Douglas McGregor in his book, The Human Side Of Enterprise, postulated two theories on human management and leadership. According to Douglas, every leader can be said to be adopting either a ‘Theory-X’ or a ‘Theory-Y’ form of leadership. What then are these theories?

Theory-X leadership style holds the view that “human beings have an inherent dislike for work and can only be made to get results at work by the application of coercive methods, threats and by direction”. To such a leader, the best way to get his followers do something is to use his authority and capacity as the leader to give rules and instructions to follow. Nevertheless, anyone who fails to deliver their best gets punished in various ways while those who conform to these rules may be promoted.

Theory-Y leadership style, on the other hand, holds a different view. To him, “when workers or followers are provided with the right environment, they can reach their highest potential or can be of great value to their organization”. Thus, such a leader strongly believes Zig Ziglar when he says that, “you can achieve whatever on earth you wish to achieve if you help best others achieve what they want”. He seeks to it that all his equipment is in shape before scolding an employee for not using that equipment.

Inasmuch as these forms of leadership exist, we should remember that each one of them operates on a specific reason and medium. For instance, Theory-X leader is likely to be found in larger groups and organizations where the top-down approach of communication is adopted. Here, rules are made by managers and employees are required to conform to them. Also, this leader is more of results-oriented. He has no time for explanations and hence, may be seen as being “bossy” or harsh.

With the Theory-Y leader, one is likely to find him at smaller organizations or groups where there is much interaction with his followers or workers. He may be seen as employee welfare-based. He will like to know why followers do what they do and thus, might be the “soft-touch” and tolerant type.
One fact that must be made clear is that, though these theories may link to the size of the organization and the environment within which they operate, they are personality traits that do not follow any pattern. Thus, you can find a Theory-X leader in a five-member group and a Theory-Y leader in an international organization with thousand branches. Why?

People, basically, may adopt a theory based on their experience. For them, that may be what they came to meet. Others may choose a theory based on their make-up and mentality. Also, a leader can choose a theory based on the aim of the organization; an army group may not make excuses due to their training. The question is: What type of leader are you?

I may not be able to choose for you the style to adopt. You know yourself and know what you want to achieve as a leader. But, if you really want to achieve your goals as well as make people love you for leading them, I may advise you to choose to be a Theory-Y leader as no one likes to be oppressed to do what he ought to do. Think about it….!

Thanks for reading and please share your comments below.

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