Flexible Leadership: Creating Value by Balancing Multiple Challenges and Choices / Edition 1

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If you are a manager or a training and development professional, you need concrete suggestions for guiding your organization through rapidly changing conditions and difficult challenges. Flexible Leadership offers a comprehensive theory that integrates findings from different disciplines and more than a half century of research and explains how leaders can effectively enhance the bottom-line performance of their organizations. The authors provide illustrative examples of effective and ineffective leadership, including some from their own consulting experiences over the past 30 years in private and public sector organizations. The book includes information about

  • Leadership and management behaviors that can be used to enhance organizational performance.
  • Improvement programs, management systems, and structural forms that can be used to enhance organizational performance.
  • Integrating direct and indirect forms of leadership.
  • Balancing tradeoffs and competing demands related to performance.
  • Adapting leadership to changing situations.
  • Integrating leadership processes at different levels of an organization.
  • Competencies relevant for effective leadership.
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What People Are Saying

From the Publisher
"Flexible Leadership ‘connects the dots’ between Leadership and Management and provides the insight to appreciate both. With practical examples, applications and behavioral tools, this is a road map for emerging and experienced leaders alike."
—Mary Eckenrod, vice president, World Wide Talent Management, Cisco Systems, Inc.

"Yukl and Lepsinger present the full range of direct and indirect behaviors required to be an effective leader in a practical manner that is easy to understand and apply."
—Vijay Govindarajan, Earl C. Daum 1924 Professor of International Business and Founding Director, William F. Achtmeyer Center for Global Leadership, Tuck School of Business, Dartmouth College

"One of the most sophisticated examinations of leadership to date. Moving beyond the all too prevalent simple recipes, Flexible Leadership paints a rich picture of the realities of leading. A wonderful resource for those who wish to become masterful leaders."
—Jay A. Conger, professor, London Business School

“If you want to learn what leadership is really all about, this is the book for you. It is about three core leadership tasks that can be learned by ordinary managers and integrated in accordance with the nature of your business and situation. This book provides a new and very useful framework for understanding what leaders must do to create sustainable performance."
—Michael Beer, professor emeritus, Harvard Business School, and chairman, Center for Organizational Fitness

"A leadership book that captures the complexity of a leader’s role while providing specific guidelines and tools that help you realize that being an effective leader is not out of your reach."
—Peter Voss, president and CEO,CDC IXIS Asset Management North America, L.P.

“I have always believed that a significant part of my job as a senior executive was to help develop effective leaders at all levels of my organization. Flexible Leadership provides an indispensable guide that will help leaders respond effectively to the challenges and choices they face on the job.”
—Bill Sheldon, president and CEO, Eisai, Inc.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780787965310
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 5/5/2004
  • Series: J-B US non-Franchise Leadership Series, #223
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 6.28 (w) x 9.21 (h) x 1.01 (d)

Meet the Author

Gary Yukl is a professor of management at the the University at Albany, State University of New York and the author of ten books, including Leadership in Organizations (5th ed.) (Prentice Hall).

Richard Lepsinger is managing vice president of Right Management Consultants and the co-author of The Art and Science of 360û Feedback and The Art and Science of Competency Models (both from Pfeiffer).

