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Essay: Connections between leadership, motivation and teamwork theories

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In this essay I will discuss the connections between leadership, motivation and teamwork theories, how they connect to practice in organisations and their limitations, offering solutions where impracticalities arise. The essay aims to draw conclusions on the suitability of Fiedler’s Contingency Theory of Leadership, Tuckman’s Model of Group Development, Belbin’s Team Theory, and Herzberg’s Two Factor Theory in practice, and how complexities like power and influence shape how they can be applied to best suit the situation a leader faces.

Leadership

Contingency based theories of leadership suggest that there is no correct or best way to lead a group, or organisation, due to the significant number of constraints on a situation (Flinsch-Rodriguez, 2019). Fiedler, in his Contingency Theory of Leadership (Fiedler, 1967), suggests that the effectiveness of a group is dependent on the leadership styles of the leader and their favourability to the situation. Much of the theory is established around the least preferred co-worker scale (LPC). The LPC aims to quantify a potential leaders approach to a task on a scale of relationship motivated to task motivated, where the leader fits on the scale allows their most favourable situation to be deduced, and thus allows the identification of suitable leaders for tasks. The favourableness of the situation depends on three characteristics: leader-member relations, the support and trust the leader as from the group; task structure, the clarity of the task to the leader; and positional power, the authority the leader has to assess a groups performance and give rewards and punishments (Fiedler, 1967). If the leaders approach matches what is required from the situation then success is predicted for the group.

Fiedler’s contingency model offers a very austere categorisation of leadership, clearly defining which situations will and will not result in success for a potential leader. At the senior management level of a hierarchal structure within an organisation the theory can be applied freely, firstly due to the ease at which persons can be replaced if their LPC score does not match that required of the situation (Pettinger, 2007). Secondly, and most importantly, is to ensure that the senior management are best equipped to lead the organisation successfully. However, further down the hierarchy Fielder’s contingency theory begins to hold much less relevance, it becomes impractical from a organisational perspective due to the number of people at this level of leadership. The logistics of matching the leader with their least preferred co-worker is impossible to consistently achieve, so a more continuum based approach is required.

Figure 1: Chelladurai’s Multi-Dimensional Model of Leadership (Miller and Cronin, 2012)

There are other contingency theories that provide a more continuum based approach such as Redding’s theory of leadership and management, however Fielder’s description of how situational factors affect the leadership style required for the situation is extremely useful in understanding the fundamentals of leadership (Pettinger, 2007). Chelladurai in his Multi Dimensional Model of Leadership, expands on much of Fiedler’s theory but in a continuum based approach, in which the leader can adapt their leadership style to fit the situation (Chelladurai and Madella, 2006). Chelladurai’s theory is taken from sports psychology but can be applied to an organisational scenario. It provides a much more empirical categorisation of task structure, clearly differentiating a plethora of situations that require certain leadership styles for success. Chealldurai found three characteristics that affect the leadership style required for a situation, called antecedents, they mainly expand upon Fiedler’s situational factors and leader – member relations and ultimately affect how a leader should behave towards a situation. The first are situational characteristics, the environment in which the leader must perform, the second are leader characteristics, the experience, personal qualities and skills of the leader, and the third are member characteristics, the motivation, skill and experience levels of group members (Chelladurai and Madella, 2006). The situational characteristics and member characteristics have a required behaviour to ensure maximum group performance, they also have a preferred behaviour to ensure the satisfaction of group members, if the leaders actual behaviour matches both the required behaviour and preferred behaviour of the situation the consequence is maximum group performance and satisfaction. However, if the group are not performing and achieving goals or are not satisfied or both, then the leader is able to amend their actual behaviour to improve this. Leaders able to monitor performance and satisfaction, and understand what is required to amend the situation will achieve optimum group performance in Chelladurai’s model.

