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How Theoretical Models Are Applied to Practice

This page is designed to answer the following questions:

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Note: These study notes are only designed to provide pointers to kickstart your learning journey. You will still have to perform your own research and do your own critical thinking.

To achieve this criterion, you need to research and analyse three of the leadership and management theories discussed in the previous section and discuss how they apply to adult care practice both in general and in your own practice.

You will be required to critically evaluate the theories that you choose to investigate. This means that you will need to research the perceived advantages and disadvantages of each theory and then form your own views about them, based on the evidence you have gathered and your own experience. The evidence that you gather to support your arguments should be from reliable sources, such as research papers, published books and peer-reviewed works.

Topics that you should consider discussing include:

  • Defining what makes a great leader and manager
  • Your role as a leader and manager
  • How do you identify and understand your own management style(s)?
  • Adapting management styles to meet the requirements of the role and with individuals and teams
  • Senior colleagues/team managers’ roles as managers (e.g. deputy, team leaders, supervisors etc.)
  • Others (e.g. homeowners, company directors, trustees, etc.)

We will take a look at each of these in turn.

Defining what makes a great leader and manager

The Great Man Theory and Trait Theory suggest that great leaders have inherent characteristics that cannot be learned, however, more modern theories suggest that anyone can learn the skills needed to be an effective leader. What do you think?

Regardless of the origin of the traits needed to be an effective leader, most theories do agree that great leaders have particular traits (although they may disagree about what these traits are). Take a look at what some of the theories suggest are the characteristics of an effective leader. Daniel Goleman (in his book Emotional Intelligence) suggests five competencies. Kouzes and Posner (The Leadership Challenge) suggest five practices.

You may also wish to make the distinction between a leader and a manager. Definitions vary but a manager may be considered task-oriented, whereas a leader is person-oriented. A manager is concerned with systems to get the job done (see Urwick’s Ten Principles of Management) and a leader is concerned with motivating others to work towards a shared vision.

Your role as a leader and a manager

Continuing the topic of the differences between a leader and a manager, which of these do you think best describes your own role? Are you task-oriented or people-oriented? Do you manage people or lead people? Or do you do both, depending on the situation?

How do you identify and understand your own management style(s)?

Lewin identified three leadership styles (autocratic, democratic and laissez-faire). Goleman (Emotional Intelligence) identified six leadership styles. Hersey and Blanchard (situational theory) identified four.  Reflect upon which of these styles come most naturally to you. Do you change your leadership style depending on the situation or the person?

Fiedler’s contingency theory suggested a method for determining a leader’s style, based on the Least Preferred Co-Worker model (or LPC scale). Maybe you could use this to identify your own style.

You could ask your own manager and the people that you manage what they think your style of management is, then reflect on how they differ from your own.

Adapting management styles to meet the requirements of the role and with individuals and teams

Contingency theories suggest that there is no single style of leadership that is effective for all situations and people. Instead, leadership styles should be adapted to meet the needs of the situation or the individual/team.

Hersey and Blanchard’s situational theory uses a model that makes changes in leadership style planned and deliberate. It describes how new team members will usually need a lot of direction as they learn their roles. Once they become more competent and confident, a more supportive and democratic style is used but the leader still defines the roles and tasks. As the team member becomes even more competent and confident they will require less direction but still require support. Finally, very competent and motivated individuals can be led in a more laissez-faire style.

This quote from Sam Warburton (rugby captain) explains how leadership styles may need to be changed depending on the individual.

“Being able to get the best out of people is key to being a leader. Some people need a kick up the arse every now and then; others need an arm around the shoulder.”

Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence and Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs may be used to establish which style is needed for a particular individual because they can help us become more mindful and understanding of an individual’s needs and motivations.

Senior colleagues/team managers’ roles as managers (e.g. deputy, team leaders, supervisors)

Your management and leadership styles will also affect the senior colleagues that you work with. You will need to have similar values and a clear understanding of your roles and responsibilities. You can delegate to these people but must ensure that they have the resources and support to carry out these tasks effectively.

Others (e.g. homeowners, company directors, trustees)

You may need to adapt your style when you communicate with partners or stakeholders that have an interest in the organisation. Homeowners can refer to the people that own the premises where you work, for example, a residential or nursing home. Company directors are concerned with the strategic direction of the business. Similarly, trustees are responsible for the strategy behind an institution or charity.

These people may need to be kept up-to-date about how the organisation is running because it will affect the decisions that they make. They will be responsible for allocating budgets so you should be able to make clear and persuasive arguments for the resources that you need. They will also need reassurance that you are leading effectively.

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