This case raises a number of pertinent
issues relating to organizational leadership and followership. Prominent among
the issues are leader-follower relationships and behaviors, team dynamics and
motivational factors in a laissez-faire leadership context. This essay first
examines the causes for Armando’s disillusionment. The second section analyses
the leadership style of Robert and its impact on the follower behaviors and the
organizational outcomes. That will be followed by a discussion on what Armando
could do to resolve his situation. And
the final section explores a leader’s role to ensure high levels of motivation
among his team.
Reasons for Armando’s
joins the HP H-Series El Paso project as a highly motivated and enthusiastic employee.
His quick rise from a trainee to
Assistant Systems Engineer as a confirmed employee is strong evidence of the
organization recognizing his potentialities. He faces a passive,
uncommunicative leader who does not engage the team in decision making. The
leadership ignores the team, never giving an opportunity to express themselves.
Armando also faces a team whose morale is very low, submissive and resigned to
the situation. He is disillusioned both by the leadership and the team
intrinsic motivation to join the organization was for better career prospects
and exposure to latest technologies. Hierarchy of needs theory of Abraham
Maslow (1954) suggests that when human beings satisfy lower-level physiological
and security needs, they are motivated to fulfill higher-order belonging, esteem
and self-actualization needs. Though
literature cites lack of strong empirical evidence (Lawler & Suttle 1972;
& Hall & Nougaim, 1968) to support Maslow’s premises, in the toxic work
context, Armando’s intrinsic drive to fulfill his social, esteem and
self-actualization needs of acceptance, respect, recognition (Maslow, 1954) are
not met. He desires a challenging job, increased autonomy to define his own
process and to meet the organizational objectives.
theory with stronger empirical evidence of validity (Furnham, Eracleous, &
Chamorro-Premuzic, 2009) in the context is Hertzberg’s (1964), two-factor
theory, or the motivator-hygiene theory.
The extrinsic motivational factors, which Hertzberg calls the hygiene
factors like pay, company policies, and physical working conditions, though are
essential for the existence of motivation, may not lead to positive
satisfaction in the long run. Whereas the intrinsic factors, which are called
the motivators, like recognition, sense of achievement, meaningfulness of work
and growth opportunities provide positive satisfaction. Although this may look
parallel to Maslow (1956), the difference is Hertzberg’s finding that the
factors contributing to employee satisfaction and dissatisfaction are
independent of each other. In the case of Armando, fulfilling the extrinsic
factors will not necessarily give him job satisfaction. His motivators are desire for recognition,
opportunities to demonstrate his knowledge and skills and to find meaning in
find a significant relationship between intrinsic motivation and job
performance of employees (McClelland, 1976).
McClelland’s (1976) human motivation theory finds that every person has
one of the three driving needs: achievement, power or affiliation. High
achievers, according to this theory, are strongly motivated to do jobs that
involve high degree of personal responsibility, when leadership engages them
and gives them the right feedback. According to Self- Determination Theory of
Deci and Ryan (1985), those employees that feel what they do is within their
control and freedom are more motivated by their job and are committed to their
employers (Latham & Pinder, 2005 & Pinder, 2008).
report that employee engagement and motivation are challenging issues at the
global level. 63% of US workers say they are not fully engaged in their work. A
recent Gallup poll reports that only 15% of German workers feel engaged with
their jobs. In a global study 43% of employees believe their supervisors are not
able to remove obstacles that come in the way. Only 26 feel their managers
include them in decisions concerning them (Reported in Robbins & Judge,
2015). Thus Armando’s disillusion is caused by a disengaging and passive leadership, demotivated team, discouraging work
environment, lack of autonomy for personal initiatives and achievement
What is Robert’s
Bass and Avolio’s (1990) full range leadership theory or the
transactional-transformational leadership theory, Robert’s leadership behaviors
demonstrate most characteristics of laissez-faire or passive leadership. The
full range theory describes leadership from laissez-faire- the most passive and
most ineffective to transformational- the most effective (Judge, Piccolo &
Zedeck, 2004). Laissez-faire leadership is characterized by passivity and
avoidance of leadership (Lewin, Lippit, &
White, 1939). The followers are given hardly any guidance; they are left to
themselves to make decisions (Hinkin & Schriesheim, 2008). The leader may
provide tools and resources like Robert sending e-mails to solve technical
glitches. Laissez-faire style can be effective when the team is highly
motivated, skilled and capable of working on their own (Lewin et al., 1939). Some
confuse this with empowering followers as Armando initially did. But there is no guidance, communication,
feedback given to the team which negatively impacts follower’s performance and
satisfaction (Judge et al., 2004).
intelligent and efficient in finding solutions. But his unwillingness to engage
his team results in frustration and disorientation among the team members.
