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Leadership Post Bureaucracy

Leadership is at the forefront to success of any organizational model, and twentieth-century research has clearly examined its role in the managing of individuals both in the bureaucratic and post-bureaucratic eras. The turn of the millennium also brought about with it a shift in the nature of the workplace, now regarded as a dynamic, ever changing and self-motivating avenue where leadership practices encourage individuals to express their intuitive and creative thinking [Rego, Sousa, Marques 2012]. In light of this, post-bureaucratic approaches to leadership are regarded as being more in sync with today’s working business environment, where success of an organization is commonly attributed to the methods in which leadership practices can positively influence the psyche of individuals within an organization [Meindl, Ehrlich, Dukerich 1985].

This paper aims to deconstruct and critically evaluate the specific leadership traits and styles post-bureaucracy, examining how the natural evolution in the physiological and psychological understanding of human behaviour has influenced the way in which organisations are managed.

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Notions of trust, empowerment and the shared responsibility of employees in a post-bureaucratic workplace will all be explored, and the contrasting effects of bureaucratic practices examined. In order to make this argument one must acknowledge that this seemingly utopian environment presents itself as merely another dimension in which leaders can conduct the processes within their organizational model, with it being necessary to consider that leadership style and effectiveness is largely determined by situational and contingent factors influencing the ways in which organisations are managed.

In analyzing the socio-economic considerations of the organization, Max Weber conveyed the idea of bureaucracy through the concept of transactional leadership.

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This style of thinking is characterized by the enforcing of normative rules and regulations, strict discipline and systematic control [Nikezic, Puric & Puric 2012]. There is a clear focus on preserving the existing state of affairs, where control is maintained and power established through autocratic processes dictating what is required within organisations. Transactional leadership provides high levels of stability within organisations, often mirroring the economic conditions of the time, and alternative approaches to the ways in which individuals were managed were not often considered [Nikezic & Markovic 2011]. Bass 1985 extended upon this concept, highlighting the presence of contingent reward or punishment as the basis for employee motivation and productivity. Although it ensures the efficient completion of organizational objectives, this approach to leadership fails to promote high levels of employee satisfaction and devotion required to achieve feats that extend beyond the realms of customary workplace goals.

Post-bureaucracy theorists highlight the breakdown in traditional modes of managerial authority proposed by Weber within organisations as a result of the increasing pressures the workplace is faced with due to globalization and technological advancements [Johnson et al. 2009]. Organisations experienced a paradigm shift, where in order to continually evolve, develop and remain competitive in a volatile economic marketplace, were forced to adopt new ways of thinking that inspired resourceful and innovative methods to problem solving.

[Burns 1978] introduced the complex notion of transforming leadership in his explanatory research of the political leaders of the time. In this model, common perceptions and understandings of the traditional leader and follower relationship are challenged. Leaders are characterized by their ability to motivate individuals through their idealized influence generated through charismatic tendencies, in turn establishing feelings of trust, admiration and a desire to truly engage themselves in the organizational objectives [Browning 2007]. In transcending the boundaries of the symbiotic relationship between leader and follower, organisations experience a redesigning of traditional beliefs concerning leadership formerly focused on power and authoritative methods. Post-bureaucratic approaches to leadership allow for the establishment of defining roles that concentrate on the support of individuals and honoring open methods of communication, where leader and follower are focused on a common purpose and receive fulfillment working together in a synergized environment to achieve organizational goals [Chaleff 2003].

Although this newfound approach to leadership encourages the greater commitment of workers to the organization, the effects in regards to increased efficiency within the workplace and improved individual well being need to be considered. A leaders behavioral characteristics and principles form the impetus for success as a transformational leader, and contingency theories suggest that to improve the effectiveness, leaders can align their style to meet the requirements of the group based on situational factors, as depicted through Browning’s recount of Shackleton and his crews arduous journey on the Endurance [Browning 2007]. The success of Shackleton’s transformational leadership style required the presence of definitive charismatic, inspirational and communicative qualities [Dutton et al. 2002], however in circumstances where these traits are absent of the individual, no amount of technical skill or experience will assist the leader in achieving organizational objectives through increased employee motivation and performance.

Leadership style in the post-bureaucratic era has been adapted to mirror the multifaceted ideas concerning human behaviour, and reflects how a change in perspective resulting in the empowerment of individuals within the workplace has allowed for businesses to incessantly improve their output and contribution to society. McGregor, in his 1960 work titled “The Human Side of Enterprise” discusses a number of preconceived connotations detailing assumptions of the nature of human beings. His philosophies provided the underlying basis in which organisations began to implement a new approach to leadership, whereby he formulated two distinct theories regarding the human approach to work. Bureaucracy is represented by Theory X, which can be likened to a transactional leadership style. The emphasis is on an individual’s lack of ambition, motivation and desire to succeed, noting how it is only through autocratic methods of leadership will organizational objectives be reached [Stewart 2010].

