Behavioral Foundations of Management Research Paper Starter

Behavioral Foundations of Management

Management is the process of efficiently and effectively accomplishing work through the coordination and supervision of others. To do this effectively requires an understanding of human behavior in the workplace; in particular, how to lead employees, motivate them to do what needs to be done, and provide an environment that facilitates them in achieving team and organizational objectives. Regardless of one's theoretical approach to leadership, certain practical behaviors have been found to characterize successful leaders. In addition, good management depends not only on understanding the behavior of the manager but also on understanding the behavior of the subordinate. Managers need to be able to motivate their employees to contribute to the success of the organization.

Although there are many aspects to management, including administration, decision making, and supervising, at its heart, management is the process of efficiently and effectively accomplishing work through the coordination and supervision of others. To do this effectively requires an understanding of human behavior in the workplace -- in particular, how to lead employees, motivate them to do what needs to be done, and provide an environment that facilitates them in achieving team and organizational objectives. Leadership is not a characteristic or quality that automatically induces other people to follow the leader. It is a process: a series of actions, changes, or functions that bring about the desired result. Leadership is also an intentional act. Although leaders' behavior may inspire others to action or to follow in their footsteps, they are not leaders unless they are conscious of the attempt to modify the behavior of others.

Levels of Leadership

As shown in Figure 1, there are three levels of leadership.

Attempted Leadership

The first level is attempted leadership, where Harvey attempts to modify the behavior of other people in order to do what he wants them to do. This can be done with one of three orientations.

  • Task orientation is an approach to leadership where the would-be leader focuses on the thing to be done (such as meeting a quarterly sales goal, designing a new widget, or producing gizmos with fewer defects). People who have a task orientation to leadership tend to be good managers or executives and focus on organizational goals.
  • The interaction orientation to leadership is one in which the would-be leader is cognizant of the needs, abilities, and personalities of the followers. The primary goal of the interaction oriented leader is to maintain group harmony. This is an important orientation for group leadership and necessary for facilitating efficient group interactions. In fact, in many group situations, there are two de facto leaders: One who is task oriented and one who is interaction oriented.
  • In addition, there is a third approach to attempted leadership -- the self orientation. The person who attempts to lead by this approach tends to be a day dreamer or underachiever who sees the world as a stage on which to act. Self-oriented leaders think more about themselves than about the task at hand or about the people who are accomplishing that task.

Successful/Effective Leadership

If the people whom Harvey is trying to influence actually change their behavior as a result of his attempt at leadership, he is a successful leader. If, on the other hand, they do not change their behavior as a result of his efforts, Harvey's attempts at leadership have not been successful.

Styles of Leadership

There are three general styles of leadership that are based on some combination of power and ability. Without one or both of these characteristics, the attempted leadership will not be successful.

  • The coercive leadership style is based strictly on power. Within the organization, this is typically organizational power (such as one's position as a supervisor or manager), but it can also be any other type of power to reward or hurt the followers. This style of leadership is frequently seen in organizations with supervisors or managers who invite neither discussion nor participation on the part of the employees but use their organizational standing and concomitant power (e.g., promote or fire; give or withhold raises) to get employees to do what they want them to do.
  • On the other end of the spectrum is the persuasive leader who leads purely on ability. This type of leader can be seen in organizations in the form of the expert on a work team who is followed because of his or her level of technical expertise, ability to organize and facilitate work, or other skill. Strictly persuasive leaders do not have any power and must lead solely by their ability.
  • Some leaders, however, use both power and ability to lead others using a permissive style of leadership. People using this type of leadership style use both their power and ability to bring about the desired actions of the part of their followers. For example, many persuasive leaders within organizations use their abilities to lead their followers in most circumstances and rely on brute use of organizational power only in extreme circumstances.

A leader can be said to be effective if his or her efforts bring about a change in the behavior of others and they do what the leader wanted them to do. This, however, does not necessarily mean that the leader was effective. The effectiveness of Harvey's leadership lies in the perceptions of those he was leading, specifically whether or not they were rewarded for following Harvey. Reward can be monetary or social -- such as a bonus or praise -- but it can also take more subtle forms, such as getting the task accomplished on time and within budget. Those who have been effective leaders in the past will typically attempt to lead in other situations in the future.

Traits

Leadership theorists have examined the traits and behaviors of successful leaders for decades in order to help determine what distinguishes an effective leader from one who is not. Although many theories have been posited over the years, one enduring theme is that leaders need to change their behaviors depending on the characteristics of the situation such as the motivation and abilities of the people that they are leading. In some situations, a good leader needs to focus on concern for the task, while in other situations a good leader needs to focus on having concern for people. For example, a leader may be both successful and effective with a hands-off approach in a situation in which the people who are being led are experienced and trained in the task that they need to perform. In such situations, a good leader is often well-advised to provide the environment that the employees need to do their job and to support them rather than actively trying to be "in charge." On the other hand, in a situation where the leader has knowledge and experience not possessed by the followers, he or she may have to be more directive as a leader in order to get the task accomplished. In the situational approach to leadership, theorists state that effective leaders change the style of their leadership depending on the...

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