Description of the Situation
This report is seeking to explore communications challenges bedeviling one of the districts of the LOCOLA Credit Union Bank. I have been appointed as the new District Manager to lead this district and made aware that these challenges have impaired the relationship and leader-follower dynamics of the previous District Manager, the head and district offices, the employees, and their supervisors. Since these issues have persisted for the previous twenty-one months, there is a clear understanding of the inherent issues in the 10-branch district. As such, this report explores each of the issues and concludes with a set of recommendations.
The communication issues inherent to the district are divided into respective leadership and communication categories. The first set relate to the supervisors. There is a significant turnover of the supervision staff and replacements are constantly inexperienced. The second set of issues relate to communication.
For instance, there is a lack of message homogeneity between personnel from the corporate office, those from the main district office, and those from the districts supervisors. Moreover, communication is ambiguous due to the lack of specific instructions. Verbal communication, where given, also conflicts with written communication. The former is also generally absent as management assumes employees have an inherent awareness to non-standard operating procedures. Lastly, due to the lack of open channels of communication between the firms management and its personnel, there is a dearth of mutual feedback due partly to language barriers.
Analysis of the Issues
Supervisor-subordinate dynamics are an important determinant of relational leadership outcomes. Indeed, leadership research has shown that development of a quality relationship between the supervisor and subordinate staff. It has an undeniable impact on job satisfaction, talent retention, cooperative communication, development of alliances, among other outcomes (Rose, Teo & Connell, 2014; Martin, Guillaume, Thomas, Lee & Epitropaki, 2016; Anseel, Beatty, Shen, Lievens & Sackett, 2015; Lee, Han, Cheong, Kim & Yun, 2017).
It bears repeating that supervisory styles have varied impacts on, firstly, followership dynamics, secondly, leader effectiveness, and lastly, ability to exert influence (Hackman & Johnson, 2013). Different models of communication hint at the different approaches to leadership. Leadership communication styles include authoritarian, democratic, and laissez-faire styles. The approach of authoritarian leadership is characterized by a strict definition of roles for the staff. This strategy is especially suitable in situations where the supervisor is more knowledgeable than the subordinate staff (Hackman & Johnson, 2013). While authoritarianism is typically highly productive, it disincentivizes subordinate ownership and commitment, is antagonistic, and breeds hostility from staff.
On the other hand, democratic leadership is characterized by supportive and interactional communication that encourages follower participation, involvement, and overall ownership. This approach trusts the followership to make informed decisions from an empowered standpoint and is also typically highly efficient. Laissez-faire leadership is typified as abdicative, in the sense that leaders relinquish or abdicate control and responsibility. Extensive abdication, however, is irresponsible non-leadership. Moreover, such an approach to leadership is often destructive. Laissez-faire is typical for teams with highly knowledgeable and skilled experts that are motivated by autonomous self-rule. However, unlike the other two approaches, this style is characterized by lower productivity, satisfaction, innovation, and cohesiveness (Hackman & Johnson op. cit.). Nonetheless, there are varieties of this non-leadership style where staff enjoys significant autonomy, but receives guidance from a structured bureaucracy at request. This variety is referred to as guided freedom (Pawar, 2014; Vail, 2014).
These styles can be summarized by several generalizations. Some of these are already stated. For instance, staff supervised by authoritarian leaders are more efficient. However, such teams often sacrifice individuality, cohesiveness, and ownership. Groups led by laissez-faire practitioners revolve around sustaining lower dependence and encouraging infinitely higher commitment and individuality. These benefits, however, are enjoyed at the cost of potentially lower productivity. Ultimately, the common strategy appears as a workable compromise: it intends to encourage greater team contribution when setting goals and procedures, and during problem-solving. However, it is often time-consuming and most ideal for tasks requiring extensive creative skills and prolonged commitment (Hackman & Johnson op. cit.).
Using these principles, it is possible to deconstruct the leadership issues at the LOCOLA Credit Union Banks ten-branch district. Firstly, there are no open channels of communication between the managerial team and subordinate staff. This issue shows that management does not appreciate the role that accountability has to play in involving subordinates. Consequently, it is unsurprising that staff is not involved in processes that may eventually yield higher turnover. This inadequacy is typical of a top-down authoritarian process as explained in the previous paragraphs. Also, the inherent lack of interactional, two-way communication eventually prevents staff from making empowered and informed decisions. In a heavily regulated field such as finance, this issue triggers compliance issues.
