Excerpts from Reframing Organization – Artistry, Choice And Leadership By Lee
G. Bolman And Terrence E. Deal pp. 343-348.
THE IDEA OF LEADERSHIP
Leadership is universally offered as a panacea for almost any social problem.
Around the world, middle managers say their enterprise would thrive if only
senior management showed "real leadership." A widely accepted canon holds
that leadership is a very good thing that we need more of-at least, more of the
right kind. "For many-perhaps for most-Americans, leadership is a word that has
risen above normal workaday usage as a conveyer of meaning and has become
a kind of incantation. We feel that if we repeat it often enough with sufficient
ardor, we shall ease our sense of having lost our way, our sense of things
unaccomplished, of duties unfulfilled" (Gardner, 1986, p. 1). Yet there is
confusion and disagreement about what leadership means and how much
difference it can make.
Sennett (1980, p. 197) writes, "Authority is not a thing; it is a search for
solidity and security in the strength of others which will seem to be like a thing?'
The same is true of leadership. It is not a tangible thing. It exists only in
relationships and in the imagination and perception of the engaged parties. Most
images of leadership suggest that leaders get things done and get people to do
things; leaders are powerful. Yet many examples of the exercise of power fall
outside our image of leadership: armed robbers, extortionists, bullies, traffic cops.
Implicitly, we expect leaders to persuade or inspire rather than to coerce or
give orders. We also expect leaders to produce cooperative effort and to pursue
goals that transcend narrow self-interest.
Leadership is also distinct from authority, though authorities may be
leaders. Weber (1947) linked authority to legitimacy. People choose to obey
authority so long as they believe the authority is legitimate. Authority and
leadership are both built on voluntary obedience. If leaders lose legitimacy, they
lose the capacity to lead. But many examples of obeying authority fall outside
the domain of leadership. As Gardner (1989, p. 7) put it, "The meter maid has
authority, but not necessarily leadership?'
Leadership is also different from management, though the two are easily
confused. One may be a leader without being a manager, and many managers
could not "lead a squad of seven-year-olds to the ice-cream counter" (Gardner,
1989, p. 2). Bennis and Nanus (1985) offer the distinction that "managers do
things right, and leaders do the right thing" (p. 21). Kotter (1988) echoes many
writers in seeing management as primarily about structural nuts and bolts:
planning, organizing, and controlling. He views leadership as a change-oriented
process of visioning, networking, and building relationships. But Gardner (1989)
argues against contrasting leadership and management too sharply because
leaders may "end up looking like a cross between Napoleon and the Pied
Piper, and managers like unimaginative clods" (p. 3). He suggests several
dimensions for distinguishing leadership from management. Leaders think long-
term, look outside as well as inside, and influence constituents beyond their
immediate formal jurisdiction. They emphasize vision and renewal and have the
political skills to cope with the challenging requirements of multiple
THE CONTEXT OF LEADERSHIP
It is common to equate leadership with position, but this relegates all those
in the “low-erarchy” to the passive role of follower. It also reinforces the
widespread tendency of senior executives to take on more responsibility than
they can adequately discharge (Oshry, 1995). Administrators are leaders only to
the extent that others grant them cooperation and follow their lead. Conversely,
one can be a leader without a position of formal authority. Good organizations
encourage leadership from many quarters (Kanter, 1983; Barnes and Kriger,
Leadership is thus a subtle process of mutual influence fusing thought,
feeling, and action to produce cooperative effort in the service of purposes and
values embraced by both the leader and the led. Single-frame managers are
unlikely to understand and attend to the intricacies of a holistic process.
WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT GOOD LEADERSHIP
Perhaps the two most widely accepted propositions about leadership are
that all good leaders must have the right stuff - such qualities as vision, strength,
and commitment that are essential to leadership - and that good leadership is
situational; what works in one setting will not work in another.
Despite the apparent tension between the one-best-way and contingency
views of leadership, both capture part of the truth. Studies have found shared
characteristics among unusually effective leaders across a variety of sectors
and situations. Another body of research has identified situational variables that
critically influence the kind of leadership that works best.
One Best Way
Recent decades have spawned a series of studies of good leadership in
organizations (Bennis and Nanus, 1985; Clifford and Cavanagh, 1985; Collins,
2001; Collins and Porras, 1994; Conger, 1989; Farkas and Dc Backer, 1996;
Kotter, 1982, 1988; Kouzes and Posner, 1987; Levinson and Rosenthal, 1984;
Maccoby, 1981; Peters and Austin, 1985; Vail, 1982). Most have been
qualitative studies of leaders, primarily corporate executives. Methodology
has varied from casual impressions to systematic interviews and observation.
