Business leadership requires flexibility

Organizational needs – when matched with the respect of individuals – yields meaningful results.

Ernie Stech of Arizona State University stated in a January 1971 paper on Flexible Leadership, “As an appointed leader, there is some range of legitimate superiority other people will accept. If you exceed the limit in the direction of being too superior, they will rebel. If you exceed the limit in the direction of acting inferior, they will reject you as a leader.”

Determining the best business leadership style is a balancing act between organizational task accomplishment and respecting the needs of employees. The necessary leadership ethos is usually task achievement. This is measured by desired outcomes that best serve organizational needs. Managers that cajole rather than coerce maintain respect for their authority, while also extracting their employee’s maximum effort. James R. Lindner, research and Extension associate from The Ohio State University, affirms this concept in his Journal of Extension article “Understanding Employee Motivation.”

Leadership does not operate in a vacuum. A leader’s role is determined by their place within the organizational framework. A leader’s authority, therefore, has a direct effect on what and how communication takes place. An organizational leader should be cognizant of the workers’ needs and possess an effective skill set to achieve appropriate task achievement. Forcing workers to produce tends to adversely affect production. Conversely, leaders more interested in worker happiness will fail to complete necessary work and outcomes will suffer.

Nonetheless, the most important point for an organizational leader to recognize – and it is one that brings meaningful results – is the message conveyed in the Lao-Tses’ quote: “Of the best rulers, the people only know they exist, the next best they love and praise; the next they fear, and the next they revile …but of the best, when their task is accomplished, their work done. the people all remark, ‘We have done it ourselves.’”

For additional information on business leadership see the Michigan State University Extension news article “Facilitative leaders build committed organizations.”

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