Reflections on Leadership. Richard A. Couto, ed. Lanham: University Press of America, Inc., 2007.
James MacGregor Burns published his major work, Leadership, in 1978. Probably more than any other individual work, this book birthed the field of leadership studies, particular in the area of politics and community. In the business sector, the subject was a subset of management. In the years to follow, the fact that there were at least two distinct subsets of leadership studies has led to proliferation of definitions and assumptions about definitions that have not been resolved. But today, Burns’ work stands as the impetus for a growing body of research and writing about the subject of leadership.
In this volume, Richard Couto (ILC member) has assembled a set of perspectives on Burns’ contributions that are at once personal and generative. Each author reflects on their own first encounter with Leadership and the impact it had on their own work. In addition, including Burns himself, each reflects on the strengths of the work and its shortcomings, and each offer their own perspectives on leadership theory.
Included in Burns’ foreword is his reflection of the shortcomings of his book, Leadership. For example, he believes that he did not sufficiently explore the question of power and its role in the relationship between leaders and followers. Second, he sees that it is difficult for readers to generalize from the material in the book, particularly in the face of leadership in diverse cultures and systems. Finally, his dichotomy of transactional and transformational leadership is overdrawn. Today he sees them more like two sides of the same coin.
It is not useful for me to summarize the work of all 15 contributors to this volume here. Suffice it to note that their contributions are divided into three sections, with the first being focused on Burns’ theory, the second focused on the challenges of leadership theory and the third introducing some variations of one sort or another. Some of the authors were contributors to the Quest for a General Theory of Leadership ( ILR June 2007), such as Georgia Sorenson, J. Thomas Wren and Richard Couto. Others are individuals whose work one might not immediately associate with Burns, such as Ron Heifetz and Margaret Wheatley—ILC member).
Sorenson does a credible job of identifying key contributions by Burns’ approach: “Burns’s theory brought into focus two vastly important dimensions of leadership—that leadership was relational and that the motivations of leaders and followers were keys to understanding leadership and change.” She further notes, “He pushed us from leaders to leadership, defined leadership as a process between the leaders and the led and put motivation at the core of the leadership process.” As I read this and other contributions, it reminded me of the wonderful work that has been done in leadership theory and how solid Burns’ contributions have been. At the same time, it also becomes clear how attached much of our theory has been to heroic assumptions and the focus on leading as an individual quality and behaviors, rather than a moment in the life of a system. Much of this stems from the confusion in the use of terms like leader, leading, and leadership as well as follower, collaborator, participant or subordinate (See ” Leading Comments“in this issue of ILR).
As Heifitz points out, Burns struggled with a moral conception of leadership in our understandings of the relationships between power and purpose. Burns distinguished between leadership and tyranny, a perspective that Heifitz firmly supports as understanding the implications of two types of authority. And, yet, he like so many others have not turned to developmental and hierarchical models to help make sense of these relationships, despite the seeds of understanding that worldview is a critical variable. Heifitz emphasizes, “…transforming leadership not only meets the needs of followers, but also elevates them to a higher level of moral functioning.” And he admits that he has not found the “right level of abstraction” for a hierarchy of values that would apply across cultures and organizational settings without either being so general as to lose all traction, or so specific as to be culturally imperialistic in its application.”Hmmmm.What is it going to take to point out the potential of Spiral Dynamics to serve this role.
Subsequent chapters raise issues of levels of analysis, the utility of psychology as a perceptual entry point into the study of leadership, and the role of gender in leadership studies. Wheatley’s contribution, perhaps more than any other, while honoring Burns’ work shifts the focus to systems consciousness and leadership. Hers is a relational perspective, as well, but draws more on biology and the new sciences than psychology. She raises questions about the very nature of leadership in self-organizing systems. She cites conditions that support creative life in organizations: participation, learning, order and perceptions of reality. The latter, of course, encourages us to turn to developmental models. And her observation that order is really about the important role of messes in creating (if temporarily) a sense of order underscores our need to discover ways of comprehending leadership in more dynamic and organic ways.