No characteristic is universal in these reports, though vision and focus
come closest. Effective leaders help articulate a vision, set standards for
performance, and create focus and direction. A related characteristic explicit in
some reports (Clifford and Cavanagh, 1985; Kouzes and Posner, 1987; Peters
and Austin, 1985) and implicit in others is the ability to communicate a vision
effectively, often through the use of symbols. Another characteristic mentioned in
many studies is commitment or passion (Clifford and Cavanagh, 1985; Collins,
2001; Peters and Austin, 1985; Vail, 1982). Good leaders care deeply
about their work and the people who do it. They believe little in life is more
important than doing good work well. A third frequently mentioned characteristic
is the ability to inspire trust and build relationships (Bennis and Nanus, 1985;
Kotter, 1988; Maccoby, 1981). Kouzes and Posner (1987) found that honesty
came first on a list of traits that managers most admired in a leader.
Blake and Mouton's "managerial grid" (1969, 1985) is a classic and still popular
example of a one-best-way approach. Diffused through scores of books, articles,
and training programs, the grid postulates two fundamental dimensions of
leader effectiveness: concern for task and concern for people. The model …
the grid contains eighty-one cells, though Blake and Mouton emphasize only
Blake and Mouton have vigorously defended their conviction that a 9,9 style is a
leadership approach for all situations and all seasons (Blake and Mouton, 1982),
but this claim has been heavily criticized. The grid approach focuses almost
exclusively on issues of task and human resources. It gives little attention to
constituents other than direct subordinates and assumes that a leader who
integrates concern for task with concern for people is effective in almost any
situation. If structure is unwieldy, political conflict is debilitating, or the
organization's culture is threadbare, the grid model may have little to say.
The dearth of attributes consistently associated with effective leadership
reinforces the argument that leadership varies with the situation. Leadership is
different for first-level supervisors than for chief executives. It is different in the
public and private sectors. The job of a college president is very different in
China from what it is in France. The kind of leadership needed for skilled and
highly motivated followers may not work for followers who are alienated and
Several writers have offered situational theories of leadership (including
Fiedler, 1967; Fiedler and Chemers, 1974; Hersey, 1984; Hersey and Blanchard,
1977; Reddin, 1970; and Vroom and Yetton, 1973), but all are limited in their
conceptualization of leadership and in the strength of empirical support. Most
fail to distinguish between leadership and management, typically treating
leadership as synonymous with relationships between managers and their
subordinates. In contrast, Burns (1978), Gardner (1986), and Kotter
(1985) argue persuasively that leaders need skill in managing relationships with
all significant stakeholders, including superiors, peers, and external
constituents. Contingency theories are a major area for further research. Almost
everyone believes that widely varying circumstances require different forms of
leadership, but research is still sparse.
This has not kept approaches such as the Hersey and Blanchard (1977)
situational leadership model from becoming widely popular in management
development programs. The Hersey/Blanchard model uses two dimensions of
leadership similar to those in the managerial grid: task and people. Hersey
(1984, p. 31) defines task behavior as "the extent to which the leader engages
in spelling out the duties and responsibilities of an individual or group."
Relationship behavior is "the extent to which the leader engages in two-way
or multi-way communication." It includes "listening, encouraging, facilitating,
providing clarification, and giving socioemotional support" (p. 32). Hersey
combines task and people into a two-by-two chart, which shows four possible
"leadership styles": telling, selling, participating, and delegating (Figure 17.2).
Though at first glance the model may seem plausible,
research casts doubts on its validity (Hambleton and Gumpert, 1982; Graeff,
1983; Blank, Weitzel, and Green, 1990). If, for example, managers give
unwilling and unable subordinates high direction and low support, what would
cause their motivation to improve? The manager of a computer company design
team told us ruefully, "I treated my group with a 'telling' management style [and
found that in fact they became both less able and less willing?' Furthermore, like
Blake and Mouton, Hersey and Blanchard focus mostly on the relationship
between managers and immediate subordinates and say little about issues of
structure, politics, or symbols.
Do Men and Women Lead Differently?
Helgesen (1990), Rosener (1990), and others have argued that women bring a
"female advantage" to leadership. They believe that modern organizations need
the leadership characteristics that women are more likely to bring, such as
concern for people, nurturance, and willingness to share information. But the
research evidence for gender differences in leadership is equivocal. We might
expect, for example, that women would be rated higher on the human resource
frame (warm, supportive, participative) and lower on the political frame
(powerful, shrewd, aggressive). We need only look at examples like Karren
Brady, Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, and former British Prime
Minister Margaret Thatcher to see that things are not that simple. In fact, studies
give such stereo-types limited support. … Eagly and Johnson (1990) found no
gender differences in emphasis on people versus task, though they found that
women tended to be somewhat more participative and less directive than men.
For the most part, the available evidence suggests that men and women in
comparable positions are more alike than different, at least in the eyes of their
subordinates (Carless, 1998; Komives, 1991; Morrison, White, and Van Velsor,
1987). When differences are detected, they generally show women scoring
somewhat higher than men on a variety of measures of leadership
and managerial behavior (Bass, Avolio, and Atwater, 1996; Edwards, 1991;
Hailinger, Bickman, and Davis, 1990; Weddle, 1991; and Wilson and Wilson,
1991), but the differences are not great and researchers have debated whether
they have practical significance.