Leadership Concept and Nature of Leadership

Leadership is the process of influencing other towards the accomplishment of goals. It is the ability of a manager to induce subordinates to work with confidence and zeal. A key to effective leadership is helping followers to achieve their respective essentials goals as well as their maximum potentialities. Dynamic leader, therefore, should have the ability to awaken in other the desire to follow a common objective in a given situation. Leadership thus, is a function of the leader, the followers and other situational variables.

L = F(I, F, S)

Leadership does not flourish in vacuum. It always envisages followers. Further leadership envisages the idea of interpersonal influence.

The term "leadership" has been derived from the word "to lead". The word "to lead" has two meanings as 'to excel or to be in advance' and 'to guide, govern and command others or to head an organization'. Therefore, leadership is the process of influencing others towards the accomplishment of goals. It is the ability of a manager to induce staffs to work with confidence. In other words, leadership is the special quality of a person who can influence the other people. In other words, it is the ability to influence the people for accomplishment of the goal of an organization. Leadership is the ability to build up confidence and zeal among the people and to create the urge in them to lead. To be a successful leader, a manager must possess qualities of foresight, initiative, drive, self confidence, positive attitude and personal integrity.

A key to effective leadership is helping followers to achieve their respective essential goals as well as their maximum potentialities. Dynamic leaders, therefore, should have the ability to awaken in others, the desire to follow a common objective in a given situation. Leadership, thus, is a function of the leader, the followers and other situational variables. Without leadership no organization can run smoothly. A leader may or may not be manager, but a successful manager must be a leader. It means, every manager is a leader but every leader is not a manager. A manager must build up confidence in the subordinates and he must have influencing behavior, controlling power, organizing and convincing ability, trust worthy and positive attitude. A manager having positive attitude and formal authority can direct and guide his subordinates and command them by virtue of his personal power. But, as a leader, the manager can influence the work behavior by means of his leadership ability to get the cooperation of all members of the group without use of the force.

The following are some of the important definitions given by different experts.

"Leadership refers to the quality of behavior of the individual whereby they guide people on their activities in organized effort." – Chester Barnard

"Leadership is the ability to persuade others to seek defined objectives enthusiastically. It is the human factor which binds a group together and motivates it towards goals." – Keith Davis

"Managerial leadership is the process of directing and influencing the task related activities of group members." - Stoner

"Leadership is the ability of influencing people to survive willingly for mutual objectives." – George R. Terry

"Leadership may be defined as the ability to exert interpersonal influence by means of communication towards the achievement of a goal." – Koontz and O'Donnel

From the above definitions, leadership may be defined as a process of influencing group activity towards the achievement of certain goals. Thus, a leader is a person on a group who is capable of influencing the group work willingly. He guides and directs other people and provides purpose and effect to their efforts. Leadership can be an important modifier of behavior of people working in the organization. Effective leadership is necessary for inspiring the people to work for the accomplishment of given objectives. It provides a cohesive force, withholds the group, intact and develops a spirit of co-operation. Effective leadership is also essential for efficient direction of human efforts towards the predetermined goals.

Nature / Characteristics of Leadership 

Leadership has following characteristics: 

  1. Leadership is the process of interpersonal influence by which leader influences the followers.
  2. Leadership is a personal quality. Leadership is the ability to form a group of followers voluntarily without the use of coercion.
  3. Leadership involves the sharing of interest between the leaders and has followers.
  4. Leadership pre-supposes the existence of a group of followers.
  5. Leadership is a continuous process of influencing behavior.
  6. Leadership is not only influences the group but group also influence the leader. In a way, it is a reciprocal relationship.

Effectiveness of Leadership in an Organization

An effective leader represents the organization, initiates the action necessary to keep the organization dynamic and progressive, administers the organization and arranges for planning, organizing, directing and coordinating and interprets the organizational philosophy to internal and external groups in a satisfying manner. Similarly, effective leadership is the process of influencing the behavior and activities of an individual or group for achieving common goals. Effective leadership has following characteristics.

1. Common Goals

Leadership is the ability of influencing behavior of people to work willingly to achieve some common goal. Terry and Franklin states "Leadership is the activity of influencing people to strive willingly mutual objectives". Thus, leadership involves of community of interests between the leader and his followers.

2. Continuous Process

Leadership is a continuous process. A leader continuously makes efforts to influence behavior of his group members. He carries on this process by maintaining free flow of two-way communication with the entire group of his followers.

3. Personal Quality

Leadership is a personal quality of a person. It is a behavioral quality and ability to influence others towards accomplishing a goal.

