Traditional theories were presented in the earlier period of 1960’s or before. The theories involved discussion regarding the relationship between leader and subordinate based on traits that must be present in a leader to ensure that the organization benefits from it. This trait approach of earlier times stated that certain traits are required to be present in an individual to be an effective leader. This is where the most common notion ‘leaders are born, not made’ came from. Organizations tend to label certain personality traits that define the leadership quality and make it different from non-leaders (Hacker and Roberts, 2003).
Since this trait approach did not consider other external factors that contribute towards effective leadership therefore it failed to sustain for a very long period and other theories were developed. It was concluded that certain traits are necessary to be an effective leader but these alone are not sufficient to define the complexity of leadership however it can be useful in examining an individual for a possible lead role with desired traits at a particular position (Northouse, 2010).
The shortcomings of trait approach brought forward a more evolved discussion on leadership in the form of leadership style approach, which focused more on the behavior imposed by individual rather than the traits possessed in them. This leadership behavioral approach is branched into two distinctive behaviors observed in individuals; task-oriented and relation oriented (Pickett, 2005).
There is a visible difference in both of these behaviors as the task oriented leader is concerned with carrying on activities that are directly related to the work and detach themselves on a personal level. They are involved in a more autocratic behavior while leading the team in assigning tasks, carrying out given job and getting the desired result (Winkler, 2013; Lussier, 2009). It works in situations where leaders are time pressed and immediate performance is required therefore they utilize their autocratic behavior in getting the maximum out of the employees. It is best suited for organizations with great number of subordinates to leader ratio, and where close supervision is needed. They utilize their expert power and authority to practice coercive power to get the desired tasks (Winkler, 2013; Lussier, 2009).
The relationship oriented leader focuses on building relations with its team members, engage in communication and foster a culture of mutual participation. This style of leadership is more democratic where leaders let employee be a part of team rather than commanding order to them, this is specifically true in situations where decision making is done through exchange of information from employees since they hold key information regarding certain matter (Lussier, 2009). This behavior is exhibited in situations where employees are equally acknowledged about the matter and capable of analyzing the situation. The leader here is actively using referent power since a social bond is formed between employees and leader so both the parties share a common identity (Lussier, 2009).
The last among traditional theory is the contingency approach which caters to the situational and organizational factors. The most prominent feature of contingency approach is that it identifies the fact that there is no best leadership style and the appropriateness of leadership style depends on a number of internal as well as external factors. The contingency theory not only focuses on the situational factors but also considers subordinates characteristics and creates a holistic view to define an effective leader (Bennis & Nanus, 2003).
The contemporary theory introduces a basic concept of studying and analyzing the role of fellowship and leadership together to achieve a common goal, which it refers to as transformation leadership and a transforming leader (Kark, Shamir & Chen, 2003). In transformation leadership, both the leader and the follower combine together to motivate each other and carry out the task. The transformational leader is the one who boosts the relationship among its followers, and is observant of the needs of its followers (Hacker & Roberts, 2003).
Transforming leadership is in contrast to the transactional leadership where in later, a physical conduct rather than moral change is required. The transformational leaders possess the quality to improve the performances of their followers by creating awareness of the importance of tasks and motivating them to prioritize team effort and desired results rather than personal concerns (Hacker & Roberts, 2003).
The emerging theories are mainly Charismatic leadership. In charismatic leadership, individual utilizes their personal abilities to transform followers in casting an extraordinary effect on followers which in turn serves as a force of utilizing the personal charisma to become an effective leader (Kark, Shamir & Chen, 2003). Charismatic leaders have sound personal attributes that let them create a profound impact on their employees through sharing the vision and motivating employees to the extent that less or no authoritative measures are required to get the tasks done (Winkler, 2013). This is possible only in situations where the employees themselves are motivated enough to understand the non-verbal clues and eligible to perform tasks in their own manner. It is usually exhibited in organizations where leaders and followers share the similar background in terms of information and knowledge pertaining to the areas they deal in.
AT & T Case Analysis
AT&T is America’s most prominent leading telecom organization. Since this category is ever changing, AT&T needs to continuously perform in superior manner to maintain its status quo in world’s leading organization (AT&T, 2013). Below are the factors that need to be present in the leadership to maintain company’s competitive position.
As per the research, the most preferred style is Transformational Leadership style. It is because transformational model utilize the charismatic influence of one’s personality that serves as a role model and motivate employees to perform for the betterment of organization and team (Den Hartog, Hanges, Ruiz-Quintanilla & Dorfman, 1999).
Considering the nature of AT&T working climate, it is important that all the employees have a proper vision and understanding of what is required out of them without monitoring and directly supervising (AT&T, 2013). This holds true only for transformational leader who can communicate the vision and has power to implement the actions required to reach the long term goals.
There are certain other factors that make transformational leadership the most appropriate style for AT&T, one of them being the scale of its operation which is too broad for direct supervision and communicating with employee personally in frequent manner (AT&T, 2013). The most efficient way to carry on the designated tasks from employees is to make sure that they are on the same board as the management and that is only possible bye clearly defining the performance required out of them in order to achieve the desired goals. The basic characteristic of a transformational leader is its ability to motivate the employees to forsake the individual interest for the betterment of organization.
