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Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Forces Of Leadership

by Ihor Cap, Ph.D.

Thinking about leadership can be represented by two major orientations, one emphasizing the transactional nature of leadership and the other emphasizing the transformational (Burns, 1979).  To this point, these two orientations continue to receive considerable emphasis in the literature.  The reason for this emphasis was suggested by Peters and Waterman (1982) when they stated that "an effective leader must be the master of two ends of the spectrum:  ideas at the highest level of abstraction and actions at the most mundane level of detail" (p.287).

          This article, then, attempts to identify and describe some of the elements of "effectiveness" characteristic of these two orientations.  In the discussions that follow, relevant definitions, models and examples will be emphasized, but the focus of attention will frequently be on thoughts congruous to each orientation.  Concerns for a unified perspective of leadership and a model important to the development of such a perspective become the key focus areas of the final section of this article.  Discussions in this article are subsumed under the following headings:  (a) the characteristics of transactional leadership; (b) the characteristics of transformational leadership; and (c) toward a comprehensive view of leadership.


          According to Hersey and Blanchard (1988), most managers "...agree that leadership is the process of influencing the activities of an individual or a group in efforts toward goal achievement in a given situation" (p.86).  This definition simply asserts that leadership frequently deals with the instrumental or day to day management needs and transactions (i.e. performance or job accountability, exchanging a favor, returning a request) between the leader and the followers to achieve subunit goals (Sergiovanni and Starratt, 1988).  However, the process of effectively managing these coping needs is subject to the leader's diagnostic ability and adaptability in leadership style (Hersey and Blanchard, 1988).  Hersey and Blanchard's model of situational leadership is a popular and useful framework for understanding and guiding transactions essential to continuous change.

          Utilizing a four”‘quadrant format, they suggest that the "best" leadership style is the one that matches the readiness level of the followers or group.  When the readiness level of the individual or group is low (unable and unwilling or insecure), they recommend a leadership style that calls for specific instructions and close supervision of performance.  This style is characterized by a high task and low relationship orientation.  As follower readiness increases or changes for a given situation a more moderate mix of guidance (task) and supportive (relationship) behavior in leader style is required.  With extremely able (knowledgeable, experienced, and motivated) followers, the appropriate style involves turning over most of the responsibility for decisions and implementation.  In any event, the emphasis in this model calls for four appropriate shifts in leadership style from telling to selling, participating and delegating, as follower or group readiness increases.

          In one important sense, Hersey and Blanchard's (1988) leadership model responds to the immediate needs of skilled school leavers ready to join the labor force.  Having joined an organization, these school leavers find themselves dated and out of touch with the reality of the business and industrial world.  Such a situation is serious for business managers, but is more acute for industrial supervisors.  In such an uncertain work environment, vocational guidance and support (the telling to selling acts of leadership) may require a high degree of clarity between supervisor and school leaver(s) in defining tasks, and of precision in selecting the methods and tools necessary to meet their job targets.  The product thrusts associated with these acts might be a shared perception by both supervisor and school leaver(s) of present "realities" and desired "priorities", directed toward eradication of greatest deficiencies and insecurities.

          As time passes, the leadership acts (from participation to delegation) may require a fairly predictable pattern of vocational guidance and support influencing a special subclass of controlled successes which Peters (1978, p.5) and others have called the "theory of the small win."  This pattern becomes evident as the worker gains in experience and as roles and tasks become more coherent in form and nature.  During this period, supervisors would attend to the sensitive "use of praise and design of positive reinforcement schemes" (Peters, 1978, p.11) for workers or teams with the goal of reshaping perceptions, thereby manipulating the course of interactions and outcomes congruent to the organization's eventual purpose.  Effective pattern shaping is further marked by consistency in developing and supporting small, clear”‘cut outcomes coupled with frequency and variation in praise or rewards ”‘ directed at moderate sized wins or completed actions in the hoped for direction (Peters, 1978; Peters and Waterman, 1982).  Setting or designing new improvement goals with resultant changes in behavior might serve as evidence of accepted proof of small new product thrusts about directional progress.

          In retrospect, changes in leadership style are inextricably bound up with changes in the worker's (or groups) readiness level about directional progress for a given situation.  From the perspective of the industrial supervisor, leadership is concerned with the systematic establishment and achievement of small, clear”‘cut product thrusts and outcomes through the use of positive reinforcement in task behavior (i.e., goal setting, structuring work) and in relationship behaviors (i.e.  praise”‘rewards, and socio-emotional support).  The remainder of this section deals with some of the mundane reinforcement "tools" of transactional leadership at the institutional level.

