Introduction In order to examine the influence of differing leadership styles on both group performance and communication, it is important to comprehend what a leader is, how they are created and their characteristics. From there, a leaders 'style' needs to be addressed. It is then possible to assess a group's performance under particular leadership styles, their levels of motivation and other factors that may modify a group's achievement. A group's communication can be either downward or upward this also depends on the adopted leadership style.
This too can be affected by other factors. Only after considering each of these aspects, is the impact of various leadership methods able to be accurately assessed. Leadership at a glance Leaders and leadership Whether we are aware of it or not, we are surrounded by leaders every day. At home, work or even at play the presence of a leader can be seen everywhere. A leader is someone who guides or is in command of others. In the business sector a leaders aim is to achieve an organisations goals with the assistance of followers without relying on their positions, power or ability to influence others.
(Smith, 1997) The definition of leadership however, is not so clear, as it is ever-changing and evolving. Former San Francisco 49 er Tight End, Dr. Jamie Williams is convinced that leadership is like gravity in the way that you know it exists and you can feel its presence, but you are unable to clearly define it. (Sugarman, 2000) Leadership can be defined only as the process of influencing a group towards the achievement of goals. Are leaders born or made? A prevailing myth states, 'Leaders are not made, but born.' (H utterer, 1997) Understood as the Birthright myth this theory suggests that, a leader either has it or they don't.
On the contrary, if one is to study the lives of great leaders such as Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill and F. W. Woolworth a pattern emerges - they all learned from experience to become leaders; none were born directly into the role or its prosperity. Vince Lombardi (2001) believes that leaders are in-fact made, not born and are made the same way as everything else - by continual hard work.
The key to leadership lies not in having the right stuff from birth but in acquiring the various traits during time. Characteristics of a Leader Although there is no set outline of what it takes to be a successful leader, writers and leadership theorists including Ulrich, Smallwood & Zenger (1999) and Hemsath (1998) have found a number of characteristics that seem to go hand in hand with outstanding leadership. People who have a strong sense of vision, have passion and are able to get people to commit 100% and take the necessary action to see that vision become a reality attain excellence in leadership. Great leaders also excel in the art of communication and motivation, mutual respect, instilling confidence and enthusiasm, and showing flexibility, credibility and integrity on a consistent basis. The utilization of these attributes develops into one's leadership style. Patterns of behaviour Leadership styles Most leaders adopt a consistent pattern of behaviour, better known as their leadership style.
Leadership styles vary according to the leader and the situation. Leadership styles can be Directive, Supportive or a fusion of the two. They can be divided further into three general categories - Authoritarian, Participative and Laissez Faire. Although no one style of leadership has proven to be the most effective, when used with the right people in the right situations at the right time each can be quite powerful and rewarding.
Authoritarian Leaders Authoritarian Leaders tend to make unilateral decisions, dictate work methods, limit worker knowledge about goals to just the next step to be performed, sometimes give punitive feedback, enforce unpleasant penalties and reward subjects simply for following their directions. Laissez Faire Leaders Laissez-faire leaders generally give the group complete freedom, provide necessary materials, participate only to answer questions, and avoid giving feedback. In the words of Bartol and Martin (1994) they do almost nothing. Participative Leaders In contrast, a Participative Leader tends to involve the group in decision making, let the group determine work methods, make overall goals known, and use feedback as an opportunity for helpful coaching. Leadership Styles and Group Performance A Case Study Research performed by Lewin (Ott, Parkes and Simpson, 2003) monitored the impact of different leadership styles on group performance. The study was carried out amongst groups of 10-year-old boys who met after school for three six-week periods under adult supervision.
It was found that the leadership style, which the adult subjected them to, had a very strong effect on productivity and interpersonal relations. The results are as follows: . Groups under Authoritarian Leadership had the highest quantity of output. Although they had high hostility and negative feelings.
They did not internalize the motivation to work - when leader was gone, they stopped producing... Groups maintained by Laissez-faire Leaders had lowest productivity. Members were not goal oriented and had a poor quality work, but they liked the leader. They actually became more productive when the leader left, because one of the boys would take over the leadership role... And Groups with Participative Leaders had slightly lower quantity but higher quality. Their work motivation was high.
