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Eighth Edition


To Madison, Isla, and Sullivan



Theory and Practice

Eighth Edition

Peter G. NorthouseWestern Michigan University



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Copyright © 2019 by SAGE Publications, Inc.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or byany means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by anyinformation storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

Printed in the United States of America

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Names: Northouse, Peter Guy, author.

Title: Leadership : theory and practice / Peter G. Northouse, Western Michigan University.

Description: Eighth Edition. | Thousand Oaks : SAGE Publications, [2018] | Revised edition of the author’sLeadership, 2015. | Includes index.

Identifiers: LCCN 2017049134 | ISBN 9781506362311 (pbk. : alk. paper)

Subjects: LCSH: Leadership. | Leadership—Case studies.


Classification: LCC HM1261 .N67 2018 | DDC 303.3/4—dc23 LC record available at

This book is printed on acid-free paper.

Acquisitions Editor: Maggie Stanley

Content Development Editor: Lauren Holmes

Editorial Assistant: Alissa Nance

Production Editor: Bennie Clark Allen

Copy Editor: Melinda Masson

Typesetter: C&M Digitals (P) Ltd.

Proofreader: Sally Jaskold

Indexer: Jean Casalegno

Cover Designer: Gail Buschman

Marketing Manager: Amy Lammers


Brief Contents

1. Preface2. Acknowledgments3. About the Author4. About the Contributors5. 1. Introduction6. 2. Trait Approach7. 3. Skills Approach8. 4. Behavioral Approach9. 5. Situational Approach

10. 6. Path–Goal Theory11. 7. Leader–Member Exchange Theory12. 8. Transformational Leadership13. 9. Authentic Leadership14. 10. Servant Leadership15. 11. Adaptive Leadership16. 12. Followership17. 13. Leadership Ethics18. 14. Team Leadership19. 15. Gender and Leadership20. 16. Culture and Leadership21. Author Index22. Subject Index


Detailed Contents

PrefaceAcknowledgmentsAbout the AuthorAbout the Contributors1. Introduction

Leadership DefinedWays of Conceptualizing LeadershipDefinition and Components

Leadership DescribedTrait Versus Process LeadershipAssigned Versus Emergent LeadershipLeadership and PowerLeadership and CoercionLeadership and Management

Plan of the BookSummaryReferences

2. Trait ApproachDescription

IntelligenceSelf-ConfidenceDeterminationIntegritySociabilityFive-Factor Personality Model and LeadershipStrengths and LeadershipEmotional Intelligence

How Does the Trait Approach Work?StrengthsCriticismsApplicationCase Studies

Case 2.1 Choosing a New Director of ResearchCase 2.2 A Remarkable TurnaroundCase 2.3 Recruiting for the Bank

Leadership InstrumentLeadership Trait Questionnaire (LTQ)



3. Skills ApproachDescription

Three-Skill ApproachTechnical SkillsHuman SkillsConceptual SkillsSummary of the Three-Skill Approach

Skills ModelCompetenciesIndividual AttributesLeadership OutcomesCareer ExperiencesEnvironmental InfluencesSummary of the Skills Model

How Does the Skills Approach Work?StrengthsCriticismsApplicationCase Studies

Case 3.1 A Strained Research TeamCase 3.2 A Shift for Lieutenant Colonel AdamsCase 3.3 Andy’s Recipe

Leadership InstrumentSkills Inventory


4. Behavioral ApproachDescription

The Ohio State StudiesThe University of Michigan StudiesBlake and Mouton’s Managerial (Leadership) Grid

Authority–Compliance (9,1)Country-Club Management (1,9)Impoverished Management (1,1)Middle-of-the-Road Management (5,5)Team Management (9,9)


How Does the Behavioral Approach Work?StrengthsCriticismsApplication


Case StudiesCase 4.1 A Drill Sergeant at FirstCase 4.2 Eating Lunch Standing UpCase 4.3 We Are Family

Leadership InstrumentLeadership Behavior Questionnaire


5. Situational ApproachDescription

Leadership StyleDevelopment Level

How Does the Situational Approach Work?StrengthsCriticismsApplicationCase Studies

Case 5.1 Marathon Runners at Different LevelsCase 5.2 Why Aren’t They Listening?Case 5.3 Getting the Message Across

Leadership InstrumentSituational Leadership® Questionnaire: Sample Items


6. Path–Goal TheoryDescription

Leader BehaviorsDirective LeadershipSupportive LeadershipParticipative LeadershipAchievement-Oriented Leadership

Follower CharacteristicsTask Characteristics

How Does Path–Goal Theory Work?StrengthsCriticismsApplicationCase Studies

Case 6.1 Three Shifts, Three SupervisorsCase 6.2 Direction for Some, Support for OthersCase 6.3 Playing in the Orchestra

Leadership Instrument


Path–Goal Leadership QuestionnaireSummaryReferences

7. Leader–Member Exchange TheoryDescription

Early StudiesLater StudiesLeadership Making

How Does LMX Theory Work?StrengthsCriticismsApplicationCase Studies

Case 7.1 His Team Gets the Best AssignmentsCase 7.2 Working Hard at Being FairCase 7.3 Taking on Additional Responsibilities

Leadership InstrumentLMX 7 Questionnaire


8. Transformational LeadershipDescription

Transformational Leadership DefinedTransformational Leadership and CharismaA Model of Transformational Leadership

Transformational Leadership FactorsTransactional Leadership FactorsNonleadership Factor

Other Transformational PerspectivesBennis and NanusKouzes and Posner

How Does the Transformational Leadership Approach Work?StrengthsCriticismsApplicationCase Studies

Case 8.1 The Vision FailedCase 8.2 An Exploration in LeadershipCase 8.3 Her Vision of a Model Research Center

Leadership InstrumentSample Items From the Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire (MLQ)Form 5X-Short



9. Authentic LeadershipDescription

Authentic Leadership DefinedApproaches to Authentic Leadership

Practical ApproachTheoretical Approach

How Does Authentic Leadership Work?StrengthsCriticismsApplicationCase Studies

Case 9.1 Am I Really a Leader?Case 9.2 A Leader Under FireCase 9.3 The Reluctant First Lady

Leadership InstrumentAuthentic Leadership Self-Assessment Questionnaire


10. Servant LeadershipDescription

Servant Leadership DefinedHistorical Basis of Servant LeadershipTen Characteristics of a Servant LeaderBuilding a Theory About Servant Leadership

Model of Servant LeadershipAntecedent ConditionsServant Leader BehaviorsOutcomesSummary of the Model of Servant Leadership

How Does Servant Leadership Work?StrengthsCriticismsApplicationCase Studies

Case 10.1 Everyone Loves Mrs. NobleCase 10.2 Doctor to the PoorCase 10.3 Servant Leadership Takes Flight

Leadership InstrumentServant Leadership Questionnaire



References11. Adaptive Leadership

DescriptionAdaptive Leadership Defined

A Model of Adaptive LeadershipSituational ChallengesTechnical ChallengesTechnical and Adaptive ChallengesAdaptive ChallengesLeader BehaviorsAdaptive Work

How Does Adaptive Leadership Work?StrengthsCriticismsApplicationCase Studies

Case 11.1 Silence, Stigma, and Mental IllnessCase 11.2 Taming BacchusCase 11.3 Redskins No More

Leadership InstrumentAdaptive Leadership Questionnaire


12. FollowershipDescription

Followership DefinedRole-Based and Relational-Based PerspectivesTypologies of Followership

The Zaleznik TypologyThe Kelley TypologyThe Chaleff TypologyThe Kellerman Typology

Theoretical Approaches to FollowershipReversing the LensThe Leadership Co-Created ProcessNew Perspectives on Followership

Perspective 1: Followers Get the Job DonePerspective 2: Followers Work in the Best Interest of theOrganization’s MissionPerspective 3: Followers Challenge LeadersPerspective 4: Followers Support the LeaderPerspective 5: Followers Learn From Leaders


Followership and Destructive Leaders1. Our Need for Reassuring Authority Figures2. Our Need for Security and Certainty3. Our Need to Feel Chosen or Special4. Our Need for Membership in the Human Community5. Our Fear of Ostracism, Isolation, and Social Death6. Our Fear of Powerlessness to Challenge a Bad Leader

How Does Followership Work?StrengthsCriticismsApplicationCase Studies

Case 12.1 Bluebird CareCase 12.2 Olympic RowersCase 12.3 Penn State Sexual Abuse Scandal

Leadership InstrumentFollowership Questionnaire


13. Leadership EthicsDescription

Ethics DefinedLevel 1. Preconventional MoralityLevel 2. Conventional MoralityLevel 3. Postconventional Morality

Ethical TheoriesCentrality of Ethics to LeadershipHeifetz’s Perspective on Ethical LeadershipBurns’s Perspective on Ethical LeadershipThe Dark Side of LeadershipPrinciples of Ethical Leadership

Ethical Leaders Respect OthersEthical Leaders Serve OthersEthical Leaders Are JustEthical Leaders Are HonestEthical Leaders Build Community

StrengthsCriticismsApplicationCase Studies

Case 13.1 Choosing a Research AssistantCase 13.2 How Safe Is Safe?


Case 13.3 Reexamining a ProposalLeadership Instrument

Ethical Leadership Style Questionnaire (Short Form)SummaryReferences

14. Team LeadershipDescription

Team Leadership ModelTeam EffectivenessLeadership DecisionsLeadership Actions

How Does the Team Leadership Model Work?StrengthsCriticismsApplicationCase Studies

Case 14.1 Can This Virtual Team Work?Case 14.2 Team Crisis Within the GatesCase 14.3 Starts With a Bang, Ends With a Whimper

Leadership InstrumentTeam Excellence and Collaborative Team Leader Questionnaire


15. Gender and LeadershipDescription

The Glass Ceiling Turned LabyrinthEvidence of the Leadership LabyrinthUnderstanding the Labyrinth

Gender Differences in Leadership Styles and EffectivenessNavigating the Labyrinth

StrengthsCriticismsApplicationCase Studies

Case 15.1 The “Glass Ceiling”Case 15.2 Lack of Inclusion and CredibilityCase 15.3 Pregnancy as a Barrier to Job Status

Leadership InstrumentThe Gender–Leader Implicit Association Test


16. Culture and Leadership


DescriptionCulture DefinedRelated Concepts


Dimensions of CultureUncertainty AvoidancePower DistanceInstitutional CollectivismIn-Group CollectivismGender EgalitarianismAssertivenessFuture OrientationPerformance OrientationHumane Orientation

Clusters of World CulturesCharacteristics of Clusters

AngloConfucian AsiaEastern EuropeGermanic EuropeLatin AmericaLatin EuropeMiddle EastNordic EuropeSouthern AsiaSub-Saharan Africa

Leadership Behavior and Culture ClustersEastern Europe Leadership ProfileLatin America Leadership ProfileLatin Europe Leadership ProfileConfucian Asia Leadership ProfileNordic Europe Leadership ProfileAnglo Leadership ProfileSub-Saharan Africa Leadership ProfileSouthern Asia Leadership ProfileGermanic Europe Leadership ProfileMiddle East Leadership Profile

Universally Desirable and Undesirable Leadership AttributesStrengthsCriticismsApplication


Case StudiesCase 16.1 A Challenging WorkplaceCase 16.2 A Special Kind of FinancingCase 16.3 Whose Latino Center Is It?

Leadership InstrumentDimensions of Culture Questionnaire


Author IndexSubject Index



This eighth edition of Leadership: Theory and Practice is written with the objective ofbridging the gap between the often-simplistic popular approaches to leadership and themore abstract theoretical approaches. Like the previous editions, this edition reviews andanalyzes a selected number of leadership theories, giving special attention to how eachtheoretical approach can be applied in real-world organizations. In essence, my purpose isto explore how leadership theory can inform and direct the way leadership is practiced.


New to This Edition

First and foremost, this edition includes a new chapter on followership, which examines thenature of followership, its underpinnings, and how it works. The chapter presents adefinition, a model, and the latest research and applications of this emerging approach toleadership. It also examines the relationship between followership and destructive, or toxic,leadership. In addition, the strengths and weaknesses of followership are examined, and aquestionnaire to help readers assess their own follower style is provided. Three case studiesillustrating followership, including one that addresses the Penn State sexual abuse scandaland another that looks at the 1936 U.S. Olympic rowing team, are presented at the end ofthe chapter.

In addition to the discussion of destructive leadership in Chapter 12, this edition includesan expanded discussion of the dark side of leadership and psuedotransformationalleadership and the negative uses and abuses of leadership in several of the chapters. Readerswill also find that the ethics chapter features a new self-assessment instrument, the EthicalLeadership Style Questionnaire (ELSQ), which assesses a leader’s style of ethical leadershipand will help leaders understand their decision-making preferences when confrontingethical dilemmas.

This edition retains many special features from previous editions but has been updated toinclude new research findings, figures and tables, and everyday applications for manyleadership topics including leader–member exchange theory, transformational andauthentic leadership, team leadership, the labyrinth of women’s leadership, and historicaldefinitions of leadership. The format of this edition parallels the format used in earliereditions. As with previous editions, the overall goal of Leadership: Theory and Practice is toadvance our understanding of the many different approaches to leadership and ways topractice it more effectively.


Special Features

Although this text presents and analyzes a wide range of leadership research, every attempthas been made to present the material in a clear, concise, and interesting manner. Reviewersof the book have consistently commented that clarity is one of its major strengths. Inaddition to the writing style, several other features of the book help make it user-friendly.

Each chapter follows the same format: It is structured to include first theory and thenpractice.Every chapter contains a discussion of the strengths and criticisms of the approachunder consideration, and assists the reader in determining the relative merits of eachapproach.Each chapter includes an application section that discusses the practical aspects of theapproach and how it could be used in today’s organizational settings.Three case studies are provided in each chapter to illustrate common leadership issuesand dilemmas. Thought-provoking questions follow each case study, helping readersto interpret the case.A questionnaire is provided in each of the chapters to help the reader apply theapproach to his or her own leadership style or setting.Figures and tables illustrate the content of the theory and make the ideas moremeaningful.

Through these special features, every effort has been made to make this text substantive,understandable, and practical.



This book provides both an in-depth presentation of leadership theory and a discussion ofhow it applies to real-life situations. Thus, it is intended for undergraduate and graduateclasses in management, leadership studies, business, educational leadership, publicadministration, nursing and allied health, social work, criminal justice, industrial andorganizational psychology, communication, religion, agricultural education, political andmilitary science, and training and development. It is particularly well suited as asupplementary text for core organizational behavior courses or as an overview text withinMBA curricula. This book would also be useful as a text in student activities, continuingeducation, in-service training, and other leadership-development programs.


Digital Resources


SAGE edgeSAGE edge for Instructors

A password-protected instructor resource site at supportsteaching with high-quality content to help in creating a rich learning environment forstudents. The SAGE edge site for this book includes the following instructor resources:

Test banks built on AACSB standards, the book’s learning objectives, and Bloom’sTaxonomy provide a diverse range of test items with ExamView test generation.Each chapter includes 100 test questions to give instructors options for assessingstudents.Editable, chapter-specific PowerPoint® slides offer complete flexibility for creating amultimedia presentation for the course.Lecture notes for each chapter align with PowerPoint slides to serve as an essentialreference, summarizing key concepts to ease preparation for lectures and classdiscussion.Carefully selected video and multimedia content enhances exploration of key topicsto reinforce concepts and provide further insights.Sample answers to questions in the text provide an essential reference.Case notes include summaries, analyses, sample answers to assist with discussion, andexercises.Suggested course projects and assignments help students to apply the concepts theylearn to see how they work in various contexts, providing new perspectives.Chapter-specific discussion questions for study help launch classroom interaction byprompting students to engage with the material and by reinforcing importantcontent.Exclusive access to influential SAGE journal articles and business cases tiesimportant research and scholarship to chapter concepts to strengthen learning.Tables and figures from the book are available for download.SAGE coursepacks provide easy LMS integration.


SAGE edge for students

The open-access companion website helps students accomplish their coursework goals in aneasy-to-use learning environment:

Mobile-friendly practice quizzes encourage self-guided assessment and practice.Mobile-friendly flashcards strengthen understanding of key concepts.Carefully selected video and multimedia content enhances exploration of key topicsto reinforce concepts and provide further insights.EXCLUSIVE! Full-text SAGE journal articles have been carefully selected tosupport and expand on the concepts presented in each chapter.Meaningful web resources with exercises facilitate further exploration of topics.


SAGE coursepacks

SAGE coursepacks make it easy to import our quality instructor and student resourcecontent into your school’s learning management system (LMS) with minimal effort.Intuitive and simple to use, SAGE coursepacks give you the control to focus on what reallymatters: customizing course content to meet your students’ needs. The SAGE coursepacks,created specifically for this book, are customized and curated for use in Blackboard, Canvas,Desire2Learn (D2L), and Moodle.

In addition to the content available on the SAGE edge site, the coursepacks include thefollowing:

Pedagogically robust assessment tools foster review, practice, and critical thinkingand offer a better, more complete way to measure student engagement:

Diagnostic chapter pretests and posttests identify opportunities for studentimprovement, track student progress, and ensure mastery of key learningobjectives.Instructions on how to use and integrate the comprehensive assessments andresources are provided.Assignable video with corresponding multimedia assessment tools bringconcepts to life that increase student engagement and appeal to differentlearning styles. The video assessment questions feed to your gradebook.Integrated links to the eBook make it easy to access the mobile-friendlyversion of the text, which can be read anywhere, anytime.

Interactive eBook

Leadership (8th ed.) is also available as an interactive eBook, which can be packaged withthe text for just $5 or purchased separately. The interactive eBook offers hyperlinks tooriginal and licensed videos, including Peter Northouse author videos in which the authorilluminates various leadership concepts. The interactive eBook includes additional casestudies, as well as carefully chosen journal articles from the web, all from the same pagesfound in the printed text. Users will also have immediate access to study tools such ashighlighting, bookmarking, note-taking/sharing, and more!



Many people directly or indirectly contributed to the development of the eighth edition ofLeadership: Theory and Practice. First, I would like to acknowledge my editor, MaggieStanley, and her talented team at SAGE Publications (Lauren Holmes and Alissa Nance),who have contributed in so many different ways to the quality and success of this book. Fortheir very capable work during the production phase, I would like to thank the copy editor,Melinda Masson, and the project editor, Bennie Clark Allen. In her own unique way, eachof these people made valuable contributions to the eighth edition.

I would like to thank the following reviewers for their valuable contributions to thedevelopment of this manuscript:

Sandra Arumugam-Osburn, St. Louis Community College-Forest ParkRob Elkington, University of Ontario Institute of TechnologyAbimbola Farinde, Columbia Southern UniversityBelinda S. Han, Utah Valley UniversityDeborah A. Johnson-Blake, Liberty UniversityBenjamin Kutsyuruba, Queen’s UniversityChenwei Liao, Michigan State UniversityHeather J. Mashburn, Appalachian State UniversityComfort Okpala, North Carolina A&T State UniversityRic Rohm, Southeastern UniversityPatricia Dillon Sobczak, Virginia Commonwealth UniversityVictor S. Sohmen, Drexel UniversityBrigitte Steinheider, University of Oklahoma-TulsaRobert Waris, University of Missouri–Kansas CitySandi Zeljko, Lake-Sumter State CollegeMary Zonsius, Rush University

I would like to thank the following reviewers for their valuable contributions to thedevelopment of the seventh edition manuscript:

Hamid Akbari, Winona State UniversityMeera Alagaraja, University of LouisvilleMel Albin, Excelsior CollegeThomas Batsching, Reutlingen UniversityCheryl Beeler, Angelo State UniversityJulie Bjorkman, Benedictine UniversityMark D. Bowman, Methodist UniversityDianne Burns, University of Manchester


Eric Buschlen, Central Michigan UniversitySteven Bryant, Drury UniversityDaniel Calhoun, Georgia Southern UniversityDavid Conrad, Augsburg CollegeJoyce Cousins, Royal College of Surgeons in IrelandDenise Danna, LSUHSC School of NursingS. Todd Deal, Georgia Southern UniversityCaroline S. Fulmer, University of AlabamaBrad Gatlin, John Brown UniversityGreig A. Gjerdalen, Capilano UniversityAndrew Gonzales, University of California, IrvineDecker B. Hains, Western Michigan UniversityAmanda Hasty, University of Colorado–DenverCarl Holschen, Missouri Baptist UniversityKiran Ismail, St. John’s UniversityIrma Jones, University of Texas at BrownsvilleMichele D. Kegley, University of Cincinnati, Blue Ash CollegeJeanea M. Lambeth, Pittsburg State UniversityDavid Lees, University of DerbyDavid S. McClain, University of Hawaii at ManoaCarol McMillan, New School UniversityRichard Milter, Johns Hopkins UniversityChristopher Neck, Arizona State University–TempeKeeok Park, University of La VerneRichard Parkman, University of PlymouthLori M. Pindar, Clemson UniversityChaminda S. Prelis, University of DubuqueCasey Rae, George Fox UniversityNoel Ronan, Waterford Institute of TechnologyLouis Rubino, California State University, NorthridgeShadia Sachedina, Baruch College (School of Public Affairs)Harriet L. Schwartz, Carlow UniversityKelli K. Smith, University of Nebraska-LincolnDavid Swenson, The College of St. ScholasticaDanny L. Talbot, Washington State UniversityRobert L. Taylor, University of LouisvillePrecious Taylor-Clifton, Cambridge CollegeJohn Tummons, University of MissouriKristi Tyran, Western Washington UniversityTamara Von George, Granite State CollegeNatalie Walker, Seminole State CollegeWilliam Welch, Bowie State University


David E. Williams, Texas Tech UniversityTony Wohlers, Cameron UniversitySharon A. Wulf, Worcester Polytechnic Institute School of BusinessAlec Zama, Grand View UniversityXia Zhao, California State University, Dominguez Hills

In addition, I would like to thank, for their exceptional work on the leadership profile tooland the ancillaries, Isolde Anderson (Hope College), John Baker (Western KentuckyUniversity), Kari Keating (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign), Kathryn Woods(Austin Peay State University), Eric Buschlen (Central Michigan University), Lou Sabina(Stetson University), and Neda Dallal.

A very special acknowledgment goes to Laurel Northouse for her insightful critiques andongoing support. In addition, I am especially grateful to Marie Lee for her exceptionalediting and guidance throughout this project. For his review of and comments on thefollowership chapter, I am indebted to Ronald Riggio (Claremont McKenna University). Iwould like to thank Sarah Chace (Marian University) for her contributions to the adaptiveleadership chapter, Leah Omilion-Hodges (Western Michigan University) for hercontributions to the leader–member exchange chapter, Isolde Anderson (Hope College) forher comprehensive literature reviews, Robin Curtiss for her contributions to a case study onfollowership, and Rudy Leon for her editorial assistance.

Finally, I would like to thank the many undergraduate and graduate students whom I havetaught through the years. Their ongoing feedback has helped clarify my thinking aboutleadership and encouraged me to make plain the practical implications of leadershiptheories.


About the Author

Peter G. Northouse, PhD,is Professor Emeritus of Communication in the School of Communication atWestern Michigan University. Leadership: Theory and Practice is the best-sellingacademic textbook on leadership in the world and has been translated into 13languages. In addition to authoring publications in professional journals, he is theauthor of Introduction to Leadership: Concepts and Practice (now in its fourth edition)and co-author of Leadership Case Studies in Education (now in its second edition) andHealth Communication: Strategies for Health Professionals (now in its third edition).His scholarly and curricular interests include models of leadership, leadershipassessment, ethical leadership, and leadership and group dynamics. For more than 30years, he has taught undergraduate and graduate courses in leadership, interpersonalcommunication, and organizational communication on both the undergraduate andgraduate levels. Currently, he is a consultant and lecturer on trends in leadershipresearch, leadership development, and leadership education. He holds a doctorate inspeech communication from the University of Denver, and master’s and bachelor’sdegrees in communication education from Michigan State University.


About the Contributors

Crystal L. Hoytcompleted her doctorate in social psychology at the University of California, SantaBarbara, and is a professor of leadership studies and psychology at the University ofRichmond. Her primary research interests include female and minority leaders,stereotyping and discrimination, stigma, and cognitive biases. In her primary area ofresearch, she explores the role of beliefs, such as self-efficacy, implicit theories, andpolitical ideologies, in the experiences and perceptions of women and minorities inleadership or STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields, or ofthose who are overweight. In a more applied fashion, she examines factors, such asrole models, that may buffer individuals from the deleterious effects of stereotypesand discrimination. Her research appears in journals such as Psychological Science,Journal of Experimental and Social Psychology, Personality and Social PsychologyBulletin, and The Leadership Quarterly. She has published over 50 journal articles andbook chapters, and she has co-edited three books.

Susan E. Kogler Hill(PhD, University of Denver, 1974) is Professor Emeritus and former chair of theSchool of Communication at Cleveland State University. Her research andconsulting have been in the areas of interpersonal and organizational communication.She specializes in group leadership, teamwork, empowerment, and mentoring. She isauthor of a text titled Improving Interpersonal Competence. In addition, she haswritten book chapters and published articles in many professional journals.

Stefanie Simonis an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at Siena College. Sheearned her PhD in social psychology from Tulane University and was the Robert A.Oden Jr. Postdoctoral Fellow for Innovation in the Liberal Arts at Carleton Collegebefore joining the faculty at Siena. Her research centers on the psychology ofdiversity, with a focus on prejudice, discrimination, and leadership. In her work, shefocuses on the perspective of the target of prejudice and discrimination, as well as theperspective of the perpetrator of prejudice and discrimination. She is particularlyinterested in how leaders of diverse groups can promote positive intergroup relationsand reduce inequality in society.


1 Introduction

Leadership is a highly sought-after and highly valued commodity. In the 20 years since thefirst edition of this book was published, the public has become increasingly captivated bythe idea of leadership. People continue to ask themselves and others what makes goodleaders. As individuals, they seek more information on how to become effective leaders. Asa result, bookstore shelves are filled with popular books about leaders and advice on how tobe a leader. Many people believe that leadership is a way to improve their personal, social,and professional lives. Corporations seek those with leadership ability because they believethey bring special assets to their organizations and, ultimately, improve the bottom line.Academic institutions throughout the country have responded by providing programs inleadership studies.