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Preface xi

The Authors xv

1. The Nature of Effective Leadership 1

Leadership: Fact and Myth 3

Model of Flexible Leadership 11

Origins of the Model 19

Overview of the Book 22

Conclusions 23

Section I: Efficiency and Process Reliability 25

2. The Challenge of Improving Efficiency and Process Reliability 27

Examples of High Efficiency and Process Reliability 30

Conditions Affecting Efficiency and Process Reliability 34

Ways to Improve Efficiency and Process Reliability 36

Conclusions 37

3. Leadership Behaviors to Enhance Efficiency and Process Reliability 39

Operational Planning 39

Clarifying Roles and Objectives 45

Monitoring Operations and Performance 51

Solving Operational Problems 58

Relationships Among the Behaviors 60

Conclusions 62

4. Programs and Management Systems for Improving Efficiency and Process Reliability 63

Quality and Process Improvement Programs 63

Cost Reduction Programs 67

Management Systems and Structural Forms 70

Recognition and Reward Programs 74

Conclusions 76

Section II: Innovation and Adaptation 79

5. The Challenge of Adapting to the External Environment 81

Conditions Affecting the Importance of Adaptation 82

Examples of Failure in Adaptation 84

Examples of Successful Adaptation 87

Reasons for Success and Failure 89

Ways to Enhance Adaptations 96

Conclusions 98

6. Leader Behaviors to Enhance Adaptation 99

Monitoring the Environment 99

Strategic Planning 102

Envisioning Change 106

Building Support for Change 109

Implementing Change 111

Encouraging Innovative Thinking 115

Facilitating Collective Learning 118

Relationships Among Change-Oriented Behaviors 120

Conclusions 121

7. Programs, Systems, and Strategies for Enhancing Adaptation 123

Intrepreneurship Programs 123

External Benchmarking 125

Programs for Understanding Customers 127

Reward and Recognition Programs 129

Collective Learning Practices 130

Knowledge Management Systems 131

Structural Forms to Facilitate Innovation 133

Mergers, Acquisitions, and Strategic Alliances 135

Conclusions 140

Section III: Human Resources and Relations 141

8. The Challenge of Managing Human Resources 143

Conditions That Affect the Importance of Human Resources 144

Implications of Strategy for Human Resources 146

Examples of Good Human Relations 147

Examples of Human Relations Problems 150

Ways to Improve Human Resources and Relations 152

Conclusions 153

9. Leader Behaviors for Enhancing Human Resources 155

Supporting 155

Recognizing 158

Developing 162

Consulting 166

Empowering 169

Team Building 171

Relationships Among the Behaviors 173

Conclusions 174

10. Programs and Management Systems for Enhancing Human Resources 175

Human Resource Planning Systems 175

Employee Development Programs 178

Empowerment Programs 181

Recognition, Award, and Benefit Programs 185

Quality of Work Life Programs 187

Orientation and Team-Building Programs 189

Conclusions 190

Section IV: Finding the Right Balance 191

11. Multiple Challenges and Tradeoffs for Leaders 193

Tradeoffs Among the Three Performance Determinants 193

Changes in Performance Determinants 201

Examples of Effective Balancing 203

Other Tradeoffs for Leaders 207

Conclusions 215

12 The Path to Flexible Leadership 217

Guidelines for Effective Leadership 217

Competencies for Effective Leadership 228

Conclusion: The Essence of Flexible Leadership 236

Notes 239

Index 263

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First Chapter

Flexible Leadership

Creating Value by Balancing Multiple Challenges and Choices
By Gary Yukl Richard Lepsinger

John Wiley & Sons

ISBN: 0-7879-6531-6

Chapter One

The Nature of Effective Leadership

Within any industry some companies consistently outperform other companies with similar opportunities and constraints. Even when industry conditions are poor, some businesses are able to remain profitable while others barely survive. Dell Computer and Southwest Airlines are two examples of companies that have been more successful than their competitors in the same industry in both good and bad times.

Many factors could explain why companies like Dell and Southwest are able to produce consistently superior performance. One factor is competitive strategy. Dell decided to sell directly to the consumer without the additional cost of an intermediary distribution network. Southwest focused on short-haul flights that were point-to-point rather than the hub-and-spoke model that is used by other major airlines. Another factor is operating costs. Dell developed an efficient production process that makes it possible to build computers to a customer's specifications and maintain very low inventory. Southwest uses only one type of aircraft, the Boeing 737, which is more economical to fly and enables them to maintain lower inventory and maintenance costs. Unlike their competitors, Southwest mechanics only have to learn and be certified on one aircraft and only have to stock parts for one type of plane.

However, even after taking into account competitive strategy and operating costs, companies like Dell and Southwest Airlines have significantly better performance than their competitors. Why these factors alone do not explain the superior performance of Dell and Southwest can be seen by comparing each company with a similar but less successful company in the same industry.

Dell and Gateway Computers provide one such comparison. Founded within a year of each other, they both use the same business model-taking orders directly from customers, building PCs according to their specifications, loading the software, then shipping the machines directly to the purchaser. Both companies have been confronted with the commoditization of their product and a slowdown in demand. Yet Dell has consistently outperformed Gateway on all key measures of performance. Dell's return on assets (ROA), return on equity (ROE), and return on investment (ROI) as of July 2003 were 15.44 percent, 47.78 percent, and 35.9 percent, respectively, while the figures for Gateway were -15.44 percent, 31.58 percent, and -24.91 percent. Dell had a 109.3 percent inventory turnover rate for the twelve months ending July 2003; Gateway's was 34.0 percent.

