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Thinkers 50 Leadership: Organizational Success through Leadership

Thinkers 50 Leadership: Organizational Success through Leadership

by Stuart Crainer, Des Dearlove

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The World's Leading Business Minds on Today's Most Critical Challenges

Featuring Jim Collins, Daniel Goleman, Marshall Goldsmith, Stew Friedman, and others

"Thinkers50 is . . . the Oscars for ideas." — Professor Costas Markides, London Business School

Stuart Crainer and Des Dearlove, creators of Thinkers50, have personally interviewed top leaders


The World's Leading Business Minds on Today's Most Critical Challenges

Featuring Jim Collins, Daniel Goleman, Marshall Goldsmith, Stew Friedman, and others

"Thinkers50 is . . . the Oscars for ideas." — Professor Costas Markides, London Business School

Stuart Crainer and Des Dearlove, creators of Thinkers50, have personally interviewed top leaders from businesses around the globe—from CEOs of multinationals to successful sports coaches to people on the front lines of education.

In Thinkers50 Leadership, the authors cull the best practices and most intriguing insights of today's top leadership experts to give you an edge on the competition. Chapters include:

  • Crucibles of Leadership
  • Level 5 Leadership
  • The Real Thing
  • Charisma and the Dark Side
  • Followership
  • Where Leaders Meet the World
  • Leaders at Work

Each book in the Thinkers50 series provides authoritative explanations of the concepts, ideas, and practices that are making a difference today, including specific examples and cases drawn from the original sources.

The concept of leadership was once reserved for politics and the military. But as the authors write, "Leadership is now multifaceted rather than simply summed up in the dread words 'command and control.' Leadership is about feelings. Leadership is about emotions. Leadership is about those who follow. Leadership is about the people touched by the actions of leaders."

An in-depth exploration of a fascinating subject,
Thinkers50 Leadership reveals the most innovative theories and concepts on the subject from the world's top leadership experts.

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McGraw-Hill Professional Publishing
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THINKERS50 Leadership

Organizational Success Through Leadership


McGraw-Hill Education

Copyright © 2014 Stuart Crainer and Des Dearlove
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-07-182751-5


How We Got Here

Every year, thousands of books are published on the subject of leadership and leadership development. Reams of papers and masses of Internet pages are devoted to this subject, which has fascinated leaders, would-be leaders, and followers alike for centuries.

Yet despite this great outpouring of leadership-related thinking, we seem to be no closer to discovering the secrets of great leadership. What makes a great leader? Can anyone be a leader, or is it the preserve of a chosen few? Why do people follow one person through hardship and danger, and not another?

These are questions that have been asked throughout the ages. From Julius Caesar to Steve Jobs, we have dissected, discussed, and analyzed what makes great leaders tick. And yet we are still searching for the answers. The magic ingredients for effective leadership remain elusive.

Take even the most basic question: What is leadership? If you survey 100 executives, the chances are that you will get as many different responses. Ask the experts, the academics who spend their lives researching the subject, and you will still be searching for a definitive, broadly accepted answer.

As Tom Peters once put it: "If we're going to make any headway in figuring out the new rules of leadership, we might as well say it up front: There is no one-size-fits-all approach to leadership. Leadership mantra #1: It all depends."

Of course, there are many authoritative opinions and perspectives, some of which are captured in this book. "A leader is a dealer in hope," Napoleon once observed, for example. And he should have known. Or as celebrated leadership guru Warren Bennis noted almost two centuries later, "Managers are people who do things right, and leaders are people who do the right thing."

Does it really matter? Clearly, it does. Imagine a world without leadership. Stop to consider what leadership brings to the world and the effect it has on your daily life at work—and at home.

Take leading an organization, for example. Leading a major organization has never been so challenging, so transient—or, in many cases, so richly rewarded. Nor has the job ever attracted so much critical attention. In recent years, numerous CEOs around the world have fallen from grace, accompanied by some serious soul-searching about the competence and ethical standards of leaders.

Even if there has not been a wholesale crisis of leadership at every level, events over the last decade or so have been serious enough to provoke some rethinking of leadership theory, and to prompt the discussion of a number of new approaches.

In the modern world, with all its interconnectedness, rapid and widespread communication, and globalization of economies and societies, the actions of a single corporate leader can have alarmingly significant ramifications for the well-being of billions of people. They can trigger the collapse of companies, market slumps, global recessions, and rioting on the streets of nations. Or they can herald a period of growth and prosperity, accompanied by the much-sought-after feel-good factor.

The CEOs of some companies are as powerful as kings and presidents, generals and prime ministers. With that kind of power comes tremendous responsibility. And even if they are not the CEO of a huge multinational, sitting astride global commerce, leaders in corporations of all sizes have importance and influence. They may not have the power to bring nations to their knees, but they do have the power to increase the well-being of their followers, to improve the performance of their organizations, to keep their customers satisfied, to make or break individual careers, and to contribute to national prosperity.

Thus the study of leaders and leadership, despite the many disparate theories and ideas, is remarkably important. To know the development of leadership theory is to understand the nature of leadership itself. Theory and practice are inextricably intertwined.

