Saturday, 5 January 2013

The Leadership Conundrum and productivity in organizations.

 The search for the definitive answers to the leadership question in organizations has prompted hundreds of studies and countless theories according to Charles Handy.Handy(1982) asks whether leadership traits are bred into one or is innate?He further asks whether leadership is about style or task(or its nature) or the situation? Or perhaps it lies in the characteristics of the leader?
In laying the scope of our inquiry Handy likens the search to the quest for the 'Holy Grail' in organizational theory.However,in reviewing the literature on Leadership one comes to the conclusion that while one theory may be valid for a period in particular,it may not be so for another;hence the need to integrate some or all these to provide a holistic view of the leadership question.

Robbins&Judge(2007) came to this conclusion in their summation of their treatise on traits  and behavioral theories as they relate to organizational effectiveness and the role of  leadership.They hypothesize that conscientiousness(trait) may be linked to structure(behavioral),while a considerate executive(also behavioral) may likely be an extrovert(trait). The corollary is that as abundant as these traits and behavioral attributes
 may be imbued in the leader,they are not likely to determine his effectiveness or otherwise.I argue that the situation a leader finds himself or herself in may either negate effectiveness or bring out the leadership qualities in such person."As important as trait theories and behavioural theories are in determining effective versus ineffective leaders,they do not guarantee a leader's success.The context matters too".Robbins & Judge(2007)
For an expanded review on this issue see:Fiedler Model;Hersey  and Blanchard's situational theory;Leader-Member Exchange theory and Path-Goal theory(Robert House);Leader-Participation Model(Victor Vroom and Phillip Yetton)

Whereas research on leadership over the years has broadly been categorized under traits ,style and behavioural as well as contingency,its typology has been built around the Big Five personality framework of:extra version,agreeableness,consciousness, emotional stability,and openness to experience.

Leadership In Organizations:
We now may ask how do these theories correlate with productivity and organizational effectiveness under a leader?My reading of the literature points to a bi-forcation of the roles of managers and those of leaders in the organization.Prior to this time we have referred to leaders and managers in the leadership question.Under the purview of this discourse both concepts are used interchangeably.Whereas the manager is seeming transactional in behaviour as demanded of his position,being to see to the day to day execution of plans and strategies set forth by the leader.The leader on the other hand,sets the vision,tone and direction of the organization for the manager to ensure conformance .The leader   structures,supports ,guides and emplaces a shared vision of the organization and the rest of the firm to buy into hence his transformational role.
The conundrum in the leadership question lies in Fiedler's contingency theory which states that 'organizations could do more to help the individual leader by either(a)structuring the task(b)improving the formal power vis-a-vi his group or (c) changing the composition of the group in order to give the leader more favorable climate to work in".Implicit in Fiedler's assertion is the fact that leaders can be found at various levels of the organization.What it then would mean is that the organizational environment must conduce to producing leaders.We see therefore the convergence of the traits theories with the contingency theories as well as that of the Big Five.I  argue that the transactional as well as the transformational attributes of leadership can be situated in an individual at various levels.Organizational climate which encourages intra-preneurial and entrepreneurial behaviour and learning  brings about such attributes.
What Bennis,W.G; and Thomas,R.J; in their article "Crucibles of Leadership(2002)" called learning from crucibles... and they take many forms...'some are violent.life-threatening events,others are more prosaic episodes of self-doubt.......but the important thing is that leaders take away vital lessons from these episodic events and transform themselves into models of exceptional behavior in the organization'.
The authors cite the example of Sidney Hamman,CEO,Hamman Kardon(now Hamman International)who as a transactional manager went through a crucible of event in his organization that changed his world view.He subsequently enthroned a participative management style in the organization.Hamman transmuted into a transformational leader.One posits therefore a transactional-transformational continuum in organizational effectiveness which can take place when the right learning is attained.

Leadership and Intelligence:
Beyond the various theories and research studies on leadership under review,one takes the view that leadership attributes go beyond the availability of traits,styles and situations to shape leadership.For a leader to enhance his performance he must possess characteristics other than those above mentioned. Goleman,D;(1995) argues that leadership goes beyond crunching numbers;but that achieving organizational goals requires having inter-personal skills to be able to function and be productive .While intelligence Quotient has traditionally been used to test an individual's intelligence,being able to function and be productive requires more than this.Goleman coined the term 'Emotional Intelligence' which basically means been able to manage once emotions.And how relevant is this to leadership effectiveness?In Goleman's view the IQ is the brain power,the EQ on the other hand,is the emotional power.A leader must have a combination of the two to make the difference.Good decisions he states,are based on a balancing of rational(IQ) and emotional(EQ) rather than one without the other.It is intuitive to state therefore that managers who have over the years learned to manage their emotions have learnt to manage their behaviour and relationships better than those
that havent.The effective leader under the Goleman construct is one with both IQ and EQ with good social skills or better still social intelligence.

In conclusion,the leadership question will continue to resonate through the ages for as long organizations as social organisms exist to cater to the needs of people and the society.Organizational effectiveness is
predicated on how leaders in the organization function within the context of the various theories earlier elucidated The assumption  being that leaders are effective because they are imbued with traits,are bound to behavior in specific ways,are to respond in a characteristic manner because of the situation they find themselves in and that behavior is contingent on events that shape their view of the world.The totality of all these is that no one theory satisfactorily answers the leadership question .

End Note:Handy,C;(1982),'Understanding Organizations',2nd Edition,Penguin,London
                Robbins,S.P.,& Judge,T.A.;(2007),'Organizational Behavior,12th Edition,Prentice Hall
                 Bennis,W.G,& Thomas,R,J,(2002),'Crucibles of Leadership',Harvard Business Review.
                Golemsn,D,(1995),'Emotional Intelligence',Batam Press,New York.
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