Reasoning Skills for Leaders

1699 Words Nov 30th, 2009 7 Pages
Reasoning Skills for Leaders

Q: Critically discuss why management and leadership development programs place more importance on rational and technical capabilities than emotional ones.

Leadership has been defined as “the ability to influence a group towards the achievement of a vision or set of goals”, and managers as “people who achieve goals through other people” (Robbins et al 2008, 695). With these definitions in mind, it would seem that appropriate training for leaders and managers would be highly people oriented; developing emotional intelligence skills, communication skills and appreciating the role of human emotion within the workplace. However, the focus of such programs has been, and still is to a large extent, on technical
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(Fairhurst 2008, 321).

For many decades, the lack of predictability of managerial theories was ignored (Dutton, Thomas and Butler 1984, 222). Unsupported managerial beliefs continued (Dutton, Thomas and Butler 1984, 220; Donaldson 2002, 96), and the ignorance of emotions role in the workplace persisted.

However, in the 1970’s and 1980’s the pendulum gradually began to swing away from a sole reliance upon rational and technical thinking, and towards recognition that emotions have greater sway than was previously thought. Two psychologists, Kahneman and Tversky, investigated how people made decisions. Their revolutionary work indicated that instead of ration, people often used ‘heuristics’, or emotional shortcuts (Ripley 2009, 31). Emotions were finally being recognised as a legitimate factor.

Around the same time, the business environment was changing rapidly. Increased competition, technological changes, globalisation and vastly improved speed of information (Rousseau 1989, 123; Reeve 1992, 3; Clawson 2006, 27) required organisations to adapt and change the way they operated. For managers, decision making “‘strictly by the numbers’ became increasingly hazardous as new variables emerged that defied being quantified” (Hancock 1998, 41). However, as Hancock (1998, 41) illustrates, “when business looked to MBA programs to provide that new leadership, it more likely found the source of its problems than their solution”. Whilst
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