Michael Hanley had an interesting post last week about Donald Clark's posting on leadership.
This is something that I have thought of over the last 5 years as some of my research, teaching, and education has brushed up against the "leadership" research. In fact, my university has one of the leading leadership gurus in Management today. However, like Michael and Donald, I have always questioned the basis of these leadership theories. On the other hand, my current research has demonstrated that leadership can have an impact on how groups (especially distributed groups) work and are able (or unable) to complete work in a tight timeline.
Management or Leadership
I think one of the problems is that there has been a distinction made among "leadership" scholars between leadership and management. However, leadership is one aspect of management. Likewise, communication (which seems to be the link taken out of "leadership"), organization, motivation, analysis that balances risk and security, and TAKING RESPONSIBILITY for mistakes and correcting actions (another aspect of management that seems to be lacking in current leadership theories) are also vital in Management.
On the other hand, there is a role for leadership (effective leadership) in the new organization. With the advent of a flat organizational structure, where distributed groups may all be working at the same level, there needs to be some leadership structure. My current research looking at a working group demonstrates that when there is a perceived lack of leadership structure (as happens in newly formed groups) it is more difficult for groups to make decisions and move forward. This can be especially difficult for groups that have been set up under a strict time constraint to accomplish discrete goals or objectives. My sister works in professional groups which, because the members are professionals of equal standing, there are no identified leaders. As a result, the organization is having trouble maintaining a uniform level of service.
Is this leadership or management? If leadership is defined as the all powerful person that tells group members what to do without really interacting with them so that there is a fall guy when things go wrong (or more likely, someone to find a group member to blame) then this is "leadership". However, there needs to be a group facilitator (leader? manager?) who organizes the group, keeps them on track, manages interactions and communication between group members, makes final decisions when the group is deadlocked, helps interact with those outside of the group (i.e. with clients, upper management, front line workers) and develops the working structure for the group as members come and go into the group. This role is a bit more than a "manager", a bit more than a "leader" who makes decisions regardless of the group input, and more of a juggler of many aspects of the group.
Most importantly, what I have not read is why leaders (who are the risk takers) should get compensated more than the workers (who may have no choice in their jobs)? Shouldn't leaders that fail have to pay back money if they fail is they are being compensated for big risks if they succeed? Wouldn't this encourage them to make "better" decisions? Or should they be compensated the same as their team members as theirs is just a different job within the group? Why should "leaders" make twice as much money as "followers"? Isn't it just as important to have good followers?
- V Yonkers
- Education, the knowledge society, the global market all connected through technology and cross-cultural communication skills are I am all about. I hope through this blog to both guide others and travel myself across disciplines, borders, theories, languages, and cultures in order to create connections to knowledge around the world. I teach at the University level in the areas of Business, Language, Communication, and Technology.