Leadership Communication Styles
As already noted, leadership styles reflect the intended goal of communication strategies. Two communication styles or attributes are distinguished, those that are task and interpersonal oriented. The first style is concerned with productivity, while the latter is concerned with the followership (i.e. the staff). Leadership research now favours the argument that leaders are not the sole transformative agents in organizations (Fairhurst & Connaughton, 2014). Hence, leadership theory, with few exceptions, has become more relational in its focus as opposed to being leader-centric. However, the term relational is typologised into several views and categories of relationships.
The traditional concern of supervisory communication and the methodologies of team leadership are reflected in the first category. This post-positivist genre explores the role of communication on job satisfaction, idea sharing, team interaction, among other factors. Ultimately, this first category approaches to research and organizational management from the viewpoint of the positional influencers and its impact on dyadic relationships (Fairhurst & Connaughton, 2014).
The second and last category emphasizes a discursive approach to leadership communication. In this genre, leadership affects and is modulated by more than just dyadic relationships and is underpinned by social constructionist theories (Fairhurst & Connaughton, 2014). It is to mean that leaders are not the only transformative agents and are themselves impacted in the process of communication. This genre is more veridical as it reflects the relational nature of present work dynamics. More important, understanding these distinctions is of crucial importance when proposing a solution to LOCOLA Credit Union Banks communication issues as already stated.
There are multiple methodologies required to operationalize research findings and leadership theories as the organization progresses. These methodologies are typologised in several seminal behavioral leadership studies. The first of these seminal methodologies was established through work conducted in the 1940s as part of the Ohio State Studies. These studies were followed up by the Michigan Leadership Studies conducted in the 1950s. Insights developed in these early years were refined through several other theories. These included McGregors Theory X & Theory Y proposed in the late 1950s, the Blake and Mouton Managerial Grid formalized in 1964, and more recently, the 4D Followership Model.
These studies attempt to identify the leadership communication styles that engender high productivity while keeping the followership committed. The leadership styles proposed are categorized as either task-and interpersonal-oriented communication or both. Importantly, the studies also uncovered characteristics that make leaders effective. For instance, the Michigan State Studies delineated effective leadership practices into production-oriented, employee-oriented, and one-dimensional view (Croson, Schultz, Siemsen & Yeo, 2013). However, the latter view was short-lived. The former two persist in one form or another in management practice.
The production-oriented leadership style is concerned with the technical processes and bureaucracy needed to achieve goals. It is goal-oriented and often short-term. Importantly, it is mainly deployed under two scenarios. Firstly, when roles and responsibilities are allocated and clarified and, secondly, when monitoring business operations and KPI-oriented performance. The employee-oriented approach, as the name suggests, is concerned with the well-being and satisfaction of employees in addition to training and motivating them (Hackman & Johnson, 2013). Hence, it is relational and should support, develop, empower, and otherwise recognize subordinate staff.
Regardless, supervisors are change agents through innovative thinking, external monitoring, and envisioning change through personal initiative. It is possible, however, to deploy both task and employeeoriented approaches. In fact, this combined use is more effective in a myriad of applications. This last insight is critical in designing solutions to my district, especially because some of our staff are highly skilled and need autonomy and also because we are a financial institution and strict legal compliance is compulsory.
McGregors Theory X and Y propose two guiding principles for supervision. Theory X holds that, on average, people inherently dislike work and will avoid it whenever possible (Hackman & Johnson, 2013). Consequently, strict supervision of the task-oriented variety is required to ensure productivity. This hands-on style is usually ideal where manual labor is involved like in factory assembly lines where end-product consistency is important.
Alternatively, Theory Y is integrative and posits that work is inherent to human behavior and is welcome as it is a major source of life satisfaction and self-respect. Professional settings following Theory Y are characterized by a participative management style, where the reward is usually personal satisfaction from achieving goals, and democratic supervision. In this case, increasing responsibility is an important outlet for professional skills, talent, and creativity.
Based on the organizations degree of focus on production and the staff, Blake and Mouton proposed a leadership grid. Seven different leadership styles are distinguished and calibrated on a grid where the x-axis represents a concern for the production, and the y-axis represents a concern for the people. The seven different styles are the indifferent, accommodating, dictatorial, status-quo, sound, opportunistic, and paternalistic leadership styles.
Table 1 - Leadership styles of the Blake and Mouton Managerial Grid
Characteristics: Supervisors/Managers evade and elude and have low concern for any of the two aspects i.e. production and people.
Goal: Utilised to ensure job security and protect job seniority by avoiding taking...
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