Leadership Advance

Leadership Thoughts for Life Long Learners

X or Y

The understanding of human relations as it relates to organizational effectiveness has been around for nearly 100 years.  Douglas McGregor (1906-1964) was a huge contributor in this specific field.  One of McGregor’s greatest contributions in regards to organizational effectiveness as it relates to human relations is a theory he developed called Theory X and Theory Y.  These theories are based on a set of assumptions about people within an organization.  Assumptions are powerful indicators which build the framework of how a leader approaches those they lead.  A quick breakdown of each theory and the assumptions made are as follows: (taken from, The Human Side of Enterprise by McGregor and Bennis)

Theory X Assumptions:

1.  People do not like work and try to avoid it.

2. People do not like work, so managers have to control, direct, coerce, and threaten employees to get them to work toward organizational goals.

3. People prefer to be directed, to avoid responsibility, and to want security, they have little ambition.

Theory Y Assumptions:

1.  People do not naturally dislike work; work is a natural part of their lives.

2. People are internally motivated to reach objectives to which they are committed.

3. People are committed to goals to the degree that they receive personal rewards when they reach their objectives.

4. People will both seek and accept responsibility under favorable conditions.

5. People have the capacity to be innovative in solving organizational problems.

6. People are bright, but under most organizational conditions their potential is underutilized.

While reading through these assumptions the leader can immediately begin to identify the power they play in our approach to leadership.  The most healthy organizational environment in my opinion is when the leader can operate from the Theory Y Assumption.  If assumptions are powerful forces in how we approach those we lead the effective leader must constantly be evaluating the assumptions from which they operate.


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