4. Interpersonal Relations

Leadership involves interpersonal relationship between the leader and his group members. A leader influences his group members and at the same time, group members also influence the leader. Thus, a leader does not dominate the will of others but tries to relate the wills of many people to get them work as a team.

5. Shared Function

Leadership is a shared function. A good leader shares everything with his followers. He shares ideas, opinions, experience, credits, blames and soon with his followers. 

6. Dynamic Art

Leadership is a dynamic art. No particular style of leadership is effective in all situations. The effectiveness of leadership depends heavily on the situational variables. Therefore, art of leadership is exercised applied in accordance with the demands of the situations.

7. Influencing and Inspiring Process

Leadership is a process of influencing and inspiring others to work towards objectives. Influencing means regulating and changing behavior, attitudes and feelings of others. The means of influencing others include reward, coercion, expertise, reference and tradition. Leaders can also influence with rational faith, participation and persuasion.

8. Power

Leadership is based on power. A person holding power over others is a leader. By virtue of power, a person is in a position to influence behavior of his group members. A leader may derive power from 
(i) superior knowledge, information experience, or performance, 
(ii) formal authority 
(iii) charisma, and 
(iv) distinct personality characteristics.

Difference between Leadership and Management
Leadership is the process and the art of influencing people to work willingly for achieving a goal.
Management is the process of setting things done through people.
Power and Authority
Leadership is based on power. The power may be derived from formal authority or from any other source.
Management is based on authority which is delegated to a managerial position by a person in superior position.
There need not be a formal relationship between the leader and his followers.
There is a formal relationship between a manager and his sub-ordinates.
Leadership structures are more flexible, open, informal and dynamic than management.
Management is bound by organized formal structure.
Achievement of Goal
Leaders achieve goals by influencing and inspiring others.
Management is bound by organized formal structure.
A leader guides his followers through a special kind of behavior.
Manager guides his subordinates through policies, plans, rules, procedures etc.
Education and Training
There is almost negligible arrangement for formal education and training for leadership.
There are many programs for formal education and training of management.
Leadership does not depend on manager-ship. Hence, all leaders need not be good managers.
Manager-ship includes leadership. Hence, all managers need to be good leaders.

Difference between managers and leaders
Managers Leaders
1. Who direct the work of employees and is responsible for results. 1. Who cope with changes.
2. A manager is appointed and after that get a position. 2. A leader emerges emergence depends a number of situational factors.
3. A manager seeks those objectives, which his subordinates do not regard as their own. Thus there is clash of objectives. 3. A leader generally seeks those objectives, which are the objectives of his subordinates. Thus, there is mutuality of objectives between leader and his followers.
4. Manage complexity through planning and budgeting i.e. setting goals, establishing steps to achieve them and then allocate resources to achieve them. 4. Sets a direction or vision of what the future might look like and then develop strategies to produce changes needed to achieve that vision or direction.
5. Ensure that employees reach their goal by controlling their behavior i.e. they monitor the result by means of reports and meetings and note derivations from the goals. 5. Requires 'motivating and inspiring teams of employees' taps their needs values and emotions.
6. Achieve their goals by 'organizing and staffing' creating an organizational structure and sets of jobs for accomplishing the plans requirements. Staffing the jobs with qualified employees communicating the goals and monitoring the progress. 6. Try to align employees who share their vision create teams who understand and share their vision.

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Contemporary Issues in Leadership

The following are the major and important contemporary issues in leadership.

Issue No. 1: Gender issue: Do males and females lead differently?

Gender issue is taken as a very important issue in the concept of leadership development. Traditional styles of leadership are changing day by day with the new practices and exercises in the field of leadership. Recently most of the studies reveal that the leadership and management styles of a male leader differ from his female counterpart. Normally, it is observed that male leaders accent and follow directive and analytical leadership styles where women follow participative and interactive approach for the effective leadership. The debate regarding who is the best in the leadership style is not yet over. Some researchers believe that women are more prone to the participative styles than their male counterparts. They are less status-oriented and have better interpersonal skills than men. Therefore, it is a big issue in the field of leadership that needs to be studied more in days to come.

Research has shown that regardless of gender, people will traits associated with leadership - such as intelligence, confidence and sociability - are more likely to be perceived as leaders. However, there is found some differences in leadership styles. For example, males tend to use a directive command and control style, while females tend to adopt a more democratic leadership style.

Issue No. 2: Is there a biological basis for leadership? 

