Monday, June 30, 2014

It ranks as critically important for leaders to embrace and adopt the values and behaviors, idealized and promoted by organizations, as representing their desired cultures and worldviews. However, I suggest that organizations that limit their leadership development efforts to instructing current and potential leaders that leadership values and behaviors merely represent those values and behaviors that organizations really desire from all members that they will thereby, necessarily limit the intentional development of "real" leadership skills. Additionally, while some people seem to possess gifts for providing directions; others seem to have a need to learn the associated skills, throughout their organizations. In any case, here's my list of what leaders have to do differently from everyone else in organizations. Of course, by leader and leadership, I refer to people in any organizations who take up the mantle of going out ahead and showing self or others the way (Greenleaf, 1977, p. 117) and to what they do in that role, respectively. I say this because I believe that the appropriate use of leadership skills does not depend on positions or ranks, but rather, on roles (either formal or informal). Given that, and with all other things equal, it appears that leaders must possess the abilities to:

1. Identify and prioritize desired outcomes
Leadership should only ever enter the picture, when members of organizations do not know where to go or how to get there. If members know where to go and how to get there, they may need accountability partners (otherwise managers) to keep them on the "straights and narrows," but they don't need leadership. Therefore, the uses of leadership only come into play when management (or some other, similar sets of skills) won't work. Why? Because most organizations have identified and publicized their desired destinations and outcomes with most all of their members; and they have validated and standardized most of the processes and procedures needed to reach those desired outcomes and destinations -- especially at the operative and coordinative levels (Kast and Rosenzweig, 1979).

2. Direct the activities and behaviors of self and others
Showing people the way requires providing them with directions. Even though some people have seemed to only correlate the concept of "providing directions" with taking authoritative command and control; objectively, in most cases, individuals have to take personal responsibility for the paths that their organizations will follow. Additionally, in most cases, most organizations hold the designated leaders accountable for the associated outcomes, regardless of whether those leaders use authoritative, coercive, democratic, or participative methods of decision-making to determine those paths. For example, when lost drivers stop to ask local people to show (otherwise lead) them to their desired destinations, they ask those locals for directions. No shame exists in not knowing the ways to go or in not knowing the destinations. Neither should shame exists in providing directions. Shame might only ought to exist, if and when leaders abused their authority, to determine or provide provide the required directions.

3. Chart courses without maps
People should use the leadership skill set, when they or their would be followers, for whatever reasons, can't follow validated, standardized procedures, in timely matters. Specifically, leadership serves as the "go to" skill set when: (a) no validated, standardized processes and procedures exist that would allow people to reach their desired destinations or outcomes; (b) someone needs to make a choice, as to which validated, standardized processes and procedures to employ; and (c) the existing processes and procedures no longer result in the efficiency or effectiveness desired by the relevant stakeholders -- and not knowing the destinations fits into this last category. Arguably, all other situations most appropriately call for the uses of skill sets other than leadership. Additionally, would be followers who know what to do and how to do it can wind up resenting would-be leaders who propose new destinations or new directions for getting there, without sharing good reasons for adopting either.

4. Discern the existence of opportunities, challenges, and pitfalls
From time to time, especially in situations where traveling through relatively unknown territory, "bumps in the road" will emerge. These might include budget overruns, "scope creep," or any of a myriad of other political, structural, or resource-based occurrences; any of which could prove beneficial or detrimental to the organization, in the short or long runs. Leaders who can't or won't look for and identify relevant concerns, necessarily insert greater elements of risk into reaching desired outcomes and destinations.

5. Create innovative solutions
This most aptly represents the course adjustments that leaders need to make, in response to emerging opportunities, challenges, and pit falls that teams typically encounter along the ways to their ultimate destinations. This step addresses those bumps in the road, discussed in the previous step. After all, discerning that needs exist, for which no standard processes exist, necessitates the use of leadership, by definition.

6. Take responsibility and accountability for processes employed and outcomes achieved
This is where the "hows" of leadership really enter into the picture. Look at the 90+ attributes of leadership that Winston and Patterson (2006) identified as characteristics that they and other authors have suggested that leaders should value and employ. In their list, they included values like trustworthiness, care for followers, concern for outcomes, and just about any other values and related behaviors that most people have desired for everyone (not just leaders) to embrace in their given organizations. However, regardless of whether or not other members take responsibility or put themselves in situations whereby others may hold them accountable for how organizations do business, both internally and externally, embracing and displaying the desired attributes of their organizational cultures represents the "bottom line" for those who would lead.