Robert also demonstrates characteristics of autocratic leadership as he makes
all decisions by himself (Nahavandi, 2015) without engaging his team.
Autocratic leadership results in followers becoming submissive (Nahavandi,
case presents Pablo, Armando’s former leader, an antithesis to Robert’s
leadership style. Pablo’s leadership style aligns with the transformational
leadership behaviors. Pablo generated a
sense of purpose in Armando by motivating
and inspiring him towards the shared vision of the organization. He
built a trusting relationship with Armando. To Armando, Pablo is a role model
(Burns, 1978 & Bass, 1985). Pablo intellectually stimulated Armando to be
innovative and creative (Bass &
Avolio, 1991); he cared for
Armando’s need for achievement by creating learning opportunities and a
supportive environment (Bass & Avolio, 1991).
Researches find that
transformational leadership behaviors correlate with positive follower
satisfaction with leader and leader effectiveness and laissez-faire leadership
behaviors with negative outcomes (Judge et al., 2004). Longitudinal studies
find laissez-faire leadership a systemic destructive form of leadership for
subordinate job satisfaction in the long run (Skogstad, Aasland, Nielsen, Hetland,
Matthiesen & Einarsen, 2014). Research by the Ohio state studies report
that considerate, supportive and people-oriented leadership behaviors correlate
with follower satisfaction, loyalty and trust (Stogdill, 1948).
What should Armando do
to resolve his situation?
First of all
Armando needs to have a positive and optimistic mindset. Armando can turn the
bad situation into a good learning experience. He could learn the behaviors in his
leader that he never wants to emulate. The other members of the team are demonstrating
their frustration with the leader in their behaviors. How much ever frustrated
one is, labeling the leader as bad will only reinforce one’s frustration
(Stibitz, 2015). As reported, Robert’s efficiency and intelligence are good
enough reasons for Armando to appreciate him.
When people are treated positively they respond positively (Stibitz,
2015). Creating a positive environment for the leader and members to
communicate well is the first challenge that Armando faces.
passive leadership context can be a blessing in disguise for Armando to fill in
the leadership void. Effective followers possess a leading up orientation (Carsten, 2016). Anyone from any position in the
organization with no formal power or authority could become a change agent
(Cawsey, Deszca, & Ingols, 2016). By
exercising self-leadership (Steinbauer, Renn, Taylor & Njoroge,
2014; Carsten & Uhl-Bien, 2013) Armando could make a big difference to his situation.
have immense power and Armando will do well not to surrender his power to his
leader and forget his accountability (Reynods, 2016). Kyle Scifert, a staff
sergeant in charge of leading 11 enlisted soldiers during Iraq war turned to
his platoon leader for guidance as the team prepared for missions. The leader provided no guidance and his
requests for more information were ignored. Kyle felt very much unprepared. In
addition to not providing guidance, his leader also criticized his decisions
during his debriefing. The team morale was low and the members lacked
confidence in the mission. Kyle decided to do what he could and began research
on each mission and shared his findings with other squad leaders. His team was
much better prepared than others. He stood out as a leader and other sergeants
approached him for guidance. Though
initially his leader was not very pleased about his initiative, soon both of
them reached a new level of respect for each other. His leader recommended him
for officer and he did become one. It may not have changed the leader’s
behavior, but it made Kyle a better leader (Stibitz, 2015).
motivation can be mission-driven or leader-driven (Keim, 2014 & 2016). As
per different followership types, the star followers (Kelley, 2008) and active
followers (Chaleff, 2009) are mission-driven while the sheep (Kelley, 2008) and
bystanders (Kellerman, 2008) are leader-driven followers. For far too long in
the history of leadership studies, leaders were seen either as heroes or
villains; praised or blamed (Robbins & Judge, 2015) for success or failure
of the organization (Collinson, 2005). And followers were considered passive,
conforming, compliant, inferior persons lacking much drive and ambition.
Uhl-Bien and Pillai (2007) called this the subordination of followership.
Followers are not hapless beings at the mercy of leaders (Collinson, 2006). The
non-interfering leadership behavior opens up the opportunity for Armando to be
an active follower and take up the initiative to inspire and lead the team. To
a mission driven follower, a leader becomes insignificant as the priority is
the mission of the organization (Rodgers & Bligh, 2016).
a laissez-faire leadership context, the team plays a key role in reaching the
organizational objectives. In Robert’s non-interference and passivity, Armando
has the opportunity to inspire the team members to be proactive (Nahavandi,
2015). According to Substitutes for
Leadership Model (Kerr & Jermier, 1978) many organizational tasks, and
employee characteristics could substitute for traditional leadership behaviors
of consideration (people orientation) and initiation of structure (task
orientation) (Stogdill, 1948). Followers’ own experience, support and empathy
from the colleagues and clarity on organizational goals can substitute for
leader’s consideration behaviors (Kerr & Jermier, 1978). Some companies
like Valve Corporation, Github and GE’s aviation division experimented with eliminating
leaders and managers and found that teams collectively played the role of
leaders (Silverman, 2012). As a responsible, proactive follower, Armando should
consider the organizational objective his primary mission and exercise
self-leadership to resolve his situation.
