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Understanding the nature of leadership.

Determining the nature of leadership has been a challenge for sociologists for many years. While some individuals who take charge are predisposed toward leadership, research has not identified whether the ability to lead is to some degree inherent. Whatever the case, security managers can enhance their ability to lead by examining methods and styles that work.

One way of understanding the roots of leadership is to analyze the techniques used by supervisors in the workplace. Managers have many styles but all of their relations with employees fall generally into one of two sets of behavior. The first is related to people and the second to tasks.

Where a management approach is related to people, the supervisor will adapt his or her style to the needs and personality of the individual employee. Some people work well with little guidance. Others need more regular supervision, more detailed directions, and more frequent feedback.

Individuals who use a task-oriented strategy can alternate styles in response not only to the job at hand but also to the needs of groups and individual workers. A new or more complicated task, for instance, may require a higher level of involvement from the supervisor. The same group of employees handling routine responsibilities may function well without oversight. Tying the task to the activity allows the manager to apply various approaches to a single individual in different circumstances.

The other way to understand leadership is by examining two behavior strategies: directive and supportive. Directive behavior involves explaining to people exactly what to do and then closely supervising their performance. Supportive behavior involves listening to people, providing support and encouragement for their efforts, and then facilitating their involvement in problem solving and decision making.

Whether one should use supportive or directive leadership is largely determined by the development level of the employees. This developmental level is identified by examining the job, its requirements and the employee's skills. These different strategies--task-related and people-related approaches, as well as supportive or directive leadership--have the potential to overlap and interact. Managers should view the effectiveness of each approach in the context of their overall management style. The various components should form a coherent picture, creating a consistent leadership pattern that employees can thoroughly understand.

For any supervisory strategy to be effective, however, an individual must first have the authority to legitimize his or her actions. It does not matter if the manager's style is democratic or dictatorial. What is important is the right to take the initiative and direct the activities of others. At the most basic level, authority is exercised in one of two ways: structural and sapiential. Some security managers may need a degree of both to lead successfully. Structural authority is provided by the organization. It allows the leader to manage with a degree of independence over his or her staff. Often, this type of authority is built into the job description. It may be reinforced by organizational charts that clearly show lines of reporting authority or fields of responsibility.

The scope of structural authority is not, however, limited to subordinates. It may permit the supervisor to restrict movement within the premises or limit access to systems and documents both at and above his or her level. The manager may have formal rights to control and lead others in particular aspects of the job.

For example, in museums and galleries, in the United Kingdom, the chief warder is generally responsible for the direct management of the security staff. To this end, he works as a security adviser. At the National Gallery in London, he manages the uniformed staff. However, the warder exerts influence throughout the organization in his function as a facilitator.

This influence goes beyond his people management role for his security staff. Indeed, his staff may have rights of authority extended to them on his authority. He may limit or prevent access to areas of the building to all but the most senior members of the staff. He does this with the explicit approval of the senior management.

The authority afforded the security manager on the basis of knowledge and expertise is just as important as structural authority. This authority is known as sapiential authority. While it may not be formally acknowledged within the organization, it can be as significant as formal rights. Often, it is this sapiential authority that allows the security manager the ability to take the lead in his specialty to the very highest levels in the workplace.

To understand how effective sapiential authority can be, consider the case of the security threat facing major cities from the Irish Republican Army. Awaiting early privatization, British Rail has been anxious to project a user-friendly image. As part of that image, the company considered its baggage claim area an important customer service despite the security risk that was involved in allowing the public access to that area.

In the last two years, as bomb attacks became more frequent, British Rail attempted to maintain this service at main line terminals for the benefit of its customers. However, the company's security advisers, often low ranking British transport police crime prevention officers, were firmly in favor of withdrawing the service.

Although they are of a lower rank, their views on this matter prevailed. The security advisers took the lead on this issue by virtue of their specialty. Local senior officers on that division allowed themselves to be led by an officer of much junior rank who played an important role in their organization and whose judgment and conduct they trusted implicitly.

A leader must have authority to perform his or her function. While this authority can, as discussed, be formally or informally given by the company to the manager, its long-term effectiveness will depend on their intangibles. An important aspect of leadership is general acceptance of the person at the helm. True leaders do not need to constantly impose their authority directly.

The genuine leader must be armed with a range of skills and tools that evoke in others the desire to be part of the team. A leader should also be a visionary who is able to help develop and convey to others the company's future goals and objectives. It is not enough just to respond to each situation. He or she should be part of, and able to see, the big picture.

Leadership also requires consultation, not only with peers and senior management, but with staff members. A manager's effectiveness depends in part on the respect and acceptance of his or her employees.

Various management styles can lead to success, and managers should examine which approaches work best given their personalities and corporate culture. The right combination will make them valuable catalysts who help the company turn ideas into accomplishments and challenges into major successes.

Jim L. Smith is the security manager for Canary Wharf Management Ltd. in London.
COPYRIGHT 1994 American Society for Industrial Security
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1994 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Managing; managerial leadership
Author:Smith, Jim L.
Publication:Security Management
Article Type:Column
Date:Jan 1, 1994
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