People also attribute power to individuals or groups in an effort to account for observed outcomes. If the unemployment or crime rates drop, political incumbents take credit. If a !rm’s pro!ts jump, we credit the in”uence and power of the chief executive. If a program launches just as things are getting better, its advocates inherit success. Myths of leadership attribute causality to individuals in high places.Whether things are goingwell or badly, we like to hold someone responsible. Cohen and March have this to say about college presidents:
Presidents negotiate with their audiences on the interpretations of their power. As a result, during . . . years of campus troubles, many college presidents sought to emphasize the limitations of presidential control. During the more glorious days of conspicuous success, they solicited a recognition of their responsibility for events. This is likely to lead to popular impressions of strong presidents during good times and weak presidents during bad times. Persons who are primarily exposed to the symbolic presidency (for example, outsiders) will tend to exaggerate the power of the presidency. Those people who have tried to accomplish something in the institution with presidential support (for example, educational reforms) will tend to underestimate presidential power or presidential will (1974, pp. 198–199).
As Edelman puts it: “Leaders lead, followers follow, and organizations prosper. While this logic is pervasive, it can be misleading. Serendipitously marching one step ahead of a crowd moving in a speci!c direction may suggest a spurious connection between leadership
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and followership. Successful leadership is having followers who believe in the power of the leader. By believing, people are encouraged to link positive events with leadership behaviors” (1977, p. 73).
Though reassuring, the assumption that powerful leaders make a difference is often misleading. Cohen and March compare the command and control of college presidents to that of the driver of a skidding automobile: “Themarginal judgments hemakes, his skill, and his luck will probably make some difference to the life prospects of his riders. As a result, his responsibilities are heavy. But whether he is convicted of manslaughter or receives a medal for heroism is largely outside his control” (1974, p. 203).
As with other processes, a leader’s power is less a matter of action than of appearance. When a leader does make a difference, it is mostly by enriching and updating the drama— constructing new myths that alter beliefs and generate faith.
Managing Impressions Peter Vaill (1989) characterized management as a performing art. This rings especially true for those trying to launch a business. One of the chief challenges confronting entrepreneurs is acquiring the resources needed to get embryonic ideas to the marketplace. This requires convincing investors of the future worth of an idea or product. Entrepreneurs typically concentrate on developing a persuasive business plan that projects a rosy !nancial future, coupled with an impressive PowerPoint presentation full of information about the new idea’s potential.
Zott and Huy’s two-year !eld study suggests that symbols may be more powerful than numbers in determiningwho gets funded (2007). They compared entrepreneurswho garnered a lion’s share of resources with others who did not fare as well. Their results depict “the entrepreneur as an active shaper of perceptions and a potentially skilled user of cultural tool kits . . . By enacting symbols effectively entrepreneurs can shape a compelling symbolic universe that complements the initially weak and uncertain quality of their ventures” (pp. 100–101).
Resources “owed to entrepreneurs who presented themselves, their companies, and their products with dramatic “air rather than relying solely on technical promise and !nancial analyses. The winners knew their audience, capitalized on credentials and business associations, wore appropriate costumes to blend with clients and investors, spotlighted the symbolic value of their products, stressed the cultural vigor of their enterprises, called attention to unique processes, highlighted personal commitment, pointed to short-term achievements, and told good stories.
Fundraisers often say that giving is a matter of heart more than head. By invoking meaningful symbols, successful entrepreneurs were able to loosen the purse strings of
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investors. They skillfully managed impressions through carefully crafted theatrical performances.
CONCLUSION From an institutional perspective, organizations are judged as much on appearance as on outcomes. The right drama gives audiences the performance they expect. The production reassures, fosters belief in the organization’s purposes, and cultivates hope and faith. Structures that do little to coordinate activity and protocols that rarely achieve their intended outcomes still play a signi!cant symbolic role. They provide internal glue. They help participants cope, believe, !ndmeaning, and play their roles without reading the wrong lines, upstaging the lead actors, or confusing tragedy with comedy. To outside audiences, they provide a basis for con!dence and support.
