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The Relationships between Effective Leadership, Effective Decision-Making and Empowered Self-Managing Teams

Leadership can be defined as a person’s ability to get others to willingly follow in the corporate world. A good leader should have a clear picture and vision of where he is heading. It is important that they also have a grasp that is strong and shows him how to achieve success and what it looks like. A good leader should have the capability of communicating the vision in terms that enable his teammates to accept it. Out of all resources available to a leader to achieve organizational goals, human resource is one of the most significant resources. In the event that human resources are utilized properly, then the organization will benefit greatly. Good leaders, who empower their team with responsibilities of decision-making, achieve more effectively than those who interfere with the daily affairs of their teams. A self-managed team is one that is semi-autonomous and self-organized in small groups that have members who are determined, planned and responsible in managing their daily duties and activities. In this paper, we are going to analyze the relationships between effective decision-making, effective leadership and empowered, self-managing teams (SMTs). We will thus include the definition, development and history of SMTs, importance of SMTs to organizations and corporations. The main idea here is that leaders should devote decision-making to SMTs.

Today’s environment is so competitive, and leaders are presented with so many options. Therefore, there is the necessity to understand self-managed teams and their benefits. The interrelationships between effective decision-making, effective leadership and empowering SMTs are significant in defining the level of success in leadership. During his inaugural ceremony in 1961, John F. Kennedy made a famous quote “do not ask what your nation can do for you, but instead, ask what you can do for your nation”. John F. Kennedy’s words exemplified a leader that is effective in empowering his team to make decisions that are effective. Just as, history has shown us John F. Kennedy, was a successful leader. But, what is the affiliation between empowered SMTs and effective leaders making effective decisions? In order for us to understand this relationship, we must first define what SMTs mean. Before defining the meaning of SMTs, we must first define something else.


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A self-managing individual does not represent SMT. Even though the said individual may be an organization’s skilled employee, self-management is about independent acting. Some researchers have defined SMTs as the collective process of democratic management and self-governance within an organization or company that results in services or goods, where there is no inherited right to capital to play a role in management and where all who contribute actively to production have the fundamental rights to oversee that production. An author named Gunn has defined SMT as a group of all employees who have day to day duty and responsibility of managing their work and themselves. Members of teams that are self-directed typically plan schedule work, handle job assignments and make decisions related to production while taking actions on problems that might arise during the process. Members of these teams are self-directing with very minimal direct supervision. From the given two definitions, it is very clear that SMTs need effective leadership and effective decision-making i.e. making decision related to production and taking actions on the problems.

The concept of SMTs started emerging over the last century when dictatorial management styles started to pave the way for more democratic approaches. One author, Kippenberger, says that this change was inclined to shift to knowledge work from manual work, the rise in standards of living and hence, expectations and the growth in educational sophistication and qualifications. We nowadays live in a society where people have so many choices, where people share the right to personal self-fulfillment widely. So many factors have influenced this shift like information access, gender revolutions and technological shifts. It was during this transition of leadership styles that organizations started paying closer attention to SMTs. Throughout proceedings that occurred so many years ago and were recorded; it is evident that effective decision-making and effective leadership have played a vital part in the progress of SMTs. A smut is not appointed or created – it is grown over time. It is guided and nurtured until it starts operating on its own. Glaser states that over time, the empowerment by the team leader switches to the team members, and in the process the team becomes self-empowered and self-managed. Glaser says that team leaders begin with a controlling or directing behavior through to coaching, a process that involves teaching and ensuring that others learn how to lead themselves.

As the process occurs, the team itself moves from carrying out the leaders instructions, through to participating, planning and finally taking control and responsibility. Further research in this field has shown that the evolution of SMTs occurs in five stages, which include normal hierarchical organization where the leader provides direct command and instructions; the leader then evolves into a group manager while the roles undergo the transition to team coach or coordinator. After this, the group manager becomes the team coordinator providing training and skills on more leadership duties. Eventually, the coordinator becomes a resource for the team. Considering both examples, the empowerment transfers from the leaders to their teams. This task is not just a simple delegation of responsibilities and duties; rather, it provides a long-term strategy of giving effective leadership skills alongside the ability to make decisions that are effective. Considering this increasing trend of companies and businesses to empower SMTs, we then have to know the benefits that organizations get. Some of the benefits of SMTs are reduction of cost price and improvement of quality, improved service in terms of increased customer orientation, reduction in delivery times, hence, increased productivity rates, increased flexibility by quicker response to changes in technology, it also improves efficiency by reducing operational costs, leads to low absenteeism rates, improved market position and efficient utilization of human resource through organization development. A research on 500 US companies was conducted in 1991, and it was evident that employees benefited, as well. 12% of the total companies that were included in the survey were of the opinion that SMTs are more pleasant working environments, because employees embrace the increased autonomy, responsibility and empowerment. The survey also proved that organizations and companies that offer employee empowerment attracts and retains employees and customers, as opposed to those organizations that provide a top-down approach.

