The book The manager's bookshelf: A mosaic of contemporary views offers a compilation of a series of short essays on management, specifically how to be a 'good' versus a 'bad' manager. Although all of the managerial theories that are summarized put a slightly different emphasis on particular values over others and use different acronyms to enable readers to comprehend how to put theory into action, the essays are underlined by the same, core principle: people must be motivated by intrinsic motivational factors to succeed. That is why empowering employees and showing respect for their input and accomplishments is so vital.
Summary of management essays
Once upon a time, according to the principles of scientific management, workers were viewed as adversaries of company profitability. Workers, it was believed, had to be heavily micro-managed so they could perform to their highest capabilities. The essay, "The enthusiastic employee: How companies profit by giving workers what they want" suggests that employee eagerness to act independently is an asset for companies. This interpersonal quality must be treasured just as much as other organizational resources. Employees are eager to give back to organizations and management and employees need to exist in a state of harmony. The primary motivational factors for sustaining employee enthusiasm are participatory in nature. Managers must engage workers intellectually and emotionally based upon the following principles: equity (treating workers fairly); achievement (setting goals and honoring workers who achieve them); and camaraderie (creating a workplace in which people get along and in which workers serve a higher vision) (Pierce & Newstrom 2010: 118).
The essay "Psychological capital: Developing the human competitiveness edge" defines the critical component of 'psychological capital,' as "a positive psychological state that is characterized by a person displaying several key attributes," including "self-efficacy, hope, optimism, and resiliency" (Pierce & Newstrom 2010: 123). Employees who exhibit these characteristics feel hopeful about the future because they know their behaviors have an impact upon the world -- the world does not 'do things' to them, rendering them passive. Employers must provide positive motivational validation to encourage these proactive traits within the hearts of employees -- employees must act not upon blind optimism, but positive realism.
When asking 'what motivates employees,' quite often the default response is 'a paycheck.' However, the essay "Why pride matters more than money: The power of the world's greatest motivational force" stresses the importance of internal motivational forces (which Douglas McGregor would call 'Theory Y' motivations) versus external (or Theory X) motivations like financial remuneration. Pride is the most important motivator: not self-serving pride, but pride in a job well done. "Pride in the results of one's work…Pride in how work is done…Pride in coworkers and supervisors (Pierce & Newstrom 2010: 129). Pride can be either collective or individual but this sense of finding and fulfilling a higher need is essential.
The essay "Leadership for Everyone" creates a specific acronym (LEADERS) to stress the mutually dependent nature of the employee-employer relationship, one which must be founded upon sensitivity and trust. "Listen to learn, Empathize with emotions, Attend to aspirations, Diagnose and detail, Engage for good ends, Respond with respectfulness, and Speak with specificity" (Pierce & Newstrom 2010: 135). One again, this participatory strategy of dialogue stresses the interactive nature of leadership: leadership is not something that is done 'to' an employee, but rather a dialogue between leaders and followers. Leaders must listen to employees and empathize with them as if they are human beings, not implements to be used (Pierce & Newstrom 2010: 137). Feedback must be targeted and useful otherwise followers will grow frustrated.
The pointed essay "Bad leadership: What it is, how it happens, why it matters" discusses what bad leadership is so readers will be able to foster the principles of positive leadership. The situational nature of leadership is stressed: "leadership does not exist in isolation or in the abstract. Without followers there is no leadership; leaders and followers are interdependent. There cannot be 'good' leadership without 'good' followers or, conversely, bad leadership without bad followers" (Pierce & Newstrom 2010: 145). However, leaders must have a certain degree of competency at the task at hand; personal flexibility; a sense of ethics, and ultimately they must put the needs of the organization ahead of personal needs.
The essay "Followership: How followers are creating change and changing" suggests that the mold of the 'top-down' leadership model must be broken. Followers (who outnumber leaders) are equally significant in terms of their influence. Leaders are dependent upon engaged and committed followers, and followers who actively subvert the process or passively withhold their support can undermine the leader very easily -- that is why modern leadership theories conceptualize leadership as an equal relationship: without good followers, good leaders cannot function (Pierce & Newstrom 2010: 152).
Finally, the essay "Team of rivals: The political genius of Abraham Lincoln" is a case study of the leadership style of what many consider our nation's greatest president. Lincoln was able to successfully navigate a cabinet of men with very different political philosophies and orientations during one of the most difficult periods of American history. Choosing such a team of rivals was not masochism on Lincoln's part. During this period of American history it was considered far more acceptable to have a diverse cabinet in terms of philosophies. Lincoln thrived on the debate, and used his followers as a source of fruitful discussion, allowing them to check one another's excesses. Lincoln had to remain stalwartly in control and while he allowed debate, it could not be allowed to spiral into inaction: his approach was not purely participatory, but he had a clear goal in mind in the form of preserving the union, and his leadership was never self-serving.
Applying the essays to my own organization
Like many organizations, my current place of work places a great deal of emphasis on teamwork. The comradeship as detailed in the essay the "Enthusiastic employee" is important to motivate workers to perform to their highest potential. Human beings are social animals, and a workplace which is friendly, respects employees, and teaches employees to work together will be more pleasant to go to on a day-to-day basis. 'Good' followers are not merely obedient, but actively wish to give back to the organization.
However, I have also found that a certain degree of firmness on the part of the leadership in terms of setting goals is required. Much like Abraham Lincoln eventually realized that he needed to exercise control over his 'team of rivals,' leaders must have a clear organizational vision to unite the dispersed interests, abilities, and agendas of followers. I have found that when a leader offers a higher mission and objective for the organization, workers are willing to follow his or her lead. But when there is a vacuum of leadership, the workers' personal agendas will be thrust to the forefront, because of a lack of clarity of the direction of the organization. People are willing to work hard, but only if they feel that the effort that is called for from them is purposeful.
Though a single, general intelligence may define the over-arching principle of the organization, it is vital that the small goals and a step-by-step process of achieving those results are enthusiastically undertaken by workers in the organization. Some form of intrinsic motivation is demanded to make this happen. Workers are motivated by pay, promotions, and threats of firing or disciplinary actions to some extent, but to truly make a full emotional investment in the company, the company must access higher-level attributes. The best managers ask workers 'what do you think' and give employees at all levels of the organization additional responsibilities if they have demonstrated that they have the necessary intelligence and drive to fulfill such leadership positions.
Compare and contrast two of the articles as they relate to your organization
The essay "Leadership for Everyone" stresses that leadership requires good communication for it to be effective (Pierce & Newstrom 2010: 135). The conventional stereotype of the leader barking orders at others is far from accurate; instead a leader must be a good listener as well. As the title implies, great leaders are not necessarily 'born leaders' with mysterious, special characteristics that set them apart from others. Leadership is a skill that can be learned, even though some people may be more willing and able to learn. Leadership is not 'rocket science,' it is based upon simple principles such as respect, empathy, and clarity. Consistent enforcement of these principles is vital for organizational success but leadership is fundamentally about fostering positive, normalized relationships between other human beings rather than a special type of alchemy.
The 'everyday' aspect of what constitutes leadership is also highlighted in the article "Followership: How followers are creating change and changing." However, rather than focusing on leaders, this essay focuses upon followers, which it regards as the more critical component of what constitutes sound organizational development. The 'great man' concept of leadership within Western culture makes organizations fall…