the above and quotes ‘Managers are people that do things right’ but ‘leaders are people that do the right thing’.

Leadership is also associated with being visionary. Gower (2010) for example cites leadership as being an ‘activity that is visionary, creative, inspirational, energising and transformational’. Managers in contrast are seen as being less so. This may stem from the way management developed and trained from the past. Managers are usually assigned to be heads of departments within the organisation and as such tend to look at how they can meet targets within their departments rather than thinking about what direction the whole organisation is heading or needs to head in today’s ever complex and changing environment. In light of these differences, management is still seen as being intertwined with leadership as the former has to exercise leadership in the performance of their duties. For example Bolman & Deal (1997) see both as necessary for success as organisations that are over managed with little leadership involvement or vice versa results in failure.

In conclusion it can be said that classical and humanistic theories have had a great impact on modern leadership in various ways. One of these is that it has changed the way leadership is viewed worldwide. Calls have been made for leadership to be exemplary and moral. A recent example was the leader of Italy, Mr Berlusconi who faced a lot of criticisms on certain aspects of his behaviour whiles in office and as a result was forced to resign from his position.

Increase in communication between organisations and with external bodies has been another. Leaders are seen as the face of the organisation and to promote its success, leaders go to great strengths to forge good relations with the communities within which they operate.

Finally another impact on modern leadership has been the increase in innovative ideas and technology which has resulted in economic growth. An example of a leader who has shown innovation and vision is Mark Elliot Zuckerbery, owner of Facebook, who transformed the idea of creating a college social website into a global enterprise.


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