I've been recently reading a book called Managing Behavior in Organizations by Jerald Greenberg. And I want to share the ideas about leadership that I've picked up from the book.
What is leadership?
In order to understand how to become a leader, we should first define what leadership is. Leadership is an ability of an individual to influence others in ways that help to reach group or organizational goals. The essential goal of a leader is to create a purpose or mission of the organization and strategy for attaining it (whereas goal of the manager is to implement this strategy).
You are now probably asking: "how do leaders influence others?" According to "the theory", they use position and/or personal powers. Position power comes from the posts individuals hold, i.e. individuals can influence others because such powers are associated with their jobs. Such powers are available to anyone that holds a particular position. Position power has four different sources:
- Legitimate power - individuals gain such power when others recognise and accept his or her authority;
- Reward power - the power to control the rewards others receive, e.g. a supervisor can reword other by recommending a pay raise;
- Coercive power - the capacity to control punishment;
- Information power - power gained by having access to valuable data or knowledge.
Another source of power comes from unique qualities of an individual. Such power is called personal power. There are four sources of personal power:
- Rational persuasion - ability to provide logical arguments and factual evidence to support his/her arguments;
- Expert power - the power individuals gain when others recognise the expertise on a topic;
- Referent power - the power individuals gain because they are liked and admired by others;
- Charisma - power that comes from engaging and magnetic personality.
Luckily, the book provides some tips on how to strengthen your powers:
- You can increase your information power by expanding your network of communication contacts and keeping in touch. The more contacts you have, the more information will be accessible to you; and the more information you have, the more people will count on you;
- Take responsibilities that are unique. You will gain more power if you will be the only one that can perform certain tasks;
- Perform less routine tasks and instead do some novel ones. If you do only routine tasks, you will be easily replaceable, whereas ones that perform novel tasks are indispensable;
- Be involved in organisational decisions by joining task forces and making contact with senior people. The more important others consider your input to be, the more power you will have;
- Perform activities that are organisation's top priorities.
What does it take to be a successful leader?
Up until this point we have taken a look to what kind of powers leaders use in order to influence others. But what makes leaders successful? What behaviour leads to leaders success?
Leaders are likely to be most successful when they demonstrate high concern for both people (showing consideration) and production (initiating structure).
In simple words, successful leaders (1) cares about you as a person and (2) gives you an advice, answers to your questions, and shows you what is expected of you. In fact, we can plot leadership effectiveness into a two dimensional diagram (which is called managerial grid):
In this diagram there you can see five green dots that represent different names for management style: "country club", impoverished, task, "middle of the road" and team managements. Team management is considered to be the ideal management style and this style is observed between very successful leaders. The diagram is mainly useful for two things: determining a manager's position in this grid (i.e. determining his/her management style), and helping him/her to train certain skills in order to reach the ideal management style (grid training).
LPC contingency theory: different leaders for different situations
According to contingency theories, certain leadership styles may be most effective under certain conditions. One example of such theories is LPC contingency theory. The theory states that the most important personal characteristic is esteem (liking) for least preferred co-worker (LPC). In order to evaluate this LPC, you have to take a person with whom a leader has troubles working with. The leader who perceive this person in negative terms (low LPC) are primarily concerned about carrying out the task itself. The leader who perceive this person in positive terms (high LPC) tends to accomplish the task by developing good relationships with the group. I believe this can be related to management styles. Low LPC leaders will probably show task management style, whereas high LPC leaders will probably prefer "country club" management style. LPC contingency theory though states that LPC is relatively fixed and cannot be changed, whereas managerial grid suggests otherwise.
When a certain type of leader is the most valuable? According to LPC contingency theory it depends on a situational control. It's not clear from the book what exactly does this mean (nor I was able to find a definition on the Internet), but it seems that it describes if everyone knows what to do, how much subordinates tend to follow the command, and how much power a leader has. When situational control is low then the group does not like the leader, and when the situational control is high, the leader is very liked by the group. So, LPC contingency theory states that low LPC leaders are best when situational control is either very low or very high. When situational control is low, leader who can give clear orders fits best; and when situational control is high, power of the leader is not challenged, therefore it is perfectly acceptable for the leader to focus on tasks.
High LPC leaders are best when situational control is moderate. A good example would be a research lab, where relations with colleagues are good, but the power of a leader is somewhat limited (you cannot force innovations out of people). In such situations a leader that gives clear orders will probably not appropriate, whereas collaborative leader, i.e. high LPC, would likely be more effective.
Apparently, you can match a certain leader type to a certain situation in order to boost effectiveness. Read more about this on Wikipedia article about Fiedler contingency model.
Situational leadership theory: leaders should adapt to situation
Situational leadership theory is another contingency theory stating that leaders are effective when they select the right leadership style for the situation they face. The situation depends on two major attributes of followers:
- task behaviour - knowledge and skills followers have for specific task, or how much guidance they need, and
- relationship behaviour - willingness of followers to work without taking directions from others, or their need for emotional support.
Yes, these are the same values that every effective leader has, but now these values are applied to followers instead. We can draw almost the same diagram as before, except that access will say how much directive or supportive behaviour followers need from the leader:
As you can see from this diagram, scientists identify four different situations depending on behaviour of followers:
- High directive and low supportive (S1): in situations where followers need a lot of directions, but don't need support, a directing leader, that simply directs his/her followers, is best;
- High directive and high supportive (S2): in situations where followers need both directions and support a coaching leader works best. In this case leader needs to direct, but in a selling style, so that followers are talked into following the directions;
- High supportive, but low directive (S3): when followers do not need directions, but need a lot of support, supporting leader does the job. Followers have already good expertise in what they are doing and leader just needs to motivate them to do the job;
- Low supportive and low directive (S4): in cases when followers do have expertise and motivation to do the job, a delegating leader style is best. Instead of giving orders, leaders should delegate tasks and do monitoring tasks.
In summary, situational leadership theory states that leaders should identify the situation, choose the right management style, and implement it.
Develop the leader inside you
Good news is anyone can improve her/his leadership skills! In fact there is a definition for systematic process of training people to expand their leadership capacity. It's called leadership development. Most of the companies focus their efforts on the following three major areas:
- Developing social interaction between people and close ties within organisation;
- Developing trusting relationships between individuals;
- Developing common values and shared visions with others.
The main focus here is the development of emotional intelligence. The following are the most widely used leadership development techniques:
- 360-degree feedback is the process that nearly all companies from Fortune 500 rely on this technique. The idea is to collect feedback from multiple sources around you: your subordinates, peers and supervisors. During this process leaders can get the idea what others thing about them. The problem with this technique is that collecting feedback and taking appropriate action are two different things. Many people, when encounter negative feedback, defend psychologically by dismissing it or simply ignoring it.
- Networking technique intends to help leaders to not get too isolated from other departments. Specifically, it is targeted to help leaders learn who should they ask for information when they need to solve problems. Also peer relationships promote cooperation.
- Executive coaching is a method for improving leader's performance. Usually includes assessment of a leader's strengths and weaknesses and a plan for improvement. This method usually follows these steps: define what will be done and how, assess individual performance (e.g. by using 360-degree feedback), customise plan with consulting the leader's immediate supervisor, implement the plan. Such coaching can be done either for groups or for individuals. It was found that combination of these two increase leaders' productivity by 88 percent.
- Mentoring is a method when leaders receive mentoring from more experienced colleagues (called mentors).
This is it, folks! If you managed to read up till here, you have a knowledge of the entire section of the book! If you find this material engaging, I recommend you to read this book. I also believe that every of us should seek to improve our leadership skills, as with these we will have a more successful careers and better relationships between colleagues and friends!