Last Updated 12 Dec 2022

Leadership and Organizational Theory

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“Human relations” is a broad terminology that refers to the interactions between people in all kinds of situations in which they seek, through mutual action, to achieve some purpose. Thus, it can be applied to two people seeking to develop a happy and productive life together. More so, human relations establish interactions within a social club, a business firm, a school, or to an entire government or even a whole society. According to Owens (2004), the social structure that regulates the human interactions that are the subject of human relations may be formal, clear, and readily apparent (for example, a government, a firm), or it may be informal, even diffuse, and therefore difficult to accurately describe (for example, the power structure of a group of prison inmates, the social system of a school faculty, or a neighborhood).

As the world continues to change, work conditions, technology, and the people with whom individuals work have a dynamism about them that is unprecedented in our history. People are more likely today to work with more diversified peers than at any other time. Furthermore, their interactions at work are changing as well. This means that human relations will no longer entail employees in a bureaucratic organization. Instead, they are more likely to be part of a work team, and they are expected to work together to be successful in accomplishing tasks (DeCenzo & Silhanek, 2002).

Beginning in the mid-1950s, increasing attention was devoted to efforts to better understand the relationships among (1) these characteristics of organizational structure, (2) the personality (and consequent “needs”) of individuals in the organization, and (3) behavior on the job (Owens, 2004). The struggle to develop understanding of human resources approaches to organizational behavior has led to the development of a number of theoretical views that can be helpful in clarifying issues confronting the leader.

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The organizational theory is as much about describing and reflecting what is going on in organizations as it is about finding ways to improve organizational behavior. It is as much descriptive as it is prescriptive. However, there is not one correct organizational structure that will apply to a particular situation. The workers or subordinates within the organization promote the impact on how the organization will be managed by its leader. Workers' ethics, skills, and maturity will affect their response to management initiatives.

Since time immemorial, concepts of leadership, ideas about leadership, and leadership practices are the subject of much debate, writing, teaching, and learning. Many scholars sought the formula that could mold true leaders. According to James Kouzes (2003), leadership is not an easy subject to explain. The goal of thinking hard about leadership is not to produce great, or charismatic, or well-known leaders. The measure of leadership is not the quality of the head, not even the tone of his or her voice. Outstanding leaders shine appear primarily because of their followers. Thus, in defining leadership, there are a lot who offered their acquired concept of what a leader should be or do. Brown (1954) defined leadership as:

A collective function in the sense that it is the integrated synergized expression of a group's efforts; it is not the sum of individual dominance and contributions, it is their interrelationships. Ultimate authority and true sanction for leadership, where it is exercised, resides not in the individual, however dominant, but in the total situation and in the demands of the situation. It is the situation that creates the imperative, whereas the leader is able to make others aware of it, is able to make them willing to serve it, and is able to release collective capacities and emotional attitudes that may be related fruitfully to the solution of the group's problems; to that extent one is exercising leadership.

On the other hand, Tom Peters and Nancy Austin, authors of the best-seller, A Passion for Excellence (1985) describe leadership in broader terms:

Leadership means vision, cheerleading, enthusiasm, love, trust, verve, passion, obsession, consistency, the use of symbols, paying attention as illustrated by the content of one’s calendar, out-and-out drama (and the management thereof), creating heroes at all levels, coaching, effectively wandering around, and numerous other things. Leadership must be present at all levels of the organization. It depends on a million little things done with obsession, consistency, and care, but all of those million little things add up to nothing if the trust, vision, and basic belief are not there.

With those definitions, we could delineate leadership as harnessing capabilities of your subordinates for them to reach their full potentials. Therefore, leaders should see to it that: are the followers reaching their potential? Are they learning and serving? Do they achieve the required results? Do they change with grace? Do they know how to manage in times of conflict?

With these questions, it is significant to point out the diverse natures of leadership. The social nature of leadership entails the interpersonal skills necessary to be effective in a variety of situations. The ethical nature of leadership involves the inherent power of a leadership position that, when exercised, should benefit the common good. Leadership is the means by which things get done in organizations. A manager can establish goals, strategize, relate to others, communicate, collect information, make decisions, plan, organize, monitor, and control; but without leadership, nothing happens. Thus, leadership clearly entails more than wielding power and exercising authority and is exhibited on different levels. At the individual level, for example, leadership involves mentoring, coaching, inspiring, and motivating (Kreitner & Kinicki, 2004).

