Coercive Leadership In The Construction Industry Management Essay

The way to motivate employees is not through fear or domination, but through respect and ability to share a common goal. While the coercive leadership style seems to be the norm in the construction industry today, there is a positive side developing in the new age of management. Charismatic leadership style develops employees while maintaining a collective identity. The emotional state of the employee is essential to the willingness of effort of such employee. This is where a charismatic leader focuses most of its energy developing a positive atmosphere, where a coercive leader creates a negative one. This atmosphere is key to maintaining positive motivation and with this positive motivation comes greater achievement and superior production. In the end the employee, company and client all benefit.

The most imperative leadership roles come from highly successful companies and bring forth highly trained individuals. In the construction industry there has been little focus on the development of leadership, but a different form of leadership is starting to arise and bring more productive measure to industry. Two types of leadership will be focused on in this report; coercive leadership and charismatic leadership. Coercive leadership is an industry standard that has been passed on from generation to generation in the construction industry. Charismatic leadership has developed from the human understanding of the needs of individuals. This paper will show that, in the construction industry, charismatic leadership will produce more productivity than the coercive style of leadership

Today’s business world has developed into a highly competitive market, regardless of the industry, but particularly true of the construction industry. Bhargav & Koskela (2009) state that “Construction is a project based industry where each project is unique and brings a number of stakeholders who collaborate with each other at various stages during the project lifecycle.” (p.895). When considering the management aspect of the construction industry, a common challenge is the ability to motivate employees or as Piccolo, Greebaum, Hartog & Folger (2010) put it, to encourage the “willingness to exert effort” (p. 259). Such motivation can come from a lot of different areas, Broeck, Vansteenkiste, De Witte, & Soenens, Lens (2010) state examples such as bonuses, supervisory approval, guilt, and shame (p. 984). However, the best type of motivation comes from within the individual. To bring about this type of motivation, it takes a particular style of leadership.

There have been examples of employees not wanting to complete projects because the completion of the project would mean an end to their job. This is a common reality in the construction industry and leaves the employee in a transitional period between projects. Success in the construction industry relies upon having skilled employees complete projects correctly and in a timely manor. One solution to this problem is to employ the most desirable people and keep them employed even if there isn’t an immediate or specific project available. For example having employees on salary and/or keeping them working on minor tasks.

Implementing such an arrangement would be a role for management. Having strong management in your organization is as important as having skilled employees. Management must become leaders in an organization. The reason being, as Goleman (2000) has stated, is that leaders are the ones who develop a culture that motivates and inspires. This in turn creates results that are beneficial to the bottom line, for the company. The positive outcomes associated with inspiring employees are not limited only to increased profit margins, but also a sense of fulfillment for both leaders and employees alike. Kathuria, Partovi, and Greenhaus (2010) conclude that “…the use of effective leadership is positively associated with performance beyond the fixed effects of organization variables, such as competitive orientation and industry membership.”(p. 1096)

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For optimal success within an organization or company, the bond between leadership and employees is extremely important. In their research, Piccolo, Greebaum, Hartog & Folger (2010) state that “… leaders [have the ability to inspire favorable behaviors among employees, encourage high levels of pride and commitment to the organization, and shape the way employees perceive the work context.” (p.261). Therefore, the research suggests that leadership has a significant effect on the employees and since the business relies upon these very employees for its own success, the effectiveness of management is key to success overall. In order for employees to achieve optimum success, a good relationship with leadership is needed. Good leadership keeps an open mind; an example of this comes from Ooghe & De Prijcker (2008) acknowledging the fact that if leadership does not keep an open mind to all ideas it reduces its chance for survival in industry (p. 224).

Ehrhart & Klein (2001) define charismatic leadership as having characteristics that include, “risk-taking, goal articulation, high expectations, emphasis on the collective identity, and vision” (p.154). Ehrhart & Klein (2001) also state that, charismatic leaders tend to be more confident in employees ability to reach their goals, which in turn gives confidence to employees (p.158). Charismatic leadership develops pride among the employees who in turn develop a sense of ownership in the project. This sense of ownership then drives the employees to complete the project correctly and to the best of their ability. When this happens it contributes to the success of the company as a whole. In the case study by Ehrhart & Klein (2001), it was shown that a charismatic leader enjoys high performance of the employees and the employees that are attracted to charismatic leaders enjoy the open decision making process.

When negative outcome occurs in a company, this paper will be calling it a negative outcome. An example of a negative outcome would be when a construction company losses profit form a job they are completing. Ehrhart & Klein (2001) affirm employees that are attracted to charismatic leadership do not have a great sense of structure. This implies that they will lean on management for a greater sense of organization and direction. This lack of organization at the employee level could have a negative effect on a project. Love, Edwards, & Wood (2011) also suggest that there is a link between emotions and workplace craftsmanship. Which confirms that a disgruntled employee could be a hinderence to the work environment. Since not each employee is congruent to the charismatic leader, this leadership style would not be appropriate for everyone.

