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Leadership Theories Based on Dr. Spock and Captain Kirk

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The paper discusses 2 contrasting leadership styles based on characters of Dr. Spock and Captain Kirk. Dr. Spock’s style is explained as rational, instrumental, transactional, managerial. Captain Kirk’s style is described as humanist, interpretive, transformational, leading, charismatic. The high-technology company Apple is innovative, democratic, creative, inspiring and therefore Captain Kirk with similar views would suit better to it. Since the chemical corporation BASF supports traditional way of doing business, focuses on sustainability, precise structure and logic, Dr Spock’s rational dispassionate style would be perfect for BASF.

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Introduction The leader has to be practical and a realist, yet must talk the language of the visionary and the idealist. Eric Hoffer Leadership is a process of motivating people to achieve specific goals (Ebert and Griffin, 2007, 266). The study of leadership has a long history. First attempts to find out what makes a person a leader were made in works of Plato and Plutarch. Since then many theories of leadership have been developed.

The most significant of them are trait theory, situational approach, behavioural and style theories, contingency model, transactional and transformational theories.

The purpose of the paper is to scrutinize 2 contrasting leadership styles based on the characters of the popular TV series “Star trek” – Dr. Spock and Captain Kirk – and to answer the following questions: Which of the two individuals would be better suited to BASF? Which of the two would be better suited to Apple? Why? The classification based on the characters of Dr. Spock and Captain Kirk is studied quite detailed in the work of Brian Leavy “Key Processes in Strategy”, where the author also draws some parallels with another classifications of leadership such as transformational and transactional styles.

The paper touches upon the differences of concepts “leadership” and “management” and provides some information on a relatively new notion of charismatic leadership. Literature review Brian Leavy (1996, 65) states that leadership is an integral part of strategic management influencing company’s competitiveness and efficiency and therefore it is very important to define what basic factors could improve leadership skills of managers. Other researches share this point of view pointing out to the fact that lack of proper leadership in the field of strategic management could cause troubles in work of a whole company (Zaleznik, 1989).

According to Brian Leavy strategic management has a dual nature – rational-instrumental and humanist-interpretive. This point of view led to a new styles classification of leadership based on characters from the popular television series “Star Trek” – Captain Kirk and Dr. Spock who represent 2 contrasting leadership styles. Under this approach Dr. Spock corresponds to rational-instrumental side of management while Captain Kirk – to romantic-interpretive one. Boje describes leadership style of Dr. Spock as very logical, exact, based on rational planning, command and control (Boje, 2001).

He manages finance, law, accounting and other business matters of the company relying upon numbers and established facts. His management style can be described as scientific and prosaic. Dr. Spock puts all processes into a precise system with a clear logical structure. The company itself including its employees is regarded as a perfect machine where you can replace any part with another one with no considerable losses to the whole organization. The leader here is also just a cog though very efficient and standing at the very top of the machine. Thanks to his dispassionate nature Dr.

Spock does not feel deep emotional devotion to the people in organisation and can easily move to another company, representing a valuable “ready-to-use asset” which can be implemented with the same success at a new workplace. In his decision-making process Dr. Spock is very cautious, often working with and adapting proven methods and thus securing conformity and preserving traditions. The leadership style of Captain Kirk stands in a contrast to that one of Dr. Spock. Leavy (1996, 108) describes Captain Kirk as a bright personality working in an idiosyncratic way.

His style is poetic and changes-oriented. He is a humanist and philosopher by nature who prefers rather to inspire and empower his subordinates than to give commands as Dr. Spock does. Captain Kirk fills working process with a purpose largely based on moral values and corporate spirit thus giving his employees a deep meaning, a feeling of togetherness and importance of everyone. Corporate culture is not an empty word in organizations with Kirk’s style management. To achieve desired goals Kirk leverages people’s skills and abilities.

Every employee is seen as a unique personality with talents and hence, strategy is no longer a logical planning as of Dr. Spock but a creative crafting sometimes bringing brand-new ideas and overwhelming results, discovering revolutionary methods. Captain Kirk believes that people are willing to learn and improve their professional competency. Employees are given an opportunity to visit different trainings, very often on their own choice. The classification of Leavy has connection with the distinction of Kotter (1990) between leadership and management.

According to Kotter managers develop consecutive steps, plan, organize and control employees. Leaders tend to inspire people, bring new meanings and methods, and change a traditional order. This point of view was earlier expressed by Zaleznik (1977), who believes that leaders are more focused on ideas and work using their intuitional and inner values whereas managers are more interested in the process of idea implementation, working systematically and logically. Hence, Dr. Spock leadership style refers closer to the concept “management” and Capitan Kirk represents rather the idea of leadership.