In addition, leadership has gained the attention of researchers worldwide. Leadershipresearch is increasing dramatically, and findings underscore that there is a wide variety ofdifferent theoretical approaches to explain the complexities of the leadership process (e.g.,Bass, 2008; Bryman, 1992; Bryman, Collinson, Grint, Jackson, & Uhl-Bien, 2011; Day &Antonakis, 2012; Dinh et al., 2014; Gardner, 1990; Hickman, 2016; Mumford, 2006;Rost, 1991). Some researchers conceptualize leadership as a trait or as a behavior, whereasothers view leadership from an information-processing perspective or relational standpoint.Leadership has been studied using both qualitative and quantitative methods in manycontexts, including small groups, therapeutic groups, and large organizations. Collectively,the research findings on leadership from all of these areas provide a picture of a process thatis far more sophisticated and complex than the often-simplistic view presented in some ofthe popular books on leadership.

This book treats leadership as a complex process having multiple dimensions. Based on theresearch literature, this text provides an in-depth description and application of manydifferent approaches to leadership. Our emphasis is on how theory can inform the practiceof leadership. In this book, we describe each theory and then explain how the theory can beused in real situations.


Leadership Defined

There are many ways to finish the sentence “Leadership is . . .” In fact, as Stogdill (1974, p.7) pointed out in a review of leadership research, there are almost as many differentdefinitions of leadership as there are people who have tried to define it. It is much like thewords democracy, love, and peace. Although each of us intuitively knows what we mean bysuch words, the words can have different meanings for different people. As Box 1.1 shows,scholars and practitioners have attempted to define leadership for more than a centurywithout universal consensus.

Box 1.1 The Evolution of Leadership Definitions

While many have a gut-level grasp of what leadership is, putting a definition to the term has proved to be achallenging endeavor for scholars and practitioners alike. More than a century has lapsed since leadershipbecame a topic of academic introspection, and definitions have evolved continuously during that period.These definitions have been influenced by many factors from world affairs and politics to the perspectives ofthe discipline in which the topic is being studied. In a seminal work, Rost (1991) analyzed materials writtenfrom 1900 to 1990, finding more than 200 different definitions for leadership. His analysis provides asuccinct history of how leadership has been defined through the last century:


1900–1929Definitions of leadership appearing in the first three decades of the 20th century emphasized control andcentralization of power with a common theme of domination. For example, at a conference on leadership in1927, leadership was defined as “the ability to impress the will of the leader on those led and induceobedience, respect, loyalty, and cooperation” (Moore, 1927, p. 124).


1930sIn the 1930s, traits became the focus of defining leadership, with an emerging view of leadership asinfluence rather than domination. Leadership was also identified as the interaction of an individual’s specificpersonality traits with those of a group; it was noted that while the attitudes and activities of the many maybe changed by the one, the many may also influence a leader.


1940sThe group approach came into the forefront in the 1940s with leadership being defined as the behavior ofan individual while involved in directing group activities (Hemphill, 1949). At the same time, leadership bypersuasion was distinguished from “drivership” or leadership by coercion (Copeland, 1942).


1950sThree themes dominated leadership definitions during the 1950s:

continuance of group theory, which framed leadership as what leaders do in groups;leadership as a relationship that develops shared goals, which defined leadership based onbehavior of the leader; andeffectiveness, in which leadership was defined by the ability to influence overall group effectiveness.


1960sAlthough a tumultuous time for world affairs, the 1960s saw harmony amongst leadership scholars. Theprevailing definition of leadership as behavior that influences people toward shared goals was underscored bySeeman (1960), who described leadership as “acts by persons which influence other persons in a shareddirection” (p. 53).


1970sIn the 1970s, the group focus gave way to the organizational behavior approach, where leadership becameviewed as “initiating and maintaining groups or organizations to accomplish group or organizational goals”(Rost, 1991, p. 59). Burns’s (1978) definition, however, was the most important concept of leadership toemerge: “Leadership is the reciprocal process of mobilizing by persons with certain motives and values,various economic, political, and other resources, in a context of competition and conflict, in order to realizegoals independently or mutually held by both leaders and followers” (p. 425).


1980sThe 1980s exploded with scholarly and popular works on the nature of leadership, bringing the topic to theapex of the academic and public consciousness. As a result, the number of definitions for leadership becamea prolific stew with several persevering themes:

Do as the leader wishes. Leadership definitions still predominantly delivered the message thatleadership is getting followers to do what the leader wants done.Influence. Probably the most often used word in leadership definitions of the 1980s, influence wasexamined from every angle. In an effort to distinguish leadership from management, however,scholars insisted that leadership is noncoercive influence.Traits. Spurred by the national best seller In Search of Excellence (Peters & Waterman, 1982), theleadership-as-excellence movement brought leader traits back to the spotlight. As a result, manypeople’s understanding of leadership is based on a trait orientation.Transformation. Burns (1978) is credited for initiating a movement defining leadership as atransformational process, stating that leadership occurs “when one or more persons engage withothers in such a way that leaders and followers raise one another to higher levels of motivation andmorality” (p. 83).


From the 1990s Into the 21st CenturyDebate continues as to whether leadership and management are separate processes, but emerging researchemphasizes the process of leadership, whereby an individual influences a group of individuals to achieve acommon goal, rather than developing new ways of defining leadership. Among these emerging leadershipapproaches are

authentic leadership, in which the authenticity of leaders and their leadership is emphasized;spiritual leadership, which focuses on leadership that utilizes values and sense of calling andmembership to motivate followers;servant leadership, which puts the leader in the role of servant, who utilizes “caring principles” tofocus on followers’ needs to help these followers become more autonomous, knowledgeable, andlike servants themselves;adaptive leadership, in which leaders encourage followers to adapt by confronting and solvingproblems, challenges, and changes;followership, which puts a spotlight on followers and the role followers play in the leadershipprocess; anddiscursive leadership, which posits that leadership is created not so much through leader traits,skills, and behaviors, but through communication practices that are negotiated between leader andfollower (Aritz, Walker, Cardon, & Zhang, 2017; Fairhurst, 2007).

After decades of dissonance, leadership scholars agree on one thing: They can’t come up with a commondefinition for leadership. Because of such factors as growing global influences and generational differences,leadership will continue to have different meanings for different people. The bottom line is that leadershipis a complex concept for which a determined definition may long be in flux.

Source: Adapted from Leadership for the Twenty-First Century, by J. C. Rost, 1991, New York, NY: Praeger.


Ways of Conceptualizing Leadership

In the past 60 years, as many as 65 different classification systems have been developed todefine the dimensions of leadership (Fleishman et al., 1991). One such classificationsystem, directly related to our discussion, is the scheme proposed by Bass (2008, pp. 11–20). He suggested that some definitions view leadership as the focus of group processes. Fromthis perspective, the leader is at the center of group change and activity and embodies thewill of the group. Another set of definitions conceptualizes leadership from a personalityperspective, which suggests that leadership is a combination of special traits or characteristicsthat some individuals possess. These traits enable those individuals to induce others toaccomplish tasks. Other approaches to leadership define it as an act or a behavior—thethings leaders do to bring about change in a group.

In addition, some define leadership in terms of the power relationship that exists betweenleaders and followers. From this viewpoint, leaders have power that they wield to effectchange in others. Others view leadership as a transformational process that moves followersto accomplish more than is usually expected of them. Finally, some scholars addressleadership from a skills perspective. This viewpoint stresses the capabilities (knowledge andskills) that make effective leadership possible.


Definition and Components

Despite the multitude of ways in which leadership has been conceptualized, the followingcomponents can be identified as central to the phenomenon: (a) Leadership is a process, (b)leadership involves influence, (c) leadership occurs in groups, and (d) leadership involvescommon goals. Based on these components, the following definition of leadership is usedin this text:

Leadership is a process whereby an individual influences a group of individuals to achieve a common goal.

Defining leadership as a process means that it is not a trait or characteristic that resides inthe leader, but rather a transactional event that occurs between the leader and the followers.Process implies that a leader affects and is affected by followers. It emphasizes that leadershipis not a linear, one-way event, but rather an interactive event. When leadership is defined inthis manner, it becomes available to everyone. It is not restricted to the formally designatedleader in a group.

Leadership involves influence. It is concerned with how the leader affects followers and thecommunication that occurs between leaders and followers (Ruben & Gigliotti, 2017).Influence is the sine qua non of leadership. Without influence, leadership does not exist.

Leadership occurs in groups. Groups are the context in which leadership takes place.Leadership involves influencing a group of individuals who have a common purpose. Thiscan be a small task group, a community group, or a large group encompassing an entireorganization. Leadership is about one individual influencing a group of others toaccomplish common goals. Others (a group) are required for leadership to occur.Leadership training programs that teach people to lead themselves are not considered a partof leadership within the definition that is set forth in this discussion.

Leadership includes attention to common goals. Leaders direct their energies towardindividuals who are trying to achieve something together. By common, we mean that theleaders and followers have a mutual purpose. Attention to common goals gives leadershipan ethical overtone because it stresses the need for leaders to work with followers to achieveselected goals. Stressing mutuality lessens the possibility that leaders might act towardfollowers in ways that are forced or unethical. It also increases the possibility that leadersand followers will work together toward a common good (Rost, 1991).

Throughout this text, the people who engage in leadership will be called leaders, and thosetoward whom leadership is directed will be called followers. Both leaders and followers areinvolved together in the leadership process. Leaders need followers, and followers needleaders (Burns, 1978; Heller & Van Til, 1983; Hollander, 1992; Jago, 1982). An extendeddiscussion of followership is provided in Chapter 12. Although leaders and followers are


closely linked, it is the leader who often initiates the relationship, creates thecommunication linkages, and carries the burden for maintaining the relationship.

In our discussion of leaders and followers, attention will be directed toward follower issuesas well as leader issues. Leaders have an ethical responsibility to attend to the needs andconcerns of followers. As Burns (1978) pointed out, discussions of leadership sometimes areviewed as elitist because of the implied power and importance often ascribed to leaders inthe leader–follower relationship. Leaders are not above or better than followers. Leaders andfollowers must be understood in relation to each other (Hollander, 1992) and collectively(Burns, 1978). They are in the leadership relationship together—and are two sides of thesame coin (Rost, 1991).


Leadership Described

In addition to definitional issues, it is important to discuss several other questionspertaining to the nature of leadership. In the following section, we will address questionssuch as how leadership as a trait differs from leadership as a process; how appointedleadership differs from emergent leadership; and how the concepts of power, coercion, andmanagement differ from leadership.

Figure 1.1 The Different Views of Leadership

Source: Adapted from A Force for Change: How Leadership Differs FromManagement (pp. 3–8), by J. P. Kotter, 1990, New York, NY: Free Press.


Trait Versus Process Leadership

We have all heard statements such as “He is born to be a leader” or “She is a naturalleader.” These statements are commonly expressed by people who take a trait perspectivetoward leadership. The trait perspective suggests that certain individuals have special innateor inborn characteristics or qualities that make them leaders, and that it is these qualitiesthat differentiate them from nonleaders. Some of the personal qualities used to identifyleaders include unique physical factors (e.g., height), personality features (e.g.,extraversion), and other characteristics (e.g., intelligence and fluency; Bryman, 1992). InChapter 2, we will discuss a large body of research that has examined these personalqualities.

To describe leadership as a trait is quite different from describing it as a process (Figure1.1). The trait viewpoint conceptualizes leadership as a property or set of propertiespossessed in varying degrees by different people (Jago, 1982). This suggests that it resides inselect people and restricts leadership to those who are believed to have special, usuallyinborn, talents.

The process viewpoint suggests that leadership is a phenomenon that resides in the contextof the interactions between leaders and followers and makes leadership available toeveryone. As a process, leadership can be observed in leader behaviors (Jago, 1982), and canbe learned. The process definition of leadership is consistent with the definition ofleadership that we have set forth in this chapter.


Assigned Versus Emergent Leadership

Some people are leaders because of their formal position in an organization, whereas othersare leaders because of the way other group members respond to them. These two commonforms of leadership are called assigned leadership and emergent leadership. Leadership that isbased on occupying a position in an organization is assigned leadership. Team leaders, plantmanagers, department heads, directors, and administrators are all examples of assignedleaders.

Yet the person assigned to a leadership position does not always become the real leader in aparticular setting. When others perceive an individual as the most influential member of agroup or an organization, regardless of the individual’s title, the person is exhibitingemergent leadership. The individual acquires emergent leadership through other people inthe organization who support and accept that individual’s behavior. This type of leadershipis not assigned by position; rather, it emerges over a period through communication. Someof the positive communication behaviors that account for successful leader emergenceinclude being verbally involved, being informed, seeking others’ opinions, initiating new ideas,and being firm but not rigid (Ellis & Fisher, 1994).

Researchers have found that, in addition to communication behaviors, personality plays arole in leadership emergence. For example, Smith and Foti (1998) found that certainpersonality traits were related to leadership emergence in a sample of 160 male collegestudents. The individuals who were more dominant, more intelligent, and more confidentabout their own performance (general self-efficacy) were more likely to be identified asleaders by other members of their task group. Although it is uncertain whether thesefindings apply to women as well, Smith and Foti suggested that these three traits could beused to identify individuals perceived to be emergent leaders.

Leadership emergence may also be affected by gender-biased perceptions. In a study of 40mixed-sex college groups, Watson and Hoffman (2004) found that women who were urgedto persuade their task groups to adopt high-quality decisions succeeded with the samefrequency as men with identical instructions. Although women were equally influentialleaders in their groups, they were rated significantly lower than comparable men were onleadership. Furthermore, these influential women were also rated as significantly less likablethan comparably influential men were. These results suggest that there continue to bebarriers to women’s emergence as leaders in some settings.

A unique perspective on leadership emergence is provided by social identity theory (Hogg,2001). From this perspective, leadership emergence is the degree to which a person fits withthe identity of the group as a whole. As groups develop over time, a group prototype alsodevelops. Individuals emerge as leaders in the group when they become most like the groupprototype. Being similar to the prototype makes leaders attractive to the group and gives


them influence with the group.

The leadership approaches we discuss in the subsequent chapters of this book apply equallyto assigned leadership and emergent leadership. When a person is engaged in leadership,that person is a leader, whether leadership was assigned or emerged. This book focuses onthe leadership process that occurs when any individual is engaged in influencing othergroup members in their efforts to reach a common goal.


Leadership and Power

The concept of power is related to leadership because it is part of the influence process.Power is the capacity or potential to influence. People have power when they have theability to affect others’ beliefs, attitudes, and courses of action. Judges, doctors, coaches,and teachers are all examples of people who have the potential to influence us. When theydo, they are using their power, the resource they draw on to effect change in us.

Although there are no explicit theories in the research literature about power andleadership, power is a concept that people often associate with leadership. It is common forpeople to view leaders (both good and bad) and people in positions of leadership asindividuals who wield power over others, and as a result, power is often thought of assynonymous with leadership. In addition, people are often intrigued by how leaders usetheir power. Understanding how power is used in leadership is instrumental as well inunderstanding the dark side of leadership, where leaders use their leadership to achieve theirown personal ends and lead in toxic and destructive ways (Krasikova, Green, & LeBreton,2013). Studying how famous leaders, such as Hitler or Alexander the Great, use power toeffect change in others is titillating to many people because it underscores that power canindeed effectuate change and maybe if they had power they too could effectuate change.

In her 2012 book The End of Leadership, Kellerman argues there has been a shift inleadership power during the last 40 years. Power used to be the domain of leaders, but thatis diminishing and shifting to followers. Changes in culture have meant followers demandmore from leaders, and leaders have responded. Access to technology has empoweredfollowers, given them access to huge amounts of information, and made leaders moretransparent. The result is a decline in respect for leaders and leaders’ legitimate power. Ineffect, followers have used information power to level the playing field. Power is no longersynonymous with leadership, and in the social contract between leaders and followers,leaders wield less power, according to Kellerman. For example, Posner (2015) examinedvolunteer leaders, such as those who sit on boards for nonprofit organizations, and foundthat while these followers did not have positional authority in the organization, they wereable to influence leadership. Volunteer leaders engaged more frequently in leadershipbehaviors than did paid leaders.

Table 1.1 Six Bases of Power


Based on followers’ identification and liking for the leader. A teacherwho is adored by students has referent power.


Based on followers’ perceptions of the leader’s competence. A tourguide who is knowledgeable about a foreign country has expert


Power power.


Associated with having status or formal job authority. A judge whoadministers sentences in the courtroom exhibits legitimate power.


Derived from having the capacity to provide rewards to others. Asupervisor who compliments employees who work hard is usingreward power.


Derived from having the capacity to penalize or punish others. Acoach who sits players on the bench for being late to practice is usingcoercive power.


Derived from possessing knowledge that others want or need. A bosswho has information regarding new criteria to decide employeepromotion eligibility has information power.

Source: Adapted from “The Bases of Social Power,” by J. R. French Jr. and B. Raven, 1962, in D. Cartwright(Ed.), Group Dynamics: Research and Theory (pp. 259–269), New York, NY: Harper & Row; and “SocialInfluence and Power,” by B. H. Raven, 1965, in I. D. Steiner & M. Fishbein (Eds.), Current Studies in SocialPsychology (pp. 371–382), New York, NY: Holt, Rinehart, & Winston.

In college courses today, the most widely cited research on power is French and Raven’s(1959) work on the bases of social power. In their work, they conceptualized power fromthe framework of a dyadic relationship that included both the person influencing and theperson being influenced. French and Raven identified five common and important bases ofpower—referent, expert, legitimate, reward, and coercive—and Raven (1965) identified asixth, information power (Table 1.1). Each of these bases of power increases a leader’scapacity to influence the attitudes, values, or behaviors of others.

In organizations, there are two major kinds of power: position power and personal power.Position power is the power a person derives from a particular office or rank in a formalorganizational system. It is the influence capacity a leader derives from having higher statusthan the followers have. Vice presidents and department heads have more power than staffpersonnel do because of the positions they hold in the organization. Position powerincludes legitimate, reward, coercive, and information power (Table 1.2).

Table 1.2 Types and Bases ofPower

Position Power Personal Power

Legitimate Referent


Reward Expert


InformationSource: Adapted from A Force for Change: How Leadership Differs From Management (pp. 3–8), by J. P. Kotter,1990, New York, NY: Free Press.

Personal power is the influence capacity a leader derives from being seen by followers aslikable and knowledgeable. When leaders act in ways that are important to followers, itgives leaders power. For example, some managers have power because their followersconsider them to be good role models. Others have power because their followers viewthem as highly competent or considerate. In both cases, these managers’ power is ascribedto them by others, based on how they are seen in their relationships with others. Personalpower includes referent and expert power (Table 1.2).

In discussions of leadership, it is not unusual for leaders to be described as wielders ofpower, as individuals who dominate others. In these instances, power is conceptualized as atool that leaders use to achieve their own ends. Contrary to this view of power, Burns(1978) emphasized power from a relationship standpoint. For Burns, power is not an entitythat leaders use over others to achieve their own ends; instead, power occurs inrelationships. It should be used by leaders and followers to promote their collective goals.

In this text, our discussions of leadership treat power as a relational concern for both leadersand followers. We pay attention to how leaders work with followers to reach commongoals.


Leadership and Coercion

Coercive power is one of the specific kinds of power available to leaders. Coercion involvesthe use of force to effect change. To coerce means to influence others to do somethingagainst their will and may include manipulating penalties and rewards in their workenvironment. Coercion often involves the use of threats, punishment, and negative rewardschedules and is most often seen as a characteristic of the dark side of leadership. Classicexamples of coercive leaders are Adolf Hitler in Germany, the Taliban leaders inAfghanistan, Jim Jones in Guyana, and Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte, each ofwhom used power and restraint to force followers to engage in extreme behaviors.

It is important to distinguish between coercion and leadership because it allows us toseparate out from our examples of leadership the behaviors of individuals such as Hitler, theTaliban, and Jones. In our discussions of leadership, coercive people are not used as modelsof ideal leadership. Our definition suggests that leadership is reserved for those whoinfluence a group of individuals toward a common goal. Leaders who use coercion areinterested in their own goals and seldom are interested in the wants and needs of followers.Using coercion runs counter to working with followers to achieve a common goal.


Leadership and Management

Leadership is a process that is similar to management in many ways. Leadership involvesinfluence, as does management. Leadership entails working with people, whichmanagement entails as well. Leadership is concerned with effective goal accomplishment,and so is management. In general, many of the functions of management are activities thatare consistent with the definition of leadership we set forth at the beginning of this chapter.

But leadership is also different from management. Whereas the study of leadership can betraced back to Aristotle, management emerged around the turn of the 20th century withthe advent of our industrialized society. Management was created as a way to reduce chaosin organizations, to make them run more effectively and efficiently. The primary functionsof management, as first identified by Fayol (1916), were planning, organizing, staffing, andcontrolling. These functions are still representative of the field of management today.

In a book that compared the functions of management with the functions of leadership,Kotter (1990) argued that they are quite dissimilar (Figure 1.2). The overriding function ofmanagement is to provide order and consistency to organizations, whereas the primaryfunction of leadership is to produce change and movement. Management is about seekingorder and stability; leadership is about seeking adaptive and constructive change.

As illustrated in Figure 1.2, the major activities of management are played out differentlythan the activities of leadership. Although they are different in scope, Kotter (1990, pp. 7–8) contended that both management and leadership are essential if an organization is toprosper. For example, if an organization has strong management without leadership, theoutcome can be stifling and bureaucratic. Conversely, if an organization has strongleadership without management, the outcome can be meaningless or misdirected change forchange’s sake. To be effective, organizations need to nourish both competent managementand skilled leadership.

Figure 1.2 Functions of Management and Leadership


Source: Adapted from A Force for Change: How Leadership Differs FromManagement (pp. 3–8), by J. P. Kotter, 1990, New York, NY: Free Press.

Many scholars, in addition to Kotter (1990), argue that leadership and management aredistinct constructs. For example, Bennis and Nanus (2007) maintained that there is asignificant difference between the two. To manage means to accomplish activities andmaster routines, whereas to lead means to influence others and create visions for change.Bennis and Nanus made the distinction very clear in their frequently quoted sentence,“Managers are people who do things right and leaders are people who do the right thing”(p. 221).

Rost (1991) has also been a proponent of distinguishing between leadership andmanagement. He contended that leadership is a multidirectional influence relationship andmanagement is a unidirectional authority relationship. Whereas leadership is concernedwith the process of developing mutual purposes, management is directed towardcoordinating activities in order to get a job done. Leaders and followers work together tocreate real change, whereas managers and subordinates join forces to sell goods and services(Rost, 1991, pp. 149–152).

In a recent study, Simonet and Tett (2012) explored how leadership and management arebest conceptualized by having 43 experts identify the overlap and differences betweenleadership and management in regard to 63 different competencies. They found a largenumber of competencies (22) descriptive of both leadership and management (e.g.,productivity, customer focus, professionalism, and goal setting), but they also found several


unique descriptors for each. Specifically, they found leadership was distinguished bymotivating intrinsically, creative thinking, strategic planning, tolerance of ambiguity, andbeing able to read people, and management was distinguished by rule orientation, short-term planning, motivating extrinsically, orderliness, safety concerns, and timeliness.

Approaching the issue from a narrower viewpoint, Zaleznik (1977) went so far as to arguethat leaders and managers themselves are distinct, and that they are basically different typesof people. He contended that managers are reactive and prefer to work with people to solveproblems but do so with low emotional involvement. They act to limit choices. Zalezniksuggested that leaders, on the other hand, are emotionally active and involved. They seek toshape ideas instead of responding to them and act to expand the available options to solvelong-standing problems. Leaders change the way people think about what is possible.

Although there are clear differences between management and leadership, the twoconstructs overlap. When managers are involved in influencing a group to meet its goals,they are involved in leadership. When leaders are involved in planning, organizing, staffing,and controlling, they are involved in management. Both processes involve influencing agroup of individuals toward goal attainment. For purposes of our discussion in this book,we focus on the leadership process. In our examples and case studies, we treat the roles ofmanagers and leaders similarly and do not emphasize the differences between them.


Plan of the Book

This book is user-friendly. It is based on substantive theories but is written to emphasizepractice and application. Each chapter in the book follows the same format. The firstsection of each chapter briefly describes the leadership approach and discusses variousresearch studies applicable to the approach. The second section of each chapter evaluatesthe approach, highlighting its strengths and criticisms. Special attention is given to how theapproach contributes or fails to contribute to an overall understanding of the leadershipprocess. The next section uses case studies to prompt discussion of how the approach canbe applied in ongoing organizations. Finally, each chapter provides a leadershipquestionnaire along with a discussion of how the questionnaire measures the reader’sleadership style. Each chapter ends with a summary and references.



Leadership is a topic with universal appeal; in the popular press and academic researchliterature, much has been written about leadership. Despite the abundance of writing onthe topic, leadership has presented a major challenge to practitioners and researchersinterested in understanding the nature of leadership. It is a highly valued phenomenon thatis very complex.

Through the years, leadership has been defined and conceptualized in many ways. Thecomponent common to nearly all classifications is that leadership is an influence processthat assists groups of individuals toward goal attainment. Specifically, in this bookleadership is defined as a process whereby an individual influences a group of individuals toachieve a common goal.

Because both leaders and followers are part of the leadership process, it is important toaddress issues that confront followers as well as issues that confront leaders. Leaders andfollowers should be understood in relation to each other.

In prior research, many studies have focused on leadership as a trait. The trait perspectivesuggests that certain people in our society have special inborn qualities that make themleaders. This view restricts leadership to those who are believed to have specialcharacteristics. In contrast, the approach in this text suggests that leadership is a processthat can be learned, and that it is available to everyone.

Two common forms of leadership are assigned and emergent. Assigned leadership is based ona formal title or position in an organization. Emergent leadership results from what one doesand how one acquires support from followers. Leadership, as a process, applies toindividuals in both assigned roles and emergent roles.

Related to leadership is the concept of power, the potential to influence. There are twomajor kinds of power: position and personal. Position power, which is much like assignedleadership, is the power an individual derives from having a title in a formal organizationalsystem. It includes legitimate, reward, information, and coercive power. Personal powercomes from followers and includes referent and expert power. Followers give it to leadersbecause followers believe leaders have something of value. Treating power as a sharedresource is important because it de-emphasizes the idea that leaders are power wielders.

While coercion has been a common power brought to bear by many individuals in charge,it should not be viewed as ideal leadership. Our definition of leadership stresses usinginfluence to bring individuals toward a common goal, while coercion involves the use ofthreats and punishment to induce change in followers for the sake of the leaders. Coercionruns counter to leadership because it does not treat leadership as a process that emphasizes


working with followers to achieve shared objectives.