Ancient to Modern

What then has been the evolution of leadership theory and its study? Leadership has fascinated people through the millennia. Back in the days of the ancient Greeks, the poet Homer wrote about heroes such as Achilles and Odysseus. Likewise, in his book Parallel Lives, the Greek historian Plutarch chronicled the histories of great men, including Roman emperors like Julius Caesar. Later, in the Victorian age, Thomas Carlyle dissected the characters of Napoleon and others in his book On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and the Heroic in History.

Early leadership theory tended to focus on three broad dimensions of leadership. The first dimension concerned the personality, traits, and attributes of leaders—their general disposition. The second focused on the actions of leaders and the different roles they adopted; it was about what leaders did and how they behaved rather than their characteristics. A third collection of theories clustered around the notion that leadership is specific to its context. Different situations require different styles of leadership.

An early preoccupation of students of leadership was power and influence. Leadership was seen as a function of power, exercised through political and influencing skills. It was a topic that attracted the interest of the Florentine diplomat Niccolò Machiavelli, author of that Renaissance leadership bestseller The Prince and an early scholar of human nature in general and leadership in particular.

Machiavelli's ethics were a little dubious. He strongly advocated the use of a combination of cunning and intimidation as a means of effective leadership, underpinned by the idea that the ends justify the means. "Politics have no relation to morals," he said. Many people would argue that this is still the case.

A few centuries later, in the 1950s, social psychologists John French and Bertram Raven examined the relationship between leadership, power, and influence. Where does the power on which leadership is based come from? They identified five sources of the power base for leaders: reward and coercion (the ability of the individual to reward or punish others); referent (the level of popularity that an individual enjoys); legitimate (the power someone derives from his or her position within an organization); and expert (power based on an individual's specialized knowledge and competence).

Nature or Nurture

Possibly the most common question asked about leadership is whether leaders are born or made. Is it nature or nurture that leaders have to thank for their position? A long-held view was that leaders were born with innate talents that could not be taught. This was the Great Man theory, which was popular in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. (Not Great Woman theory, however, as their successes as leaders were generally disregarded at that time—and depressingly often thereafter.)

Closely associated with the notion of great men, colossi of the leadership world, was Trait theory. This discipline seeks to identify universal leadership characteristics or traits. It suggests that great leaders have certain personality traits, characteristics, and attributes in common that mark them as leaders. Therefore, in theory, it should be possible to study large numbers of leaders and identify those common traits.

That is exactly what Warren Bennis set out to do in the mid-1980s with his famous study of American leaders (see Chapter 2). Bennis wanted to codify effective leadership. In place of the man or woman of destiny, he offered a view of leadership based on a platform of discrete characteristics.

Great Man (and Woman) theory and Trait theory have fallen out of favor over the years. Yet despite the many critics of these theories, leadership researchers are frequently enticed by the prospect of surveying collections of leaders, identifying common characteristics among them, and extrapolating those characteristics to leadership in general.

In the 1960s, and over the following decade or two, attention shifted to the way the leader led—the leader's actions and behavior. For example, management theorists Robert Blake and Jane Mouton developed the managerial grid model, which classified managers according to styles, with particular focus on the dimensions of tasks and people. There are five main managerial styles. They range from a 1/1, a do-nothing manager who does very little and has no regard for people or tasks, through to a 9/9 leader, who combines great people motivation with consummate organizational skills.

In the 1970s and 1980s, the British thinker John Adair shifted the focus to key leadership functions (planning, initiating, controlling, supporting, informing, and evaluating) and areas of leadership responsibility (task, team, and individual). His Action Centered Leadership (ACL) concept was a more practical approach to leadership evaluation, with the leader's job being to focus on task achievement, team building, and motivating team members.

There were other perspectives on the leadership styles or functions, too. Leaders were divided into those who were directive and those who were participative, for example. Directive leaders gave orders and instructions, taking decisions on behalf of their teams and expecting their subordinates to follow. In contrast, participative leaders attempted to get buy-in from their followers through a more consultative decision-making process.

Context Is King

Leadership researchers also explored the role of the situation or context in leadership. Some leaders are effective during one period and then not during another. Winston Churchill was an effective leader in wartime, but not in peacetime, for example. Perhaps different situations and contexts require different leadership styles.

This is the essence of situational theory. From this comes contingency theory, in which situational variables are taken into account to select the most appropriate leadership style in a given set of circumstances.

Situational leadership is closely associated with Paul Hersey, a former professor of leadership and author of The Situational Leader, and Ken Blanchard, of The One Minute Manager fame, who is currently chief spiritual officer of the Ken Blanchard Companies. The two initially developed their model while collaborating on the first edition of The Management of Organizational Behavior in 1969. Initially called the life-cycle theory of leadership, by 1977 it had been revised to the slightly less catchy situational leadership theory.

Blanchard and Hersey identified four leadership styles that could be used in different situations: telling, an autocratic style for when subordinates appeared unable or unwilling to do what is required; selling, which is sometimes seen as a coaching-type style; participating, where there is shared decision making between the leader and the followers, and the leader adopts a facilitating role; and delegating, which, once the leader has identified the task, involves handing responsibility for carrying it out to the followers.