There is increasing evidence indicating that leadership has biological roots. Two chemicals-serotonin and testosterone are found to have profound effect on becoming a leader. Increased levels of serotonin appear to improve sociability and control aggregation. Higher levels of testosterone increase competitive drive and they are found higher in the players like tennis. 

Issue No. 3: How does national culture affect the choice of leadership style?

National culture affects leadership style by way of the subordinate. Leaders cannot choose their styles at will. They are constrained by the cultural conditions that their subordinates have come to expect. For example, an autocratic style is compatible with high power distance and participation style is compatible with low power distance.

Issue No. 4: How is the current popularity of empowerment affecting the way managers lead?

Empowerment is putting employees in charge of what they do. The problem with the current empowerment movement is that it ignores the extent to which leadership can be shared and the conditions facilitating success of shared leadership. Because of factors such as downsizing, higher employee skills commitment of organizations to continuous training, implementation of total quality management programs and introduction of self-managed teams, there seems to be no doubt that an increasing number of situations call for a more empowering approach to leadership. 

Empowerment means giving employees the authority, skills and freedom to perform their tasks. Empowerment and shared leadership is not free from conditions. The success of effective leadership depends in the qualities of developing teams and its members. Today, leadership is taken as a very challenging job of a leader because of heavy competitions in the market. Different people and the teams of people have different attitudes and expectations from the leaders. It is very challenging or the leader for effective management on them. Therefore, the success of leadership is contingent upon team empowerment. For teams to be effective, managers must empower their members to make decisions.

Issue No. 5: Since leaders are not leaders until they have followers, what can managers do to make employees more effective followers?

Successful organizations need effective follower, who can follow effective and efficient leaders. Following are some qualities of effective followers:
  • They manage themselves well. They can work independently and without close supervision.
  • They build their competence and focus their efforts for maximum impact.
  • They are committed to a purpose outside themselves.
  • They are courageous, honest and credible. They are critical thinkers who knowledge and judgement can be trusted.

Issue No. 6: Is there a moral dimension to leadership?
Leadership is not value free. So we should look at the moral content of a leader’s goal and the means he/she uses to achieve those goals.

Issue No. 7: How important is Training for Leadership?

Another contemporary issue in the field of leadership is training for leadership. Different researches in the field of leadership highlighted the important of training for the effective leadership. Some researches reveal that leadership can be taught. People can learn communicating, empowering and visioning skills with the help of a trainer. What is important is the supportive culture of the management to provide such opportunities.

Issue No. 8: Team Leadership rather Group Management

Team leadership idea is recently developed idea in the field of management or leadership. The related issue is taken as a very essential matter in today's leaders. They are not trained to handle the change to teams. Time demands team work but most of our leaders are trained to manage groups. Different roles are necessary because teams are more interactive, conflicting and need open communication than groups.

Main Focus of Traits Theories of Leadership

The trait theory of leadership states that there are certain identifiable qualities or characteristics that are unique to leaders and that good leader possess such qualities to some extent. The trait theories identifiable a long list of qualities which leader posses. The following list is only illustrative and not exhaustive. 
  • Intelligence: Good leaders should be intelligent enough to understand the context and content of their position and function, to group the dynamics of environmental variables, both internal and external, which affect their activities and to have a goods perspective of the present and future dimensions of their organization. 
  • Personality: This is not to be confused with physical appearance, though it is important. More than outward appearance, certain inner-personality qualities mark out goods leaders from others. Such qualities include emotional stability and maturity. Self-confidence, decisiveness, strong drive, optimum, purposefulness, discipline, skill in getting along with others, integrity in character and a tendency to be cooperative. These qualities tend to help leaders to organize and co-ordinate human effort, to guide and motivate people in talk situations, to make sound decisions, to achieve concrete results and goals, to organizational goals. 
  • Other Qualities: A part from intelligence and personality attributes, good leaders also possess a few qualities like open mindedness, scientific spirit, social sensitively, ability to communicate, objectivity, an abiding interest in people, pragmatism and a sense of realism.

Main Focus of Behavioral Theories of Leadership  
According to the behavioral theories of leadership, leadership can be described in terms of what leaders do rather than what they are. In other words, leadership can be identified by reference to their behavior in relation to the followers. Behavioral theories have been presented mostly on the basis of research studies.

Behavioral theories differ from the trait theories in at least two ways. First, actual leader behaviors, not the personal traits are the main focus. Second, while most trait theories endeavored to distinguish between leader and non leaders, behavioral theories attempted to determine how different kinds of behavior affect the performance and satisfaction of the followers.

