Can Leadership Traits Be Identified?
In the past (especially from 1930 to 1950), the most common approach to the study of
leadership focused on traits; it sought to determine what makes the successful leader
from the leader?s own personal characteristics. These inherent characteristics?such as
intelligence, maturity, drive, friendliness?were felt to be transferable from one situation
to another. The list of traits grew and grew, but no clear-cut results appeared.
Finally, Eugene E. Jennings conducted a careful and extensive review of the literature
on the trait approach to leadership and concluded: ?Fifty years of study have failed to
produce one personality trait or set of qualities that can be used to discriminate leaders
and nonleaders.?3
Jennings or no Jennings, the quest for traits?and the traits?continues. Richard E.
Boyatzis and the staff of McBer and Company in Boston studied more than 2000 managers
in 41 different management jobs.4 They found ten skills relating to managerial effectiveness
that stood out:
1. Concern with impact (that is, concern with symbols of power that have an impact on
others)
2. Diagnostic use of concepts (that is, a way of thinking that recognizes patterns in situations
through the use of concepts)
3. Efficiency orientation (that is, concern with doing something better)
4. Proactivity (that is, predisposition toward taking action to accomplish something)
5. Conceptualization (that is, ability to see and identify patterns as concepts when
given an assortment of information)
6. Self-confidence (that is, decisiveness or presence)
7. Use of oral presentations (that is, effective communication)
8. Managing group process (that is, stimulating others to work together effectively in
group settings)
9. Use of socialized power (that is, using forms of influence to build alliances, networks,
coalitions, or teams)
10. Perceptual objectivity (that is, ability to be relatively objective; not limited by biases,
prejudices, or perspectives)
This list focuses on middle-level managers. Management knowledge is not stressed because
Boyatzis found that such knowledge represents threshold competency and that the successful
managers selected were already well grounded.
In a more recent study, Fred I. Greenstein, a political scientist at Princeton, rates
modern presidents on six qualities that bear on their effectiveness as leaders: communication,
organization, political skill, vision, cognitive style, and emotional intelligence.5 No
single president scores high on all those attributes, but most successful American chief
executives have possessed the right combination of the ones that matter most. Greenstein
believes that the key presidential quality is emotional intelligence, which he defines as the
PROGRAM MANAGEMENT
president?s ability to manage his emotions and turn them to constructive purposes, rather
than being dominated by them and allowing them to diminish his leadership. Greenstein
says that only 3 of the 12 presidents he studied stand out as fundamentally free of distracting
emotional perturbations?Dwight D. Eisenhower, Gerald Ford, and George H. W. Bush?
none of whom was considered a particularly strong president. Four others?Franklin
D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan?were marked by
emotional undercurrents that did not significantly impair their leadership. Those four
presidents?all great communicators except for Truman?would make most lists of the
twentieth century?s dominant chief executives.
Leadership Styles
The contingency approach has an important practical advantage over the trait approach.
By emphasizing behavior and environment, encouragement is given to the possibility of
training individuals. In other words, people can increase their effectiveness in leadership
through training in adapting their leadership style to the situation and the followers.
Needless to say, this approach does require that the administrators be good enough
diagnosticians to identify clues in an environment and flexible enough to vary their
behavior.
Actually, the contingency approach to leadership fits nicely the ?textbook? definition
given at the start of this chapter. Leadership is, to repeat that definition, the process of
influencing the activities of the group in efforts toward goal attainment in a given situation.
The key elements in this definition are leader, followers, and situation. Leadership, then,
is a function of three variables. Symbolically,
L = f(l, f, s)
You can?t get any further from the definitions of Peyre and Follett than that!
Arguably, all group objectives fall into one of two categories: (1) the achievement of
some group goal or (2) the maintenance or strengthening of the group itself. The first,
which we shall call task behavior, refers to the extent to which the leader is task oriented
and directs the work of subordinates toward goal attainment. Leaders exhibiting this
behavior typically give instructions, spend time planning, emphasize deadlines, and provide
explicit schedules of work activities. The second dimension of leader behavior, relationship
behavior, refers to the extent to which the leader is mindful of subordinates, respects
their ideas and feelings, and establishes mutual trust. Relationship-oriented leaders are
friendly, provide open communication, develop teamwork, and are oriented toward their
subordinates? welfare.
