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Role of a Leader in the Corporate Field
When we consider companies of today there are many different needs in terms of personnel. Management may be a single layer, or in may constitute of several layers within a more autocratic framework. The role of a manager is seen as one of managing people, logistical concerns ensuring the right people are in the right place at the right time, performing the correct functions and taking responsibly for that task.
However, in the modern world, with increased employee rights, more employee awareness and the recognised need for motivation to increase productivity, we may argue that today's managers also need to be leaders. The only variable may be seen in the style of leadership that is used and how it fits in with the needs of the position and the organisation.
Management over the years has developed through many phases The first recognised style of management and leadership was introduced both as a result of and as part of the industrial revolution. This became known as scientific management. This involved de-powering and de-skilling of workers by the breaking down of tasks into small manageable components requiring little or no judgement or skill of the part of the individual.
This made mass production techniques possible, but held little regard for the workers doing that job and their labour and skills as a potential asset. With the move from the industrial revolution into the twentieth century the movement of scientific management stayed with us, permeating almost every industry, and well illustrated by Henry Ford and his standardised production line, for which he was famous for saying "You can have nay colour you like, as long as it's black" (1906).
As time progressed it became apparent that this was not an altogether satisfactory management technique, workers were not happy, and with increased mobility the turnover in these manual jobs was high. In some instances the production technique could not be changed, but whether or not this was the case the management and leadership techniques were also considered, until we have reached the progressive and imaginative leadership styles we see in the late twentieth century.
Peter Drucker offers an insight to leadership in the late twentieth century and their required qualities. He states that a leader can not be defined by present personality types (a theory which was at loggerheads to scientific management techniques).
The main trait he believes is that a leader has followers, sets examples, has responsibilities and therefore will get results (Drucker in Hesselbeinet al, 1997). He further goes on to recognise that a leader will usually submit themselves to a 'mirror test', continually judging themselves, asking is the person they see in the mirror every morning the person they want to be (Drucker in Hesselbeinet al, 1997).
Charles Handy, another recognised management Guru cites the shortsightedness of today's management, with a constant preoccupation with the enrichment of the shareholders (Hesselbeinet al, 1997). He argues that whilst businesses don't have a greater goal or cause then it will not see any remarkable leaders, with management remaining in mediocrity (Hesselbeinet al, 1997).
However it is not only the characteristics and personalities of leaders that are changing, it is the styles and techniques they use, and the organisational set up in which the leader leads. Sally Helgesen takes this into consideration in her view that a good leader will emerge from the grass roots of an organisation, her views are also back up by Senge who argues that he has never seen an example of significant progress in a leadership style with the results showing through the organisation without significant leadership from line management (Hesselbeinet al, 1997).
To achieve the type of organisation which will allow for leaders to emerge it has been necessary for management to accept and embrace the idea of employees as not only workers but valuable assets which come with a wide range of skills and abilities. If this idea is embraced it becomes easier to effectively manage the workforce, allowing them to change and evolve and also to empower the employees.
Where the employees are treated in such a way they may value their jobs and working environment to a greater extent, and become larger contributors. For management this would mean a harder working and more loyal workforce, and one which they can use the assets provided by the workforce effectively and efficiently without the necessity to look elsewhere.
This idea has also been formulated into an organisational structure, that of the organic structure. A structure that is flexible and flatter that the more traditional structures. Management is by the utilisation of the flexibility. Teams are used to solve problems and come up with new initiatives and team members will not be form specific departments. The correct people for the job will be pulled into the team regardless of their traditional department.
Handy further developed his ideas into other structures such as webs, clusters and cloverleaf organisation (Thompson, 1997). All of these organisations are 'upside down' with customer needs being the primary concern, which is then reflected in the leadership. Handy sees management styles of the future, and currently reflected in some of the more forward looking organisations as less formal and much different to the expected norms.
This is necessary due to the changes in the structure, the cloverleaf organisation, one of his latest concepts is one of a single organisation made of a few different parts. There will be fewer employees which much more work done by sub-contractors, either companies or home workers. The employees that do exist be believes will be made up of a higher proportion of part time workers. Employers will therefore have to control their business in different ways to cope with these changes.
A basic level of change has also been demonstrated by companies such as Toyota and Nissan, where they will not take the adversarial approach with the unions, but believe that all involved in the company, including the unions, are all working with the same goals in mind, and therefore count them as part of the overall team. They will also utilise such tools as workers boards and quality circles. All of which apparently empower the workers and enhance productivity, and may also come up with ideas from the shop floor which would not have otherwise occurred.
Some of Handy's more futuristic have started to prove true much more rapidly than envisioned. This has been as a result of the current trend of downsizing and the introduction of new technology. The technology has made it possible for many jobs to be done out of the office, with virtual office on the internet or world wide web, and the use of mobile phones to keep in constant contact. These have allowed companies to save money, especially in real estate costs, but they have also meant a change in leadership styles
Where a company has a number of virtual staff the normal leadership techniques will not work, as many require the employee to be with the physical organisation, whereas in many cases they many be sitting at a computer terminal at home. Motivation can be the biggest factor, as this may be the hardest to achieve at a large distance, and this is where Senge (already discussed) may be right, as with this type of employee the motivation will normally come from their immediate line manager.
In addition to these, more organisational based, methods a moralistic approach is advocated by Stephen Covey, that is the principle-centred leadership model (Hesselbeinet al, 1997). He believes that correct principles, just like compasses, will always point the way, keeping us from being confused or fooled by conflicting voices and values. He believes modern leaders have three overriding roles those of path-finding, aligning and empowering.
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