In this essay John Lewis Partnership’s leadership is going to be examined. First, company’s main events will be highlighted. Furthermore, theories of leadership and mostly democratic will be analysed and then will be applied to the company’s profile.
The company’s interesting history begins in 1864, when John Lewis opened his first shop on Oxford Street, London. Nowadays, the partnership hires over 63,000 employees – partners and consists of 27 John Lewis department stores and 166 Waitrose supermarkets. The most important facts which are highlighted in the Partnership’s history are the above:
i) The publication of the first constitution, 1928.
ii) The creation of the first Trust Settlement - The John Lewis Partnership becomes legal. All the profits are available for distribution amongst the Partners, 1929.
iii) The second Trust Settlement – Provides for the election of some directors and the appointment of the chairman – All members should have the ability of sharing the advantages of ownership, 1950.
John Lewis had a vision which was clearly reflected by the words of his son Spedan Lewis, who reformed a simple company to a prototype which centres the interest of anyone’s who comes across with this company. The company’s purpose is highlighted in the partnership’s constitution ‘The Partnership’s ultimate purpose is the happiness of all its members, through their worthwhile and satisfying employment in a successful business. Because the Partnership is owned in trust for its members, they share the responsibilities of ownership as well as its rewards – profit, knowledge and power’. How power is shared? It is generally described on the constitution’s first rule: ‘The Partnership operates on democratic principles and as much sharing of power among its members as is consistent with efficiency’.
There are many opinions on how a good leader is being made. One viewpoint is held by Professor John Hunt, professor of Organisational Behaviour at London Business School, who has conducted research into leadership for several years.
To quote Harold Leavitt (1969): "Authority does not make men leaders. Skill in using authority or personal attributes to build a problem solving organisation probably does help make men leaders". This gives us a helpful introduction into the concept of leadership. There are those that are naturally leaders and others will always follow them. In the work place, the responsibility is normally on management or supervisors to provide the leading role. There are a number of styles evident in the way this role is carried out, and this has a direct effect on how employees will perform.
Cole (1986) set out a good description of the types of leadership and the theories of leadership, which are briefly outlined below. Cole identifies five main types of leadership:
i) The Charismatic leader - the basis of this is personality and there are not many whose personality can turn all those around them into followers. Examples of this type of leader are Napoleon, Hitler, Churchill
ii) The Traditional leader - someone "whose position is assured by birth" (Cole 1986), for example kings, queens, tribal chieftains.
iii) The Situational leader - "whose influence can only be effective by being in the right place at the right time" (Cole 1986)
iv) The Appointed leader - "whose influence arises directly out of his position" (Cole, 1986) For example most managers and supervisors.
v) The Functional leader - "who secures his leadership position by what he does, rather than by what he is" (Cole, 1986). This is someone who adapts behaviour to meet the requirements of the situation.
Cole goes on to say that leadership "is intimately linked to behaviour" and "can be described as a dynamic process in a group whereby one individual influences the others to contribute voluntarily to the achievement of group tasks in a given situation". This is an issue of relevance to the project and will contribute towards the later study.
As leadership is a dynamic process, it is that there is a range of styles to fit in with different individuals, groups and situations, rather than one style. As Cole points out " the role of the leader is to direct the group towards group goals. The style of the leadership and the reaction of the group will be determined considerably by the situation concerned (the task, external pressures, etc.)" (1986).
This leads us to examine the leadership variables, which are the skills, knowledge and personality of the leader, the tasks or goals that must be achieved, the skills and motivation of the group members or subordinates and finally the environment or situation they find themselves in. As Cole states " taken together these variables form the total leadership situation...the art of leadership is to find the best balance between them in the light of the whole situation" (1986).