THE PURPOSE, EMPOWERMENT, PRAISE (PEP)

MODEL FOR LEADERSHIP AND MOTIVATION

(Research Paper presented by Mr. S. SRIKANTH at the International Seminar on Perspectives on HR and I.T. Management conducted by Centre for Contemporary Management Research)

  1. Introduction

As India attempts to carve out a niche for itself in a globalised and shrinking world, it is becoming increasingly apparent that economic growth and prosperity are functions of the quality of corporate leadership at all levels.  Organisations that can create and nurture leadership at every level can and do outperform those which merely depend upon conventional incentives based on financial and or non-financial parameters.

Leadership holds an important place in philosophy and history for quite obvious reasons. Leadership is a volatile, almost chimerical quality. The same aspects of a person’s character that tend to make them a natural leader usually also conspire to make them an unmitigated pain.

In fact, most psychological research on leadership from about 1900 to 1950 was devoted to identifying magic leadership traits or personality patterns that seem to have made a difference in organizational performance. In 1948 and again in 1974, Professor Ralph Stogdill1 published review of almost 300 empirical studies on leadership traits.  He was forced to conclude in both of these reviews that there was no evidence of a single trait or characteristic that identified a person as a leader.

The answer to the quintessential question as to whether true leaders are born or made is   that leadership does not simply appear to be something with which an individual is born.  First and foremost, it does seem to be a learned, interpersonal relationship. This paper attempts to present a model for Leadership that can be easily applied at all levels of management

  1. Leadership Models

Based on the relevant literature this section seeks to document the progress of academic thinking on leadership as also their link to the theory proposed by this paper. Among the best known theories on leadership is McGregor’s2 Theory X, Theory Y. Although this is basically a theory on motivation, applicable to workers, it still has much relevance as the conditions of loss of control over ultimate output and monotony that subsisted in an earlier industrial era are now replicated in the Information Technology and Business Process Outsourcing Industries.

McGregor’s theories X and Y may be summarized in this manner. Theory X, refers to managers who believe their workers to be naturally lazy, resistant to change, requiring constant and closer supervision, and unmotivated to perform well.

McGregor sees this as being the natural set of assumptions of managers and, in fact, the assumptions by which most managers attain their managerial position.

Alternatively, McGregor proposes a new, more positive view of workers – Theory Y.  Under theory Y assumptions, the manager sees workers as basically mature, desirous of being productive, and wanting to contribute to the success of the organization.

The kernel of the leadership model proposed by this paper writer, which is detailed elsewhere in this paper, may be discerned in McGregor’s theory Y which has inspired a considerable amount of literature as well as some experimentation with Industrial Democracy which has been responsible for fostering greater participation of workers in the managerial process.

The 1950s and early 1960s saw more humanistic approaches to leadership.  The Employee-Centric models such as those propounded by Rensis Likert3 were based on trust and participation and promised that these would promote not only greater employee satisfaction but also increased organizational effectiveness.

There are two basic options available to managers at all levels to enhance employee productivity.  They are

  1. Deploying financial resources for enhancing the quality of the physical working conditions. This could also involve enabling a more participative work culture by redefining organizational structure.
  2. Making changes in the organizational process, including the development of an organizational climate which recognizes and rewards employee contributions, the enhancement of interpersonal communication between superior and subordinate, acceptance of employee ideas, and the involvement of employees in decision making.

While it cannot be denied that pleasant, working conditions and pecuniary rewards are necessary for employee satisfaction, they are not sufficient.  This has been well established as early as in 1924 by Mayo and Roethlisberger during the Hawthorne Experiments. The paradox of competitive remuneration packages prevailing side by side with high attrition rates prevalent in corporates today would indicate that employees are better motivated by leaders who generate in them a sense of belonging to a winning team, a sense of ownership in the team’s high performance and an enhanced sense of self worth directly linked to their contribution to the team’s success.

An offshoot of the Humanistic approach was laboratory, sensitivity, or T-Group training.  But, many management thinkers including Bass4 have expressed misgivings on the effectiveness on sensitivity training in leadership development.  In fact Bass suggests that there is a good deal of evidence that sensitivity training may lead to less effective groups.

Blake and Mouton5 have put forth the concept of a Managerial Grid which looks at Leadership from two fundamental dimensions viz concern for people and concern for production.  Blake and Mouton have relied heavily on the findings of the Ohio State Studies of Leadership6 which used the dimensions of “Employee-Centered Behavior” termed “Consideration of Subordinates” and task oriented behavior termed “Initiation of Structure”

Unlike the proponents of the humanistic approach, Blake and Mouton stress that training in one dimension only – that is, in employee-centeredness –will not be sufficient to develop effective manager.  Rather, the leader must also be trained in being concerned with getting the job done.  This is not to say, of course, that Likert and others were unaware of or unconcerned about task-related aspects of the leadership job, but they considered this concern largely as given.

