When we have done research into leadership styles we have often detected a dismissive attitude towards the employees by a management team. The management team have an opinion that they know what is right for the organisation and that they, exclusively, must lead this organisation.
Whilst this is not a bad thing, Peter Senge explains this as “the myth of the hero-leader” – a shared story that leaders are the few special people blessed with the capability for command and influence. Their mix of skill, vision, ambition and charisma are exactly what made them these leaders. The "Hero-Leader" myth is often reinforced within organisations as the management team looks towards the leaders to lead them. Research has shown that in many successful businesses a driving business influence is LEADERSHIP EFFECTIVENESS.
April, Macdonald and Vriesendorp show how leadership has evolved over the decades. When looking at the role of the leader in the 1940’s through to the 1980’s, leaders were responsible for planning, controlling and organising. Towards the end of the last century the role of the leader has changed significantly, albeit in a minority of large corporations, to that of steward, teacher, designer, catalyst. This transition from solving problems to creating environments in which to solve problems is a product of the change of perspective modern business has. Previously, business was very encapsulated in the Newtonian, machine aged thinking and now as Quantum theory starts to become more acceptable, the old realities of management through this new lens becomes more blurred (April, Macdonald, Vriesendorp.).
From this we can see that the type of leadership will determine what actions the leaders take. This action is reacted on by the organisation and reflected in the actions of the organisation, thereby further entrenching and supporting the management style. The figure on the left shows how this dynamic is a reinforcing loop.
In contrast to the ideas of empowerment, and enrichment, Abraham Maslow talks about the notion that everything springs from the individual’s own character structure. Authoritarian characters, confronted with human relations principles based on all sorts of beneficial and benevolent assumptions would consider a manager or leader weak in the head and at the very least sentimental and unrealistic. Maslow contends that authoritarian people may need to be broken a little before they can assimilate kindness and generosity.
It may seem unjust to pit the sentiments of the post World War America against today’s empowerment strategies, but it does have some bearing. In order to understand the current situation that many company management teams find themselves in, it is useful to know where the roots of their culture and thinking may come from. Many companies are seeped in tradition and history, run by traditional leaders or owners who have had to be the charismatic leaders. Many management teams today are still the same core of people that supported this leader in the earlier years.
So, is a dramatic change or realignment of leadership style necessary to contend with modern demands on organisations? At Intelligent Artefacts we are now researching this question to find some suitable way to address each individual leader in the context of their company and environment.