No single leadership theory will work for the complex situations this world continues to develop (Chow, Salleh, & Ismail, 2017). Hence, the discussion for a hybrid mix of leadership theories and models as applied to the needs of leaders in current business organizations. The idea is to fashion a working leadership model, helpful in developing a CEO and as a guide for every corporate officer, regional manager, and employee to guide the company into profitability, as a risk management tool, and to develop followers to become leaders (Yukl, 2010). “Hungry, Hone-able, and Honorable” (Brady & Woodward, 2012, p 26), provide foundational items to develop the working leadership model customizable for organizational design and hybridize the leadership approach as an integrative leadership process (Chow, et al., 2017).
Theories and Models
Contingency theory is surrounded by situational awareness or simply looking at the mission, looking at the tools available, and creating a solution to meet the problem (Nahavandi, 2006, p 41; Endsley, 2000; Yukl, 2006). Contingencies always hamper and boost the situation, how the followers choose and apply their strengths during stressful periods will either eliminate additional contingencies or create additional contingencies. Thus, contingency leadership needs additional input from other theories to assist in leading during change.
Participative theory is the firm belief that the best solutions do not come from the leader, but from the front-line workers who are doing the job every day. Participative theory demands input from everyone working together and forms a symbiotic relationship with situational awareness and contingency theory (Yukl, 2006; Endsley, 2000). Participative theory hinges upon styles or choices between autocratic action, delegation, consultation, or joint decision-making. The leader has to choose which model of participative solution will work best given the tools and followers. The leader also needs to know who the major stakeholders are, decide the value of inputs from major and minor stakeholders, and then pursue this input as a daily part of the decision processes. When mixing participative theory into a hybrid mix with contingency theory the traits and behaviors of the leader play a more important role. Thus, Chaleff (2003) continues to influence daily action. The leader forms the role; this role influences the situational environment, and becomes both a behavior for the leader and a role model for followers, this then becomes the reputation of the leader and the advertisement of the entire organization to the public. Careful attention is the rule of the day when mixing this leadership cocktail.
Trait theory employs using the traits of leaders, traits are learned, trained, and these traits will carry the day when all else fails; traits depend upon behavior theory and vice versa, traits lead to behaviors, thoughts lead to traits; thus, as Yukl (2006) displays in Table 1 below, these two theories are interchangeable and inseparable. Behavioral theory combines the behaviors, which emanate from trait theory into action. No single behavior is prominent, but several behaviors can ruin relationships necessary to solid leadership. Wren (1995) warns about charisma and the power of charisma to influence people bringing Chaleff’s (2003) discussion about leadership leading to the abuse of followers. If abuse occurs, the leader is at fault regardless of the eventual justification or vindication of the leader. Leadership is perception and relationship formed into action (Du, Erkens, & Xu, 2018). The followers always judge the leader and the leader might never know the level of influence upon the followers.
Like pieces of a puzzle, a leader can never forget the foundational bedrock upon which all these theories sit, “Hungry, Hone-able, and Honorable” (Brady & Woodward, 2005, p 26). Leaders and the followers require getting back to basics, when forming a hybrid leadership model, learning, growing, and being shaped in the hybrid mix of the stated theories into a new organization excited to innovate in their market and fuel the new consumer experience.
Application to Organizational Success
Chaleff (2003) leaves both a warning and a charge for the leader to not abuse the followers. Some of the most destructive criticism of every organization come from the employees feeling abused “by the system” who then vent into social media, which in turn harms the corporate image and reputation. Abused followers is a leadership failure per every leadership model in existence. Corrective action should include empowering employees with participative inclusion, setting contingencies for constructing change, which requires the use of employee traits, behaviors, and action. When employees are acting and seeing their actions rewarded, then those employees or followers attain the emotional connection to their work and then broadcast their new feelings into social media.
Participative leadership should include the customers and other major stakeholders in deciding what to sell, how to sell it, and when to sell it. By employing Yukl (2006) model in Table 1, the participative leader will influence the environment they choose to change, include those who have the solution in rough draft, and work to both hone those with the solution and build those participating in the change. First, though, the leader needs to know who they are as a person, then build these traits into behaviors personified by those being lead. Once the leader sees stakeholders following the lead and being successful, the situational factors causing contingencies will begin to shift like sand under the feet of a person walking. Yukl’s (2006) ability to visually portray this process through Table 1 is an image every employee needs to understand before participative leadership using contingencies grown from individual stores can begin to work.
Each business unit has different customers, stakeholders, and contingencies, the participative leaders can never forget this principle. Blanket solutions and singular approaches will continue to produce problems until this principle is both endorsed and understood. Customers in Phoenix have different needs and desires than customers in Scottsdale; both of these customer bases have different needs than a business unit in Seattle or New York; thus, it is time to stop the blanket model and innovate a business unit-based approaches to products, services, and employee empowerment. The models discussed above, can only go so far in influencing the business leaders, until action occurs at the lowest business unit level or even a regional level, the dearth of leadership will continue to hamper business operations, sales, marketing, and employee relations (Deci & Ryan, 2008). Regardless of how the hybrid solution is put together, there must be an assessment tool included to gather feedback for improvement from followers to leaders (Lovett & Robertson, 2017). Without two-directional communication between followers and leaders, nothing changes, improves, or develops to build followers into leaders or keep struggling business units out of trouble. The flexibility of a hybrid solution rides upon the assessment process of leaders from followers; plan well!
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© 2018 M. Dave Salisbury
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