In choosing a leadership style, leaders cannot avoid facing another issue: what kind of organizations are we to have in our society? Organizations, after all, are made up of people whose leadership style will determine the psychological climate of the total organization. Repressive leaders make repressive organizations.
What kind of leadership style is required so all members of the organization feel their needs are respected? It is inconsistent with the philosophy of leadership advocated in our leadership training program that an organization exists solely for the realization of the needs and goals of its leaders. So leaders must find ways to enlist the participation of group members in making decisions that will result in mutual need satisfaction of management and employees, leaders and group members.
Do you want to be in an organization that is flexible enough to adapt to changing conditions? If organizations are going to survive and prosper they must have this flexibility. Problems should not be solved nor decisions made on the time-honored basis of who has the most authority, but rather on the basis of the creative resources of all members who have data relevant to the problem.
Organizations will have difficulty surviving if they rely exclusively on management methods based on workers’ fear of losing their jobs or being deprived of their basic needs. That is why in the last 40 years we have witnessed the start of a revolution—call it the human relations revolution. Millions of dollars are being spent by organizations in the search for new patterns of supervision, new management practices, new styles of leadership. It may be that to survive in a democratic society, organizations must discover ways of operating democratically.
James Worthy, a former industrial relations executive with Sears, Roebuck, expressed this same idea persuasively some years ago:
If we are concerned with the preservation of “free enterprise” in America and freedom in the world, we must strengthen its principles more effectively to the internal organization and administration of our own business…First of all, the system must continue to work effectively. It cannot do that for long unless it does a better job of tapping the creative resources, ability, and productivity of its individual members.
The leadership philosophy and methods described in Leader Effectiveness Training seem singularly right for reaching Worthy’s objective.
What Kind Of Society Do You Want?
Although, in theory, our society is deeply rooted in the belief that all citizens have the right and the capacity to select their goals and make critical decisions, most of our social institutions tend to reserve this right for the leaders of those organizations. It is apparent that democracy in practice is not always the same as democracy in theory.
Freedom from dependence is yet another criterion of a democratic society. As James Marshall, the eminent attorney, once wrote:
Freedom from dependence is the very basis of democracy. It is necessary if [persons] are to develop and utilize their capabilities, if society is to be a balance of their individualities and not a structure of status. Freedom from dependence is requisite to maturity. For the satisfaction achieved through dependence is an uneasy peace in the shadow of some power in which one has little share.
When power is concentrated in and employed by only a few leaders, dependence increases. The challenge for our society, then, is to encourage its leaders to embrace a leadership style more consistent with the democratic principles we have learned to cherish—in theory at least. And this conception of leadership will need to be injected into the bloodstream of every organization and institution in our society.
If we want a democratic society we must have democratic organizations, which in turn will require democratic leaders who themselves have the necessary skills and methods to develop mutually satisfying relationships with the people they lead.