Select two aspects of organisational behaviour from the range of concepts and theories considered in weeks 7-11 of the course (eg, organisational
culture, structure, change and development; leadership; conflict, etc).
Use these selected concepts to critically analyse and evaluate the capacity of an organization in which you are, or have have recently been, an active member to improve the performance and quality of working life for its participants. ORDER YOUR PAPER NOW
Through this evaluation, argue (explain, illustrate and justify) a case for the inter-relatedness of the concepts selected, that is, as exemplified by
your organization, how do these concepts inter-relate in a dynamic or causal way, and thereby shape the nature of your organization?
• NB – Choose an organisation that you are, or have have recently been, currently a member of and are active within. Use your experiences and
understandings of the organisation to illustrate the behaviours you are describing and the points you are making.
• NB – It is important to do more than describe the organization and the concepts you have selected. Rather, you are expected to argue a case
for the inter-relatedness of the selected concepts as illustrated by your organization and its capacity for improvement. ORDER YOUR PAPER NOW
This essay considers two important aspects of organisational behaviour, namely leadership and organisational culture. These concepts will be critically analysed and evaluated in relation to their impact on Real Zed, an organisation of which I am an active member. The interrelatedness of elements of organisational culture, such as the significance of sub-cultures, organisational climate, the influence of founders and culture as barrier to change, and leadership elements, such as leadership style, vision casting, and leading teams through change, will be established. It will then be demonstrated that these two concepts are both dynamically and causally related and have together significantly shaped Real Zed as an organisation, and determined both its level of performance and the quality of working life for its participants. Discussion will also take place around what behavioural changes are necessary to improve Real Zed’s performance.
Real Zed background
Real Zed was established 30 years ago as a not-for-profit organisation that provides a range of services to the community. The founder has held the position of senior leader since Real Zed commenced its operations, and some of his family members are part of the leadership team. Real Zed relies heavily on the input of volunteers, with only a small team of paid staff. The leadership team consists of both paid and unpaid members. Most of the current members have been part of the organisation either from its inception, or for a lengthy period of time, aside from me, having been invited to join the leadership team within 12 months of joining the organisation.
Leadership is an important contributor to organisational behaviour and performance. As Greenberg (2009) observes, ‘Over a century’s worth of research confirms that effective leadership is a major determinant of organisational outcomes’ (p310). This is a Student Sample ORDER YOUR PAPER NOW
Robbins et al (2011) define leadership as the ‘ability to influence a group towards the achievement of a vision or set of goals’ (p330). Leadership encompasses such roles as: developing and communicating a vision for the future; creating strategies to achieve it; helping staff to overcome barriers; a willingness to take risks; and the capacity to inspire others. (Robbins et al, 2011; Greenberg, 2009). Greenberg (2009) also notes that, leaders take the responsibility for change, ‘Effective team leaders continuously scan the business environment for clues to changes that appear to be forthcoming and help teams decide how to be responsive to them’ (p331). He also suggests that successful leaders, ‘concentrate on expanding team capabilities … by function[ing] primarily as coaches, helping team members by providing all members with the skills needed to perform the task, removing barriers that might interfere with task success and finding the resources required to get the job done’ (p331).
Statt (1994) makes a critical point when he quotes Stodgill: ‘whatever else leadership may be it is always a relationship between people’ (p326). As such, emotional intelligence is a critical skill for leaders as it involves being aware of and sensitive to own and others’ emotional states (Greenberg, 2009).
Leadership at Real Zed
This discussion of leadership will focus on the key aspects of leadership that are most significant in considering the performance of Real Zed, including leadership style, creation and communication of vision, change management and the application of leader-member exchange (LMX)theory.
The leadership style of the senior leader at Real Zed is a blend of autocratic, where the leader makes the majority of decisions (Statt, 1994) and charismatic, which consists of: having a vision; being willing to take risks and make sacrifice; engaging in unconventional behaviour and is sensitive to the needs of the followers (Robbins et al, 2011). Although he rates highly against most of these characteristics, he doesn’t exhibit sensitivity to followers’ needs as he is strongly focused on his vision and canvassing support for it, and has a low level of emotional intelligence.
House’s charismatic leadership theory is quoted by Robbins et al (2011) to make the point that followers of charismatic leaders ‘make attributions of heroic or extraordinary leadership abilities when they observe certain behaviours’ (p339). This is certainly true for the leader of Real Zed, especially among the longer serving members, and results in a subjective, overly postive evaluation of both his and the organisation’s performance that is not always consistent with facts.