Blake and Mouton provide popular terms for each of the extremes on the Grid.  These are:

  1. Impoverished Leadership (1,1), which essentially represents no leadership at all.
  2. Country-club Leadership (1,9), which represents total concern for the needs of others and for creating a nonstressful work environment.
  3. Authority-obedience Leadership (9,1), which represents total concern for production with minimum concern for the people of the organization.
  4. Organization person Leadership (5,5), which reflects the maintenance of a satisfactory degree of concern, for people and for production.
  5. Team Leadership (9,9), which, of course, reflects the criterion for successful leadership – accomplishing the organizational task with committed people through a relationship of trust and respect.

Although the managerial Grid has been used with mixed results in a variety  of organizations, the primary support for the model comes from a year long study of a large petroleum corporation in which 800 managers underwent 9,9 style of leadership training.  At the conclusion of the study, the company showed a considerable increase in profit and decrease in cost, which the authors interpreted as clear support for the Grid approach.

Interpretation of the study by others, however, has pointed out critically that there was no control group upon which a comparison could be based. Consequently, other factors like a more favourable economy could have caused the increase in productivity.

Stephen R Covey7 provides a slightly different but more logical analysis by suggesting that we adopt courage as the criterion for representation on the X-axis instead of “initiating structure” or “concern for production”, thus taking the concept of the Managerial Grid beyond the concerns of mundane managerial issues to essentially larger concerns that are based on strategic and long term growth oriented issues.

Covey premises that leaders always “Think Win/Win”. Character is the foundation of Win/Win. Character in turn is a function of three traits viz., Integrity, Maturity  and Abundance Mentality.  Covey continues to point out that if we examine many of the psychological tests used for hiring, promoting, and training purposes, we will find that they are designed to evaluate maturity.  Whether it’s called the ego strength/empathy balance, the self confidence/respect for others balance, the concern for people/concern for tasks balance, “I’m okay, you’re okay” in transactional analysis language, or 9.1, 1.9, 5.5, 9.9, in management grid language-the quality sought for is the balance of what Stephen R. Covey calls courage and consideration.

A leader needs to create successful Win/Win agreements with the team members. It takes great courage as well as consideration to create these mutual benefits, particularly when the leader is interacting with others who are deeply scripted in Win/Lose.

A comparison of the Ohio State Quadrants and the Managerial Grid with Covey’s Courage Vs Consideration analysis grid is provided in Figures 1-3.

 

The PEP Model of leadership extends Covey’s Courage Vs. Consideration analysis by defining three ingredients or inputs that can be used by all managers at all levels to improve morale and thus productivity.

  1. The PEP model: Assumptions and Components

The PEP model operates on three basic assumptions:

  1. That pride in a common cause is the single great motivator for corporate success.
  2. That executives/ workers are not driven by monetary considerations alone and that they perform best when they are trusted and respected.
  3. That a good leader would never use criticism or punishment as a tool to promote performance.

The model proposes that any manager may motivate a team and provide the necessary leadership by applying three vital components. These components are discussed below.

 3.1 Purpose

A leader should be able to demonstrate two qualities in order to be able to take a team forward. Firstly, he should have a clear picture in his mind of the goals or deliverables. Next, he should be capable of projecting this picture onto the mind-screen of his team. This is, arguably, the one critical factor missing in most managerial situations. Lack of focus on goals could be due to a deficiency in the strategy definition infrastructure available within the organization. It could also be due to an organizational culture where managers have personal agenda that is sharply contradictory to organizational goals. Finally, it could simply be an inability of the individual manager to see the broader picture.

Leadership demands the creation of circumstances in which managers are not only required to look at the larger picture and the underlying assumptions themselves but also facilitate the process of enabling the team to share the same picture. In fact the ability to make every team member experience a paradigm shift or (to use a term coined by Covey) an “Aha! Experience” is at the same time the mark of leadership and also a condition for its attainment. Managers concentrate on tasks while leaders analyze the connection between these tasks and the overall goals of the group and then proceed to explain the relevance of these tasks to the members before directing them to their roles.

3.2. Empowerment

At the core of the paradigm of Think Win/Win is the concept of Empowerment. Empowerment goes beyond delegation to the very roots of managerial performance and excellence. Empowerment happens when a leader is able to take the whole task and redefine it by breaking it up into discrete smaller tasks with complete goal-role-process clarity. This means that the down-line is not given tasks but goals. The focus is on results; not methods.

While managers concentrate on supervising methods, leaders are more interested in setting up meaningful goals, monitoring progress and facilitating and supporting the team in enhancing performance quality. Deadlines are negotiated and rules of acceptable behaviour and methodologies charted out before the sub-task is commenced. Periodical review meetings are held for monitoring quality and sufficiency of the delivery of results.