When positive effects are mentioned in this report, it means that when implemented within a company, the outcomes will be positive. Positive outcomes of construction businesses would include a high profit margin, a reputation that creates more opportunity and low turnover. Ehrhart & Klein (2001) present an example of a charismatic leader stating his or her vision, “I set high standards for my store manager. I expect them to work as hard as they can to reach those standards… I want them to realize how good they can be and how much they have to offer” (p162). This type of leadership sets a precedence in an organization and has an overall positive effect on all forms of employees. Ehrhart & Klein (2001) provide further understanding of the charismatic leadership style in a quote that states, “I don’t want my store managers to think of this as just another job. Instead, I try hard to make them feel like they’re a part of something special here, something big, something that’s going to make a difference in this organization.” (p.163). It is evident that charismatic leaders aim to evoke emotion when dealing with employees, from this emotional connection comes the drive toward overachievement.

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Coercive leaders use the power of coersion to control employees. Hakan V. Erkutlu & Jamel Chafra (2006) define coercive power as, “This is the power to discipline, punish, and withhold rewards; it is important largely as a potential, rather than an actual type of influence.” (p.287). Hakan V. Erkutlu & Jamel Chafra (2006) go on to give an example of the threat of discipline towards an employee not showing up on time will influence that employ to become more punctual. Goleman (2000) describes a situation where a computer company is in a crises mode and is in need of a major turnaround (p.82). By turnaround it is meant that the company needed a huge change. Goleman (2000) goes on to say that they brought in a coercive leader who “set to work chopping jobs, selling off divisions, and making the tough decisions that should have been executed years before.”(p.82). This rough mentality is demonstrated in the construction industry on a regular basis and is accepted among trades, however, there is a better option.

The positive effects of the coercive style of leadership are that it changes companies that have become stagnant. An example that Goleman (2000) has provided was that of a company that is on the verge of bankruptcy and hired a CEO that had a reputation of turning around companies. This newly hired leader made all the tough decisions and implemented solutions that should have been been done years ago (ex. Cut backs, layoffs ect.) As the research supports positive changes have been associated with coercive style of leadership, but Goleman (2000) states that, “the coercive style should be used only with extreme caution and in the few situations when it is absolutely imperative…” (p.83).

Coercive style has many negative qualities that affect the emotional state of the employee which would in turn affect the overall productivity of such employee. This is supported by Love, Edwards, & Wood (2011) who state that, “Construction managers who have a positive mood towards problem solving will invariably evaluate things more positively than those who have a negative mood”. As Goleman’s (2000) research suggests, the coercive leaders inability to have an open and flexible mind is one of many characteristics that is negative toward the success of the company’s future. Another example of a negative coercive leadership quality is the disrespect of employees, which in turn leads the employee to feel a lack of responsibility toward the project as well as a lack of accountability toward their own performance. This leads employees to become resentful towards leadership and even high-performing workers lose their pride in workmanship. But the most important characteristic that the coercive leader lacks is the intrinsic motivation of employees.

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Further describing the coercive leader, Goleman (2000), goes on to say that the “… impact of his insensitivity to the morale and feelings of those he leads will be ruinous.”(p.83). That being said, it is clear that coercive leadership techniques are detrimental for long term success in construction industry. Many successful organizations keep the high-performing employees employed at all costs. It is far more economical to maintain a high-performing employee than to continuously have to find and train new employees who may or may not turn out to be high performing. Most high-performing employees relate better to the characteristics of the charismatic leader than to the coercive leader. As Goleman (2000) has stated, the leadership quality of dominance over individuals cannot last in todays society. The reason that coercive leadership has maintained some sort of dominance in the construction industry is because projects have a short timeframe, which usually causes high turnover. Thus, long term relationships between management and employees are not always developed.

Charismatic leadership demonstrates positive actions which produce positive results. The more positive free thinking individuals there are in an organization, the more productive the organization becomes in general and in turn the overall success of the organization is greater. If a company is in a downward spiral and change needs to happen, then a coercive leader may be the solution to the problem. But for any growth to happen in an organization, a charismatic leader is the better choice of the two. Ehrhart & Klein (2001) state that the leaders realization that the employee could offer more than they themself realize is one of the keys to such growth. There is a drive a drive among humans to better themselves and since a charismatic leader encourages employees to reach their full potential this relationship works well. If there is potential within an employee to become a better person, more skilled at their trade, or even become a leader within the organization itself, then the charismatic leader would seek to encourage growth in this area. This shows the other employees that there is room for growth and opportunity. Furthermore, it creates an atmosphere of family and belonging within the team.

In the construction industry, there has been little focus on the development of leadership, but a different forms of leader are starting to arise and bring more productive measure to industry. The research suggests that in order for the construction industry to achieve maximum success, the motivation of the employees should be the most crucial priority. Industry should put aside the old style of coercive leadership and embrace the new age of thinking of charismatic leadership. Considering the emotional effects of both types of leadership on employees and the fact that motivation is the goal, charismatic leadership is the most rewarding. The research presented in this paper shows that keeping an individual motivated is a good way to make them more productive. Since employees are shown to be more productive when engaged in work, the success of the company is then more assured. Productivity will increase as the charismatic leader unifies the team with common goals. The team will then have the ability to anticipate each other’s actions. Thus becoming a well working machine that requires only a little maintenance here or there.

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