Applied Sciences

CHAPTER 4

Leadership and the Manager

CHAPTER OBJECTIVES

• Address the role of the manager as a principal agent of change.

• Differentiate among the terms power, influence, and authority.

• Recognize the importance of authority for organizational stability.

• Identify the sources of power, influence, and authority.

• Relate the sources of power, influence, and authority to the organizational position of the line manager.

• Recognize the limits placed on the use of power and authority in organizational settings.

• Recognize the importance of delegation of authority.

• Explore the nature of leadership and the reasons why individuals seek leadership positions.

• Identify the styles of leadership, their characteristics, and the circumstances under which they are applied.

CHANGE AND THE MANAGER

The healthcare setting of today is a highly dynamic environment in which the individual manager must embrace the reality of constant change and accept and fulfill the role of change agent within the organization. It is only through addressing essential change and truly leading employees in its acceptance and implementation that the manager can be successful in the long term. Denying or resisting change does not merely mean standing still but losing ground and actually going backward relative to technology and society as they race ahead.

The department manager must be able to deal with employee resistance to change, including the most frequently encountered causes of resistance and how best to approach resistance to change with employees. However, this implies that the manager is already completely on board with the necessity for a particular change. It is now appropriate to acknowledge that the manager may well be fully as susceptible to resistance as the employees. Who is the manger but simply another employee? He or she can be just as affected by misgivings and uncertainty about impending change as the rank-and-file staff. A discussion of how managers may deal with change appears in Chapter 2.

Thus, the manager may have a difficult task up front in the implementation of change, especially change mandated “from on high” or forced by external circumstances, because the manager has nearly the same potential for resistance as the employees. Even the knowledge that a certain change is inevitable regardless of what it entails does not necessarily guarantee that the manager will be a willing advocate for the change.

Of course the manager, and just about everyone else for that matter, is likely to champion a change that was his or her own idea. But when ideas or directives or other requirements come from elsewhere, the manager, who may experience some feeling of resistance, must deliberately strive to overcome that feeling and become champion of the change. It is often extremely difficult for the manager who feels some personal misgivings to go forward as the driver of change.

We are told repeatedly that the manager can address change with the employees in three ways: tell them what to do, convince them of what must be done, or involve them in determining what must be done. This third approach, involving them, is all well and good—but often it cannot be used. The first approach, the tell-them-what-to-do route, is avoided if possible because it does little to temper resistance. This leaves the second approach, the need for the manager to convince the employees of what must be done. Clearly, many employees are more likely to get on board with a particular change if they know why it must be done. And an honest why is not simply telling the employees that it is “orders from administration” or blaming it on the ever-present yet never identifiable “they” as in “they are making me do it.”

The central point of this brief discussion is that if the manager is to be a true agent of change and an honest and effective catalyst for change, the first person to be accepting and supportive of change is the manager. So if you, the manager, experience doubts or misgivings about some change that lies ahead, work these out within yourself and with your superiors as necessary. Your employees should be able to see you as a true agent of change who is there to support their efforts in implementing change and helping them through it such that everyone, yourself included, achieves a new comfort zone as essential change becomes part of the norm.

WHY FOLLOW THE MANAGER?

The manager issues an order or directive, and the result is compliance. But why do employees obey? Is it even appropriate to use the term obey to describe this compliance? Which bases of authority are operative in superior–subordinate transactions? What are the limits of a manager’s authority? What if a particular supervisor is seen as a weak manager? Are there remedies available for addressing problems related to weak or ineffective management leadership? Of what value to the organization is the authority structure? What are the consequences for life within the organization if there is not general, unchallenged compliance most of the time? When actions of compliance are described, which term provides the proper point of reference—power, authority, or influence? Are these terms mutually exclusive or are they synonymous when used in the context of organizational relationships? These questions arise when discussion of authority in organizations is undertaken.

Organizational behavior is controlled behavior, behavior that is directed toward goal attainment. The authority structure is created to ensure adherence to organizational norms, to suppress spontaneous or random behavior, and to induce purposeful behavior consistent with the aims of the organization. No matter how the work within the organization is divided, no matter the extent to which specialization, departmentation, centralization, or decentralization is formalized, there must be some measure of legitimate authority if the organization is to be effective. The concept of formal authority is supported by the two related concepts of power and influence. These concepts may be separated for analytical purposes; in actual practice, however, the concepts of authority, power, and influence are intertwined.

THE CONCEPT OF POWER

Power is the ability to obtain compliance by means of some form of coercion, whether blatant or subtle; one’s own will prevail even in the face of resistance. Power is force or naked strength; it is a mental hold over another. Like authority and influence, power is aimed at encouraging compliance, but it does not seek consensus or agreement as a condition of that compliance.

Power is always relational. An individual who has power over another person can narrow that person’s range of choices and obtain compliance. The power holder does not necessarily force compliance by physical acts but rather may operate in more subtle ways, such as an implied threat to apply sanctions. Latent power is frequently as effective as an overt show of power. Power attaches to people, not to official positions. The formal authority holder (i.e., the person who has the official title, organizational position, and grant of authority) may or may not have power in addition to this formal grant of authority.

An imbalance in superior–subordinate relationships can occur when a nonofficeholder has more power than the official officeholder. This can even be seen in family life. For example, when a 2-year-old boy shows signs of an incipient temper tantrum in the middle of the annual family gathering, the power balance clearly is in favor of the child if the tantrum pattern has developed. The child does not have to carry out the explosive behavior; the mere threat of the possibility brings about some desired behavior from the parent caught in the situation.

