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					                         Southern Online Journal of Nursing Research


                                              Issue 2, Vol. 3
                                                July 2002

             Leadership Frames of Nursing Chairpersons and the
     Organizational Climate in Baccalaureate Nursing Programs

               Nancy R. Mosser, EdD, RN, C,1 and Richard T. Walls, PhD2

1Associate   Professor, Department of Nursing, Waynesburg College, Waynesburg, PA; 2Professor, Department
                of Educational Psychology, West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia


Department chairpersons are responsible for creating an organizational climate that
motivates faculty members to achieve in their respective faculty roles. This study was
undertaken to examine the use of leadership behaviors by nursing chairpersons and the
relationship of these behaviors to the organizational climate of nursing departments as
perceived by the faculty. Bolman and Deal’s leadership theory of frame analysis was used
as the theoretical framework. This theory separates leadership behaviors into four frames
(structural, human resource, political, and symbolic). Findings indicated that 60.5% of the
chairpersons were perceived by faculty members to demonstrate or use the behaviors as
described in one or more of the leadership frames. Faculty members perceived their
chairpersons to use the human resource frame the most, followed by the structural frame,
the symbolic frame, and the political frame. The strongest relationships occurred for (a)
the human resource leadership frame with the organizational climate domain of
                                                                       SOJNR Issue 2, Vol. 3, p.2

consideration, (b) the structural frame with the production emphasis domain, and (c) the
political frame and the symbolic frame with the consideration domain. The use of
combinations of leadership frames (paired frame, multi-frame, and all four frames) by
chairpersons was most associated with the organizational climate domains of
consideration, intimacy, and production emphasis, as opposed to no frame or single frame
use. This study proposes that the leadership theory of frame analysis should be included in
graduate programs that educate nurses to assume leadership roles. In addition, the
findings may prove useful to search committees when selecting new department

Keywords: Nursing Education, Leadership, Organizational Climate

 Introduction                                      Unfortunately, limited studies have
                                                 been done on the climate in nursing
     Academic departments form the               education and the factors associated
 building blocks of institutions of higher       with it.8 There is also a dearth of
 learning, and their functioning heavily         research relating the leadership
 depends upon the department                     behaviors of nursing chairpersons to
 chairperson’s leadership ability.               organizational climate. Additionally, no
 Department chairs are charged with              nursing research has been done using
 creating a shared vision for the                Bolman and Deal’s leadership theory of
 department, and they are responsible for        frame analysis.9 Thus, this investigation
 developing a climate conducive to               was undertaken to examine the use of
 motivating faculty members and                  leadership frames among nursing
 encouraging scholarship. In addition,           chairpersons and their relationship to
 they should create a supportive                 the organizational climate of nursing
 communication climate that emphasizes           departments as perceived by the faculty.
 listening skills, thus demonstrating
 respect and empowerment for faculty             Leadership
 members and students. The                           The study of leadership was initiated
 organizational climate exudes                   early in the twentieth century, beginning
 excitement when department leadership           with trait theory, which suggested that
 is strong, and it is the chair who creates      leaders are endowed with specific traits
 the climate.1 Creation of a positive            that differentiate them from followers.10
 climate is critical to faculty retention.2      A shift in the emphasis from the
 Overall commitment to a department              personal characteristics of leaders to
 should increase when an open                    their behaviors as leaders began as a
 environment is present and faculty              result of Stodgill’s initial research.11 This
 members believe they are making                 behavioral approach, emphasized from
 meaningful contributions.3                      the late 1940s to the late 1960s, was
     In classic studies outside nursing,         concerned with leader behavior that is
 leadership behavior is a factor that has        capable of being changed, focusing on
 been found to be a significant                  the differences in the behavior of
 determinant of organizational climate.4-7       effective and ineffective leaders.
                                                                SOJNR Issue 2, Vol. 3, p.3