Greenleaf, R. K. (1977). Servant leadership: A journey into the nature of legitimate power and greatness. New York: Paulist Press.

Kast, F. E., & Rosenzweig, J. E. (1979). Organizations and management: A systems and contingency approach (3rd ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.

Winston, B. E., & Patterson, K. (2006). An integrated definition of leadership. International Journal of Leadership Studies, 1(2), 6-66. Access this at:

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Greenleaf (1977) implied that it would prove easier for people to display the behaviors associated with servant leadership if they already embrace the values associated with servant hood: if they have already developed an ideology, personal philosophy, and worldview that includes serving as the foundational basis. On corporate levels, I posit that this means that organizations can more easily adopt servant leadership (or, for that matter, any style of leadership that differs significantly from the one they currently employ) as the norm, similarly, if they already embrace the associated values as cultural norms.

Many organizations have seemed to have approached leader development as they have skills development for operations and maintenance. They have provided technical training that lasted days, or weeks, or in some cases, even months. In this training, they have identified the desired leadership values and they have had potential and existing leaders work through case studies, role-plays, and other exercises to show would-be leaders how they should ideally prefer to go before others, within their organizations, to show them the desired destinations and how best to reach those. Some organizations have experienced success with this, most likely because they have actually and sincerely desired the associated transformations to occur; and they already had similar types of cultures in place. (As an aside, people who take organizations at their words, when those organizations promote transformational changes, and later find that their organizations displayed a façade -- and they never really and substantially intended to make the leap, will likely feel all of the values and display all of the behaviors typically associated with similar types of betrayals of trust.) However, I also posit that technical training, alone, will not result in the desired effects, for most people, if the existing gaps between the existing cultures in the desired cultures prove too great.

Technical training has proven sufficient, and will likely continue to do so, in situations where the personal values, philosophies, and worldviews of the individuals in the training align with the values that represent the desired cultural norms of their organizations. However, if those values differ, then any significant transformation will require more than technical training or educational courses. Specifically, Massey (1979) suggested people develop most of their basic values, by the age of seven years; and it requires those people to experience significant promotional events, in order to to reshape their values. On an corporate level, Schein (1984) suggested that organizations establish collective values in answering opportunities and challenges associated with processes of internal integration and external adaptation. In other words, the members of the organizations collectively suggest, validate, and learn solutions. They then adopt those solutions and then embrace and embed the supporting values. Once they have embedded those values, they will continue to embrace them, even after the original opportunities and challenges no longer exist. Additionally, when implementing new solutions, they will tend to revert to the old values, even if they no longer apply. Therefore, when organizations desire to make changes, not only do members have to collectively appreciate the improvement offered by the required technical changes, they also have to undergo a cultural shift that requires displacing old values that they have previously proven and accepted as the correct ways to thank, feel, and behave; but they also have to replace those by embracing new values.

Greenleaf, R. (1977). Servant leadership: A journey into the nature of legitimate power and greatness. New York, New York: Paulist Press.

Massey, M. (1979). The people puzzle: Understanding yourself and others. Reston, VA: Reston.

Schein, E. H. (1992). Organizational culture and leadership (2nd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Monday, June 16, 2014

While many people regularly use the term leader to represent those in positions of hierarchical authority; the term leadership more aptly represents a skill set that people most appropriately use, when no standardized procedures exist that would otherwise show the ways to desired destinations. People who know where to go and how to get there might need accountability partners (otherwise managers), to keep them on the "straight and narrow;" however, arguably, they don't need leaders. Additionally, those who employ leadership, serve as entities that go out ahead and show the way -- nothing more and nothing less. Certainly, they should do what some scholars have suggested; to take care of their teams. Quite frankly, however, I expect everyone in organizations to take on the role of getting themselves and others "to do what's best for their team." That should represent a cultural norm that ought to transcend any positions or roles. Finally, people can talk all they want about how influencing serves as a construct of leadership. Yet, in most contexts, it seems abundantly evident (a priori) that most people won't follow unless the influencing has taken place -- before the leading begins. Therefore, I posit that it serves as an antecedent rather than a construct of leadership.

When people equate leadership with position, their definitions of leadership often read like leading serves as all that "leaders" do during any given day. I would argue that anybody, in any given role, in any organization would likely use a combination of skill sets that include management, leadership, selling, marketing, and a myriad of others, even when addressing a singular problem or project. For example, a designated manager might help everyone on a team to achieve maximum effectiveness, but everyone else might take turns leading, based on their various levels of functional expertise and the contextual needs of the given project. At other times, they may serve as promoters, administrators, or in some other roles necessary to achieve the desired outcomes (otherwise destinations).

