Leaders inherently must depend on others to accomplish their visions to meet objectives. Consequently, leaders must learn to build relationships with their teams. This of course leads to the inescapable matter of how. As a result of various human personalities, relationships will not always be as agreeable and efficient as one would hope. When it comes to team building, how to best capture and then capitalize on individual (and then team) motivation is a question that vexes leadership. Some leaders believe money alone motivates their followers to strive for great achievements; others appreciate intrinsic motivations (MGT7029 Syllabus). However done, employees need to be motivated; this paper briefly discusses the two methodologies espoused by MacGregor for doing so.
Hunting the Lone Wolf
Media Can Hide Leadership Rather Than Reveal It
Whether it is from the Internet, radio, television, magazines, or newspapers, people get their information about exactly who their national leaders are from a myriad of media sources other than actual direct input from the leader concerned (or their actions). In the past, looking at the character and intent of a leader was probably a far simpler task. Sixty years ago, the words and deeds of great leadership were on public display by virtue of their actual actions and the words in the speeches they gave. On the national scene, reputations were formed, as it were, by the real exploits of men rather than by handlers directing their candidates before television appearance, carefully crafted press releases, Facebook© profiles, bias media reports (id. est. darlings and villains), Twitter© messages, and their legions of publicists. The technological advances of the 20th century transformed leadership from something that was demonstrated into something that could be orchestrated.
Photogenic Charisma Beats Experience. For the United States this die was cast in the 1960 presidential debates between 8-year Vice President Richard Nixon and the political newcomer John F. Kennedy (Minow & LaMay, 2008). Kennedy was a young Harvard man, new to the national scene; his people later said he did not know what to expect. To the seasoned Nixon, the expectation was that he would persuade the first-time television audience with his considerable experience and perspective. Minow and LaMay (2008) report that Nixon only felt threatened by Kennedy’s youth, not leadership style or experience. Yet, television cameras know nothing of leadership experience. Nationally televised, real-time live streaming, unedited media (of all kinds these days) allowed then, as it does now, the general public to see, hear, and judge leadership in ways never before possible (or perhaps desirable).
There Is No Unsend Button. When asked if he wanted make-up, one story details, Kennedy said no; overhearing this and not to be outdone as to appear nervous (ironically), Nixon also said no. Without it, and in the heat of the lamps, he looked tired, old, and atrocious. By all accounts, Nixon’s 5 o’clock shadow, sweaty forehead, exhaustion, and age contrasted Kennedy’s spritely spirit so strikingly that the debate would be remembered by history not for its content, by rather by the appearance of the contestants. This was not only the birth of media-driven politics (Minow & LaMay, 2008), but also where it could be said that leadership styles and methodologies fully matured in the understanding that real-world demonstration and public orchestration did not have to be the same thing. In fact, an interesting follow-on research article may want to explore the culture of leadership accession where appearances and showmanship begin to eclipse actual abilities in the selection process (often, sometimes, always, and/or in which venues).
Douglas MacGregor’s Theory X and Theory Y
Media-driven image calibration makes the task of identifying nationally recognizable Theory X leaders a potentially lengthy chore. To MacGregor, Theory X leaders hold their employees in near contempt, feeling they dislike work, will do anything to avoid it, use threats to control and (try to) motivate them, and generally feel as if their employees are rather unskilled and dull-witted (Bell & Smith, 2010). A pitchfork or carrot (Pervin, Cervone, & John, 2005; Santrock, 2008) mentality of motivation is therefore employed wherein the motivator believes that the people he or she is motivating are only motivated by an unintelligent compelling need for tangible rewards and the avoidance of any punishment(s). This is not a very flattering portrait; any leader who wishes to maintain public support, service, or patronage must avoid appearing as if he or she is that narcissistic. Still, well-known examples abound.
Names We Know. Famously bad bosses clog our cultural dialogue from Saturday morning entertainment to social studies classes with historical reviews. Modern media and politics may be stacked with this archetype, but again, contriving a more appealing personality for public consumption is rather easy. Perhaps the easiest Theory X references, because they were intentionally created to appear as such, are cartoon characters. George Jetson’s and Fred Flintstone’s similar supervisory fate from their centuries apart are a good start. Jetson worked for Cosmo Spacely, a prototypical MacGregor’s Theory X boss whose emblematic videophone call to Jetson always begins with his yelling "JETSON!!!" and George scrambling to appear subservient. Like George, Fred’s prehistoric boss at the stone-quarry, Mr. Slate, is a detestable little man whose bombastic criticisms of his employees are designed to motivate, but merely belittle and aggravate.