However, scant attention had been paid      people to gather information and to
to the possibility that leader behavior     make judgments. The four frames of
was contingent upon the situation, thus     leadership, as described by Bolman and
leading to the contingency approach in      Deal, are the structural frame, the
the 1970s, which emphasized the             human resource frame, the political
importance of situational factors and the   frame, and the symbolic frame.
nature of the external environment.12            The first frame, the structural frame,
    An additional approach to studying      postulates that effective leaders define
leadership, transformational leadership,    clear goals, establish specific roles for
was initiated by Burns in the late          people, and coordinate activities
1970s.13 Transformational leaders define    through the use of rules, policies, and a
the need for change, create a vision and    chain of command. Structural leaders
a commitment to the vision, and inspire     set direction and hold people
subordinates to achieve goals. Personal     accountable. The second frame, the
values and beliefs form the basis of        human resource frame, focuses on
transformational leadership. Leaders are    human needs. Leaders value feelings
able to produce higher levels of            and relationships, and leadership is
performance by uniting followers and        accomplished through facilitation and
changing their goals and beliefs.14         empowerment. The third frame, the
Additionally, transformational              political frame, assumes a continuing
leadership can be considered part of a      competition among different
newer approach to the study of              constituencies for scarce resources and
leadership, viz. the symbolic approach.     emphasizes individual and group
Cultural and symbolic theories represent    interests. Political leaders advocate,
a paradigm shift in leadership studies.     negotiate, and value pragmatism. With
They do not view leadership as an           the last frame, the symbolic frame,
objective act in which leaders display      leaders develop symbols and culture
traits or behaviors to influence            within the organization to provide a
followers, but rather as a subjective act   shared sense of mission and identity.
where leaders construct a reality that           Research has been conducted to
reflects desired ends and is congruent      investigate how leaders use leadership
with followers’ beliefs.15 The leader       frames, i.e., whether they demonstrate
invents a reality through shared            the behaviors as described in each
meanings that influence perceptions and     leadership frame. In a study that
activities. Leaders manage meaning          sampled educational administrators in
rather than processes.16                    US colleges and universities, US public
    In the 1980s, Bolman and Deal           schools, and public schools in
developed one of the most useful            Singapore, results revealed that the
organizational typologies for viewing       percentage of those who used more than
and studying leadership.17 They             two frames was less than 25% in the
synthesized existing theories of            three samples, while only about 5% used
leadership and organizations into four      all four frames. In all three populations,
traditions, which they labeled as           the symbolic frame was used in fewer
“frames.”18,19 Frames are considered to     than 20% of the cases while the
be both windows on the world and            structural frame was used in about 60%
lenses that bring it into focus. Frames     of the samples. The three groups varied
help to order experience and allow          widely in their use of the political and
                                                                 SOJNR Issue 2, Vol. 3, p.4

human resource frames.20 Bolman and           (OCDQ-HE) to measure the four climate
Deal have asserted that in an                 domains in higher education.
increasingly complex world, the ability           Edwards32 used the OCDQ-HE and
to use more than one frame should             found a significant relationship between
increase a person’s ability to act            the dean’s leadership style, as measured
effectively and make clear judgments.         by House’s Leader Behavior Scale, and
                                              faculty perceptions of climate in
Organizational Climate                        collegiate schools of nursing. Lewis33
    The concept of organizational             found a weak correlation between a
climate was first described in the late       measure of power orientation using
1950s. Different definitions exist, but       Cavanaugh’s Power Orientation Scale,
some basic properties of climate have         and the disengagement domain as
emerged over time.21 Organizational           measured by the OCDQ-HE, in schools
climate characterizes properties of an        of nursing.
organization and describes a unit rather
than evaluating it. In addition, it results   Research Questions
from routine organizational practices         Three research questions were posed:
and influences members’ attitudes and            1. Which leadership frames do
behaviors.                                          nursing faculty members perceive
    In research studies climate has been            that nursing chairpersons use?
shown to influence variables such as             2. What are the relationships
motivation, productivity, and job                   between single leadership frame
satisfaction.22-24 Climate is also                  use by nursing chairpersons and
considered beneficial for organizational            the organizational climate
development efforts.25 In other studies,            domains of consideration,
the variable of leadership was found to             intimacy, disengagement, and
have an important influence on                      production emphasis as perceived
organizational climate.26-29                        by the nursing faculty?
    Borrevik,30 after reviewing the work         3. What are the relationships
of Halpin and Croft,31 concluded that               between the use of combinations
there were four climate domains, or                 of leadership frames by nursing
categories of organizational climate,               chairpersons and the
found in higher education. The four                 organizational climate domains
climate domains are: (1) consideration,             as perceived by the faculty?
characterized by the chair’s supportive
role toward faculty (an open climate);        Methods
(2) intimacy, which refers to a social-
needs satisfaction not necessarily                Institutional review board approval
related to task accomplishments (an           was obtained prior to initiation of the
open climate); (3) disengagement,             study. A descriptive study design was
related to fractionalization within the       used to survey the nursing faculty, in
faculty (a closed climate); and (4)           which leadership frame use by nursing
production emphasis, associated with          chairpersons was examined in relation
close supervision of the faculty (a closed    to organizational climate. A query letter
climate). Borrevik developed the              was sent to the nursing chairpersons of
Organizational Climate Description            all 136 baccalaureate nursing programs
Questionnaire-Higher Education                in the American Association of Colleges
                                                               SOJNR Issue 2, Vol. 3, p.5

