AuthorPreda, Marian
  1. Introduction

    The persistent crisis context provides a venture ground and a naturalistic, go-live experiment for reshaping leadership styles that can 'make or break' an organization's reputation, success and very survival. An economic crisis is an exceptional situation in which the economy of a country experiences major negative changes with huge economic, social and cultural consequences. It is a significant transformation of the environment in which organizations are functioning and their leaders are making decisions. Contingency approach to leadership has emphasized the major role the context plays on the effectiveness of managerial or leadership styles (Fiedler, 1967).

    The aim of this research is to portray the leadership styles of Romanian managers working in several types of organizations, by means of a comparative analysis between the public and the private-owned economic sector in Romania. As further detailed in the methodology section, the study relies on 219 structured interviews conducted with public-sector and corporate leaders. The public-sector interviewees are predominantly middle-level civil servants from secondary education, healthcare, military and police, whereas a minority of 12 interviewees are political leaders, appointed at the local administration level. The analysis dwells on a set of interconnected dimensions that focus on the impact of the persistent recession on leaders' decision-making patterns concerning challenging or unpopular courses of action. In the context of a responsibility gap, skepticism and widespread mistrust of leadership in various realms of social life (applied to political leaders, to name just the more salient examples), it is important to determine the impact of decision-making as a core managerial function on enhancing the capital of credibility across organizations.

    The subsequent objectives follow:

    --To analyze the typology of challenging decision-making processes that managers implement, while deploying tactics to preserve their capital of trust and credibility under unfavorable circumstances;

    --To examine the autocratic and democratic coping strategies that managers employ when confronted with economic downturn across public and private sector organizations;

    --To explain the managers' self-assessment of advantages and shortcomings related to their own organizational position, mission and mandate in terms of authoritarian vs. democratic managerial styles; and

    --To highlight the manager's sense-making and projected self-image involved in the metaphorical identification with a famous leader or role model through the lens of authentic leader dimensions.

    The study intends to find relevant answers (derived from empirical findings) to the following research questions:

    --How is a manager's metaphorical identification with a famous historical leader shaped, in terms of behavior modeling, impact and expected outcomes?

    --How does a manager estimate the impact of the current economic downturn on organizational performance, learning and development prospects?

    --How does a manager assess the most suitable course of action when dealing with problematic decision-making, or the choice between autocratic and participative approaches?

    --What advantages and drawbacks do managers consider in a cost-benefit analysis of the leadership style that they practice?

  2. Theoretical perspectives

    2.1. Leadership models or styles?

    We frequently find references to 'leadership models' or 'leadership styles'. According to some authors, such as Lussier and Achua (2004, pp. 146-161), models and styles are interchangeable concepts. Beyond that assertion, authors use the notion of 'model' more often when discussing prescriptive models and more often 'style' (but also models) when talking about descriptive 'models' (Preda, 2006, p. 98 apud Lussier and Achua, 2004, pp. 159-161).

    Vernacular knowledge has spread the use of 'models' conceived as pre-established (aprioric) constructs or referential etalons, standards of practice, or behavioral examples that can be replicated, migrated and adapted to fit into biological or organizational life. 'Style' is used for describing distinctiveness, someone's unique way of performing an action (dressing, playing, speaking, etc.), which is challenging, if not altogether unlikely to imitate.

    The 'leadership model' is envisioned as a Weberian ideal-type or theoretical conceptualization that embraces particularities across multiple levels and layers of organizational reality. Conversely, 'a leadership style' is anchored into real-life ways of behaving in organizations. Theoretical leadership models inferred by scientists and researchers do not have a direct, best-fit equivalent in corresponding leadership styles derived from organizational practice (Preda, 2006, pp. 98-99).