Leadership and management are different concepts that overlap. They are different in thatmanagement traditionally focuses on the activities of planning, organizing, staffing, andcontrolling, whereas leadership emphasizes the general influence process. According tosome researchers, management is concerned with creating order and stability, whereasleadership is about adaptation and constructive change. Other researchers go so far as toargue that managers and leaders are different types of people, with managers being morereactive and less emotionally involved and leaders being more proactive and moreemotionally involved. The overlap between leadership and management is centered on howboth involve influencing a group of individuals in goal attainment.

In this book, we discuss leadership as a complex process. Based on the research literature,we describe selected approaches to leadership and assess how they can be used to improveleadership in real situations.

Sharpen your skills with SAGE edge at


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2 Trait Approach



Of interest to scholars throughout the 20th century, the trait approach was one of the firstsystematic attempts to study leadership. In the early 20th century, leadership traits werestudied to determine what made certain people great leaders. The theories that weredeveloped were called “great man” theories because they focused on identifying the innatequalities and characteristics possessed by great social, political, and military leaders (e.g.,Catherine the Great, Mohandas Gandhi, Indira Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln, Joan of Arc,and Napoleon Bonaparte). It was believed that people were born with these traits, and thatonly the “great” people possessed them. During this time, research concentrated ondetermining the specific traits that clearly differentiated leaders from followers (Bass, 2008;Jago, 1982).

In the mid-20th century, the trait approach was challenged by research that questioned theuniversality of leadership traits. In a major review, Stogdill (1948) suggested that noconsistent set of traits differentiated leaders from nonleaders across a variety of situations.An individual with leadership traits who was a leader in one situation might not be a leaderin another situation. Rather than being a quality that individuals possess, leadership wasreconceptualized as a relationship between people in a social situation. Personal factorsrelated to leadership continued to be important, but researchers contended that thesefactors were to be considered as relative to the requirements of the situation.

The trait approach has generated much interest among researchers for its explanation ofhow traits influence leadership (Bryman, 1992). For example, Kirkpatrick and Locke(1991) went so far as to claim that effective leaders are actually distinct types of people.Lord, DeVader, and Alliger (1986) found that traits were strongly associated withindividuals’ perceptions of leadership. More recently, Dinh and Lord (2012) examined therelationship between leadership effectiveness and followers’ perception of leadership traits.

The trait approach has earned new interest through the current emphasis given by manyresearchers to visionary and charismatic leadership (see Bass, 2008; Bennis & Nanus, 2007;Jacquart & Antonakis, 2015; Nadler & Tushman, 2012; Zaccaro, 2007; Zaleznik, 1977).Charismatic leadership catapulted to the forefront of public attention with the 2008election of the United States’ first African American president, Barack Obama, who isperceived by many to be charismatic, among many other attributes. In a study to determinewhat distinguishes charismatic leaders from others, Jung and Sosik (2006) found thatcharismatic leaders consistently possess traits of self-monitoring, engagement in impressionmanagement, motivation to attain social power, and motivation to attain self-actualization.In short, the trait approach is alive and well. It began with an emphasis on identifying thequalities of great persons, shifted to include the impact of situations on leadership, and,currently, has shifted back to reemphasize the critical role of traits in effective leadership.


Although the research on traits spanned the entire 20th century, a good overview of thisapproach is found in two surveys completed by Stogdill (1948, 1974). In his first survey,Stogdill analyzed and synthesized more than 124 trait studies conducted between 1904 and1947. In his second study, he analyzed another 163 studies completed between 1948 and1970. By taking a closer look at each of these reviews, we can obtain a clearer picture ofhow individuals’ traits contribute to the leadership process.

Stogdill’s first survey identified a group of important leadership traits that were related tohow individuals in various groups became leaders. His results showed that an averageindividual in a leadership role is different from an average group member with regard to thefollowing eight traits: intelligence, alertness, insight, responsibility, initiative, persistence,self-confidence, and sociability.

The findings of Stogdill’s first survey also indicated that an individual does not become aleader solely because that individual possesses certain traits. Rather, the traits that leaderspossess must be relevant to situations in which the leader is functioning. As stated earlier,leaders in one situation may not necessarily be leaders in another situation. Findingsshowed that leadership was not a passive state but resulted from a working relationshipbetween the leader and other group members. This research marked the beginning of a newapproach to leadership research that focused on leadership behaviors and leadershipsituations.

Stogdill’s second survey, published in 1974, analyzed 163 new studies and compared thefindings of these studies to the findings he had reported in his first survey. The secondsurvey was more balanced in its description of the role of traits and leadership. Whereas thefirst survey implied that leadership is determined principally by situational factors and nottraits, the second survey argued more moderately that both traits and situational factorswere determinants of leadership. In essence, the second survey validated the original traitidea that a leader’s characteristics are indeed a part of leadership.

Similar to the first survey, Stogdill’s second survey identified traits that were positivelyassociated with leadership. The list included the following 10 characteristics:

1. drive for responsibility and task completion;2. vigor and persistence in pursuit of goals;3. risk taking and originality in problem solving;4. drive to exercise initiative in social situations;5. self-confidence and sense of personal identity;6. willingness to accept consequences of decision and action;7. readiness to absorb interpersonal stress;8. willingness to tolerate frustration and delay;9. ability to influence other people’s behavior; and

10. capacity to structure social interaction systems to the purpose at hand.


Mann (1959) conducted a similar study that examined more than 1,400 findings regardingtraits and leadership in small groups, but he placed less emphasis on how situational factorsinfluenced leadership. Although tentative in his conclusions, Mann suggested that certaintraits could be used to distinguish leaders from nonleaders. His results identified leaders asstrong in the following six traits: intelligence, masculinity, adjustment, dominance,extraversion, and conservatism.

Lord et al. (1986) reassessed Mann’s (1959) findings using a more sophisticated procedurecalled meta-analysis. Lord et al. found that intelligence, masculinity, and dominance weresignificantly related to how individuals perceived leaders. From their findings, the authorsargued strongly that traits could be used to make discriminations consistently acrosssituations between leaders and nonleaders.

Both of these studies were conducted during periods in American history where maleleadership was prevalent in most aspects of business and society. In Chapter 15, we exploremore contemporary research regarding the role of gender in leadership, and we look atwhether traits such as masculinity and dominance still bear out as important factors indistinguishing between leaders and nonleaders.

Yet another review argues for the importance of leadership traits: Kirkpatrick and Locke(1991, p. 59) contended that “it is unequivocally clear that leaders are not like otherpeople.” From a qualitative synthesis of earlier research, Kirkpatrick and Locke postulatedthat leaders differ from nonleaders on six traits: drive, motivation, integrity, confidence,cognitive ability, and task knowledge. According to these writers, individuals can be bornwith these traits, they can learn them, or both. It is these six traits that make up the “rightstuff” for leaders. Kirkpatrick and Locke asserted that leadership traits make some peopledifferent from others, and this difference should be recognized as an important part of theleadership process.

Table 2.1 Studies of Leadership Traits and Characteristics



Stogdill (1974)

Lord,DeVader,and Alliger(1986)

Kirkpatrickand Locke(1991)

Zaccaro, Kemp,and Bader(2017)


alertness intelligence




cognitive ability



































social intelligence



problem solvingSources: Adapted from “The Bases of Social Power,” by J. R. P. French Jr. and B. Raven, 1962, in D.Cartwright (Ed.), Group Dynamics: Research and Theory (pp. 259–269), New York, NY: Harper and Row;Zaccaro, Kemp, & Bader (2004).

In the 1990s, researchers began to investigate the leadership traits associated with “socialintelligence,” which is characterized as the ability to understand one’s own and others’feelings, behaviors, and thoughts and act appropriately (Marlowe, 1986). Zaccaro (2002)defined social intelligence as having such capacities as social awareness, social acumen, self-monitoring, and the ability to select and enact the best response given the contingencies ofthe situation and social environment. A number of empirical studies showed thesecapacities to be a key trait for effective leaders. Zaccaro, Kemp, and Bader (2017) includedsuch social abilities in the categories of leadership traits they outlined as importantleadership attributes (Table 2.1).

Table 2.1 provides a summary of the traits and characteristics that were identified byresearchers from the trait approach. It illustrates clearly the breadth of traits related toleadership. Table 2.1 also shows how difficult it is to select certain traits as definitiveleadership traits; some of the traits appear in several of the survey studies, whereas othersappear in only one or two studies. Regardless of the lack of precision in Table 2.1, however,it represents a general convergence of research regarding which traits are leadership traits.

Table 2.2 Major LeadershipTraits

• Intelligence

• Self-confidence

• Determination

• Integrity

• Sociability


What, then, can be said about trait research? What has a century of research on the traitapproach given us that is useful? The answer is an extended list of traits that individualsmight hope to possess or wish to cultivate if they want to be perceived by others as leaders.Some of the traits that are central to this list include intelligence, self-confidence,determination, integrity, and sociability (Table 2.2).



Intelligence or intellectual ability is positively related to leadership (Sternberg, 2004). Basedon their analysis of a series of recent studies on intelligence and various indices ofleadership, Zaccaro et al. (2017) found support for the finding that leaders tend to havehigher intelligence than nonleaders. Having strong verbal ability, perceptual ability, andreasoning appears to make one a better leader (Jacquart & Antonakis, 2015). Although it isgood to be bright, if the leader’s IQ is very different from that of the followers, it can have acounterproductive impact on leadership. Leaders with higher abilities may have difficultycommunicating with followers because they are preoccupied or because their ideas are tooadvanced for their followers to accept.

In a study of the relationship between intelligence and perceived leadership in midlevelleaders from multinational companies, Antonakis, House, and Simonton (2017) found thatthe optimal IQ for perceived leadership appeared to be just above one standard deviationabove the mean IQ of the group membership. Their study found a curvilinear relationshipbetween IQ and perceived leadership—that is, as IQ increased, so did perceived leadershipto a point, and then the IQ had a negative impact on leadership. Stated another way, it isgood for leaders to be intelligent, but if their intelligence scores become too high, thebenefits appear to taper off and can become negative.

An example of a leader for whom intelligence was a key trait was Steve Jobs, founder andCEO of Apple who died in 2011. Jobs once said, “I have this really incredible productinside me and I have to get it out” (Sculley, 2011, p. 27). Those visionary products, firstthe Apple II and Macintosh computers and then the iMac, iPod, iPhone, and iPad,revolutionized the personal computer and electronic device industry, changing the waypeople play and work.

In the next chapter of this text, which addresses leadership from a skills perspective,intelligence is identified as a trait that significantly contributes to a leader’s acquisition ofcomplex problem-solving skills and social judgment skills. Intelligence is described ashaving a positive impact on an individual’s capacity for effective leadership.



Self-confidence is another trait that helps one to be a leader. Self-confidence is the ability tobe certain about one’s competencies and skills. It includes a sense of self-esteem and self-assurance and the belief that one can make a difference. Leadership involves influencingothers, and self-confidence allows the leader to feel assured that his or her attempts toinfluence others are appropriate and right.

Again, Steve Jobs is a good example of a self-confident leader. When Jobs described thedevices he wanted to create, many people said they weren’t possible. But Jobs neverdoubted his products would change the world, and despite resistance, he did things the wayhe thought best. “Jobs was one of those CEOs who ran the company like he wanted to. Hebelieved he knew more about it than anyone else, and he probably did,” said a colleague(Stone, 2011, p. 40).



Many leaders also exhibit determination. Determination is the desire to get the job doneand includes characteristics such as initiative, persistence, dominance, and drive. Peoplewith determination are willing to assert themselves, are proactive, and have the capacity topersevere in the face of obstacles. Being determined includes showing dominance at timesand in situations where followers need to be directed.

Dr. Paul Farmer has shown determination in his efforts to secure health care and eradicatetuberculosis for the very poor of Haiti and other third world countries. He began his effortsas a recent college graduate, traveling and working in Cange, Haiti. While there, he wasaccepted to Harvard Medical School. Knowing that his work in Haiti was invaluable to histraining, he managed to do both: spending months traveling back and forth between Haitiand Cambridge, Massachusetts, for school. His first effort in Cange was to establish a one-room clinic where he treated “all comers” and trained local health care workers. Farmerfound that there was more to providing health care than just dispensing medicine: Hesecured donations to build schools, houses, and communal sanitation and water facilities inthe region. He spearheaded vaccinations of all the children in the area, dramaticallyreducing malnutrition and infant mortality. In order to keep working in Haiti, he returnedto America and founded Partners In Health, a charitable foundation that raises money tofund these efforts. Since its founding, PIH not only has succeeded in improving the healthof many communities in Haiti but now has projects in Haiti, Lesotho, Malawi, Peru,Russia, Rwanda, and the United States, and supports other projects in Mexico andGuatemala (Kidder, 2004; Partners In Health, 2017).



Integrity, another of the important leadership traits, is the quality of honesty andtrustworthiness. People who adhere to a strong set of principles and take responsibility fortheir actions are exhibiting integrity. Leaders with integrity inspire confidence in othersbecause they can be trusted to do what they say they are going to do. They are loyal,dependable, and not deceptive. Basically, integrity makes a leader believable and worthy ofour trust.

In our society, integrity has received a great deal of attention in recent years. For example,as a result of two situations—the position taken by President George W. Bush regardingIraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction and the impeachment proceedings during theBill Clinton presidency—people are demanding more honesty of their public officials.Similarly, scandals in the corporate world (e.g., Enron and WorldCom) have led people tobecome skeptical of leaders who are not highly ethical. In the educational arena, new K–12curricula are being developed to teach character, values, and ethical leadership. (Forinstance, see the Character Counts! program developed by the Josephson Institute of Ethicsin California at, and the Pillars of Leadership program taught atthe J. W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development in Georgia In short, society is demanding greater integrity of character in itsleaders.



A final trait that is important for leaders is sociability. Sociability is a leader’s inclination toseek out pleasant social relationships. Leaders who show sociability are friendly, outgoing,courteous, tactful, and diplomatic. They are sensitive to others’ needs and show concern fortheir well-being. Social leaders have good interpersonal skills and create cooperativerelationships with their followers.

An example of a leader with great sociability skills is Michael Hughes, a universitypresident. Hughes prefers to walk to all his meetings because it gets him out on campuswhere he greets students, staff, and faculty. He has lunch in the dorm cafeterias or studentunion and will often ask a table of strangers if he can sit with them. Students rate him asvery approachable, while faculty say he has an open-door policy. In addition, he takes timeto write personal notes to faculty, staff, and students to congratulate them on theirsuccesses.

Although our discussion of leadership traits has focused on five major traits (i.e.,intelligence, self-confidence, determination, integrity, and sociability), this list is not all-inclusive. While other traits indicated in Table 2.1 are associated with effective leadership,the five traits we have identified contribute substantially to one’s capacity to be a leader.

Until recently, most reviews of leadership traits have been qualitative. In addition, theyhave lacked a common organizing framework. However, the research described in thefollowing section provides a quantitative assessment of leadership traits that is conceptuallyframed around the five-factor model of personality. It describes how five major personalitytraits are related to leadership.


Five-Factor Personality Model and Leadership

Over the past 25 years, a consensus has emerged among researchers regarding the basicfactors that make up what we call personality (Goldberg, 1990; McCrae & Costa, 1987).These factors, commonly called the Big Five, are neuroticism, extraversion (surgency),openness (intellect), agreeableness, and conscientiousness (dependability) (Table 2.3).

To assess the links between the Big Five and leadership, Judge, Bono, Ilies, and Gerhardt(2002) conducted a major meta-analysis of 78 leadership and personality studies publishedbetween 1967 and 1998. In general, Judge et al. found a strong relationship between theBig Five traits and leadership. It appears that having certain personality traits is associatedwith being an effective leader.

Specifically, in their study, extraversion was the factor most strongly associated withleadership. It is the most important trait of effective leaders. Extraversion was followed, inorder, by conscientiousness, openness, and low neuroticism. The last factor, agreeableness, wasfound to be only weakly associated with leadership. In a more recent study, Sacket andWalmsley (2014) found that conscientiousness had the highest correlation with overall jobperformance, task performance, organizational citizenship behavior, and counterproductivework behavior (negative correlation). It was found to be the most frequently assessed traitin job interviews for a variety of occupations.

Table 2.3 Big Five Personality Factors

NeuroticismThe tendency to be depressed, anxious, insecure, vulnerable,and hostile

ExtraversionThe tendency to be sociable and assertive and to have positiveenergy

Openness The tendency to be informed, creative, insightful, and curious

AgreeablenessThe tendency to be accepting, conforming, trusting, andnurturing

ConscientiousnessThe tendency to be thorough, organized, controlled,dependable, and decisive

Source: Goldberg, L. R. (1990). An alternative “description of personality”: The Big-Five factor structure.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 59, 1216–1229.


Strengths and Leadership

Very closely related to the traits approach is the more contemporary emphasis on strengthsand leadership. The idea behind strengths leadership is that everyone has talents in whichthey excel or thrive and leaders are able to recognize and capitalize on not only their ownstrengths but those of their followers as well. A strength is defined as an attribute or qualityof an individual that accounts for successful performance. Strength researchers(Buckingham & Clifton, 2001; Rath, 2007) suggest that strengths are the ability toconsistently demonstrate exceptional work.

The seminal research in this area has been undertaken by the Gallup organization, whichhas spent more than 40 years identifying and assessing individual strengths or “themes ofhuman talent” and designing and publishing the StrengthsFinder profile, now calledCliftonStrengths assessment, an online assessment of people’s talents and potentialstrengths. Talents are similar to personality traits—they are relatively stable, fixedcharacteristics that are not easily changed. From talents, strengths emerge. Strengths arederived from having certain talents and then further developing those talents by gainingadditional knowledge, skills, and practice (Rath, 2007).

In the strengths perspective, extraordinary individuals are “distinguished less by theirimpressive ‘raw power’ than by their ability to identify their strengths and then exploitthem” (Gardner, 1997, p. 15). MacKie (2016) suggests that our leadership capability isenhanced when we are able to discover our fully utilized strengths, underutilized strengths,and weaknesses.


Emotional Intelligence

Another way of assessing the impact of traits on leadership is through the concept ofemotional intelligence, which emerged in the 1990s as an important area of study inpsychology. It has been widely studied by researchers, and has captured the attention ofmany practitioners (Caruso & Wolfe, 2004; Goleman, 1995, 1998; Mayer & Salovey,1995, 1997; Mayer, Salovey, & Caruso, 2000; Shankman & Allen, 2015).

As the two words suggest, emotional intelligence has to do with our emotions (affectivedomain) and thinking (cognitive domain), and the interplay between the two. Whereasintelligence is concerned with our ability to learn information and apply it to life tasks,emotional intelligence is concerned with our ability to understand emotions and apply thisunderstanding to life’s tasks. Specifically, emotional intelligence can be defined as the abilityto perceive and express emotions, to use emotions to facilitate thinking, to understand andreason with emotions, and to effectively manage emotions within oneself and inrelationships with others (Mayer, Salovey, & Caruso, 2000).

There are different ways to measure emotional intelligence. One scale is the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT; Mayer, Caruso, & Salovey, 2000). TheMSCEIT measures emotional intelligence as a set of mental abilities, including the abilitiesto perceive, facilitate, understand, and manage emotion.

Goleman (1995, 1998) takes a broader approach to emotional intelligence, suggesting thatit consists of a set of personal and social competencies. Personal competence consists of self-awareness, confidence, self-regulation, conscientiousness, and motivation. Socialcompetence consists of empathy and social skills such as communication and conflictmanagement.

Shankman and Allen (2015) developed a practice-oriented model of emotionally intelligentleadership, which suggests that leaders must be conscious of three fundamental facets ofleadership: context, self, and others. In the model, emotionally intelligent leaders aredefined by 21 capacities to which a leader should pay attention, including group savvy,optimism, initiative, and teamwork.

There is a debate in the field regarding how big a role emotional intelligence plays inhelping people be successful in life. Some researchers, such as Goleman (1995), suggestedthat emotional intelligence plays a major role in whether people are successful at school,home, and work. Others, such as Mayer, Salovey, and Caruso (2000) and Antonakis(2009), made softer claims for the significance of emotional intelligence in meeting life’schallenges.

As a leadership ability or trait, emotional intelligence appears to be an important construct.


The underlying premise suggested by this framework is that people who are more sensitiveto their emotions and the impact of their emotions on others will be leaders who are moreeffective. As more research is conducted on emotional intelligence, the intricacies of howemotional intelligence relates to leadership will be better understood.


How does the Trait Approach Work?

The trait approach is very different from the other approaches discussed in subsequentchapters because it focuses exclusively on the leader, not on the followers or the situation.This makes the trait approach theoretically more straightforward than other approaches. Inessence, the trait approach is concerned with what traits leaders exhibit and who has thesetraits.

The trait approach does not lay out a set of hypotheses or principles about what kind ofleader is needed in a certain situation or what a leader should do, given a particular set ofcircumstances. Instead, this approach emphasizes that having a leader with a certain set oftraits is crucial to having effective leadership. It is the leader and the leader’s traits that arecentral to the leadership process.

The trait approach suggests that organizations will work better if the people in managerialpositions have designated leadership profiles. To find the right people, it is common fororganizations to use trait assessment instruments. The assumption behind these proceduresis that selecting the right people will increase organizational effectiveness. Organizations canspecify the characteristics or traits that are important to them for particular positions andthen use trait assessment measures to determine whether an individual fits their needs.

The trait approach is also used for personal awareness and development. By analyzing theirown traits, managers can gain an idea of their strengths and weaknesses, and can get a feelfor how others in the organization see them. A trait assessment can help managersdetermine whether they have the qualities to move up or to move to other positions in thecompany.

A trait assessment gives individuals a clearer picture of who they are as leaders and how theyfit into the organizational hierarchy. In areas where their traits are lacking, leaders can try tomake changes in what they do or where they work to increase their traits’ potential impact.

Near the end of the chapter, a leadership instrument is provided that you can use to assessyour leadership traits. This instrument is typical of the kind of assessments that companiesuse to evaluate individuals’ leadership potential. As you will discover by completing thisinstrument, trait measures are a good way to assess your own characteristics.



The trait approach has several identifiable strengths. First, the trait approach is intuitivelyappealing. It fits clearly with our notion that leaders are the individuals who are out frontand leading the way in our society. The image in the popular press and community at largeis that leaders are a special kind of people—people with gifts who can do extraordinarythings. The trait approach is consistent with this perception because it is built on thepremise that leaders are different, and their difference resides in the special traits theypossess. People have a need to see their leaders as gifted people, and the trait approachfulfills this need.

A second strength of the trait approach is that it has a century of research to back it up. Noother theory can boast of the breadth and depth of studies conducted on the trait approach.The strength and longevity of this line of research give the trait approach a measure ofcredibility that other approaches lack. Out of this abundance of research has emerged abody of data that points to the important role of various traits in the leadership process.

Another strength, more conceptual in nature, results from the way the trait approachhighlights the leader component in the leadership process. Leadership is composed ofleaders, followers, and situations, but the trait approach is devoted to only the first of these—leaders. Although this is also a potential weakness, by focusing exclusively on the role ofthe leader in leadership the trait approach has been able to provide us with a deeper andmore intricate understanding of how the leader and the leader’s traits are related to theleadership process.

Last, the trait approach has given us some benchmarks for what we need to look for if wewant to be leaders. It identifies what traits we should have and whether the traits we dohave are the best traits for leadership. Based on the findings of this approach, traitassessment procedures can be used to offer invaluable information to supervisors andmanagers about their strengths and weaknesses and ways to improve their overall leadershipeffectiveness.



In addition to its strengths, the trait approach has several weaknesses. First and foremost isthe failure of the trait approach to delimit a definitive list of leadership traits. Although anenormous number of studies have been conducted over the past 100 years, the findingsfrom these studies have been ambiguous and uncertain at times. Furthermore, the list oftraits that has emerged appears endless. This is obvious from Table 2.1, which lists amultitude of traits. In fact, these are only a sample of the many leadership traits that werestudied.

Another criticism is that the trait approach has failed to take situations into account. AsStogdill (1948) pointed out more than 60 years ago, it is difficult to isolate a set of traitsthat are characteristic of leaders without also factoring situational effects into the equation.People who possess certain traits that make them leaders in one situation may not beleaders in another situation. Some people may have the traits that help them emerge asleaders but not the traits that allow them to maintain their leadership over time. In otherwords, the situation influences leadership. It is therefore difficult to identify a universal setof leadership traits in isolation from the context in which the leadership occurs.

A third criticism, derived from the prior two criticisms, is that this approach has resulted inhighly subjective determinations of the most important leadership traits. Because thefindings on traits have been so extensive and broad, there has been much subjectiveinterpretation of the meaning of the data. This subjectivity is readily apparent in the manyself-help, practice-oriented management books. For example, one author might identifyambition and creativity as crucial leadership traits; another might identify empathy andcalmness. In both cases, it is the author’s subjective experience and observations that are thebasis for the identified leadership traits. These books may be helpful to readers because theyidentify and describe important leadership traits, but the methods used to generate theselists of traits are weak. To respond to people’s need for a set of definitive traits of leaders,authors have set forth lists of traits, even if the origins of these lists are not grounded instrong, reliable research.

Research on traits can also be criticized for failing to look at traits in relationship toleadership outcomes. This research has emphasized the identification of traits, but has notaddressed how leadership traits affect group members and their work. In trying to ascertainuniversal leadership traits, researchers have focused on the link between specific traits andleader emergence, but they have not tried to link leader traits with other outcomes such asproductivity or employee satisfaction. For example, trait research does not provide data onwhether leaders who have high intelligence and strong integrity have better results thanleaders without these traits. The trait approach is weak in describing how leaders’ traitsaffect the outcomes of groups and teams in organizational settings.


A final criticism of the trait approach is that it is not a useful approach for training anddevelopment for leadership. Even if definitive traits could be identified, teaching new traitsis not an easy process because traits are not easily changed. For example, it is not reasonableto send managers to a training program to raise their IQ or to train them to becomeextraverted. The point is that traits are largely fixed psychological structures, and this limitsthe value of teaching and leadership training.



Despite its shortcomings, the trait approach provides valuable information aboutleadership. It can be applied by individuals at all levels and in all types of organizations.Although the trait approach does not provide a definitive set of traits, it does providedirection regarding which traits are good to have if one aspires to a leadership position. Bytaking trait assessments and other similar questionnaires, people can gain insight intowhether they have certain traits deemed important for leadership, and they can pinpointtheir strengths and weaknesses with regard to leadership.