Members were friendly with each other and when leader left, productivity stayed about the same. From these results it can be arguably concluded that Participative Leaders show the highest level of group performance and cohesion over time. Authoritarian Leaders are found to have short-term success, however members promptly withdraw. Laissez Faire Leaders returned the lowest productivity and motivation.
It can also be seen that the standard of performance within a group is directly affected by their motivation. Motivation It is important then to realise that a group's performance will be directly influenced by their motivation. Ronald Reagan states that "The greatest leader is not the one who does the greatest things. He is the one who gets the people to do the greatest things." (n. d. ) Yulk describes motivation as, "a hypothetical process that is inferred by observing peoples behaviour, asking people what the want and inquiring why they act as they do." (1990) By understanding ones personal goals and expectations a leader is able to effectively encourage a team member in a way which is ultimately beneficial to both the individual and the organisation.
In A Business And It's Beliefs: The Ideas That Helped Build IBM, Thomas Watson (1963) accredits much of IBM's success to their dedication and respect for each individual, claiming to devote more effort and time to it rather than anything else. As a leader, no matter which leadership style is adopted it is important to realise what motivates those around you and be aware of additional factors. Other details to consider Just like any situation there are other factors, which may hinder or assist a group performance. These factors include: the size of a work team or group, its members and their qualifications, skills and attitudes, the group structure, cohesiveness or level of common purpose and commitment to the team and its atmosphere, and whether or not there is evidence of GroupThink. Leadership Styles and Communication Downward Communication Authoritarian Leaders Communication between Authoritarian Leaders and their subordinates is strictly downward. This is done through the use of verbal directives, memos, policies, procedures, training materials, assignments, performance evaluations, and company magazines and newsletters.
A misuse or overabundance of downward communication however, can cause employees to give up independent initiative or embrace the "bulletin-board dilemma." Smith (1997) describes this as employees turning a deaf ear and a blind eye to messages from the leader. For Authoritarian Leaders downward communication channels seem to be an effective way to distribute company information as widely as possible to employees with minimal distortion. Furthermore it initiates action within the group. Upward Communication Participative Leaders On the other hand, Participative Leaders rely on healthy channels of upward communication.
This allows leaders to keep themselves informed of company problems, progress on projects, and opportunities for better use of human and financial resources. Upward communication allows subordinates to participate in decision making, attain a broader perspective on company challenges and realities and extend their own abilities as problem solvers and potential leaders. Yet an overload of upward communication can devastate the organisation in various ways. Smith (1997) outlines two main problems. Firstly, valuable leadership time can be consumed in reviewing large amounts of often redundant upward communication. Or secondly, employees can become demoralized if the company leader encourages upward communication but then does nothing with it.
Overall, upward communication is useful for uniting leaders and subordinates, nonetheless to be effective it needs to be kept at a manageable level. Little or No Communication Laissez Faire Leaders Due to the fact that Laissez Faire Leaders give the group the freedom to run itself without any input there is usually very little if any communication between leaders and group members. Therefore Laissez Faire Leaders cannot be correctly determined as either upward or downward communicators. Instead all communication is carried out between group members.
Other details to consider There are also other circumstances, which may affect communication, whether it is upward or downward, within a work-team or group. As with group performance the team's cohesiveness is an underlying factor. Communication barriers too, need to be addressed and withdrawn. It is also important to consider differences in perception, cultural conventions, attitudes and values amongst people, inconsistency between spoken and non-verbal communication, withholding information and dismissing the concerns or point of view of others when communicating.
Conclusion Finally, after observing the influence of varying leadership styles on group performance and communication it can be seen that each leadership style has its own 'ups and downs.' Authoritarian Leaders have high levels of group performance, although the work environment is usually unpleasant and subordinates are often hostile towards their leader. Their use of downward communication limits opportunities for misunderstanding or arguments whilst the threat of unpleasant consequences keeps subordinated motivated. On the other hand, people under Laissez Faire Leadership liked their leader but had low productivity levels and little communication between leaders and subordinates. Participative leaders appear to be the most effective leaders. Their subordinates displayed high levels of motivation even when unsupervised and although their quantity of work was lower than Authoritarian Leaders, Participative Leaders produced work of higher quality.
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