of Nursing (AACN) North Atlantic            Bolman and Deal have reported
Region (as designated by the AACN),         Cronbach’s alpha for the four frame
requesting the names of the                 measures as high, ranging from .91 to
instructional faculty members who had       .93. Additionally, factor analysis using
no administrative title and who held a      principal components and varimax
full time position as a professor,          rotation, yielded a high degree of
associate professor, assistant professor,   internal consistency.35,36
or instructor. Seventy chairpersons             Each of the four frames of leadership
responded, with 60 schools providing        is represented by eight items describing
the names of 605 faculty members. Each      leader behaviors. Using a five-point
of the 605 faculty members received a       Likert scale, each faculty member rated
packet including: an introductory letter    his or her department chairperson,
guaranteeing confidentiality, a             defined as the administrator of the
leadership instrument, an                   nursing program, in terms of
organizational climate questionnaire, a     demonstrating leader behaviors (1=
demographic questionnaire, and a            Never, 5 = Always). A mean score was
stamped, faculty-coded return envelope.     calculated for each frame. Leadership
Envelopes were coded only as a follow-      frame use was operationally defined as a
up mechanism to non-responders. The         mean of 4.0 or higher for a given subset
instruments (n = 253) were returned         of leadership questions; thus, chairs
directly to the researcher for data         were perceived as using a leadership
analysis, for a response rate of 42         frame with a mean score of 4.0 or
percent. Data were reported in aggregate    higher. Accordingly, this definition
form and did not identify faculty           yielded reasonable splits between
members, chairpersons, or institutions.     endorsements and non-endorsements,
                                            and was conceptually based on the
Instruments                                 parameters of the five-point Likert scale.
   Three questionnaires sent to nursing         The OCDQ-HE assesses the
faculty were: (1) Bolman and Deal’s         organizational climate of academic
Leadership Orientations Instrument          departments in institutions of higher
(Other), (2) Borrevik’s Organizational      learning. The 42-item form of the
Climate Description Questionnaire-          OCDQ-HE contains four subsets
Higher Education (OCDQ-HE), and (3)         addressing the climate domains.
a demographic questionnaire.                Cronbach’s alphas for the climate
Approximately 15 to 20 minutes were         domains were .93 for consideration (12
required to complete all three              items), .84 for intimacy (9 items), .68
components.                                 for disengagement (11 items), and .71 for
   The leadership instrument exists in      production emphasis (10 items). Factor
two parallel forms: one for leaders to      analysis, using varimax rotation,
rate themselves (self), and one for         established construct validity.37
subordinates to rate their leaders              Nursing faculty members used a five-
(other). This study used the Leadership     point Likert scale to rate the extent to
Orientations Instrument (Other), that       which the survey items occurred in their
consists of 32 questions addressing         academic department (1 = Almost
leader behaviors from the viewpoints of     Never, 5 = Always). Means were
subordinates, consistent with Bolman        calculated for each climate domain on
and Deal’s four frames of leadership.34     every survey.
                                                                SOJNR Issue 2, Vol. 3, p.6

