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Finding the Right Fit

Effective leaders must make certain that they utilize a leadership style that is a good fit with the motives at play in the organization. For instance, whether the leader engages an Authoritarian Style or Participative Style depends upon the motives observed. To help us, let’s look at Bruce Winston’s classifications of motive:
1) “Me” motives rest in the desire by the leader to see his/her image enhanced or his/her vision/goals achieved.
2) “We” motives focus the efforts of all for the good of the organization and drives the persuasive behavior of the leader to gain compliance from the follower.
3) “Thee” motives are concerned with the goals and needs of the follower. Here the pattern is sometimes reversed. The leader does not set out to persuade the follower to achieve the leader’s goals but rather the follower sets out to discover the leader’s goals and works to achieve them in an altruistic manner.
4) “It” motives show that sometimes the leader’s motive is not about relationship but about task only.
These can be divided into two categories. I will call them intrinsic motive and extrinsic motive. Intrinsic has to do with motives that are developed through an inward lens and are more “self” oriented. Extrinsic, on the other hand, deals with motives that are seen through an outward lens and are more “others” oriented. . “Me” and “It” motives are intrinsic while “Thee and “We” are extrinsic in nature. Once this is discerned, the leadership style needed becomes clearer. Using Lewin and White’s distinction of leadership styles we see the Authoritarian Style as foundationally autocratic and more classical in nature. This style is used when leaders tell their employees what they want done and how they want it accomplished, without getting the advice of their followers. The Participative Style is foundationally democratic and is more delegative in nature. This style involves the leader including one or more followers in the decision making process. An intrinsic motive would call for an Authoritarian approach while an extrinsic motive would find the Participative Style a better fit.


Winston, Bruce. Leadership Style as an Outcome of Motive: A Contingency ‘State’ Rather than ‘Trait’ Concept. Regent University School of Leadership Studies

Lewin, K., LIippit, R. and White, R.K. (1939). “Patterns of aggressive behavior in experimentally created social climates.” Journal of Social Psychology

Rajiv Mehta; Alan J Dubinsky; Rolph E Anderson. Leadership style, motivation and performance in international marketing. European Journal of Marketing; 2003; 37, 1/2; ABI/INFORM Global