This also requires the leader to be considerate and listen carefully to each voice in the team. While forging such Win/Win performance agreements, the stress is more on sharing and pooling than on influencing and accepting. The result is a truly democratic team that has a shared vision and freedom of expression. Leaders who apply the PEP model, consciously choose to listen and arrive at Third Alternative solutions that are not “your way or my way, but  a better way”. They choose to apply the 8th Habit propounded by Covey8, which is “Find Your Voice and Inspire Others to Find Theirs.”

Most managers who are extremely efficient at individual performance fail as leaders mainly due to their latent feeling about other people. In short many managers do not make good leaders because they do not have an effective attitude toward working with other people, especially their own team colleagues.

The basic pre-conditions for empowering people would include:

  1. Receptiveness to other people’s ideas.  A good leader does not feel that his or her ideas are necessarily better than anyone else’s or, more specifically, that other people’s ideas are unworkable,  More importantly, she is willing to listen and learn from others, thus consciously working towards WIN/WIN agreements.
  2. A sufficiently placid disposition.  A good leader must be able to accept others’ doing things in a way that she or he would not do them.  This does not mean that the leader will accept absolute mistakes on a subordinate’s part.  It does mean that the leader must be willing to see others attempt to do things their way.  Further, the leader must be willing to forgo prejudging that way as unworkable when it in fact is still viable.
  3. A forbearance for mistakes.  An effective manager must forgo the luxury of irate criticism of subordinate.  Wreaking havoc is futile when a subordinate has erred.  Empowerment is encouraging people to do things their way.  This implies, of course, encouraging them to do them in an operable manner.  It does not, however, imply insisting that one’s own way, no matter how effective, is the only way to accomplish a task.  In fact, the PEP Model suggests that a leader should continuously praise team-members, thus motivating them for better performance.
  4. Powers of self-resistance.  The good leader must resist the temptation of stepping in and taking over even though the subordinate’s way of doing things seems inconsistent with what the leader thinks would be an optimal procedure.

 3.4. Praise

Leaders motivate by praising people. Leaders appreciate that team members at all levels work under stress and self-doubt. Even the best performers have a lurking fear that they are somehow going wrong.

Covey makes the following powerful statement about the need for Recognition and understanding that resides in everyone:

“People are very tender, very sensitive inside. I don’t believe age or        experience makes much difference.  Inside, even within the most toughened and calloused exteriors, are the tender feelings and emotions of the heart.”

To understand the Power of Praise, it is necessary to appreciate the concept of Emotional Bank Account, which Covey postulates. An emotional bank account is a metaphor that describes the amount of trust that has been built in a relationship. It is a feeling of safeness you have with another human being. Deposits are made in the bank account through courtesy, kindness honesty and keeping commitments. Successful leaders use every opportunity to top up their emotional bank account with team members. The best and arguably the most enduring method of doing this would be through honest, impartial praise, which is meant to encourage and motivate the team member.

While praise would make large deposits, criticism or punishment, however justified, would deplete the balance quickly and make the account overdrawn. In fact most team conflict situations stem from such indiscriminate and unnecessary withdrawals.

A good leader appreciates that team members need to be corrected and disciplined. She also accepts that criticism and threat of punishment would only aggravate the situation especially in view of the stringent regulations and statutory prescriptions. Therefore she chooses the PEP model and tries to locate at least three positive things that could be said about the team member’s performance. Having said it, she moves on to suggest meaningful and constructive suggestions that are capable of being implemented immediately in the work situation. In situations of extreme deviation from norm, the leader politely yet firmly, delivers the ultimatum. The whole exercise is carried out by questioning specific behaviour through descriptive observations that are based on fact rather than evaluative statements that are based on opinion. Most team conflict situations arise due to exchange of opinions rather than sharing facts about the situation. Once opinions are ignored and the facts are analysed colorlessly, the conflict may not survive.

The PEP Model prescribes Praise as a component because it is the most powerful positive influence that can influence as well as motivate people to perform far beyond their best performance levels.

  1.  Conclusion

It must be conceded that the PEP Model is a conceptual model.  Nevertheless, it is a compelling concept for the practitioner who is bent on improving organizational performance by changing his approach to the task and the people involved rather than by attempting to modify certain elements in the situation.

In conclusion the PEP Model is presented as a new paradigm shift  for leadership. A Paradigm shift away from the conventional model of leadership that defines leadership as an action or activity to one that appreciates that it is a role or attitude. It is not something that is done to others but something that is shared with others through a balance of Courage and Consideration brought about by the application of the Purpose, Empowerment, Praise (PEP) Model.

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