Emerging Approaches to Leadership

Leadership is a term that conjures up different images in different people while to some it means charisma, to other, it means power and authority. Leadership skills emerge out of spontaneity and contagion needs, spontaneity refers to the need for initiating a wide range of activities or creating opportunities for other with a view to influence people. In contracts, people with contagion needs are influenced by others and will develop leadership skills. In fact, effective leadership is the mixture of both needs.

Leadership thus, plays a crucial role in organizational dynamics. It fill many of the voids left in conventional organization design, allows for greater organizational flexibilities and responsiveness to environmental changes, provides a way to coordinate the effort of diverse groups within the organization, and facilitates organizational membership and personal needs satisfaction. It is the quality of managerial leadership that often differentiates effective from ineffective organizations. Therefore, rational leader should know different emerging approach of the leadership and also they should be aware of current issue in leadership.

There are different approaches emerging in the field of leadership. Some of them are:
  1. Attribution theory of leadership: It deals with people trying to make sense out of cause-effect relationships. When something happens, they want to attributes it to something. This theory tells that leadership is merely an attribution that people make about other individuals. Effective leaders are generally considered consistent or unwavering in their decisions. 
  2. Charismatic leadership theory: Followers make attributions of heroic or extraordinary abilities when they observe certain behaviors. Some examples of charismatic leaders are John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr. Walt Disney, Ted Turner, Barack Obama etc. They are found to have extremely high confidence, dominance and strong convictions in his or her beliefs.
  3. Transactional or transformational leadership: Transactional leaders guide or motive their followers in the direction of established goals and clarifying role and task requirements. Transactional leader, on the other hand, inspired followers to transcend their own self-interests for the good of the organization, and they are capable of having a profound and extraordinary effect on his or her followers. Transformational leadership is about leading, changing the organizations strategies and culture so that they have a better bit with the surrounding environment. They are change agents who energies employees and direct them to a new set of corporate values and behaviors.
  4. Visionary leadership: The ability to create and articulate a realistic, credible, attractive vision of the future for an organization unit that grows out of and improves upon the present. This vision, if properly selected and implemented, is so energizing that leads to great success of the organization. A vision has clear and compelling imagery that offer an innovative way to improve, which recognizes and draws on traditions, and connects to action that people can take to realize change. Vision taps people’s emotions and energy, properly articulated a vision creates the enthusiasm that people have for sporting events and other leisure time activities, binging the energy and commitment to the workplace.

Leadership Styles

A leader’s typical way of behaving towards group members can be classified as leadership style. It refers to the behavior exhibited by a leader during supervision of employees. The style represents the leader predominant way of acting with his group. Actually, there are as many different styles as there are leaders. However, organizational researchers have listed following three basis styles:
1. Autocratic Style
The autocratic leader assumes responsibility for deciding on the group’s project by assigning tasks to members and permitting no participation in decision making process. He centralizes authority and decision making in him and exercise complete and full-fledged control over his subordinates. He sets group goals and structures the work. He gives orders and the subordinated are expected to obey them. The manager expresses decision by the use of rewards and the fear of punishment. Communication tends to be one way i.e. downward. The subordinates are made aware of what to do but not why. Tasks are assigned facilities provided and direction given without consultation with the individual carrying out the work.

An average of autocratic leadership is that the decisions are very speedy. It is most suited at the time of crisis or when the subordinates are inefficient.

2. Democratic Style
Democratic style is widely known participative or employee oriented leadership styles. The essence of this style is the consultation, the leader consults the subordinates. Before arriving at decisions, participative leadership styles take into consideration the wishes and suggestions of the subordinates as well as the leader. All members of the group are seen as important contribution to the final decision. The communication is two ways i.e. upward as well as downward.

The advantages of this type of leadership style include;
  • Increased member’s moral and support for the final decision and better decisions through shared information. 
  • Ideas among group members participating in decision-making can lead to improve manager/ worker relations. 
  • High satisfaction and decreased dependence on the leader.
  • Multi-directional communication permits fruitful exchange of ideas and information between the leader and led and helps in encouraging member commitment to the decision.
3. Free rein style or laissez faire Style
It goes a step further of democratic style and turn an entire problem or project over subordinates, subordinates may be asked to set their own goals and to develop plans for achieving them. Thus, in this type of leadership style, a manager avoids power and relinquishes leadership position. The leader is a silent spectator. In essence, this approach is characterized by the absence of any active leadership by the leader. It is the abdication of responsibility. The leader merely functions as a group member, providing only as much advice and direction as requested. There is very little control or influence over group members of the leader.