As we discussed previously, managers can use information from the trait approach to assesswhere they stand in their organization and what they need to do to strengthen theirposition. Trait information can suggest areas in which their personal characteristics are verybeneficial to the company and areas in which they may want to get more training toenhance their overall approach. Using trait information, managers can develop a deeperunderstanding of who they are and how they will affect others in the organization.


Case StudiesIn this section, three case studies (Cases 2.1, 2.2, and 2.3) are provided to illustrate the trait approach and to helpyou understand how the trait approach can be used in making decisions in organizational settings. The settings ofthe cases are diverse—directing research and development at a large snack food company, running an officesupply business, and being head of recruitment for a large bank—but all of the cases deal with trait leadership. Atthe end of each case, you will find questions that will help in analyzing the cases.


Case 2.1: Choosing a New Director of ResearchSandra Coke is vice president for research and development at Great Lakes Foods (GLF), a large snack foodcompany that has approximately 1,000 employees. As a result of a recent reorganization, Sandra must choose thenew director of research. The director will report directly to Sandra and will be responsible for developing andtesting new products. The research division of GLF employs about 200 people. The choice of directors isimportant because Sandra is receiving pressure from the president and board of GLF to improve the company’soverall growth and productivity.

Sandra has identified three candidates for the position. Each candidate is at the same managerial level. She ishaving difficulty choosing one of them because each has very strong credentials. Alexa Smith is a longtimeemployee of GLF who started part-time in the mailroom while in high school. After finishing school, Alexaworked in as many as 10 different positions throughout the company to become manager of new productmarketing. Performance reviews of Alexa’s work have repeatedly described her as being very creative andinsightful. In her tenure at GLF, Alexa has developed and brought to market four new product lines. Alexa is alsoknown throughout GLF as being very persistent about her work: When she starts a project, she stays with it untilit is finished. It is probably this quality that accounts for the success of each of the four new products with whichshe has been involved.

A second candidate for the new position is Kelsey Metts, who has been with GLF for five years and is manager ofquality control for established products. Kelsey has a reputation for being very bright. Before joining GLF, shereceived her MBA at Harvard, graduating at the top of her class. People talk about Kelsey as the kind of personwho will be president of her own company someday. Kelsey is also very personable. On all her performancereviews, she received extra-high scores on sociability and human relations. There isn’t a supervisor in thecompany who doesn’t have positive things to say about how comfortable it is to work with Kelsey. Since joiningGLF, Kelsey has been instrumental in bringing two new product lines to market.

Thomas Santiago, the third candidate, has been with GLF for 10 years and is often consulted by uppermanagement regarding strategic planning and corporate direction setting. Thomas has been very involved inestablishing the vision for GLF and is a company person all the way. He believes in the values of GLF, andactively promotes its mission. The two qualities that stand out above the rest in Thomas’s performance reviewsare his honesty and integrity. Employees who have worked under his supervision consistently report that they feelthey can trust Thomas to be fair and consistent. Thomas is highly respected at GLF. In his tenure at thecompany, Thomas has been involved in some capacity with the development of three new product lines.

The challenge confronting Sandra is to choose the best person for the newly established director’s position.Because of the pressure she feels from upper management, Sandra knows she must select the best leader for thenew position.


Questions1. Based on the information provided about the trait approach in Tables 2.1 and 2.2, if you were Sandra,

whom would you select?2. In what ways is the trait approach helpful in this type of selection?3. In what ways are the weaknesses of the trait approach highlighted in this case?


Case 2.2: A Remarkable TurnaroundCarol Baines was married for 20 years to the owner of the Baines Company until he died in a car accident. Afterhis death, Carol decided not to sell the business but to try to run it herself. Before the accident, her onlyinvolvement in the business was in informal discussions with her husband over dinner, although she has a collegedegree in business, with a major in management.

The Baines Company was one of three office supply stores in a city with a population of 200,000 people. Theother two stores were owned by national chains. Baines was not a large company, and employed only five people.Baines had stable sales of about $200,000 a year, serving mostly the smaller companies in the city. The firm hadnot grown in a number of years and was beginning to feel the pressure of the advertising and lower prices of thenational chains.

For the first six months, Carol spent her time familiarizing herself with the employees and the operations of thecompany. Next, she did a citywide analysis of companies that had reason to purchase office supplies. Based onher understanding of the company’s capabilities and her assessment of the potential market for their products andservices, Carol developed a specific set of short-term and long-term goals for the company. Behind all of herplanning, Carol had a vision that Baines could be a viable, healthy, and competitive company. She wanted tocarry on the business that her husband had started, but more than that she wanted it to grow.

Over the first five years, Carol invested significant amounts of money in advertising, sales, and services. Theseefforts were well spent because the company began to show rapid growth immediately. Because of the growth, thecompany hired another 20 people.

The expansion at Baines was particularly remarkable because of another major hardship Carol had to confront.Carol was diagnosed with breast cancer a year after her husband died. The treatment for her cancer included twomonths of radiation therapy and six months of strong chemotherapy. Although the side effects included hair lossand fatigue, Carol continued to manage the company throughout the ordeal. Despite her difficulties, Carol wassuccessful. Under the strength of her leadership, the growth at Baines continued for 10 consecutive years.

Interviews with new and old employees at Baines revealed much about Carol’s leadership. Employees said thatCarol was a very solid person. She cared deeply about others and was fair and considerate. They said she created afamily-like atmosphere at Baines. Few employees had quit Baines since Carol took over. Carol was devoted to allthe employees, and she supported their interests. For example, the company sponsored a softball team in thesummer and a basketball team in the winter. Others described Carol as a strong person. Even though she hadcancer, she continued to be positive and interested in them. She did not get depressed about the cancer and itsside effects, even though coping with cancer was difficult. Employees said she was a model of strength, goodness,and quality.

At age 55, Carol turned the business over to her two sons. She continues to act as the president but does notsupervise the day-to-day operations. The company is doing more than $3.1 million in sales, and it outpaces thetwo chain stores in the city.


Questions1. How would you describe Carol’s leadership traits?2. How big a part did Carol’s traits play in the expansion of the company?3. Would Carol be a leader in other business contexts?


Case 2.3: Recruiting for the BankPat Nelson is the assistant director of human resources in charge of recruitment for Central Bank, a large, full-service banking institution. One of Pat’s major responsibilities each spring is to visit as many college campuses ashe can to interview graduating seniors for credit analyst positions in the commercial lending area at Central Bank.Although the number varies, he usually ends up hiring about 20 new people, most of whom come from the sameschools, year after year.

Pat has been doing recruitment for the bank for more than 10 years, and he enjoys it very much. However, forthe upcoming spring he is feeling increased pressure from management to be particularly discriminating aboutwhom he recommends hiring. Management is concerned about the retention rate at the bank because in recentyears as many as 25% of the new hires have left. Departures after the first year have meant lost training dollarsand strain on the staff who remain. Although management understands that some new hires always leave, theexecutives are not comfortable with the present rate, and they have begun to question the recruitment and hiringprocedures.

The bank wants to hire people who can be groomed for higher-level leadership positions. Although certaincompetencies are required of entry-level credit analysts, the bank is equally interested in skills that will allowindividuals to advance to upper management positions as their careers progress.

In the recruitment process, Pat always looks for several characteristics. First, applicants need to have stronginterpersonal skills, they need to be confident, and they need to show poise and initiative. Next, because bankinginvolves fiduciary responsibilities, applicants need to have proper ethics, including a strong sense of theimportance of confidentiality. In addition, to do the work in the bank, they need to have strong analytical andtechnical skills, and experience in working with computers. Last, applicants need to exhibit a good work ethic,and they need to show commitment and a willingness to do their job even in difficult circumstances.

Pat is fairly certain that he has been selecting the right people to be leaders at Central Bank, yet uppermanagement is telling him to reassess his hiring criteria. Although he feels that he has been doing the right thing,he is starting to question himself and his recruitment practices.


Questions1. Based on ideas described in the trait approach, do you think Pat is looking for the right characteristics in

the people he hires?2. Could it be that the retention problem raised by upper management is unrelated to Pat’s recruitment

criteria?3. If you were Pat, would you change your approach to recruiting?

Leadership Instrument

Organizations use a wide variety of questionnaires to measure individuals’ traits. In many organizations, it iscommon practice to use standard trait measures such as the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory orthe Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. These measures provide valuable information to the individual and theorganization about the individual’s unique attributes for leadership and where the individual could bestserve the organization.

In this section, the Leadership Trait Questionnaire (LTQ) is provided as an example of a measure that canbe used to assess your personal leadership characteristics. The LTQ quantifies the perceptions of theindividual leader and selected observers, such as followers or peers. It measures an individual’s traits andpoints the individual to the areas in which he or she may have special strengths or weaknesses.

By taking the LTQ, you can gain an understanding of how trait measures are used for leadershipassessment. You can also assess your own leadership traits.


Leadership Trait Questionnaire (LTQ)Instructions: The purpose of this questionnaire is to measure personal characteristics of leadership. Thequestionnaire should be completed by the leader and five people who are familiar with the leader.

Make five additional copies of this questionnaire. This questionnaire should be completed by you and fivepeople you know (e.g., roommates, coworkers, relatives, friends). Using the following scale, have eachindividual indicate the degree to which he or she agrees or disagrees with each of the 14 statements below.Do not forget to complete one for yourself.

______________________________________ (leader’s name) is

Key: 1 = Strongly disagree 2 = Disagree 3 = Neutral 4 = Agree 5 = Strongly agree

1. Articulate: Communicates effectively with others 1 2 3 4 5

2. Perceptive: Is discerning and insightful 1 2 3 4 5

3. Self-confident: Believes in himself/herself and his/her ability 1 2 3 4 5

4. Self-assured: Is secure with self, free of doubts 1 2 3 4 5

5. Persistent: Stays fixed on the goals, despite interference 1 2 3 4 5

6. Determined: Takes a firm stand, acts with certainty 1 2 3 4 5

7. Trustworthy: Is authentic and inspires confidence 1 2 3 4 5

8. Dependable: Is consistent and reliable 1 2 3 4 5

9. Friendly: Shows kindness and warmth 1 2 3 4 5

10. Outgoing: Talks freely, gets along well with others 1 2 3 4 5

11. Conscientious: Is thorough, organized, and controlled 1 2 3 4 5

12. Diligent: Is persistent, hardworking 1 2 3 4 5

13. Sensitive: Shows tolerance, is tactful and sympathetic 1 2 3 4 5

14. Empathic: Understands others, identifies with others 1 2 3 4 5


Scoring1. Enter the responses for Raters 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 in the appropriate columns as shown in Example

2.1. The example provides hypothetical ratings to help explain how the questionnaire can be used.2. For each of the 14 items, compute the average for the five raters and place that number in the

“average rating” column.3. Place your own scores in the “self-rating” column.


Example 2.1 Leadership Traits Questionnaire Ratings





Rater 5 Average rating Self-rating

1. Articulate 4 4 3 2 4 3.4 4

2. Perceptive 2 5 3 4 4 3.6 5

3. Self-confident 4 4 5 5 4 4.4 4

4. Self-assured 5 5 5 5 5 5 5

5. Persistent 4 4 3 3 3 3.4 3

6. Determined 4 4 4 4 4 4 4

7. Trustworthy 5 5 5 5 5 5 5

8. Dependable 4 5 4 5 4 4.4 4

9. Friendly 5 5 5 5 5 5 5

10. Outgoing 5 4 5 4 5 4.6 4


2 3 2 3 3 2.6 4

12. Diligent 3 3 3 3 3 3 4

13. Sensitive 4 4 5 5 5 4.6 3

14. Empathic 5 5 4 5 4 4.6 3


Scoring InterpretationThe scores you received on the LTQ provide information about how you see yourself and how others seeyou as a leader. The chart allows you to see where your perceptions are the same as those of others andwhere they differ.

The example ratings show how the leader self-rated higher than the observers did on the characteristicarticulate. On the second characteristic, perceptive, the leader self-rated substantially higher than others. Onthe self-confident characteristic, the leader self-rated quite close to others’ ratings but lower. There are nobest ratings on this questionnaire. The purpose of the instrument is to give you a way to assess yourstrengths and weaknesses and to evaluate areas where your perceptions are congruent with those of othersand where there are discrepancies.



The trait approach has its roots in leadership theory that suggested that certain people wereborn with special traits that made them great leaders. Because it was believed that leadersand nonleaders could be differentiated by a universal set of traits, throughout the 20thcentury researchers were challenged to identify the definitive traits of leaders.

Around the mid-20th century, several major studies questioned the basic premise that aunique set of traits defined leadership. As a result, attention shifted to incorporating theimpact of situations and of followers on leadership. Researchers began to study theinteractions between leaders and their context instead of focusing only on leaders’ traits.More recently, there have been signs that trait research has come full circle, with a renewedinterest in focusing directly on the critical traits of leaders.

From the multitude of studies conducted through the years on personal characteristics, it isclear that many traits contribute to leadership. Some of the important traits that areconsistently identified in many of these studies are intelligence, self-confidence,determination, integrity, and sociability. In addition, researchers have found a strongrelationship between leadership and the traits described by the five-factor personality model.Extraversion was the trait most strongly associated with leadership, followed byconscientiousness, openness, low neuroticism, and agreeableness. Another recent line of researchhas focused on emotional intelligence and its relationship to leadership. This researchsuggests that leaders who are sensitive to their emotions and to the impact of their emotionson others may be leaders who are more effective.

On a practical level, the trait approach is concerned with which traits leaders exhibit andwho has these traits. Organizations use personality assessment instruments to identify howindividuals will fit within their organizations. The trait approach is also used for personalawareness and development because it allows managers to analyze their strengths andweaknesses and to gain a clearer understanding of how they should try to change toenhance their leadership.

There are several advantages to viewing leadership from the trait approach. First, it isintuitively appealing because it fits clearly into the popular idea that leaders are specialpeople who are out front, leading the way in society. Second, a great deal of researchvalidates the basis of this perspective. Third, by focusing exclusively on the leader, the traitapproach provides an in-depth understanding of the leader component in the leadershipprocess. Last, it has provided some benchmarks against which individuals can evaluate theirown personal leadership attributes.

On the negative side, the trait approach has failed to provide a definitive list of leadershiptraits. In analyzing the traits of leaders, the approach has failed to take into account the


impact of situations. In addition, the approach has resulted in subjective lists of the mostimportant leadership traits, which are not necessarily grounded in strong, reliable research.

Furthermore, the trait approach has not adequately linked the traits of leaders with otheroutcomes such as group and team performance. Last, this approach is not particularlyuseful for training and development for leadership because individuals’ personal attributesare largely stable and fixed, and their traits are not amenable to change.

Sharpen your skills with SAGE edge at


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3 Skills Approach



Like the trait approach discussed in Chapter 2, the skills approach takes a leader-centeredperspective on leadership. However, in the skills approach we shift our thinking from afocus on personality characteristics, which usually are viewed as innate and largely fixed, toan emphasis on skills and abilities that can be learned and developed. Although personalitycertainly plays an integral role in leadership, the skills approach suggests that knowledgeand abilities are needed for effective leadership.

Researchers have studied leadership skills directly or indirectly for a number of years (seeBass, 2008, pp. 97–109). However, the impetus for research on skills was a classic articlepublished by Robert Katz in the Harvard Business Review in 1955, titled “Skills of anEffective Administrator.” Katz’s article appeared at a time when researchers were trying toidentify a definitive set of leadership traits. Katz’s approach was an attempt to transcend thetrait problem by addressing leadership as a set of developable skills. More recently, arevitalized interest in the skills approach has emerged. Beginning in the early 1990s, amultitude of studies have been published that contend that a leader’s effectiveness dependson the leader’s ability to solve complex organizational problems. This research has resultedin a comprehensive skill-based model of leadership that was advanced by Mumford and hiscolleagues (Mumford, Zaccaro, Harding, Jacobs, & Fleishman, 2000; Yammarino, 2000).

In this chapter, our discussion of the skills approach is divided into two parts. First, wediscuss the general ideas set forth by Katz regarding three basic administrative skills:technical, human, and conceptual. Second, we discuss the recent work of Mumford andcolleagues that has resulted in a skills-based model of organizational leadership.


Three-Skill Approach

Based on field research in administration and his own firsthand observations of executivesin the workplace, Katz (1955, p. 34) suggested that effective administration (i.e.,leadership) depends on three basic personal skills: technical, human, and conceptual. Katzargued that these skills are quite different from traits or qualities of leaders. Skills are whatleaders can accomplish, whereas traits are who leaders are (i.e., their innate characteristics).Leadership skills are defined in this chapter as the ability to use one’s knowledge andcompetencies to accomplish a set of goals or objectives. This chapter shows that theseleadership skills can be acquired and leaders can be trained to develop them.

Technical Skills

Technical skills are knowledge about and proficiency in a specific type of work or activity.They include competencies in a specialized area, analytical ability, and the ability to useappropriate tools and techniques (Katz, 1955). For example, in a computer softwarecompany, technical skills might include knowing software language and programming, thecompany’s software products, and how to make these products function for clients.Similarly, in an accounting firm, technical skills might include understanding and havingthe ability to apply generally accepted accounting principles to a client’s audit. In boththese examples, technical skills involve a hands-on activity with a basic product or processwithin an organization. Technical skills play an essential role in producing the actualproducts a company is designed to produce.

As illustrated in Figure 3.1, technical skills are most important at lower and middle levels ofmanagement and less important in upper management. For leaders at the highest level,such as CEOs, presidents, and senior officers, technical competencies are not as essential.Individuals at the top level depend on skilled followers to handle technical issues of thephysical operation.

Human Skills

Human skills are knowledge about and ability to work with people. They are quite differentfrom technical skills, which have to do with working with things (Katz, 1955). Humanskills are “people skills.” They are the abilities that help a leader to work effectively withfollowers, peers, and superiors to accomplish the organization’s goals. Human skills allow aleader to assist group members in working cooperatively as a group to achieve commongoals. For Katz, it means being aware of one’s own perspective on issues and, at the sametime, being aware of the perspective of others. Leaders with human skills adapt their ownideas to those of others. Furthermore, they create an atmosphere of trust where employeescan feel comfortable and secure and where they can feel encouraged to become involved in


the planning of things that will affect them. Being a leader with human skills means beingsensitive to the needs and motivations of others and taking into account others’ needs inone’s decision making. In short, human skills are the capacity to get along with others asyou go about your work.

Figure 3.1 Management Skills Necessary at Various Levels of an Organization

Source: Adapted from “Skills of an Effective Administrator,” by R. L. Katz, 1955,Harvard Business Review, 33(1), pp. 33–42.

Figure 3.1 shows that human skills are important in all three levels of management.Although managers at lower levels may communicate with a far greater number ofemployees, human skills are equally important at middle and upper levels.

Conceptual Skills

Broadly speaking, conceptual skills are the ability to work with ideas and concepts. Whereastechnical skills deal with things and human skills deal with people, conceptual skills involvethe ability to work with ideas. A leader with conceptual skills is comfortable talking about


the ideas that shape an organization and the intricacies involved. He or she is good atputting the company’s goals into words and can understand and express the economicprinciples that affect the company. A leader with conceptual skills works easily withabstractions and hypothetical notions.

Conceptual skills are central to creating a vision and strategic plan for an organization. Forexample, it would take conceptual skills for a CEO in a struggling manufacturing companyto articulate a vision for a line of new products that would steer the company intoprofitability. Similarly, it would take conceptual skills for the director of a nonprofit healthorganization to create a strategic plan that could compete successfully with for-profit healthorganizations in a market with scarce resources. The point of these examples is thatconceptual skills have to do with the mental work of shaping the meaning of organizationalor policy issues—understanding what a company stands for and where it is or should begoing.

As shown in Figure 3.1, conceptual skills are most important at the top management levels.In fact, when upper-level managers do not have strong conceptual skills, they canjeopardize the whole organization. Conceptual skills are also important in middlemanagement; as we move down to lower management levels, conceptual skills become lessimportant.

Summary of the Three-Skill Approach

To summarize, the three-skill approach includes technical, human, and conceptual skills. Itis important for leaders to have all three skills; depending on where they are in themanagement structure, however, some skills are more important than others are.

Katz’s work in the mid-1950s set the stage for conceptualizing leadership in terms of skills,but it was not until the mid-1990s that an empirically based skills approach receivedrecognition in leadership research. In the next section, the comprehensive skill-based modelof leadership is presented.


Skills Model

Beginning in the early 1990s, a group of researchers, with funding from the U.S. Army andDepartment of Defense, set out to test and develop a comprehensive theory of leadershipbased on problem-solving skills in organizations. The studies were conducted over anumber of years using a sample of more than 1,800 Army officers, representing six gradelevels, from second lieutenant to colonel. The project used a variety of new measures andtools to assess the skills of these officers, their experiences, and the situations in which theyworked.

The researchers’ main goal was to explain the underlying elements of effective performance.They addressed questions such as these: What accounts for why some leaders are goodproblem solvers and others are not? What specific skills do high-performing leaders exhibit?How do leaders’ individual characteristics, career experiences, and environmental influencesaffect their job performance? As a whole, researchers wanted to identify the leadershipfactors that create exemplary job performance in an actual organization.

Figure 3.2 Three Components of the Skills Model

Source: Adapted from “Leadership Skills for a Changing World: Solving ComplexSocial Problems,” by M. D. Mumford, S. J. Zaccaro, F. D. Harding, T. O. Jacobs,and E. A. Fleishman, The Leadership Quarterly, 11(1), p. 23. Copyright 2000 byElsevier. Adapted with permission.

Based on the extensive findings from the project, Mumford and colleagues formulated askill-based model of leadership. The model is characterized as a capability model because itexamines the relationship between a leader’s knowledge and skills (i.e., capabilities) and theleader’s performance (Mumford, Zaccaro, Harding, et al., 2000, p. 12). Leadershipcapabilities can be developed over time through education and experience. Unlike the“great man” approach (discussed in Chapter 2 of this text), which implies that leadership isreserved for only the gifted few, the skills approach suggests that many people have the


potential for leadership. If people are capable of learning from their experiences, they canacquire leadership. The skills approach can also be distinguished from the leadershipapproaches we will discuss in subsequent chapters, which focus on behavioral patterns ofleaders (e.g., the style approach, transformational leadership, or leader–member exchangetheory). Rather than emphasizing what leaders do, the skills approach frames leadership asthe capabilities (knowledge and skills) that make effective leadership possible (Mumford,Zaccaro, Harding, et al., 2000, p. 12).

The skill-based model of Mumford’s group has five components: competencies, individualattributes, leadership outcomes, career experiences, and environmental influences. Aportion of the model, illustrating three of these components, appears in Figure 3.2. Thisportion of the model is essential to understanding the overall skill-based leadership model.


As can be observed in the middle box of Figure 3.2, problem-solving skills, social judgmentskills, and knowledge are at the heart of the skills model. These three competencies are thekey factors that account for effective performance (Mumford et al., 2012).

Problem-Solving Skills.

What are problem-solving skills? According to Mumford, Zaccaro, Harding, et al. (2000),problem-solving skills are a leader’s creative ability to solve new and unusual, ill-definedorganizational problems. The skills include being able to define significant problems, gatherproblem information, formulate new understandings about the problem, and generateprototype plans for problem solutions. Mumford, Todd, Higgs, and McIntosh (2017, p.28) identified nine key problem-solving skills leaders employ to address problems:

1. problem definition, the ability to define noteworthy issues or significant problemsaffecting the organization;

2. cause/goal analysis, the ability to analyze the causes and goals relevant to addressingproblems;

3. constraint analysis, the ability to identify the constraints, or limiting factors,influencing any problem solution;

4. planning, the ability to formulate plans, mental simulations, and actions arising fromcause/goal and constraint analysis;

5. forecasting, the ability to anticipate the implications of executing the plans;6. creative thinking, the ability to develop alternative approaches and new ideas for

addressing potential pitfalls of a plan identified in forecasting;7. idea evaluation, the ability to evaluate these alternative approaches’ viability in

executing the plan;8. wisdom, the ability to evaluate the appropriateness of these alternative approaches


within the context, or setting, in which the leader acts; and9. sensemaking/visioning, the ability to articulate a vision that will help followers

understand, make sense of, and act on the problem.

Figure 3.3 shows the relationship between these different skills as a developing process,where employment of one skill can lead to the next.

To clarify how these problem-solving skills work in conjunction with one another, considerthe following hypothetical situation. Imagine that you are the director of human resourcesfor a medium-sized company and you have been informed by the president that you haveto develop a plan to reduce the company’s health care costs. In deciding what you will do,you demonstrate problem-solving skills in the following ways. First, you identify the fullramifications for employees of changing their health insurance coverage (problemdefinition; forecasting). What is the impact going to be (cause/goal analysis)? Second, yougather information about how benefits can be scaled back (constraint analysis). What othercompanies have attempted a similar change, and what were their results (forecasting)?Third, you find a way to teach and inform the employees about the needed change(planning; creative thinking). How can you frame the change in such a way that it is clearlyunderstood (planning; creative thinking; wisdom)? Fourth, you create possible scenarios forhow the changes will be instituted (forecasting; idea evaluation). How will the plan bedescribed? Fifth, you look closely at the solution itself (idea evaluation). How willimplementing this change affect the company’s mission and your own career (sensemaking;vision)? Last, are there issues in the organization (e.g., union rules) that may affect theimplementation of these changes (constraint analysis; forecasting)?

Figure 3.3 Hypothetical Relationships


Source: Reprinted from “Cognitive Skills and Leadership Performance: The NineCritical Skills,” by M. D. Mumford, E. M. Todd, C. Higgs, and T. McIntosh, TheLeadership Quarterly, 28(1), p. 28. Copyright 2017 by Elsevier. Reprinted withpermission.

Problem-solving skills also demand that leaders understand their own leadership capacitiesas they apply possible solutions to the unique problems in their organization (Mumford,Zaccaro, Connelly, & Marks, 2000).

Being able to construct solutions plays a special role in problem solving. In consideringsolutions to organizational problems, skilled leaders need to attend to the time frame forconstructing and implementing a solution, short-term and long-term goals, career goals and


organizational goals, and external issues, all of which could influence the solution(Mumford, Zaccaro, Harding, et al., 2000, p. 15).

The process of dealing with novel, ill-defined organizational problems is complex anddemanding for leaders. In many ways, it is like a puzzle to be solved. For leaders to solvesuch puzzles, the skill-based model suggests that problem-solving skills are essential.

Social Judgment Skills.

