Leadership theory is a complex and engaging field. Indeed, people have been studying the concept of leadership and organization for many years now. The purpose is to understand two factors. First, there is a need to understand how a group works. What are it's dynamics and how does a leader develop. Second, to refine the organization of a given group so that its leadership will be able to guide it more effectively.
In the following paper, two somewhat opposing concepts of leadership will be discussed. The first will be a concept termed Situational Leadership which is often used by corporations and companies. The second will be Servant-Leadership which is more often implemented in volunteer organizations, churches, and the military.
The concept of Situational Leadership was developed in the sixties by Robert Blake and Jane Mouton. This particular model of leadership focuses on two elements, a concern for people and a concern for task. The style is one hundred percent oriented toward task completion and the original model was not very popular.
Paul Hersey and Kenneth Blanchard introduced a more advanced take on the concept of Situational Leadership in their 1969 book, Management of Organizational Behavior. Following is the basic premise of this style of leadership:
Readiness: Situational Leadership is based on the premise that followers are at a different readiness/developmental levels for different tasks they perform. Readiness is defined as the willingness, confidence, and ability to do the particular task. For example, one follower might have a high readiness level in computer skills, but a low readiness level in accounting skills.
Leadership Match: Based on the readiness level, the leader that follows the concept of situational leadership will match the readiness level with an appropriate leadership style. Leadership styles vary according to the amount of relationship behavior and task behavior that the leader uses with the follower for a particular task. (Blanchard, Situational Leadership Information, Pg 1)
As the preceding indicates, Hersey and Blanchard, identified a maturity scale with which one could identify the levels of Situational Leadership. The scale goes through four stages which brings the individual from a dependant status to an independent status as a group leader. Following is a breakdown of this scale.
The Directing Stage:
In this particular stage, people must be told what to do. The should receive both positive and negative feedback about whether or not they are accomplishing their given tasks correctly. Many people stay in this position for a long period of time; in some cases it is because they are not making appropriate progress and in other cases it is because their job requires them to stay in such a position. Either way, those who must stay in this position for a long period of time begin to burn out and become bitter and hostile.
The Coaching Stage:
This is the first step up the maturity ladder. Those who are in this position must have concrete ideas which they can implement without close supervision. They too will receive both positive and negative feedback. In this position they will not see the whole picture, so they must have a leader who is capable of keeping this person informed as to his or her progress.
The Supporting Stage:
People in this stage are far more independent. They are capable of deciding what tasks must be done and which elements need immediate development. Those at this stage need to be in constant contact with the leader, receiving feedback on their ideas and proposals. If they do not receive this feedback, they will feel uncertain about their steps. In some cases, those who are not supported will fall back to the coaching stage.
The Delegation Stage:
This is a leadership stage wherein one delegates jobs to those whom he supervises. People in this stage are able to see the big picture and don't necessarily need ongoing feedback. In most cases these people simply need periodic meetings with their leader in order to make sure that they are on the right track.
The leader must understand where his subordinates are at in order to give them appropriate direction. Generally, the leadership style and tactics are dictated by two questions. The first is, can this person do this job? And the second is, will this person do this job?
It is important to have an understanding of both the preceding items. If a person cannot do a given job, then more coaching is required. If a person can do a job, but is not motivated, once again, coaching or even directing is required. People move up the scale when both items come together and they can both do the job and are willing to do the job.
Blake and Hersey created a second scale which evaluates an individuals readiness to do a given task. This scale is also broken into a four part system.
Readiness Level R1: "Unable and unwilling. Insecure."
Readiness Level R2: "Unable but willing. Confident."
Readiness Level R3: "Able but unwilling. Insecure."
Readiness Level R4: "Able and willing. Confident.
Situational Leadership, Pg 1)
Obviously a leader is looking for those that would fit into the R4 category. These people in turn move up the maturity scale quickly and effectively, ultimately becoming leaders themselves.
Servant-Leadership on the other hand is quite a different model than the Situational approach. Servant-Leadership revolves around the leadership philosophies developed by Robert Greenleaf in his 1970 essay, The Servant as Leader.
The servant leader is servant first... It begins with a natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. He or she is sharply different from the person who is leader first, perhaps because of the need to assuage an unusual power drive or to acquire material possessions. For such it will be a later choice to serve - after leadership is established. The leader-first and the servant-first are two extreme types. Between them there are shadings and blends that are part of the infinite variety of human nature.
The difference manifest itself in the care taken by the servant-first to make sure that other people's highest priority needs are being served. The best test, and difficult to administer, is: do those served grow as persons; do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? And, what is the effect on the least privileged in society; will they benefit, or, at least, will they not be further deprived? (Greenleaf, Center for Servant Leadership, Pg 1)
This particular philosophy revolves around those who make a conscious choice to serve above all else. Greenleaf says, "It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first." In their position as servant, they gain respect and leadership, the result is that they become the embodiment of a leader for individuals or an institution.
Examples of the Servant-Leader exist in two American institutions that could not be more different. The Servant-Leader exists in both the vast majority of American churches and in the American Military.
In the Catholic Church, for example, the Priest is a Servant-Leader. He enters the Seminary to learn about the teachings of the Bible and the Church. He goes through a long period wherein he assists Priests in the presentation of Mass. Then finally he becomes ordained. As an ordained Priest, it is his job to both serve those in his Parish as well as to lead them. He must serve those who are in political positions in the Church such as Bishops and Cardinals and ultimately the Pope and he must present their ideas and feelings about the church and the Bible to his own flock. In his role as a Priest he is both a servant to his Parish and his superiors as well as a leader to those whom he preaches too. The Priest is clearly a Servant-Leader.
Many of those involved in the American Military call it "the service." The reason that it is referred to as such is because members of the military are called upon to serve their country. They may be asked to sacrifice themselves for the ideals that the military is supposed to protect. Those who join the Military start out in a very low position. Over a period of time, they are promoted. Before they know what has happened, they have moved into a leadership position. Those in the military serve their commanding officers and ultimately their country. As they move up in rank they become leaders, but even those in the highest positions of the military are still asked to be servants. The result is that those in this particular field are required to become Servant-Leaders.
There is a third form of Servant-Leadership which is common. That is the position of the teacher. Ultimately the goal of the teacher is to serve the students and the community. However, in this role of servant, the teacher is also required to lead. The teacher must lead the students in…