Organisational Behaviour, Leadership, and Culture

Introduction

Working together towards a common goal yields a synergistic effect, thus leading to the attainment of goals that transcend the efforts of the different individuals working separately. Kaifi and Noori (2011) note, “In our modern world, teams are essential to everything individuals do in daily life” (p. 88). This realisation has led to the proliferation of organisations, which have become a commonplace across the world. An organisation is defined as a unit consisting of two or more people whose primary aim is to achieve a pre-determined goal. People working in a team are expected to behave in a certain way in order to achieve the organisational goal(s). This aspect yields the idea of a typical pattern of behaviour associated with the different types of organisations. These behaviour patterns are best understood from the perspective of organisational behaviour.

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Organisation behaviour is a subset of management studies that focus on the conduct of people in organisations and how the conduct bears on the performance of the organisations. This assertion means that organisational behaviour focuses primarily on how employees’ activities in the course of their duty espouse the effectiveness of an organisation or it hampers productivity. All the expected behaviour patterns associated with specific organisational structures, as well as the actual behaviour patterns commonly observed in such organisations, are thus part of organisational behaviour. The characteristics of leaders and the manner in which they handle issues have led to the development of theories, which attempt to explain what constitutes a leader. Some leadership and management styles are at the disposal of an organisation’s leaders to choose from in the selection of the style to adopt.

Theorists model the expected behaviour patterns by using various theoretical models to explain the phenomena witnessed in organisational environments. A prime example of such theoretical models is the SOBC Model, which was developed from Kurt Lewin’s assertion that human behaviour is a function of an individual and his or her surroundings. SOBC is an acronym in which “S stands for Stimulus, O stands for Organism or the Individual, B stands for Behaviour, and C stands for Consequence (Dailey 2012, p.7). Therefore, this model asserts that the environment provides stimuli that trigger a certain pattern of behaviour in an individual and the behaviour pattern brings about results in the form of consequences.

Organisational culture is a multi-faceted concept, which cannot be understood or considered superficially. It encompasses elements that are easily observable from the outside and those that are not observable, but they exist. Organisational culture and leadership approaches are intertwined concepts, which work together alongside other elements to culminate into the wider organisational behaviour. However, although the two go hand in hand, a distinct organisational culture cannot develop without the direction of the leadership of an organisation. The choice of a leadership and management style is often dictated by personal philosophies and belief systems of the leaders. Against this background, this report seeks to examine organisational leadership and management coupled with organisational culture as elements of organisational behaviour.

Organisational Leadership and Management

French et al. (2011) note that organisational behaviour, as an area of study, entails several elements, which in one way or another work together to define the pattern of behaviour exhibited by employees in an organisation. Organisational leadership and management is an epitome of these elements that underpin organisational behaviour. This premise stems from the fact that the patterns of behaviour observed in most organisations heavily anchors on the direction outlined by the leadership or management of the organisations. Chaneta (2010) notes that organisational behaviour “is affected by patterns of organisational structure, technology, styles of leadership and systems of management through which organisational processes are planned, directed and controlled” (p.14). This assertion concurs with the idea that the leadership approach employed by the management team of an organisation defines the manner in which activities are carried out in the organisation and consequently the culture that develops in the organisation.

Some of the most common leadership and management styles include laissez-faire leadership, servant leadership, transformational leadership, charismatic leadership, and situational leadership (Bonnici 2011). Each of the styles has distinctive features, which set it apart; for instance, laissez-faire leadership is characterised by little or no supervision at all. Transformational leadership on its part entails close communication between the leadership and employees such that the leadership defines the course of action and expects the employees to give their best in emulating the same. None of the different styles of leadership is distinctly superior to another and the success or failure of any of them depends on how well the prevailing situation is applied. This aspect implies that situational leadership, which is a combination of all other leadership styles, could be the best approach to leadership as it encourages a carefully considered analysis of a situation before settling for a leadership approach that is likely to produce the best outcome (Bush et al. 2010).

A number of leadership theories have been advanced to explain different matters about leadership. The trait theory of leadership for instance, espouses the idea that leaders are born and not made (Derue et al. 2011). According to this theory, individuals who end up as great leaders exhibit certain identifiable character traits. In an organisational setting, this theory is very practical as some individuals have ways of handling tasks, which lead them to rise meteorically within the ranks of the organisational structure. Yet, another group of individuals remain stagnant in given positions until the retirement time. The critics of this theory refute it on grounds that it claims that leadership traits are innate yet training has produced some of the best leaders the world has ever known (Wynn 2006). Again, this idea is also applicable to organisations, though the pace at which different individuals develop to levels where they can be trusted with certain responsibilities within organisations varies as most individuals retire having served as leaders at some level. This aspect implies that personality traits do not necessarily dictate who becomes a leader and who does not, but rather it defines the structure of an organisation in conjunction with the culture that has been developed in the organisation.

