Leadership Emerging

Russ Volckmann

Chemers Integrative TheoryMartin M. Chemers, An Integrative Theory of Leadership, Mahway, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers, 1997.

Stimulated by the author’s chapter in Richard Couto’s edited volume, Reflections on Leadership, I have gone back to his book published in the late 1990s to see what we might learn about his approach to integrating theories of leadership. To begin with, let’s look at how he approaches this by framing the notion of leadership. “…leadership contributes to the realization of organizational goals. The mechanisms by which organizations create and structure the leadership role is related to the environments in which the organizations function…environmental characteristics influence the evolution of organizational types and leadership roles with attendant conceptions of ideal leadership.”[2] “…leaders play a central role in helping organizations to develop appropriate systems for meeting internal and external demands.” [4]

According to these statements, leadership provides a coordination function in an organization—thus there is no distinction between leadership and management. This is not uncommon in the leadership literature and, indeed, some—like Gary Yukl— argue that the linking of these roles is essential to organizational effectiveness. Nevertheless, Chemers is hardly naïve about this and in this work expands notions of leadership by examining various theoretical approaches to the subject. Here is a definition he offers:

“Leadership is a process of social influence through which one person is able to enlist the aid of others in reaching a goal.” [5] The primary responsibilities of leaders are to provide:

  • Guidance and motivation: assign people to tasks or responsibilities, to outline what is expected, and to facilitate and encourage goal attainment.
  • Problem solving and innovation: create the kind of atmosphere that encourages the sensitivity, flexibility, and creativity that allows the group to deal with uncertainty of new or complex demands.
  • “The leader as change agent must possess a legitimate authority for influencing followers. That legitimacy flows from the leader’s special status.” [5]

Leadership occurs within a status system with a rank in a hierarchy of power that is measured by effectiveness in control and ability to use sanctions. Status bestowal fills the following functions:

“The leader’s actions generally are more important to the success of the endeavor than are the actions of any other individual in the group…The first purpose of status, then, is the elevation of competence.” The second objective of status differentiation is the organization and differentiation of work. The leader accomplishes this through the assignment of authority. To support these functions leaders are responsible for the distribution of rewards. Leaders must model normative expectancies. Furthermore,

“The appropriateness and desirability of leadership and other social behavior is determined by the values of the culture in which the behavior occurs.” [10] Chelmers displays sensitivity to developmental perspectives by briefly examining the types of leadership demanded by hunter/gatherer and agricultural societies, i.e. cultures.

The following articulates his aspiration for this book:

It is the thesis of this volume that an integration of contemporary leadership theory and research is possible, but it requires a new way of looking at leadership. This integrative approach stresses common functions and processes of leadership that cut across particular theories. Effective leadership is thought to encompass three major functions: image management, which refers to a leader’s ability to project an image that is consistent with observers’ expectations; relationship development, which reflects the leader’s success in creating and sustaining motivated and competent followers; and resource utilization, which alludes to the leader’s capability for deploying the assets of self and others to mission accomplishment.

Like many books on leadership, Chemers surveys various theoretical approaches to leadership, including contingency and situational, transactional and exchange, transformational, cognitive. One of the more interesting aspects of this survey is Chemers building on the work of J. R Meindl and his associates and the “hyper-romanticism” associated with much of the work on leadership, particularly transformational and charismatic models. An alternative is treating leadership move as a relationship between leaders and followers. Perhaps the key point here is that approaches that emphasize the “success” of formal leaders and their organizations as a product of the behaviors of these leaders. “Meindl…argued that follower-focused alternatives to leader-dominant approaches have the potential of generating new productive ways of thinking about leadership phenomena, that is, alternatives to the conventional wisdom and its intellectual straightjacket effects.” [108] He continues, “”Perceptual biases create problems for leadership theorizing, research design, and organizational practice. Theories that do not reflect the important role played by perceptions and judgments are inadequate to explain the full range of leadership effects. Research methodologies that regard reports by leaders and followers as accurate measures of behavior and outcome, ignoring the biasing effects of implicit theories, increase the likelihood of inappropriate conclusions.” [109]This extends to organizational practices assuming rationality (that is, being unbiased) on the part of leaders and followers.

