Management Matters: Leadership

March 11, 2010
Its effect on management

Leadership and management are both important to an organization. Leadership power comes from personal sources, not from organizational structure. Leadership power promotes: vision, creativity, and change in an organization. Management power comes from organizational structure. Management power promotes: stability, order, and problem solving within an organization.

Leadership success focuses on the leader’s personal characteristics or traits. Traits are the distinguishing personal characteristics of a leader, such as intelligence, value, and appearance. However, leadership traits alone will not make him/her a true leader. A leader must focus on the dynamics of the relationship between leaders and followers. The following summarizes the physical, social, and personal leadership characteristics that have received the greatest support from subordinates.

Autocratic vs. democratic leadership
When determining leader characteristics, we should examine autocratic and democratic leadership styles.

Autocratic leader: A leader who tends to centralize authority and relies on position power (legitimate, reward, and coercive power) to manage subordinates.

Democratic leader: A leader who delegates authority to others, encourages participation, and relies on personal power (expert and referent power) to manage subordinates.

Leadership performance
The subordinates with autocratic leadership:

  • Will perform highly so long as the leader is present to supervise them.
  • Will not be pleased with this style of leadership.
  • Will have feelings of frequent hostility.

The subordinates with democratic leadership:

  • Will perform just as highly as autocratic leaders when he/she is present.
  • Will have positive feeling with this style of leadership.
  • Will perform well even when the leader is absent.

Authority is often misused and misunderstood
Few things in business and industry today are more misused and misunderstood than authority. Some supervisors fail to use it when it should be used. Others try to show it when it doesn’t belong to them, and some even use it to flagrantly dominate other people.

Many people do not understand that authority carries with it obligations of respect in two ways. The individuals with authority must respect the problems and needs of their subordinates. Subordinates should respect the authority of the leaders who are responsible for providing guidance and supervision.

Authority is often overused; new supervisors and experienced ones who are assigned special projects are especially vulnerable. If you are unaccustomed to directing or coordinating the efforts of others, be careful. Don’t let your newly acquired authority affect how you handle people. When authority is overused, cooperation is hard to come by.

Power is the potential ability to influence the behavior of others. Power represents the resources with which a leader effects changes in employee behavior. Sometimes power comes from a person’s position in the organization, while other sources of power are based upon personal characteristics.

The traditional manager’s power comes from the organization. The manager’s position gives him/her the power to reward or punish subordinates in order to influence their behavior. Legitimate power, reward power, and coercive power are all forms of position power used by managers to change employee behavior.

Power comes from a formal management position in an organization and the authority granted to it is called legitimate power. When a supervisor has been selected, most workers understand that they are obligated to follow his/her direction with respect to work activities. Subordinates accept this source of power as legitimate, which is why they comply.

Reward power comes from the authority to give rewards to other people. Managers may have access to formal rewards, such as pay increases or promotion. They also have at their disposal such rewards as praise, attention, and recognition. Managers can use rewards to influence subordinates’ behavior.

The opposite of reward power is coercive power. It refers to the authority to punish or recommend punishment. Managers have coercive power when they have the right to fire or demote employees, criticize, or withdraw pay increases.

In contrast to position power, personal power most often comes from internal sources, such as a person’s special knowledge or personality characteristic. Personal power is the tool of the leader. Subordinates follow a leader because of the respect, approval, or caring they feel for the individual and his/her ideas. Personal power is becoming increasingly important as teams of workers are less tolerant of authoritarian management in today’s businesses.

Power resulting from a leader’s special knowledge or skill regarding the tasks performed by follows is referred to as expert power. When the leader is a true expert, subordinates go along with recommendations because of his/her superior knowledge. Leaders at supervisory levels often have experience in the technical knowledge that gains them promotion. Top managers may lack expert power because subordinates know more about technical details than they do.

Referent power comes from a leader’s personality characteristic that commands subordinates’ identification, respect, and approval so they wish to follow the leader. When subordinates admire a supervisor because of the way he/she deals with them, the influence is based on referent power. Referent power depends on the leader’s personal characteristic rather than on a formal title or position.

Exercising authority
Every supervisor wants to feel comfortable with authority and exercise it like a pro. However, it isn’t easy for those who just acquire it and are accustomed to following orders. Those supervisors experienced with the ins and outs of authority say you should adopt the following techniques:

  • Be aware that authority can go to your head if you are not careful.
  • Realize that the best supervisors are those who don’t flaunt their positions.
  • Clarify in advance what authority you do and do not have before exercising it.
  • Recognize that the purpose of delegating authority is to get a job done, not to show that you are the boss.
  • Be polite and considerate when exercising it.
  • Try to promote team spirit when exercising authority.
  • Avoid using authority when you sense that simple persuasion will do the job.

J.D. McHenry, president of Global Jet Services, has been involved in numerous aviation maintenance and flight operation programs for more than 31 years. His background includes aircraft manufacturer, corporate flight operations, FAR 91 and 135 operations, aircraft management, repair stations, and fixed base operations. He holds A&P, IA, and Doctorate of Business Management. For more information on Global Jet Services, visit