In addition to problem-solving skills, effective leadership performance requires socialjudgment skills (Figure 3.2). In general, social judgment skills are the capacity tounderstand people and social systems (Zaccaro, Mumford, Connelly, Marks, & Gilbert,2000, p. 46). They enable leaders to work with others to solve problems and to marshalsupport to implement change within an organization. Social judgment skills are the peopleskills that are necessary to solve unique organizational problems.

Conceptually, social judgment skills are similar to Katz’s (1955) early work on the role ofhuman skills in management. In contrast to Katz’s work, Mumford and colleagues havedelineated social judgment skills into the following: perspective taking, socialperceptiveness, behavioral flexibility, and social performance.

Perspective taking means understanding the attitudes that others have toward a particularproblem or solution. It is empathy applied to problem solving. Perspective taking meansbeing sensitive to other people’s perspectives and goals—being able to understand theirpoint of view on different issues. Included in perspective taking is knowing how differentconstituencies in an organization view a problem and possible solutions (Gasiorek & EbesuHubbard, 2017). According to Zaccaro, Gilbert, Thor, and Mumford (1991), perspective-taking skills can be likened to social intelligence. These skills are concerned with knowledgeabout people, the social fabric of organizations, and the interrelatedness of each of them.

Social perceptiveness is insight and awareness into how others in the organization function.What is important to others? What motivates them? What problems do they face, and howdo they react to change? Social perceptiveness means understanding the unique needs,goals, and demands of different organizational constituencies (Zaccaro et al., 1991). Aleader with social perceptiveness has a keen sense of how followers will respond to anyproposed change in the organization. In a sense, you could say it allows the leader to knowthe pulse of followers on any issue at any time.

In addition to understanding others accurately, social judgment skills involve reacting toothers with flexibility. Behavioral flexibility is the capacity to change and adapt one’sbehavior in light of an understanding of others’ perspectives in the organization. Beingflexible means one is not locked into a singular approach to a problem. One is notdogmatic but rather maintains an openness and willingness to change. As the circumstances


of a situation change, a flexible leader changes to meet the new demands.

Social performance includes a wide range of leadership competencies. Based on anunderstanding of followers’ perspectives, leaders need to be able to communicate their ownvision to others. Skill in persuasion and communicating change is essential to do this.When there is resistance to change or interpersonal conflict about change, leaders need tofunction as mediators. To this end, skill in conflict resolution is an important aspect ofsocial performance competency. In addition, social performance sometimes requires thatleaders coach followers, giving them direction and support as they move toward selectedorganizational goals. In all, social performance includes many related skills that may comeunder the umbrella of communication.

To review, social judgment skills are about being sensitive to how your ideas fit in withothers. Can you understand others’ perspectives and their unique needs and motivations?Are you flexible, and can you adapt your own ideas to others? Can you work with otherseven when there is resistance and conflict? Social judgment skills are the people skillsneeded to advance change in an organization.


As shown in the model (Figure 3.2), the third aspect of competencies is knowledge.Knowledge is inextricably related to the application and implementation of problem-solving skills in organizations. It directly influences a leader’s capacity to define complexorganizational problems and to attempt to solve them (Mumford, Zaccaro, Harding, et al.,2000). Knowledge is the accumulation of information and the mental structures used toorganize that information. Such a mental structure is called a schema (a summary, adiagrammatic representation, or an outline). Knowledge results from having developed anassortment of complex schemata for learning and organizing data.

For example, all of us take various kinds of facts and information into our minds. As weorganize that information into categories or schemata, the information becomes moremeaningful. Knowledge emerges from the facts and the organizational structures we applyto them. People with a lot of knowledge have more complex organizing structures thanthose with less knowledge. These knowledgeable people are called experts.

Consider the following baseball example. A baseball expert knows a lot of facts about thegame; the expert knows the rules, strategies, equipment, players, and much, much more.The expert’s knowledge about baseball includes the facts, but it also includes the complexmental structures used in organizing and structuring those facts. That person knows notonly the season and lifetime statistics for each player, but also that player’s quirks andinjuries, the personality of the manager, the strengths and weaknesses of availablesubstitutes, and so on. The expert knows baseball because she or he comprehends thecomplexities and nuances of the game. The same is true for leadership in organizations.


Leaders with knowledge know much about the products, the tasks, the people, theorganization, and all the different ways these elements are related to each other. Aknowledgeable leader has many mental structures with which to organize the facts oforganizational life.

Knowledge has a positive impact on how leaders engage in problem solving. It is knowledgeand expertise that make it possible for people to think about complex system issues andidentify possible strategies for appropriate change. Furthermore, this capacity allows peopleto use prior cases and incidents in order to plan for needed change. It is knowledge thatallows people to use the past to constructively confront the future.

To summarize, the skills model consists of three competencies: problem-solving skills,social judgment skills, and knowledge. Collectively, these three components are positivelyrelated to effective leadership performance (Figure 3.2).

Individual Attributes

Returning to Figure 3.2, the box on the left identifies four individual attributes that havean impact on leadership skills and knowledge: general cognitive ability, crystallizedcognitive ability, motivation, and personality. These attributes play important roles in theskills model. Complex problem solving is a very difficult process and becomes moredifficult as people move up in the organization. These attributes support people as theyapply their leadership competencies.

General Cognitive Ability.

General cognitive ability can be thought of as a person’s intelligence. It includes perceptualprocessing, information processing, general reasoning skills, creative and divergent thinkingcapacities, and memory skills. General cognitive ability is linked to biology, not toexperience.

General cognitive ability is sometimes described as fluid intelligence, a type of intelligencethat usually grows and expands up through early adulthood and then declines with age. Inthe skills model, intelligence is described as having a positive impact on the leader’sacquisition of complex problem-solving skills and the leader’s knowledge.

Crystallized Cognitive Ability.

Crystallized cognitive ability is intellectual ability that is learned or acquired over time. It isthe store of knowledge we acquire through experience. We learn and increase our capacitiesover a lifetime, increasing our leadership potential (e.g., problem-solving skills, conceptualability, and social judgment skills). In normally functioning adults, this type of cognitiveability grows continuously and typically does not fall off in adulthood. It includes being


able to comprehend complex information and learn new skills and information, as well asbeing able to communicate to others in oral and written forms (Connelly et al., 2000, p.71). Stated another way, crystallized cognitive ability is acquired intelligence: the ideas andmental abilities people learn through experience. Because it stays fairly stable over time, thistype of intelligence is not diminished as people get older (Rose & Gordon, 2015).


Motivation is listed as the third attribute in the model. While Kerns (2015) identified threecategories of motivations (self-interest, career considerations, and higher purposes) thatpropel leaders, the skills model takes a different approach, instead suggesting there are threeaspects of motivation—willingness, dominance, and social good—that are essential todeveloping leadership skills (Mumford, Zaccaro, Harding, et al., 2000, p. 22).

First, leaders must be willing to tackle complex organizational problems. This first step iscritical. For leadership to occur, a person must want to lead. Second, leaders must bewilling to express dominance—to exert their influence, as we discussed in Chapter 2. Ininfluencing others, the leader must take on the responsibility of dominance because theinfluence component of leadership is inextricably bound to dominance. Third, leaders mustbe committed to the social good of the organization. Social good is a broad term that canrefer to a host of outcomes. However, in the skills model it refers to the leader’s willingnessto take on the responsibility of trying to advance the overall human good and value of theorganization. Taken together, these three aspects of motivation (willingness, dominance,and social good) prepare people to become leaders.


Personality is the fourth individual attribute in the skills model. Placed where it is in themodel, this attribute reminds us that our personality has an impact on the development ofour leadership skills. For example, openness, tolerance for ambiguity, and curiosity mayaffect a leader’s motivation to try to solve some organizational problems. Or, in conflictsituations, traits such as confidence and adaptability may be beneficial to a leader’sperformance. The skills model hypothesizes that any personality characteristic that helpspeople to cope with complex organizational situations probably is related to leaderperformance (Mumford, Zaccaro, Harding, et al., 2000).

Leadership Outcomes

In the right-hand box in Figure 3.2, effective problem solving and performance are theoutcomes of leadership. These outcomes are strongly influenced by the leader’scompetencies (i.e., problem-solving skills, social judgment skills, and knowledge). Whenleaders exhibit these competencies, they increase their chances of problem solving andoverall performance.


Effective Problem Solving.

As we discussed earlier, the skills model is a capability model, designed to explain why someleaders are good problem solvers and others are not. Problem solving is the keystone in theskills approach. In the model (Figure 3.2), problem-solving skills, as competencies, lead toeffective problem solving as a leadership outcome. The criteria for good problem solving aredetermined by the originality and the quality of expressed solutions to problems. Goodproblem solving involves creating solutions that are logical, effective, and unique, and thatgo beyond given information (Zaccaro et al., 2000).


In the model, performance outcomes reflect how well the leader has done her or his job. Tomeasure performance, standard external criteria are used. If the leader has done well andbeen successful, the leader’s evaluations will be positive. Leaders who are effective receivegood annual performance reviews, get merit raises, and are recognized by superiors andfollowers as competent leaders. In the end, performance is the degree to which a leader hassuccessfully performed the assigned duties.

Taken together, effective problem solving and performance are the two ways to assessleadership effectiveness using the skills model. Furthermore, good problem solving andgood performance go hand in hand. A full depiction of the comprehensive skills modelappears in Figure 3.4. It contains two other components, not depicted in Figure 3.2, thatcontribute to overall leadership performance: career experiences and environmentalinfluences.

Career Experiences

As you can see in Figure 3.4, career experiences have an impact on the characteristics andcompetencies of leaders. The skills model suggests that the experiences acquired in thecourse of leaders’ careers influence their knowledge and skills to solve complex problems.Mumford, Zaccaro, Harding, et al. (2000, p. 24) pointed out that leaders can be helpedthrough challenging job assignments, mentoring, appropriate training, and hands-onexperience in solving new and unusual problems. In addition, the authors think that careerexperiences can positively affect the individual characteristics of leaders. For example,certain on-the-job assignments could enhance a leader’s motivation or intellectual ability.

In the first section of this chapter, we discussed Katz’s (1955) work, which notes thatconceptual skills are essential for upper-level administrators. This is consistent withMumford, Zaccaro, Harding, et al.’s (2000) skills model, which contends that leadersdevelop competencies over time. Career experience helps leaders to improve their skills andknowledge over time. Leaders learn and develop higher levels of conceptual capacity if thekinds of problems they confront are progressively more complex and more long term as


they ascend the organizational hierarchy (Mumford, Zaccaro, Connelly, et al., 2000).Similarly, upper-level leaders, as opposed to first-line supervisors, develop newcompetencies because they are required to address problems that are more novel, that aremore poorly defined, and that demand more human interaction. As these people movethrough their careers, higher levels of problem-solving and social judgment skills becomeincreasingly important (Mumford & Connelly, 1991).

So the skills and knowledge of leaders are shaped by their career experiences as they addressincreasingly complex problems in the organization. This notion of developing leadershipskills is unique and quite different from other leadership perspectives. If we say, “Leadersare shaped by their experiences,” then it means leaders are not born to be leaders(Mumford, Zaccaro, Harding, et al., 2000). Leaders can develop their abilities throughexperience, according to the skills model.

Environmental Influences

The final component of the skills model is environmental influences, which is illustrated atthe bottom of Figure 3.4. Environmental influences represent factors that lie outside theleader’s competencies, characteristics, and experiences. These environmental influences canbe internal and external.

Internal environmental influences affecting leadership performance can include such factorsas technology, facilities, expertise of subordinates, and communication. For example, anaging factory or one lacking in high-speed technology could have a major impact on thenature of problem-solving activities. Another example might be the skill levels of followers:If a leader’s followers are highly competent, they will definitely improve the group’sproblem solving and performance. Similarly, if a task is particularly complex or a group’scommunication poor, the leader’s performance will be affected.

External environmental influences, including economic, political, and social issues, as wellas natural disasters, can provide unique challenges to leaders. In March 2011, a massiveearthquake and tsunami devastated large parts of Japan, crippling that nation’s automobilemanufacturing industry. Toyota Motor Corp. alone had more than 650 of its suppliers andcomponent manufacturers wiped out, halting worldwide production of Toyota vehicles anddevastating the company’s sales. At the same time, this disaster was a boon to Americancarmakers, which increased shipments and began outselling Toyota, which had dominatedthe market. Leaders of these automobile companies, both Japanese and American, had torespond to unique challenges posed by external forces completely beyond their control.

Figure 3.4 Skills Model of Leadership


Source: Adapted from “Leadership Skills for a Changing World: Solving ComplexSocial Problems,” by M. D. Mumford, S. J. Zaccaro, F. D. Harding, T. O. Jacobs,and E. A. Fleishman, The Leadership Quarterly, 11(1), p. 23. Copyright 2000 byElsevier. Adapted with permission.

The skills model does not provide an inventory of specific environmental influences.Instead, it acknowledges the existence of these factors and recognizes that they are indeedinfluences that can affect a leader’s performance. In other words, environmental influencesare a part of the skills model but not usually under the control of the leader.

Summary of the Skills Model

In summary, the skills model frames leadership by describing five components of leaderperformance. At the heart of the model are three competencies: problem-solving skills, socialjudgment skills, and knowledge. These three competencies are the central determinants ofeffective problem solving and performance, although individual attributes, careerexperiences, and environmental influences all have impacts on leader competencies.Through job experience and training, leaders can become better problem solvers and moreeffective leaders.


How does the Skills Approach Work?

The skills approach is primarily descriptive: It describes leadership from a skills perspective.Rather than providing prescriptions for success in leadership, the skills approach provides astructure for understanding the nature of effective leadership. In the previous sections, wediscussed the skills perspective based on the work of Katz (1955) and Mumford, Zaccaro,Harding, et al. (2000). What does each of these bodies of work suggest about the structureand functions of leadership?

The three-skill approach of Katz suggests that the importance of certain leadership skillsvaries depending on where leaders are in a management hierarchy. For leaders operating atlower levels of management, technical and human skills are most important. When leadersmove into middle management, it becomes important that they have all three skills:technical, human, and conceptual. At the upper management levels, it is paramount forleaders to exhibit conceptual and human skills.

This approach was reinforced in a 2007 study that examined the skills needed by executivesat different levels of management. The researchers used a four-skill model, similar to Katz’sapproach, to assess cognitive skills, interpersonal skills, business skills, and strategic skills of1,000 managers at the junior, middle, and senior levels of an organization. The resultsshowed that interpersonal and cognitive skills were required more than business andstrategic skills for those on the lower levels of management. As one climbed the careerladder, however, the execution of higher levels of all four of these leadership skills becamenecessary (Mumford, Campion, & Morgeson, 2007).

In their skills model, Mumford, Zaccaro, Harding, et al. (2000) provided a more complexpicture of how skills relate to the manifestation of effective leadership. Their skills modelcontends that leadership outcomes are the direct result of a leader’s competencies inproblem-solving skills, social judgment skills, and knowledge. Each of these competenciesincludes a large repertoire of abilities, and each can be learned and developed. In addition,the model illustrates how individual attributes such as general cognitive ability, crystallizedcognitive ability, motivation, and personality influence the leader’s competencies. Andfinally, the model describes how career experiences and environmental influences play adirect or indirect role in leadership performance.

The skills approach works by providing a map for how to reach effective leadership in anorganization: Leaders need to have problem-solving skills, social judgment skills, andknowledge. Workers can improve their capabilities in these areas through training andexperience. Although each leader’s personal attributes affect his or her skills, it is the leader’sskills themselves that are most important in addressing organizational problems.



In several ways, the skills approach contributes positively to our understanding aboutleadership. First, it is a leader-centered model that stresses the importance of developingparticular leadership skills. It is the first approach to conceptualize and create a structure ofthe process of leadership around skills. Whereas the early research on skills highlighted theimportance of skills and the value of skills across different management levels, the laterwork placed learned skills at the center of effective leadership performance at allmanagement levels.

Second, the skills approach is intuitively appealing. To describe leadership in terms of skillsmakes leadership available to everyone. Unlike personality traits, skills are competenciesthat people can learn or develop. It is like playing a sport such as tennis or golf. Evenwithout natural ability in these sports, people can improve their games with practice andinstruction. The same is true with leadership. When leadership is framed as a set of skills, itbecomes a process that people can study and practice to become better at performing theirjobs.

Third, the skills approach provides an expansive view of leadership that incorporates a widevariety of components, including problem-solving skills, social judgment skills, knowledge,individual attributes, career experiences, and environmental influences. Each of thesecomponents can further be subdivided into several subcomponents. The result is a pictureof leadership that encompasses a multitude of factors. Because it includes so many variables,the skills approach can capture many of the intricacies and complexities of leadership notfound in other models.

Last, the skills approach provides a structure that is very consistent with the curricula ofmost leadership education programs. Leadership education programs throughout thecountry have traditionally taught classes in creative problem solving, conflict resolution,listening, and teamwork, to name a few. The content of these classes closely mirrors manyof the components in the skills model. Clearly, the skills approach provides a structure thathelps to frame the curricula of leadership education and development programs.



Like all other approaches to leadership, the skills approach also has certain weaknesses.First, the breadth of the skills approach seems to extend beyond the boundaries ofleadership. For example, by including motivation, critical thinking, personality, andconflict resolution, the skills approach addresses more than just leadership. Anotherexample of the model’s breadth is its inclusion of two types of intelligence (i.e., generalcognitive ability and crystallized cognitive ability). Although both areas are studied widelyin the field of cognitive psychology, they are seldom addressed in leadership research. Byincluding so many components, the skills model of Mumford and others becomes moregeneral and less precise in explaining leadership performance.

Second, related to the first criticism, the skills model is weak in predictive value. It does notexplain specifically how variations in social judgment skills and problem-solving skills affectperformance. The model suggests that these components are related, but it does notdescribe with any precision just how that works. In short, the model can be faulted becauseit does not explain how skills lead to effective leadership performance.

In addition, the skills approach can be criticized for claiming not to be a trait model when,in fact, a major component in the model includes individual attributes, which are trait-like.Although Mumford and colleagues describe cognitive abilities, motivation, and personalityvariables as factors contributing to competencies, these are also factors that are typicallyconsidered to be trait variables. The point is that the individual attributes component of theskills model is trait driven, and that shifts the model away from being strictly a skillsapproach to leadership.

The final criticism of the skills approach is that it may not be suitably or appropriatelyapplied to other contexts of leadership. The skills model was constructed by using a largesample of military personnel and observing their performance in the armed services. Thisraises an obvious question: Can the results be generalized to other populations ororganizational settings? Although some research suggests that these Army findings can begeneralized to other groups (Mumford, Zaccaro, Connelly, et al., 2000), more research isneeded to address this criticism.



Despite its appeal to theorists and academics, the skills approach has not been widely usedin applied leadership settings. For example, there are no training packages designedspecifically to teach people leadership skills from this approach. Although many programshave been designed to teach leadership skills from a general self-help orientation, few ofthese programs are based on the conceptual frameworks set forth in this chapter.

Despite the lack of formal training programs, the skills approach offers valuableinformation about leadership. The approach provides a way to delineate the skills of theleader, and leaders at all levels in an organization can use it. In addition, this approach helpsus to identify our strengths and weaknesses in regard to these technical, human, andconceptual skills. By taking a skills inventory such as the one provided at the end of thischapter, people can gain further insight into their own leadership competencies. Theirscores allow them to learn about areas in which they may want to seek further training toenhance their overall contributions to their organization.

From a wider perspective, the skills approach may be used in the future as a template forthe design of extensive leadership development programs. This approach provides theevidence for teaching leaders the important aspects of listening, creative problem solving,conflict resolution skills, and much more.


Case StudiesThe following three case studies (Cases 3.1, 3.2, and 3.3) describe leadership situations that can be analyzed andevaluated from the skills perspective. The first case involves the principal investigator of a federally fundedresearch grant. The second case takes place in a military setting and describes how a lieutenant colonel handlesthe downsizing of a military base. In the third case, we learn about how the owner of an Italian restaurant hascreated his own recipe for success.

As you read each case, try to apply the principles of the skills approach to the leaders and their situations. At theend of each case are questions that will assist you in analyzing the case.


Case 3.1: A Strained Research TeamDr. Adam Wood is the principal investigator on a three-year, $1 million federally funded research grant to studyhealth education programs for older populations, called the Elder Care Project. Unlike previous projects, inwhich Dr. Wood worked alone or with one or two other investigators, on this project Dr. Wood has 11colleagues. His project team is made up of two co-investigators (with PhDs), four intervention staff (with MAs),and five general staff members (with BAs). One year into the project, it has become apparent to Dr. Wood andthe team that the project is underbudgeted and has too few resources. Team members are spending 20%–30%more time on the project than has been budgeted to pay them. Regardless of the resource strain, all teammembers are committed to the project; they believe in its goals and the importance of its outcomes. Dr. Wood isknown throughout the country as the foremost scholar in this area of health education research. He is often askedto serve on national review and advisory boards. His publication record is second to none. In addition, hiscolleagues in the university know Dr. Wood as a very competent researcher. People come to Dr. Wood for adviceon research design and methodology questions. They also come to him for questions about theoreticalformulations. He has a reputation as someone who can see the big picture on research projects.

Despite his research competence, there are problems on Dr. Wood’s research team. Dr. Wood worries there is agreat deal of work to be done but that the members of the team are not devoting sufficient time to the Elder CareProject. He is frustrated because many of the day-to-day research tasks of the project are falling into his lap. Heenters a research meeting, throws his notebook down on the table, and says, “I wish I’d never taken this projecton. It’s taking way too much of my time. The rest of you aren’t pulling your fair share.” Team members feelexasperated at Dr. Wood’s comments. Although they respect his competence, they find his leadership stylefrustrating. His negative comments at staff meetings are having a demoralizing effect on the research team.Despite their hard work and devotion to the project, Dr. Wood seldom compliments or praises their efforts.Team members believe that they have spent more time than anticipated on the project and have received less payor credit than expected. The project is sucking away a lot of staff energy, yet Dr. Wood does not seem tounderstand the pressures confronting his staff.

The research staff is starting to feel burned out, but members realize they need to keep trying because they areunder time constraints from the federal government to do the work promised. The team needs to develop apamphlet for the participants in the Elder Care Project, but the pamphlet costs are significantly more thanbudgeted in the grant. Dr. Wood has been very adept at finding out where they might find small pockets ofmoney to help cover those costs.

Although team members are pleased that he is able to obtain the money, they are sure he will use this as justanother example of how he was the one doing most of the work on the project.


Questions1. Based on the skills approach, how would you assess Dr. Wood’s leadership and his relationship to the

members of the Elder Care Project team? Will the project be successful?2. Does Dr. Wood have the skills necessary to be an effective leader of this research team?3. The skills model describes three important competencies for leaders: problem-solving skills, social

judgment skills, and knowledge. If you were to coach Dr. Wood using this model, what competencieswould you address with him? What changes would you suggest that he make in his leadership?


Case 3.2: A Shift for Lieutenant Colonel AdamsLt. Col. John Adams was an aeronautical engineer in the Air Force who was recognized as an accomplishedofficer; he rose quickly through the ranks of lieutenant, captain, and major. In addition, he successfullycompleted a number of professional development courses in the Air Force and received a master’s degree inengineering. In the earlier part of his service, his career assignments required overseeing 15- to 20-person shiftsthat were responsible for routine maintenance schedules for squadron and base aircraft. As he progressed in rank,he moved to engineering projects, which were supported by small technical staffs.

Based on his strong performance, Major Adams was promoted to lieutenant colonel earlier than his peers. Insteadof moving him into another engineering position, the personnel bureau and his assignment officer decided thatLieutenant Colonel Adams would benefit from a tour in which he could expand his professional background andexperience. Consequently, he was assigned to Base X as the commanding officer of the administration branch.Base X was an airbase with approximately 5,000 military and civilian personnel.

As the administration officer, Adams was the senior human resource officer and the principal adviser to the basecommander on all human resource issues. Adams and his staff of 135 civilian and military personnel wereresponsible for personnel issues, food services, recreation, family support, and medical services. In addition,Lieutenant Colonel Adams was assigned to chair the Labor–Management Relations Committee for the base.

At the end of the Cold War, as part of the declared peace dividend, the government decided to reduce its defensebudget. In February, barely six months after Adams took over command of the administration branch, the federalgovernment announced a significant reduction in the size of the military and the closure of many bases. Base Xwas to be closed as an air base and reassigned to the Army. The closure was to take place within one year, and thebase was to be prepared for the arrival of the first Army troops in two years. As part of the reduction program, thefederal government initiated voluntary retirement programs for civilian and military personnel. Those wanting toretire had until April 1 to decide.

Orders for the conversion of the airbase included the following:

The base will continue normal operations for six months.The squadrons—complete with aircrews, equipment, and families (1,000)—must be relocated to theirnew bases and operational by August 1.The remaining base personnel strength, both civilian and military, must be reduced by 30%.The base must continue to provide personnel for operational missions.The reduction of personnel must be consistent with federal voluntary early-retirement programs.The base must be prepared with a support structure to accept 2,000 new soldiers, expected to arrive intwo years.

Adams was assigned to develop a human resource plan that would meet the imposed staff levels for the entire basewhile ensuring that the base was still able to perform the operational tasks it had been given. Faced with thisdaunting task, Adams conducted an extensive review of all of the relevant orders concerning the basetransformation, and he familiarized himself with all of the rules concerning the early-retirement program. After aseries of initial meetings with the other base branch chiefs, he laid out a plan that could be accomplished by theestablished deadlines. At the same time, he chaired a number of meetings with his own staff about how to meetthe mandated reductions within his own branch.

After considering the target figures for the early-retirement program, it was clear that the mandated numberscould not be reached. Simply allowing everyone who had applied for early retirement to leave was not consideredan option because doing so would devastate entire sections of the base. More job cuts were required, and choiceshad to be made as to who would stay, why, and in what areas. Adams met stiff resistance in the meetings todetermine what sections would bear the brunt of the additional cutbacks.

Adams conducted his own independent analysis of his own branch before consulting with his staff. Based on his


thorough examination of the data, he mandated further reductions in his sections. Specifically targeted werepersonnel in base housing, single-person accommodations, family services, and recreational sections. He alsomandated a further 10% cut of military positions in his sections.

After meeting the mandated reduction targets, Lieutenant Colonel Adams was informed that the federalgovernment would accept all personnel who applied for early retirement, which was an unexpected decision.When superimposed on the already mandated reductions, this move caused critical shortages in key areas. Withinweeks of implementation of the plan, the base commander was receiving mounting complaints from both civilianand military members over the implementation of the plan.

