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Theories X and Y: Motivating the Team

Pictured L-R: Commander of the 13th Guards Rifle Division, Major-General Rodimtsev; 62nd Army Military Council members Major-General Gurov, Commander Lieutenant-General Chuikov, and Chief of Staff Major-General Krylov, Stalingrad.

In social science studies, there are times when students consider leadership and management to be one and the same. These constructs are complementary in nature and require different skill sets. It is rare for a person to be both an effective manager and a visionary leader—but Marshal Chuikov was both. He was a truly gifted individual who had the passion and vision for excellence and knew how to achieve it.

Management theorist Douglas MacGregor published Theories X and Y in 1960 to address human behavior in organizations. Managers who reflect Theory X assume their team members must be micromanaged to be extrinsically motivated to achieve results, usually through some form of coercion. It is important to note that coercion is not considered to be a leadership act. However, Theory Y is in alignment with true leadership practices, encouraging an environment of collaboration and inspiring followers to achieve results through positive reinforcement and recognition.

Marshal Chuikov was an empathetic leader who fully understood what his soldiers were facing as they battled in the trenches. He was also familiar with ways to positively motivate his army because he knew that coercion would only go so far in a desperate situation. In the ruins of Stalingrad, there grew a sniper movement which Vasily Ivanovich endorsed and encouraged. Snipers like Vasily Zaitsev were celebrated in the army newspaper, which served to lift morale for the soldiers. In Michael Jones’ book titled Stalingrad: How the Red Army Triumphed, Zaitsev is quoted about how effective Chuikov’s leadership was.

“Chuikov’s support for the sniper movement was vital. Another commander might have banned it. But Chuikov saw its psychological potential to demoralize the enemy, saying famously: ‘It will make every German feel he is living under the barrel of a gun.’ He believed it could enormously lift the morale of [his] soldiers. He carried the Army Council with him—and toward the end of October [1942] they decided to create sniper detachments in every division and regiment. It became [the] official policy. […]

Chuikov believed in these [snipers], and he trusted them. Zaitsev was struck by the effect this had—and expressed a timeless truth about the relationship between a general and his troops:

‘Trust is the source of a soldier’s inspiration and faith is the mother of his courage. For the commander, faith and trust are the keys to a soldier’s heart—to that hidden cache of energy that a combatant may not realize he has inside of himself.’"


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