Chemers then turns to an aspect of leadership studies that points directly at some work like the global leadership studies: the important role of culture for leadership phenomena. This includes variables such as masculinity—femininity, individualism—collectivism, power distance, uncertainty avoidance and other variables being used to distinguish cultures. These can also be applied to women and minorities in leadership. He closes with a function and process integration of leadership theories. This involves recognizing leadership as a multifaceted process and that divisions among leadership theories are the ways they label these processes. Further, there are three facets to the functional aspects of leadership. These are the concepts introduced earlier in the book: image management, relationship development and resource utilization. Unfortunately, this functional aspect of leadership can be assumed to be what individual leaders do to individual and collective followers.

Chemers’ contribution is to highlight some very important ways of looking at leadership, to remind us of the risks of hyper-romanticism, and to show us that a structure-process approach, too, has its limitations. Nevertheless, it is an important contribution to efforts at building a general theory of leadership. For this writer I am left with the conviction that an integral map or atlas cannot but further our ability to do this.

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Stahl LeadershipJack Stahl, Lessons on Leadership: The 7 Fundamental Management Skills for Leaders at all Levels. New York: Kaplan Publishing, 2007.

There is a reason to read books by leaders. It has to do with leadership development, in a sense. Probably the most important leadership development approach is through being challenged to lead on the ground in ever increasingly complex and challenging assignments. There just isn’t a substitute for having been there, worked there, responding to those challenges, comprehending that complexity and being a part of a system that is able to achieve its objectives or, at least, learn from its mistakes. With that in mind, I opened Jack Stahl’s new book, Lessons on Leadership. Here is a bit of what I found.

In case the name, Jack Stahl, is not familiar to you, you may be interested to know that at one time he was the CEO of Revlon and then of Coca-Cola. During his tenures company performance was very respectable showing considerable profit growth.

This is not so much a book about leadership as it is about key themes in holding a position of responsibility to a large corporation in the United States. There are seven such themes and here are examples of material from each:

  1. Leadership and Management: “Leadership Insight—If leaders aren’t bold in setting a destination, no one else will be!” This may be one of the most persuasive arguments for a heroic and romantic view of leadership. This is the fundamental principal that the person at the top sets the tone for organizational performance.
  2. Creating a High Capacity Organization: The “key building blocks” are:
    a. “Communicate the opportunity for your business and its people.
    b. “Be visible to the people in your organization.
    c. “Present a clear picture of the core skills required for success in your organization.
    d. “Recruit and assign jobs based on the necessary skills to succeed.
    e. “Invest in and capitalize on diversity.”
  3. Developing People: “Leadership Insight—Development occurs through frequent problem-solving and coaching conversations with experienced and skilled leaders in an organization.”
  4. Brand Positioning with Customers: “Leadership Insight—Focusing on your consumers’ lifestyles, their daily routines, and their emotional needs will help you shape what your product can deliver to them.”
  5. Customer Relationship Management: Leadership Insight—Your customer typically has two ways to ‘win’—professionally and personally. Listening for both with create opportunities to serve your customer more effectively.”
  6. Financial Strategy and Management: “Key Point—The goal of creating value for those who own your business through growth in cash flow is fundamental to strong financial strategy and management.”
  7. Influencing People—Leadership Insight—People will be more readily influenced by someone who doesn’t pretend to be perfect, who is humble, and doesn’t expect perfection from them!”

Keep in mind that these are just samples. The book is replete with sights, key points and questions. Its strengths is in the questions. The reader is encouraged to analyze their own situation, rather than just seek to imitate those who came before.

Ultimately, to an integrally informed audience, this book will no doubt present a challenge. But it is an important challenge. Stahl’s work represents the way Orange leaders think about and see their business and organizational operations and environments. It represents the way Orange leaders see themselves, their roles and relationships. How can we add to this thinking the approaches to boosting this thinking? That is indeed a challenge. But the bigger challenge is communicating clearly with them to open up dimensions that are not addressed in this particular book. For example, what is the intention of Jack Stahl? Is it only to realize profit? And the implications for people and the environment? Can he see the role of culture and systems? I think he can. And how might be develop these capabilities and greater clarity? Well, in his world, maybe he doesn’t think he needs to. If he had addressed some of these questions, though, I suspect we would have gotten to know Jack Stahl and his approach to leadership a lot better.