Incidents of stress, frustration, and discontent rose dramatically. Families trying to move found support servicescut back or nonexistent. Members of the transition staff were forced to work evenings and weekends. Familysupport services were swamped and asking for additional help.

Despite spending a large amount of overtime trying to address the diverse issues both base-wide and within hisbranch, Adams found himself struggling to keep his head above water. To make matters worse, the base washaving difficulty meeting its operational mission, and vital sections were critically understaffed. The basecommander wanted answers. When pressed, Adams stated that his plan met all of the required deadlines andtargets, and the plan conformed to all of the guidelines of the early-retirement programs. “Maybe so,” replied thebase commander, “but you forgot about the bigger picture.”


Questions1. Based on the skills model, how would you assess Lt. Col. John Adams’s ability to meet the challenges of

the base administration position?2. How would you assess his ability to meet the additional tasks he faced regarding the conversion of the

base?3. If you were to coach Adams on how he could improve his leadership, what would you tell him?


Case 3.3: Andy’s RecipeAndy Garafallo owns an Italian restaurant that sits in the middle of a cornfield near a large Midwestern city. Onthe restaurant’s far wall is an elaborate mural of the canals of Venice. A gondola hangs on the opposite wall, up bythe ceiling. Along another wall is a row of real potted lemon trees. “My ancestors are from Sicily,” says Andy. “Infact, I can remember seeing my grandfather take a bite out of a lemon, just like the ones hanging on those trees.”

Andy is very confident about his approach to this restaurant, and he should be, because the restaurant iscelebrating its 25th anniversary. “I’m darned sure of what I want to do. I’m not trying different fads to get peopleto come here. People come here because they know they will get great food. They also want to support someonewith whom they can connect. This is my approach. Nothing more, nothing less.” Although other restaurantshave folded, Andy seems to have found a recipe for success.

Since opening his restaurant, Andy has had a number of managers. Currently, he has three: Kelly, Danielle, andPatrick. Kelly is a kitchen (food prep) manager who is known as very honest and dependable. She loves her work,and is efficient, good with ordering, and good with preparation. Andy really likes Kelly but is frustrated with herbecause she has such difficulty getting along with the salespeople, delivery people, and waitstaff.

Danielle, who works out front in the restaurant, has been with Andy the longest, six years. Danielle likes workingat Garafallo’s—she lives and breathes the place. She fully buys into Andy’s approach of putting customers first. Infact, Andy says she has a knack for knowing what customers need even before they ask. Although she is veryhospitable, Andy says she is lousy with numbers. She just doesn’t seem to catch on to that side of the business.

Patrick, who has been with Andy for four years, usually works out front but can work in the kitchen as well.Although Patrick has a strong work ethic and is great with numbers, he is weak on the people side. For somereason, Patrick treats customers as if they are faceless, coming across as very unemotional. In addition, Patricktends to approach problems with an either–or perspective. This has gotten him into trouble on more than oneoccasion. Andy wishes that Patrick would learn to lighten up. “He’s a good manager, but he needs to recognizethat some things just aren’t that important,” says Andy.

Andy’s approach to his managers is that of a teacher and coach. He is always trying to help them improve. Hesees part of his responsibility as teaching them every aspect of the restaurant business. Andy’s stated goal is that hewants his managers to be “A” players when they leave his business to take on jobs elsewhere. Helping people tobecome the best they can be is Andy’s goal for his restaurant employees.

Although Andy works 12 hours a day, he spends little time analyzing the numbers. He does not think about waysto improve his profit margin by cutting corners, raising an item price here, or cutting quality there. Andy says,“It’s like this: The other night I got a call from someone who said they wanted to come in with a group andwondered if they could bring along a cake. I said ‘yes’ with one stipulation. . . . I get a piece! Well, the peoplecame and spent a lot of money. Then they told me that they had actually wanted to go to another restaurant, butthe other place would not allow them to bring in their own cake.” Andy believes very strongly in his approach.“You get business by being what you should be.” Compared with other restaurants, his restaurant is doing quitewell. Although many places are happy to net 5%–7% profit, Andy’s Italian restaurant nets 30% profit, year inand year out.


Questions1. What accounts for Andy’s success in the restaurant business?2. From a skills perspective, how would you describe the three managers, Kelly, Danielle, and Patrick? What

does each of them need to do to improve his or her skills?3. How would you describe Andy’s competencies? Does Andy’s leadership suggest that one does not need all

three skills in order to be effective?

Leadership Instrument

Many questionnaires assess an individual’s skills for leadership. A quick search of the Internet provides ahost of these questionnaires. Almost all of them are designed to be used in training and development to givepeople a feel for their leadership abilities. Surveys have been used for years to help people understand andimprove their leadership style, but most questionnaires are not used in research because they have not beentested for reliability and validity. Nevertheless, they are useful as self-help instruments because they providespecific information to people about their leadership skills.

In this chapter, we present a comprehensive skills model that is based on many empirical studies of leaders’skills. Although the questionnaires used in these studies are highly reliable and are valid instruments, theyare not suitable for our more pragmatic discussion of leadership in this text. In essence, they are toocomplex and involved. For example, Mumford, Zaccaro, Harding, et al. (2000) used measures that includedopen-ended responses and very sophisticated scoring procedures. Though critically important for validatingthe model, these complicated measures are less valuable as self-instruction questionnaires.

A skills inventory is provided in the next section to assist you in understanding how leadership skills aremeasured and what your own skills might be. Your scores on the inventory will give you a sense of yourown leadership competencies. You may be strong in all three skills, or you may be stronger in some skillsthan in others. The questionnaire will give you a sense of your own skills profile. If you are stronger in oneskill and weaker in another, this may help you determine where you want to improve in the future.


Skills InventoryInstructions: Read each item carefully and decide whether the item describes you as a person. Indicate yourresponse to each item by circling one of the five numbers to the right of each item.

Key: 1 = Not true 2 = Seldom true 3 = Occasionally true 4 = Somewhat true 5 = Very true

1. I enjoy getting into the details of how things work. 1 2 3 4 5

2. As a rule, adapting ideas to people’s needs is easy for me. 1 2 3 4 5

3. I enjoy working with abstract ideas. 1 2 3 4 5

4. Technical things fascinate me. 1 2 3 4 5

5. Being able to understand others is the most important part of my work. 1 2 3 4 5

6. Seeing the big picture comes easy for me. 1 2 3 4 5

7. One of my skills is being good at making things work. 1 2 3 4 5

8. My main concern is to have a supportive communication climate. 1 2 3 4 5

9. I am intrigued by complex organizational problems. 1 2 3 4 5

10. Following directions and filling out forms comes easily for me. 1 2 3 4 5

11. Understanding the social fabric of the organization is important to me. 1 2 3 4 5

12. I would enjoy working out strategies for my organization’s growth. 1 2 3 4 5

13. I am good at completing the things I’ve been assigned to do. 1 2 3 4 5

14. Getting all parties to work together is a challenge I enjoy. 1 2 3 4 5

15. Creating a mission statement is rewarding work. 1 2 3 4 5

16. I understand how to do the basic things required of me. 1 2 3 4 5

17. I am concerned with how my decisions affect the lives of others. 1 2 3 4 5

18. Thinking about organizational values and philosophy appeals to me. 1 2 3 4 5


ScoringThe skills inventory is designed to measure three broad types of leadership skills: technical, human, andconceptual. Score the questionnaire by doing the following. First, sum the responses on items 1, 4, 7, 10,13, and 16. This is your technical skill score. Second, sum the responses on items 2, 5, 8, 11, 14, and 17.This is your human skill score. Third, sum the responses on items 3, 6, 9, 12, 15, and 18. This is yourconceptual skill score.

Total scores: Technical skill ______ Human skill ______ Conceptual skill ______


Scoring Interpretation23–30 High Range14–22 Moderate Range6–13 Low Range

The scores you received on the skills inventory provide information about your leadership skills in threeareas. By comparing the differences between your scores, you can determine where you have leadershipstrengths and where you have leadership weaknesses. Your scores also point toward the level of managementfor which you might be most suited.



The skills approach is a leader-centered perspective that emphasizes the competencies ofleaders. It is best represented in the early work of Katz (1955) on the three-skill approachand the more recent work of Mumford and his colleagues (Mumford, Zaccaro, Harding, etal., 2000), who initiated the development of a comprehensive skills model of leadership.

In the three-skill approach, effective leadership depends on three basic personal skills:technical, human, and conceptual. Although all three skills are important for leaders, theimportance of each skill varies between management levels. At lower management levels,technical and human skills are most important. For middle managers, the three differentskills are equally important. At upper management levels, conceptual and human skills aremost important, and technical skills become less important. Leaders are more effectivewhen their skills match their management level.

In the 1990s, the skills model was developed to explain the capabilities (knowledge andskills) that make effective leadership possible. Far more complex than Katz’s paradigm, thismodel delineated five components of effective leader performance: competencies, individualattributes, leadership outcomes, career experiences, and environmental influences. Theleader competencies at the heart of the model are problem-solving skills, social judgmentskills, and knowledge. These competencies are directly affected by the leader’s individualattributes, which include the leader’s general cognitive ability, crystallized cognitive ability,motivation, and personality. The leader’s competencies are also affected by his or her careerexperiences and the environment. The model postulates that effective problem solving andperformance can be explained by the leader’s basic competencies and that thesecompetencies are in turn affected by the leader’s attributes, experience, and environment.

There are several strengths in conceptualizing leadership from a skills perspective. First, it isa leader-centered model that stresses the importance of the leader’s abilities, and it placeslearned skills at the center of effective leadership performance. Second, the skills approachdescribes leadership in such a way that it makes it available to everyone. Skills arecompetencies that we all can learn to develop and improve. Third, the skills approachprovides a sophisticated map that explains how effective leadership performance can beachieved. Based on the model, researchers can develop complex plans for studying theleadership process. Last, this approach provides a structure for leadership education anddevelopment programs that include creative problem solving, conflict resolution, listening,and teamwork.

In addition to the positive features, there are some negative aspects to the skills approach.First, the breadth of the model seems to extend beyond the boundaries of leadership,including, for example, conflict management, critical thinking, motivation theory, andpersonality theory. Second, the skills model is weak in predictive value. It does not explain


how a person’s competencies lead to effective leadership performance.

Third, the skills model claims not to be a trait approach; nevertheless, individual traits suchas cognitive abilities, motivation, and personality play a large role in the model. Finally, theskills model is weak in general application because it was constructed using data only frommilitary personnel. Until the model has been tested with other populations, such as smalland large organizations and businesses, its basic tenets must still be questioned.

Sharpen your skills with SAGE edge at


ReferencesBass, B. M. (2008). Bass and Stogdill’s handbook of leadership: A survey of theory and

research (4th ed.). New York, NY: Free Press.

Connelly, M. S., Gilbert, J. A., Zaccaro, S. J., Threlfall, K. V., Marks, M. A., & Mumford,M. D. (2000). Exploring the relationship of leadership skills and knowledge to leaderperformance. The Leadership Quarterly, 11(1), 65–86.

Gasiorek, J., & Ebesu Hubbard, A. (2017). Perspectives on perspective-taking incommunication research. Review of Communication, 17(2), 87–105.

Katz, R. L. (1955). Skills of an effective administrator. Harvard Business Review, 33(1),33–42.

Kerns, C. D. (2015). Motivations to lead: A core leadership dimension. Journal ofOrganizational Psychology, 15(1), 9–23.

Mumford, M. D., & Connelly, M. S. (1991). Leaders as creators: Leader performance andproblem solving in ill-defined domains. The Leadership Quarterly, 2, 289–315.

Mumford, M. D., Hester, K. S., Robledo, I. C., Peterson, D. R., Day, E. A., Hougen, D.F., & Barrett, J. D. (2012). Mental models and creative problem-solving: Therelationship of objective and subjective model attributes. Creativity Research Journal,24(4), 311–330.

Mumford, M. D., Todd, E. M., Higgs, C., & McIntosh, T. (2017). Cognitive skills andleadership performance: The nine critical skills. The Leadership Quarterly, 28(1), 24–39.

Mumford, M. D., Zaccaro, S. J., Connelly, M. S., & Marks, M. A. (2000). Leadershipskills: Conclusions and future directions. The Leadership Quarterly, 11(1), 155–170.

Mumford, M. D., Zaccaro, S. J., Harding, F. D., Jacobs, T. O., & Fleishman, E. A.(2000). Leadership skills for a changing world: Solving complex social problems. The


Leadership Quarterly, 11(1), 11–35.

Mumford, T. V., Campion, M. A., & Morgeson, F. P. (2007). The leadership skillsstrataplex: Leadership skill requirements across organizational levels. The LeadershipQuarterly, 18, 154–166.

Rose, D. M., & Gordon, R. (2015). Age-related cognitive changes and distributedleadership. The Journal of Management Development, 34(3), 330–339.

Yammarino, F. J. (2000). Leadership skills: Introduction and overview. The LeadershipQuarterly, 11(1), 5–9.

Zaccaro, S. J., Gilbert, J., Thor, K. K., & Mumford, M. D. (1991). Leadership and socialintelligence: Linking social perceptiveness and behavioral flexibility to leadereffectiveness. The Leadership Quarterly, 2, 317–331.

Zaccaro, S. J., Mumford, M. D., Connelly, M. S., Marks, M. A., & Gilbert, J. A. (2000).Assessment of leader problem-solving capabilities. The Leadership Quarterly, 11(1),37–64.


4 Behavioral Approach



The behavioral approach emphasizes the behavior of the leader. This distinguishes it fromthe trait approach (Chapter 2), which emphasizes the personality characteristics of theleader, and the skills approach (Chapter 3), which emphasizes the leader’s capabilities. Thebehavioral approach focuses exclusively on what leaders do and how they act. In shiftingthe study of leadership to leader behaviors, the behavioral approach expanded the researchof leadership to include the actions of leaders toward followers in various contexts.

Researchers studying the behavioral approach determined that leadership is composed oftwo general kinds of behaviors: task behaviors and relationship behaviors. Task behaviorsfacilitate goal accomplishment: They help group members to achieve their objectives.Relationship behaviors help followers feel comfortable with themselves, with each other,and with the situation in which they find themselves. The central purpose of the behavioralapproach is to explain how leaders combine these two kinds of behaviors to influencefollowers in their efforts to reach a goal.

Many studies have been conducted to investigate the behavioral approach. Some of the firststudies to be done were conducted at The Ohio State University in the late 1940s, based onthe findings of Stogdill’s (1948) work, which pointed to the importance of consideringmore than leaders’ traits in leadership research. At about the same time, another group ofresearchers at the University of Michigan was conducting a series of studies that exploredhow leadership functioned in small groups. A third line of research was begun by Blake andMouton in the early 1960s; it explored how managers used task and relationship behaviorsin the organizational setting.

Although many research studies could be categorized under the heading of the behavioralapproach, the Ohio State studies, the Michigan studies, and the studies by Blake andMouton (1964, 1978, 1985) are strongly representative of the ideas in this approach. Bylooking closely at each of these groups of studies, we can draw a clearer picture of theunderpinnings and implications of the behavioral approach.


The Ohio State Studies

A group of researchers at Ohio State believed that the results of studying leadership as apersonality trait seemed fruitless and decided to analyze how individuals acted when theywere leading a group or an organization. This analysis was conducted by having followerscomplete questionnaires about their leaders. On the questionnaires, followers had toidentify the number of times their leaders engaged in certain types of behaviors.

The original questionnaire used in these studies was constructed from a list of more than1,800 items describing different aspects of leader behavior. From this long list of items, aquestionnaire composed of 150 questions was formulated; it was called the Leader BehaviorDescription Questionnaire (LBDQ; Hemphill & Coons, 1957). The LBDQ was given tohundreds of people in educational, military, and industrial settings, and the results showedthat certain clusters of behaviors were typical of leaders. Six years later, Stogdill (1963)published a shortened version of the LBDQ. The new form, which was called the LBDQ-XII, became the most widely used instrument in leadership research. A questionnairesimilar to the LBDQ, which you can use to assess your own leadership behavior, appearslater in this chapter.

Researchers found that followers’ responses on the questionnaire clustered around twogeneral types of leader behaviors: initiating structure and consideration (Stogdill, 1974).Initiating structure behaviors are essentially task behaviors, including such acts asorganizing work, giving structure to the work context, defining role responsibilities, andscheduling work activities. Consideration behaviors are essentially relationship behaviorsand include building camaraderie, respect, trust, and liking between leaders and followers.

The two types of behaviors identified by the LBDQ-XII represent the core of thebehavioral approach and are central to what leaders do: Leaders provide structure forfollowers, and they nurture them. The Ohio State studies viewed these two behaviors asdistinct and independent. They were thought of not as two points along a singlecontinuum, but as two different continua. For example, a leader can be high in initiatingstructure and high or low in task behavior. Similarly, a leader can be low in settingstructure and low or high in consideration behavior. The degree to which a leader exhibitsone behavior is not related to the degree to which she or he exhibits the other behavior.

Many studies have been done to determine which leadership behavior is most effective in aparticular situation. In some contexts, high consideration has been found to be mosteffective, but in other situations, high initiating structure is most effective. Some researchhas shown that being high in both behaviors is the best form of leadership. Determininghow a leader optimally mixes task and relationship behaviors has been the central task forresearchers from the behavioral approach. The path–goal approach, which is discussed inChapter 6, exemplifies a leadership theory that attempts to explain how leaders should


integrate consideration and structure into their behaviors.


The University of Michigan Studies

While researchers at Ohio State were developing the LBDQ, researchers at the Universityof Michigan were also exploring leadership behavior, giving special attention to the impactof leaders’ behaviors on the performance of small groups (Cartwright & Zander, 1970;Katz & Kahn, 1951; Likert, 1961, 1967).

The program of research at Michigan identified two types of leadership behaviors: employeeorientation and production orientation. Employee orientation is the behavior of leaders whoapproach followers with a strong human relations emphasis. They take an interest inworkers as human beings, value their individuality, and give special attention to theirpersonal needs (Bowers & Seashore, 1966). Employee orientation is very similar to thecluster of behaviors identified as consideration in the Ohio State studies.

Production orientation consists of leadership behaviors that stress the technical andproduction aspects of a job. From this orientation, workers are viewed as a means forgetting work accomplished (Bowers & Seashore, 1966). Production orientation parallelsthe initiating structure cluster found in the Ohio State studies.

Unlike the Ohio State researchers, the Michigan researchers, in their initial studies,conceptualized employee and production orientations as opposite ends of a singlecontinuum. This suggested that leaders who were oriented toward production were lessoriented toward employees, and those who were employee oriented were less productionoriented. As more studies were completed, however, the researchers reconceptualized thetwo constructs, as in the Ohio State studies, as two independent leadership orientations(Kahn, 1956). When the two behaviors are treated as independent orientations, leaders areseen as being able to be oriented toward both production and employees at the same time.

In the 1950s and 1960s, a multitude of studies were conducted by researchers from bothOhio State and the University of Michigan to determine how leaders could best combinetheir task and relationship behaviors to maximize the impact of these behaviors on thesatisfaction and performance of followers. In essence, the researchers were looking for auniversal theory of leadership that would explain leadership effectiveness in every situation.The results that emerged from this large body of literature were contradictory and unclear(Yukl, 2003). Although some of the findings pointed to the value of a leader being bothhighly task oriented and highly relationship oriented in all situations (Misumi, 1985), thepreponderance of research in this area was inconclusive.


Blake and Mouton’s Managerial (Leadership) Grid

Perhaps the best known model of managerial behavior is the Managerial Grid®, which firstappeared in the early 1960s and has been refined and revised several times (Blake &McCanse, 1991; Blake & Mouton, 1964, 1978, 1985). It is a model that has been usedextensively in organizational training and development. The Managerial Grid, which hasbeen renamed the Leadership Grid®, was designed to explain how leaders help organizationsto reach their purposes through two factors: concern for production and concern for people.Although these factors are described as leadership orientations in the model, they closelyparallel the task and relationship leadership behaviors we have been discussing throughoutthis chapter.

Concern for production refers to how a leader is concerned with achieving organizationaltasks. It involves a wide range of activities, including attention to policy decisions, newproduct development, process issues, workload, and sales volume, to name a few. Notlimited to an organization’s manufactured product or service, concern for production canrefer to whatever the organization is seeking to accomplish (Blake & Mouton, 1964).

Concern for people refers to how a leader attends to the people in the organization who aretrying to achieve its goals. This concern includes building organizational commitment andtrust, promoting the personal worth of followers, providing good working conditions,maintaining a fair salary structure, and promoting good social relations (Blake & Mouton,1964).

The Leadership (Managerial) Grid joins concern for production and concern for people ina model that has two intersecting axes (Figure 4.1). The horizontal axis represents theleader’s concern for results, and the vertical axis represents the leader’s concern for people.Each of the axes is drawn as a 9-point scale on which a score of 1 represents minimumconcern and 9 represents maximum concern. By plotting scores from each of the axes, variousleadership styles can be illustrated. The Leadership Grid portrays five major leadershipstyles: authority–compliance (9,1), country-club management (1,9), impoverishedmanagement (1,1), middle-of-the-road management (5,5), and team management (9,9).

Figure 4.1 The Leadership Grid


Source: The Leadership Grid© figure, Paternalism figure, and Opportunism figurefrom Leadership Dilemmas—Grid Solutions, by Robert R. Blake and Anne AdamsMcCanse. (Formerly the Managerial Grid by Robert R. Blake and Jane S. Mouton.)Houston, TX: Gulf Publishing Company (Grid figure: p. 29, Paternalism figure: p.30, Opportunism figure: p. 31). Copyright 1991 by Scientific Methods, Inc.Reproduced by permission of the owners.

Authority–Compliance (9,1)

The 9,1 style of leadership places heavy emphasis on task and job requirements, and lessemphasis on people, except to the extent that people are tools for getting the job done.Communicating with followers is not emphasized except for the purpose of givinginstructions about the task. This style is result driven, and people are regarded as tools tothat end. The 9,1 leader is often seen as controlling, demanding, hard driving, andoverpowering.

Country-Club Management (1,9)


The 1,9 style represents a low concern for task accomplishment coupled with a highconcern for interpersonal relationships. De-emphasizing production, 1,9 leaders stress theattitudes and feelings of people, making sure the personal and social needs of followers aremet. They try to create a positive climate by being agreeable, eager to help, comforting, anduncontroversial.

Impoverished Management (1,1)

The 1,1 style is representative of a leader who is unconcerned with both the task andinterpersonal relationships. This type of leader goes through the motions of being a leaderbut acts uninvolved and withdrawn. The 1,1 leader often has little contact with followersand could be described as indifferent, noncommittal, resigned, and apathetic.

Middle-of-the-Road Management (5,5)

The 5,5 style describes leaders who are compromisers, who have an intermediate concernfor the task and an intermediate concern for the people who do the task. They find abalance between taking people into account and still emphasizing the work requirements.Their compromising style gives up some of the push for production and some of theattention to employee needs. To arrive at an equilibrium, the 5,5 leader avoids conflict andemphasizes moderate levels of production and interpersonal relationships. This type ofleader often is described as one who is expedient, prefers the middle ground, soft-pedalsdisagreement, and swallows convictions in the interest of “progress.”

Team Management (9,9)

The 9,9 style places a strong emphasis on both tasks and interpersonal relationships. Itpromotes a high degree of participation and teamwork in the organization and satisfies abasic need in employees to be involved and committed to their work. The following aresome of the phrases that could be used to describe the 9,9 leader: stimulates participation,acts determined, gets issues into the open, makes priorities clear, follows through, behaves open-mindedly, and enjoys working.

In addition to the five major styles described in the Leadership Grid, Blake and hiscolleagues have identified two other behaviors that incorporate multiple aspects of the grid.



Paternalism/maternalism refers to a leader who uses both 1,9 and 9,1 styles but does notintegrate the two (Figure 4.2). This is the “benevolent dictator” who acts graciously butdoes so for the purpose of goal accomplishment. In essence, the paternalistic/maternalisticstyle treats people as if they were dissociated from the task. Paternalistic/maternalisticleaders are often described as “fatherly” or “motherly” toward their followers; regard theorganization as a “family”; make most of the key decisions; and reward loyalty andobedience while punishing noncompliance.

Figure 4.2 Paternalism/Maternalism

Source: The Leadership Grid© figure, Paternalism figure, and Opportunism figurefrom Leadership Dilemmas—Grid Solutions, by Robert R. Blake and Anne AdamsMcCanse. (Formerly the Managerial Grid by Robert R. Blake and Jane S. Mouton.)Houston, TX: Gulf Publishing Company (Grid figure: p. 29, Paternalism figure: p.30, Opportunism figure: p. 31). Copyright 1991 by Scientific Methods, Inc.Reproduced by permission of the owners.



Opportunism refers to a leader who uses any combination of the basic five styles for thepurpose of personal advancement (Figure 4.3). An opportunistic leader will adapt and shifthis or her leadership behavior to gain personal advantage, putting self-interest ahead ofother priorities. Both the performance and the effort of the leader are to realize personalgain. Some phrases used to describe this leadership behavior include ruthless, cunning, andself-motivated, while some could argue that these types of leaders are adaptable and strategic.

Blake and Mouton (1985) indicated that people usually have a dominant grid style (whichthey use in most situations) and a backup style. The backup style is what the leader revertsto when under pressure, when the usual way of accomplishing things does not work.

In summary, the Leadership Grid is an example of a practical model of leadership that isbased on the two major leadership behaviors: task and relationship. It closely parallels theideas and findings that emerged in the Ohio State and University of Michigan studies. It isused in consulting for organizational development throughout the world.

Figure 4.3 Opportunism

Source: The Leadership Grid© figure, Paternalism figure, and Opportunism figurefrom Leadership Dilemmas—Grid Solutions, by Robert R. Blake and Anne AdamsMcCanse. (Formerly the Managerial Grid by Robert R. Blake and Jane S. Mouton.)Houston, TX: Gulf Publishing Company (Grid figure: p. 29, Paternalism figure: p.30, Opportunism figure: p. 31). Copyright 1991 by Scientific Methods, Inc.Reproduced by permission of the owners.


How does the Behavioral Approach Work?

Unlike many of the other approaches discussed in the book, the behavioral approach is nota refined theory that provides a neatly organized set of prescriptions for effective leadershipbehavior. Rather, the behavioral approach provides a framework for assessing leadership ina broad way, as behavior with a task and relationship dimension. The behavioral approachworks not by telling leaders how to behave, but by describing the major components oftheir behavior.

