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Published: 23rd March, 2015 Last Edited: 23rd March, 2015
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Leadership and management are two terms that are often confused. According to Robbins and Judge (2009), leadership is dealing with changes and management is dealing with complexity. Thus, leaders develop a future vision and get people aligned through the communication of such vision for the achievement of such vision. However, managers draw up the detailed plans for the goal, design rigid organizational structure, and monitor the implementation against the plans. Much argument has raged over leadership styles. In early days, these styles was labeled by theorists as 'autocratic', 'democratic' or 'laissez-faire' and that kind of think still lingers on (Adair 2009).
Psychologist Rensis Likert (Stroup 2004) developed a well-known approach in which he identified four systems that described how leaders led in varying situations: exploitative, benevolent, consultative and participative. According to Yaverbaum and Sherman (2008), there is no single leadership model that offers a complete answer to the problem of leadership but by intelligently using the models to lead under many different circumstances and conditions and creating a personal management style by matching style to self, other people, organization and the situation. As for the most important quality that a leader should or learn to possess, Zenger et al (2009) describe in their research that 'Inspiring others' is the most powerful predictor of being an extraordinary leader. The research confirms the impact of inspiring others. Fernando (2006) stresses the importance of leadership in providing employees a vision, display the right organizational values, help their staff to achieve higher levels of performance, build trust and motivate employee commitment and engagement, lead change and create an environment where employees look forward to coming to work.
In the 21st century, leaders are confronted with a more sophisticated and demanding workforce and required to perform increasingly complex work and deal with diversity and cultural difference of their employees, this demands for a more flexible and agile leadership style.
Akio Morita, one of the most influencing leaders in 20th century, was born in 1921. He found Tokyo Telecommunications Engineering Corporation (the forerunner of Sony Corporation in 1946) with his partner Ibuka. Under the leadership of Akio Morita, Sony has achieved great success in 1980s and 1990s such as the invention of world famous audio brand Walkman and the inclusion of Columbia Pictures Entertainment in 1989 (Sony, 2012). Akio Morita has a great vision for management and also well appraised personalities. Leaders of this style combine the concerns for productivity and needs of employees. In detail, there are two models i.e. Path-Goal Theory and Leadership Grid Model.
According to Mostovicz et al. (2009), Path-Goal Theory focuses on the leaders uses two measures to increase the subordinates' motivation either through clarifying the follower's path to the rewards that are available or increasing the rewards that the follower values and desires. It consists of three sets of components i.e. leader style, followers and situation, and the rewards to meet followers 'needs. Path-Goal Theory's factors for situational contingencies include the personal characteristics of group members and the work environment. And, the main contribution of Path-Goal Theory' is that the four types of leader behavior and the ideas for fitting them to situational contingencies provide a useful way for leaders to think about motivating subordinates (Zenger et al. 2009).
According to the Path-Goal theory, it emphasizes the work of leader to increase personal payoffs to subordinates for goal attainment and to make the paths to these payoffs clear and easy to travel. There are two important part of such statement. The first one is the significance of the achievement of personal benefits or goals and the second one the accomplishment of organizational goals. This theory combines the motivation or benefits of subordinates and the achievement of organizational goals make the theory more comprehensive. This is because the achievement of personal payoffs and organizational objectives can make the employees motivated and productive, and at the same time make the business and operation of the organization under the leader more sustainable for it covers the benefits of stakeholders. Furthermore, from the situation analysis, there are two important situational contingencies: The personal characteristics of group members and the work environment. This kind of situation analysis considers both the internal and external factors that have impact on the situations and make the analysis more scientific and convincing. According to Stroup (2004), the factors that related to personal characteristics include ability, skills, needs and motivations.
These are critical factors that can determine the productivity and performance of subordinates and can services as basis for leaders' decisions to adopt suitable measures for improvement. For example, when the educational backgrounds of new employees of Sony are not good, they will be provided opportunities to additional training or coaching activities to help them fast get used to the current situation of the organization. Work environment contingency here includes the degree of task structure, the nature of the formal authority system and the work group itself. These are external factors that have impact on the behavior of subordinates and thus have to be investigated by leaders and based on the findings to adopt suitable measures or leadership style. Thus, the consideration of both internal and external factors make the analysis of situational contingency more comprehensive as compared with other three contingency theories. Also, with the consideration of the shortcomings of the Fiedler's Theory's simplicity in using PLC score and its lack of empirical support, the partly focus of Hersey and Blanchard's Theory on characteristics of followers and the ignorance of values of time and values of follower development of Vroom-Jago Theory, I think it is wise to choose Path-Goal Theory in practice.
Based on the interpretation of this model of leadership and the behaviors of Akio Morita, it is easy to find that he is a transformative leader and fits with Path-Goal Model. Under the leadership of Akio, most of the work within Song Corporation is team oriented and the employees are encouraged to participate in daily operation activities and business decisions making process as well. For instance, the invention of the world famous audio product Walkman was finished by the cooperation of researchers within the organization from all levels and employees are motivated to express their ideas on product innovation and improvement during the business development and operation process. From this aspect, the employees within Sony Corporation are totally trusted by the leaders and managers to get highly involved in the business process. And Akio Morita personally does very well in his own work and set as examples for all managers and employees.
Furthermore, the personalities of employees are respected and emphasized by Akio Morita in Sony. People with various cultural backgrounds are welcomed and seen as the same at work. All of them are equally treated in business operation process and they are encouraged to share their different cultural knowledge at activities held within the organization. It is also proved by the human resources policies applied by Song Corporation in America where employees of all colors, different background are encouraged to take a role in Sony if they have the qualifications for the positions.
