The Leadership Shop

A Leadership Tidbit



“Leadership is getting someone to do what they don’t want to do, to achieve what they want to achieve.” — Tom Landry

This brings to mind “manipulation” and “brainwashing.” Sure, it also brings to mind “parenting” and “management;” but it hardly brings to mind “leadership.” Fred Smith proposed a softer version of the idea when he said, “Leadership is getting people to work for you when they are not obligated,” and Dwight D. Eisenhower put forth a similar idea with this definition, “Leadership: the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.”

The notion is that leadership is characterized by one person (the leader) enticing or motivating someone else (the follower) to do something that he would not otherwise do were it not for “leadership.” The question is whether the effect (doing something) requires the cause (leadership.) Several more obvious causes are readily available. People do things they might otherwise not do because it’s their job, they are getting paid, they are afraid not to do it, they don’t want to disappoint a parent or perhaps the Coach, everyone else is doing it, or they determine it is in their best interest. The leader may be able to use one of these causes; but to equate such use with leadership is not reasonable, since anyone who has control of the cause can use it at will. It would be like arguing that holding a gun makes one a marksman.

This is a good time to remember Ockham’s Razor. Paul Vincent, in The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, points out, “Ockham’s Razor … never allows us to deny putative entities; at best it allows us to refrain from positing them in the absence of known compelling reasons for doing so.” Since there are numerous and quite obvious reasons (causes) why people frequently do things they might not otherwise do, positing “leadership” as the cause is unnecessary. It may be attributable to leadership but used in that way, leadership is little more than one of Ockham’s putative entities.

The Gurus Say

ass, Bernard M. with Ruth Bass. The Bass Handbook of Leadership: Theory, Research, and Managerial Applications. Fourth Edition. New York: Free Press, 2008.

Leadership is the mastery of anticipating, initiating, and implementing change.

Leadership as the Initiation of Structure. Several commentators viewed leadership not as passive occupancy of a position or as acquisition of a role but as a process of originating and maintaining the role structure–the pattern of role relationships.

It is influence beyond what is due to formal procedures, rules, and regulations. Thus managers are leaders only when they take the opportunity to exert influence over activities beyond what has been prescribed as a requirement of their role.

The leadership role, like other roles, is defined by stabilized expectations that, in most matters and situations of consequence to the group, are more exacting and require greater obligations from the leader than do those for other members of the group. The recognition of leadership as an instrument of goal attainment, as a product of interaction processes, and as a differentiated role adds to the development of a coherent theory that fits most of the facts available to date. Leadership as a differentiated role is required to integrate the various other roles of the group and to maintain unity of action in the group’s effort to achieve its goals.

Leadership has been conceived as the focus of group processes, as a personality attribute, as the art of inducing compliance, as an exercise of influence, as a particular kind of activity, as a form of persuasion, as a power relation, as an instrument in the attainment of goals, as an effect of interaction, as a differentiated role, and as the initiation of structure.

Strategic leadership is behavior that depends on combining perceptions of threats, opportunities, cognitions, analyses, and risk preferences.

…leadership behavior is a less consistent attribute of individuals than such traits as nonsuggestibility, energy, and maturity, which are empirically associated and theoretically linked with overt leadership behavior. Leaders with a strong personal tendency to be consistent will display leadership across many situations.

Maslow’s theory of “eupsychian” management … was derived from his observations of people at work in industry. Maslow stressed that it is important for managers to develop their subordinates’ self-esteem and psychological health and emphasized the need for self-actualization so that everyone would have an opportunity to realize his or her own capacity. Eupsychian management distinguished between the person who was trying to be a democratic superior and one who was spontaneously democratic.

The findings suggest that leadership is not a matter of passive status or of the mere possession of some combination of traits. Rather, leadership appears to be a working relationship among members of a group, in which the leader acquires status through active participation and demonstration of his or her capacity to carry cooperative tasks to completion. Significant aspects of this capacity for organizing and expediting cooperative efforts appear to be intelligence, alertness to the needs and motives of others, and insight into situations, further reinforced by such habits as responsibility, initiative, persistence, and self-confidence.