Some parallels can also be drawn between leadership styles of Dr. Spock and Captain Kirk and the perspective of James MacGregor Burns (1978). Burns distinguishes transformational and transactional types of leadership. Transformational leader aims at changes and innovations in organization whereas transactional leader is comparable to manager which means his work consists of regular tasks. From the point of view of Burn’s definition Kirk corresponds more to transformational type and Spock – to transactional one. The concept of harismatic leadership relates very close to the Captain Kirk’s style. Charismatic leadership is characterised by people’s willingness to follow a leader due to his/her charisma – a personal attractiveness. Waldman and Yammarino (1999, 266-285) point out the ability of charismatic leader to anticipate future tendencies, inspire and encourage people, make them feel confident about success, exceed set objectives. Bryman (1993, 289-304) notes that charismatic leaders are often seen as an integral part of the company and adored by their employees.

Bill Gates and Steve Jobs could be examples of charismatic leaders. Results Comparison of Dr. Spock’s and Captain Kirk’s leadership styles Dr. Spock| Captain Kirk| Rational-instrumental| Romantic-interprative| Managing| Leading| Transactional| Transformational| Scientist/Technologist| Humanist/Philosopher| Generic| Idiosyncratic| Commanding/Controlling| Inspiring/Empowering| Securing conformity| Harnessing diversity| Adaptive| Inventive| Objectives/Instrumental| Purpose/Institutional| Structure/Systems| Culture/Processes| Decision-making/Positioning| Learning/leveraging|

Strategy as problem-solving| Strategy as potential-fulfilling| Strategy as planning| Strategy as crafting| Strategy as prose| Strategy as poetry| | Often a charismatic leader| Example: Harold Geneen (ITT) | Example: Soichiro Honda (Honda)| Discussion of results Dr. Spock or Captain Kirk would be better suited to Apple? Which of the two would be better suited to BASF? Why? Apple is a leading international company which produces and sells high-tech electronics, personal computers and software. The world-famous products of Apple include the iPhone, the iPad, the iPod and Macintosh computers.

The company was founded on April 1. 1976 by 3 young enthusiasts Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Ronald Wayne who constructed their first personal computer Apple I in the house garage of Steve Jobs. Only Jobs stays with the company until now being its CEO. During its history, the company met a lot of challenges and came through tough times but now it reached a striking success. The Fortune magazine (Fortune, 2008) placed Apple on the top of the World’s most admired companies of 2010. Apple’s success would have been unimaginable without its outstanding leader Steve Jobs.

Jobs’ strongest point lies in his idiosyncratic charismatic leadership style that is also typical for Captain Kirk. As Steve said in his Stanford’s Commencement Address in 2005, he always followed his intuition and aesthetic values doing things that he loved. Jobs is a brilliant speaker and his words inspire listeners. Steve Jobs brought his personal philosophy into the company. As for Captain Kirk, Steve’s job is also his hobby, his passion and an integral part of his life. The other side of Jobs’ work obsession is his perfectionism, attention to every smallest detail that leads to stern, sometimes ruthless attitude to employees.

Apple has a distinct corporate culture including no dress code. “Leave your neckties, bring your ideas” (Apple. com). Pictures posted on the website show employees in simple jeans and sportswear. A free and democratic atmosphere is a trade mark of Apple. One can feel, that creativity and innovation are essential elements of the Apple’s culture even by visiting its official website and reading the slogan “Don’t expect business as usual. Prepare to be inspired” (Apple. com). The same words could say Captain Kirk, who sees strategy as poetry and crafting.

Diversity of ideas and perspectives plays an important role at Apple. Work at Pixar, one more project of Jobs while having been fired from Apple, gave him an insider look and better understanding of entertainment industry, that later made its contribution to Apple products’ fine design. The crucial thing for modern high tech companies to be successful among customers lies not only in complex technologies but also in a profound sense and a new vision behind them. Apple understands the needs of consumers and effectively combines high technologies with deep emotional meaning in its product and marketing strategies.

An extremely popular image of the company’s leader plays not the least role here, that is a distinct feature of Captain Kirk’s style and not of Dr. Spock Transformational character of Jobs’ leadership is seen in constant development and changes. After a tremendous success of iPod in 2001 Apple did not stop in order to get maximum profits of the existing product but moved on to another technologies. Carl Bass, the CEO of Autotest, called Jobs “brave and courageous” (Waters, 2010), that is uncommon among senior executives, on his opinion. According to numerous Apple employees’ reviews (more than 760) (Apple reviews, www. lassdoor. com, n. d. ) the positive sides of work at Apple include friendly creative atmosphere, open relationships between managers and employees, the feeling of common goals and team spirit, unique chances for learning and career growth, superior leadership and low level of bureaucracy. Disadvantages are striving for perfectionism, rivalry, hard work, “sink or swim” strategy, underpayment and backstabbing. The above given description of Apple’s leadership style bares many features typical for Captain Kirk’s style, that were discussed in literature review – inspiration, innovation, diversity, etc.

