The Effect of Functional Leadership in Manufacturing Environments

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The Effect of Functional Leadership in Manufacturing Environments| |
Chris Kates Southern New Hampshire UniversityOL-500: Human Behavior in Organizations x1052Professor J. Varney12/10/2011| |
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Abstract
Functional leadership is a form of leadership that focuses on how work is going to get done rather than who will be performing the work. This goal orientated approach is essential in manufacturing environments due to long product lead times and a reliance on outside vendors that present many challenges over the course of the products scope of completion. By relying on the leadership of employees that aren’t in appointed leadership roles the effectiveness of work teams will be maximized. If team production is maximized due to functional leadership then the company will be able to focus their attention to other areas to maximize productivity and profits.

Leadership is a trait that is essential in many situations. Often times in business this leadership is awarded due to the employees rank. Obviously the higher ranked the employee the more the rest of the company will look to them to make important decisions. However, in manufacturing environments there is a much greater demand for functional leadership that must arise from employees at all levels acting to complete essential tasks to ensure success of the company. While there is a strong organizational structure which supports awarded leadership roles, the shear size of the companies require that employees at any level can solve problems. This creates a unique dynamic that focuses on how the problem is going to be solved rather than who is going to solve it. (Shead) This team-orientated approach is allows for multiple leaders who all contribute to the optimization of business processes and solution of problems in the manufacturing process. While it is possible that functional leaders can possess formal authority that is granted to high-level management, this is not a requirement and often times not the case. Of all of the leadership types displayed in manufacturing, functional leadership is essential because of the diverse teams, unique problems, and large scale goals that arise on a daily basis.

The very essence of manufacturing environments requires the effective collaboration of many diverse teams. While varying in scale depending on the industry, the supply chain process for these companies presents many unique challenges. In order to effectively conquer these challenges it is necessary to formulate teams that specialize in each of the production stages. For instance, at most companies, there is a team that handles the procurement of materials and another team that handles the fabrication of these raw materials that are purchased. While people are assigned to these teams for various reasons, it makes little sense to assign an employee with poor people skills to procurement when one of their main duties is building relationships with vendors. By placing employees in departments based on their strengths the company is putting the employee and the team in a position where they will have a high rate of success. Even with this collaboration of talent, there are other essential elements to formulating a quality team. While the talent is present in these teams, there needs to be members of the team who are willing and capable of motivating the team. “Functional leadership is often used to describe job positions where an individual is expected to take leadership responsibility without any delegated authority. In this sense, they are asked to take on functions of leadership by helping to guide a team or process without being put into a formal position.” (Shead) It is clear that it is necessary to have leaders from within each field of expertise take on leadership roles, as it is impossible for appointed upper management to be experts in all fields. Because of this businesses must trust that employees in these teams will willingly take on...
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