Rita Y. Allen
Management leadership has been a subject of great controversy for over a century. Some have spent their lives
in search of the most productive method to lead the masses. We have run the gambit of the very tightest controls, such
as timing bathroom breaks, to no control at all, allowing the employees to run the show. Neither extreme has stood the
test of time. Because leadership will affect another person’s life forever, either negatively or positively, it
should never be taken lightly. There are many great researchers who feel the same way: Kurt Lewin, Douglas McGregor,
Fred Emery, just to name a few. A leader with the ability to help each employee mature into confident, contributing
adults is a premium. Leaders who are able to maintain their authority while instructing, training, encouraging and empowering
are priceless. Theory X/Theory Y, Immaturity/Maturity, Autocratic/Participative/Laissez-Faire, Authoritarian/Democratic
are examples of important theories, models and principles.
In the world of daily change, not much remains the same, and yet, stability is the hope of almost every employee.
Businesses are faced with leadership decisions continuously, many times because they are not able to efficiently evaluate
and hire leaders that can lead people to maturity. With the turnover in the healthcare industry, today more than ever,
we need leaders who not only know what they are doing, but who are willing to be lifelong students constantly learning new
and effective ways to lead.
Since Douglas McGregor’s Book, The Human Side of Enterprise, was written in 1960, the business world of leaders
has effectively been divided into two groups: Theory X and Theory Y. McGregor asserted that Theory Y people were
ready to take full responsibility, had a desire to grow and achieve, cared a great deal about their jobs and really wanted
to do excellent work. The Theory X leaders believed most people were inherently lazy and irresponsible, needed to be
very tightly controlled and needed their work broken down into tiny pieces or they were sure to make a mess of things. Frederick
W. Taylor’s development of scientific management was the forerunner to this theory. Theory X leaders not only
allowed no tolerance for mistakes, but the entire working atmosphere was anti-learning. There was no trial and error,
give and take, experimentation, no life; there was time clocks, stringent work rules, timed bathroom breaks, adults treated
like children, expectations of delivery with no understanding, a ten cent raise once a year and a ham at Christmas (Weisbord,
2004). In order for any living entity to grow and thrive, there must be constant, consistent learning. Theory
Y leaders embraced the “learning organization.” Mistakes would be allowed because growth only comes through
trial and error, through making mistakes, and learning how not to do things the next time. Theory Y leaders find new
life springing up everywhere, relationships deepen, people become more productive, and, eventually community is formed (Weisbord,
Although the business world will assert that Theory X leadership is no longer widely used, Chris Argyris would disagree.
It is still a widely used leadership model in business. This leads to individuals being treated as very immature.
It creates a workforce of “plastic” people
who wear a variety
of masks to hide who they really are because the person they really are would be unacceptable. Relationships are not
authentic, which breeds suspicion, which breeds mistrust, which breeds a hostile working environment. Ultimately, when
a person is treated a certain way for so long, they become who they are projected to be. These bureaucratic-pyramidal values
are responsible for many business organizational problems the business world suffers today (Hersey, 2008).
This paper will examine Argyris’ Theory of Immaturity-Maturity and Participative Management, and will compare
the two theories as how they apply to Brookdale Senior Living, the largest retirement corporation in America.
Chris Argyris began his career with an unrelenting desire to reduce injustices. He was intrigued with the ability that
humans have to maintain corrosive and non-learning features. There were no universities that taught these counterproductive
skills, so “how do we explain their omnipresence and perseverance,” Argyris questioned? This presence was
accompanied with the inability to learn or detect error. He pondered how we human beings became so skilled at non-learning.
These actions could only thrive if they are reinforced by environment, such as organizations. We create the very systems
that sanction our self-defeating actions. Initially, Argyris blamed the leaders who had power over others, thinking
that they could offer liberating alternatives. After extensive research, he found that those leaders were not fully
able to do that without the early involvement of their subordinates. In his 1957 study, he arrived at
the conclusion that
organizations, through hierarchies and managerial controls, had created a work world that kept human beings in a state of
infancy. He even went further to say that those individuals who actually wanted an adult work environment would probably
experience conflict and become frustrated. Then there were those who didn’t care what they had to adapt to, as
long as they drew their paycheck and had reasonable security. To go one step further, because of the paternal position
that management had assumed, the hygiene factors were supplied as well (Argyris, 2003).
