Leadership is the process of influencing and supporting others to work enthusiastically towards achieving objectives. Without leadership, an organization would be only a confusion of people & machines, just as an orchestra without a conductor. Organizations require leaders to develop their precious assets to the fullest. Leadership ability can be acquired through observation of role models, management training and learning from work experiences. Leaders are needed and good leaders are valued by their organizations. Leadership is truly in the eyes of beholders.
Positive & negative Leaders
There are differences in the ways leaders approach people to motivate them. If the approach emphasizes rewards- economic or otherwise- the leader uses positive leadership. If emphasis is placed on penalties , the leader is applying negative leadership. This approach can get acceptable performance in many situations but it has high human costs. Negative leaders act domineering & superior with people. They display authority in the false belief that it frightens everyone into productivity. They are bosses more than leaders.
A continuum of leadership exists, ranging from strongly positive to strongly negative. Almost any manager uses a mix of positive and negative styles on a given day, but the dominant style sets a tone within the group. Style is related to one’s model of organizational behavior. Positive leadership generally results in higher job satisfaction and performance.
Autocratic style has its benefits & limitations. Autocratic leaders centralize power and decision making in themselves. They structure the complete work situation for their employees, who are expected to do what they are told and not think for themselves. The leaders take full authority and assume full responsibility. This leadership is typically negative, based on threats and punishment, but it can appear to be positive by way of awards & rewards to employees. Advantages of autocratic leadership are that it is often satisfying for the leader, permits quick decisions, allows the use of less competent subordinates, and provides security and structure for employees. The main disadvantage is that most employees dislike it, if it is strong enough to create fear and frustration. It can also lead to low turnover and absenteeism. It becomes difficult to generate strong organizational commitment among employees.
These types of leaders decentralize authority. Decisions are taken after consultation with the followers. The leader and the group are acting as a social unit. Employees are encouraged to express their ideas and make suggestions. The general trend is toward wider use of participative practices because of the presence of multinational and cross culture work force.
Free- Rein leaders:
These leaders avoid power and responsibility. They depend largely on the group to establish its own goals and work out its own problems. Group Members train themselves and provide their own motivation. The leader plays a minor role. Free-rein leadership ignores the leader’s contribution in approximately the same way that autocratic leadership ignores the group. It tends to permit different units of an organization to proceed at cross-purposes and hence it can create chaos. This style is not normally used but can be useful in those situations where a leader can leave a choice entirely to the group.
One important conclusion about the style of leadership is that the different styles mentioned in this article do not necessarily guarantee success all the time. To lead successfully a person must demonstrate two active, essential and interrelated traits: expertise and empathy. Holding employees to high performance standards is just as important to the leader as making sure that those employees feel good at work place. Leaders have to energize work forces with future visions, guide their firms through difficult crises, create supportive corporate cultures and increase shareholder value. The real fact is that when performance is positive, leaders are revered.
Case study: Al Dunlap was the CEO of Scott paper Company for 2 years. Soon after taking over the charge, he cut 11.000 employees, slashed R & D by 50% and eliminated all corporate gifts. His toughness was focused on maximizing shareholder value. The result was increase in stock price for Scott Paper of approximately 225%.