Dramaturgical concepts sharply rede!ne organizational dynamics. Historically, theories of management and organization have focused on instrumental issues. We see problems, try to solve them, and then ask, “What did we accomplish?” Often, the answer is “nothing” or “not much.”We !nd ourselves repeating the old saw that the more things change, the more they remain the same. Such a message can be disheartening and disillusioning. It often produces a sense of helplessness and a belief that things will never get much better.
InHope Dies Last, Studs Terkel says it well: “In all epochs, there were !rst doubts and the fear of stepping forth and speaking out, but the attribute that spurred the warriors on was hope. And the act. Seldom was there a despair or a sense of hopelessness. Some of those on the sidelines, the spectators, feeling hopeless and impotent, had by the very nature of the passionate act of others become imbued with hope themselves” (2004, p. xviii). Theatrical imagery offers a hopeful note. For a variety of reasons, we may be restless, frustrated, lost, or searching to renew our faith and beliefs. We commission a new play called Change. At the end of the pageant, we can ask: What was expressed? What was recast? And what was legitimized? A good play assures us that each day is potentially more exciting and full of meaning than the last. If things go badly, buff up the symbols, revise the drama, develop new myths—or dance to another tune.
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PART S IX
Improving Leadership Practice
A messy, turbulent world rarely presents bounded, well-de!ned problems, and decoding complex situations is not a single-frame activity. In this part of the book, we focus on combining lenses to achieve multiframe approaches to managing and leading.
In Chapter 15, we contrast a stereotype of crisp, orderly rationality with the more frantic, reactive reality of managerial life. We show how routine activities and processes such as strategic planning, decision making, and con”ict take on different meanings depending on how they are viewed. We provide an example to illustrate the cacophony that arises when parties are seeing different realities. Finally, we look at studies of effective organizations and senior managers to examine how research aligns with our framework.
In Chapter 16, we examine a case of a middle manager who encounters an unexpected crisis on the !rst day in a new job. We show how each lens spawns both helpful and unproductive scenarios in a situation where the stakes and risks are high.
We turn to a discussion of leadership in Chapter 17. We begin by examining the 2016 U.S. presidential election to examine the interaction between leader and circumstances. We explore the concept of leadership and tour 100 years of leadership research. We review
Reframing Organizations: Artistry, Choice, and Leadership, Sixth Edition. Lee G. Bolman and Terrence E. Deal. ! 2017 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Published 2017 by Jossey-Bass.
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issues of culture and gender in leadership. Then we illustrate each frame’s image of leaders and leadership.
Chapter 18 takes us to a perennial challenge: creating change. We examine predictable barriers identi!ed in each frame and point out different remedies. We then integrate the frames with a stage model of change. The two in combination provide a powerful map.
Ethics and spirit take center stage in Chapter 19.We begin with a look at cases of dubious ethics at Siemens and Walmart. We discuss four criteria for ethical behavior: authorship, love, justice, and signi!cance.
Chapter 20 presents an integrative case in which we zoom in on a new principal in his perilous early weeks at a troubled urban high school. We illustrate how the frames in tandem generate a more comprehensive diagnosis of the issues and offer more promising options for moving ahead.
Finally, in the Epilogue, we summarize the basic messages of the book and lay out implications for the development of future leaders.
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15 c h a p t e r
Integrating Frames for Effective Practice
The world is but canvas to our imaginations.
—Henry David Thoreau
Can a natural disaster determine a presidential election?
Crises are an acid test of leadership. In the heat of the moment, leaders sometimes hesitate until events pass them by. Other times they jump too quickly, making bad decisions. Either way, they look weak, foolish, or out of touch. A deft response to crisis bolsters a leader’s credibility. When Superstorm Sandy roared out of the Atlantic Ocean a week before the U.S. presidential election in 2012, it posed a major test for elected of!cials up and down the East Coast but even more for the two men locked in a close contest for the presidency, Mitt Romney and Barack Obama. Romney struggled to !nd his footing, hampered by the ambiguity of the challenger’s role and by comments he had made months earlier suggesting he favored defunding the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the arm of the U.S. government responsible for coming to the rescue in major natural disasters.