Argyris believed that this state of infancy was not caused by individual laziness, but rather by management practices.
Employees are not given sufficient control of their environment and they are taught, by both management and other peers, to
be subordinate, dependent and passive. These are learned traits. These are the traits of infants; therefore, they
act with immaturity. This vicious scenario is built into the nature of organizations creating giant beasts that devour
their young. Power and authority belongs at the top (parent); those at the bottom are controlled (children); tasks are
simplified (repetitive, boring and unchallenging); leadership is directive (demands, square peg in square hole); decisions
made by managers and workers carry out orders (obedience). What else can we expect (Hersey, 2008)?
The world has been flooded today with do-good, self-help manuals designed to bring humans to their fullest potential.
Chris Argyris wrote the book, Flawed Advice and the Management Trap that elaborates on how this advice won’t work.
He further says that the problem is not with the authors, but with the faulty logic naming the inconsistency as, “skilled
unawareness.” It’s great to Live Your Best Life, Heal Your Life, develop the 7 Habits of Highly Effective
People, and Become a Better You. You can even search for The Secret, The Law of
Attraction and The Purpose Driven Life but successful
business cannot happen until the work environment encourages internal commitment rather than just external commitment and
change. Internal commitment creates motivation; external commitment alone creates bondage. Leaders must learn
to lead in a way that brings forth internal commitment. For example, when a leader says they support the theory of open
and honest discussion, but never allow it, they are setting themselves up for employee dysfunction. The bickering and
discontent will mount and production will wane (Hicks, 2001).
On the other hand, when humans are treated with democratic values, the result will greatly increase organizational effectiveness.
Work will be exciting and challenging. Individuals will have the opportunity to develop and mature into contributing
adults (Hersey, 2008).
Experiments with participative management began as early as the 1920’s, although many managers were reluctant to sign
on. The depression was looming and jobs were scarce. It was much easier to issue orders and push people around.
The seventies brought the struggle against foreign competitors and participative management picked up steam. Asking
the employees how they might improve their work and then allowing them to do it was very eye-opening. A study done of
101 industrial companies found that those who had participative management outscored the others on 13 of 14 of the financial
measurements. The concept seemed to spread like wildfire. “’The problem with participative management,”
says Raymond E. Miles, dean of the University of California’s business school at Berkeley, “is that it works.’”
The management theory was a real threat to hard-line bureaucracy, therefore, many efforts to
In the early 80’s, three fourths of all attempted programs failed. The reason did not lie with the workers; it
was management. Most of them were not interested in changing behavior and organizational structure (Saporito, 1986).
In his article, The Fantasy of Formalized Participative Management, Roy Lobenhofer dispels the possible prescribed band aid
of participative management through formalization. In the perfect scenario of participate management the teams make the decisions;
the boss supports whether he agrees or not; the boss takes the blame if something goes wrong; employees support decisions
made by other teams; employees are happy; the bosses are happy; all decisions were unanimous. Sounds like a utopia,
and probably is. So, the question was asked, do we need to formalize participate management? That’s like
cutting off your nose to spite your face, as the old saying goes. The very reason participative management worked so
well in the cases where it flourished was because it was natural, not formalized. Here again, the answer lies in empowering
people rather than manipulating/mandating people. Formalization means requiring employees to be members of teams, spend
time in meetings, spend time on something just to have the boss veto it, wasting time waiting for the last member of the team
to show up for a meeting, catching up the person who missed the last meeting, and so on and so on and so on. Empowered
teams work because ideas are encouraged to blossom naturally, managers listen to and value the input of the employees, and
collaboration happens when it is convenient, reducing the loss of production time (Lobenhofer, 2002).
The American Society for Public Administration has published research in both the public and private sector, and multiple
regression analysis, which shows that participative management does improve job satisfaction. Historically, management
theory has shown the
advantages of focusing
on human motivation. Participation is where influence is shared among those who would otherwise be at different levels
of the hierarchy. Not only is this good for the company, but has been shown to be beneficial to the workers’ mental
health and job satisfaction.
