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Posts Tagged ‘Models’

The fascinating process we call Leadership can be viewed through several lenses. Each lens offers a unique perspective. Some are more comprehensive, others less so. But almost all reveal a facet which is distinctive in its own way.

Some of the lenses which management theorists and practitioners have used over the last 150 years to view the enigma called leadership are discussed in brief here.

The Trait Lens

The lens of the Trait Theories makes us notice the kind of personality traits of a leader which make him effective. Domain knowledge, self-confidence, interpersonal skills and charisma are some of the critical components here. However, these presume that the environment and the followers have no role to play when it comes to assessing the effectiveness of a leader. With such a uni-dimensional approach, where the personality traits of the leader alone count, it is neither practical nor desirable to compare this approach to that of the three mindsets under discussion here.

The Behavioural Lens

The lens of the Behavioural Theories of leadership leads us to such operating styles as dictatorial, autocratic, democratic, laissez-faire, and the like. In the spectrum of direct authority exercised, if the dictatorial style implies maximum control, the laissez-faire style would relate to minimum control, though not amounting to abdication.

The Contingency Lens

Yet another lens which we use to view the phenomenon of leadership is that of the Contingency Theories. These posit that the effectiveness of a leader is determined by the interplay of several factors – personality traits, behavioural patterns, nature of the task at hand, the composition of the group being led, and the kind of situation at hand.

An example is that of Fred Fiedler’s theory. It proposes that in extremely favourable or unfavourable situations, task-oriented leaders fare better, whereas in moderate situations, relationship-oriented leaders deliver better results. As a logical corollary, in a business situation which is changing rapidly, a new leader with a more appropriate operating style needs to be brought in.

The Situational Lens

The Hersey-Blanchard Situational Model is yet another lens with which one may view leadership. This one proposes that effective leadership rests on two fundamental concepts: Leadership Style and the group’s Performance Readiness level.

It follows that there is no single ‘best’ style of leadership. Effectiveness of a leader varies not only with the characteristics of the group being led; it also depends on the goal to be achieved.

The level of maturity of the followers determines the leadership style which would work the best. While dealing with new entrants to the organization, a leader would do well to follow a Directing Style. While dealing with seasoned professionals, a Delegation Style would yield better results. The other two styles envisaged are Coaching and Supporting.

The Transactional Lens

Then we have the lens of the Transactional Theories of viewing leadership. These are characterized by a transaction made between the leader and the followers. By implication, these place a higher premium on positive and mutually beneficial relationships between leaders and their respective followers. The effectiveness of leadership is thus believed to be dependent on the alignment between individual and organizational goals.

These theories propose that a system of reward and punishment alone works. A well-defined hierarchy, where everyone knows who the leader is and who is following, is a sine qua non. In a way, this is a premise which subjugates people, reducing them to mere cogs in the wheel, with no concern for social or human values. The adage ‘my way or the highway’ readily comes to one’s minds.

The Transformational Lens

The Transformational Theories provide yet another lens with which one may view leadership. Transformational leaders inspire their followers by their vision, by setting examples which are worthy of emulation, and by the sheer force of their own personality. In the process, they themselves develop as leaders. They are also able to groom leaders out of their more competent followers.

Four components of this model happen to be:

  1. Intellectual stimulation.
  2. Consideration for individual team members.
  3. Inspirational motivation.
  4. Idealized influence.

Transformational leadership theories work on the premise that people are motivated by the task that must be performed. This implies that the culture of the organization is such as to act as a key enabler for such leaders to be effective. There is an emphasis on cooperation, collective action and healthy competition. Tasks are designed to be challenging and desirous. The whole system is geared towards placing the community above individual egos.

The Lens of Three Mindsets

Yes-Men

Prof G P Rao, an eminent authority in the field of Organizational Behaviour, has recently proposed a new approach to viewing leadership.

This approach proposes three kinds of leadership mindsets: “I Am Everything’, ‘I Am Nothing’ and ‘I Am Something’. These are not mutually exclusive but co-exist, much like the three traits (Gunas) mentioned in Indian scriptures: Satvik, Rajasik and Tamasik. Time and business environment play key roles in determining the dominant mode of mindset a business leader has at a given point in time.

In a highly favourable business climate, a leader is apt to have an ‘I Am Everything’ mindset. In an unfavourable setting, a leader may end up having an ‘I Am Nothing’ mindset. In a moderate situation, an ‘I Am Something’ mindset is likely to prevail.

The approach is based on an empirical study and has been implemented in an IT organization in India. It has been discussed in detail in the book on Leader Mindsets.

The Composite Lens of Results, People and Ethics

This proposition is based on my own managerial experience of over four decades in the private sector. The basic premise here is that decisions are based not only on commercial considerations but also on sound ethics and values. Decisions which would serve the strategic interests of the organization and would never lead it to a situation of public disgrace and compromise.

If one were to take the liberty of modifying the Blake Mouton Grid, the leadership style of such a CEO would qualify for either a 9,9,9 or a 5,5,5 classification.

The modified grid leads us to 9 different styles which we have already discussed elsewhere in detail.

An Evolutionary Thought Process

Human thoughts forever keep evolving. Newer experiences come about. Refined paradigms surface. But each succeeding step is like a stepping stone. It is built upon the success achieved by, as well as upon the deficiencies noticed in, the previous ones. The different lenses of viewing leadership we have discussed here are no exception.

What we have attempted here is merely indicative and not exhaustive. Many more interpretations of leadership exist. Many more models and theories would emerge in the times to come. As businesses hurtle forward, armed with newer and smarter technologies, the need for humane leaders would only become more acute.

This would surely lead to newer lenses which would be more comprehensive and elaborate, and would better serve the needs of commercial enterprises better in future.

(A version of this article appears as one of the chapters of the book ‘I Am Something: Developing a New Leader Mindset’.)

(Related Post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/12/24/looking-for-ceos-inspired-by-the-yuletide-spirit)

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