Wednesday, September 05, 2007

I’m Stuffed, So Just A Little Theory Please

Last week in my graduate leadership class, we tackled the ever so exciting topic of Leadership Theories (did you catch my hint of sarcasm?). Really, it’s not as bad as my sarcasm may have sounded. In fact, I believe that learning a little about the evolving theories of the last 100 years actually helps build a foundation for a person to begin to develop their own leadership theory. It allows a person to self-reflect and begin to see how their own leadership skills and abilities would mesh with the more modern theories. It provides a nice base to build upon.

Lucky for our class, we have a very “hands on approach” professor, who tries to involve the students in the “teaching” aspect. This was nice, as we got to get into groups, research the theories, and then present them to each other in class. Much better than sitting and listening to a monotone professor’s lecture (although this professor here would be far from a monotone lecturer, due to his energy and creativity). The whole process proved to be a nice exercise, as everyone in class was able to participate. Also, we were able to cover many theories in a short amount of time (1-1/2 – 2 hours), where as I’m sure there are many other classes that could spend days on these theories. So what are some of these theories we looked at?

Maslow’s Hierarchy
Herzberg’s (motivators and hygiene factors)
McGregor’s X&Y theory
Great Man Theory – leaders are born, not made
Blake & Mouton’s managerial grid
Hersey and Blanchard’s Situational
Vroom Yetton Jago Normative Model
House’s Path-Goal

Have any of you had any experience with these theories? What are your thoughts on them?

Again, I feel the theories are needed to build a base. With that said, I can’t wait to dive into the “meat” of this Leadership class. I’m ready to see some real world examples of how other professionals choose to lead. I’m ready to see what some of the best ways of motivating employees are. I’m ready to jump into some of the most renowned books on the topic of leadership. That’s what gets me most excited! But, maybe I’m off base a little. Should I want or need to spend more time on “theory?” Or, am I correct in thinking that the “meat” of the course is where I’m going to get the most benefit?


Timothy Johnson said...

Your class did a great job on the theories, Eric. The theories themselves aren't bad (actually, they are quite useful), but too much theory can really bog you down. It was great how all of you students presented the theories and put them into the context of your experiences.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you and the other comment posted. Theories are great but they can be consuming.

However, they are a useful reference item for diagnostic.
1. How often, in the professional world, do we see an employer or HR dept. attempt to implement a new policy and after a period of time it becomes clear that the purpose of the policy did not achieve the desired outcome.
2. An employee under your supervision starts a steady decline in performance or attitude.

Many times codes/statues/policy will be referenced for legality. But in my opinion, the “Poser or vanilla” leaders fail to reference the theory.

Conclusion, every field or trade has a publication or instrument that is used as a reference or guideline. A leader should not hesitate to reference Maslow and Herzberg among others, from time to time.