You are on page 1of 5

What Leaders Read 1

Managerial Leadership
Peter Wright
1996, Routledge
Author Peter Wright is a lecturer in occupational psychology at the University of Bradford Management Centre. The author begins by noting that influence is a common theme in leadership definitions, but that an influential leader is not necessarily a good one. Before research turned towards trying to identify the traits of successful leaders, leadership was seen as a skill that a gifted few were born with. Behaviourists believe that leadership is based around behaviour and not position power. This successful influence works towards shared goals, not those of the leader. The author reports that Carlson found that managers: work long hours, mix trivial and important work, have short periods of time alone (between 30 and 90 minutes a day), and suffer many interruptions. So the author reports that managers are not conductors but puppets: they are continually pulled by many strings. The author notes that only superb administrators can see through their daily haste to what is really important. The author reports that Mintzberg feels that managers like this variety and fresh hot information. The realities of work mean developing a particular personality, so, overloaded with work, managers do things abruptly and superficially. Mintzberg felt there were 10 managerial roles broken into 3 groups: interpersonal, informational and decisional. The author reports that Kotter classified work into responsibilities and relationships. The extent to which any manager performs these roles varies, as managers may have a preferred work style. Preferences are apparent in how much or little managers delegate, how closely they supervise, and the extent to which they have expertise in one area of their job for example, accountancy. Wright wonders what conclusions can be drawn from such research. Time spent alone could be spent planning but could also be spent day-dreaming, and the author feels that interviews rather than research observations would discover more about managers cognitive processes. It is also noted that Mintzberg looked at what managers did, not at what was effective. The author advises leaders to determine what they can do in the present to influence the future. They should decide what activities their job should entail and what emphasis should be given to them. Leaders should then eliminate unnecessary activities, delegate wherever possible, and schedule important but not immediately pressing activities because what gets scheduled gets done. To minimise disruptions managers should set time aside for calls and queries. The author also notes that managers who improve their skills free up more time. Skills that can be improved include: formal communications, administration, planning, stress management and interpersonal relationships.

National College for School Leadership 2003

Behaviourist theories and other models


Wright then turns to behaviourist theories, and states that early research in the area was simplistic: behaviour was described in terms of one or two dimensions and its effects on followers were stated. Tannenbaum and Schmidt later produced a seven-point continuum of leadership behaviour, and many of their situational leadership theories reappear in later work. Showing managers that their behaviour should match the context is logical, but the author notes that most situations have many situational variables that make choosing how much authority to use, or freedom to give others, difficult. Fiedlers contingency model takes into account the leaders position power, the structure of the task and the interpersonal relationship between leader and follower. So, for example, when position power is high, the task is structured, and the leader and follower relationship is good, then the leader can influence the group. Reddins 3D leadership theory is another model the author introduces. The essence of this model is that there is no one best leadership style; it depends on the circumstances. The author approves of Reddins model and feels it is context-sensitive. This suggests that Reddin realises that every organisation has varying levels of factors such as technology, time, and leader and follower skill and knowledge levels. The author then turns to Hersey and Blanchard and their easy-to-understand theory of situational leadership (which builds on the work of Blake and Moulton). This theory states that managers care for task or relationship; in their model managers either tell (high-task lowrelationship behaviour), sell (high-task and high-relationship), delegate (low-relationship and low-task) or participate (high-relationship and low-task). Next the author introduces Houses path-goal theory which he describes thus: our motivation to do tasks depends on how much we value the different possible outcomes and the extent to which we feel well get these outcomes through working hard. If followers think effort will get them a positive outcome they are more likely to expend some effort. So this theory is built around leader behaviour that motivates followers. Later research came up with four such kinds of behaviour: directive, supportive, participative and achievement-oriented leadership. The most effective style depends on the personal characteristics of the followers and environmental pressures and demands. The author believes that, in an unstructured work environment, directive leadership will clear up ambiguity and enhance follower performance. Vroom, Yetton and Jagos normative model, which is concerned with the relationship between the amount and form of participation in decision-making that leaders allow subordinates, is discussed next. Their model is a scale showing that a decision could be taken unilaterally by the leader, or by the group, or at some point in between. Among Vroom and Yettons advice to the leader is to avoid making the decision alone when they lack the necessary information.

Issues concerning situational style theories


Flexibility: The main point of situational style is that if managers can make their style suit the context theyll be more successful. It is assumed that managers have to be trained to recognise the appropriate style. The author notes that, while Fiedler believes that it is easier to change the situation to fit our style, we all have this ability to behave according to the situation: we can be quiet in church but gregarious at a party. So while the author believes that leaders can adapt, Reddin terms the greater or lesser ability leaders have to do so as style flex. Reddin believes that such flexibility is inbred but also learned through experience, and also notes that, for those with low style flex, it may be wiser to improve the things they can do as leaders rather than try to learn new techniques.

