No single formula is possible for the great range of situations leaders encounter. Three of the most dominant and destructive !gures of the twentieth century were Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, and Mao Zedong. All were able to come to power because they came of age when their respective countries were in disarray, and people were looking for someone strong enough to lead them out of chaos. Had they been born in different times or places, no one would remember them.
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Leadership is thus a subtle process of mutual in”uence fusing thought, feeling, and action. It produces cooperative effort in the service of purposes embraced and enhanced by both leader and led. Single-frame managers are unlikely to understand and attend to the intricacies of this lively process.
WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT GOOD LEADERSHIP? Threading through the literature on leadership have been two divergent propositions. One asserts that good leaders need the right stuff—qualities like vision, strength, and commit- ment. The other holds that good leadership is situational; what works in one setting will not work in another. A proposition from the “effective schools” literature illustrates the right- stuff perspective: A good school is headed by a strong and visionary instructional leader. An example of the situational view is the belief that it takes a different kind of person to lead when you’re growing and adding staff than when you’re cutting budgets and laying people off.
Despite the tension between these one-best-way and contingency views, both capture part of the truth. Studies have found shared characteristics among effective leaders across sectors and situations. Another body of research has identi!ed situational variables that determine the kind of leadership that works best.
Recent decades have produced a steady stream of studies of effective leadership. Modern trait research (reviewed in Zaccaro, Kemp, and Bader, 2004) tells us that leaders, compared to nonleaders, tend to be smarter, more creative, more extroverted and agreeable, and better at thinking outside the box. They have more social skills and stronger needs for power and achievement. But this research tells us more about what leaders are like than what they do. A list of leadership traits may help in selecting leaders but provides limited guidance for how to lead (Zaccaro, 2007).
We get a different picture if we look at the many qualitative studies of leadership in recent decades. No characteristic is universally associated with good leadership in these studies, but vision and focus show up most often. Effective leaders help articulate a vision, set standards for performance, and create focus and direction. A related characteristic, explicit in some reports (Clifford and Cavanagh, 1985; Kouzes and Posner, 2007; Peters and Austin, 1985) and implicit in others, is the ability to communicate a vision effectively, often through the use of symbols. Another quality often mentioned is passion, determination, or will (Clifford and Cavanagh, 1985; Collins, 2001; Collins and Hansen, 2011; George, 2004; Peters and Austin, 1985; Vaill, 1982). Good leaders care deeply about their work and the people who do it and are doggedly persistent in pushing the cause forward. Yet another
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characteristic is the ability to inspire trust and build relationships (Bennis and Nanus, 2007; Kotter, 1988; Kouzes and Posner, 1987, 2007; Maccoby, 1981). But beyond vision, focus, passion, and trust, there is less consensus. The many reviews of the literature (Bass, 1990; Gardner, 1987; Hollander, 1978; Yukl, 2012) generate a long list of attributes associated with effective leadership, but they do not add up to a coherent picture.
Research has made progress in one area of growing importance: the intersection of culture and leadership. We’ll discuss results from the GLOBE program, a large international research project, in the next section.
CULTURE AND LEADERSHIP Organizational culture (as we discussed in Chapter 12) is a pattern of basic assumptions and values shared amongmembers of a group. This de!nition applies to groups of any size, from a small work group or family to a nation like China or the United States. Much of the research on leadership in organizations has been conducted in a Western context, particularly in the United States, but globalization drives a need to better understand what happens when citizens of one culture try to lead those of another.What do they need to understand? What adjustments do they have to make?
TheGLOBE researchers surveyedmore than 17,000middlemanagers in 950 organizations across 62 countries (see Exhibit 17.3). They found that some leadership characteristics seemed to be universal, but others were not. Managers around the world wanted leaders who were trustworthy, planful, positive, motivating, decisive, and intelligent, and not unfriendly, irritable, or self-centered. But other characteristics—such as autonomous, ambitious, cunning, intuitive, logical, and risk-taking—were valuedmuchmorehighly in some cultures thanothers.
The GLOBE researchers identi!ed six different leadership styles in their data:
1. Charismatic/values based: leader sets high standards, seeks to inspire people around a vision, emphasizes core values
2. Team-oriented: leader evokes pride, loyalty, and cooperation, values team cohesiveness and shared goals
3. Participative: leader encourages input in decisions, emphasizes delegation and equality
4. Humane: leader is patient, supportive, concerned for others’ welfare
5. Autonomous: leader is independent and individualistic and puts self at the center
6. Protective: leader emphasizes procedure, status, face-saving, and safety and security of individual and group
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Exhibit 17.3. GLOBE Country Clusters.
Source: Adapted from House, Hanges, Javidan, Dorfman, and Gupta (eds.), Culture, Leadership, and Organizations: The GLOBE Study of 62 Societies. Copyright ! 2004 by Sage Publications, Inc. Reprinted with permission.
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Which of those styles is most like you? Which do you think works best? Your answer is likely to be different depending on the culture you grew up in. The GLOBE researchers categorized their 62 countries into 10 regional clusters, shown in Exhibit 17.3. Countries that are near one another on the wheel are more similar in terms of culture and views of leadership. Those that are opposite one another are least alike. Thus the English-speaking Anglo cluster is least like theMiddle-Eastern cluster of Islamic nations. The Anglomanagers preferred the charismatic/values-based, participative, and humane styles. They liked the protective style least. Middle-Eastern managers liked the protective style best and the charismatic/values-based style least. It is easy to imagine how an American or Australian trying to lead in the Middle East could “ame out while implementing a leadership approach—charismatic or participative, for example—that was perfect back home but wrong for a new and unfamiliar context. Instead of recognizing the cultural dynamics, the failed manager might blame the locals for having bad attitudes or a poor work ethic. Globalization increases the chance that at some point in your career you will be working in another culture that has different values and ideas about leadership. Your cultural intelligence and willingness to learn will be vital to your success.