To increase the effectiveness of his leadership, a more transformational leadership style is recommended. Transformational leaders are those who, according to Robbins et al (2011), ‘inspire followers to transcend their own self-interests and who are capable of having a profound and extraordinary effect on followers’ (p342). The authors go on to quote Avolio and Bass (1985), by stating, ‘The purely charismatic [leader]may want followers to adopt the charismatic’s world view and go no further; the transformational leader will attempt to instil in followers the ability to question not only established views but eventually those established by the leader’ (p344) . As Real Zed is currently needing to adapt to a changing context in order to remain viable, a transformational style would be more likely to assist the organisation to transition effectively. Statt (1994)supports this view by suggesting that a transformation leaders is ‘concerned with ends rather than means, with the future direction of the organisation rather than the nuts and bolts of running it right now, and with transforming the way the organisation operates’(p339). In addition, transformational leaders are recognised as being more able to empower their team to achieve more of their potential, another critical requirement for organisations in transition (Statt, 1994).
Another aspect attributable to a transformational leadership style is a high level of trust, both in the leader and the organisation as a whole. As Robbins et al (2011) observe, ‘followers who trust a leader are willing to be vulnerable to the leader’s actions, confident that their rights and interests will not be abused’ (p346). At Real Zed, trust for the senior leader has not always been high, and as will be discussed later in this essay, has become an embedded part of the culture. For the organisation to improve its performance, and to increase the quality of work life for its members, higher levels of trust need to be created.
Creating and communicating vision is an essential part of leadership. A vision is a ‘long-term strategy for attaining a goal by linking the present with a better future for the organisation. Desirable visions fit the times and circumstances and reflect the uniqueness of the organisation’ (Robbins et al, 2009, p340). Maxwell (1998) observes that, ‘people buy into the leader first, then the leader’s vision’ (p145), emphasising that the leader and the vision are inextricably linked, and that people need to be inspired by both.
At Real Zed, vision is a driving factor in harnessing commitment from a large number of volunteers and consequently, significantly impacts organisational outcomes. The difficulty at Real Zed is there is a distinct difference between the stated vision and the actual one. The stated vision was developed during a change management process that began in recognition of the need for the organisation to become more participative and inclusive. However, even though the leader supported and fully endorsed the vision, it became apparent over time that his personal commitment to the new vision was not strong, and that he was going to continue to promote and inspire people toward his original vision.
To improve the performance of the organisation and to create a stronger sense of clarity around the goals and direction of the organisation, it would be necessary to redefine the vision in terms of what the leader is willing to commit to and to ensure that he then strongly communicates that commitment through both his actions and his words.
This relates to another important aspect of effective leadership, which is the capacity to effectively manage change. As Robbins et al (2011) observe, ‘Effective team leaders continuously scan the business environment for clues to changes that appear to be forthcoming and help teams decide how to be responsive to them’ (p331). At Real Zed, the leader has demonstrated an unwillingness to embrace the change that is necessary for the organisation to thrive as he is more comfortable with his original vision. This has been evidenced by his recognition that he needs new staff to bring fresh skills and perspectives, yet he was unwilling to delegate responsibility and authority to implement the necessary changes. For example, I was given the role of acting as a leadership coach for the department heads to try and bring a more unified approach to leadership across the various departments. However, because of the senior leader’s lack of trust, he insisted that I include another leader, who happened to be a member of his family, as part of this process. This had the effect of restricting staff’s willingness to engage in the process, as they felt threatened by the presence of this other leader.
One of the defining aspects of the way the senior leader relates with people in his organisation can be explained in terms of the Leader-Member Exchange (LMX) theory. This occurs, according to Robbins et al (2011), ‘because of time pressures, leaders establish a special relationship with a small group of their followers. These individuals make up the in-group; they are trusted, they get a disproportionate amount of the leader’s attention, and they are more likely to receive special privileges’ (p338). At Real Zed, this has created negative emotions such as jealousy and resentment among those excluded from the in-group as they have observed the in-group members receiving greater level of attention, recognition, and resources. This lack of consistency in valuing organisational members has contributed to the low levels of trust in the senior leader.