Southwest Airlines and America West provide another comparison. Both airlines operate in the same market, having entered it at roughly the same time. Both airlines fly only Boeing 737s. Both airlines fly point to point, instead of on the more expensive hub-and-spoke routes used by other major airlines. In the beginning, America West looked as though it might outperform Southwest. The airplanes it used were newer, its ticketing and payment system was more convenient for passengers, and there were assigned seats (Southwest had open seating only). Yet year after year, Southwest's profits have been higher, its on-time record has been better, and it has had many fewer cancellations. Southwest has also been the industry leader in customer satisfaction.

Why are Dell and Southwest more successful than competitors confronted with the same opportunities and constraints? Is it merely a matter of good luck? We believe the key factor in explaining the difference in company success is the quality of leadership and how effectively it responds to a set of industry and competitive conditions. Clearly some companies have leaders who demonstrate greater flexibility. They adapt to changing situations, maintain efficient and reliable operations, provide products and services that customers want, and maintain high levels of employee morale and productivity. These leaders assess the situation, identify key determinants of performance, and find a way to balance the tradeoffs involved in meeting these challenges.

What leaders actually do to enhance the survival and prosperity of companies such as Dell and Southwest has long been a subject of interest to scholars and practitioners. In this chapter we will examine some popular myths about leadership and then introduce a model that can provide a better explanation of the ways leaders can influence organizational processes and performance.

Leadership: Fact and Myth

To say that leadership is important for the success of a company does not mean that a chief executive can single-handedly determine the fate of the company, as suggested by some journalists and leadership gurus. Consider these headlines from the business press:

Pat Russo's Lucent Vision: The new CEO must turn Lucent around in the midst of a brutal storm. Can she deliver?

Work your magic, Herr Dirmann; ABB faces meltdown-so this CEO isn't wasting time

Meet Mr. Nissan-is Carlos Ghosn a savior?

Can Jamie Dimon restore Bank One's lost luster?

Ingram Micro's future lies in new CEO's hands.

The King of Storage-After fixing EMC's service problems, Michael Ruettgers put the company on a stellar growth path and built it into an industry powerhouse.

Prada Goes Shopping: Patrizio Bertelli transformed Prada from a stuffy family company into a fashion powerhouse. And he's just warming up.

By now we are so used to seeing corporate leaders described in such terms that we hardly even notice anything odd about it. But when you stop to think about it, there is something a little askew about the assumption behind these headlines and countless others like them. Is it really Pat Russo alone who is going to turn Lucent around? Did Patrizio Bertelli really transform Prada all by himself? Does Ingram Micro's future really depend entirely on the new CEO? If you work in an organization yourself, you know that any transformation, any turnaround, depends on many people. The future of a large organization does not depend on a single leader, however powerful, clever, and visionary.

The Myth of the Heroic Leader

Organizations are complex social systems of patterned interactions among people. In their effort to understand the causes, dynamics, and outcomes of organizational processes, people interpret results in simple, human terms. Stereotypes, implicit theories, and simplified assumptions about causality aid people in making sense out of events that would otherwise be incomprehensible. One especially strong and prevalent explanation of organizational events is to attribute causality to the influence of individual leaders.

Depicting a senior executive as a heroic individual is a dramatic, romantic notion of leadership, similar to that of other stereotyped heroes in our culture, such as the lone cowboy who single-handedly vanquishes the bad guys or the secret agent who acts alone to save the world from nuclear destruction by terrorists. These images have particularly strong appeal to people in a culture of celebrity like our own. They also make excellent copy in the business press. There is something satisfying about the fairy-tale character of the knight on the white horse who will slay the dragon and thereby ensure triumphant victory for the organization. But like any fairy tale, this heroic conception of leadership does not quite align with reality. It greatly exaggerates the influence of a single leader on organization performance, and it has some negative consequences.

One negative consequence is overreliance on the heroic leader to make decisions and solve important problems. Because no single leader has the necessary knowledge and expertise to solve difficult problems for an organization, it is essential to involve other people with relevant knowledge and diverse perspectives. However, members are unlikely to become involved if they believe the leader has superhuman abilities to singlehandedly find the right path. Nor is high involvement likely to be encouraged by a leader with an exaggerated self-image who wants to appear to have all the answers. If there is strong reliance on the chief executive and the culture reinforces obedience to directives from the top, then the organization will be less likely to respond successfully to events in the environment. As a result, it is not uncommon for an organization with a string of earlier successes to suddenly experience a major disaster.