The leader is characterized by a strong drive for responsibility and completion of tasks, vigor and persistence in the pursuit of goals, venturesomeness and originality in problem solving, a drive to exercise initiative in social situations, self-confidence and a sense of personal identity, willingness to accept the consequences of his or her decisions and actions, readiness to absorb interpersonal stress, willingness to tolerate frustration and delay, ability to influence other people’s behavior, and the capacity to structure social interaction systems to the purpose at hand.

More activity by leaders, except when it is coercive, is usually associated with greater satisfaction and effectiveness among their followers. Conversely, more often than not, less activity in any of these active styles is negatively related to the performance and satisfaction of the followers. Thus, for instance, the structuring of expectations contributes positively to the productivity, cohesiveness, and satisfaction of the group. … The leader can accomplish these initiatives through direction or participation, inspiration or consultation, negotiation or delegation. Whatever the style, as long as it is not coercive and autocratic, it must involve the leader taking action. It is doubtful that leaders in most situations can be of positive value to the group’s performance, satisfaction, and cohesiveness without this kind of active structuring unless all such structure has already been provided by other means such as self-management, culture, or organization.

Laissez-faire leadership is detrimental to the performance of subordinates, yet the autonomy of subordinates enhances the subordinates’ performance. The reconciliation comes in considering what subordinates need to do their job well. If the subordinates are skilled, professional, or self-starting salespeople, they may need consultation, participation, or delegation, with the directive boundary conditions specified by the leader, the organization, or even the task itself. Within these boundaries, the leader should permit the already competent and motivated subordinates to complete their work in the manner they think best. This kind of leadership, paradoxically, requires that the leader exercise authority to permit such freedom of action. Active follow-up by the leader is also important because it provides evidence that the subordinates’ performance is as expected and shows the subordinates that the leader cares about what they are doing. This type of leadership is not related in any way to laissez-faire leadership, in which the leader does nothing unless asked by colleagues and even then may procrastinate or fail to respond. The laissez-faire leader is inactive, rather than reactive or proactive. He or she does not provide clear boundary conditions; may work alongside subordinates; may withdraw into paperwork; and avoids, rather than shares, decision making. Under this type of leadership, subordinates do not feel free to carry out their jobs as they see fit; instead, they feel uncertain about their own authority, responsibilities, and duties.

Rule-oriented followers obey out of a sense of powerlessness; role-oriented followers obey out of a sense of obligation to authority; value-oriented followers obey to fulfill a commitment to shared values.

…sensory-thinkers emphasized factual details, the physical features of work, impersonal organizational control, certainty, and specificity; intuitive-thinkers focused on broad, global issues built around theories of organization; and intuitive-feelers stressed personal and humanistic values in their ideal organization.

Authentic transformational leaders align their interests with those of others and may sacrifice their own interests for the common good. Their communications can be trusted. They articulate their followers’ real needs and envision an attainable future. They sound the alarm when real threats arise. They set examples to uplift the moral values of their followers. They are concerned for their followers’ development and well-being.

Strongly related to trust in the leader is the follower’s perception of the leader’s competence, caring, integrity, and willingness to serve others. Also important are the leader’s accuracy and consistency in communications that explain decisions in simple, easily understood language. Perceived authenticity is likely to make a difference as well.

Meanings of autonomy included being allowed to try and fail without fear of reprisals; freedom from constant evaluation; freedom from close supervision; sense of ownership of the work; discretion in scheduling the work; determination of what needed to be done; freedom to make decisions without checking with a supervisor; taking part in decisions affecting the work situation; exercising personal judgment; having an opportunity to express ideas, and being treated as an equal by the supervisor.

More role ambiguity occurs among lower-level managers. The responsibilities and authority of first-line supervisors and middle managers are less clearly defined than those of top management. Uncertain about what they are allowed and expected to do, they experience more tension than the top managers and feel less satisfied with their jobs.

