“…but man, proud man,
Dressed in a little brief authority,
Most ignorant of what he’s most assuredd—
His glassy essence—like an angry ape
Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven
As makes the angels weep…”
These are the unforgettable lines from William Shakespeare’s play Measure for Measure. Viewed from an organisational perspective, these lines can have a very meaningful relevance to the kind of leadership that organisations have to suffer, atleast once during their life cycle. The unfortunate ones suffer many a times.
Yuval Noah Harari, in his best seller titled Sapiens, defines the word homo sapiens as ‘wise apes,’ It is interesting to note that Darwin’s theory of evolution shook the world in 1857, in which he postulated that man evolved out of apes. And Shakespeare, compared man to an angry ape in his play which he wrote way back in 1623. However, the purpose of this discourse is not to prove who called man, an ape first. It is about how much of the ape element a man of authority can discard to evolve as a genuine situational leader.
Coming back to the context of organisations, everyone would unanimously agree that an organisation, to thrive successfully requires effective leadership. The next question that pops up is, what exactly is leadership? Is it a role or a designation in which an individual can be anywhere in between an angry ape and a silent dormouse? Both ends of this spectrum can be unhealthy for any organisation. Leadership is not about roles and designations; it is about attitude, that one consciously displays in a given context. It is a journey where an individual exercises conscious behaviour to empower zerself and the teams ze leads.
Leadership in any organization, whether corporate or academic, revolves around three key elements: Targets, Tasks, and People. Two prominent models shed light on leadership dynamics. The Blake and Mouton model gauges leadership through two behavioural dimensions:
Concern for People: This assesses a leader’s consideration of team members needs, interests, and personal growth while accomplishing tasks.
Concern for Results: This measures a leader's emphasis on concrete objectives, organizational efficiency, and productivity when tackling tasks.
These dimensions yield seven leadership styles: The Impoverished or indifferent manager is ineffective, neglecting both systems and team satisfaction, resulting in disorganization and dissatisfaction.
The Produce-or-Perish Manager, also known as authoritarian or authority-compliance prioritizes productivity over team needs.
The Country Club or accommodating manager focuses on team member’s needs and feelings, believing that a happy and secure team will perform well.
The Middle-of-the-Road manager tries to balance results and people but often ends up with mediocre performance due to continual compromise.
PAT: The Paternalistic style involves praising and supporting while discouraging challenges to the leader’s thinking.
OPS: The Opportunistic style adopts behaviors for personal benefit, exploiting and manipulating situations.
Hersey and Blanchard’s model outlines four primary leadership styles:
Telling (S1): Leaders instruct followers on what to do and how to do it.
Selling (S2): This style involves persuading and engaging followers in the decision-making process.
Participating (S3): Leaders take a back seat, allowing group members to actively contribute ideas and decisions.
Delegating (S4): Leaders take a hands-off approach, entrusting group members with decisions and responsibilities.
Choosing the appropriate leadership style hinges on the maturity level (knowledge and competence) of the individuals or group:
M1: Group members lack knowledge, skills, and willingness.
M2: Group members are willing but lack ability.
M3: Group members possess skills but are unwilling to take responsibility.
M4: Group members are highly skilled and willing.
Matching leadership styles to maturity levels, the Hersey-Blanchard model prescribes:
Low Maturity (M1): Telling (S1)
Medium Maturity (M2): Selling (S2)
Medium Maturity (M3): Participating (S3)
High Maturity (M4): Delegating (S4)
All of these sound good theoretically. The key question is, Are leaders in organizations conscious about the thin line that separates them for managers? Many a times leaders adopt a managerial role and get into the styles of micro managers, rudderless boat captains, ghosts, conflict averse and sleeping cheerleaders. While this might seem like a minor shift, it can have significant implications for the organization and its employees. This overlap can result in loss of vision and strategic direction, reduction of creativity & innovation, decreased employee engagement, ineffective decision making, erosion of trust and confidence, developmental miasma, and resistance to change.
In a frenzied pursuit to quantify and measure growth, leaders may end up in creating more competition and this competitive fever can intensify in creating more and more glorified rats racing and biting off the tails of those ahead of them to be at the helm. Organisationa leadership needs to focus on competence. Once people increase their competence quotient, competition becomes just a word in the dictionary.
Our culture is founded on the principle of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ which means the whole world is a family. It sends out a strong message about harmony in diversity, and not on control and singularity. Once the paradigm shifts from competition to competence, organisations will witness a surge of inspired employees, who would willingly tread a measure for measure so that the entire organisation can dance to a synchronised rhythm.
Contributed by Dr. Srabani Basu – HOD -Dept. of Literature and Languages , SRM University -AP
Views expressed are personal.