Examples sans Hanna & Barbera’s pencils are Martha Stewart and Naomi Campbell. Both are reported to argue with their help and fly into uncontrollable rages when subordinates either disagree or fail to agree enthusiastically enough (Gorin, 2010). Here, fame trumps business sense and these ladies are allowed to get away with such behavior.
Brass Tacks. In the business world, where relationships, trust, and the benefits of teamwork matter (for profit or operational sustainability), the Theory X leader must temper his or her passion for self-importance and learn to adapt to the needs of the people he or she depends upon. MacGregor’s Theory Y leaders do this and benefit from a different set of assumptions. A Theory Y leader would feel that people generally enjoy their work; he or she would seek to gain loyalty by showing employees respect; gain by listening to their perspectives; and look out for their needs, work requirements, and interests (Bell & Smith, 2010). Unlike working at Spacely Sprockets or for Naomi Campbell, employees of a Theory Y boss can have their own opinion, make decisions about what method may work best for their tasking, and feel as though they are smart enough to affect the quality of their work. Leaders who empower their people to take ownership of the organizational process can become so effective, they become almost invisible (Tichy & Devanna, 1990).
Who Does That? To catalogue a list of top leaders who empower their teams to the task at hand begins to reveal exactly the benefit of their leadership. That is, when one thinks of innovation in processes and management the name George Buckley may not spring to mind, but the team he is CEO for, 3M, does. Want to learn about open-minded work environments and employee empowerment? Maybe the name Larry Page does not appear, but his company, Google, is probably your homepage. Team leaders know that being competitive in the fast-paced environment of today’s markets means that they (the leaders themselves) do not have to have all the answers, they only have to systems in place to allow their people to find them (3M, 2010). George Buckley and Larry Page are transformational leaders in a time when being adaptive and dynamic demands a diverse workforce, open-minded management, and when CEOs who wish to excel know that their team (not them) should be the focal point for the advancement of their (every team members’) goals. “People who know [3M] best point to four key ingredients that foster a culture of innovation and productive people, creating a challenging environment; designing an organization that doesn’t get in people’s way; and offering rewards that nourish both self-esteem and personal bank accounts” (3M, 2002, p. 32). A Theory X leader would lack the trust in the motivation of their employees to allow for this kind of freedom, a Theory Y leader depends on it.
Two to Tango
Being a successful leader is not just about being respected and liked by one’s employees. And being a successful company is not just about having the best toilet plunger design on the market. A successful organization must stock its rank with modern technology, create innovative opportunities, and foster the kind of environment where the people who are in it know how to communicate up and across the hierarchy and to maximize the benefits from it (3M, 2010; Burke, 1995; Christensen, 2005). Having the best plunger, or the best commercial for it, will not solve all a company’s problems and “it is not enough to corral a bunch of people and then expect then to function like a team” (Walton, 1991, p. 56). There is no singular formula for management; the flaw of the MacGregor X or Y system is that a varied and dynamic workforce, in a turbulent and constantly changing business environment management must be able to adapt its style just as fast. Too often industry leaders latch onto one methodology, fix, or solution—manpower, technology, or market force—and plug one into fundamentally unchanged processes, not surprisingly, little change results (Christensen, 2005). Some leaders (the X variety) may think of themselves as solo acts, working without the needed input from their team. Other leaders (Y type) may put so much emphasis on sharing the dream that they fail to provide a solid vision for all to follow.
True leadership, the kind that leads and inspires success for the individual and the team will take a combination of both. Like a dance, the timing and placement of one or the other is the key to appearing graceful. Surely there are times when George Buckley will have had to be cut-throat and rather directive (or transactional, Theory X), but in order to foster the kind of environment which will led to the most advantageous for him, his employees, and his company, he must also embrace a more open-minded approach (Theory Y). It takes both vigor and grace to tango, just as it does to lead.
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