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Organizational Change and Leadership Styles
Human beings are naturally change-resistant, many have stated, and human beings in collective organizations such as corporations are perhaps more rather than less resistant to shifts in their daily routines. This is because the resistance to change in one individual fosters and gives permission to others to behave in similarly change-resistant fashions. If one person is late everyday, then it seems 'okay' to other employees to come in late, so long as they are not 'as late' as the 'latest' person in their block of cubicles/
This is the downside of the human animal's status as a 'social beast' as opposed to an individualistic creature. A leader of an organization must stand outside of this tendency to reinforce negative workforce patterns and attitudes. He or she cannot ignore such tendencies in his or her fellow workers, though. Rather, a critical definition of organizational leadership on the managerial level is to take individuals within a collective and to inspire individuals to function effectively as individuals, both within the workplace as a whole and within individual organizational teams.
But how does an effective style of management leadership combat such innate change resistance on the part of workers, when attempting to circumvent such common contemporary employee problems as chronic absenteeism and tardiness, losses to productivity as a result of poor performance, organizational costs in the form of revenue as a result of lack of collective team creativity, a fear of new information technology amongst current employees, organizational pessimism rooted in the market drop for the technology industry, and employee frustration in the face of reasonable and unreasonable customer expectations?
At present, a command-and-control leadership style is the primary solution, or non-solution to the problem of a change resistant workforce in American business. It is the product of the industrial age, "accepted because efficiency is created by repetitive action, teaching people to resist change." But under command-and-control leadership, there is a tendency, which is anything but productive, for management to consider the opinions or concerns of people on the front line of the organization to be trivial or overly biased in favor of their individual selves. "As a result, management takes action only when problems become too big to ignore. If workers have conflicts with their supervisors, they will find ways to increase the magnitude of problems, creating a combative environment. A downward spiral of management implementing more control and workers resisting control develop. Under worker responsibility, management and workers unite to prevent or solve problems."(Motivation & Leadership Styles, 2004)
However, clearly some directional strategy is required in situations of workplace change and in the face of a large organization's resistance to positive shifts in favor of increased demands for employee discipline. The CEO and GE visionary Jack Welsh has proposed one potential solution to the problems of command and control leadership. Welsh's Six Sigma strategy is still quite hierarchical. However, by attempting to deploy quantitative solutions to qualitative problems, Six Sigma also tries to take the point-of-view of employees on the front lines of the organization seriously. In other words, Six Sigma asks what is the problem with productivity amongst employees and company products, what has shown quantifiable results or 'what works' and how can the problem of what doesn't work be solved through the use of verifiable and quantitative solutions.
In the case of chronic absenteeism, for instance, rather than disciplining employees, which can create resistance in an organization where individuals have always 'come and gone as the employees pleased,' instituting a time clock for all employees great and small, and having mandatory docks in pay when an individual is late, regardless of position, from CEO to janitor, might be one quantifiable solution to the qualitative or human problem of a chronically fuzzy approach to time. (Six Sigma, 2004) Thus autocratic leadership where, "the autocratic leader dominates team-members, using" unilateralist strategies to achieve a singular objective, is not always the solution to human resources problems. A purely autocratic approach to leadership "generally results in passive resistance from team-members and requires continual pressure and direction from the leader in order to get things done." (Leadership, 1997)
But this does not mean all attempts to institute authoritarian or top-down directive approaches to problems must be eschewed. However, if the pressure is not personally directed from the hands of an individual, and is verified by objective data, as is at the heart of Six Sigma and also TQM, or Total Quality Management, the dangers of such passive resistance can be avoided. (TQM, 2004) Total Quality Management is another strategy that attempts to use verifiable externals, such as measured productivity, to target what works in an organization, and to find out why.
However, one criticism of Six Sigma or TQM's data-based approach to human resources problems, regarding a change resistant, late, or absent workforce might be, in addition to ameliorating the problem is to also ask why do employees have such a weak work ethic within the organization to begin with? The quantitative yet fair solution to time management might work for problems such as late employees or absenteeism, but for other resistant issues regarding improving employee credentials, such as integrating new technology into the workforce, a different approach might be necessary.
Employees need, when forced to change to systems for the good of the organization that result in personal cost, to know that such new systems of time management or a demand to apply themselves to learn new technological systems will be fairly enforced. But in the case of new technology, here, there are additional needs to weigh such as the potential ability of any employee to learn new skills. It may be necessary to incur a cost in morale to by letting some employees go to reap the benefits of a more efficient workplace. Customer views and needs for lower costs and greater efficiency might take priority over employee's needs, particularly given the increased urgency for change in a competitive workforce.
Again, despite the problems of authoritarian leadership, in such cases, a laissez-faire manager might have an even more detrimental strategy than an autocratic managerial strategy. Such a manager exercises little control over his or her organization, leaving team members "to sort out their roles and tackle their work, without participating in this process," (Leadership, 1997). Although this may divert ire from the persona of the manager, it can easily cause individuals to turn against the organization during times of change and crisis. Also this approach can leave employees floundering with little direction or motivation and reinforces the desire employees not wanting to break routines and reinforce fear of the unknown in the face of poor leadership. (Leadership, 1997)
Again, a strategy of implementing verifiable solutions, such as tests upon individual employees in the new technology rather than subjective performance reviews might be a way to create verifiable data regarding which employees would be best apt to flourish under the new organization, despite the authoritarian image this might create, the risk run by the approach of TQM or Six Sigma.
One last potential leadership approach is that of the "democratic leader" who "makes decisions by consulting his team, whilst still maintaining control of the group. The democratic leader allows his team to decide how the task will be tackled and who will perform which task. The democratic leader can be seen in two lights. A good democratic leader encourages participation and delegates wisely, but never loses sight of the fact that he [or she] bears the crucial responsibility of leadership." A good democratic leader "values group discussion and input from his [or her] team and can be seen as drawing from a pool of his team members' strong points in order to obtain the best performance," but ultimately even the most democratic leader will seem "unsure" if the leader…[continue]
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