Corporate organizations in the 1980’s have been adopting and installing programs of organizational restructuring and re-engineering. Most of the programs are based on the principles and practices of a widely popular management strategy often called Total Quality Management, participative management or "the learning organization," or some other vernacular title for a program of organizational structural and cultural change (Casey, 1999). These changes were then had been aptly devised in different corporate organizational and national settings that deals with organizational behavior. Theories of sharing the common fundamental aims of the reorganization and production of new sets of attitudes, beliefs, and behavior, most organizational change programs commonly aspires to develop on their corporate employees to enable increased productivity and profitability for the organization’s benefit as a whole:

Pivotal among the new organizational cultural practices and values are the metaphors of "team" and "family." Many companies, from manufacturing operations and supermarket chains, to hospitals and airline companies, promote themselves in the marketplace and to employees as caring, familial communities, inviting both employees and customers to "Come, join our family" through their involvement with the company. At first glance, such an invitation may seem a timely and welcome recognition of relational and affective dimensions of human life that "ought" to be promoted in workplaces historically ridden with industrial conflicts and divisions. Furthermore, team evokes references to cooperation and sharing of skill and labor toward the attainment of shared goals. Both family and team, are, in normative conditions, positive and generative social practices. Therefore, their deliberate installation as part of the new organizational culture fundamentally assumes their reasonable incontestability and universal attractiveness. (Casey, 1999).

By leading into a culture of systematic inquiry and skillful listening, leaders can strengthen the foundation of their organizations. Accomplishing this requires the shifting of culture wherein leaders should scrutinize how dysfunction shows up within them, their group, and their organizational culture and then seek a systems approach in dealing with these problems within the organization. Good leaders know when and to whom a particular task should be delegated (i.e., knowledge), they effectively communicate their expectations concerning a delegated task (i.e., behavior), and they check to see whether the task was accomplished in a satisfactory manner (i.e., criteria). Thus, a skill is knowing when to act, acting in an manner appropriate to the situation, and acting in such a way that it helps the leader accomplish team goals (Hughes, Ginneth & Curphy, 2001). In addition, good leaders also know when to institutionalize organizational change when they think that they need it to improve their company’s productivity.

In this time and age, upcoming leaders face tougher challenges as the whole world braces from the rapid spread of information and technology. Apart from that, the expansion of the traditional businesses into venturing in e-commerce and globalization had kept leaders busy thinking of up-to-date business strategies, new competitors, new cultures, complex markets, political uncertainty, and huge logistical problems.

As a process, leadership in all its stages requires application of organizational theory and human relations to determine the best possible leadership action. The knowledge and skill level of the duly-appointed leader directly and indirectly influence the short-and long-run goals of any organization. Interpersonal relationships significantly influence the possible alternatives that might be generated to solve a problem or to make a decision. The creative leader who possesses innate intelligence, resourcefulness, dominance, and self-sufficiency will be able to facilitate what the proper course of action should be.

Organizations in the 21st century are realizing that if they are not quick to adapt to market and competitive changes and become responsive to their key customers, they will have more tendencies to fail. Indeed, the ultimate impact of the practice of leadership in the era of globalization is that leaders should somehow come at pace with the swiftly changing times. Being a global leader is not just a pursuit for self-improvement, but harnessing the energy of other people.  In the end, it is the global leaders who determine the roadmap, a mixture of traditional and modern concepts, which will guide both themselves and their organizations to new heights of international competitiveness.


  • Brown, J.A.C. (1954). The social psychology of industry. Baltimore, MD: Penguin Books, pp. 129–130.
  • Casey, C. (1999) Come, join our family: discipline and integration in corporate organizational culture, Human Relations, 5 (2), 155–178.
  • DeCenzo, David A. & Silhanek, Beth. (2002). Human relations: Personal and professional development (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall PTR.
  • Hughes, Richard L., Ginnett, Robert C., and Curphy, Gordon J. (2001). Leadership: enhancing the lessons Of experience. New York: The McGraw−Hill Companies.
  • Kouzes, James. Everyone's business — leadership for today and tomorrow. The Leadership Challenge, 3rd ed. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2003.
  • Kreitner, Robert and  Kinicki, Angelo.(2004). Organizational behavior. New York: The McGraw−Hill Companies.
  • Owens, Robert G. (2004). Organizational behavior in education: Adaptive leadership and school reform (8th ed.). NJ: Prentice-Hall - Pearson Education Company.
  • Peters, Tom and Austin, Nancy K. (1985). A passion for excellence: the leadership difference. New York: Random House, Inc.

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