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Leadership styles in business

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Leadership styles In the 21st Century Introduction With small and medium sized businesses in the UK representing around seventy percent of all businesses (see appendix fig 1), leadership style and issues play a significant role in the development and success of these businesses. Two of the most common styles employed in this sector can be described as the “Major General” and “Conductor.”

Major-General leadership style

This style, as the title suggests, tends to be linked to the authoritarian type of leadership that use to exist in the Military, where commands were given and expected to be obeyed without question. In an organisation that is dominated by an authoritarian leadership there tends to be a very formal delineation of both tasks and employee roles[1]. In the case of employees, each will have specific duties and boundaries within which they are expected to rigidly remain. Because of the structure of many SME’s, including a number that are sole-trader or family owned businesses, the “Major-General” type of leadership tends to be more widespread than in larger organisations. This is particularly the case where the business has held that structure for a long time. In addition, the leadership focus tends to be more upon the immediate effect of decisions made, rather than the longer-term objective[2]. They tend to have a narrower focus on business achievements as a result of the fact that they see the main beneficiaries of the business future being themselves rather than other business stakeholders, such as the employees[3]. Whilst this authoritarian style may have advantages for the consumer, in terms of identifying management, it can create problems with the workforce. The “major-general” attitude to leadership works on the theory that employee expectations match with management. However, this is not always the case. It is more likely that, because of their approach, such leaders do not understand their employee needs. Employees who feel they are not appreciated will lack the commitment to the organisation that is required to help a business achieve its future success[4]. Similarly, valuable innovative ideas and suggestions, which could be generated from a more direct employee involvement, are lost. Conductor leadership style The “conductor” leadership style is one that is more collaborative in nature, with employee involvement and empowerment being a more important consideration, whilst at the same time there is requirement for the leader to take a positive position, in other words providing the guidance and focus to ensure the smooth running of the business. As the title suggests, they can be seen like a conductor of an orchestra, who uses their role to harmonise each individual instrument into one fluid effort. The leader in this instance will use their influence to encourage each of their employees to take an active role in their tasks within the business, being aware that each one will become a part of the whole in terms of promoting the business success and therefore contributing to the bottom line and profit[5]. This style of leadership recognises that efficient businesses are built on the foundations of effective teamwork, and that the leaders themselves are simply a part of that team. They understand that any action within the business is, as John Adair[6], a business management describes, a combination of three interlocking circles, being the “task, individual and team needs[7],” and that the success or failure of one will impact on the others. Such leaders are aware that if consideration of the individuals needs is not taken into account, this will affect the way that they undertake their tasks, and could result in such situations as delay, lack of quality, or other issues that can damage the success of a business. The importance of the team is also seen as a key factor in this triangle, and the task here is to ensure that, whilst individual needs are met, every employee is made aware of how their contribution affects other team member efforts. In other words, whilst each is individually important, so to is the whole, being the business itself. By these efforts, these types of leaders are more likely to achieve not only the bottom line results that they are seeking, but also an element of sustainability in these goals.

Conclusion

Whilst there are some instances in SME businesses that require a mixture of both of the styles discussed, in general terms the “conductor” style tends to be the more productive of the two. There are occasions when a leader, due to the nature of their position, has to make the final choice, therefore asserting his or her authority, but the effective leader will only take such a decision once they have discussed the factors with their employees, and gained the input from them. The interaction that is achieved by this method has the effect of creating a greater level of commitment from employees at all levels of the business. References Cole, G.A (1998). Management Theory and Practice. 6th Revised edition. Thomson Learning. UK. Adair, John (1986). Effective Teambuilding. Gower Publishing. UK. Gill, Roger (2006). Theory and Practice of Leadership. Sage Publications Ltd. London, UK. News Release (2006). Statistical Press Release. Department of Trade and Industry. London, UK. Retrieved 13 February 2007 from http://www.sbs.gov.uk/SBS_Gov_files/researchandstats/SMERegionsPressRelease.pdf Chapman, Paul (1999). Managerial Control Strategies in Small Firms. International Small Business Journal. Sage Publications, Vol 17, pp 17-82. Morden, Tony (2003) Principles of Management. Ashgate Publishing Limited. Hants, UK Appendix Figure 1 UK business type 2005 "" Source: Dti Statistical press release http://www.sbs.gov.uk/SBS_Gov_files/researchandstats/SMERegionsPressRelease.pdf 1

Footnotes

[1] Cole, G.A (1998). Management Theory and Practice. 6th Revised edition. Thomson Learning. UK [2] Chapman, Paul (1999). Managerial Control Strategies in Small Firms. International Small Business Journal. Sage Publications, Vol 17, pp 17-82. [3] Morden, Tony (2003) Principles of Management. Ashgate Publishing Limited. Hants, UK, p503 [4] Morden, Tony (2003) Principles of Management. Ashgate Publishing Limited. Hants, UK, p503 [5] Gill, Roger (2006). Theory and Practice of Leadership. Sage Publications Ltd. London, UK, 284 [6] Adair, John (1986). Effective Teambuilding. Gower Publishing. UK. [7] Ibid 5
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