The common way to label a management style is by how much authority the manager has. Autocratic managers give very little
authority to their employees. This means that communication goes one way, downward. The Laissez-faire manager
gives a great deal of authority to the employees and communication is typically superficial. The Participative manager
retains authority but makes decisions only after seeking input from the employees. These managers highly encourage employee
involvement and consistently make provision for two-way communication (Nowicki, 2008).
Kurt Lewin was an early proponent of democratic leadership. By the 30’s his work was known throughout the world
of social science and psychology. One of Lewin’s experiments involved a volunteer boys’ club where the leader
led the group democratically for several
meetings and then
autocratically for several meetings. Acting as authoritarians, the leaders “dominated, set goals, issued instructions,
interrupted, made all decision, and criticized the work.” The boys argued much more than when led democratically.
They were more hostile, fought amongst themselves, scape-goated the weaker members, and damaged their materials and toys.
Some of them lost their initiative and became lifeless showing no concern for group goals. As democratic leaders (participative)
the groups shared cooperation, set group goals, developed friendliness and stuck to their task together. All the while
Lewin was running a movie camera behind the scenes filming these remarkable differences. One of the group leaders, who
was less experienced than the other leaders, allowed the boys to do what they wanted (laissez-faire). The boys became
frustrated with the lack of direction. They started having feelings of inadequacy and blaming their unhappiness on the
weaker members. Lewin was amazed at how quickly the actions of the boys changed when the leadership changed. Additionally,
(as the movie camera captured) the acts and attitudes of the boys was even more amazing when their leaders left the room.
The boys in the autocratic group picked on the weaker members, goofed around instead of working and even destroyed some of
their own work. The boys of the democratic group hardly noticed that their leader had left and kept working. In
the laissez-faire group, they quickly became bored and some started wondering around the room. What this experiment
proved was that the differences could not be contributed to the differences in individuals; it was the difference in leadership.
Another note-worthy action was how quickly the children who went from a democratic leadership to the autocratic leadership
reduced in demeanor, excitement and became closed…less than 30 minutes. It was also noted that it took much longer
for the children
to go from autocratic
leadership to democratic leadership; a powerful lesson to those desiring to change management models (Weisbord, 2004).
Mary Parker Follett lived from 1868 to 1933. She was a management scholar who believed that management was “the
art of getting things done through people,” but her assertion was worker participation and shared goals among directors
and managers. Her administrative principles were used by many businesses of her day (Daft, 2007). It seems that there
has always been an advocate, albeit a quiet one, that has voiced the need for worker participation and less authoritarianism,
but when the age of industrialization came along, it appeared that those voices were almost inaudible. Organizational
behavior was so deeply embedded in the culture, that although we have made some strides back to human democracy, we still
labor today with injustices in the workplace.
A published report of the study, Inspired Leadership, an Insight Into People Who Inspire Exceptional Performance, gave the
following three main characteristics that employees long to see from their leaders: -Genuine shared vision from executives
– Leaders showing confidence and trust in their teams – Respect from line managers and customers. The single
most important thing that employees wanted to see from their leaders was “inspiration” although only one out of
ten felt they had that at work. (Dourado, 2005).
On June 26, 2006 American Retirement Corporation (ARC) and Brookdale Senior Living, Inc. (BKD) merged. Brookdale was,
and is, the leading owner of senior living in the United States. American Retirement Corporation was established in
1978 and held 83 senior
in 19 states at the time of the merger (PR Newswire, 2006). Today, Brookdale has 550 communities across the US (Brookdale,
2008). The merger brought about many changes. The CEO of both companies became Co-CEO’s of the new entity.
February 7, 2008, Mark Shulte was elected to the Board of Directors. He stepped down leaving Bill Sheriff as sole Chief
Executive Officer of the company. Shulte had 17 years building Brookdale and Sheriff had 23 years building ARC (Reuters,
Galleria Woods Retirement Community (GW), owned by Brookdale Senior Living, is located on 20 acres in beautiful Hoover, Alabama.