It is by no means clear that today's employees really want to be led by a figure on a white horse, except perhaps in a dire emergency that requires a decisive leader who knows how to prevent a looming disaster. Many commentators have observed that people born after World War II are much less willing to follow orders or accept someone else's ideas on how they should be doing their jobs. As an article in Business Week puts it, "Saying 'just do it' no longer works because a new generation of workers has been groomed to think instead of react. The new CEOs, baby boomers themselves, understand that." A survey conducted by the Families and Work Institute, a New York-based research institution, would seem to support the idea that employees prefer more empowerment. The study showed that workers' perceptions of control over their jobs increased significantly between 1977 and 1997. During those twenty years, the percentage of workers who said they had the freedom to decide what they do on the job increased from 56 percent to 74 percent.

One commentator goes so far as to declare that, nowadays, "Leadership is about following." That assertion may be a slight exaggeration, but it seems clear that the old, paternalistic concept of leadership, with the leader as the strong father figure, needs to be replaced. In today's world, a model of leadership in which leaders guide the organization through enlisting cooperation and consulting with others, rather than making unilateral decisions, may be more appropriate. Lee Iacocca, who embodied the old ideal of the charismatic, paternalistic CEO, was widely viewed as a great leader until his much more accessible and consultative successor, Bob Eaton, got dramatically better results at Chrysler. While Iacocca was effective in leading the company through the immediate crisis, his style of leadership was not the best one for rebuilding the company and preventing a similar crisis in the future.

The Myth of the Born Leader

One of the dangers of viewing senior executives as heroic leaders is that it makes leadership sound like a mystical quality, something innate to certain special people, rather than anything people simply do. The business press frequently encourages this idea by telling us, for example, that the "e-factor" (short for executive factor) is a "neuropsychologically determined propensity to lead."

We are often told about the importance of that indefinable leadership quality called charisma, as though some people are literally born to lead others. The importance of having "the right stuff" is an idea that many corporate leaders also appear to accept. The Yale School of Management and the Gallup Organization recently surveyed 130 prominent chief executives and found that 26 percent of them felt that "great leaders are born and not made."

For decades now, leadership scholars have been trying to define exactly which traits are associated with effective leadership. Some of the attributes that have been cited as prerequisites to great leadership include unflagging energy, uncanny foresight, and great persuasive skill. But despite hundreds of studies over the past seventy years comparing more and less effective leaders, researchers have failed to identify any specific traits that guarantee leadership success. Moreover, studies of successful chief executives find that most of them do not have the type of personality characteristics or superhuman image usually associated with charisma.

Although a charismatic figure at the top can help to enlist enthusiastic support for a necessary change, it may be counterproductive to think of leadership in those terms. How do you acquire charisma or become visionary? What does a visionary leader do to inspire others, and what makes the vision compelling? To understand the reasons for effective leadership, inherent traits and abilities are much less useful than observable behavior and concrete knowledge. A trait theory of leadership emphasizes inherent qualities that are difficult to change, such as needs, temperament, energy level, emotional stability, extroversion, and intelligence. In contrast, a behavior theory emphasizes specific types of behavior that, however difficult, can be learned by most people who desire to become better leaders. When the focus of research is on what leaders actually do, it is easier to understand the situational nature of leadership and the importance of flexible leadership. We are not saying that personality traits and inherent abilities are irrelevant for understanding why some people want to become leaders or which people are most likely to be successful as leaders, only that traits are less useful than concrete behaviors for understanding what leaders must do to be effective in a given situation.

The Myth of the Celebrity Leader

The cult of personality is so pervasive in depictions of organizations that, according to a recent survey, CEOs now represent 45 percent of a company's reputation. According to a study conducted in 2001 by consulting firm Burson-Marsteller, 90 percent of Wall Street analysts and institutional investors said they were more likely to buy or recommend a stock based on a good CEO reputation. That figure was up from 70 percent five years before. How powerful is the impact of a celebrity CEO? Several examples over the years would indicate that investors put a great deal of faith in the CEO as savior. In 1996 shares of Sunbeam went up by half in a single day when Al Dunlap was hired. In 1997, $3.8 billion was added to the value of AT&T's stock when C. Michael Armstrong was brought on board. In 2002, shares of Tyco International increased 46 percent the day after a respected Motorola executive, Ed Breen, was hired to lead the troubled company.

However, in a company with a celebrity leader, a single highly publicized mistake or misdemeanor by a senior executive can have a catastrophic effect on a company's profits. The case of Martha Stewart, who built a lifestyle empire that includes magazines, cookbooks, television shows, designer sheets, and endorsements of other domestic products, is a perfect example.


Excerpted from Flexible Leadership by Gary Yukl Richard Lepsinger Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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