Qualities of a Successful Leader and Leadership

Qualities of a Successful Leader

1. Intelligence

A successful leader must have above average knowledge and intelligence. Mental ability to think precisely, analyze accurately, interpret clearly and consciously are necessary to consider the problems in the right perspective. 

2. Maturity

A leader should possess a high level of emotions stability and cool temperament. He needs a high degree of tolerance. 

3. Sound Physique

Sound physical and mental health is essential to bear the burden of leadership. Sound physique includes physical stamina, nervous, energy, mental vigor and important leadership qualities.
4. Self Confidence

The leader should have confidence in himself and a strong will power.
5. Empathy

The leader must have the ability to see things from other’s point of view. He must respect the viewpoints and feelings of others.
6. Foresight and Vision

He should have the capability to look forward and anticipate the events. He should have a high degree of imagination, moral courage, breadth and determination. 

7. Decisiveness

A leader must have sound judgement and the ability to take quick decisions. 

8. Human Relations Approach

A leader must have the capacity to understand people, work with them and to gain their confidence, loyalty and voluntary cooperation. He must be able to motivate people towards higher performance. 

9. Objectivity

A leader should be fair and objective in dealing with subordinates. He must be free from bias and prejudice.

Qualities of Successful Leadership

Leadership is an important part of management. It is the ability to secure desirable action from a group of followers voluntarily without using force. Leadership is a personal quality of behavior and character in a man, which helps him in exercising personal influence on subordinates. A leader must have different qualities. Some of the important qualities of the leadership are as follows: 
qualities of effective leadership
Qualities of Effective Leadership

1. Influence Behavior 

A leader must have influencing behavior as there are many followers to follow him. Whatever he does will be followed by his subordinates. So, he must be able to influence other in order to make work done. 

2. Controlling Power 

Controlling is one of the qualities of leader. Leaders should be supportive so that organizational goals can be achieved easily without any deviation since controlling takes the necessary corrective action for this purpose, leadership holds the controlling power to control the people and process. 

3. Organizing 

Organizing is another quality that the leadership must possess. In organizing, he must be able to organize all the necessities to fulfill the objectives of an organization like men, machine, material, money and so on. 

4. Trustworthy 

A leader must be trustworthy. It means, he must have a good faith so that the other i.e. superior and subordinates can believe him. He must speak truth all the time so that his subordinates can put the trust on him. He should not decide against his subordinates as he is the one to do the organizational job on behalf of his subordinates without their participation.


A leader must have many followers as one cannot be leader without followers. The followers make a person a leader to whom the followers obey. Therefore, one cannot imagine becoming a leader without followers. 

6. Convincing Ability 

A leader must possess convincing ability. He must have ability to convince the situation to the other. Otherwise, he cannot be a leader. To convince means to make the people or subordinates understand and accept. 

7. Common Objectives 

A leader must work for the common objectives. His objectives should not be different from the objective of his followers. It means both of them must have common objective in order to achieve the goal of an organization. A leader who is effective does not get carried away by emotions. He should be fair and objective in his dealing with his subordinates. 

8. Situational 

Leader must act according to the situation. If he cannot cope with the situation, then the situation may take the wrong steps. Therefore, he must work in accordance with the situation. In other word, he cannot be tactful to cope the situation. 

9. Self Confidence 

A leader must be self confident. Confidence about one's leadership ability makes it possible for a leader to avoid and to face different situations as well as adopt a suitable style. Lack of self confidence often prevents managers to adopt participative style. Self-confidence always leads to success. 

10. Knowledge and Intelligence 

Effective leaders must have knowledge of group behavior, human nature, technical and professional skills. He must have intelligent perception of human psychology and ability to think clearly so that he can easily handle the difficult situation. 

Besides above qualities, a leader must have courage, sense of direction, judgment, tact, courtesy, integrity and positive attitude to be effective and to lead the organization successfully.

A leader influence the behavior of followers towards goal achievement

We defines simply leadership as the art of process of influencing people as that they will strive willingly and enthusiastically towards the achievement of group goals. The person who guides or influences the behavior of others is called leader and people guided or influenced are called the followers. Leadership can be used the process of influencing the people to regulate their behavior. For this purpose, the organization firstly, select the best leader as appropriate to the employee. Then the leadership appreciation involves the use of verbal and non-verbal influence. Fourthly, the use of certain leadership is evaluated. Finally, leadership at the very moment has become complex practice due to employee education and awareness. Also the revolution in trade unions has made the official leadership quite complex and challenging.

