Management is about coping with complexity, whilst leadership by contrast, is about coping with change” – John Kotter

The leader will increasingly need to ‘win the right to lead’, ‘lead from the front’, ‘lead by example’, and ‘be prepared to share in hardship’. Developing a culture of leadership in which people can excel is being seen increasingly important, as is the need to create and communicate a shared long-term vision” – Daniel Goleman

Some Leadership Perspectives

The statement “Leaders are trained not born” was the heading of an article in the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC Society Today) which explored the question “What makes a great leader?”. The article focused on the perspective of Dr. Keith Grint of the University of Oxford and on his apparent disillusion with the quest to find a scientific answer to what constitutes effective leadership. He concluded with “I believe that the most useful way for organisations to view leadership is as an art not a science, asa collective process not an individual achievement, and that the most successful leaders lead through negotiation not logic.”He further concludes that “Subordinates need to be given as much exposure as possible to leadership and the opportunity to make mistakes and learn from them”.

These statements might appear to be a reasonable interpretation of either the science or art of leadership, but context is very important – especially when one is seeking to motivate people to follow a path that to them may seem obscure, threatening or inappropriate.

The jaded or cynical follower may have been through a career path (which evolved into a ‘job’) that offered exposure to an assortment of leadership styles and degrees of competency, and might be predisposed to going along with the status quo because they have evaluated the punishments and rewards and took the survival option. However, Grint says; “Yet all the evidence suggests that people’s minds are not changed by appeals to logic or rationality but by appeals to their interests. For example, however logical the business case for making someone redundant, they are unlikely to be persuaded it is a good idea. However, they may still be persuaded by a negotiated settlement that satisfies their interests.”  Grint proposes that people can be trained to negotiate rather than argue.

The ability to deploy negotiating skills as and when necessary is central to a ‘leaderful’ organisation. The key argument being that leadership is about the organisation being a collective force, as opposed to any individual who has certain attributes that energise or inspire followers to ‘go that extra mile’ because of something intangible such as trust, respect or even affection that the leader engenders in the follower’s psyche. This ‘collective force’ concept is somewhat idealistic and although it does have its merits, it probably had an individual catalyst to get the collective mobilized.

A young person who has had their aspirations of fame and fortune crushed because of ‘the system’ (a perspective that may be accurate or an excuse for laziness), and who requires a serious dose of inspiration to even get out of bed, will need leadership that ignites a sense of urgency and determination to succeed. This follower needs much more than the incentive of a minimum wage (less deductions) to keep them attached to a vision that overrides his or her apathy, indifference or the anticipation of inevitable failure. It is therefore unlikely that “a collective process” leadership approach will be the critical motivating factor to inspire such a disgruntled youth to change lifetime habits.

In 1973 the well-regarded Harvard Professor David McCleland proposed the radical concept of discarding the standard practice of testing a candidate’s IQ, technical skills or personality when seeking to hire or promote the best person for a specific job, such as a leadership role. McCleland instead recommended that the organisation should first study employees who were considered to be outstanding performers in that job and compare them with those who were average performers.

This analytical process highlighted the threshold abilities for the job to be filled, but even more importantly, the differentiating or ‘distinguishing’ competencies of outstanding performers in that job. His recommendation was for the organisation to map potential candidates against this higher competency level, or in the absence of such outstanding candidates, identify candidates who have the basic job competencies and help them to attain the highest competency levels through targeted training and mentoring initiatives.

Grint (2005a) argues that the individual’s charisma is of marginal importance. The argument is underpinned by the view that leadership is more about the collective than an individual. There is a certain synergy between McCleland’s and Grint’s (2005a) perspectives in that both promote the concept that a candidate with basic competencies or technical resources can undertake an upskilling process to achieve the competency levels of a highly successful and exceptional leader.

