Leadership Styles and Implications for Managers

Introduction

Leaders have a number of styles that they can select. Some of them are based on their own qualities while others are based on their surrounding or their companies. In this work, attention shall be given to surrounding/ context in leadership and its implications for managers.

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Background of the Topic

Leadership is a very dynamic issue. It is quite difficult for one to say that there is one leadership method of managing organisations. This is because different companies face different situations. The way of doing things in a certain organisation (organisational culture) may be very different from the culture in another company. This implies that there may be a need for leaders to adjust their leadership style to fit their surroundings. In others words, a company’s goals can be met well if the management style chosen and the design for the tasks agree. (VBM, 3)

Given the fact that situations can alter organisational success then it is essential for managers to be sensitive to various contexts. Such managers need to be observant of context and they also need to include that context into their leadership style. This is the reason why the paper will propose the use of situational and transactional leadership by managers as a method of continually enhancing success. (Ambler, 1)

Issues, Problems and Suggestions

A number of models have been proposed on dealing with context within organisations. One such model is the Hersey and Blanchard situational leadership model. Here, it has been suggested that employees have varying levels of maturity and development. Consequently, the ability of these individuals to adapt to the needs of the organisations varies with developmental stages of the employee. A leader needs to adjust his styles to such context (Straker, 1).

For example in the first stage which is represented by characters S 1 there’s a high level of directing. Here, followers are assumed to possess low commitment, willingness and competence in carrying out their tasks. Usually such characteristics are prevalent when the followers are facing new tasks or they are just insecure in themselves. Since work has to get done, then leaders must be bold enough to direct employees early on on what they ought to do. (Godin, 2).

The second phase is called the coaching phase denoted by S2. At this point, the follower is characterised by a moderate degree of competence and commitment to the job. However, such a person is not able to completely do a certain job. Trying to direct them at this point would largely lead to demoralisation. Consequently, leaders need to adjust their roles from directors to advisors. Here, they should listen to what followers have to say but still offer them opportunities to grow and develop. (Straker, 7) However, the leader still needs to take the central role in such a position.

The third phase is the participating phase denoted by S3. Followers at this point have high competence, inconsistent commitment and are unwilling. The leader therefore needs to place a lot of emphasis on the relationship and not on tasks. This is because the employee is not refusing to do the job because he is not capable; he may be feeling insecure or may be lacking motivation. As a result, leaders need to affirm employee’s worth, listen and find out their concerns and then look for ways of motivating them. The last phase is called the delegation phase denoted as S4. At this point, followers possess commitment, willingness and capability to carry out a task.

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The leader on the other hand therefore needs to place minimal efforts in either of these aspects. He can give the employee a high level of autonomy since employees can be trusted to complete the job. However, the leader can observe followers in order to ensure that everything is running smoothly. Furthermore, leaders need to encourage employees by recognising their efforts and affirming them. (Godin, 13) It can be said that when followers have a high level of competence, then leaders must place greater precedence on relationship.

The model suggested by Hersey and Blanchard makes important insights on how dynamic the organisational environment can be. It therefore shows that leaders who only exercise one style of leadership without considering the maturity level of employees are bound to fail. This is indeed an accurate depiction of the employee growth cycle. There are many reasons why organisations can benefit from situational leadership.

The first is that managers are the ones who are adapting to the environment. Studies indicate that instating change among a high number of people is a challenging task and more often than not, it may result in failure. However, changing one individual is a much easier process. In situational leadership, managers adapt to suit the maturity level of their employees. It should be noted that employees do change but this often takes a much longer time and waiting for them to do so could affect productivity and impede organisational success. Furthermore, situational leadership as described in the Blanchard Hersey model also implies that adequate attention is given to work tasks.

Some leadership styles place a lot of importance on human or relational aspects of leaders while ignoring the task related factors of an organisation. However, situational leadership deals with this bias by ensuring that managers direct employees in instances where they are incapable of doing so. In the end, work gets completed and the organisation does not pay the price for changes in employee behaviour.