Path Goal Theory of Leadership
Path Goals leadership theory draws heavily on expectancy motivation theory and high concern for both people and work. The theory has been proposed by Robert House and has been expanded and refined by him and other over the last decade. The theory can be summarized as follows:

a) The leader can improve subordinate motivation by making the rewards for performance more attractive. By giving the people raises, promotions and recognition, the leader can increase the subordinates valence i.e. preference for goal achievement.

b) If the worker’s assignments are poorly defined the leader can increase motivation by providing structure in the form of helpful supervision, subordinate training and goal clarification. Reducing the ambiguity of the job makes it easier for the subordinate to pursue the goals. Expectancy i.e. likelihood of attaining the first level outcome should increase.

If we take these two steps together, we can see that in the first valence is increased and in the second expectancy is increased. Now, as per the expectancy theory of motivation, since

Motivational Force = Valence x Expectancy
It is obvious that path goal theory is designed to increase worker motivation.

c) If the work of the subordinates is already greatly structured, as in the case of assembly line worker or mechanist, the leader should refrain from introducing any more structure such action will be viewed as unnecessary and overly directive. Instead of worrying about the work, the leader show now speed more time being concerned with the personal needs of the people by giving them attention, praise and support.

Path Goal Theory provides three important benefits: - It helps integrate expectancy theory and contingency leadership.
- It reemphasizes the importance of high leader concern for both the work and the people.
- It encourages the leader to analyze the situation in determining the right degree of each concern for structure and concern for people that will be required.

Fiedler's Contingency Theory of Leadership

Fred E. Fiedler developed a contingency model of leadership. According to the contingency theories of leadership, the success of leadership depends upon the situation in which the leader operates. According to him, a leader's effectiveness depends upon the following three situational factors.
  1. Leader followers relations, that is the degree of followers trust, confidence and respect for the leader. 
  2. Task structure, power, that is the nature of task performed by the subordinates.
  3. The status power that is the degree associated with the position or status held by the leader in the organizations.
The most favorable situation for leaders to influence their group is one in which they are well liked by the members, the task performed is highly structured and the leader has enough power attached to his/her position in the organization. On the other hand, the most unfavorable situation for leaders is one in which they are disliked, the task is highly unstructured and little power is attached to the leader's position. 

Related Topic:

Fiedler's contingency model of leadership has the basic contention that the appropriateness of leadership styles depends on leaders matching with situational requirement. Taking clues from the situational approach that leadership effectiveness is situational, Fielder along with his associates made an attempt to identify the situational variables and their relationship with appropriateness of leadership styles. 

According to this theory, relationships, power and task structure are the three key factors that drive effective leadership style. He identified the least preferred co-workers (LPC) scoring lead by asking them first to think of a person with whom they have worked and would now least prefer to work with again. The manager then scores the person on a range of scales between positive factors (friendly, helpful, cheerful etc.) and negative factors (unfriendly, unhelpful, gloomy etc.) A high LPC leader generally scores the other person as positive and a low LPC leader scores the other person as negative.

Findings of the Fiedler Model 

According to the questions, laissez-faire or free rein leadership style of leadership apply to Fielder’s Contingency Theory. Under this style, leaders avoid power and responsibility. They grant authority and responsibility to groups. The role of the leader is to provide advice and direction as requested by the subordinates. Group members perform everything themselves. Leader behaves primarily as a group and plays the role of a member only. The concept of management by exception promotes this type of style, where subordinates themselves plan, control, evaluate and decide and the manager interferes exceptionally. This style is suitable for highly trained and professional staff.

All these situational variable taken together may define the situation to be favorable or unfavorable. Favorableness or unfavorableness of the situation has been presented in the following figure.
Fielder's contingency theory of leadership

A very favorable situation is one (cell 1) where leader-member relations are good, task is highly structured and the leader has enormous position power to influence his subordinates. At the other extreme, a very unfavorable situation is one (cell 8) where leader-member relations are poor, task is highly unstructured and leader's position power is weak. Between these two extremes, the degree of favorableness / unfavorableness varies.

Implications of Fiedler's Theory of Leadership

  • No leadership style is appropriate for all situations. Therefore, there is nothing like the best style. The managers can adopt the leadership styles according to the requirements of the situations.
  • There is a need for matching leaders and job situations to achieve organizational effectiveness. Fielder says that "if we wish to increase organizational and group effectiveness, we must learn not only how to train leaders more effectively but also how to build an organizational environment in which the leader can perform well."

