Upon digesting this plethora of information, the authors concur with W. Edwards Deming’s statement, “The job of management is not supervision, but leadership” (Chamberlin, 2012, p. 30). The question remains, is there a universal leadership model that effectively addresses the current work environment and market demands?
Lieven T. Cox attended a Knoxville Hospital Council sponsored seminar on October 16, 2012 in Knoxville, TN, addressing “The Future of Healthcare” presented by Clint Maun, a nationally recognized healthcare consultant. The speaker emphasized the importance of (1) knowing the capabilities of your staff, (2) employee empowerment, and (3) developing strategic alliances and partnerships to successfully manage the current, fast paced, changing healthcare environment.
His lessons resonated loud and clear with the audience when he shared the following anecdote about his modus operandi. Each time he took on a new administrator assignment he would conduct a meeting with the staff and instruct them to stick post-it notes with their concerns and problems on his office door, at day-end he would convene again and tear up all the post-it notes to the consternation of his staff. When asked what he would have done if the message conveyed an emergency, he replied: “I have never received a post-it note stating west wing is on fire, people always manage to find me in case of a true emergency!” The basis for successfully adapting to the current economic revolution is to transform the psychological contract between employee and management to be one of shared vision, responsibility, and mutual benefit (De Meuse & Tornow, 1993). For leaders to be effective, they need to know their employees abilities and where the employees place on a developmental continuum (Northouse, 2007). Leadership styles are adapted to meet the subordinate at their developmental level. This situational approach allows for leaders to be flexible in their leadership approach to meet the unique needs of their subordinates.
According to Fiedler, the optimal leadership style is dependent upon internal and external constraints. These constraints may include the industry, organizational size, technologies used and certainly the cultural setting of the organization (Opgenhoff, 2007). For the past several decades, the predominant qualities of successful leaders came from the Euro-American view which embraced the qualities of logical thinking, persistence, self-control, and personal characterises of which were ethnocentrically valued. As globilization and international buisness have expanded and become interconnected, the fallacy of a universal leadership style has become exposed. Bolstered by Fiedler’s contingency theory and the four key ideas which support his position, culture is as important a factor in making decisions as any other consideration.
The four key elements of the contingency theory by Fiedler are:
• There is no universal or one best way to manage.
• The design of an organization and its subsystems must ‘fit’ with the environment.
• Effective organizations not only have a proper ‘fit’ with the environment but also between their subsystems.
• The needs of an organization are better satisfied when it is properly designed and the management style is appropriate to the tasks.
So, leadership is about developing successful competencies such as the ability to innovate, develop, focus on people, inspire trust, provide a vision, ask what and why, authentic and can communicate well (Murray, 2009). These competencies will serve a leader in most organizations in most countries throughout the world. It is therefore crucial for managers to establish a partnership culture with employees and customers, a culture that promotes empowerment, accountability and buy-in, which in essence alludes to the transformational and executive leadership paradigms. As Robert Swiggett, former CEO of Kollmorgen eloquently put it “The leader’s role is to create a vision and support them in a servant’s role, run interference for the employees and create an atmosphere of understanding, trust and love, you want them to feel as they have complete control over their destiny at every level” which further represents key elements of charismatic and servant leadership styles (Chamberlin, 2012, p. 31).