    The demographic questionnaire           16.6% of the chairs used a single frame
collected information on age, highest       [structural (ST), human resource (HR),
degree earned, academic rank, tenure        political (PO), or symbolic (SY)], 12.6%
status, number of years in present          used paired frame combinations (two of
position, and the number of years           the four frames), 9.2% used multi-frame
employed in baccalaureate nursing           combinations (three of the four frames),
education. Other questions related to       and 22.1% used all four frames. There
the institution and the experience of the   were 6 different paired frame (ST-HR,
chair.                                      HR-SY, ST-PO, ST-SY, HR-PO, PO-SY)
                                            and 4 different multi-frame
Results                                     combinations (ST-HR-PO, ST-HR-SY,
                                            ST-PO-SY, HR-PO-SY). Within the
    Highest earned degree held was the      reported frame combinations (single,
master’s degree for 114 faculty and         paired, multi, and all four frames),
doctorate for 138 faculty. Academic rank    faculty members perceived their
ranged from instructor to full professor    chairpersons using the human resource
with the following numbers: 21              frame the most (49.8%), followed by the
instructors; 118 assistant professors; 84   structural frame (43.5%), the symbolic
associate professors; and 29 professors.    frame (32.4%), and finally, the political
Of the 252 faculty who reported on          frame (32.0%).
tenure, 124 were tenured. Faculty               Statistically significant relationships
members were at their current               between single leadership frame use by
institutions for a mean of 10 years and     nursing chairpersons and the
in baccalaureate nursing education for a    organizational climate domains as
mean of 13 years. Respondents were          perceived by the faculty were also found.
employed in public (n = 130) and private    The highest correlation was seen
(n = 120) institutions. Nursing faculty     between the human resource frame and
estimated that their chairs held their      consideration (r = 0.86, p = < .01). The
positions for an average of 5.5 years,      structural frame correlated the highest
and the mean head count enrollment as       with production emphasis (r = 0.75, p =
222 students. One of the demographic        < .01), while the political frame’s
surveys was unusable, as there were         strongest correlation was with
several items for which no response was     consideration (r = 0.68, p = < .01).
given.                                      Lastly, the symbolic frame had its
                                            highest correlation with consideration
Leadership Frame Use                        (r=0.78, p = < .01). All four frames
   Faculty reported that 60.5% of their     negatively correlated with
chairpersons used leadership frames in      disengagement. Both Pearson’s product-
directing the nursing programs, while       moment correlation coefficients and
39.5% of the chairs showed no               analysis of variance were used to analyze
leadership frame use. In other words,       these same data in two different ways.
the faculty perceived that 39.5% did not    Both tests yielded similar results.
demonstrate the behaviors that
comprise the four leadership frames as      Combinations of Frames and
described by Bolman and Deal in their       Organizational Climate
leadership questionnaire. Of the 60.5 %        Statistically significant relationships
who were perceived to demonstrate use,      between the use of combinations of
                                                                  SOJNR Issue 2, Vol. 3, p.7

leadership frames by nursing chairs and        the department above individual faculty
the organizational climate domains as          concerns. Nursing faculty in
perceived by the faculty were found as         baccalaureate nursing programs may
well (Table 1). The use of all four frames     expect close supervision by the chair,
showed the highest endorsement of              with the understanding that the formal
consideration, followed by paired frame        goals of the department are given
use, multi-frame use, single frame use,        stronger emphasis than individual goals.
and no frame use (F = 54.80, df = 4,           In addition, production emphasis may
247, p < .01). Paired frame use                not be considered a closed climate in
demonstrated the highest endorsement           baccalaureate nursing education,
of intimacy, followed by all four frame        especially if it is balanced by chair
use, multi-frame use, single frame use,        endorsement of other open climates.
and no frame use (F = 12.76, df = 4, 247,          Combinations of leadership frames
p < .01). No frame use showed the              yielded significant findings as well.
highest endorsement of disengagement           Chairpersons using the leadership frame
(a closed climate), followed by multi-         combinations of all four frames, the
frame use, single frame use, all four          multi-frame, and the paired frame
frame use, and paired frame use (F =           demonstrated the highest endorsement
7.79, df = 4, 247, p<.01). Finally, all four   of the organizational climate domains of
frame use demonstrated the highest             consideration, intimacy, and production
endorsement of production emphasis,            emphasis, as opposed to single and no
followed by paired frame use, multi-           frame use. In contrast, no frame use was
frame use, single frame use, and no            most associated with disengagement.
frame use (F = 27.54, df =4,247, p <           Based on these results, faculty
.01). Tukey’s HSD Test, a post hoc test,       perceptions that 39.5% of chairpersons
indicated that the means of the five           used no frame and 16.6% used a single
combinations of leadership frames              frame were discouraging findings.
differed significantly from all other               Additionally, some results of this
combinations for each of the four              study contrasted with Bolman and
climate domains.                               Deal’s findings.38 In this investigation,
                                               31.3% of the respondents perceived their
Discussion                                     chairs to use more than two frames as
                                               opposed to less than 25% in Bolman and
    All four leadership frames                 Deal’s study, and 22% were perceived to
(structural, human resource, political,        use all four frames as opposed to about
and symbolic) correlated positively with       5% in Bolman and Deal’s research. The
the organizational climate domains of          structural frame was perceived to be
consideration, intimacy, and production        used less in this study (43.5%) as
emphasis, while all four frames                compared to Bolman and Deal’s (60%),
negatively correlated with                     while the symbolic frame was perceived
disengagement. The finding that all four       to be used 32.4% of the time, as opposed
frames correlated with the closed              to less than 20% in Bolman and Deal’s
climate domain of production emphasis          study. These differences might be
was unanticipated. Production emphasis         attributable to the fact that the
is signified by close supervision of the       overwhelming percentage of nursing
faculty by the chair, and the chair is         chairpersons and faculty members are
known to place the mission and goals of
                                                              SOJNR Issue 2, Vol. 3, p.8