In stark contrast, the post-bureaucratic concept proposed as Theory Y, encompasses a more holistic approach to leadership, focusing on the self-realization of individuals in the workplace. McGregor ascertains that humans are active shapers of the organizational objectives they are presented with, and flourish when given the opportunity to assume a higher responsibility within their role. In challenging the existing paradigms that focused on the human desire to satisfy their physiological needs, the research supported a shift that was now centralized around self-actualization and esteem [Maslow 1943]. This new interpretation of the working environment enabled leaders to implement strategies that promoted creativity and innovation amongst employees in their pursuit to achieve higher states of psychological satisfaction. The transference of power within organisations between leader and follower facilitated a restructuring of the workplace. There was now a clear avenue that better supported employee and organizational goals, allowing for the objectives of both parties to coincide, ultimately leading to higher levels of effectiveness and productivity required by the onset of economic globalization.

The relationship between leader and follower can be described as a complex reciprocal understanding between parties that require clear and distinct channels of communication. Successful leadership forms the basis in which businesses achieve desired results that mirror the continued growth and development of the firm. Organizational objectives will only be met when leaders can effectively articulate a vision amongst employees that assists in synchronizing the goals of the individual and organization. Post-bureaucracy has allowed for the practices and styles encompassment of the paradox that is leadership to be examined from another dimension, where we have witnessed a shift from a focus on the importance of specific leadership characteristics to a newfound analytical appreciation highlighting the interactions between leader and follower. In light of the ideas conveyed throughout previous research and the arguments presented within this paper detailing leadership in both the bureaucratic and post-bureaucratic eras, we can rationalize that there is no definitive approach to leadership that can be regarded as being more precise than another. Transactional leadership has long been steadfast and continues to thrive in organisations that regard stability and efficient modes of production paramount to their success, whilst transformational leadership concerns itself with satiating the psychological needs of the individual. Further research lends itself to exploring the consolidation of methods from both eras, analyzing the effects of implementing styles and traits often regarded as mutually exclusive.

Reference List

Bass, B.M. 1985, ‘From transactional to transformational leadership” Learning to share the vision’, Journal of Organizational Dynamics, vol. 18, pp. 19-32.

Browning, B.W. 2007, ‘Leadership in desperate times: An analysis of endurance: Shackleton’s incredible voyage through the lens of leadership theory’, Advances in Developing Human Resources, vol. 9, no.2, pp.183-98. Chaleff, I. 2003, The Courageous Follower: Standing up to and for our leaders’, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, San Francisco. Dutton, J.E., Frost, P., Worline, M.C., Lilius, J.M. & Kanov, J.M. 2002, ‘Leading in times of trauma’, Harvard Business Review, vol. 80, no. 1, pp. 54-61. Johnson, P., Wood, G.T., Brewster, C.J. & Brookes, M. 2009, ‘The rise of post-bureaucracy: theorists’ fancy of organizational praxis?’ Journal of International Sociology, 24 (1). pp, 37-61. ISSN 1461-7242

Lievens, F., Van Geit, P., Coetsier, P. 1997, ‘Identification of transformational leadership qualities: An examination of potential biases’, European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, vol. 6, no. 4, pp. 415-430.

Maslow, H.A., 1943, ‘A Theory of Human Motivation’, Psychological Review, vol. 50, no. 4, pp. 370-396. Meindl, J.R., Ehrlich, S.B. & Dukerich, J.M. 1985, ‘The romance of leadership’, Administrative Science Quarterly, vol.30, no.1, pp. 78-102. Nikezic, S., Markovic, S. 2011, ‘Transformational leadership as a factor profound changes’, 11th Conference for research and development in mechanical industry’, RaDMI 2011, SaTCIP (Scientific and technical center for intellectual property)

Nikezic, S., Puric, S., Puric, J. 2012, ‘Transactional and transformation leadership: Development through changes’, International Journal for Quality Research, vol. 6, no. 3, pp. 285-296. Rego, A., Sousa, F. & Marques, C. 2012, ‘Authentic leadership promoting employees’ psychological capital and creativity’, Journal of Business Research, vol. 65, no. 3, pp. 429-37. Stewart, M. 2010, “Theories X and Y, Revisited’, Oxford Leadership Journal, vol. 1, no. 3, pp. 1-5. Weber, M., 1947, “The Theory of Social and Economic Organization”, Translated by A. M. Henderson & Talcott Parsons. New York: The Free Press.

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Leadership Post Bureaucracy. (2016, May 09). Retrieved from

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