Gill Robinson Hickman adds to this conversation by underscoring the importance of more organic adaptive organizations and leadership in the face of turbulence. Ronald Walters writes about leadership from the bottom up, leadership as insurgency. Richard Couto discusses leadership “as embodied narratives across domains and within them.” Effective leadership from this perspective relates to adaptive work, thus making the relationship between leadership and change core to the interesting models he generates. From an integral perspective this work highlights the importance of addressing what Mark Edwards has called “the space between,” the dynamics of process in leadership. Finally, this book highlights how interesting the field of leadership is becoming these days and that we owe a very large debt of gratitude to James MacGregor Burns.
Roger Gill, Theory and Practice of Leadership. London: Sage Publications, 2006.
Roger Gill has produced a noteworthy contemporary and forward-looking discussion of leadership. He is the Founder and was the Director of UK’s first Research Centre for Leadership Studies. He is now Visiting Professor of Leadership Studies at the University of Strathclyde Business School, Glasgow. This book reflects the depth and breadth of his research. The references alone are 38 pages of small print. This is a comprehensive work, to say the least. And it is an important step to move toward a more integrative approach to leadership.
Gill builds a model of leadership that includes the following elements: vision and purpose, shared values, intelligent strategies, empowerment and influence, motivation and inspiration. He builds this model in the public and private sectors drawing on material primarily from the US and UK.
Along the way he surveys the various leadership theories and undertakes an approach that integrates various perspectives, models and theories. He identifies four different dimensions of leadership: the intellectual or cognitive, the emotional, the spiritual and the behavioral. Note that, so far, the variables are about individuals and their relationships. These variables could be treated as developmental challenges, yet the closest Gill gets is in his discussion of leadership development. Even there, however, there is no refined exploration of developmental stages. Yet, Gill’s treatment addresses not only multiple lines of individual development as suggested with these dimensions, but addresses questions of organizational culture with a bit of a nod toward James O’Toole’s explorations of the relationship between effective leadership and organizational systems.
The discussion of values and culture suffers from Gill’s lack of attention to developmental models, such as Spiral Dynamics, although he does reference Dawkins’ concept of memes. The fact that he has included culture in his discussion is very valuable because it is an indication that his model of leadership is more complex than he suggests. In addition to individual and relationship variables (he gives a bow to Kotter, Kouzes[ILC] and Posner) he begins to tackle leadership as an integral phenomenon.
At the root of the exceptions I may take to this otherwise extraordinary work on leadership, is the question of assumptions. It seems to me that Gill, like so many others who write on the subject of leadership treat the subject as though the focus in on an individual in a leader role (Gill does include reference to leadership at multiple levels) within a limited time frame. This leads to the second assumption that equates leading with a heroic model or archetype. These assumptions undermine the otherwise truly integrative work that Gill has done so very well.
I am curious about how he has not included several useful sources of work on subjects like emotional intelligence and leadership, which he treats in some depth. For example, Ron Riggio (ILC) and others edited a book in 2002 on Multiple Intelligences and Leadership (see review in this issue of Integral Leadership Review). And Martin Chemers published in 1997 An Integrative Theory of Leadership that is unaccounted for. Perhaps Gill has provided so much that I am asking too much.
Let there be no mistake. I find Gill’s work to be very valuable and a true step forward from much of the leadership literature. For example, there is reference to Ron Cacioppe’s work, as well as Ian Mitroff and others who address the question of spiritual (meaning core purpose, rather than religion). Yet Gill does not address Cacioppe’s contributions to integral notions of leadership and organization. Nor does he include any of the articles in the July 2006 issue of the Journal of Organizational Change Management that offer explanations of such an approach. He has not included Wendelin Kuepers’ articles in the Academy of Management Review and elsewhere. He has included so much in this forward looking presentation that I am left to wonder at how he could have excluded this innovative literature. Well, some of this was, no doubt, not available at the time he submitted his manuscript. I look forward to a 2nd Edition.
Ronald E. Riggio, Susan E. Murphy and Francis J. Pirozzolo, eds. Multiple Intelligences and
Leadership. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers, 2002.