    The criteria of analysis and evaluation sometimes overlap, get simplified or hybridized when scientific literature discusses leadership styles. Their descriptions most often originate from conceptual models, rather than organizational practice, and dwell on three core elements:

  3. theories (classical, human relations-based, contingency, transactional, transformational, behavioral, authentic, servant leadership, etc.);

  4. context (group/followers characteristics, nature of task--algorithm-type structure vs. heuristics-prone creativity, time pressure, control over resources, type of decision, etc.); and

  5. the two-fold purpose, either prescriptive (which normatively indicates to the leaders which model to use in a given situation) or descriptive (presents alternatives from which leaders can select the most suitable according to their own evaluation).

    Arguably the most conceptually fertile typology in leadership theory concerns the behavioral (and descriptive) polarization between autocratic and democratic models. These dichotomic, polar references encapsulate both explanatory power and practical applicability and do not represent ends of a continuum, as appears across normative approaches or Schmidt's model (Lussier and Achua, 2004, p. 147, pp. 157-158).

    We assume that the recent crisis has put achievement orientation under question in many organizations, and that it has probably emphasized the features of the autocratic leadership style even for those leaders who previously exhibited rather democratic behavior. When confronted with time pressure, cost optimization constraints and the stringent need to fulfill drastic performance standards, leaders tend to move away from a democratic, relationship-based approach and resort overtly to autocratic style that is solely task-oriented (Blausten, 2009; Peus et al., 2012).

    2.2. On authority, decision and authoritarian leadership

    Organizational theories usually approach the two concepts separately, i.e. authority and decision. In fact they are systematically intertwined, as we will argue using the theory of J.M. Bochenski (1974; 1992).

    The concept of authority had been used in sociological theory before Bochenski. In his essay, 'Politics as a vocation' (apud Gerth and Wright Mills, 1946), Max Weber discusses three types of authority which rely on three sources: traditional authority (representing power legitimized by respect for long-established cultural patterns), charismatic authority (as power legitimized by extraordinary personal abilities that inspire devotion and obedience) and rational-legal authority (also known as bureaucratic authority, legitimized by legally enacted rules and regulations and prescriptive procedures enacted within organizations).

    According to Bochenski, authority is a relationship between a Possessor (P), a Subordinate (S) and a Domain (D): 'P is an authority for S in the domain of D only if S acknowledges/admits that all assertions of P that belongs to the domain (D) are true' (Bochenski, 1992, pp. 21-22). 'True' means also genuine, real, correct and honest. 'Assertions' means statements, comments, opinions, but also decisions and actions. The directives could be considered predictions or decisions made by P and believed by S to be valid and true. The validity of decisions made by a leader is a key element for constituting and maintaining his or her authority. The logical process described by Bochenski explains the interdependence between authority and decision-making process in management and also between authority and other concepts such as competence or liberty.

    There are two types of abuse or misuse of authority: (i) on the wrong subordinate (S) (e.g. give orders to individuals who are not your subordinates); (ii) on the wrong domain (D) (e.g. you pretend being an authority on a domain you are not). People accept illegitimate authority due to charisma or ideologies, even if they do not believe in leaders' specific statements (Bochenski, 1992).

    The same author describes two types of authority. Deontic authority (from Greek language: deo-mai means 'I have to') relies on the appointment or selection of a person to occupy a leadership position within the organization. Epistemic authority (drawn etymologically from the Greek 'episteme' that means science and knowledge) reflects the accumulation of knowledge and know-how that the leader can share with coworkers. As an epistemic authority, the leader must gain authority, legitimacy and credibility or capital of trust through the proven validity of his/her statements, comments, opinions, decisions and actions. These should be considered valid and true by S.

    P could be appointed and must be accepted as the official leader endowed with deontic authority (more likely associated with politics in the sense of power and influence), but not as a professional, effective leader who has epistemic authority (expertise associated with technocrats). Recommending individuals who lack epistemic authority has a negative backlash on the recommender's own authority on the domain that concerns the recommendation, in the area of morality, or both. This negative transfer of non-authority...

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