Hence, it would be logical assume, that Captain Kirk would be better suited to Apple. BASF is a world’s largest chemical company with its headquarter in Germany. The company was founded in 1865 and now has offices in 80 all around the globe. BASF produces chemicals, plastics, performance products, works with functional and agricultural solutions, oil and gas. The CEO of the company is Jürgen Hambrecht, who had a rather gradual career growth and is not so famous as Steve Jobs.

There is not so much information about his leadership style in mass media and he could hardly be called a bright charismatic leader. As stated on the official website of the company, BASF main values include sustainable development, intelligent solutions and high return on assets (BASF. com). The company has clear logical structure and hierarchy which is very typical for Dr. Spock’s leadership style. The decision-making process is rather rational and is based on setting objectives, evaluating alternatives and strategy positioning.

The slogan of the company, “BASF, The Chemical Company”, does not promise much inspiration and innovation for the employees. BASF, as well as Apple, is a world’s leading company with modern technologies in its industry, but it does not add some philosophy or new meanings to them in its marketing policy. BASF put its main accent on responsibility, sustainability, thorough planning and safety. The leadership style at BASF is managing and transactional, preserving customs and based on traditional commanding-controlling system. Thus, strategy could be described rather as prosaic than poetic.

Employees of BASF are represented on the official website videos as precise responsible and effective specialists with calm reserved smiles. The employees describe their work at BASF using general neutral vocabulary and their stories have almost identical structure – name, age, working experience, education, responsibilities and, that they are “very proud to work for BASF” (Employee portrait, n. d. ). The Dr. Spock’s principle of securing conformity could very good describe the company’s style. The anonymous employees’ reviews posted on the above mentioned web resource (www. lassdoor. com), that allows to get inside look at the company, contain the following positive characteristics of BASF management style – polite relationships within the company, professionalism, good time balance for family and work, realistic expectations and plans, secure conditions. Negative sides include reluctance to changes, low promotion rate, lack of leadership in middle management, inflexibility, bureaucracy, old-fashioned corporate culture, hindrances to free thinking, uninspiring management style and low cooperation and teamwork level.

Thus, one could make a conclusion, that BASF work style would be better suited to Dr. Spock. He would perfectly manage to lead the huge corporation in a present precise and rational style. Recommendations The classification of leadership styles based on Dr. Spock and Captain Kirk’s characters is not studied deep enough and there is a lot of work to do, especially, regarding concept of charismatic leadership and its influence on company’s competitive advantage. Our work was limited to a relatively small number of sources by time constraints and a fuller study might provide a broader overview of this very interesting topic.

Conclusion The purpose of the paper was to describe two contrasting archetypes: Dr. Spock and Captain Kirk in context of style theories of leadership and to answer the questions: which of the two individuals would be better suited to BASF? Which of the two would be better suited to Apple? Why? In conclusion we can say that a dual nature of strategic management can be interpreted in 2 types of leadership – rational-instrumental (Dr. Spock) and humanist-interpretive (Capitan Kirk). The style of Dr. Spock can be also efined as transactional and managerial. The Captain Kirk’s style can be described as transformational and leading. To return to our original question about companies Apple and BASF, we found out that they both represent 2 contrasting leadership styles. Based on the classification described in the first part of the paper we can say that Dr. Spock would be better suited to BASF whereas Captain Kirk – to Apple. It would be also interesting to scrutinize a vice versa variant (BASF – Captain Kirk, Apple – Dr. Spock) and evaluate possible outcomes.

Bibliography Books Ansoff, H. I. , 2007. Strategic Management, Classic Edition. Palgrave Macmillan. Bryman, A. , 4 (3/4). 1993. Charismatic leadership in business organizations: some neglected issues. Leadership quarterly. Burns, J. M. , 1978. Leadership. New York: Harper and Row Publishers Inc. Ebert, Ronald J. and Griffin, Ricky W. , 2007. Business essentials. Pearson Education. New Jersey. Kotter, John P. A. , 1990. Force of Change: How leadership differs From Management. John P. Kotter, Inc. Kotter, John P. nd Heskett, James L. ,1992. Corporate culture and performance. New York. Leavy, B. , 1996. Key process in strategy. London: International Thomson Business Press. Waldman, David A. and Yammarino, Francis J. , vol. 24, no. 2, 1999. CEO charismatic leadership: levels of management and levels of analysis effect. Academy of Management Review. Zaleznik, A. , 1977, May–June. Managers and Leaders: Is there a difference?. Harvard Business Review. Zaleznik, A. , 1989. The Managerial Mystique. New York: Harper and Row. Electronic resources

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Leadership Theories Based on Dr. Spock and Captain Kirk. (2016, Oct 20). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/leadership-theories-based-on-dr-spock-and-captain-kirk/

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