On the other hand, there are disadvantages of SMTs. It was argued that SMTs may have disastrous effects due to conflicts in relationships. The conflicts are associated with lower individual autonomy and lower task dependencies which may result in a design that is potentially dysfunctional in self-management, and in turn, it might lower performance in comparison with other teams within an organization. This conflict may result in the breakdown of inter- relations and trust within SMTs which may lead to breakdown of individual autonomy, which may cause, task interdependence and trust to be non-beneficial. This shows itself with SMTs internal breakdown. Examples of SMTs that have empowered and effective leaders that utilize effective decision-making can be seen. One such example says that SMTs have always developed two leaders that are informal: the first is the leader who is task focused, and the second is the leader that is emotional. These leaders will in turn receive followers from among other members of the team because of their effective decision-making and effective leadership skills. For us to better understand this notion, we must first define in details what effective leadership and effective decision-making are. In the book “effective leadership”, two definitions have been given. The first one describes a leader as being a person with followers while the second one describes an effective leader as someone who can inspire others to give their maximum effort in order to achieve a goal that is worthwhile i.e. decisions that are effective. In relation to this definition, another author called Enya defines effective leadership involving group performance enhancements and maintenance of cohesion i.e. relationship focused versus task focused style. Once again, it is evident that both definitions reflect enhancement of group performance in making decisions that are effective.

Furthermore, some researchers on this issue reviewed some empirical investigations of charismatic leadership within companies and organizations. They found out those leaders who engage in behaviors that are theoretically charismatic result in the theoretical charismatic effect. They get high ratings in terms of performance. These types of leaders also have followers that are more dedicated and are highly motivated and satisfied. They are considered as more successful leaders by their followers and superiors than other leaders in positions of leadership. Once again, the display of effective leadership bonds with how effective decisions or rather, being charismatic can influence other members of the team to become followers that are motivated i.e. empowering the team. Likewise, when studying the definitions of decisions that are effective, it can be clearly seen how it closely relates to effective leadership. Take for instance. Enya’s definition stated that a high degree of acceptance and quality of choice was needed for effective decisions. (Linstaed, 2005). Therefore, an effective leader must recognize and differentiate between biases, facts, ideas and feelings. A distinction is not easy to make because biases and feelings are commonly veiled behind many rationalizations.

This definition shows us in detail how an effective leader must take these deliberations on board prior to his making decisions that are effective. Some authors have tried to examine effective decision-making from the following three perspectives: first as environments for decision-making where the important factors include incisive questions, appreciation, ease, information, feelings, encouragement, physical place and diversity. Secondly, as methods of decision-making where decisions are categorized as decisions by the authority with group discussion, experts, average of individual opinions, and authority with group discussion, minorities, consensus and majority vote. Thirdly, the tools for decision-making like multi-voting, brainstorming, affinity grouping and the criteria matrix. The foundation coalition noted that effective decisions are made when all the above environments have been set according to team efficiencies: the method that was chosen was decisions by consensus and all the tools were put in place. A study that was conducted by Abdul Aziz showed the results that employees preferred to work with owners who made their goals and policies clear and assigned responsibilities and duties to employees after they had approved the policies democratically.

This kind of effective decision-making led to a working environment that was better since it made employees to develop effectiveness in their jobs because the owners were concerned with the employees’ welfare. These types of results have the important outcomes as the leaders not only stand out as leaders, but they also develop their employee loyalty. A leader that is effective has the ability to establish loyalty and convert those around him or her into a SMT in case the task is required. Glaser had the idea that the manager would undergo a transition by converging into the role of team facilitator, as the team becomes self empowered and self-managing. With time, however, this effective leadership is played out and in the process, the transition of the team into SMT occurs. This occurs when the team observes, incorporates and learns the ways of leadership that is effective by following the steps of the original manager. Effective decisions are built to be one of the roles of effective frontrunners. An efficient leader understands the decision’s impact on their local, also to surrounding areas currently and in the future. One renowned researcher of this matter of effective leadership states that there is an end-to-end process that has to be included in decision-making. It involves; deciding on the decision to be made if it will be unique or regular, understanding, which areas will be affected in case the decision is implemented, using tools like cons and pros or SWOT analysis, identifying the conditions that are satisfied by the decisions, who will and who will not contribute in the decision-making process and measuring the ROI on the decision after the decision has been implemented. These considerations are among the traits of the roles of an effective leader also the traits of a SMT that is high-perfuming. Considering the fact that SMTs are made up of members who portray effective leadership skills while undertaking effective decision-making methods, one question still rises, should leaders assign decision-making to SMTs?