It is an upscale, entry fee, lifecare retirement community. There
are approximately 150 employees (110 full-time and 40 part-time). We are an independent living community for adults
55+ with Assisted Living and Skilled Care on campus. The corporate culture
of Brookdale is on the left side of Participative. Although directives come from the top down, there is much freedom
allowed within each community and there is a flow of communication in both directions. The managers retain their authority,
but make decisions after seeking input from both the employees and the residents. It is assumed that all levels should
contribute input to the local decision-making process. This is not something that can be asked for; it must be fostered
by the attitude of the community. The attitude and personality of GW is a very positive and upbeat. The clientele
is younger than most rental communities and very actively involved in all six areas of Optimum Living: Physical, Intellectual,
Spiritual, Emotional, Social and Purposeful. The intellectual stimulation is strong (and so are the attitudes) as we
have a number of Professors, Engineers, Business Executives, Military, Senators, and very successful entrepreneurs.
The residents not only have a Resident Council that meets once a month to discuss the direction of GW, but we also have a
that engages in endeavors
creating goodwill in our local community. Our yearly Resident Satisfaction Survey is taken very seriously and is the
source of recognition and monetary rewards for GW, from corporate, if we score high. The residents send in their survey
to corporate in a sealed envelope and our Executive Director, Wyman, receives nothing but the compiled report back.
The residents not only feel that this is their home, but they actually feel that they are the ones running it! When
unexpected change does occur, Wyman labors to make sure everyone is in the know. When they have an understanding of
the change, then they feel less threatened.
Wyman is a young executive director and is both knowledgeable and charismatic. He consistently requests input from his
department directors and various other employees. His management style is S3/S4 while favoring S4. He wants to
give the overview and have the directors figure out and implement the actions for their department. He does not want
to have to “initiate structure or provide direction for people.” For the most part, his team operates at
an S3/S4 readiness level. They are all department directors with their own staff. Occasionally, there is someone who,
for various reasons, begins to decrease in performance readiness and this creates difficulty although Wyman can raise his
socioemotional support when he has to.
The leadership style for most of the department heads is S1/S2. Their staff operates at a readiness level of R1/R2/R3,
according to how long they have been employed. With a number of our departments such as maintenance, dining services
and housekeeping, there is constant pressure to produce. Most of the department managers are not able to use S3/S4 leadership;
therefore, their staff will remain at a readiness level of S1/S2.
The Marketing Department is the exception. The leadership style of our director, John, is S2/S3. He is high relationship
by nature. The readiness level of our Outreach Coordinator
Coordinator (Jessica) and me, Retirement Counselor, is R4. Our Outreach Coordinator has the greatest problem with John’s
S2/S3 leadership. She has definitely felt cornered, entrapped, entangled, and patronized. Jessica is over-qualified
for her position, but loves the relationships with the residents. They are very fulfilling to her. The readiness
level of our new Retirement Counselor is R2, approaching R3. She has been employed for two months.
GW, and Brookdale, certainly fit the maturity side of Argyris immaturity-maturity model of leadership. Management practices
discourage employee infancy and encourage growth. There is freedom at any level to offer input. A personal experience
centered around another employee who was creating a very hostile work environment for me. A Senior VP, three levels
up the management chain found out about it and called me to see if I was doing o.k., encouraging me to always let management
know when situations such as this arose. His comment was, “We don’t allow detrimental attitudes such as
this to go unchecked and negatively affect other employees.” I was quite impressed that he cared enough to call.
I have noticed a slight shift further toward the left of Participative since the merger. There seems to be top-down
decisions that have taken us all by unpleasant surprise. I don’t know if this will be temporary just as a side-effect
of the merger, or if this is the new synthesis of the new management structure. A contributing factor could be the fact
that with the housing slump over the last year, BKD shares have sunk 40% (Colias, 2008). That is reason for dotting
every i and crossing every t. Most new residents sell their homes and use the proceeds for the entry fee to move into
GW. They are having trouble selling their homes; therefore, they are putting it off which results in fewer move-ins.