          The top manager or chief executive's ability to link "symbolic behavior" (basic management behavior, verbal and non”‘verbal) and "symbol manipulation" (providing behavioral cues to observers) with settings for interaction (the location for their systematic use) is at the heart of Peters (1978) case for getting things done at the institutional level.  Corporate leaders must go beyond merely communicating overt verbal behavior about the meaning of the organization.  They have to explicate meaning by "taking what can be gotten in the way of action and shaping it ”‘ generally after the fact ”‘ into lasting commitment to a new strategic direction" (Peters and Waterman, 1982, p.75).  Rather than proclaiming their intentions,  corporate or executive leaders can demonstrate institution building by being visible or noticeable to the "watchers" they wish to influence (i.e., virtually everyone in the organization they come into contact with).  They can exercise control of their symbolic actions by:

 ·       touching or ignoring certain topics in their presentation/decision review of memorandum    reports,

·       allocating, suddenly,  more meeting time to a particular item on the agenda,

·        introducing genuine accountability approaches to follow”‘up, such as tracking and noting    the impact of changes in the minute”‘book, and

·        managing the use of their personal staff size, staff requirements, and probing allowed     (Peters, 1978).

                 Honesty, realism, and consistency embodied in symbolic actions of influence accumulation impart the character of effectiveness.  The absence or violation of these conditions,  "...especially if perceived as intentional, automatically destroys the effectiveness of patterned symbolic manipulation", asserts Peters (1978, p.14).  This, in effect, is the essence of symbolic behavior and symbol manipulation at the institutional level.  Actions precede attitudes (i.e., beliefs, policies, statements of public disclosure) in this "Do, then tell" leadership model.  All too often, executives reverse the logic by treating proclamation of policy and its implementation as synonymous (Peters and Waterman, 1982).  In short, their presence or absence and minor actions can reinforce or reduce in force, value, or virulence the impact of corporate policies, and procedures.  Their symbolic frameworks both reflect their priorities and directions they wish to pursue.  They continuously channel their attention to some activities and not to others to become unparalleled shapers and re-shapers of attitudes and corporate expectations.  Before long, the pattern watchers become alert to the impact of the executives and their time consuming efforts on each other that nudge the process or reorganization in the desired direction (Peters, 1978).


          In the language of Bennis and Nanus (1985), transformative leadership requires a reorientation of "conceptual arms."  Vision, or the ability to identify past analogies, synthesize these to the demands of the new situation and, subsequently articulate a meaningful vision of the future, is the key competency area embodied in their discussion of transformational leadership.  Around this competency, they have developed four leadership strategies which they believe constitute effective leadership behavior.  They are:

Strategy I:   attention through vision

Strategy II:   meaning through communication

Strategy III:   trust through positioning

Strategy IV:   the deployment of self through (1) positive self”‘regard and (2) the  Wallenda factor (pp.26”‘27).

           In other words, effective leaders are capable of (1) creating and communicating a realistic view of a desired state of affairs, (2) mobilizing the attention and commitment of self and others toward institutionalizing this new vision, (3) continuously integrating competing forces (internal and external) into a single harmonious whole, and (4) fostering a learning organization that is open to "testing" assumptions in the face of changing requirements to sustain longevity.  Similar single”‘element structural thrust focusers (i.e., dominating value, culture) have been used by Peters and Waterman (1982) and Peters (1978, p.15) for describing some of the more powerful high”‘impact "...signals (or accumulations of symbols) of attention" toward institutionalizing a new corporate vision.

          While the foregoing authors' starting points may differ, they come to view these high”‘impact focusers or competencies as vital transforming ingredients, essential to any definition of excellence in commercial companies.  Accordingly, many commercial industries took steps to solidify this sense of vocation for leadership ”‘ invoking corporate attention to leadership training and human resource development programs on the assumption that these competencies and associated skills can be learned (Bennis and Nanus, 1985, p.27; Fiedler, 1979; Lippitt, 1979).  Likewise, steps have been taken to solidify the development of pre”‘service leadership programs and quality of continuing in”‘service education activities of principals ”‘ (Sergiovanni and Starratt, 1988, p.200; Snyder and Anderson, 1986, pp.21”‘23) which supply the motive power for excellence in schooling.  In either case, these new developments signal fresh contributions to the study of excellence in leadership.

          In retrospect, vision, dominating value and/or culture are thoughts congruous to the nature of transformative leadership.  These thoughts have been labeled as high”‘impact focusers or competencies, because they are illustrative of high”‘performing leaders in the best”‘run organizations, schools among them.  Accordingly, organizations have attempted to highlight the acquisition of these competencies in their programmatic efforts.