Last but not least, employees especially managers in Sony are allowed to decide on their own by following the common vision created by Akio to make quick response for the market changes. Akio Morita (1987) in his book Made in Japan pointed out that leaders have to 'allow for individual idiosyncrasies and the non-uniformity of the shape of stones to get coherent walls (p. 245)', which indicates the importance of empowerment in the business success of Sony in global economy.
According to Jui-Chen and Colin (2005), job performance and employee satisfaction result from leadership styles and there are different management efficiency under different leader and leadership. Thus, they propose that it is critical to choose the right leader and the leader should change leadership styles based on different situations. Leadership styles categorize the leadership behaviors of leaders and there are many concepts and models discussed such differences. One of the models that are common used in practice is the leadership grid model proposed by Robert and Jane (1964) as show in Figure 1 below.
As shown in the grid map above, there are five types of leadership styles listed i.e. country club, impoverished, produce or perish, team leader and middle-of-the-road. It is easy to see that leaders of country club style give thoughtful attention to the security and needs of employees while those of impoverished style concerns both people and production less and thus they are absolutely too lazy to be involved into any troubles. In the situation of produce or perish style, the leaders give attention to the productivity thoughtfully. Leaders under this style of leadership may find the need of employees unimportant and high productivity may results in short term but high staff turnover will happen in long term. As for team style, the leaders concern both people production much. Thus, they give thoughtful attention to the needs and security of employees and also concern much for productivity. The leaders of middle-of-the-road style try to balance the organizational productivity and the satisfaction of the team members by concerning both of them on a middle level. This style of leadership may works well sometimes, but in more situations, both the productivity need and the satisfaction of the team members cannot be fully filled.
Based on the facts of Akio Morita, it is obviously to find that he is a leader of team style concerning both productivity and people much. Leaders of this style combines the concerns for the security and needs of employees and that for the enhancement of productivity. Thus, based on respect and trust, this style of leadership can create a friendly workplace and high level of employee satisfaction and productivity as well.
A famous case of Akio Morita is called flower therapy. Once, a Walkman player model of Sony received a lot of customer complaints and the manager responsible for this was severely criticized by Akio. The manager did not think to receive severe criticism for such a small mistake and cannot help crying. After the meeting, Akio Morita foresaw the feelings of the manager and had taken the "flower therapy." Akio Morita had ordered some flowers for him along with a handwritten greeting card for the 20th anniversary of the manager's marriage. The manager was very grateful to Akio Morita for the care and determined the life to work hard for Sony. It is easy to find from this Akio Morita concerns both the product quality and the needs of employees, which is beneficial for the productivity enhancement and also the satisfaction of employees.
With 10 years' hard work, Hofstede has analyzed many factors, and summarized the four dimensions to explain cultural differences in work values in 1983. The four dimensions are: Power Distance Index (PDI), Individualism (IDV), Masculinity (MAS) and Uncertainty Avoidance Index (UAL) (Hofstede, 2009). According to the cultural identity reflected from the data of the fourth dimension, Hofstede added the fifth one Long-term Orientation (LTO) in 1996.
The book Asian Leadership: What Works edited by Dave Ulrich and Robert Sutton provides an in-depth understanding of the ways Asian leadership works, which is an evidence for the importance of understanding cultural dimensions in leadership. The third part named Getting Past the Past focuses on the ways for leaders to behave in cultural norms and traditions. The book points out that Asian leaders who work in locations with strong cultural heritages and norms should learns the measures to accentuate the best and dampen the worst of these strong forces. MediaCorp and GE Asia are used as examples to show how these can be done. Part four mainly discusses the importance of decision-making process governing. This perspective requires Asian leaders to makes decisions that help companies leverage scale and size at the same time, and a governance process of decision making should be built up to deal with relationships, roles and rationality. The MediaCorp story is used as an example to demonstrate this idea. This is also true for the leadership of Akio Morita for its multinational business operation. For example, in order to overcome conflicts between cultures, Sony Entertainment US Branch Company hires more local managers to be responsible for local business and there are a lot of programs internal to build up a good relationship between employees within different cultural contexts. From what stated, it is easy to find out the leadership and leadership styles vary under different cultural contexts, which proves the statement that leadership is complex in the previous part.
Based on the interpretation of both styles of leadership and the behaviors of Akio Morita, it is easy to find that he is a transformative leader. Under the leadership of Akio, most of the work within Song Corporation is team oriented and the employees are encouraged to participate in daily operation activities and business decisions making process as well. Furthermore, the personalities of employees are respected and emphasized by Akio Morita in Sony. People with various cultural backgrounds are welcomed and seen as the same at work. All of them are equally treated in business operation process and they are encouraged to share their different cultural knowledge at activities held within the organization. Last but not least, employees especially managers in Sony are allowed to decide on their own by following the common vision created by Akio to make quick response for the market changes. All of these are the benefits that this leader bring to the business world and are also critical for business success in the competitive business environment today.
From the writer's point of view, transformational leadership style is still the appropriate one at the current moment. What is more critical is that usually leaders of this style are seen as models or examples to other employees and subordinates with their behaviors to get the employees concerned for the best interaction within the organization. At the same time, a common vision will be created by the leader to get the employees and managers united for the achievement of objectives in the changing environment. Employees are encouraged to participate in decision making process and get highly involved in the management and operation process of the organization and the leaders are seen as models for them to learn in practice.
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