National College for School Leadership 2003

Group versus individual leadership: Some theories are based on one or another of these, and the author notes that if everyone is treated the same way some will respond to the style because it fits them. The author also warns that treating followers differently could be construed as favouritism. Cultural differences: The author introduces Hofstedes power distance index and explains it as the extent to which followers are afraid to disagree with their leader. Bass found that choosing the wrong style with followers of another nationality could lead to failure. For example, close supervision may be needed in one setting yet loathed in another. Specificity: Theories are general and abstract, and leaders need to know which theory to use and also specific details of how to use it or of what it is. Complexity: If A then B, say the theories, but real situations are more complex. The most complex theories do not cover every variable and eventuality, and even if an all-embracing style were developed it would probably be beyond the grasp of anyone outside the academic community. The author notes that changes in society, technology and workplace practices would soon render such a theory obsolete. Wright believes that situational style theorists also have problems in classifying behaviour for teaching purposes. Add to this leaders preferences for certain styles and the needs of their diverse workforces, and we see the extent of the problem.

Alternative approaches to studying leadership


Leadership research has lacked consistency since academics became disillusioned with situational style theories. The author reports that the more precise theories of leader behaviour suggest that leadership has been hurt by the concentration on theory hence interest in what leaders and followers actually do. The author recognises that classifying human interactions into broad categories does not capture what leaders actually do Wright and co-author Taylor feel that skill has been overlooked in behavioural theories. Theories say what good leaders do, but little about how to do these things well. Wright and Taylor show skills such as how to ask open questions and how to give praise. Their complex model helps leaders develop core interpersonal skills that can be used in many situations. Next the author introduces Smith and Petersons event management model. This model recognises that organisational life is not about discrete problems but is an ongoing flow of events, and how leader and follower respond to each other depends on the situation and the way they interpret it. Thus all events have multiple meanings, and the leader and follower choose how they interpret them. Therefore leadership training should be based around learning how to choose the required behaviour and interpretation of events. In concluding this chapter the author argues that different factors have to be taken into account when attempting to explain the success and effectiveness of leadership. Style, behaviour and skill may all be important, as is the nature of the leader-follower relationship.

Self-management
This chapter focuses on the trend of letting people manage themselves at work, thus eliminating the need for managerial supervision. This practice is linked to job design and Herzbergs job enrichment theories. Manz and Sims later came up with self-management procedures such as self-observation. They started with behavioural strategies then incorporated some cognitive strategies into their work.
National College for School Leadership 2003 3

Empowerment (in terms of self-management) seems to mean sharing power amongst the workforce, but the author reports that Conger and Kanungo think it means improving followers self-efficacy levels. It could be shown in expressing confidence in followers, fostering chances for them to make decisions, or setting inspirational goals. The theoretical underpinning of self-management concepts is McGregors 1957 Theory Y. This is similar to the current stress on the need for autonomy and self-direction. The author reminds the reader that there are losers in self-management: specialists are forced into teams while middle managers and supervisors lose their power. It can also be more stressful to be in a highinvolvement organisation where workers fear letting the team down and are pushed to learn continuously. Self-management is something of a paradox in that, while it reduces the amount of formal leadership, it increases the importance of good quality informal leadership. As Hackman noted in his research, a self-managed team still needs clear direction and goals from someone.

Charismatic (and related) forms of leadership


Wright notes that charisma was originally a theological concept but Weber introduced it into the social sciences. The author reports that some have said charismatic leaders have special attributes, others that charismatic leaders were only ever "made" by social and historical goingson. House believed that the leader's impact was emotional, and he was one of the first to conscientiously study the follower. Research has found that charismatic leaders are confident, have good oratorial skills, behave in unconventional ways, and have a vision. Weber felt that a crisis was necessary if charismatic leadership was to occur. He also thought that such leaders had to be successful to validate their gifts: if they failed, their charismatic authority was likely to disappear. Charisma may also be attributed to people merely because of the position they hold. The author therefore argues that charismatic leadership involves a highly positive emotional response towards the leader, and the attribution of extraordinary qualities to that leader on the part of followers. Charismatic leadership has a downside, which may lead to a focus on the leaders personal vision to the detriment of organisational goals. Transformational leadership is a concept closely related to charismatic leadership. Burns initially proposed that there was transactional and transformational leadership. The latter engages the full person as a follower, the former exchanges one thing for another, for example work for money. Transformational leadership motivates followers to do more than they originally thought possible by building on a transactional base. The author believes that training for charismatic leadership is problematic, as qualities that the research says are needed, such as intelligence and self-confidence, cannot be quickly mastered, and charisma in one situation does not necessarily translate to charisma in another. So the author feels that it is unreasonable to assume that charismatic leaders can be made, but managerial effectiveness certainly can be improved. Training can focus on decision-making, strategy, interpersonal skills and oratory skills. The author notes that Conger warns that these things can be taught but that there is not necessarily a charismatic leader at the end of the process. Wright finishes the book by acknowledging that theories contradict each other, and asks for more co-ordinated research in the field, not unconnected empirical investigations. There is no ideal leader and no single over-arching theory of leadership. The author wants more data on most of the areas he introduced in the book, and believes that, as yet, we have learned nothing that we can confidently make generalisations about.
National College for School Leadership 2003 4

Discussion
This book comprehensively covers the development of leadership thinking and is an excellent primer, a collection of other peoples research findings. However, the author adds little to the body of existing knowledge on leadership that cannot be found in many of the books reviewed in this volume. What is refreshing is the fact that it is written in an honest style, acknowledging conflicts and failings where they arise and not simply parroting the theories that have been expounded down through the decades.

National College for School Leadership 2003