The leader within AT&T needs to exercise reward power and referent power to work along with the transformational leadership style. Since a transformational leader is able to motivate followers through its charismatic personality, the leader will exercise referent power which comes from the trust and respect that followers have for the leader. Secondly reward power will further contribute towards motivating employees as they will be rewarded for carrying out tasks in the form of bonuses, promotions and raises. This will enable AT&T to attract best recruits and retain its staff overall leading to competitive advantage.
An organization that is a service provider and relies heavily on technology and innovation like AT&T, it is very important that it has a strong leadership with a clear vision. Workers motivation is highly important for companies like AT&T as these companies compete over the quality of services that are delivered to customers. Strong leadership will enable AT&T to have motivated and loyal workforce through which it will be able to capture higher market share in a growing market and enjoy competitive advantage. Gaining competitive advantage is important as telecommunication sector is highly competitive (AT&T, 2013).
There are different organizational factors that cause stress to employees. These are;
Role Demand refers to the role ambiguity employees’ face and can be avoided by assigning specific and clear roles to employees with defined responsibilities and authorities (McIntosh, Luecke & Davis 2008).
Physical Demand refers to the stress caused by physical working conditions which can be easily catered by improvising the working conditions of the work place (McIntosh, Luecke & Davis, 2008).
Interpersonal Demand refers to the stress caused by relationship factor which can be avoided by improving the HR policies in maintaining a healthy working environment (McIntosh, Luecke & Davis, 2008).
Organizations can use different programs and structures to work for the betterment of their employee as they count as the major asset of any organization. Wellness programs and physical activities can be arranged in order to combat any stress faced by the employees.
Conflict Management in AT&T
Since AT&T is an organization with operations around the globe, it has a diversified workforce. With different types of individuals coming from different cultures, backgrounds, values and attitudes increase the chances of conflicts and may hinder team performance.
Conflict can be resolved through 5 basic ways. Accommodating is when a party withdraws from its desired outcome and cooperates with the other group. Avoiding is an instance where both the parties avoid the issues to an extent that it is not brought up to higher authorities. Collaborating is a win-win situation for both and is usually negotiated. Competing is a phenomenon where one party wins at the stake of other. Compromising is the worst case scenario of lose-lose where both compromise on their needs (Abigail & Cahn, 2010).
One of the most efficient and practiced norm to resolve conflict is to create an environment with healthy competition among teams so that teams and groups can negotiate and collaborate to resolve conflict issues. . This will foster healthy relationships among employees and teams (Abigail & Cahn, 2010).
There are different barriers to communication in the organization. One of the most prominent is the ‘information overload’ as AT&T is a large corporation and the largest provider of telecommunication services. Managers are surrounded by numerous amount of information as a result they might fail to filter out necessary information as important messages tend to get lost in the pool of information.
Another communication barrier is employees’ being ‘Time Pressed’ because of short deadlines and urgency of projects due to which important information is shortened and often misinterpreted due to the lack of time to properly pay attention to it (McIntosh, Luecke & Davis, 2008).
Being a huge setup, complex organizational structure sometimes act as a barrier when information flow is passed on to too many levels and the original information is distorted at various levels therefore the information being provided is not accurate in its true sense (McIntosh, Luecke & Davis, 2008).
One of the basic measures to overcome barriers is to utilize the proper media tool to communicate. With the advent of technology, it is now preferred to have written memos and intranet for most of the communication as it tends to minimize any distortion to original message as well as reduce the total time for communicating to all (McIntosh, Luecke & Davis, 2008).
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AT&T. 2013. ‘How AT&T Stayed Competitive in a Rapidly Changing Marketplace.’ Online athttp://www.paradigmlearning.com/Libraries/Client-Stories/CS-AT-T.sflb.ashx, August 24, 2013
Bennis, W.G. and Nanus, B. 2003. Leaders: The Strategies for Taking Charge. Harper & Row.
Den Hartog, D.N., Hanges, P.J., Ruiz-Quintanilla, S.A. and Dorfman, P.W. 1999. ‘Culture Specific And Cross-Culturally Generalizable Implicit Leadership Theories: Are Attributes of Charismatic/Transformational Leadership Universally Endorsed.’ Leadership Quarterly, 10(2): 219–256.
Hacker, S. and Roberts, T. 2003. Transformational Leadership: Creating Organizations of Meaning. ASQ Quality Press.
Kark, R., Shamir, B. and Chen, G. 2003. The Two Faces of Transformational Leadership: Empowerment and Dependency. Journal of Applied Psychology, 88(2): 246-255.
Lussier, R. 2009. Leadership. Delmar Cengage Learning.
McIntosh, P., Luecke, R. and Davis, J. H. 2008. Interpersonal Communication Skills in the Workplace. American Management Association.
Northouse, P.G. 2010. Leadership: Theory and Practice. Sage Publication.
Pickett, M.C. 2005. Ethical Leadership. Authorhouse Publisher.
Winkler, I. 2010. Contemporary Leadership Theories: Enhancing the Understanding of the Complexity, Subjectivity and Dynamic of Leadership. Springer