The behavioral approach reminds leaders that their actions toward others occur on a tasklevel and a relationship level. In some situations, leaders need to be more task oriented,whereas in others they need to be more relationship oriented. Similarly, some followersneed leaders who provide a lot of direction, whereas others need leaders who can showthem a great deal of nurturance and support. And in some cases, a leader must combineboth approaches (Casimir & Ng, 2010).

An example may help explain how the behavioral approach works. Imagine two collegeclassrooms on the first day of class and two professors with entirely different styles.Professor Smith comes to class, introduces herself, takes attendance, goes over the syllabus,explains the first assignment, and dismisses the class. Professor Jones comes to class and,after introducing herself and handing out the syllabus, tries to help the students to get toknow one another by having each of the students describe a little about themselves, theirmajors, and their favorite nonacademic activities. The leadership behaviors of ProfessorsSmith and Jones are quite different. The preponderance of what Professor Smith doescould be labeled task behavior, and the majority of what Professor Jones does could belabeled relationship behavior. The behavioral approach provides a way to inform theprofessors about the differences in their behaviors. Depending on the response of thestudents to their leadership behaviors, the professors may want to change their behavior toimprove their teaching on the first day of class.

Overall, the behavioral approach offers a means of assessing in a general way the behaviorsof leaders. It reminds leaders that their impact on others occurs through the tasks theyperform as well as in the relationships they create.



The behavioral approach makes several positive contributions to our understanding of theleadership process. First, the behavioral approach marked a major shift in the general focusof leadership research. Before the inception of this approach, researchers treated leadershipexclusively as a trait (see Chapter 2). The behavioral approach broadened the scope ofleadership research to include the behaviors of leaders and what they do in varioussituations. No longer was the focus of leadership on the personal characteristics of leaders:It was expanded to include what leaders did and how they acted.

Second, a wide range of studies on leadership behavior validates and gives credibility to thebasic tenets of the approach. First formulated and reported by researchers from The OhioState University and the University of Michigan, and subsequently reported in the works ofBlake and Mouton (1964, 1978, 1985); Blake and McCanse (1991); Judge, Piccolo, andIlies (2004); and Littrell (2013), the behavioral approach is substantiated by a multitude ofresearch studies that offer a viable approach to understanding the leadership process. Anextensive meta-analysis of the LBDQ-XII developed by the Ohio State studies has beencarried out by Judge et al. (2004), who found that all the survey instruments had significantpredictive validity for leader success (Littrell, 2013).

Third, on a conceptual level, researchers of the behavioral approach have ascertained that aleader’s style consists primarily of two major types of behaviors: task and relationship. Thesignificance of this idea is not to be understated. Whenever leadership occurs, the leader isacting out both task and relationship behaviors; the key to being an effective leader oftenrests on how the leader balances these two behaviors. Together they form the core of theleadership process.

Fourth, the behavioral approach is heuristic. It provides us with a broad conceptual mapthat is worthwhile to use in our attempts to understand the complexities of leadership.Leaders can learn a lot about themselves and how they come across to others by trying tosee their behaviors in light of the task and relationship dimensions. Based on the behavioralapproach, leaders can assess their actions and determine how they may want to change toimprove their leadership behaviors.



Along with its strengths, the behavioral approach has several weaknesses. First, the researchon the behavioral approach has not adequately shown how leaders’ behaviors are associatedwith performance outcomes (Bryman, 1992; Yukl, 2003). Researchers have not been ableto establish a consistent link between task and relationship behaviors and outcomes such asmorale, job satisfaction, and productivity. According to Yukl (2003, p. 75), the “resultsfrom this massive research effort have been mostly contradictory and inconclusive.” Hefurther pointed out that the only strong finding about leadership behaviors is that leaderswho are considerate have followers who are more satisfied.

Another criticism is that this approach has failed to find a universal style of leadership thatcould be effective in almost every situation. The overarching goal for researchers studyingthe behavioral approach appeared to be the identification of a universal set of leadershipbehaviors that would consistently result in effective outcomes. Because of inconsistencies inthe research findings, this goal was never reached. Similar to the trait approach, which wasunable to identify the definitive personal characteristics of leaders, the behavioral approachhas been unable to identify the universal behaviors that are associated with effectiveleadership.

The difficulty in identifying a universal style may be due to the impact of contextualfactors. For example, research by Martin, Rowlinson, Fellows, and Liu (2012) found thatthere is a strong situational element that impacts whether one leadership behavior oranother is more effective. In their research on leadership style and cross-functional teams,they found that different leadership behaviors may be needed depending on team goals.They noted that managers of projects that span organizational, national, and ethnicboundaries (cross-functional teams) must “juggle between both task and person-orientedleadership when involved in managing problem solving teams across boundaries” (p. 19).

Another criticism of the behavioral approach is that it implies that the most effectiveleadership style is the high–high style (i.e., high task and high relationship). Although someresearchers (e.g., Blake & McCanse, 1991; Misumi, 1985) suggested that high–highmanagers are most effective, that may not be the case in all situations. In fact, the full rangeof research findings provides only limited support for a universal high–high style (Yukl,2003). In a thought-provoking article on popular leadership styles, Andersen (2009) arguesthat in modern business the high-task leadership orientation is essential in order to besuccessful.

Certain situations may require different leadership styles; some may be complex and requirehigh-task behavior, and others may be simple and require supportive behavior. At this pointin the development of research on the behavioral approach, it remains unclear whether thehigh–high style is the best style of leadership.


A final criticism is that most of the research undertaken on the behavioral approach hascome from a U.S.- centric perspective, reflecting the norms and values of U.S. culture.More recently, a small number of studies applying behavioral leadership concepts to non-U.S. contexts have been undertaken, and results show that different cultures prefer differentleadership styles than those often espoused or favored by current U.S. management practice(Begum & Mujtaba, 2016; Engle, Elahee, & Tatoglu, 2013; Iguisi, 2014; Martin et al.,2012).



The behavioral approach can be applied easily in ongoing leadership settings. At all levels inall types of organizations, managers are continually engaged in task and relationshipbehaviors. By assessing their own behaviors, managers can determine how they are comingacross to others and how they could change their behaviors to be more effective. In essence,the behavioral approach provides a mirror for managers that is helpful in answering thefrequently asked question, “How am I doing as a leader?”

Many leadership training and development programs throughout the country arestructured along the lines of the behavioral approach. Almost all are designed similarly andinclude giving managers questionnaires that assess in some way their task and relationshipbehaviors toward followers. Participants use these assessments to improve their overallleadership behavior.

An example of a training and development program that deals exclusively with leaderbehaviors is Blake and Mouton’s Leadership Grid (formerly Managerial Grid) seminar.Grid seminars are about increasing productivity, improving morale, and gaining employeecommitment. They are offered by Grid International, an international organizationdevelopment company ( At grid seminars, self-assessments, small-group experiences, and candid critiques allow managers to learn how todefine effective leadership, how to manage for optimal results, and how to identify andchange ineffective leadership behaviors. The conceptual framework around which the gridseminars are structured is the behavioral approach to leadership.

In short, the behavioral approach applies to nearly everything a leader does. It is anapproach that is used as a model by many training and development companies to teachmanagers how to improve their effectiveness and organizational productivity.


Case StudiesIn this section, you will find three case studies (Cases 4.1, 4.2, and 4.3) that describe the leadership behaviors ofthree different managers, each of whom is working in a different organizational setting. The first case is about amaintenance director in a large hospital, the second deals with a supervisor in a small sporting goods store, andthe third is concerned with the director of marketing and communications at a college. At the end of each caseare questions that will help you to analyze the case from the perspective of the behavioral approach.


Case 4.1: A Drill Sergeant at FirstMark Young is the head of the painting department in a large hospital; 20 union employees report to him. Beforecoming on board at the hospital, he had worked as an independent contractor. At the hospital, he took a positionthat was newly created because the hospital believed change was needed in how painting services were provided.

Upon beginning his job, Mark did a four-month analysis of the direct and indirect costs of painting services. Hisfindings supported the perceptions of his administrators that painting services were inefficient and costly. As aresult, Mark completely reorganized the department, designed a new scheduling procedure, and redefined theexpected standards of performance.

Mark says that when he started out in his new job, he was “all task,” like a drill sergeant who didn’t seek anyinput from his soldiers. From Mark’s point of view, the hospital environment did not leave much room forerrors, so he needed to be strict about getting painters to do a good job within the constraints of the hospitalenvironment.

As time went along, Mark relaxed his style and was less demanding. He delegated some responsibilities to twocrew leaders who reported to him, but he always stayed in close touch with each of the employees. On a weeklybasis, Mark was known to take small groups of workers to the local sports bar for burgers on the house. He lovedto banter with the employees and could take it as well as dish it out.

Mark is very proud of his department. He says he always wanted to be a coach, and that’s how he feels aboutrunning his department. He enjoys working with people; in particular, he says he likes to see the glint in theireyes when they realize that they’ve done a good job and they have done it on their own.

Because of Mark’s leadership, the painting department has improved substantially and is now seen by workers inother departments as the most productive department in hospital maintenance. Painting services received acustomer rating of 92%, which is the highest of any service in the hospital.


Questions1. From the behavioral perspective, how would you describe Mark’s leadership?2. How did his behavior change over time?3. In general, do you think he is more task oriented or more relationship oriented?4. What score do you think he would get on Blake and Mouton’s grid?


Case 4.2: Eating Lunch Standing UpSusan Parks is the part-owner and manager of Marathon Sports, an athletic equipment store that specializes inrunning shoes and accessories. The store employs about 10 people, most of whom are college students who workpart-time during the week and full-time on weekends. Marathon Sports is the only store of its kind in a collegetown with a population of 125,000. The annual sales figures for the store have shown 15% growth each year.

Susan has a lot invested in the store, and she works very hard to make sure the store continues to maintain itsreputation and pattern of growth. She works 50 hours a week at the store, where she wears many hats, includingthose of buyer, scheduler, trainer, planner, and salesperson. There is never a moment when Susan is not doingsomething. Rumor has it that she eats her lunch standing up.

Employees’ reactions to Susan are strong and varied. Some people like her style, and others do not. Those wholike her style talk about how organized and efficient the store is when she is in charge. Susan makes the tasks andgoals for everyone very clear. She keeps everyone busy; when they go home at night, they feel as if they haveaccomplished something. They like to work for Susan because she knows what she is doing. Those who do notlike her style complain that she is too driven. It seems that her sole purpose for being at the store is to get the jobdone. She seldom, if ever, takes a break or just hangs out with the staff. These people say Susan is pretty hard torelate to, and as a result, it is not much fun working at Marathon Sports.

Susan is beginning to sense that employees have a mixed reaction to her leadership style. This bothers her, but shedoes not know what to do about it. In addition to her work at the store, Susan struggles hard to be a good spouseand mother of three children.


Questions1. According to the behavioral approach, how would you describe Susan’s leadership?2. Why does her leadership behavior create such a pronounced reaction from her employees?3. Do you think she should change her behavior?4. Would she be effective if she changed?


Case 4.3: We Are FamilyBetsy Moore has been hired as the director of marketing and communications for a medium-sized college in theMidwest. With a long history of success as a marketing and public relations professional, she was the unanimouschoice of the hiring committee. Betsy is excited to be working for Marianne, the vice president of collegeadvancement, who comes from a similar background to Betsy’s. In a meeting with Marianne, Betsy is told thecollege needs an aggressive plan to revamp and energize the school’s marketing and communications efforts. Betsyand Marianne seem in perfect sync with the direction they believe is right for the college’s program. Mariannealso explains that she has established a departmental culture of teamwork and empowerment and that she is astrong advocate of being a mentor to her team members rather than a manager.

Betsy has four direct reports: two writers, Bridget and Suzanne, who are young women in their 20s; and Caroland Francine, graphic designers who are in their 50s. In her first month, Betsy puts together a meeting with herdirect reports to develop a new communications plan for the college, presenting the desired goals to the team andasking for their ideas on initiatives and improvements to meet those goals. Bridget and Suzanne provide little inthe way of suggested changes, with Bridget asking pointedly, “Why do we need to change anything?”

In her weekly meeting with the vice president, Betsy talks about the resistance to change she encountered fromthe team. Marianne nods, saying she heard some of the team members’ concerns when she went to lunch withthem earlier in the week. When Betsy looks surprised, Marianne gives her a knowing smile. “We are like a familyhere; we have close relationships outside of work. I go to lunch or the movies with Suzanne and Bridget at leastonce a week. But don’t worry; I am only a sounding board for them, and encourage them to come to you toresolve their issues. They know you are their boss.”

But they don’t come to Betsy. Soon, Bridget stops coming to work at 8 a.m., showing up at 10 a.m. daily. As aresult, she misses the weekly planning meetings. When Betsy approaches her about it, Bridget tells her, “It’s OKwith Marianne; she says as long as I am using the time to exercise and improve my health she supports it.”

Betsy meets with Suzanne to implement some changes to Suzanne’s pet project, the internal newsletter. Suzannegets blustery and tearful, accusing Betsy of insulting her work. Later, Betsy watches Suzanne and Marianne leavethe office together for lunch. A few hours later, Marianne comes into Betsy’s office and tells her, “Go easy on thenewsletter changes. Suzanne is an insecure person, and she is feeling criticized and put down by you right now.”

Betsy’s relationship with the other two staff members is better. Neither seems to have the close contact withMarianne that the younger team members have. They seem enthusiastic and supportive of the new directionBetsy wants to take the program in.

As the weeks go by, Marianne begins having regular “Mentor Meetings” with Bridget and Suzanne, going tolunch with both women at least twice a week. After watching the three walk out together one day, Francine asksBetsy if it troubles her. Betsy replies, as calmly as she can, “It is part of Marianne’s mentoring program.”

Francine rolls her eyes and says, “Marianne’s not mentoring anyone; she just wants someone to go to lunch withevery day.”

After four months on the job, Betsy goes to Marianne and outlines the challenges that the vice president’s closerelationships with Bridget and Suzanne have presented to the progress of the marketing and communicationsprogram. She asks her directly, “Please stop.”

Marianne gives her the knowing, motherly smile again. “I see a lot of potential in Bridget and Suzanne and wantto help foster that,” she explains. “They are still young in their careers, and my relationship with them isimportant because I can provide the mentoring and guidance to develop their abilities.”

“But it’s creating problems between them and me,” Betsy points out. “I can’t manage them if they cancircumvent me every time they disagree with me. We aren’t getting any work done. You and I have to be on the


same team.”

Marianne shakes her head. “The problem is that we have very different leadership styles. I like to empowerpeople, and you like to boss them around.”


Questions1. Marianne and Betsy do indeed have different leadership styles. What style would you ascribe to Betsy? To

Marianne?2. Does Betsy need to change her leadership style to improve the situation with Bridget and Suzanne? Does

Marianne need to change her style of leadership?3. How can Marianne and Betsy work together?

Leadership Instrument

Researchers and practitioners alike have used many different instruments to assess the behaviors of leaders.The two most commonly used measures have been the LBDQ (Stogdill, 1963) and the Leadership Grid(Blake & McCanse, 1991). Both of these measures provide information about the degree to which a leaderacts task directed or people directed. The LBDQ was designed primarily for research and has been usedextensively since the 1960s. The Leadership Grid was designed primarily for training and development; itcontinues to be used today for training managers and supervisors in the leadership process.

To assist you in developing a better understanding of how leadership behaviors are measured and what yourown behavior might be, a leadership behavior questionnaire is included in this section. This questionnaire ismade up of 20 items that assess two orientations: task and relationship. By scoring the Leadership BehaviorQuestionnaire, you can obtain a general profile of your leadership behavior.


Leadership Behavior QuestionnaireInstructions: Read each item carefully and think about how often you (or the person you are evaluating)engage in the described behavior. Indicate your response to each item by circling one of the five numbers tothe right of each item.

Key:1 = Never 2 = Seldom 3 = Occasionally 4 = Often 5 = Always

1. Tells group members what they are supposed to do. 1 2 3 4 5

2. Acts friendly with members of the group. 1 2 3 4 5

3. Sets standards of performance for group members. 1 2 3 4 5

4. Helps others in the group feel comfortable. 1 2 3 4 5

5. Makes suggestions about how to solve problems. 1 2 3 4 5

6. Responds favorably to suggestions made by others. 1 2 3 4 5

7. Makes his or her perspective clear to others. 1 2 3 4 5

8. Treats others fairly. 1 2 3 4 5

9. Develops a plan of action for the group. 1 2 3 4 5

10. Behaves in a predictable manner toward group members. 1 2 3 4 5

11. Defines role responsibilities for each group member. 1 2 3 4 5

12. Communicates actively with group members. 1 2 3 4 5

13. Clarifies his or her own role within the group. 1 2 3 4 5

14. Shows concern for the well-being of others. 1 2 3 4 5

15. Provides a plan for how the work is to be done. 1 2 3 4 5

16. Shows flexibility in making decisions. 1 2 3 4 5

17. Provides criteria for what is expected of the group. 1 2 3 4 5

18. Discloses thoughts and feelings to group members. 1 2 3 4 5

19. Encourages group members to do high-quality work. 1 2 3 4 5

20. Helps group members get along with each other. 1 2 3 4 5


ScoringThe Leadership Behavior Questionnaire is designed to measure two major types of leadership behaviors:task and relationship. Score the questionnaire by doing the following: First, sum the responses on the odd-numbered items. This is your task score. Second, sum the responses on the even-numbered items. This isyour relationship score.

Total scores: Task _____________________ Relationship _____________________


Scoring Interpretation45–50 Very high range40–44 High range35–39 Moderately high range30–34 Moderately low range25–29 Low range10–24 Very low range

The score you receive for task refers to the degree to which you help others by defining their roles andletting them know what is expected of them. This factor describes your tendencies to be task directedtoward others when you are in a leadership position. The score you receive for relationship is a measure ofthe degree to which you try to make followers feel comfortable with themselves, each other, and the groupitself. It represents a measure of how people oriented you are.

Your results on the Leadership Behavior Questionnaire give you data about your task orientation andpeople orientation. What do your scores suggest about your leadership style? Are you more likely to leadwith an emphasis on task or with an emphasis on relationship? As you interpret your responses to theLeadership Behavior Questionnaire, ask yourself if there are ways you could change your behavior to shiftthe emphasis you give to tasks and relationships. To gain more information about your style, you may wantto have four or five of your coworkers fill out the questionnaire based on their perceptions of you as aleader. This will give you additional data to compare and contrast to your own scores about yourself.



The behavioral approach is strikingly different from the trait and skills approaches toleadership because the behavioral approach focuses on what leaders do rather than wholeaders are. It suggests that leaders engage in two primary types of behaviors: task behaviorsand relationship behaviors. How leaders combine these two types of behaviors to influenceothers is the central focus of the behavioral approach.

The behavioral approach originated from three different lines of research: the Ohio Statestudies, the University of Michigan studies, and the work of Blake and Mouton on theManagerial Grid.

Researchers at Ohio State developed a leadership questionnaire called the Leader BehaviorDescription Questionnaire (LBDQ), which identified initiation of structure andconsideration as the core leadership behaviors. The Michigan studies provided similarfindings but called the leader behaviors production orientation and employee orientation.

Using the Ohio State and Michigan studies as a basis, much research has been carried outto find the best way for leaders to combine task and relationship behaviors. The goal hasbeen to find a universal set of leadership behaviors capable of explaining leadershipeffectiveness in every situation. The results from these efforts have not been conclusive,however. Researchers have had difficulty identifying one best style of leadership.

Blake and Mouton developed a practical model for training managers that describedleadership behaviors along a grid with two axes: concern for results and concern for people.How leaders combine these orientations results in five major leadership styles: authority–compliance (9,1), country-club management (1,9), impoverished management (1,1),middle-of-the-road management (5,5), and team management (9,9).

The behavioral approach has several strengths and weaknesses. On the positive side, it hasbroadened the scope of leadership research to include the study of the behaviors of leadersrather than only their personal traits or characteristics. Second, it is a reliable approachbecause it is supported by a wide range of studies. Third, the behavioral approach isvaluable because it underscores the importance of the two core dimensions of leadershipbehavior: task and relationship. Fourth, it has heuristic value in that it provides us with abroad conceptual map that is useful in gaining an understanding of our own leadershipbehaviors. On the negative side, researchers have not been able to associate the behaviors ofleaders (task and relationship) with outcomes such as morale, job satisfaction, andproductivity. In addition, researchers from the behavioral approach have not been able toidentify a universal set of leadership behaviors that would consistently result in effectiveleadership. Last, the behavioral approach implies but fails to support fully the idea that themost effective leadership style is a high–high style (i.e., high task and high relationship).


Overall, the behavioral approach is not a refined theory that provides a neatly organized setof prescriptions for effective leadership behavior. Rather, the behavioral approach providesa valuable framework for assessing leadership in a broad way as assessing behavior with taskand relationship dimensions. Finally, the behavioral approach reminds leaders that theirimpact on others occurs along both dimensions.

Sharpen your skills with SAGE edge at


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Begum, R., & Mujtaba, B. G. (2016). Task and relationship orientation of Pakistanimanagers and working professionals: The interaction effect of demographics in acollective culture. Public Organization Review, 16(2), 199–215.

Blake, R. R., & McCanse, A. A. (1991). Leadership dilemmas: Grid solutions. Houston,TX: Gulf.

Blake, R. R., & Mouton, J. S. (1964). The Managerial Grid. Houston, TX: Gulf.

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Blake, R. R., & Mouton, J. S. (1985). The Managerial Grid III. Houston, TX: Gulf.

Bowers, D. G., & Seashore, S. E. (1966). Predicting organizational effectiveness with afour-factor theory of leadership. Administrative Science Quarterly, 11, 238–263.

Bryman, A. (1992). Charisma and leadership in organizations. London, UK: SAGE.

Cartwright, D., & Zander, A. (1970). Group dynamics research and theory (3rd ed.). NewYork, NY: Tavistock.

Casimir, G., & Ng, Y. N. (2010). Combinative aspects of leadership style and theinteraction between leadership behaviors. Leadership & Organization DevelopmentJournal, 31(6), 501–517.

Engle, R. L., Elahee, M. N., & Tatoglu, E. (2013). Antecedents of problem-solving cross-cultural negotiation style: Some preliminary evidence. Journal of Applied Managementand Entrepreneurship, 18(2), 83–102.


Hemphill, J. K., & Coons, A. E. (1957). Development of the Leader Behavior DescriptionQuestionnaire. In R. M. Stogdill & A. E. Coons (Eds.), Leader behavior: Its descriptionand measurement (Research Monograph No. 88). Columbus: Ohio State University,Bureau of Business Research.

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Judge, T., Piccolo, R., & Ilies, R. (2004). The forgotten ones? The validity of considerationand initiating structure in leadership research. Journal of Applied Psychology, 89(1),36–51.

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Stogdill, R. M. (1948). Personal factors associated with leadership: A survey of theliterature. Journal of Psychology, 25, 35–71.

Stogdill, R. M. (1963). Manual for the Leader Behavior Description Questionnaire formXII. Columbus: Ohio State University, Bureau of Business Research.

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Yukl, G. (2003). Leadership in organizations (8th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.


5 Situational Approach



One of the more widely recognized approaches to leadership is the situational approach,which was developed by Hersey and Blanchard (1969a) based on Reddin’s (1967) 3-Dmanagement style theory. The situational approach has been refined and revised severaltimes since its inception (see Blanchard, 1985; Blanchard, Zigarmi, & Nelson, 1993;Blanchard, Zigarmi, & Zigarmi, 2013; Hersey & Blanchard, 1977, 1988), and it has beenused extensively in organizational leadership training and development.

As the name of the approach implies, the situational approach focuses on leadership insituations. The premise of the theory is that different situations demand different kinds ofleadership. From this perspective, to be an effective leader requires that a person adapt hisor her style to the demands of different situations.

The situational approach is illustrated in the model developed by Blanchard and hiscolleagues (Blanchard et al., 1993; Blanchard et al., 2013), called the SituationalLeadership® II (SLII®) model (Figure 5.1). The model is an extension and refinement of theoriginal model developed by Hersey and Blanchard (1969a). This chapter focuses on theSLII® model.

The situational approach stresses that leadership is composed of both a directive and asupportive dimension, and that each has to be applied appropriately in a given situation.To determine what is needed in a particular situation, a leader must evaluate her or hisfollowers and assess how competent and committed they are to perform a given goal. Basedon the assumption that followers’ skills and motivation vary over time, situationalleadership suggests that leaders should change the degree to which they are directive orsupportive to meet the changing needs of followers.

In brief, the essence of the situational approach demands that leaders match their style tothe competence and commitment of the followers. Effective leaders are those who canrecognize what followers need and then adapt their own style to meet those needs.

The dynamics of this approach are clearly illustrated in the SLII® model, which comprisestwo major dimensions: leadership style and development level of followers.


Leadership Style

Leadership style consists of the behavior pattern of a person who attempts to influenceothers. It includes both directive behaviors and supportive behaviors. Directive behaviors helpgroup members accomplish goals by giving directions, establishing goals and methods ofevaluation, setting timelines, defining roles, and showing how the goals are to be achieved.Directive behaviors clarify, often with one-way communication, what is to be done, how itis to be done, and who is responsible for doing it. Supportive behaviors help groupmembers feel comfortable about themselves, their coworkers, and the situation. Supportivebehaviors involve two-way communication and responses that show social and emotionalsupport to others. Examples of supportive behaviors include asking for input, solvingproblems, praising, sharing information about oneself, and listening. Supportive behaviorsare mostly job related. Leadership styles can be classified further into four distinct categoriesof directive and supportive behaviors (Figure 5.1). The first style (S1) is a high directive–lowsupportive style, which is also called a directing style. In this approach, the leader focusescommunication on goal achievement, and spends a smaller amount of time usingsupportive behaviors. Using this style, a leader gives instructions about what and how goalsare to be achieved by the followers and then supervises them carefully.

The second style (S2) is called a coaching approach and is a high directive–high supportivestyle. In this approach, the leader focuses communication on both achieving goals andmeeting followers’ socioemotional needs. The coaching style requires that the leader involvehimself or herself with followers by giving encouragement and soliciting follower input.However, coaching is an extension of S1 in that it still requires that the leader make thefinal decision on the what and how of goal accomplishment.

The third style (S3) is a supporting approach that requires that the leader take a highsupportive–low directive style. In this approach, the leader does not focus exclusively ongoals but uses supportive behaviors that bring out followers’ skills around the goal to beaccomplished. The supportive style includes listening, praising, asking for input, and givingfeedback. A leader using this style gives followers control of day-to-day decisions butremains available to facilitate problem solving. An S3 leader is quick to give recognition andsocial support to followers.