Staw (2004) defines organisational culture as, ‘the pattern of basic assumptions that a given group has invented, discovered or developed in learning to cope with its problems of external adaption and internal integration … a pattern of assumptions that has worked well enough to be considered valid and, therefore, to be taught to new members as the correct way to perceive, think, and feel in relation to those problems’ (p320). In this way, the culture shapes both the performance of the organisation and the degree to which working in the organisation is a positive experience. Organisations that have a positive culture go beyond looking at how employees work toward improved outcomes for the organisation, and consider how the employee can become more effective in both personal and professional senses (Robbins et al, 2011).
The culture of an organisation includes its climate, the presence of sub-cultures, its capacity to change, and is heavily influenced by its founder(s).
Organisational culture at Real Zed
Climate, which is one aspect of organisational culture, is defined by Robbins et al as, ‘shared perceptions that organisational members have about their organisation and work environment’ (2011, p469). Research has shown that climate is strongly connected to job satisfaction, motivation and levels of commitment. The climate at Real Zed tends to be quite negative, especially among the paid staff and long serving members, and although they are highly motivated and committed to their own department, motivation towards corporate goals and objectives is quite low. This has resulted in high levels of competition between the teams which has become an embedded part of the climate.
Robbins et al (2011) also note that climate influences the habits that people adopt. At Real Zed , there is a strong habit of speaking negatively about people who have left the organisation or who operate in ways that are outside the cultural values of the organisation. As the leader models this kind of behaviour, it has become a habit that many people have also adopted.
Real Zed has a strong dominant culture, but also a number of subcultures which are influential in the organisation. As Robbins et al (2011) note, ‘if sub cultures are strong then it may result in staff having a greater buy in to team goals rather than overall organisational ones. In this way commitment to the overall organisational goals can suffer’ (p 469). At Real Zed each team has a distinct sub-culture. This is partly due to the significant diversity in the roles they fulfil, which range from providing circus classes for children in the community, to teaching hip hop dancing in schools to providing emergency food and clothing for people in financial crisis. However, the reason for the strength of the sub-cultures is more about the high level of competitiveness that has been created between the departments. This has resulted in the focus being less about the performance and profile of Real Zed as a whole, and more about how the individual team is performing, and how that compares with other teams. This has been counterproductive for overall performance as there have been many occasions where Real Zed would have benefited as a whole from a more interdependent approach.
Robbins et al (2011) make the point that the strongest influence on the creation of the culture rests with the founder. This is initially because they create the vision for the organisation, then hire and indoctrinate staff in line with that culture and finally because the founder’s ‘own behaviour encourages employees to identify with them and internalise their beliefs, values and assumptions. When the organisation succeeds, the founders’ personality becomes embedded in the culture’ (2011, p 471). Staw (2004) notes that founders typically have, ‘strong assumptions about the nature of the world, the role their organisation will play in that world, the nature of human nature, truth, relationships, time and space’ (p323). As the founder has also been the senior leader of the organisation for a period of 30 years, and has very strong views and a strong personality, his personality, values and opinions have clearly become the foundation of the culture.
A strong culture can be negative for organisations when it becomes a barrier to change that is necessary for the organisation to remain viable (Robbins et al, 2011). For example, at Real Zed, the traditional ways of operating and priorities were no longer proving to be effective as evidenced by anecdotal feedback and quantitative indicators such as a decline in numbers and financial support. As Robbins et al note, ‘strong cultures have worked well for them in the past but become barriers to change when ‘business as usual’ is no longer effective’ (2011, p 470). Although a change process was introduced, and a new vision and mission developed and launched, no real change was achieved as aspects of the culture were so strong that it effectively pulled people back into old ways of operating.
Relationship between leadership and organisational culture at Real Zed
The relationship between leadership and organisational culture at Real Zed is clearly both causal and dynamic in nature. It is causal in the sense that each element has a direct cause on the other, and dynamic because as each element is constantly changing, it is creating movement in the other. This section explores how Real Zed operates in regard to leadership and culture, how the behaviour that is generated is interrelated and the resultant effect on performance.
The strongest relationship between leadership and organisational culture occurs because the senior leader is also Real Zed’s founder. As previously established, the founder has a significant degree of influence on creating the culture of an organisation, and as this person has also occupied the position of senior leader for thirty years, leadership in Real Zed has been defined by the leadership style of the founder. This connection can therefore be described as mutually interdependent. This has profound implications for seeking to improve leadership at Real Zed as for any real change to occur it would involve a significant shift in the founder’s leadership style. The culture currently reflects the autocratic, charismatic style of the founder, with this same style replicated in most areas of the organisation. To create a change in leadership style, the senior leader will need to adopt a more transformational approach which has been widely related to improved performance (Robbins et al, 2009; Staw, 2004, Statt,1994).