One article highlights examples of companies and organizations that have decision-making assigned to SMTs.

To begin with, there are general mills cereals plants found in California where SMTs have been implemented hence allowing the night shift teams to operate effectively in the absence of their managers? Secondly, there is the Saturn corp. which has empowered SMTs in order to illustrate how modern companies and organizations can utilize SMTs to their full advantage. The same article further discusses how Eastman Kodak and company have always been successful because they have been providing empowerment to their SMTs by allowing them to refresh and acquire more techniques that make their processes more efficient. Another example is how Texas management was able to reduce scrap by 60%, to reduce cycle time by 50% and an overall improvement in productivity by 30%, all because of implementing SMTs. In all of the above-mentioned companies, they have assigned decision-making to SMTs and have reaped the huge benefits of this structure within the organization. Proctor and Gamble were able to reduce their production costs by 30% and a 50% of the increase in quality, reliability and customer service. It was also seen that attributes like; decisiveness, toughness, and resourcefulness also increased positively. By using Proctor and Gamble as an example, the reduced production costs coupled with the increase in efficiency gives the indication that assigns SMTs to be making decisions. Another article gives detailed information about the organization, 3m on how its management supported the idea of SMT by giving employees empowerment to improve their work in order to get the results that were needed. This decision would be implemented by devolving decision-making to SMTs. This had the effect that it increased production gains by 300%. This acts as the best example of how managements’ trust and faith to empower SMTs to make their own decisions resulted in better results than were expected.

Another benefit that accrues from leaders devolving decision-making to SMTs is employee commitment. A study by Wageman, reviewing the impact of SMTs at Xerox found that one team was conducting its own experiments in order to increase the effectiveness of its product. It was this same team that was conducting a team meeting outside the normal working hours, and a team member who was on holiday flew in to attend the meeting. When asked about his arrival, he stated that each individual member was responsible for their own plans and schedules and that their plans had to ensure that customers were always satisfied. This level of responsibility and commitment is the result of empowering employees to carry out their own decisions that are effective within SMTs. A study on 2200 Volvo employees who were grouped into 150 SMTs indicated that SMTs lowers long-term absenteeism since task management relates positively to improved quality products by driving relations that are external and improving Volvo. These findings showed that when the managerial leaders’ assigned decision-making into the 150 SMTs, the organization recorded a positive outcome; it left the staff feeling happy because they felt like Volvo cared for them while being empowered to be more responsible and accountable, which made them, work efficiently and with a lot of motivation.

In the book “Wikinomics” by Williams, the Boeing Company is said to have changed its process of plane construction radically by opening up collaboration into each aspect of the design of their latest aircraft, the Boeing 787 dream liner. The Boeing Company harnessed the mass’ collaboration power pushing effective responsibility of each of the individual aircraft components and the individual manufacturers. Hence, Boeing created so many SMTs to come jointly and manufacture its aircraft. Each of these teams designed, tested, reviewed and developed their component of the plane structure that they were responsible for. This resulted in reduced manufacturing costs, a decrease in the time that it took for an aircraft to be completely put together because each team was given the responsibility to make effective decisions concerning components of an aircraft that they had mastered. If Boeing had not decided to open the floor of the plant to the hundreds of small SMTs, it could have been be assumed that it would lose a sizeable market share to Air Bus after the development of the A380 passenger aircraft as Boeing was held back building the dream liner.


In summary, after looking at the examples above, it is clear that, for an organization to perform effectively, leaders should devolve decision-making to SMTs. When implemented correctly, it has the result of guiding organizations to success. Today’s business environment is so competitive, and companies and organizations should try to improve their efficiencies while still having high levels of customer satisfaction and productivity. In order to achieve this outcome, SMTs should be utilized. Coming up with SMTs, filled with effective decision-making capabilities and effective leadership skills, provides leaders with the confidence that it will increase productivity and efficiency while ensuring employee satisfaction and optimum retention of skilled personnel.

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