In addition to being more receptive, members in leadership positions usually have access to information that enables them to predict some consequences of change. The member in a follower position has less access to such information unless it is provided by the management. Rumor, imagination, and speculation often lead to grossly inaccurate evaluations of the effects of an announced change. Participation in planning change provides at least a minimum base of information on which a member may evaluate some possible effects of a given change on his or her work, status, and relationship to the organization. Workers will feel more receptive to change if they are involved in planning it.

A second study found that supervisors who were required to engage in a great deal of peer-oriented interdepartmental coordination were less likely to be responsive to their subordinates.

Self-concern and assertiveness give rise to competitiveness; self-concern and a lack of assertiveness produce avoidance and withdrawal; assertiveness and a concern for others yield collaboration; and a lack of assertiveness and a concern for others generate accommodation.

Disagreement between supervisors and their superiors about the roles of the supervisors results in greater anxiety and disagreement between the supervisors and their subordinates.

Authority is not power. “No amount of legal authority over the grizzly bears of British Columbia would enable you to get yourself obeyed by them out in the woods”…

Limitations on Idiosyncrasy Credit. With idiosyncrasy credit, the leader can step out from the rest of the pack and suggest innovations that will bring about changes in the group. Nevertheless, although the leader is able to deviate from the group’s norm, he or she must continue to pay attention to the group’s norms, values, and standards in order to remain successful in influencing others. Holders of idiosyncrasy credit have other limitations on the deviance that they are permitted. … In effect, the leader’s freedom to deviate from general norms is exchanged for conforming more closely to the expectation others have about the requirements of the leader’s role.

Leaders practicing contingent aversive reinforcement … will foster followers’ efforts to comply with the clarified standards to avoid negative consequences for failure. If followers succeed in complying, they avoid being aversively reinforced and may increase in self-esteem and self-reinforcement. If they fail and leaders attribute the failure to lack of clarity, ability, and understanding, the leaders will renew clarification and attempt to improve followers’ ability through training, thus increasing the likelihood of ultimate successful performance by followers. On the other hand, if aversively reinforcing leaders attribute followers’ failure to comply to [a] lack of follower motivation, they are likely to reprimand or threaten, possibly generating the unintended effects on followers of hostility, apathy, anxiety, and loss of self-esteem. In turn, there will be a reduction in self-reinforced effort and interference with the efforts of followers to comply.

Even when given, it {feedback} is not very helpful if it is insufficiently frequent, if it comes too late, if it is not based on evidence, if it is a one-way discourse instead of a dialogue, or if it is unclear or inaccurate. Rather, feedback should be timely, flexible, direct, specific, and descriptive; … and it should be about the subordinate’s performance, not the subordinate as a person:

The same dilemma confronts organizational leaders today. They must balance the advantages of a more democratic approach, which ordinarily contributes to the commitment, loyalty, involvement, and satisfaction of followers, with a more autocratic approach, which contributes to order, consistency, and the resolution of conflict.

One or two years may elapse before a change in leadership style has measurable effects on organizational performance.

Who decides? The leader? The led? Both? On what does the answer depend? What are the consequences? Should leaders give directions and tell followers how to do the work, or should they share with followers the need for solving problems or handling situations and involve them in working out what is to be done and how? Is there one best way?

Generally, when managers’ self-rated styles are contrasted with descriptions provided by their subordinates, one is likely to find many more managers who see themselves as favoring their subordinates’ participation than subordinates who see such participation occurring. Also, many authoritarian leaders would be surprised to learn that their subordinates say they are far more directive than they believe themselves to be.

…in social service agencies, supervisors set examples of how they expected their subordinates to relate to clients. Satisfied clients coincided with friendly, concerned, supervisory relations with subordinates.

The considerate leader expresses appreciation for good work, stresses the importance of job satisfaction, maintains and strengthens the self-esteem of subordinates by treating them as equals, makes special efforts to help subordinates feel at ease, is easy to approach, puts subordinates’ suggestions into operation, and obtains subordinates’ approval on important matters before going ahead.