The current leadership style is also causally related to the organisational climate of Real Zed, specifically as it relates to the low level of trust that exists. The senior leader displays a lack of trust in organisational members, demonstrated through lack of delegation and micro-management. This lack of trust is increased by his habit of speaking negatively about former members of the organisation or anyone offering alternate views. These habits have become embedded in the climate resulting in minimal collaboration or problem solving across the various departments. The implication of this is that in order for any improvement in climate to occur, the senior leader needs to focus on creating more trust as part of his leadership focus. As Greenberg (2009) notes, successful leaders, ‘work at building trust and inspiring teamwork … by encouraging interaction among all members of the team’ (p331). Again, a more transformational approach modelled by the senior leader would result in improved performance. Robbins et al suggest that, ‘part of the leader’s task has been, and continues to be, working with people to find and solve problems, but whether leaders gain access to the knowledge and creative thinking they need to solve problems depends on how much people trust them. Trust and trustworthiness modulate the leader’s access to knowledge and cooperation’ (p346).
There is a mutually interdependent relationship between a leader’s capacity to manage change and the strength of the culture, as strong cultures can act as a barrier to change (Robbins et al, 2011). Leadership is required to create a strong and effective culture; however, the strength of that culture can then prevent a leader from implementing change. Statt (1994) highlights the interdependence of these elements by stating, ‘a crowed creates the leaders who create the crowd’ (p342). In the case of Real Zed, this interdependence is further mediated by the senior leader’s high level of effectiveness in being able to communicate vision and the fact that he is also the founder. Real Zed became a successful organisation based on the founder and senior leader’s capacity to communicate an inspiring vision and harness support. This resulted in a very strong culture that was based heavily on his values and vision. However, over the last few years as the context began to experience significant shifts it became apparent that the organisation needed to embark on a change process, and that there was a need for an injection of new skills and perspectives to assist in this transition process. Although this was widely recognised, the strength of the culture prevented new staff from being effectively assimilated into the organisation. As Staw (2004) explains, when new staff at a managerial level are brought into the organisation, a distinction is made between the founding family and the non- family, ‘professional’ managers. The latter group are viewed as less ‘invested’ and less loyal. So on one hand they are valued for bringing in a range of fresh and needed skills but on the other hand, are not trusted. The result is that the founder’s values will be strongly defended, as they are the basis for the group’s initial identity. Staw suggests that ‘new members who don’t fit this set of assumptions and values are likely to leave because they will be uncomfortable, or they will be ejected because their failure to confirm accepted patterns is seen as disruptive’ (p 332). Newer staff at the managerial or leadership levels felt the pressure of this situation and either left Real Zed or took on a less key role.
For Real Zed to improve its performance, serious consideration needs to be given to managing this change process effectively. Staw (2004) highlights the key issues when he states, ‘the ultimate dilemma for the first-generation organisation with a strong founder-generated culture is how to make the transition to subsequent generations in such a manner that the organisation remains adaptive to its changing external environment without destroying cultural elements that have given it its uniqueness’ (p333).
A final relationship that will be considered is the one between the existence of sub-cultures and the application of LMX theory. In the Real Zed context, I would describe this relationship as causal. As previously stated the senior leader has applied LMX in his dealing with staff members. This has taken place both on a departmental and an individual basis as a result of the senior leader ‘playing favourites’ with those departments who attract higher profile attention, such as publicity, and awarding them greater levels of public recognition, positive feedback, and resources. As a result various department leaders feel that they and their areas are undervalued and their efforts and achievements often overlooked. This has resulted in a culture of competition among the departments, with each one developing their own sub-culture and creating the situation where team members show greater allegiance to their department than they do to the organisation as a whole. To diminish the strength of the sub-cultures, the senior leader needs to recognise his tendency to apply LMX theory and the dysfunctionality it has created. Instead, he should ensure that he acknowledges and rewards the contribution of all departments, and especially when they add value toward corporate goals
This essay has established the mutually interdependent relationship that exists between leadership and the culture of an organisation, which are two core concepts of organisational behaviour. By critically examining how some key components of leadership both causally and dynamically relate to key components of organisational culture in the context of Real Zed, suggestions were discovered and presented as to how Real Zed could improve its performance and the quality of working life for its members.
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