Meanwhile, psychologist Fred E. Fiedler outlined a contingency leadership model in which effectiveness is related to two factors: leadership style and situational control—the control and influence conferred on the leader because of the situation. These depended on a number of other factors, such as the relationship between the leader and his or her followers, whether the task is a structured task or not, and how much power the leader has within the organization.

Leadership, Relatively Speaking

Perhaps the biggest shake-up in the leadership field happened with the work of political scientist James MacGregor Burns in the late 1970s. Burns introduced the idea that there were two contrasting leadership styles: transactional and transformational leadership. In the first, there is a mutually beneficial relationship between the leader and the follower that meets the needs of both parties. In contrast, transformational leadership is about the two parties engaging, understanding each other's motivations, and entering into a binding and mutually stimulating relationship. Transformational leaders take the leader-follower interaction to a different level.

Transformational leadership has been one of the dominant concepts in leadership theory since the 1970s. In turn, the transformational leadership baton has been picked up by numerous academics who have developed different facets of the concept.

The first was Bernard Bass, who introduced four components of transformational leadership. Idealized influence stems from the moral and ethical standards of the leader: the leader acts as a role model who is admired and respected by the followers; inspirational motivation spurs followers to undertake shared goals; intellectual stimulation encourages independent thinking, argument, discourse, rational thinking, and problem solving; and individualized consideration occurs when the leader gives the followers personal attention and advice.

The concept attracted widespread interest. Not surprisingly, the idea of an inspirational leader, who engages the emotions of individuals, is more appealing than that of a transactional leader, who is interested only in the "If I do this for you, then you do this in return" aspect of the relationship, and will use rewards and punishment to get his or her way.

Leaders Drive Change

Leadership theory has been revisited more recently in the context of change. MIT's Edgar Schein, and later Harvard Business School's John Kotter and Rosabeth Moss Kanter, have tackled change leadership, for example.

Kanter has looked at the leaders who excel at dealing with change—the change masters—and has also researched turnaround leadership in detail. Based on studies of several turnarounds, she suggests that information and relationships are crucial elements. A turnaround leader must facilitate a psychological change of attitudes and behavior before organizational recovery can take place. She identifies four essential components of the turnaround process: promoting dialogue, engendering respect, sparking collaboration, and inspiring initiative.

A related concept is the idea of tipping point leadership. The notion of the tipping point was popularized in Malcolm Gladwell's book with that title. Gladwell looked at how the emergence of a fashion trend is similar to the spread of infections and the science of epidemiology. This is not an orderly process. "Ideas and products and messages and behaviors spread just like viruses do," with just a few carriers being necessary to spread a cultural infection. The progress of the new idea soon comes to follow a rapid upward curve, hitting critical mass at the "tipping point."

Effective and innovative ideas in leadership can progress in a similar way. W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne, professors at the international business school INSEAD, produced a compelling riff on this concept in their idea of "tipping point leadership," exemplified by former New York police chief William Bratton (see Chapter 8).

Reinventing Leadership

Elsewhere, psychologist and former New York Times journalist Daniel Goleman has argued that leaders need to be emotionally intelligent (EI). IQ alone is not enough. Managers need to understand and manage their own emotions and relationships if they are to be effective leaders. Goleman's ideas on emotional intelligence build on the work of David McClelland, a U.S. psychological theorist who helped establish competencies modeling and was Goleman's mentor at Harvard, and Howard Gardner, a developmental psychologist and professor of cognition and education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education at Harvard University, who developed the theory of multiple intelligences.

In Primal Leadership, Goleman advocates cultivating emotionally intelligent leaders. Goleman and his coauthors, Richard E. Boyatzis and Annie McKee, explain the four domains of emotional intelligence—self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management—and how they give rise to different styles of leadership. It is a leadership repertoire that leaders can master and use to great effect.

Finally, some academics are adopting a more radical take on leadership for the twenty-first century.

Some argue that leadership is distributed across teams. Wharton's Katherine J. Klein spent 10 months studying medical teams in action at the Baltimore Shock Trauma Center. Her close-up view of leadership in action led her to adopt a unique perspective on leadership "as a system or a structure—a characteristic not of individuals but of the organization or unit as a whole."

In the fraught, pressured conditions in which the trauma unit worked, where poor decisions or wasted seconds might mean the difference between life and death, leadership was "a role—or, more specifically, a dynamic, socially enabled and socially constrained set of functions which may be filled by the numerous individuals who, over time, occupy key positions of expert authority on the team."

In such a situation, leadership was the product of the organization or unit's "norms, routines and role definitions." The function of the leader existed separately from the many different people who filled the role depending on the circumstances.


Excerpted from THINKERS50 Leadership by STUART CRAINER, DES DEARLOVE. Copyright © 2014 Stuart Crainer and Des Dearlove. Excerpted by permission of McGraw-Hill Education.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author

STUART CRAINER and DES DEARLOVE are the creators of Thinkers50—the world's most influential global ranking of management thought leaders. Management Today describes them as "market makers par excellence." Their written work has appeared in The (London) Times, Financial Times, The Times of India, Newsweek Japan, and many other publications.

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