Adapting to one’s context also allows managers to build relationship with their employees thus ensuring that they deal with this very sensitive but important aspect. Furthermore, by being flexible, managers can take their employees through a step by step growth process which will eventually lead them to maturity. In other words, subordinates will reach a point where they are competent, willing and capable of carrying out their task due to managers’ adjustment in the way they deal with them. (Godin, 15)

Nonetheless, critics of situational leadership often assert that such an understanding of leadership minimises the importance of inspiring one’s followers to change since the adjustment process is left in the hands of the manager. (Godin, 18)

Other models have also been proposed for situational type of leadership. For instance, Fielder’s contingency model was based on the concept of situational contingency where no ideal type of leadership is prescribed (VBM, 5). Instead, the latter theorist argues that good leaders are those who switch from task orientated styles to relationship oriented styles depending on the circumstances in question.

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For instance, in very extreme conditions where the circumstances are very unfavourable or very favourable, then structured leadership is most appropriate. However, in moderate circumstances, then relationship based leadership style should be adopted. Victor Vroom also proposed another model in which he prescribed a series of various approaches where the concerned leader had to apply various types of decision making depending on the context (VBM, 8).

Another suggestion that furthers situational leadership is the path goal theory where it was proposed that leaders ought to support their followers and complement their deficiencies by being sensitive to their environments. This approach is critical because it allows for work satisfaction by employees since leaders can either be participative, directive, supportive or achievement oriented. Therefore, leadership need not revolve around the manager alone as the followers are also a crucial link to this process. (Konczal, 12)

Case Study

Situational leadership has worked for several firms in the past and a case in point was Ricksons firm which is an insurance and law firm based in the UK. At the commencement of a change process in 2001, a new senior partner was selected in order to manage the business. The firm had been operating in a traditional manner and there was a need to look for other ways of recreating the business. The latter individual focused on altering the structure of the firm, its geographical locations as well as its services. This implied that the prevailing employees had a vague idea of what needed to be done in order to achieve the senior partner’s visions.

At this time, the leader taught members how to take risk based decisions. He also directed them on the new service offerings as well as other areas of business that the firm was venturing into. After fully integrating the new team, the firms’ turnover began going up and it started enjoying success. At this point, employees knew what they were doing. (Hughes, 2)

After the most difficult aspects of the business change, the latter individual now wanted to instate a growth strategy. Here, the latter individual no longer focused on just the task based aspects of business; here he began forging relationships with the respective stakeholders. He first started with the employees such that they knew what the company was up to. He did not want them to speculate over what was going on.

Consequently, he made a point of meeting with members of the team on a regular basis in his office. Here, he would get suggestions on what they thought and would also inform them about the changes that the firm intended on making. Doing so created a sense of motivation amongst the members and therefore brought in a long lasting commitment to the firm. The company implemented a policy of open doors where employees could come and ask any question to the managerial team whether the questions was complex or simple and this put everyone on board.

The latter case study may not fall neatly into all the situational leadership models but it does illustrate some of the points made earlier on the importance of context in leadership. (Konczal, 13) The new senior partner at first took on a more directive approach when the changes had just been instituted. However, after seeing that his subordinates had mastered what was required of them, he then focused on the relational aspect of it. Because of this variable tactics, the company was able to grow its revenue from 5.6 million in 2001 to 12.6 million pounds in 2006. This illustrates that a flexible leadership style can work for an organisation and can ensure that goals are achieved.

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Conclusion

Situational theories attempt to bring context into leadership since they acknowledge the fact that the right time and surroundings have to converge in order to bring about the right results. This kind of style ensures that leaders do the adaption and that relationships are worked on. In the case study, a company was transformed into a highly profitable force in the legal industry because of the capacity of its leader to adjust to his circumstances.

References

Straker, David. Hersey and Blanchard’s situational leadership. 2010. Web.

Godin, Seth. Situational leadership by Kenneth Blanchard & Paul Hersey. 2009. Web.

Value based management (VBM). Contingency theory. 2010. Web.

Konczal, Ed. Leadership development-context is key. 2009. Web.

Ambler, George. Understanding leadership context. 2005. Web.

Huges, Anthony. Leadership through change. 2009. Web.

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