Initiation of structure includes such leadership behavior as insisting on maintaining standards and meeting deadlines and deciding in detail what will be done and how it should be done. Clear channels of communication and clear patterns of work organization are established. Orientation is toward the task. The leader acts directively without consulting the group. Particularly relevant are defining and structuring the leader’s own role and the roles of subordinates in attaining goals. The leader whose factor score in initiating structure is low is described as hesitant about taking initiatives in the group. He or she fails to take necessary actions, makes suggestions only when members ask for it, and lets members do the work the way they think best.

Self-ratings seem unlikely to indicate what leaders do according to their subordinates.

Transformational leaders motivate their followers to do more than the followers originally intended and thought possible. The leader sets challenging expectations and achieves higher standards of performance. Transformational leadership looks to higher purposes.

Transactional leadership emphasizes the exchange that occurs between a leader and followers. This exchange involves direction from the leader or mutual discussion with the followers about requirements to reach desired objectives. Reaching objectives will appear psychologically or materially rewarding. If not overlooked or forgiven, failure will bring disappointment, excuses, dissatisfaction, and psychological or material punishment. If the transaction occurs and needs of leader and follower are met, and if the leader has the formal or informal power to do so, he or she reinforces the successful performance.

There is a difference between possessing competence, knowledge, skill, ability, aptitude, and intelligence and being able to translate these qualities into action as intellectual inspiration and the stimulation of others.

Ordinarily, a hierarchy of effectiveness was found. Transformational leadership was more effective than contingent reward; contingent reward was more effective than active management by exception; and active management by exception might be positive or negative in effect on subordinates’ performance but was more effective than passive management by exception. Laissez-faire leadership was correlated moderately to highly negatively in effectiveness.

High-level cooperation and enthusiasm can come about only among competent people with clearly defined roles who work cohesively in trusting relationships, exercise personal discipline, and are willing to work for the good of the team.

A Success Tidbit

The Road To Success

“No man ever wetted clay and then left it,
as if there would be bricks by chance and fortune.” — Plutarch

One may assume that Plutarch intended this rhetorically, since
it definitely isn’t literally true. It’s hard to say about wetting clay
specifically; but starting a job and not finishing it is certainly not
uncommon. The fact of the case is that it’s business as usual for far too many
folks. They probably don’t think what they start will be finished by chance and
fortune; but they do figure that they won’t be the ones who have to complete
it. It’s likely justifiable to conclude that they see this as good fortune,
whether anyone else does or not.

Why do people do this? Why do they stop before the job is done?
The famous Anon. has been sitting on the answer, “The road to success is dotted
with many tempting parking places.” That’s it. They start with the best of
intentions but soon discover that intentions are to accomplishments as a hardy appetite
is to breakfast. However you like your omelet, someone still has to crack the
eggs and grease the skillet.

Newt Gingrich figured out the “why” of it. He said,
“Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard
work you already did.” On the road to success, people get as far as
“Perseverance” and then pull over and park. Perhaps they are too tired to
continue, too bored to stay focused, or maybe just too trifling to take their
responsibilities seriously. Whatever their excuse, they obdurately resist any
suggestion that they should buckle down and take care of business. As Henry
Ward Beecher expressed the principle, “The difference between perseverance and
obstinacy is that one comes from a strong will, and the other from a strong
won’t;” and some people just won’t.

Sure, sometimes you come up against can’t and won’t and can’t
wins. You don’t have the knowledge, skills, or resources it takes to do what
you want to do. At other times, though, won’t is clearly in the driver’s seat.
When you reach that fork in the road, Josh Billings has a little advice for
you, “Consider the postage stamp: its usefulness consists in the ability to
stick to one thing till it gets there.”

It’s a postage stamp moment. When
it’s time to do it, don’t hesitate getting around to it. Remember that you are
up to it, so get down to it, and jump into it; and if you think others are
blocking your way, Gen. Joseph (Vinegar Joe) Stilwell’s motto is worth adopting
as your own. “Illegitimis non carborundum." (Don’t let the bastards grind
you down.)