The one limitation of Chealldurai’s model is that it assumes the leader is in a position of complete positional power over the group, and can implement any leadership style of their choosing without constraints. Positional power is the authority and influence a leader has over a group, if the leader has positional power, they will be able to implement the leadership style they best see fit for the situation. Positional power cannot be measured or quantified, making it highly ambiguous and hard for a leader to understand whether they have it or how then can gain it. It becomes the responsibility of the organisation to have policies in place to provide leaders with some positional power, usually by establishing a clear hierarchal structure. By establishing a hierarchy, the leader is perceived by the group to be able to make demands and expect compliance from them giving the leader legitimate power (French and Raven, 1959). Secondly, by providing the leader with the ability to reward compliance and punish non compliance from the group, the leader has reward and coercive power (French and Raven, 1959). To obtain complete power over the group the leader must gain the trust and belief of the group that they are capable of success, by ensuring the group are both satisfied and meeting performance goals.

The importance of establishing a hierarchy became evident during the planning stage of the outdoor management course for the red team, the coordinators within the team assumed leadership roles but were unable to gain positional power due to the team being a peer group (Pettinger, 2007). The leaders selected had little authority and influence over the group as everyone was perceived to have the same rank, status and occupation, hence the leaders had none of French and Ravens five bases of power (Pettinger, 2007). The result was leaders with no positional power over the group, so could not direct the group with the method of leadership required for the situation. The task had significant constraints, particularly a short time frame and a large group size, for this situation Chelladurai recommends an autocratic leadership style would be most favourable (Chelladurai and Madella, 2006). The leaders attempted an autocratic leadership style, setting individual tasks for the group, however due to the poor leader member relations and lack of positional power the leadership structure quickly became a democracy. The product was an extremely unproductive workforce initially because of the time spent discussing how was best to approach the task. Because of how the leaders were perceived by the group there was little mutual trust, respect or confidence that the leaders were making the correct decisions, and as a result any management style they tried to implement would have been unsuccessful (Pettinger, 2007). Ultimately, if the leaders had analysed their position and the group they would have realised this and chosen a more democratic approach initially the group would have gained trust for the leaders, making future policy implementation easier.

Teamwork

Teamwork plays an essential role within both Fiedler’s Contingency Theory and Chelladurai’s Multi-dimensional model particularly regarding leader-member relations, if the group are familiar and trusting of the leader policy implementation becomes much simpler. Similarly to leadership, understanding and adapting to the situation is key to a leader being able to implement policies that ensure a group work as a team. Teamwork is a product of good leadership, and is again the responsibility of the leader to ensure the group are working successfully together. Highly functioning teams are essential within organisations to increase productivity and member satisfaction, by utilising the talents of all group members effectively within the constraints of the task, personal relationships and the group goals (Pettinger, 2007).

Figure 2: Tuckman’s Model of Group Development (Agile Scrum Guide, 2019)

Tuckman in his Model of Group Development provides easily identifiable stages that a groups performance can be measured against, making it useful for monitoring performance, Figure 2 shows Tuckman’s model. Ranking group performance against this scale can provide leaders with a clear understanding of how the group are functioning, allowing them to implement policies to change this if performance is unsatisfactory (Pettinger, 2007). Within organisations, the theory can be loosely applied to creating teams by grouping familiar individuals with the aim that they will reach the norming and performing stage of the model quicker. For short and simple tasks this is an extremely effective way of organising groups, due to the increased short term productivity. However there are significant issues with grouping individuals in this manner, particularly when tasks become more complex, and ultimately the model should mainly be used for monitoring the progress of groups (Pettinger, 2007).