          Two major orientations to leadership were presented, each providing a sliver of insightful characteristics but each leaving the reader with an inadequate picture of the whole.  This feeling stems from a concerned awareness that neither leadership orientation provides a synthesis of the elements necessary to form a more comprehensive view.  This concern is further demonstrated by the number of requests to be informed more fully of a unified perspective, yet one that still retains practical appeal.  The comments quoted were selected as typical of the feelings about this topic.

          Bennis and Nanus (1985), in Leaders:  The Strategies for Taking Charge, affirm:

If there was ever a moment in history when a comprehensive strategic view of leadership was needed, not just by a few leaders in high office but by large numbers in every job, from the factory floor to the executive suite, from a McDonald's fast-food franchise to a law firm, this is certainly it (p.2).

          Sergiovanni (1979), Professor, Educational Administration and Supervision, University of Illinois points out:

That leadership effectiveness models....need to exert a greater effort in capturing more fully the complexities of leadership effectiveness, and....they need to help us better link the valuable instrumental or managerial aspects of leadership...with the more substantive aspects of leadership (p.394).

           Huckaby (1980), Assistant Dean for Academic Affairs, George Peabody College for Teachers indicates that:

Approaches to leadership should be more comprehensive than most of the current situational models, yet simple enough to be easily understood and applied.  A combination of elements from prominent leadership models may be the answer (p.613).

           More recently, Professors Sergiovanni and Starratt (1988) observed: is left with the impression that we are still lacking a comprehensive theory of leadership.  Such a theory would not only elaborate on the essential elements of leadership but would show the psychological and logical relationships between the elements of leadership in such a way that their organic relationships would be apparent (p.200).

           Sergiovanni's (1984) hierarchical model of leadership forces, each of which interpenetrates each other, is of particular importance to the development of such a view.  The model not only affords "technical", "human", "educational", "symbolic" and "cultural" leaders a place in the hierarchy, but also makes some revealing assertions about their relationships to organizational excellence, schools in particular.

          The cultural and symbolic forces of leadership express those essential meanings, values, and purposes of the school.  They speak the vision in imagery, metaphor, symbols; in ritual, songs, celebration; in purposing, correcting, and modeling.  The presence of these two forces are essential to excellence "...though absence does not appear to negatively impact routine competence" (Sergiovanni, 1984, p.12).  The educational force of leadership expresses those specifically educational (in”‘ and out”‘of school) concerns whether they are framed in pedagogy or learning theory terminology, in supervision, evaluation, and staff development, in curriculum design/improvement or instructional program frameworks.  It is an essential force to routine competence; linked strongly to, though still not sufficient in bringing about excellence.  Absence of this force "...results in ineffectiveness" (Sergiovanni, 1984, p.12).  The human and technical forces of leadership are "...generic and thus share identical qualities with competent management and leadership wherever they are expressed" (Sergiovanni, 1984, p.9) and are not unique to the school enterprise.  They are expressed in words and actions of caring, trust, reconciliation, human potential and uniqueness via instrumental motivational theories and conflict management; and in bringing the vision into reality in and through sound management technologies (planning/ scheduling techniques), contingency (situational) leadership theories and strategies and institutional structures.  The presence of these two forces are important to achieving and maintaining optimum effectiveness (routine competence), though not sufficient to bring about excellence.  The absence of these forces results in organizational ineffectiveness as well as poor morale.

          Collectively, these forces provide educators and trainers with the requirements of building a mosaic of realities that characterize the workplace and society at large.  To embrace the transformation of one at the expense of the other can only strengthen the existing bifurcation between academic and vocational education.  Scoping a comprehensive curriculum in which vocational education occupies an integral place is desperately needed (Osborne, 1983).  Society has and still is committed to a wide range of basic educational goals, and "our responsibility is to assure that our young people have access to broad, comprehensive educational programs", concludes one educationist (Goodlad, 1978, p.331).  If we can embody this notion of curriculum building with the mosaic of forces at hand ”‘ then future discussions pertaining to a more comprehensive view of leadership can be more deliberate.

About the Author

Ihor Cap is Program Development Coordinator with Manitoba Competitiveness, Training and Trade, Industry and Workforce Development, Apprenticeship Branch, Program Standards Unit. He holds an Education Specialist degree and Ph.D. in Comprehensive Vocational Education from the Florida State University  and a Masters of Education in Instructional Technology from the University of Manitoba. Ihor is also a Slavic Studies graduate from the University of Ottawa and a member of the Ukrainian Academy of Arts and Sciences in Canada.  This article was written in 1990 as a graduate student attending the College of Education, Department of Educational Leadership, The Florida State University and first published on the website on March 11, 2008.


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