Quality Circle (QC)

Quality Circle (QC)
The concept of quality circle (QC) originally emerged from Japan. Quality circle is a work group of employees who meet regularly to discuss their quality problems, investigate causes, recommend solutions, and take corrective measure. QC is a small group of employees who work voluntarily on company time, to address work related problems such as quality control, cost reduction, production planning and techniques, and even product design.
Quality circle is used to achieve the following objectives:
  • Improvement in quality of product manufactured by the organization. 
  • Improvement in methods of production and productivity.
  • Development of employees participating in QC.
  • Promoting morale of employees.
  • Respect humanity and create a happy workplace worthwhile to work.
Problem in Implementations and Their Solution
Though QC concepts have many positive points, it has failed miserably in many organizations due to certain problems and pitfalls. Following are some major problems of QC implementation and their suggested remedies.
  1. Negative Attitudes: Both employees and managers having negative attitudes towards QC often resist its implementation. Managers feel that QC dilutes their authority and importance in the organization. This negative attitude can be dispelled by imparting appropriate training to employees as well as managers about the real concept and contribution of QC. 
  2. Lack of Ability: The workers are characterized by their low level of education and lack of leadership abilities. This problem can be overcome by initiating workers education programme.
  3. Lack of Management Commitment: Lack of management commitment towards QC is demonstrated by not permitting the members to hold QC meeting during the working hours. Therefore, the top management should permit workers to hold QC meetings periodically during the working hours and should also extend all required and timely assistance for the smooth functioning of QC.
  4. Non-Implementation of Suggestions: The members of the QC feel disheartened in case of their suggestions are not accepted and implemented without convincing reasons. Instead, the suggestions rendered by QC should be given due consideration and weightage and should be implemented. This will enthuse the members of the QC to improve quality of their goods and services. QC benefits both organization and workers.

Group Decision Making

Decision making is the process whereby a final but best choice is made among the alternative available. Group decision making is collective decision making by group members. Group offer an excellent vehicle for performing many of the stages in the decision making process. They work for information gathering. If the group is composed of individual with diverse background, the alternatives generated should be more critical. When the final support is agreed upon there are more people in a group decision to support and implement it. 

Group decision making is emerging as an important tool of management in all organizations. It is the concepts of participatory management in which team working is gaining popularity. The decision making groups can be classified as formal groups, informal groups, permanent groups and temporary groups. All these groups are involved in some kind of decision making activities. The group members share ideas, analyze them and agree upon a decision to implement. Studies show that the group often has values, feelings and reactions quite different from those of which manager supposes they have. If handled in a right way, groups usually make better decisions than individuals acting alone.

In other words, group decision making involves many people and ensures that every member understands the purpose of the decision and his/her part in implementation. Conflicts and dissent can be openly discussed and resolved in the process. Since the people who have to implement the decisions are aware of the goals, group decisions are more likely to be translated into actions.

Decisions are taken either by an individual or by a group. Individuals are very creative and they will have the ability to make decisions individually and effectively. Most creative ideas come from interactions and the participatory effects of individuals in groups. In a group, members effectively identify problems, choose alternatives and evaluate decisions. Such decisions are mostly unbiased and very effective because members bring heterogeneous inputs to the problem and make evaluation of inputs following the interaction process. In fact, it is not possible to generalize whether individuals or groups are better decision makers. It depends on the activities and abilities of the individuals and groups and also on the kind of task being under taken.

There are two types of group decision-making sessions. First is free discussion in which the problem is simply put on the table for the group to talk about. The other kind of group decision making is developmental discussion or structured discussion. Here the problem is broken down into steps or smaller parts with specific goals.

Group decisions may be more effective in case of following situations.
  1. When the time is sufficient.
  2. When decision is important and is non-planned or non-programmed in nature.
  3. When enough information is available on the basis of which members may act rationally.
  4. When participants are committed to the decision.
  5. When the opinions of the members from divergent areas are important in reaching a solution.
  6. When wider range of critical observations is required and
  7. When lower level management is encouraged to participate in decision making.

Some benefits of Group Work

  1. It provides learning. Groups are better than individuals at understanding problems.
  2. People readily take ownership of problems and their solutions. They take responsibility.
  3. Group members have their egos embedded in the decision and so they will be committed to the solution.
  4. Groups are better than individuals at catching errors.
  5. A group has more information (knowledge) than any one member. Groups can combine this knowledge to create new knowledge. More and more creative alternatives for problem-solving can be generated and better solutions can be derived.
  6. A group may produces synergy during problem solving.
  7. Working in a group may stimulate the creativity to the participants and the process.
  8. A group may have better and more precise communication working together.
  9. Risk propensity is balanced. Groups moderate high-risk takers and encourage conservatives.

