Which styles of leadership bring out the best performance in a company, department, team, or project? Finding the perfect way to manage knowledge workers remains elusive. The study of leadership, however, has proposed a variety of approaches. Some researchers have spent a good deal of time observing the behavior of groups and the emergence of leaders. As a result, they have seen that the activities of leaders fall into two general categories. The first involves maintaining (M) the group by paying attention to the needs of the members and making sure that conflicts do not become serious.
The second involves the actual task that the group must perform (P), the definition of the task, how and when it is to be done, and so on. We can label these two types of activities consideration and structure. “Consideration” involves paying attention to people, being considerate of their needs and goals, being employee-oriented, and paying attention to the human factor. “Structure” refers to what is to be done and to where the group is going. What is to be accomplished? How is it to be accomplished? How can the activities of the members be controlled?
For each job setting, the identified behaviors that are P or M for that particular job. What fits one laboratory does not necessarily fit another. The talks to people in the job setting and asks each subordinate to describe the behavior of the leader and rate him or her on their M or P behaviors. The uses the symbols M and P for those who use many behaviors, and he uses m and p to indicate that the leader does few maintenance or production behaviors. This way, in each setting, The identified four kinds of leaders:
mp = little maintenance, little production
mP = little maintenance, a lot of production
Mp = a lot of maintenance, little production
MP = a combination of high maintenance and high production
An interesting finding is that a leader who is high in production behaviors and also does many maintenance behaviors is seen as providing “planning” or “expertise;” but the leader who does a lot of production behaviors and few maintenance behaviors is perceived as “pressuring for production.” Pressure for production is resisted. In short, the same behavior (production) is perceived differently depending on the context within which it appears.
In different cultures the behaviors that express M can be quite different. Research has shown, for instance, that “to criticize a subordinate directly, privately in your office” is seen as high M in the West and low M in Japan. In Japan one is supposed to criticize indirectly—for instance, by asking a colleague of the subordinate to convey the manager’s criticism to him or her—so that the subordinate will not lose face. People who observe groups note that leaders may specialize in one of these activities or may sometimes engage in both; or in the case of “great leaders,” they will perform both activities with great frequency. First providing general theory and then focusing on a company , this article covers:
- Theories of leadership and leadership styles
- Leadership in R&D organizations
- R&D leadership—a process of mutual influence
- A leadership style case (where the problem of abdication style of leadership is presented)
- Leadership in a creative research environment.
IDENTIFYING YOUR LEADERSHIP STYLE
In characterizing the behavior of their supervisors, subordinates used similar ideas—for example, bossy or structured versus people-oriented or considerate. Similarly, when leaders are questioned, some claim that they pay attention to people and others say they focus on the task. As it turns out, however, the distinctions are not so clearly drawn. Extensive research by Fiedler (1967, 1986a) found that some people are task-motivated
when they are relaxed but person-motivated when they are under stress, while others show the opposite pattern—that is, they are person-motivated when relaxed and task-motivated when under stress. It might be useful to find out for yourself what kind of leader you are. To do that, look at Fiedler’s instructions in “Identifying Your Leadership Style” (Fiedler et al., 1977).
THEORIES OF LEADERSHIP AND LEADERSHIP STYLES
No leader can afford to ignore M and P behaviors. Ideally, leaders should do a lot of both. Supervisory behavior style impacts employee performance.
However, there are other leadership theories that suggest that in some situations the leader should emphasize one or another even more than is usual. Another way of looking at leadership is to say that the leader is supposed to supply what is necessary for the followers to reach their goals. This is called the path–goal theory of leadership. Basically, this theory argues that the way a leader acts should be determined by what the followers need. For example, if the followers do not know how to do the job, then it is necessary for the leader to be very structuring. If the followers have several needs that are not being met, then it is important for the leader to be especially considerate.
Consider the following different kinds of leadership styles:
- The directive style, in which the leader simply makes the decision and tells the subordinates what to do.
- The negotiator style, in which the subordinates give the information that the leader needs in order to make the decision, but then the leader makes the decision.
- The consultation style, in which the leader asks for information and suggestions on what to do and makes the decision on the basis of these suggestions.
- The participative style, in which the subordinates provide information and suggest solutions, the leader negotiates with them, and together they reach a mutually satisfying agreement and the best decision.
- The delegation style, in which the leader provides information to the subordinates about the problem and suggests possible solutions. The responsibility for the decision is ultimately given to the subordinates. In this case, the leader does not even ask the subordinates to report what solutions were adopted.
LEADERSHIP IN R&D ORGANIZATIONS
While P behaviors of the leader are needed, most leaders do P, but many do not do enough M. M behaviors are especially important in R&D labs. However, subordinates still require a certain amount of guidance from the manager; otherwise their activities will become unrelated to the needs of the company have shown that when there is either excessive or insufficient autonomy, the contributions of the professional to the research organization are minimal. An intermediate amount of autonomy provides optimal conditions for the professional. Only then can the contributions of the scientist to the company be maximized.
Leadership in an business company is essentially a process of mutual influence between the supervisor and the employees. Knowledgeable workers don’t work toward a goal because someone else has set it. They work toward it because they believe that it is right. To bring a knowledge worker on board requires using multiple leadership styles. Based on mutual influence, Farris suggests four styles of leadership or supervision:
Collaboration: Both the supervisor and the employees have a great deal of influence in making decisions.
Delegation: The employees are given considerable responsibility for the decisions, and the supervisor has little influence.
Domination: The supervisor has a great deal of influence, and the employees have very little input.
Abdication: The supervisor neglects to assign a particular task to the employees and neglects to work on it himself. In this case, neither the supervisor nor the employees have much influence on a particular decision.
The leadership style is a combination of abdication and delegation. All technical responsibility is delegated to the department heads, integration at the division level is minimal, and responsibility for decisions normally made at the division level is abdicated and passed on to a higher level—the laboratory director, Dr. Cole. His views are sought and essentially all decisions normally made by the division director are in fact made by the laboratory director. The behavior pattern of the division director is characterized by his readily admitting lack of technical competence, building strong alliances with selected research divisions, degrading division directors who may have distinguished scientific records, doing what the laboratory director, Dr. Cole, wants him to do, getting marching orders on all division operations from Dr. Cole, and taking zero risk.
The company performance is fair. Increasingly, emphasis is on technical assistance instead of research. Innovative research programs never reach fruition; they are downgraded to technical assistance activities.
Clues to the existence of the problem manifest themselves via the leadership style and the behavior pattern in the division director and via lack of substantial innovation by the division over the years.
A company can cope with such problems in a number of ways. Before discussing that, it might be useful to see how such a situation arose.
LEADERSHIP IN A CREATIVE RESEARCH ENVIRONMENT
In a business company, a person holding an important leadership position would normally have a significant business program. In many U.S. government departments and in industry, some individuals have oversight responsibility for the business Company, although they are not involved in business program execution. It is therefore useful to focus on those leadership and managerial aspects that are directly involved in managing and executing an important business program involving a significant number (say 50 or more).
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