Management Articles


Executive Leadership

By: Robert H. Kent, Ph.D., CMC

President of The Mansis Development Corporation, Dr. Kent is a specialist in the structure and management of small and medium-sized organizations, and frequently serves as a personal coach and management consultant to executives for solving their management and employee performance problems. Before founding his consulting company, Bob held senior management and executive positions in federal and provincial government and private corporations. He has been a director of several health care and service organizations and a consulting member of private and government task forces in the areas of government finance, organization structure, personnel management and executive development. Since 1972 he has lectured in management at several Canadian and American universities in the faculties of Management, Administrative Studies, Medicine and Continuing Education where he has been an award winner for excellence in teaching and professional expertise; and he has published over 125 books and articles on management.

If you're lost trying to decide which leadership style to use, when, where and on whom, your confusion may be over. Evidence is mounting (including your own common sense) that some leadership practices are fundamental and these are basics that good leaders need at all times -- and perhaps little more.

Since the 1920's, there have been decades of research on leadership and management styles. The most popular concept is the "Situational" or "Contingency" approach whereby managers and/or leaders should adjust their leadership style for each situation they are in -- the "situation" being defined by many categories including the needs, wants, preferences, maturity level or other characteristics of the follower, as well as measures of the work being expected of the follower, the technology being used, the time required to make decisions, the faith that the leader has in the judgement of the followers and many more!

Depending, then, upon the "situation", a leader would choose the appropriate "style" or way of interacting with the follower or followers. And when it comes to "styles" to choose from, there are as many categories of leadership styles as there are writers in the field.

As a result, how to be an effective leader becomes a confusing maze. Interestingly, many managers and executives who profess to use a "situational approach" to leadership, can't enunciate what they really do.

However, there has been just as much research that questions the usefulness of a range of leadership styles. There is good evidence and strong argument that there is a one best way for managers and executives to lead people. No matter what your industry is or what the inclinations of your followers are, this one best way is to:
  1. Clearly define for your followers what your role is and what their role is. This includes what you mutually expect from each other, what their job priorities are, what you expect them to do and how you expect them to behave.

  2. Clearly enforce whatever expectations you want to have met, and

  3. Make sure your followers can experience success for their efforts.
Beyond these fundamentals, successful leaders act the way their own personalities direct them. It's strange that little mention is ever made of the ability of most "followers" to adjust themselves to the personality of their leader or "boss", as long as the three conditions above are satisfied. Often, people are more flexible that they are given credit for.

© Copyright 2001 The Mansis Development Corporation

Other Articles by Robert H. Kent, Ph.D., CMC

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