One of the wonderful things about using an integral framework to look at the literature on leadership is that, indeed, virtually everything fits. The field of leadership, as an academic field, as well as a field of development and practice, lends itself beautifully to using this framework for sorting various approaches with the map, but still has much to be done for the more integrative work on the relationships among variables. For that reason, this book is very valuable as an example of bringing the explorations of multiple intelligences to leadership, as Goleman, Boyatzis and McKee have done with emotional intelligence. The idea of multiple intelligences corresponds to that of “lines of development” in integral theory.
The concept of lines of development is a mapping tool. It helps us take apart our experience (differentiate) in order to more clearly put it back together (integrate). In reality, there are no lines of development. However, as elements of an integral map, they help us identify blind spots and variations in individual development and corresponding behaviors. Therefore, it is probably most useful to treat this book as essentially about differentiation of ways of knowing and being in the doing of leadership.
The twelve articles presented about identifying the various domains of intelligence (the lines), how these relate to models of leadership and application to leader effectiveness. Most of the contributors are psychologists, with two notable exceptions—Bernard M. Bass and Robert J. House, two very notable leadership scholars. Other notable names include leadership scholars Fred Fiedler and Stephen Zacarro.
Ron Riggio sets the stage by reviewing how the question of intelligence has historically been included in the leadership literature. And here we also see how leadership scholars are beginning to thing more integrally: “One obvious limitation to this approach, however, was that it did not take context or situation factors into account.” Thus, culture and systems were generally not addressed in the literature. Fred Fiedler emphasizes this. Bernard Bass suggests there are three types of intelligence: cognitive, social and emotional. This omits such types as kinesthetic and spiritual. Also, one concern may be that the focus on multiple intelligences may be reawaking a focus on the (discredited) trait approach to effective leadership. This is the “born” side of the question of are leaders born or made?
One of the themes that is in this book (and many others) is linking leadership to effectiveness. Well, why not? We want to know what works. The dilemma is that concepts like effectiveness cannot be determined without attention to culture and systemic variables in the context of leadership. Have we established a taxonomy of such contexts, aside from types of change efforts or political systems? Here is where an integral perspective will also provide value added by helping us see how developmental levels of culture and systems are important variables and elements in understanding effectiveness or success. Now there’s a potential dissertation or advanced scholarly work to take advantage of the Globe studies of leadership cultures.
I discovered the work of Martin M. Chemers in this volume. His approach is unique in that he provides a unifying framework for the study of effective leadership or leadership efficacy. He states,
“…contemporary approaches…are moving in the direction of the conceptualization of a more fluid interaction between person and environment with the acknowledgement of the individual’s actions in construction and shaping of the environment rather than just reacting to it. Thus, rather than a fixed and unchanging capacity, intelligence (or leadership) becomes a set of skills and knowledge that change and develop in interaction with an environment that can, in turn, be shaped and modified to facilitate a good (i.e. effective) fit.”
This seems like an approach that lays a solid foundation for looking to an integral map or model of leadership that includes all of these factors and levels or stages of development, as well.
Chemers defines leadership as “a process of social influence in which one person is able to enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task.” (Emphasis mine]. He goes on to briefly discuss the complexity of organizational settings and then focuses on the relationship between leader and follower.
“Leadership effectiveness depends on the leader behaving in a manner that (1) elicits the trust and loyalty of followers (image management); (2) motivates followers toward enthusiastic effort (relationship development); and (3) applies the efforts, knowledge, and material resources of the group to mission accomplishment (resource deployment).”
Interestingly, he draws on J.R. Meindl and others to place greater emphasis on leadership and a relationship/social phenomenon in relation to the environment: “…the tendency to credit leaders for anything—good or bad—that happens within an organization is so strong in our culture that it constitutes a ‘romance of leadership.’” This is what I call the reliance of a heroic archetype of leadership. So, it is a successful relationship that leads to leadership efficacy. In this relationship the leader provides a context for motivation, guidance and support through accurate judgments of the followers and a relationship that is equitable and fair. He goes on to say that transformation leaders exhibit the highest level of development of the capabilities of image management, relationship development and resource deployment. Here is the opening for a developmental model, but it is lacking.
