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Mcgregor's Theory X and Theory Y Leadership Styles

McGregor's Theory X and Theory Y Leadership Styles

McGregor's Theory X and Theory Y Leadership Styles

In 1960, Douglas McGregor, published his book, "The Human Side of Enterprise" in which he presents two contrasting leadership styles: Theory X and Theory Y.

The theory states that managers can cause people to act using both negative and positive motivators, ie Pleasure and pain, carrot and stick, punishment and reward.

Theory X denotes trying to motivate people using negative methods: Threats, punishments and fear.

Theory Y denotes trying to motivate people using positive motivators: Desire, inspiration, praise and rewards.

Theory X and Theory Y may be an expression of the manager's attitude.

Whether a particular manager uses Theory X or Theory Y may be due to the attitude of the manager.

If managers assume that "People are essentially lazy and given half a chance they do the least amount of work possible", then they are more likely to use Theory X and become more authoritarian, rigid and controlling.

On the other hand, if managers assume that, "When given the right conditions, people are essentially trustworthy honest and hardworking" then they are more likely to use Theory Y and be more trusting, collaborative and delegate projects to subordinate colleagues.

Theory X and Theory Y may be an expression of the true nature of the people being managed.

It is readily observable fact that some people are lazy and dishonest. Consequently, it is sometimes wise to use Theory X.

However, it is also a fact that most people are honest, hard working and reliable. Therefore, it is best to use theory Y.

Everything depends on the context.

Whether you should use Theory X or Theory Y depends on your attitude and the nature of the people you work with.

Deciding when to apply Theory X or Theory Y.

My personal approach to McGregor is that I use Theory Y positive motivators, unless I have evidence to suggest that the person I am managing is dishonest, lazy or incompetent.

I normally assume that people are honest, trustworthy and competent and that they respond much better when treated with positive motivators of praise, appreciation, rewards, delegation and confidence.

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About the Author: Chris Farmer


Chris Farmer is the founder of the Corporate Coach Group and has many years’ experience in training leaders and managers, in both the public and private sectors, to achieve their organisational goals, especially during tough economic times. He is also well aware of the disciplines and problems associated with running a business.

Over the years, Chris has designed and delivered thousands of training programmes and has coached and motivated many management teams, groups and individuals. His training programmes are both structured and clear, designed to help delegates organise their thinking and, wherever necessary, to improve their techniques and skills.

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