Question Participative leadership style is always more effective than autocratic/directive leadership styles.Discuss.Executive Summary To say there has been an immense amount of research undertaken on the topic of leadership would be an understatement.
The theoretical and empirical research on leadership in the workplace covers a diverse range of theory and there has been much critique and discussion of the theories to date. This paper review will discuss the path-goal leadership theory and it’s application in an organisational setting.
The first part of the report will look at the evolution of this theory and the underpinning elements of each leadership style. The second part will compare participative and directive leadership styles using examples to illustrate the relevant use of each style and necessity for leaders to be able to use both or a combination of the two. Table of Contents Introduction p. 4 Path-Goal Leadership Theoryp. 4 Participative vs. Directive Leadershipp. 6 Practical Implicationsp. 8 Conclusion p. 9 Reference Listp. 10 Introduction
For decades the study of leadership has been a focus in management, psychology and organisational behaviour with “over 35,000 research papers, articles and books written” on the topic in an attempt to define leadership and understand which style best drives effective leadership (Killian 2007). In 1974 Stogdill said, “there are almost as many definitions of leadership as there are persons who have tried to define the concept” (Yukl 1989, p. 251). A statement that is relatively true even 37 years on with many approaches to leadership still emerging and continued debate and discussion around the existing theories.
A modern and fairly recent definition of leadership explains it as “influencing, motivating and enabling others to contribute toward the effectiveness and success of the organisations of which they are members” – a definition agreed upon by fifty four leadership experts from thirty eight countries (McShane, Olekalns & Travaglione 2010). With so much research dedicated to the subject of leadership there are a vast array of theories and associated leadership styles including but not limited to: * Trait Theories * Contingency Theories * Situational Theories Behavioural Theories * Transformational Theories Each has their own unique approach and perspectives on what constitutes an effective leader however for the purpose of this report the focus will be on the path-goal theory and the leadership styles it encompasses. Path-Goal Leadership Theory The path-goal approach to leadership is one of several contingency theories. The contingency perspective is built upon the notion that leaders choose their style to suit the situation and this contemporary model has had much noteworthy critique and testing over the years.
Defined as an “expectancy theory of motivation that relates several leadership styles to specific employee and situational contingencies” ((McShane, Olekalns & Travaglione 2010, p461), the theory suggests that a leader can have an influence on the performance, satisfaction and motivation of their subordinates which can be applied through all levels of an organisation. Evans and House first initiated support for the path-goal theory of leadership in the early 1970s following inconsistencies in the results of earlier research.
A study by Evans (1970) of two organisations demonstrated a link between the behavior of leaders and the impact on the behavior and goal attainment of subordinates. In 1971 House presented a path-goal theory of leadership effectiveness derived from a path-goal theory of motivation, which posed a theory on the effects of leader behavior on subordinate satisfaction, motivation and performance. The study reconciled conflicting research that had previously been conducted on the topic and support of the hypothesis tested lead to further research and development of this theory.
As illustrated below ((McShane, Olekalns & Travaglione 2010, p463) the performance and satisfaction outcome of subordinates is a result of three components – leader behavior, environmental factors and subordinate contingencies. According to the theory are there four clearly defined styles of leader behaviour (House & Mitchell 1974, House 1996): 1. Directive – the leader gives instructions about what, how & when tasks need to be completed and how performance will be measured. Ideal for ambiguous or non-routine tasks. 2. Supportive – leaders provide psychological and social support and go out of their way to make work pleasant for employees.
Used in stressful situations that may be unsatisfying or frustrating. 3. Participative – the leader shares decision making with the team and encourages and takes their opinions and suggestions into account when making a decision. When team members are autonomous, need control and clarity and are heavily involved in their work this style can be used. 4. Achievement Oriented – behavior that is directed towards encouraging employees to achieve their peak performance through challenging goals. Ideal in situations where employees are highly motivated and driven to succeed.
The path-goal model is based on the assumption that each leadership style will be effective in different situations depending on the two variables outlined above – employee contingencies and environmental contingencies. A leader needs to be able to adapt to different situations by selecting the style that suits employee needs or using a combination. Not all leaders will naturally exhibit all four leadership styles above or be comfortable using them but under this model a leader would need to have the ability to demonstrate all posing a potential development needs in some situations.
