At EC Consulting, we are always looking for ways to improve our work and our personal / professional development. Recently, one of the ways we have been doing so is by studying different leadership styles and evaluating their effectiveness. Each of our teams tried out one of these methods and presented on them back to the group. Below are a couple of theories our team members found interesting and to be a learning experience.
Theory X and Theory Y: Theory X assumes that employees are naturally unmotivated and dislike working, and this encourages an authoritarian style of management. According to this view, management must actively intervene to get things done. This style of management assumes that workers, dislike working, avoid responsibility and need to be directed, have to be controlled, forced, and threatened to deliver what’s needed, need to be supervised at every step, with controls put in place, and need to be enticed to produce results; otherwise they have no ambition or incentive to work. Theory Y expounds a participative style of management that is de-centralized. It assumes that employees are happy to work, are self-motivated and creative, and enjoy working with greater responsibility. It assumes that workers, take responsibility and are motivated to fulfill the goals they are given, seek and accept responsibility and do not need much direction, and consider work as a natural part of life and solve work problems imaginatively. This more participative management style tends to be more widely applicable. In Y-Type organizations, people at lower levels of the organization are involved in decision making and have more responsibility. At EC Consulting, we are very much a Theory Y type of company. We believe in empowering employees by strictly promoting from within and giving team members increasing responsibility. We strive to provide an atmosphere where they can thrive and develop themselves and others.
Lewin’s Leadership Styles: Psychologist Kurt Lewin developed his framework in the 1930s, and it provided the foundation of many of the approaches that followed afterwards. He argued that there are three major styles of leadership: Autocratic, Democratic, and Laissez-faire. Autocratic leaders make decisions without consulting their team members, even if their input would be useful. This can be appropriate when you need to make decisions quickly, when there’s no need for team input, and when team agreement isn’t necessary for a successful outcome. However, this style can be demoralizing, and it can lead to high levels of absenteeism and staff turnover. Democratic leaders make the final decisions, but they include team members in the decision-making process. They encourage creativity, and people are often highly engaged in projects and decisions. As a result, team members tend to have high job satisfaction and high productivity. This is not always an effective style to use, though, when you need to make a quick decision. Laissez-faire leaders give their team members a lot of freedom in how they do their work, and how they set their deadlines. They provide support with resources and advice if needed, but otherwise they don’t get involved. This autonomy can lead to high job satisfaction, but it can be damaging if team members don’t manage their time well, or if they don’t have the knowledge, skills, or self-motivation to do their work effectively.
Each of our leaders range between the three leadership styles depending on the team members they are managing. This exercise in learning about theories of leadership, is just one way we encourage growth of our managers. We encourage you to do your own research into what leadership styles you prefer to see in your workplace and share that with your management team, just as we have done.