women, who may use frames differently.      wish to structure their interview
Further study in this area is warranted.    questions in ways that address Bolman
                                            and Deal’s leadership frames. Similarly,
Implications                                the findings may prove beneficial to
                                            prospective nursing faculty members
    The findings of this study have         seeking employment. They can use the
implications for nursing education. For     leadership and organizational climate
instance, chairpersons might explore        questionnaires to help construct
how they generally define goals,            questions that aid them in ascertaining
establish specific roles for people, and    which leadership frames are used by the
coordinate activities through the use of    chair and the organizational climate
rules and policies as seen in the           domains that exist within the
structural leadership frame. Chairs         department.39
could reflect on how they foster                Administrators and faculty members
participation and involvement, and if       also may wish to use the instruments to
they listen to new ideas as promoted in     assess themselves and their own
the human resource frame. In addition,      departments. Use of the leadership
they could examine how they advocate        questionnaire may assist chairs in
and negotiate as seen in the political      examining and adapting their own
leadership frame, and explore how they      leadership behaviors. The organizational
create a shared sense of mission and        climate instrument could provide
identity for which the symbolic frame is    information to those interested in
noted. In this study, the political and     assessing the climate in their own
symbolic leadership frames were not         programs and making necessary
perceived as being used as much as the      improvements.
human resource and structural frames.           The size of the sample, the
Chairs could make a concerted effort to     geographic restrictions, and the use of
try and address these frames, since all     faculty perceptions limit the results of
four frame use by chairs, as perceived by   the investigation. Further studies could
the faculty, demonstrated the highest       address replication with another
endorsement of consideration, while         regional or national population, and
ranking low in disengagement.               variables such as the experience of the
    Additionally, the findings have         chair and the size and type of the
implications for graduate programs          institution. A valuable follow-up to the
preparing students for administrative       present research could compare
positions. Graduate programs that           chairpersons’ perceived leadership
educate nurses to assume leadership         frame use with faculty perceptions of
roles should address the concept of         chairpersons’ leadership frame use and
leadership frames and should plan the       the relationship to the organizational
use of learning activities such as case     climate in the department.
studies, role-playing, leadership               Although additional research is
simulations, and internships that would     warranted, the present findings suggest
help to provide experiential learning.      relationships between leadership frame
    The results of this study might prove   use by chairpersons and the
useful to search committees when            organizational climate in baccalaureate
selecting new department chairs.            nursing programs. The organizational
Members of search committees may            climate domains of consideration,
                                                                          SOJNR Issue 2, Vol. 3, p.9

intimacy, and production emphasis were              and all four leadership frame
most associated with chairpersons’ use              combinations as opposed to no frame or
of the paired frame, the multi-frame,               single frame use.

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                                                                               SOJNR Issue 2, Vol. 3, p.11

Table 1

Means and Ranks for Combinations of Frames and Climate Domains

                                              Climate Domains

                                  Con                 Int                Dis                      PE

Frame               n       M        (Rank)     M       (Rank)     M       (Rank)            M       (Rank)
No Frame           100     3.13         (5)    2.64         (5)   2.74          (1)        3.29         (5)

Single Frame       42      3.85         (4)    3.00         (4)   2.46          (3)        3.55         (4)

Paired Frame       32      4.16         (2)    3.26         (1)   2.30          (5)        3.86         (2)

Multi-Frame        23      4.11         (3)    3.21         (3)   2.47          (2)        3.84         (3)

All Four           56        4.44       (1)       3.24     (2)     2.31       (4)    4.05               (1)
Note: Con = Consideration; Int = Intimacy; Dis = Disengagement; PE = Production Emphasis

(return to text)

The authors wish to acknowledge Dr. Marilyn Oermann, Professor of Nursing, Wayne State
University, for her suggestions on this manuscript.

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