Riggio and Francis J. Pirozzolo conclude the volume with their observations. There is agreement that there is a link between different types of leadership and effectiveness. However, there is disagreement about the role played since the relationship is complex. Next, There is no agreed upon framework. This is an area of exploration in the beginning of its development. Also, measurement is a challenge. Of course, this is even more true of variables that cannot be measured, such as spiritual intelligence. But integral methodological pluralism should help us here. Making the effort toward incorporating multiple intelligence constructs into leadership research is a potentially fruitful path to follow. This work can be applied to selection and training of leaders, although there is need for caution because the evidence is not yet there to clearly indicatethe utility of this approach.
Dave Ulrich and Norm Smallwood, ‘ Building a Leadership Brand’, Harvard Business Review, July-August 2007.
- After citing examples of companies strong in leadership; development, Ulrich and Smallwood state,
- These companies go beyond standard-issue leader training, doing something they themselves aren’t even necessarily aware of. Instead of merely strengthening the abilities of individual leaders, these companies focus on building a more general leadership capability. Specifically, they build what we call leadership brand.
- Leadership brand is a reputation for developing exceptional managers with a distinct set of talents that are uniquely geared to fulfill customers’ and investors’ expectations. A company with a leadership brand inspires faith that employees and managers will consistently make good on the firm’s promises.
What I find interesting about this article is the integral shift of perspective on leadership by shifting from a focus on only on the individual to the supporting systems of the company or organization: “…we think that too intense a spotlight on the individual leader is both naïve and incomplete. Expanding the competency model to include an external focus allows companies to offset that risk, by enabling them to tailor their leadership model to their own requirements.”
We believe that long-term success—the kind that lasts generation after generation—depends on making the critical distinction between leaders and leadership. A focus on leaders emphasizes the personal qualities of the individual; a focus on leadership emphasizes the methods that secure the ongoing good of the firm and, in the process, also builds future leaders.
Now we are talking leadership!
They present the following as elements in building a leadership brand:
- Nail the prerequisites of leadership—strategy, execution and managing talent.
- Connect executive ability to desired reputation—unique to your company and context.
- Use the leadership brand to assess individual talent.
- Let the customers and investors do the teaching by ensuring that leadership development includes external expectations.
- Track long-term success of leadership brand efforts.
This article is interesting in that it begins to make a useful distinction between leader (leading) and leadership as concepts and focus. It runs into the challenges of distinguishing leading and managing, leadership and management. Here they are both the same.
Michael J. Platow and S. Alexander Haslam. ‘ The New Psychology of Leadership’, Scientific American, July 31, 2007.
It is surprising to find an article on leadership in the Scientific American, but this one is based on a variety of research efforts and makes a very clear point. Leadership is defined as “the ability to shape what followers actually want to do, not the act of enforcing compliance using rewards and punishments.” The authors base this definition on their finding that leaders are most effective when they are immersed in the social identity of those they lead. In fact, they lead those who see them as representing their social identity.
They propose that any personality traits or qualities of the individual become important based on the social identity of the group, organization or nation. “For every would-be leader there is an optimal leadership context…” And that context is a common “us” to represent, a social context. “The most effective leaders define their group’s social identity to fit with the policies they plan to promote, enabling them to position those policies as expressions of what their constituents already believe.”
Their approach helps to explain how the silver-spoon-born George Bush was so effective as a political campaigner in that he was able to position himself squarely within the social context of so many voters. He was one of them. His frequent verbal miscues only proved that he was one of them and not one of the elite intellectuals these voters could not identify with.
Their work is an affirmation of the approach taken in Spiral Dynamics in which worldviews of individuals and collectives are so important in understanding system behavior. These are the life conditions and the values profiles that are critical variables in developing strategy in working for change. This is an affirmation of the importance of recognizing the developmental social identity of the collective in engaging leaders and followers.