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CASE STUDY ON LEADERSHIP/ Aidensfield hospital currently faces major problems with staff, management, general performance and...

CASE STUDY ON LEADERSHIP/

Aidensfield hospital currently faces major problems with staff, management, general performance and service quality. It is conceivable that these problems are related to the ‘leadership’ styles adapted by those in charge. The senior management have proposed some changes within the organisation to hopefully make improvements but making such decisions requires an in-depth understanding of what is going wrong and why.

Leadership as a concept is often considered in isolation when in reality, it is coherent with management. Their amalgamation gives rise to the term ‘managerial leadership’ – a combination of Mullins’(2007) task and maintenance functions. In simpler terms, good managers do not view workers as machines artlessly pumped with fuel (or money) to produce output (the job) like Henry Ford. More appropriately, they are considered, for lack of a simpler expression, like horses that besides given food must also be pampered and directed to maximise productivity. Therefore, managerial leadership is characterised, along with task-oriented behaviour, by motivation, attention, communication and interest in the worker as these are the principles that agglutinate leader and subordinate (Buchanan & Huczynski 2010). Several leadership style classifications parade in general knowledge but the problem is they are usually considered  in vacuo. It is impossible to simply adapt one classified style because, like Castell (2010) argued, it will be unreasonable not to scrutinise the epistemology behind this rigid taxonomy. He stated that;

“Managers cannot adopt neutral stances with an air of scientific detachment because such detachment cannot exist ... the knowledge that managers bring to management is constructed situationally ... in the present and in relation to the context” (2010, pg. 234);

The key word here is ‘constructed’. Delving into real life applications of managerial leadership, contingency theorists argued that selective combination of relevant elements within styles to fit whatever circumstance that presents itself is ideal (Mckenna, 2012). Hence, this essay aims to critically cull ideas from the distinct styles and theories, explaining how they may coalesce into academically supported explanations of issues in Aidensfield’s unique context. Firstly considering motivation, which is apparently the most pressing issue, relevant traditional theory will be discussed extensively. The discussion will then move on to how motivation can be determined by perception and the psychological contract. Prompted by perception, communication concepts will follow before finishing with leader-member relationships, trust and group dynamics. Throughout, these determinant factors will be linked to various leadership styles and supported with examples from the Aidensfield case.

Although the theory that performance is directly affected by leadership is supported by some empirical evidence, critics like Porter and McLaughlin (2006) argue that majority of research has been anecdotal. Therefore, concluding that there is a direct relationship between performance and leadership is probably an “act of faith” (Currie & Lockett, 2011, pg. 292). Nevertheless, one certainty is leadership style determines motivational levels which predetermine morale levels which in turn regulates performance. Therefore, motivation is the key link between leadership and performance.

McGregor (1987) conceived two approaches to motivation; Theory X, which only occurs at the physiological and security levels in Maslow’s (1943) needs hierarchy, and Theory Y, which focuses on higher level needs (Buchanan & Huczynski 2010). Noticeably, the lower levels have been satisfied in workers at Aidensfield based on the fact that sixty per cent of employees have been on the same job for a decade.. This statistic indicates that the leaders adopt the Theory X approach – a common behaviour within autocratic practices. As a result, staff are not discontent with their work. Unfortunately, Maslow (1943) warned that once a need has been satisfied, it might no longer serve as a motivator. So, even though low turnover may be interpreted as a positive, it is actually linked to the reason workers lack motivation. Herzberg’s (1987) theories explain that having only lower needs (hygiene factors) satisfied will result in no dissatisfaction (Latham & Ernest, 2006) but create a lack of motivation because higher level needs (growth factors) have been ignored (Shuck & Herd, 2012). This lack of motivation is demonstrated by the falling quality of service reported e.g. Drivers making patients wait. From De Cremer’s (2006) point of view, quality of service can only be improved using intrinsic motivation i.e. the Theory Y approach – common in democratic leadership.