Figure 3: Belbin’s Team Roles (PrePearl Training Development, 2019)

A more functional approach of grouping individuals is to utilise Belbin’s Team Theory (Belbin, 2017). Belbin identifies 9 key roles that must be fulfilled within a group to ensure success, the roles are summarised in Figure 3. The roles cover a wide spectrum of skills that need to be present within a group to ensure success, and becomes essential when tasks are lengthy and complex. Organisations can find the Belbin roles each individual fits through a questionnaire, and thus balanced groups can be formed covering all the roles. However, like with Fiedler’s contingency model, the theory when translated to practice can often become very impractical for organisations to implement regularly. This is largely because the organisation is constrained by the personalities of their employees, their may be an abundance of one personality type and an absence of another, the only solution is to hire externally to fill the missing roles within teams. This can result in an extensive payroll for an organisation and huge financial implications as they cannot legally dismiss employee’s if they have too many of one personality type. The importance of Belbin roles in a team became apparent for Group 1 on the first day of the outdoor management course, the group had 5 people who filled the completer finisher and implementor roles, however had no-one filling the resource investigator or monitor evaluator role, the group ran out of time and did not complete the task successfully. Obviously running out of time was not the sole cause of the groups failure, however if someone had been monitoring time and performance then the group may have realised their option was unfeasible and could have found an alternative solution. One solution for lack of Belbin roles is to assign specific roles to individuals, this was implemented heavily on the outdoor management course for roles perceived to be essential for success such as time keeping. This method works for simple tasks, however for complex tasks the individual with the assigned responsibility can often become engrossed in the task and forget their role, or the opposite becoming too engrossed with the responsibility they have been assigned. Ultimately, like with leadership ensuring teams are functioning properly is highly dependent on the situation, and becomes the leaders responsibility to analyse the situation and correctly organise groups to ensure success.

Motivation

Motivation is again a product of good leadership. Motivation is highly personal, and it is the leaders responsibility to understand what motivates each individual and implement policies to obtain maximum performance from a group. The importance of the leaders role in motivating individuals is highlighted in Herzberg’s Two Factor theory. The theory highlights factors that must be in place to avoid dissatisfaction, hygiene factors, and factors that promote satisfaction, motivation factors, shown in Figure 4 (Pettinger, 2007). Herzberg’s theory helps to decipher what motivates individuals, but does not advise on how to implement this to produce maximum productivity from an individual, this is achieved by using the theory in conjunction with other motivational theories such as goal setting theory.

Figure 4: Hygiene and Motivating Factors (Pettinger,, 2006)

Goal setting is not just an important part of motivation, they are essential for both teamwork and successful leadership, they provide indication on what must be achieved, how much effort they must devoted to achieve it and they act as the primary source of job motivation for individuals, therefore setting them accurately is essential (Pettinger 2007). Specific and clear goals are the most effective motivators, and will lead to optimum performance, therefore it becomes essential for a leader to understand what motivates each individual within a group (Pettinger, 2007). Motivation is highly personal, and can differ massively across a group, so the leader must adapt how they motivate to suit each individual, this highlights the need for an organisation to implement policies that allow leaders to be flexible in how they reward individuals. Issues arise when goals are not set well, if the goals are ambiguous, unachievable or too easy then the individual will lose motivation (Pettinger, 2007). Once goals have been set it becomes essential for leaders to regularly assess how individuals are progressing towards them, if well then goals should be made more challenging, if they are struggling then the goals should be made easier. Goals also allow for leader to assess how the team are performing, and how their leadership style is functioning with the group, if goals are not being met the leader must adapt how the team interact together or their leadership style to achieve them.

Conclusions

The theories discussed provide a framework for understanding teamwork, leadership and motivation, however often are only applicable to distinct situations so do not translate sufficiently into practice and should be used cautiously. Clear connections and codependency exist between the theories, and ultimately in practice becomes the responsibility of the leader to intertwine them to achieve maximum performance from a group. For organisational behaviour to be successful, leadership must aspire change in group members, ensure teams are functional and individual group members are motivated, and is underpinned by a leaders ability to adapt the theories to the situational factors around them. To do this, and successfully implement policies to gain maximum performance, there must be conditions that make the situation favourable for a leader, and is the responsibility of the group at the top of an organisations hierarchy. In summary, the theories discussed may not always directly provide the solution required to maximum performance from a group, but equip a leader with the understanding of the core principles of leadership, teamwork and motivation, allowing them to shape and tailor the theories to any situation they face.

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