Participative vs. Directive Leadership The question posed of whether participative leadership is always more effective than participative leadership cannot be completely justified under the path-goal leadership model as the premise of this approach is that the leadership style applied is dependent upon the environmental and employee variables. While there is a widely shared belief amongst a lot of the literature that participative leadership has greater advantages over a directive approach, there are arguments for both and each has its potential strengths and weaknesses.
In this next section the role and outcomes of a participative leader will be compared to that of a directive (or autocratic) leader using organisational examples to illustrate their uses. Participative leadership will not work if subordinates do not have the necessary skills and experience to enable them to contribute to decision-making or make effective decisions themselves and the systems and procedures do not exist within the organisational environment as in the case of the Allied Machinery Company (Muczyk and Reimann 1987).
In this example the General Manager’s approach of using a participative or democratic leadership style, which had worked for him, previously was not appropriate in his new role as the subordinates were not used to operating this way and expected guidance and follow-up from their leader. If more of a directive approach had of been taken and subordinates given specific guidelines, had expectations setout and rules or procedures explained then one would expect the outcome to have been significantly different.
The key points illustrated here are how important it is for a leader to assess the situational variables (employee and environmental) before choosing their leadership style and secondly the necessity for a leader to be able to flex between styles rather than relying only on their natural or preferred style. A potential challenge to this could be how comfortable managers are with using an alternate style. For example, one study reported that Australian managers dislike using a directive style and some would go to considerable lengths to avoid doing so (Avery & Ryan 2002).
The path-goal theory suggests that at times a leader may need to use a combination of leadership styles. In an interesting study on directive versus participative leadership in schools (Somech 2005) explores the effect of each style on school staff and makes several conclusions. A directive style can assist staff to challenge themselves and achieve high performance while a participative approach challenges through the sharing of knowledge however used together by leaders rather than as mutually exclusive styles they achieved a complementary result in terms of school effectiveness.
Greiner (1973) also illustrates this point with an example of executives incorporating a few directive actions into their participative style to keep high performance goals in front of their teams. These are both great examples of using a combined approach of participative and directive leadership to maximise the result. Another area worthy of consideration in discussion of these two styles is the influence that demographics such as age, status, length of employment, gender and culture can have on choosing the most appropriate style. Sauer (2011) notes that for a new leader this is no correct style of leadership.
In terms of leader status, the study suggests that when low status leaders use directive leadership or high status leaders use participative? leadership, the leaders are perceived as more self-confident and more effective. When comparing leadership across cultures it is also noted that participative leadership works better in some cultures rather then others (Den Hartog et al. , 2000). These examples highlights some other situational factors, potentially outside of the norm, that come into play when assessing the most effective style of leadership to pursue.
Practical Implications The continued research into path-goal leadership theory and its application in the workplace highlights some reasonable considerations for leaders in engaging and motivating their subordinates. The literature suggests that participative and directive are the dominant styles and a great deal of the research highlights the benefits of a participative approach. What a lot of the research fails to look at is the negative outcomes if a participative approach is used in a situation that requires a directive approach as in the case of Allied Machinery used above.
For practical application of the path-goal theory more focus needs to be placed on comparing the variance in outcomes of participative vs. directive leadership in a range of situations with varying employee and environmental. More importantly a combined approach should also be examined in this research. Conclusion There are many definitions of leadership in existence and varying opinions on the most effective theory and subsequent leadership style.
The path-goal leadership theory has evolved over time since it was first proposed in the early 1970s and there has been ongoing critique and analysis of its validity, which in comparison to other contingency theories has held relatively strong. The path-goal theory highlights the key components that will impact the outcome – employee contingencies, environmental contingencies and leadership style. A leader needs to adapt their style to the situation and be able to flex between the four styles rather than relying on just one.
The question as to whether participative leadership is always more effective than democratic leadership is not validated as this model illustrates the need for both either in isolation or as a combined approach. A participative or democratic approach relies on the team being engaged and motivated and is only effective if followers are willing and able to participate actively in the decision-making process, which is not always the case. There are so many variables that comes into play that neither of these styles can simply be labeled as the right choice for all situations. Reference List
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