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Another theoretical model that attempts to explain the relationship between the leadership and behaviour of subordinates is theory X and Theory Y (Hartnell et al. 2011). Theory X on one hand assumes that employees are inherently lazy and they will always seek ways of avoiding work, which calls for coercion, threatening, and strict control from the leadership in order to achieve organisational goals (Russ 2011). This theory to a given extent explains why some leaders opt for the autocratic type of leadership in which their authority remains unchallenged on all issues of leadership and functioning of the organisation. It is natural to approach this kind of employees with a tough leadership style since allowing them to contribute towards management issues can only serve to give them leeways to avoiding work further. However, this theory is not applicable to all employees in an organisation (Russ 2011). There is a tendency of avoiding work or do as little as possible among employees, but not all employees behave in such a manner. Some employees will remain dedicated to the discharging their duties and they can work very effectively with minimal supervision, which means that the idea of situational leadership once again emerges as the best way of dealing with leadership issues concerning employee behaviour.

Theory Y on the other hand assumes that employees are naturally hard working and dedicated (Warner 2011). According to this theory, this aspect gives employees the ability to view work as a natural happening just like play or rest. Leaders who base their leadership on this theory argue that employees have the ability to make the right decisions in the process of self-direction, and thus they require no much direction from the leadership (Kopelman et al. 2008). In this respect, the theory is very closely related to the laissez-faire style of leadership. However, a careful observation of most work places reveals otherwise. If one comes across an organisation in which employees exhibit the characteristics that underpin theory Y, then right away one will want to find out the essence of that behaviour. In other words, this kind of culture is not common such that if it is existed in an organisation, then the leadership of that organisation takes the credit for fostering a productive organisational culture.

The assumptions made by these theories or their core principles explicitly indicate that the behaviour of employees in an organisation and the approach taken by the leadership influence one another (Sager 2008). In some circumstances, a leader will take a proactive approach and define the pattern of behaviour expected of employees in an organisation (Russ 2013). However, although this approach, in which the influence of the leader is felt, might be popular, it does not fit all circumstances. At times, it calls for the leadership to stay back and take their time to analyse a situation and figure out the best approach to be taken. This aspect implies that it is not prudent for the leadership to depend on situational leadership always for such an approach espouses a ‘wait and see’ attitude, which is not the preferable approach for emergencies. Leadership and management thus call for a combination of skills and knowledge of which some may be innate and others may be developed. However, it is important to note that the approach taken by the leadership will define the pattern of behaviour expected of the subordinates. Additionally, the theories of leadership just like the leadership styles are not mutually exclusive. More often than not, two or more theories will overlap when handling a situation and in one way or another, this aspect shapes the organisational culture.

Organisational Culture

Organisational culture is one of the elements, which constitute organisational behaviour as an area of study. Robbins and Sanghi (2007) define organisational culture as a body of shared values and beliefs that distinguish one organisation from another. According to Madu (2007), the concept of organisational culture comprises three levels that include behaviour and artefacts, which is the easily observable level of organisational culture, while the second level comprises the values espoused in an organisation. These values are not observable, but they dictate the patterns of behaviour for most people in an organisation. The third and deepest level of organisational culture is the level of assumptions and beliefs. Any culture is defined by a system of beliefs, which implies that if members of an organisation can be at the level of sharing a common system of assumptions, beliefs, and values as those espoused by the leadership of the organisation, then success for such an organisation is easily achievable (Milne 2007).

In other words, the leadership of an organisation is expected to be visionary and in the process of discharging its duties, it should emit consistent and clear indications of the direction that employees should take. Through this aspect, the leaders’ priorities and values will be clear to the members of the organisation. It then becomes the responsibility of the members to make these values and priorities their priorities and beliefs as well in order to develop an entrenched organisational culture (Mosley 2007). The choice of leadership could be subject to training or personal experience gained through working with different styles for a long time.

Given that a number of leadership styles are at the disposal of organisational leaders to employ, it follows that there are different types of organisational cultures. As aforementioned, every organisation strives to come up with a unique culture even though the underlying principles might be the same. However, there are several distinct organisational cultures patterns, which leaders try to fit their organisations. Some of these include the normative culture, academy culture, collaborative work culture, pragmatic culture and so on (Sun 2008). Each of these organisational cultures may only fit in with certain leadership styles. For instance, the laissez-faire leadership style may fit in with several organisational cultures, but a bureaucratic leadership style may only fit in well with the normative culture. The environment and line of activity that an organisation engages in also influences the leadership style and consequently the organisational culture (Naranjo-Valencia 2011). For instance, high-risk industries may require very strict leadership and culture as opposed to other industries in which employees are encouraged to nurture their creative instincts. The culture that exists in an organisation cannot dictate the type of leadership that a new leader adopts when s/he takes over the leadership (Taylor & Carroll 2010). This aspect is a clear indicator that the two go hand in hand, but the leadership dictates the patterns of behaviour in an organisation and consequently the culture that fits in with the leadership style adopted.