Workers often have some degree of power over line supervisors and managers. A worker with specific technical knowledge can withhold key information from a manager or can develop a relationship that is personally favorable. Information may not actually be withheld; the mere possibility that the manager cannot rely on an individual is enough to shift the balance, at least temporarily, in favor of the worker. Groups of workers can control a manager when it is known that the manager is responsible for meeting a deadline or filling a quota; the manager’s ability to do so is dependent on the cooperation of the workers. Normal, steady output may be produced routinely, but the ability to make that extra push needed to surpass the quota or reach a special level of output rests more with the workers than with the manager. Strikes by workers are classic examples of mobilized power, but the power shifts back in favor of management if striking workers are terminated during a strike.

When an individual can supply something that a person values and cannot obtain elsewhere in an accepted manner, or when the individual can deprive one of something valued, then there is a power relationship. This implicit or explicit power relationship may or may not be perceived by one or both parties.

THE CONCEPT OF INFLUENCE

Like power, influence is the capacity to produce effects on others or obtain compliance from others, but it differs from power in the manner in which compliance is evoked. Power is coercive, but influence is accepted voluntarily. Influence is the capacity to obtain compliance without relying on formal actions, rules, or force. In relationships governed by influence, not only compliance but also consensus and agreement are sought; persuasion rather than latent or overt force is the major factor in influence. Influence supplements power, and it is sometimes difficult to distinguish latent power from influence in a given situation. Does the individual comply because of a relationship of influence or because of the latent power factor? Together, power and influence supplement formal authority.

THE CONCEPT OF FORMAL AUTHORITY

Authority may be described as legitimate power. It is the right to issue orders, to direct action, and to command or exact compliance. It is the right given to a manager to employ resources, make commitments, and exercise control. By a grant of formal authority, the manager is entitled, empowered, and authorized to act; thus, the manager incurs a responsibility to act. Authority may be expressed by direct command or instruction or, more commonly, by request or suggestion. Through the delegation of authority, coordination is established in the organization.

The authority mandate is delineated, communicated, and reinforced in several ways, including organizational charts, job descriptions, procedure manuals, and work rules. Although the exercise of authority in many situations tends to be similar to transactions of influence, authority differs from influence in that authority is clearly vested in the formal chain of command. Individuals are given specific grants of authority as a result of organizational position. Power and influence may be exercised by an individual authority holder, but they may also be exercised by individuals who do not have specific grants of authority.

Authority is both complemented and supplemented by power on the one hand and influence on the other hand. It is within the realm of formal authority to exact compliance by the threat of firing a person for failure to comply; however, this may be such a rare occurrence in an organization that such a threat is really an application of power more than an exercise of authority. However, formal aspects of authority may be so well developed that the major transactions remain at the level of influence, with the influence based largely on the holding of formal office. The infrequent use of formal authoritative directives to evoke compliance may indicate organizational health; that is, people know what to do and perform willingly.

THE IMPORTANCE OF AUTHORITY

When a subordinate refuses to accept the orders of a superior, the superior has several choices, each of which carries potentially negative consequences for the attainment of organizational goals. The superior can accept the insubordination, withdraw the order, and call on others to carry out the directive. This action would probably further weaken authority, however, because the superior would most likely be perceived as lacking the subtle blend of power and authority needed to exact compliance on a predictable basis. A chain reaction of insubordination could occur. If other workers are asked to carry out a directive that had been refused by one worker, resentment could build up and produce negative consequences. If the order is withdrawn completely, of course, the work will not be accomplished.

The manager who decides to enforce compliance may suspend or fire the insubordinate worker, but the superior still must find a worker to carry out the directive. If there is a chain reaction of insubordination, it may become impractical to suspend or fire the entire work force. In such circumstances, the situation moves from one of authority to one of power. Therefore, managers must identify and widen their bases of authority to help ensure a stable work climate.

SOURCES OF POWER, INFLUENCE, AND AUTHORITY

The manager’s organizational relationships flow along the continuum of power, influence, and authority, varying in emphasis at different times and in different situations. To more fully understand the dynamics of the power–influence–authority triad, it is useful to examine the sources or bases of authority in formal organizations. The wider the base of authority, the stronger the manager’s position; with a broad base of authority, the manager can work in the realm of influence and need not rely only on the formal grant of authority that attaches to organizational position.

The sources of formal authority have been studied by several theorists in the disciplines of social psychology, management, and political science. A review of the literature suggests several sources or bases of authority: (1) acceptance or consent, (2) patterns of formal organization, (3) cultural expectations, (4) technical competence and expertise, and (5) characteristics of authority holders. The limits or weaknesses of each theory are offset by the approach taken in another.

The Consent Theory of Authority

The belief that authority involves a subordinate’s acceptance of a superior’s decision is the basis for the acceptance or consent theory of formal authority. A superior has authority only insofar as the subordinate accepts it. This theory implies that members of the organization have a choice concerning compliance, even when often they do not. It remains important to recognize the concepts of acceptance and consent to identify the centers of more subtle and diffuse resistance to authority, even when there is no overt and massive insubordination.

The zone of indifference and the zone of acceptance are two similar concepts in the acceptance or consent theory of authority. Chester Barnard used the term zone of indifference to describe that area in which an individual accepts an order without conscious questioning.1 Barnard noted that the manager establishes an overall setting by means of preliminary education, prior persuasive efforts, and known inducements for compliance. The order then lies within the range that is more or less anticipated by the subordinate, who accepts it without conscious questioning or resistance because it is consistent with the overall organizational framework. Herbert Simon used the term zone of acceptance to reflect the same authority relationship. The zone of acceptance, according to Simon, is an area established by subordinates within which they are willing to accept the decisions made for them by their superior.2 Simon noted that this zone is modified by positive and negative sanctions in the authority relationship, as well as by such factors as community of purpose, habit, and leadership.

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