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Impact of Leadership

Leadership is an important aspect of managing. The ability to lead effectively is one of the keys to being an effective manager. Leaders act to help a group attain objectives through the maximum application of its capabilities. Organizations may be in a state of equilibrium, with forces pushing for change on the one hand and forces resisting change by attempting to maintain status quo on the other. Kurt Lewin expressed this phenomenon in his field force theory, which suggests that equilibrium is maintained by driving forces and restraining forces (Lewin, 1951). Such equilibrium could be attained only by capable leaders.

Most times, change in an organizational context triggers organizational conflicts. There is always a resistance to change within the work force. In this paper, we would be discussing on the exercise of leadership and change in the appropriate realms. Leaders envision the future. They inspire the organization members and chart the course of the organization. Chrysler’s Lee Iacocca and General Electric’s Jack Welch have provided a vision for their companies. Leaders must instill values – whether they are concern for quality, honesty, and calculated risk taking or concern for employees and customers (Main, 1987).

There are several theories on leadership behavior and

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styles. Leaders were seen as applying three basic styles. The autocratic leader commands and expects compliance, is dogmatic and positive, and leads by the ability to withhold or give rewards and punishment. The democratic or participative leader consults with subordinates on proposed actions and decisions and encourages participation from them. This type of leader ranges from the person who does not take action without subordinates’ concurrence to the one who makes decision but consults with subordinates before doing so.

The free-rein leader uses his or her power very little, if at all, giving subordinates a high degree of independence in their operations. Such leaders depend largely on subordinates to set their own goals and the means of achieving them, and they see their roles as one of aiding the operations of followers by furnishing them with information and acting primarily as a contact with the group’s external environment. There are variations within this simple classification of leadership styles. Some autocratic leaders are seen as “benevolent autocrats.

” Although they listen considerately to their followers’ opinions before making a decision, the decision is their own. They may be willing to hear and consider subordinates’ ideas and concerns, but when a decision is to be made, they may be more autocratic than benevolent. A variation of the participative leader is the person who is supportive. Leaders in this category may look upon their task as not only consulting with followers and carefully considering their opinions but also doing all they can to support subordinates in accomplishing their duties.

The use of any style will depend on the situation. A manager may be highly autocratic in an emergency; one can hardly imagine a fire chief holding a long meeting with the crew to consider the best way of fighting fire. Managers may also be autocratic when they alone have the answers to certain questions. A leader may gain considerable knowledge and a better commitment on the part of the persons involved by consulting with subordinates. This is true in developing verifiable objectives under systems of managing by objectives.

Furthermore, a manager dealing with a group of research scientists may give them free rein in developing their inquiries and experiments. But the same manager might be quite autocratic in enforcing a rule stipulating that employees wear a protective covering when handling certain potentially dangerous chemicals. Let us consider the leadership style of Herbert Kelleher, the chairman of South West Airlines (Business Week, Sept. 1984). He attempts to create a family feeling among his employees by remembering their names and personally sending out birthday cards.

In an attempt to stay competitive in the deregulated airline industry, he asked for and received considerable concessions from employees and their union. His hands-on leadership style won him the respect and followership of his employees. The austerity measures apply equally to management and employees. His office, for example, is in a barracks-style building. Leading by example those who follow him, he seems concerned about the tasks to be done and the people who work for him. His leadership style is also congruent with the airline’s policy of providing friendly service by keeping costs low.

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