How the Goleman leadership approach might help

McCleland differs from Grint (2005a) in that he acknowledged that Emotional Intelligence was the critical factor in effective leadership. As emotions required a living, breathing empathetic individual, it could be argued that the similarities between McCleland and Grint are therefore marginal. A long-time associate of McCleland’s named Lyle Spencer (Source: The Economic Value of Emotional Intelligence Competencies and EIC-Based HR Programs – 2001) conducted extensive research in the area of leadership competency models for a division of Siemens (the German electronics multinational) which had 400 branches in fifty-six countries. After identifying and analysing the sales leaders who constituted the top 10-15% of top performers, it was discovered that the unique strengths of these leaders was in the area of Emotional Intelligence as opposed to any technical or cognitive competency.

The differentiating attributes of top performers in the Siemens context proved to be the drive to achieve results; the ability to take initiative; skills in collaboration and teamwork; and the ability to lead teams.  Those unique leadership attributes that were revealed by Lyle Spenser’s research are described by Daniel Goleman (The New Leaders – Transforming the Art of Leadership into the Science of Results) as “Primal Leadership”. The concept of ‘primal’ would seem to be more an individual leadership approach than a collective one.  

The approach promoted by McCleland has evolved to what is now called a “competency model”. While there is merit in the original approach advocated by McCleland, Daniel Goleman says there is place for competency models as part of the leader selection process, but a more critical element of outstanding leadership is in the area of ‘resonance’. Resonance is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “the reinforcement or prolongation of sound by reflection” or “by synchronous vibration”, in other words to be in synch with someone. Goleman says “One sign of resonant leadership is a group of followers who vibrate with the leader’s upbeat and enthusiastic energy. A primal leadership dictum is that resonance amplifies and prolongs the emotional impact of leadership. The more resonant people are with each other, the less static are their interactions”. An example of resonance at work is when someone laughs, and others join in.

A Leadership Approach for Transformation

The transitioning arena where enthusiasm meets maturity requires significantly more from leadership than someone simply mimicking outstanding leadership competency. Without the passion, resonance, intuition or vision of the original model (i.e. the example person to be mimicked), an exponent of ‘leadership by numbers’ will come across as hollow and fabricated. People are typically very resonant in social situations, so when they are confronted by leadership in the workplace that they perceive to lack integrity (i.e. the words, tone of voice, body language and energy are misaligned), they are hesitant to trust or follow someone who lacks empathy for their perspective, values and idiosyncrasies.

The manufactured leader who has ‘all the moves but none of the soul’ – to use the New York vernacular, has little chance of really influencing the thoughts, motivation or actions of followers who are lacking in confidence and/or readiness to take on and sustain the challenge of working in a pressurised environment. Without the conviction that they are understood by their designated leader, workers who have felt compromised most of their careers can arrive at the not unreasonable conclusion that what they are witnessing in their leader is ‘all an act’.

If there is a lack of integrity in what their leader is promoting to be in their best interest, the follower will either evolve into a cynic or quickly construct an exit strategy. This is born out in the work by Richard Bolden in his paper for Leadership South-West titled “What is Leadership” (2004). Bolden concludes that if one considers themselves a leader, they should be mindful of “how the process of leadership occurs and your role within it”.

Bolden’s perspective would seem to support Goleman’s view that different circumstances require different approaches and effective leaders need “to attune to a wide range of people”. Leadership requires a number of different competencies and personal attributes in their leadership toolbox – some attributes are inherent, some are learned, and some are intuitive. The effective leader knows which ‘tool’ or combination of ‘tools’ to use at the correct time, with the appropriate people, and in the right context as the situation demands.

It could be argued thatBolden is again supporting Goleman’s leadership philosophy when he says, “The leader will increasingly need to ‘win the right to lead’, ‘lead from the front’, ‘lead by example’, and ‘be prepared to share in hardship’. Developing a culture of leadership in which people can excel is being seen increasingly important, as is the need to create and communicate a shared long-term vision”.

The following table which has been interpreted from his book The New Leaders is the essence of the Goleman approach to leadership and he summarises this by saying; “The first four leadership styles – visionary, coaching, affiliative and democratic – are sure-fire resonance builders. Each has its own strong, positive impact on the emotional climate of an organization. The last two styles – pacesetting and commanding – also have their place in a leader’s tool kit”.  