Organisational Example

In an attempt to analyse how leadership and management as well as organisational culture influence the manner in which organisations operate, Harpo Entertainment Group is used in this paper. Harpo is an assortment of companies that operate in the field of entertainment, but more specifically in radio, television, and movie production. It is based in Chicago, in the US, but it has other offices in Los Angeles. It is touted as among the most successful production companies in the world, which has led to its meteoric rise to become one of the largest companies in the world owned by a black person. Under the leadership of Oprah Winfrey, one of the most influential women globally (Harris & Watson 2007), as the founder and director, the organisation won a plethora of globally coveted awards. Oprah is well known across the world as a leader whose charisma is unequalled, which gives her ability to influence huge numbers of people across the world. However, her leadership style at Harpo is servant leadership. She acts as an inspiration to all around her and encourages people around her to focus on their strengths and make their lives better. This approach to leadership values diverse opinions and encourages everyone to develop his or her abilities to be the best they can ever be (Dierendonck 2011).

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This aspect means that the radio and TV programs as well as films produced by Harpo aim at inspiring and encouraging the audiences across the world to make the best out of their lives. Specifically, they focus on helping individuals with life issues to overcome their problems and make the best out of their lives. The essence of Harpo’s productions is to inspire people to lead better lives, lives of fulfilment, and accomplishment, which can allow them feel better about themselves and their lives. The leader, Oprah Winfrey, has endeavoured since the inception of the organisation to influence as many lives as possible by ensuring that within the organisation, she encourages everyone to develop his or her own leadership skills. This aspect explains why the organisation grew so fast to become an excellent production company. Servant leadership espouses creativity and stepping out of the leader’s shadow in order to demonstrate the leadership skills in every individual (Spears 2010). It calls for trusting in other people’s abilities and encouraging them to move forward. Coupled with this aspect, it also encourages humility on the part of the leader, as this element is necessary in order to allow the development of others.

Conclusion

This report sought to examine organisational behaviour critically with regard to organisational leadership and management and organisational culture. Organisational behaviour entails several elements of which leadership and management as well as organisational culture are part. Leadership and management approaches employed by the leaders of an organisation have been established to bear on the direction that an organisation takes in terms of performance. Strict leadership styles yield organisational cultures that are commensurate with this style of leadership. Slack leadership approaches such as the laissez-faire approach also yield organisational cultures that are somewhat permissive and cannot be used in organisations, which require strict adherence to a given code of conduct or mode of operation such as operating machinery.

However, it should be noted that no single leadership or management approach would serve a solution for all challenges an organisation may encounter. As such, organisational leaders ought to remain open and objective in their leadership so that every situation that presents itself is tackled with the right approach. This assertion seems to give the impression that situational leadership can provide organisations with a solution for all their challenges. This observation may be partly true, but it is better for a leader to identify with one distinct leadership style and only seek solace in the other approaches when the situation really calls for such a decision. The beliefs and values espoused in an organisation depict particular characteristics, which the organisation holds in high esteem (Llopis et al. 2007. This implies that every organisation strives to develop a unique system of beliefs and values, which suit its activities and help to achieve its goals and focuses on building meaning around those beliefs.

The organisational example used in this report is Harpo Entertainment Group, which is known for espousing servant leadership. The culture that Harpo has instilled in its employees is that practiced by Oprah herself (Harris & Watson 2007). A culture of independence and giving one’s best, while in the process respecting others’ opinions and abilities. This aspect rightly puts servant leadership as a life philosophy in addition to being a leadership style. The organisational culture at Harpo defines the lifestyles of the employees in and outside the organisation, as well as the lifestyles of the audiences that they reach.

This aspect is an indicator that organisational culture can transcend the organisational boundaries to spread to the community especially if the culture is positive. Oprah, through Harpo, has demonstrated that leadership plays a key role in defining the organisational culture of any organisation and that the leadership’s influence can go beyond the employees to the community. However, this does not mean that Harpo employs only this approach to address all its challenges. There are times when other styles have to be employed to solve specific challenges. Although the approaches may be different and varied, the idea remains that the kind of leadership in place dictates the behaviour patterns in an organisation and hence the organisational culture. The leaders thus need to choose the best approach that suits their line of activity to develop positive organisational cultures and consequently thriving organisations.

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