Advantages of Group Decision Making

The group decision making offer the following advantages: 
  • Compared to an individual, the groups usually have a greater knowledge, expertise, and skill base to make better decisions. 
  • Larger number of members provides more perspective of the problem. As such, the narrow vision of a single perspective is avoided in making decisions.
  • With large numbers of group members, the participation also increases that helps to reach at a quality decision.
  • Following increased group participation, comprehensive of final decision arrived at is usually high. 
  • Generates more information, ideas and solutions. 
  • Builds team feelings. 
  • Communicates information to more people improving understanding and morale. 
  • Increases commitment and acceptance to the solution. 
  • Shares responsibility 
  • Builds interpersonal and leadership skills. 
  • Particularly suitable to non-programmed decision making. 

Disadvantages of Group Decision Making

All is not good with group decision making. It suffers from the following disadvantages: 
  • Group decision making is a time consuming process.
  • Influence groups usually manipulate the group decision in a direction of their linking and interest.
  • Sometimes decisions made by the group members are simply a compromise between the various views and options offered by the group members. 
  • Requires better group management and communication skills.
  • May create conflict between supporters of different views. 
  • Minority domination. 
  • Domination of vocal, few who talk the loudest and the longest. 
  • Ambiguous (unclear) responsibility.

Issues Related to Group Decision Making

There is no doubt that a group can make effective decisions which are accepted by all members with full ownership to implement these for their collective success. All members have the equal opportunity to participate and share information in course of selecting best alternative from among set of alternatives. However, in spite of these advantages, the nature of group dynamics will affect its effectiveness. Some of the constraining factors in group decision making are as follows:

1. Groupthink

Groupthink refers to the tendency of the members of a highly cohesive group to lose their evaluative capabilities or abilities. It describes situations in which group pressures for conformity deter the group from critically appraising unusual, minor or unpopular views. In a groupthink process, members are in a very cohesive situation. They do not like to criticize or evaluate one another's ideas and statements. This tendency obviously leads to agreement without creative discussion among the members. This occurs because of strong pressure on individual members to maintain harmonious group relations. Therefore, it is taken as a disease that attacks many groups and can dramatically hinder their performance.

2. Group shift or Group Polarization

The group shift can be viewed actually as a special case of groupthink. It refers to the tendency of groups to make more extreme decisions than individuals working alone. An individual feels uncomfortable to form a high risk opinion alone. However, if she/he meets in a group, she/he may be ready to accept a high level of risk. Thus, individual opinion may differ after meeting in the group. When the individual gets social support from other members, she/he will be ready to take more risk. Similarly, when all members agree or believe in the same cause through reasoning and discussion, it will help the individual to take more risk than before.

3. Time Constraints

Generally, groups take a long time for organization, co-ordination and socialization. If groups are larger, there will be problems of communication and interaction, and will take long time to make decisions. It is not possible to speak to all members at one time and thus time will be a constraining factor for individuals in presenting personal views. When people cannot present their personal ideas, there might be fewer chances for creative ideas to come forward for making effective group decisions.

4. Conformity to Peer Pressure

Group norms refer to the informal rules and expectations that groups establish and they will guide group members to behave at work place. They work as pressure to follow the behavior among group members. Thus, even at the time of strong disagreement of an individual member, she/he cannot present creative ideas due to the effect of group pressure to agree to group ideas. In such a situation, if an individual tries to put his/her ideas, other members may warn or punish him/her to discourage such ideas in the future.

Potential Dysfunctions of Group Work (Process Losses)

  • Social pressure of conformity may result in group-think (people begin to think alike and not tolerate new ideas – yielding to conformance pressures).
  • It is a time-consuming, slow process (only one member can speak at a time).
  • Lack of coordination of meeting work and poor meeting planning.
  • Inappropriate influences (domination of time, topic, opinion by one or few individuals; fear of contributing because of the possibility of flaming and so on).
  • Tendency of group members to rely on others to do most of the work.
  • Tendency to produce compromised solutions of poor quality.
  • Non-productive time (socializing, preparing, waiting for late-comers-air-time fragmentation).
  • Tendency to repeat what was already said (because of failure to remember of process).
  • High cost meeting (travel, participation etc).
  • Tendency of groups to make riskier decisions than they should.
  • Incomplete or inappropriate use of information.
  • Too much information (information overload).
  • Few information cues.
  • Incomplete or incorrect task analysis.
  • Inappropriate or incomplete representation in the group.
  • Attention blocking.
  • Attenuation blocking.
  • Concentration blocking.
  • Slow feedback.
Source: Turban, E. et. al. (2005), Decision Support Systems and Intelligent Systems.