What can a team leader do to
ensure high levels of motivation among his/her team members?
Leaders play a big part in motivating
their team by clearly communicating the organizational vision, providing a
supportive work environment, encouraging team participation in decision making,
and appreciating the creative initiatives of individuals. The leader should provide feedback and
clearly articulate the organizational expectations. Clear and honest
communication strengthens leader-follower relationships, and increases employee
satisfaction and productivity (Motoi,
Leader’s transformational behaviors:
inspiring the people with a strong sense of purpose, engaging the team and
instilling trust, promoting cooperation among team members, providing mentoring
and allowing autonomy for followers are all positively associated with follower
motivation (Judge, et al, 2004). Honesty and truthfulness of leaders motivate
many followers. 570 white-collar employees voting for the most important
among 28 leadership attributes from a given list, rated honesty to be the top leadership
attribute (Jones, 2003).
leadership style is influenced by his assumptions of people working with him.
Motivational Theory X and Theory Y (McGregor, 1960) describe two fundamental
assumptions from which leaders operate. Theory X leaders assume that their team
dislikes working and thus needs constant supervision while Theory Y leaders
believe that everyone is happy to do their jobs and should be given more
responsibility and autonomy (McGregor, 1960). Thus the leader’s assumptions
about the team’s motivation determine his leadership approach. While Y leader lets the employees set their
own direction for their growth and provides support, X leader would control and
be a micromanager. It is important for leaders to examine their own assumptions,
in order not to be biased or prejudiced.
member is different with diverse needs, motivators, coming from different
circumstances, experiences and cultures. In today’s reality of diversity and
multiculturalism, it is very important for the leader to grow in cultural
competence (Williams, 2001). Developing knowledge, skills and right attitudes
in inter-cultural communication will help leaders foster a climate of mutual
respect, fairness and appreciation for each other in the team. Understanding a
team member’s cultural beliefs and practices will help the leader to cater to
the unique needs of individuals. For example, while employees readily accepted
employee involvement program in the U.S. branch, those leaders who tried to
implement the same in the same organization’s branch in India were rated low by
their employees because culturally India is a high power distance country
(Robert, Probst, Martocchio, Drasgow, & Lawler, 2000). Knowledge of various cultural dimensions like
power distance, uncertainty avoidance, individualism-collectivism,
masculinity-femininity developed by Kluckholn & Strodtbeck (1961), Hall and
Hall (1990), Hofstede (2001) and GLOBE researchers (House, Hanges,
Javidan, Dorfman, & Gupta, 2004) and
other works will provide leaders with a useful overall understanding of
cultural differences and similarities (Gannon & Pillai, 2016).
and involving team members in decisions that affect them ensures high levels of
employee motivation. Researchers report that in organizations that have
participative management practices, there is lower turnover and higher
productivity (Park, Appelbaum & Kruse, 2010). Employee empowerment,
employee participation, social interactions, constructive social relationships,
and a positive work environment have positive effect on employee productivity
(Robbins & Judge, 2015). According to job characteristics model (JCM) of
Hackman and Lawler (1971) jobs with high autonomy give the employees a high
personal responsibility to produce results.
recognition is a powerful motivating factor. 1500 employees from diverse work
settings were surveyed on what they thought was the most powerful work
motivator. Their answer was recognition. (Robbins & Judge, 2015). Effective
leaders encourage new, challenging and creative ideas. They also provide
challenging tasks to their teams.
According to the Pygmalion effect (Rosenthal
& Jacobson, 1968) leader’s high expectation, when it is effectively
communicated, it motivates the team towards better performance. Progress Theory
(Amabile & Kramer, 2011) argues that any progress in meaningful work and
even small “wins” can be motivating. They suggest that leaders should provide
six factors: clear goals and objectives, autonomy, time, support, and the
ability to learn from failures to motivate their followers (Amabile &
should place a strong emphasis on encouraging teamwork. Three factor theory
(Sirota & Klein, 2014) lists equity/fairness, achievement and camaraderie
as the three crucial factors that motivate a team. Great leaders take responsibility to develop
future leaders. Senior employees could be assigned mentoring role of less
experienced employees. A study in Korea found mentoring benefitted both the
mentee and the mentor, while organizational commitment increased in the case of
mentees, mentors reached higher levels of transformational leadership
attributes (Chun, Sosik, & Yun, 2012).