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Since several people have recently looked,  here's a revisit to my post from November 23, 2012:

Laissez-faire — A French phrase literally meaning “let do;” eighteenth century “physiocrats” first used the term as an injunction against government interference with trade. It later became used as a synonym for strict, free market economics. Subsequently, many students of economics have generally understood it to represent a doctrine that maintains that private initiative and production work best, when people allow them to “roam free,” without opposing economic interventionism and taxation by the state; beyond the levels necessary to maintain individual liberty, peace, security, and property rights. In that regard, Keynes (1972) characterized [economic] laissez-faire as meaning: “that by the working of natural laws individuals pursuing their own interests with enlightenment in conditions of freedom always tend to promote the general interest at the same time” (p. 274).

Several pieces I’ve reviewed over the past months have suggested (or cited empirical results) that the laissez-faire leadership (otherwise mentioned as management) style ranks lowest among the different styles that the associated researchers investigated, as they relate to organizational outcomes. For example, under the topic of “Transactional Leadership,” Barbuto (2005) noted that: Bass identified laissez-faire as a key type “… of transactional leadership” and  that “… most conceptualizations of transactional leadership… exclude laissez-faire because it represents the absence of leadership” (p. 26). Barbuto continued by citing how Bradford and Lippitt described “laissez-faire leadership as a leader’s disregard of supervisory duties and lack of guidance to subordinate” (p. 27). Barbuto then cited a number of leadership experts who essentially concluded that: “laissez-faire leaders offer little support to their subordinates and are inattentive to productivity or the necessary completion of duties… From the outset, laissez-faire has demonstrated itself to be the most inactive, least effective, and most frustrating leadership style” and “studies show that policies and practices that reflect non-involvement of supervisors lead to low productivity, resistance to change, and low quality of work…” (p. 27).

Clearly, a dichotomy exists between the traditional uses of the term laissez-faire, as experts have applied it in the two disciplines of economics and leadership. Where the economics experts have apparently concluded that when left unregulated, people will do those things required to achieve outcomes correlated to their perceived best interests; leadership experts have apparently concluded that when left unregulated, people will not do those things required to achieve outcomes required to achieve outcomes in their organizations’ best interests. Why have leadership experts taken this position? I posit they have done this for one or more of at least three reasons: (a) leaders have not adequately and appropriately developed shared visions, compelling self-interests, and entitlements with and for their subordinates, in order to establish subsequent buy-in and associated levels of organizational citizenship and affective commitment; (b) stakeholders have confused the concept of leadership by hierarchical position with the concept of leadership by functional behaviors. They have thereby mistaken the overall purposes and uses of leadership with those of other competencies, typically emplyed by organizational members in hierarchical positions of authority. Arguably, actual "leaders" need only to appropriately employ leadership competencies, when:

  • No standard procedures exist

  • Selecting standard procedures to use

  • Existing standard procedures no longer result in the desired levels of efficiency and effectiveness that relevant stakeholders require.

During all other situations, those who employ positions of hierarchical authority should appropriately employ other competency sets (diplomacy, influence, management, sales, etc.); and (c) for all of the praise in the literature, heaped upon McGregor’s (1960) Theory Y and the subsequent contempt shown for the associated Theory X; the underlying perceptions (cultural assumptions?) of the cited leadership scholars, includes that, for the most part and at the most basic levels, subordinates prefer to embrace attitudes and employ behaviors associated with Theory X, rather than those associated with Theory Y.

Based on my experiences as a subordinate, I have generally embraced organizational outcomes of the organizations for which I have worked; appreciated most, the supervisors who managed my by exception; and maintained as high or higher personal production and quality standards, than those of my supervisors. Therefore, I suggest that a gap exists in the current leadership literature, represented by the following research questions (stated as hypotheses):

H1. Subordinates who perceive the existence of positive personal relationships with their supervisors, who employ a laissez faire style, rate their supervisors' effectiveness higher than subordinates, whose supervisors employ the transformational or servant leadership styles.

H2. Subordinates who perceive organizational vision alignment with their supervisors, who employ a laissez-faire style, rate supervisors' effectiveness higher than subordinates, whose supervisors employ the transformational or servant leadership styles.


Barbuto, J. E., Jr. (2005). Motivation and transactional, charismatic, and transformational leadership: A test of antecedents. Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, 11(4), 26-40.

Keynes, J. M. (1926/1972). The end of laissez-faire. In Essays in persuasion (pp. 272-294). London: Macmillan.

McGregor, D. (1960). The human side of enterprise. New York: McGraw-Hill.

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