This direct relationship between motivation and performance is elucidated in Mullins’(2010) formula; Performance = function (ability X motivation). Considering that function and ability are relatively constant, and motivation is the only variable, then low motivation equates low performance. One must note that this formula, although still viable, fails to consider emotional factors like trust (Kreitner and Kinicki, 2009), happiness and well-being – which will be discussed later – as factors that also determine motivational levels. At Aidensfield, the attempt to extrinsically motivate through bonus rewards systems seem to be failing as it has only short term effects. On the other hand, intrinsic motivation, even though more desired, might be equally ineffective because the jobs have little variety or challenge. According to Porter and Lawler’s (1968) expectancy model, employee performance in jobs like this will hardly be improved by intrinsic rewards. Further proving this, the jobs have a low Motivating Potential Score (MPS). According to Hackman and Oldman’s (1980) formula MPS can be calculated thus

MPS = (skill variety + task variety + task significance)/3  X autonomy  X feedback

Since autonomy and feedback stand alone as non-averaged variables, they have a more significant effect on the MPS Score (Buchanan & Huczynski, 2007). It was reported that employee empowerment is a problematic issue at Aidensfield (lack of autonomy) and that it suffers from a slack reporting structure which may result in a lack of clear channels for information on performance effectiveness (feedback), therefore there is minimal opportunity within the job design for motivation. Brytting & Trollestad (2000) and Van Vugt et al (2004) support this with their arguments that employees starved of responsibility tend to react with passivity rather than interest, and is apparent when the Aidensfield security staff display nonchalant attitudes to customers – Another negative aspect of autocratic leadership. With the absence of an effective feedback system mentioned earlier, expectancy theorists may argue that it signifies there is no clarified procedure for performance evaluation. Hence the staff may not ‘perceive’ any equitable rewards for their effort.

This leads on to the idea of perception as a factor that affects motivation and behaviour. An employee’s level of engagement is built around their perception of the work environment and unique encounters with leadership (Shuck, Rocco & Albornoz, 2011). It determines their expectations of the employer and what they think their obligations are – like an invisible contract drawn-up mentally – the ‘psychological contract’ (Conway & Coyle Sharpio, 2011). Guest et al (2003) advised that breaches can be avoided if employees adopt effective people management practices but as highlighted in the report, the supervisory grades at Aidensfield abdicate said people management responsibilities. Conway, Guest and Trenberth’s (2011) research on psychological contract breach suggests that this begotted the reported lack of commitment, poor employee engagement and the perceived job insecurity.

There seems to be a psychological contract breach between the line managers and senior management as well. The delegation of HR practices to them may have been perceived as excess work outside their obligations. It is evident that this delegation has been done without their proper consultation – an autocratic method of decision-making. The senior management may have done this in an attempt to empower them because according to Rich, LePine & Crawford (2010), more intellectual work creates a higher level of engagement and may in turn, result in increased performance. Apart from the possible breach, this empowerment may not have been successful because the reported slack reporting structures and weak lines of communication. This suggests that the line managers did not have the required support to take on such work in the first place. If the job descriptions had been properly ‘communicated’, possibly through a more democratic method of constant dyadic exchange (Felfe & Schyns, 2010; Conway & Coyle Sharpio, 2011), this problem may not have occurred.

This brings us to communication, as a leadership tool. Adensfield’s organisational structure diagram suggests a chain communication network amongst the senior management. This centralised system is common within authoritative leadership where all information is routed through a predetermined channel (Mullins, 2007). It is questionable because even though it may be appropriate for simple tasks, the accumulated complexity of the entire ancillary operations may need to be handles within a decentralised network – a more participative approach to communication (Restubog et al, 2010). On the other hand, the simplicity of the tasks at lower levels where the charge hands’ teams operate may require a more centralised network to be optimally efficient. Even though it may be more effective, pressure might built up on the charge hands who do not feel qualified to do the job and is possibly the reason they abdicate responsibility as reported.

Having a centralised communication network amongst charge hands’ groups does not necessarily mean their adapted leadership style must be authoritative in nature. Decisions can be made centrally to maintain speed and effectiveness but according Restubog et al (2010) it is still possible maintain high quality Leader-Member Exchange (LMX) along the same centralised communication lines. High LMX is more common within democratic or transformational leadership settings. It is evident that there is low level LMX amongst senior management, charge hands and group members at Aidensfield because when the breaches in psychological contract mentioned earlier occurred, it had significant detrimental effect on the in-role performances of staff. Zhao et al (2007), speaking from a ‘social support’ perspective, argue that if high quality LMX is present in an organization, the leaders will easily help their subordinates manage and recover from the breach. On the contrary, the ‘betrayal’ perspective argues that the effect on staff may be too much to handle (Restubog et al, 2010). They argued that high LMX begets greater expectations and trust in leaders and therefore when the inevitable breach occurs, the staff will feel highly betrayed or for lack of a better word, ripped- off (2010). Besides this highlighted disadvantage, many social identity theorists, including Felfe, Schyns (2010) and Turner (2005) still encourage high LMX because, even though breach is inevitable, it will be less likely. This is supported by the fact that similar people, reason similarly and are less likely to have conflicting perceptions.