On a personal note, after selling a lady one of our Garden Homes, she went home and ran the numbers on what she could expect
to get for her
She called me back to let me know that she would lose up to $30,000 and she just could not do it. Even after paying
her deposit, she pulled out. The housing weakness has created more of a problem for Brookdale than the other half-dozen
companies in the senior housing industry who are publicly traded. This is because of the large independent living market
of Brookdale. Independently living residents don’t have to sell their homes for health reasons; they can wait
for the real estate market to recover…and many of them have decided to wait
If the readiness level of an employee is R1 and he has a leader that uses S1/S2, that employee will not be able to mature
past an S2 readiness level. If he stays in that position for years, there is the sad possibility that he will become
R1/R2 for life. He will condition himself to
stay within the set
parameters that have been set. His potential will never be realized and the world could be cheated out of great contribution.
Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them. What is called resignation
is confirmed desperation.” ~Henry David Thoreau
If the readiness level of an employee is R1 and he has a leader that knows how to use all four leadership styles,
that employee can move to R2, then R3 and hopefully on to R4. He will become a mature, contributing adult in our society
with much to give. His level of satisfaction will be higher and his life will be more rewarding.
leaders make people feel that they're at the very heart of things, not at the periphery. Everyone feels that he or she makes
a difference to the success of the organization. When that happens people feel centered and that gives their work meaning.
The most powerful and productive quality in an individual is their passion. The business world would be so
much better off if they could tap into that passion, but that requires leaders to loosen the reigns, which can be a scary
thought. A vivid example of this is Southwest Airlines. They have added fun back into a crippled industry of long
faces. Southwest knows that the only employee that can thrill a customer is one that is passionate with inner commitment.
There is enough knowledge, energy and passion hidden in the employee pool to take businesses where no one has gone before;
but most leaders have no idea how to tap into that golden pool. Leadership is more than setting direction and inspiring
the team. True leadership is understanding how to serve. We have lost this somewhere along the way (Bush, 2004).
But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.
~The Holy Bible
There is one executive who is so convinced of the methodology of servant hood that he has staked his career on it.
This executive is Mike Chesser. In 2003, when he took the position of CEO of KPC&L’s holding company, Great
Plains Energy Inc. he introduced a spirit of collaboration. The company began to reach out to employees, environmentalists,
community activists, ratepayers and others. It shifted the focus away from looking for the cheapest way to generate
electricity to a more balanced portfolio. Chesser’s influence is also spreading nationally through his service
in other organizations. Great Plains’ has monthly meetings of their Winning Culture Action Teams, which are led
by employees. The employees have bought in to a company that they believe in. The benefit is like ripples on water
(Lorenz, 2008). Chesser did caution the employees that there were no free rides, no cruising. He made them understand
for job security and job satisfaction was continuous learning, continuously seeking ways to improve the company and continuously
reinventing themselves. It’s work, but what a rewarding journey! (Bush, 2004). David Warm, executive director
of the Mid-America Regional Council says, “Because they have walked the walk, people have begun to trust them and hold
them in high regard and work to see them succeed.” The leaders have become servants, servants to the employees
and to the community (Lorenz, 2008). Uniquely, what happens when leaders become servants is that the employees begin
to take on the spirit of servant hood as well. They are motivated to serve their consumers with passion.
This is participative management at its best. The employees become mature, contributing adults while daily learning
that the greatest motivation, with the greatest reward, is serving others. It doesn’t get any better than this.
I would like to close with a story that Zig Ziglar used hundreds of times in his very famous speeches. This
story was about a scientific research project done at a major university on the subject of external conditioning. A
group of fleas were placed in a small clear jar, with a lid, and set on the counter for two weeks. A flea can jump naturally
up to 13 inches. This is about 200 times the length of its own body. If we put it in the context of humans, this
would be the equivalent of a 6-foot man jumping 900 feet (MSU, 2008). After the two-week span, the lid was removed.
What happened next was quite remarkable. Not one of the fleas jumped out of the jar. Nothing had changed except
their perception. They still had the ability to jump as far as ever before, but they had been conditioned, conditioned
to understand that if they jumped any higher than the height of the lid on the jar, they would be knocked back down.
Perception IS reality.
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