The Human Side Of Leadership

The Human Side Of EnterpriseWhat are your assumptions (implicit as well as explicit) about the most effective way to work with people?

Douglas McGregor, a social psychologist, proposed his famous X-Y theory in his book ‘The Human Side of Enterprise’. Theory X and theory Y are still referred to commonly in the field of leadership, management and motivation, and whilst more recent studies have questioned the rigidity of the model, Mcgregor’s X-Y Theory remains a valid basic principle from which to develop a positive leadership style.

McGregor maintained that there are two fundamental approaches to working with people. Some leaders tend towards theory X, and generally get poor results. Other leaders use theory Y, which produces better results, and allows people to grow and develop. Let me try to apply this to ministry leadership.

Theory X – ‘authoritarian’ style

This kind of leader believes:

  • The average person dislikes volunteering to do things and will avoid it if he/she can.
  • Therefore most people must be motivated (usually by reward – sometimes by punishment ) to participate.
  • The average person prefers to be directed; to avoid responsibility; is relatively unambitious, and wants security above all else.

Theory Y – ‘participative’ style

This kind of leader believes:

  • Effort in ministry is perfectly normal.
  • People will apply self-control and self-direction in the pursuit of goals and objectives, without external control.
  • People usually accept and often seek responsibility.
  • In all organisations the potential of the average person is only partly utilised.

Characteristics of the X theory leader

What are some of the characteristics of a person who uses a Theory X style?

  • results-driven and deadline-driven, to the exclusion of everything else
  • distant, aloof and at times detached
  • issues instructions, directions, edicts
  • does not participate
  • does not team-build
  • one-way communicator
  • poor listener
  • does not thank or praise
  • does not invite or welcome suggestions
  • takes criticism badly
  • thinks giving orders is delegating
  • holds on to responsibility but shifts accountability to others

Characteristics of the Y theory leader

What are some of the characteristics of a person who uses a Theory Y style?

  • Focus on methods as well as results
  • Involved, interested
  • Outgoing, friendly
  • People-oriented
  • Delegates & empowers
  • Participative, team builder
  • Seeks opinions of others
  • Seeks to boost morale
  • Accepts responsibility
  • Looks at the big picture
  • Forgiving
  • Patient

Colin Noyes

Colin is the Director of ResourceZone International, a ministry that publishes a wide range of quality resources. Colin is responsible for the research and development side of this ministry. He has thirty years of ministry experience as a pastor, college lecturer and consultant/coach to consultants, denominational leaders and local church pastors.
He can be reached at

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About the Editor and Primary Author

Colin Noyes

Colin Noyes is a Brisbane (Australia) based coach and consultant with extensive experience in the areas of organisational health and growth, change management, leadership development, recruiting/staff development and coaching. Read more

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