The Leadership Styles in a Nutshell (by Daniel Goleman)

Leadership StyleHow it builds ResonanceImpact on ClimateWhen Appropriate
VISIONARYMoves people toward shared dreamsMost strongly positiveWhen changes require a new vision, or when a clear direction is needed
COACHINGConnects what a person wants with the organization’s goalsHighly PositiveTo help an employee improve performance by building long-term capabilities
AFFILIATIVECreates harmony by connecting people to each otherPositiveTo heal rifts in a team, motivate during stressful times, or strengthen connections
DEMOCRATICValues people’s input and gets commitment through participationPositiveTo build buy-in or consensus, or to get valuable input from employees
PACESETTINGMeets challenging and exciting goalsBecause too frequently poorly executed, often highly negativeTo get high-quality results from a motivated and competent team
COMMANDINGSoothes fears by giving clear direction in an emergencyBecause so often misused, highly negativeIn a crisis, to kick start a turnaround, or with a problem employee

“Increasingly, the best of breed lead not by virtue of power alone, but by excelling in the art of relationship, the singular expertise that the changing business climate renders indispensable. Leadership excellence is being redefined in interpersonal terms as companies strip out layers of managers, as corporations merge across national boundaries, and as customers and suppliers redefine the web of connection.

Resonant leaders know when to be collaborative and when to be visionary, when to listen and when to command. Such leaders have a knack for attuning to their own sense of what matters and articulating a mission that resonates with the values of those they lead. These leaders naturally nurture relationships, surface simmering issues, and create the human synergies of a group in harmony. They build a fierce loyalty by caring about the careers of those who work for them and inspire people to give their best for a mission that speaks to shared values”. The New Leaders – transforming the art of leadership into the science of results, by Daniel Goleman.

CONCLUSION

The examination of pertinent research during the writing of this paper uncovered a need for flexible, resonant, adaptable and visionary leadership competencies within the context of assisting people to transition to an intrinsic motivational mindset. These competencies are most noticeably contained in the leadership approach advocated by Daniel Goleman. The leadership approach as advocated by Dr. Keith Grint clearly has a credible track record in a number of situations, but not necessarily within the holistic context of people transitioning to higher levels of effectiveness and self sufficiency.

The business environment today requires more intrinsically motivated performers – those who want to succeed by becoming the ‘best they can be’ in terms of identifying and eliminating those activities that are impediments to their professional success. People can to a certain extent be taught the leadership approaches of ‘Pacesetting’ (push) and ‘Commanding’ (tell) and achieve a degree of success in environments where a pre-defined and proven path to success exists.

However, in the ‘unchartered waters’ of a transforming environment – with all its uncertainty, adding an emphasis on Visionary & Democratic (‘sell’), and Coaching & Affiliative (‘pull’) leadership, delivers a greater result.  

Richard Bolden concludes his “What is Leadership” (2004) report by asking the reader to “consider how leadership interacts with social and organisational cultures”, before finally leaving the reader to ponder over the following insight:

“Leadership is not a person or a position. It is a complex moral relationship between people, based on trust, obligation, commitment, emotion, and a shared vision of the good” Ciulla (1998).

REFERENCES

Bolden, R (2004) – What is Leadership

Wegner, E (2000) – Communities of practice and Social learning Systems

Grint, R (1997, 2000) – Leadership: classical, contemporary and critical approaches, The Arts of Leadership

Goleman, D (2002) – The New Leader: transforming the art of leadership into the science of results

Kotter, J (1995) – Leading Change:

Learning and Skills Council (2006)

Northouse, 2004 Leadership: Theory and Practice

The Learning and Skills Council Annual Report (2006)

Tavistock Institute (2006) – Tackling Local Government’s Key Workforce Challenges

British Telecom (2006) – Annual Report, Website (intranet)

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