To facilitate LMX it is necessary for leaders to share common values or represent the collective identities of their subordinate groups (Rizzo, House & Lirtzman, 1970; Tajfel & Turner, 1986). This is referred to as ‘leader-group prototypicality’ and is part of Social Identity theory commonly practiced amongst transformational leaders. Considering that there have been close knit informal groups developed within the charge hands’ formal groups, the presence of high leader-group prototypicality can be deduced, despite the low LMX environment. Hogg et al (2004) explained that the collective values of group members determine the group norms and behaviour. Therefore, a group-prototypical leader will behave in a similar way as group members. This explains why charge hands and operational staff at the hospital share common characteristics of lack of motivation and passivity towards work. Though transformational in nature, these values are not aligned with those of the organisation at all.

This commonality in personal characteristics invokes mutual trust within team members (Tanghe, Wisse and Flier, 2010). This in turn makes a strong cohesive group but does not necessarily mean improved productivity. Kelly and Barsade (2001) and Smith et al (1995) argue that members of a group may work well together but performance is only improved when their group values are in line with that of the organization .The small groups of five appear to share high levels of intra-group trust that have propagated an equally high level of inter-group distrust which explains why they are reported to have highly demarcated traditions and work very independently. Mullins (2007) states that these strongly cohesive Informal groups may experience low staff turnover but are notorious for low productivity, inter-group conflict and neglect of organizational functions for more social activities – all of which are reportedly present within staff at Aidensfield. The aforementioned role ambiguity is another reason for informal group formations. Cicero, Pierro and van Knippenberg (2010) support this possibility by suggesting that role uncertainty in a job tends to make workers rely more on group social memberships for identity than on organisational descriptions. Understanding this complex ‘trust – uncertainty – behaviour’ relationship explains why staff are doing the things they are.

Not just group dynamics, but all the factors discussed, from motivation down to trust, are clearly very important in understanding staff behaviour and deciding a leaders approach to his subordinates. As mentioned in the introduction, it is impossible to classify Aidensfield’s leaders with one style. For example, there were so many autocratic characteristics identified earlier but yet, the reported lack of managerial control suggests a laissez-faire approach. Therefore, instead of rigid classification, the consideration of these little details are what shape managers’ or leaders’ responses – like the numerous tiny screws, nuts and bolts that enable a complex machine to work. They are necessary to create a competitive workforce in Aidensfield’s sector of service and to prevent being left behind by competitors who strive to attain higher levels of service.

Q1. Explain the relationship between motivation and performance as explained in the case.

Q2.Discuss how employee empowerment can be used as a development tool with reference to the case.

Homework Answers

Answer #1

Answer 1: When we consider motivation theories, Theory X, relates with the hierarchy and applicable to the physiological and security levels whereas, Theory Y, which focuses on higher level needs. But the caveat to this is that once a need has been satisfied, it might no longer serve as a motivator. Ignoring the higher level needs results in lack of motivation as having only lower needs (hygiene factors) satisfied will result in no dissatisfaction. Hence, there is a direct relationship between motivation and performance which is depicted as function of ability and motivation where motivation is the only variable, then low motivation equates low performance. This relationship doesn’t consider emotional factors like trust, happiness and well-being as factors that also determine motivational levels.

Answer2: Employee should feel empowered at workplace as empowered by their leader which offers a great sense of autonomy and control in their work which enhances the employee creativity, their confidence and behavior at workplace. Employee can start trusting their leaders who they perceived as more empowering and this in turn generates in their leaders. Thus, leaders can delegate more work to the employees based on the capacity and competencies. This generates psychological empowerment to the employees, enhances the trust, reduces the uncertainty and generates a sense of safety, which enables employee to focus and take risks.

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