Using only various combinations of these two types of behavior, we can plot an infinite
number of leadership styles (see Figure 8.2). This simple taxonomy of leadership behavior
has proven popular, and numerous researchers have sought to advance it. One of the more
successful efforts was that of the late William Reddin, a management guru.6 Using various
combinations of the two kinds of behavior?task and relationship?Reddin developed four
basic leadership styles:
1. Supporting, or human relations, style: This manager has below average task orientation
and above average relationship orientation.
2. Coaching, or participative, style: This manager has above average task orientation
and above average relationship orientation.
3. Delegating, or laissez-faire (?hands off?), style: This manager has below average task
orientation and below average relationship orientation.
4. Directing, or autocratic, style: This manager has above average task orientation and
below average relationship orientation.
The crucial point about these four styles is this: The effectiveness of managers depends on
whether the style they use is appropriate for their situation. More specifically, to know what is
the appropriate style, managers must look to the culture or climate of their organizations;
to the nature of the work performed (auditing, street repairs, research and development,
and so on); and to the styles, expectations, and maturity of their superiors, subordinates,
and coworkers. All these factors help determine which style is effective and which styles
are less so.
Because effectiveness results from adopting a style appropriate to the situation in which
it is used, the same basic style can be perceived as being particularly effective or particularly
ineffective. Stated differently, a style that works beautifully in one situation might cause a
lynch mob to form in another. What is the best management style? It all depends.
Consider the following two lists.7 Each pair of terms could refer to identical behavior.
When that behavior is exhibited in the appropriate situation, everyone nods and mutters
the words on the left. But when a manager exhibits the very same pattern of behavior in a
different situation, people might shake their heads and mutter the words on the right.
Supporting, or human relations, style Coaching, or participative, style Directing, or autocratic, style Delegating, or laissez-faire (?hands off?), style Concern for task Concern for people
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warm-hearted sentimental
flexible weak-minded
dignified pompous
firm rigid
businesslike brusque
conservative reactionary
progressive left-wing
sensitive soft
dynamic overbearing
Based on your own experience, can you think of examples of how a situation has determined
the appropriateness of a person?s actions?
By now it should be clear that an administrator?s effectiveness depends to a large degree
on her ability to size up a situation. To climb outside ourselves, so to speak, and see our
situation and study our actions objectively is not easy. Many mechanisms make us insensitive
to our situation.
First, we tend to rationalize, or kid, ourselves. (?I didn?t complete the job because other
things came up.? ?I wasn?t promoted because my boss is biased.?) Second, we see in others
what we do not want to see in ourselves. Freud called this tendency projection. So the slacker
sees others as lazy; the selfish person complains that others do not share; the administrator
with low concern for people complains that no one seems to take an interest in him. To maintain
projection, administrators must continue to distort reality. Third, we mistake symptoms
for cause (this was discussed in Chapter 6). Fourth, we are consumed by a single value?all
problems are human ones, all work must be satisfying, or all bigness is bad. Fifth, we may
have a high stress level. This is likely to distort our perceptions and feelings about others.8
Reddin?s theory can be summarized very briefly. There are four basic styles that an
administrator can adopt: supporting, coaching, delegating, and directing. Each of these
styles can be either effective or ineffective?depending on the situation. Thus, there are
really eight management styles: executive and compromiser; bureaucrat and deserter;
benevolent autocrat and autocrat; and developer and missionary (see Table 8.1).
Leader as Motivator
Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski writes, ?I once heard a high school coach tell a
kid that it was not his job to motivate players, but they should show up motivated. Well,
I shook my head. I could not disagree more with a statement like that. I believe the main
job of the coach is to motivate. The main job of the leader is to inspire.?9 (Coach K. is
profiled on pages 360?61.)
What is meant by the output of administrators? Not the number of memos they write,
phone calls they answer, meetings they attend, or deals they cut. In a fundamental sense,
their output is the output of the people over whom they have influence. Management, never
forget, is a team activity.

 

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