Figure 5.1 Situational Leadership® II


Source: From Leadership and the One Minute Manager: Increasing EffectivenessThrough Situational Leadership® II, by K. Blanchard, P. Zigarmi, and D. Zigarmi,2013, New York, NY: William Morrow. Used with permission. This model cannot beused without the expressed, written consent of The Ken Blanchard Companies. Tolearn more, visit

Last, the fourth style (S4) is called the low supportive–low directive style, or a delegatingapproach. In this approach, the leader offers less goal input and social support, facilitatingfollowers’ confidence and motivation in reference to the goal. The delegative leader lessensinvolvement in planning, control of details, and goal clarification. After the group agrees onwhat it is to do, this style lets followers take responsibility for getting the job done the waythey see fit. A leader using S4 gives control to followers and refrains from intervening with


unnecessary social support.

The SLII® model (Figure 5.1) illustrates how directive and supportive leadership behaviorscombine for each of the four different leadership styles. As shown by the arrows on thebottom and left side of the model, directive behaviors are high in the S1 and S2 quadrantsand low in S3 and S4, whereas supportive behaviors are high in S2 and S3 and low in S1and S4.


Development Level

A second major part of the SLII® model concerns the development level of followers.Development level is the degree to which followers have the competence and commitmentnecessary to accomplish a given goal or activity (Blanchard et al., 2013). Stated anotherway, it indicates whether a person has mastered the skills to achieve a specific goal andwhether a person has developed a positive attitude regarding the goal (Blanchard et al.,1993). In earlier versions of the model, this was referred to as the readiness or maturity ofthe follower (Bass, 2008; Hersey & Blanchard, 1969a, 1969b, 1977, 1996).

Followers are at a high development level if they are interested and confident in their workand know how to achieve the goal. Followers are at a developing level if they have little skillfor the goal at hand but believe that they have the motivation or confidence to get the jobdone.

The levels of development are illustrated in the lower portion of the diagram in Figure 5.1.The levels describe various combinations of commitment and competence for followers ona given goal. They are intended to be goal specific and are not intended to be used for thepurpose of labeling followers.

On a particular goal, followers can be classified into four categories: D1, D2, D3, and D4,from developing to developed. Specifically, D1 followers are low in competence and highin commitment. They are new to a goal and do not know exactly how to do it, but they areexcited about the challenge of it. D2 followers are described as having some competencebut low commitment. They have started to learn a job, but they also have lost some of theirinitial motivation about the job. D3 represents followers who have moderate to highcompetence but may have variable commitment. They have essentially developed the skillsfor the job, but they are uncertain as to whether they can accomplish the goal bythemselves. Finally, D4 followers are the highest in development, having both a high degreeof competence and a high degree of commitment to getting the job done. They have theskills to do the job and the motivation to get it done.


How does the Situational Approach Work?

The situational approach is constructed around the idea that followers move forward andbackward along the developmental continuum, which represents the relative competenceand commitment of followers. For leaders to be effective, it is essential that they determinewhere followers are on the developmental continuum and adapt their leadership styles todirectly match their followers’ development levels.

In a given situation, the first task for a leader is to determine the nature of the situation.Questions such as the following must be addressed: What goal are followers being asked toachieve? How complex is the goal? Are the followers sufficiently skilled to accomplish thegoal? Do they have the desire to complete the job once they start it? Answers to thesequestions will help leaders to identify correctly the specific development level at which theirfollowers are functioning. For example, new followers who are very excited but lackunderstanding of job requirements would be identified as D1-level followers. Conversely,seasoned followers with proven abilities and great devotion to an organization would beidentified as functioning at the D4 level.

Having identified the correct development level, the second task for the leader is to adapthis or her style to the prescribed leadership style represented in the SLII® model. There is aone-to-one relationship between the development level of followers (D1, D2, etc.) and theleader’s style (S1, S2, etc.). For example, if followers are at the first level of development,D1, the leader needs to adopt a high directive–low supportive leadership style (S1, ordirecting). If followers are more advanced and at the second development level, D2, theleader needs to adopt a high directive–high supportive leadership style (S2, or coaching).For each level of development, there is a specific style of leadership that the leader shouldadopt.

An example of this would be Rene Martinez, who owns a house painting business. Renespecializes in restoration of old homes and over 30 years has acquired extensive knowledgeof the specialized abilities required including understanding old construction, paintingmaterials and techniques, plaster repair, carpentry, and window glazing. Rene has threeemployees: Ashley, who has worked for him for seven years and whom he trained from thebeginning of her career; Levi, who worked for a commercial painter for four years beforebeing hired by Rene two years ago; and Anton, who is just starting out.

Because of Ashley’s years of experience and training, Rene would classify her as primarilyD3. She is very competent, but still seeks Rene’s insight on some tasks. She is completelycomfortable prepping surfaces for painting and directing the others, but has somereluctance to taking on jobs that involve carpentry. Depending on the work he assignsAshley, Rene moves between S3 (supporting) and S4 (delegating) leadership behaviors.


When it comes to painting, Levi is a developed follower needing little direction or supportfrom Rene. But Levi has to be trained in many other aspects of home restoration, makinghim a D1 or D2 in those skills. Levi is a quick learner, and Rene finds he only needs to beshown or told how to do something once before he is able to complete it easily. In mostsituations, Rene uses an S2 (coaching) leadership behavior with Levi. If the goal is morecomplicated and requires detailed training, Rene moves back into the S1 (directing)behavior with Levi.

Anton is completely new to this field, developing his skills but at the D1 level. What helacks in experience he more than makes up for in energy. He is always willing to jump inand do whatever he’s asked to do. He is not as careful as he needs to be, however, oftenneglecting the proper prepping techniques and cleanup about which Rene is a stickler.Rene finds that not only he, but also Ashley, uses an S1 (directing) behavior with Anton.Because Levi is also fairly new, he finds it difficult to be directive with Anton, but likes togive him help when he seems unsure of himself, falling into the S3 (supporting) behavior.

This example illustrates how followers can move back and forth along the developmentcontinuum, requiring leaders to be flexible in their leadership behavior. Followers maymove from one development level to another rather quickly over a short period (e.g., a dayor a week), or more slowly on goals that proceed over much longer periods of time (e.g., amonth). Leaders cannot use the same style in all contexts; rather, they need to adapt theirstyle to followers and their unique situations. Unlike the trait approach, which emphasizesthat leaders have a fixed style, the situational approach demands that leaders demonstrate ahigh degree of flexibility.

With the growing cross-cultural and technical influences on our society, it appears that theneed for leaders to be flexible in their leadership style is increasingly important. Recentstudies have examined situational leadership in different cultural and workplace contexts. Ina study of situational leadership and air traffic control employees, Arvidsson, Johansson,Ek, and Akselsson (2007) assessed leaders in different contexts and found that the leader’sstyle should change in different group and individual situations. In addition, they foundthat the most frequently used leadership style was high supportive–low directive and themost seldom-used style was high directive–low supportive. In another study, Larsson andVinberg (2010), using a case study approach, found that successful leaders use a relationorientation as a base but include along with it a structure orientation and a changeorientation.



The situational approach to leadership has several strengths, particularly for practitioners.The first strength is that it has a history of usefulness in the marketplace. SituationalLeadership® is well known and frequently used for training leaders within organizations.Hersey and Blanchard (1993) reported that it has been a factor in training programs ofmore than 400 of the Fortune 500 companies. It is perceived by corporations as offering auseful model for training people to become effective leaders.

A second strength of the approach is its practicality. Situational Leadership® is easy tounderstand, intuitively sensible, and easily applied in a variety of settings. Whereas someleadership approaches provide complex and sophisticated ways to assess your ownleadership behavior (e.g., the decision-making approach in Vroom & Yetton, 1973),Situational Leadership® provides a straightforward approach that is easily used. Because it isdescribed at an abstract level that is easily grasped, the ideas behind the approach arequickly acquired. In addition, the principles suggested by this approach are easy to applyacross a variety of settings, including work, school, and family.

Closely akin to the strength of practicality is a third strength: It has prescriptive value.Whereas many theories of leadership are descriptive in nature, the situational approach isprescriptive. It tells you what you should and should not do in various contexts. Forexample, if your followers are very low in competence, Situational Leadership® prescribes adirecting style for you as the leader. On the other hand, if your followers appear to becompetent but lack confidence, the situational approach suggests that you lead with asupporting style. These prescriptions provide leaders with a valuable set of guidelines thatcan facilitate and enhance leadership. For example, in a recent study, Meirovich and Gu(2015) reported that the closer a leader’s style is to the prescribed style, the better theperformance and satisfaction of the employees.

A fourth strength of Situational Leadership® is that it emphasizes leader flexibility (Graeff,1983; Yukl, 1989). The approach stresses that leaders need to find out about theirfollowers’ needs and then adapt their leadership style accordingly. Leaders cannot lead usinga single style: They must be willing to change their style to meet the requirements of thesituation. This approach recognizes that followers act differently when doing differentgoals, and that they may act differently during different stages of the same goal. Effectiveleaders are those who can change their own style based on the goal requirements and thefollowers’ needs, even in the middle of a project. For example, Zigarmi and Roberts (2017)reported that when followers perceive a fit between the leader’s behavior and their ownneeds, it is positively related to job affect, trust, and favorable work intentions.

Finally, Situational Leadership® reminds us to treat each follower differently based on thegoal at hand and to seek opportunities to help followers learn new skills and become more


confident in their work (Fernandez & Vecchio, 1997; Yukl, 1998). Overall, this approachunderscores that followers have unique needs and deserve our help in trying to becomebetter at doing their work.



Despite its history of use in leadership training and development, Situational Leadership®has several limitations. The following criticisms point out several weaknesses in thisapproach and help to provide a more balanced picture of the general utility of this approachin studying and practicing leadership.

The first criticism of Situational Leadership® is that only a few research studies have beenconducted to justify the assumptions and propositions set forth by the approach. Althoughmany doctoral dissertations address dimensions of Situational Leadership®, most of theseresearch studies have not been published. The lack of a strong body of research on thisapproach raises questions about the theoretical basis of the approach (Fernandez &Vecchio, 1997; Graeff, 1997; Meirovich & Gu, 2015; Vecchio & Boatwright, 2002;Vecchio, Bullis, & Brazil, 2006). Can we be sure it is a valid approach? Is it certain that thisapproach does indeed improve performance? Does this approach compare favorably withother leadership approaches in its impact on followers? It is difficult to give firm answers tothese questions when the testing of this approach has not resulted in a significant amountof published research findings.

A second criticism that can be directed at the situational approach concerns the ambiguousconceptualization in the model of followers’ development levels. The authors of the modeldo not make clear how commitment is combined with competence to form four distinctlevels of development (Graeff, 1997; Yukl, 1989). In one of the earliest versions of themodel, Hersey and Blanchard (1969b) defined the four levels of commitment (maturity) asunwilling and unable (Level 1), willing and unable (Level 2), unwilling and able (Level 3),and willing and able (Level 4). In a more recent version, represented by the SLII® model,development level is described as high commitment and low competence in D1, lowcommitment and some competence in D2, variable commitment and high competence inD3, and high commitment and high competence in D4.

The authors of Situational Leadership® do not explain the theoretical basis for these changesin the composition of each of the development levels. Furthermore, they do not explainhow competence and commitment are weighted across different development levels. Aspointed out by Blanchard et al. (1993), there is a need for further research to establish howcompetence and commitment are conceptualized for each development level. Closelyrelated to the general criticism of ambiguity about followers’ development levels is aconcern with how commitment itself is conceptualized in the model. For example, Graeff(1997) suggested the conceptualization is very unclear. Blanchard et al. (2013) stated thatfollowers’ commitment is composed of confidence and motivation, but it is not clear howconfidence and motivation combine to define commitment. According to the SLII® model,commitment starts out high in D1, moves down in D2, becomes variable in D3, and rises


again in D4. Intuitively, it appears more logical to describe follower commitment asexisting on a continuum moving from low to moderate to high.

The argument provided by Blanchard et al. (1993) for how commitment varies in the SLII®model is that followers usually start out motivated and eager to learn, and then they maybecome discouraged and disillusioned. Next they may begin to lack confidence ormotivation, or both, and last they become highly confident and motivated. But why is thisso? Why do followers who learn a task become less committed? Why is there a decrease incommitment at Development Levels 2 and 3?

Some clarification of the ambiguity surrounding development levels is suggested byThompson and Glasø (2015), who studied a sample of 80 supervisors and 357 followers infinancial organizations and found that the predictions of the earlier model of situationalleadership are more likely to hold true when the leaders’ ratings and followers’ ratings ofcompetence and commitment are congruent. They stressed the importance of findingmutual agreement between leaders and followers on these ratings.

Without more research findings to substantiate the way follower commitment isconceptualized, this dimension of Situational Leadership® remains unclear.

A fourth criticism of the situational approach has to do with how the model matches leaderstyle with follower development levels—the prescriptions of the model. To determine thevalidity of the prescriptions suggested by the Hersey and Blanchard approach, Vecchio(1987) conducted a study of more than 300 high school teachers and their principals. Hefound that newly hired teachers were more satisfied and performed better under principalswho had highly structured leadership styles, but that the performance of more experiencedand mature teachers was unrelated to the style their principals exhibited.

Vecchio and his colleagues have replicated this study twice: first in 1997, using universityemployees (Fernandez & Vecchio, 1997), and most recently in 2006, studying more than800 U.S. Military Academy cadets (Vecchio et al., 2006). Both studies failed to find strongevidence to support the basic prescriptions suggested in the situational approach.

To further test the assumptions and validity of the Situational Leadership® model,Thompson and Vecchio (2009) analyzed the original and revised versions of the modelusing data collected from 357 banking employees and 80 supervisors. They found no clearempirical support for the model in any of its versions. At best, they found some evidence tosupport leaders being more directive with newer employees, and being more supportive andless directive as employees become more senior. Also, Meirovich and Gu (2015) foundevidence that followers with more experience indicated a more positive response toautonomy and participation, a finding supporting the importance of leaders being lessdirective with experienced employees.


A fifth criticism of Situational Leadership® is that it fails to account for how certaindemographic characteristics (e.g., education, experience, age, and gender) influence theleader–follower prescriptions of the model. For example, a study conducted by Vecchio andBoatwright (2002) showed that level of education and job experience were inversely relatedto directive leadership and were not related to supportive leadership. In other words,followers with more education and more work experience desired less structure. Aninteresting finding is that age was positively related to desire for structure: The olderfollowers desired more structure than the younger followers did. In addition, their findingsindicated that female and male followers had different preferences for styles of leadership.Female followers expressed a stronger preference for supportive leadership, whereas malefollowers had a stronger desire for directive leadership. These findings indicate thatdemographic characteristics may affect followers’ preferences for a particular leadershipstyle. However, these characteristics are not considered in the Situational Leadership®approach.

Situational Leadership® can also be criticized from a practical standpoint because it does notfully address the issue of one-to-one versus group leadership in an organizational setting.For example, should a leader with a group of 20 followers lead by matching her or his styleto the overall development level of the group or to the development level of individualmembers of the group? Carew, Parisi-Carew, and Blanchard (1990) suggested that groupsgo through development stages that are similar to individuals’, and that therefore leadersshould try to match their styles to the group’s development level. However, if the leadermatches her or his style to the mean development level of a group, how will this affect theindividuals whose development levels are quite different from those of their colleagues?Existing research on Situational Leadership® does not answer this question. More research isneeded to explain how leaders can adapt their styles simultaneously to the developmentlevels of individual group members and to the group as a whole.

A final criticism of Situational Leadership® can be directed at the leadership questionnairesthat accompany the model. Questionnaires on the situational approach typically askrespondents to analyze various work situations and select the best leadership style for eachsituation. The questionnaires are constructed to force respondents to describe leadershipstyle in terms of four specific parameters (i.e., directing, coaching, supporting, anddelegating) rather than in terms of other leadership behaviors. Because the best answersavailable to respondents have been predetermined, the questionnaires are biased in favor ofSituational Leadership® (Graeff, 1983; Yukl, 1989).



As we discussed earlier in this chapter, Situational Leadership® is used in consulting becauseit is an approach that is easy to conceptualize and apply. The straightforward nature ofSituational Leadership® makes it practical for managers to use.

The principles of this approach can be applied at many different levels in an organization.They can apply to how a CEO of a large corporation works with a board of directors, andthey can also apply to how a crew chief in an assembly plant leads a small group ofproduction workers. Middle managers can use Situational Leadership® to direct staffmeetings, and heads of departments can use this approach in planning structural changeswithin an organization. There is no shortage of opportunities for using SituationalLeadership®.

Situational Leadership® applies during the initial stages of a project, when idea formation isimportant, and during the various subsequent phases of a project, when implementationissues are important. The fluid nature of Situational Leadership® makes it ideal for applyingto followers as they move forward or go backward (regress) on various projects. BecauseSituational Leadership® stresses adapting to followers, it is ideal for use with followers whosecommitment and competence change over the course of a project.

Given the breadth of the situational approach, it is applicable in almost any type oforganization, at any level, for nearly all types of goals. It is an encompassing model with awide range of applications.


Case StudiesTo see how Situational Leadership® can be applied in different organizational settings, you may want to assessCases 5.1, 5.2, and 5.3. For each of these cases, ask yourself what you would do if you found yourself in a similarsituation. At the end of each case, there are questions that will help you analyze the context from the perspectiveof Situational Leadership®.


Case 5.1: Marathon Runners at Different LevelsDavid Abruzzo is the newly elected president of the Metrocity Striders Track Club (MSTC). One of his duties isto serve as the coach for runners who hope to complete the New York City Marathon. Because David has runmany marathons and ultramarathons successfully, he feels quite comfortable assuming the role andresponsibilities of coach for the marathon runners.

The training period for runners intending to run New York is 16 weeks. During the first couple of weeks oftraining, David was pleased with the progress of the runners and had little difficulty in his role as coach.However, when the runners reached Week 8, the halfway mark, some things began to occur that raised questionsin David’s mind regarding how best to help his runners. The issues of concern seemed quite different from thosethat David had expected to hear from runners in a marathon training program. All in all, the runners and theirconcerns could be divided into three different groups.

One group of runners, most of whom had never run a marathon, peppered the coach with all kinds of questions.They were very concerned about how to do the marathon and whether they had the ability to complete such achallenging event successfully. They asked questions about how far to run in training, what to eat, how much todrink, and what kind of shoes to wear. One runner wanted to know what to eat the night before the marathon,and another wanted to know whether it was likely that he would pass out when he crossed the finish line. ForDavid the questions were never-ending and rather basic. He wanted to treat the runners like informed adults, butthey seemed to be acting immature, and rather childish.

The second group of runners, all of whom had finished the New York City Marathon in the previous year,seemed most concerned about the effects of training on their running. For example, they wanted to knowprecisely how their per-week running mileage related to their possible marathon finishing time. Would runninglong practice runs help them through the wall at the 20-mile mark? Would taking a rest day during trainingactually help their overall conditioning? Basically, the runners in this group seemed to want assurances fromDavid that they were training in the right way for New York. For David, talking to this group was easy becausehe enjoyed giving them encouragement and motivational pep talks.

A third group was made up of seasoned runners, most of whom had run several marathons and many of whomhad finished in the top 10 of their respective age divisions. Sometimes they complained of feeling flat and acted abit moody and down about training. Even though they had confidence in their ability to compete and finish well,they lacked an element of excitement about running in the New York event. The occasional questions they raisedusually concerned such things as whether their overall training strategy was appropriate or whether their trainingwould help them in other races besides the New York City Marathon. Because of his running experience, Davidliked to offer running tips to this group. However, when he did, he felt like the runners ignored and discountedhis suggestions. He was concerned that they might not appreciate him or his coaching.


Questions1. Based on the principles of the SLII® model (Figure 5.1), how would you describe the runners in Group 1?

What kind of leadership do they want from David, and what kind of leadership does David seemprepared to give them?

2. How would you describe the fit between the runners in Group 2 and David’s coaching style? Discuss.

3. The experienced runners in Group 3 appear to be a challenge to David. Using SLII®, explain why Davidappears ineffective with this group.

4. If you were helping David with his coaching, how would you describe his strengths and weaknesses?What suggestions would you make to him about how to improve?


Case 5.2: Why Aren’t They Listening?Jim Anderson is a training specialist in the human resource department of a large pharmaceutical company. Inresponse to a recent companywide survey, Jim specifically designed a six-week training program on listening andcommunication skills to encourage effective management in the company. Jim’s goals for the seminar aretwofold: for participants to learn new communication behaviors and for participants to enjoy the seminar so theywill want to attend future seminars.

The first group to be offered the program was middle-level managers in research and development. This groupconsisted of about 25 people, nearly all of whom had advanced degrees. Most of this group had attended severalin-house training programs in the past, so they had a sense of how the seminar would be designed and run.Because the previous seminars had not always been very productive, many of the managers felt a littledisillusioned about coming to the seminar. As one of the managers said, “Here we go again: a fancy in-housetraining program from which we will gain nothing.”

Because Jim recognized that the managers were very experienced, he did not put many restrictions on attendanceand participation. He used a variety of presentation methods and actively solicited involvement from themanagers in the seminar. Throughout the first two sessions, he went out of his way to be friendly with the group.He gave them frequent coffee breaks during the sessions; during these breaks, he promoted socializing andnetworking.

During the third session, Jim became aware of some difficulties with the seminar. Rather than the fullcomplement of 25 managers, attendance had dropped to about only 15 managers. Although the starting time wasestablished at 8:30, attendees had been arriving as late as 10:00. During the afternoon sessions, some of themanagers were leaving the sessions to return to their offices at the company.

As he approached the fourth session, Jim was apprehensive about why things had been going poorly. He hadbecome quite uncertain about how he should approach the group. Many questions were running through hismind: Had he treated the managers in the wrong way? Had he been too easy regarding attendance at the sessions?Should he have said something about the managers skipping out in the afternoon? Were the participants takingthe seminar seriously? Jim was certain that the content of the seminars was innovative and substantive, but hecould not figure out what he could change to make the program more successful. He sensed that his style was notworking for this group, but he didn’t have a clue as to how he should change what he was doing to make thesessions better.


Questions1. According to the SLII® model (Figure 5.1), what style of leadership is Jim using to run the seminars?2. At what level are the managers?3. From a leadership perspective, what is Jim doing wrong?4. What specific changes could Jim implement to improve the seminars?


Case 5.3: Getting the Message AcrossAnn Caldera is the program director of a college campus radio station (WCBA) that is supported by theuniversity. WCBA has a long history and is viewed favorably by students, faculty, the board of trustees, and thepeople in the community.

Ann does not have a problem getting students to work at WCBA. In fact, it is one of the most sought-afteruniversity-related activities. The few students who are accepted to work at WCBA are always highly motivatedbecause they value the opportunity to get hands-on media experience. In addition, those who are accepted tendto be highly confident (sometimes naïvely so) of their own radio ability. Despite their eagerness, most of themlack a full understanding of the legal responsibilities of being on the air.

One of the biggest problems that confronts Ann every semester is how to train new students to follow the rulesand procedures of WCBA when they are doing on-air announcing for news, sports, music, and other radioprograms. It seems as if every semester numerous incidents arise in which an announcer violates in no small waythe Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules for appropriate airtime communication. For example,rumor has it that one year a first-year student disc jockey on the evening shift announced that a new band wasplaying in town, the cover was $10, and everyone should go to hear the group. Making an announcement such asthis is a clear violation of FCC rules: It is illegal.

Ann is frustrated with her predicament but cannot seem to figure out why it keeps occurring. She puts a lot oftime and effort into helping new DJs, but they just do not seem to get the message that working at WCBA is aserious job and that obeying the FCC rules is an absolute necessity. Ann wonders whether her leadership style ismissing the mark.

Each semester, Ann gives the students a very complete handout on policies and procedures. In addition, she triesto get to know each of the new students personally. Because she wants everybody to be happy at WCBA, she triesvery hard to build a relational climate at the station. Repeatedly, students say that Ann is the nicest adviser oncampus. Because she recognizes the quality of her students, Ann mostly lets them do what they want at thestation.


Questions1. What’s the problem at WCBA?

2. Using SLII® as a basis, what would you advise Ann to do differently at the station?

3. Based on Situational Leadership®, what creative schemes could Ann use to reduce FCC infractions atWCBA?

Leadership Instrument

Although different versions of instruments have been developed to measure Situational Leadership®, nearlyall of them are constructed similarly. As a rule, the questionnaires provide 12 to 20 work-related situationsand ask respondents to select their preferred style for each situation from four alternatives. The situationsand styles are written to directly represent the leadership styles of the four quadrants in the model.Questionnaire responses are scored to give respondents information about their primary and secondaryleadership styles, their flexibility, and their leadership effectiveness.

The brief questionnaire provided in this section illustrates how leadership style is measured inquestionnaires of Situational Leadership®. For each situation on the questionnaire, you have to identify thedevelopment level of the followers in the situation and then select one of the four response alternatives thatindicate the style of leadership you would use in that situation.

Expanded versions of the brief questionnaire give respondents an overall profile of their leadership style. Byanalyzing the alternatives a respondent makes on the questionnaire, one can determine that respondent’sprimary and secondary leadership styles. By analyzing the range of choices a respondent makes, one candetermine that respondent’s leadership flexibility. Leadership effectiveness and diagnostic ability can bemeasured by analyzing the number of times the respondent made accurate assessments of a preferredleadership style.

In addition to these self-scored questionnaires, Situational Leadership® uses similar forms to tap theconcurrent perceptions that bosses, associates, and followers have of a person’s leadership style. Thesequestionnaires give respondents a wide range of feedback on their leadership styles and the opportunity tocompare their own views of leadership with the way others view them in a leadership role.


Situational Leadership® Questionnaire: Sample ItemsInstructions: Look at the following four leadership situations and indicate what the development level is ineach situation, which leadership style each response represents, and which leadership style is needed in thesituation (i.e., action A, B, C, or D).


Situation 1Because of budget restrictions imposed on your department, it is necessary to consolidate. You are thinkingof asking a highly capable and experienced member of your department to take charge of the consolidation.This person has worked in all areas of your department and has the trust and respect of most of the staff.She is very willing to help with the consolidation.

A. Assign the project to her and let her determine how to accomplish it.B. Assign the task to her, indicate to her precisely what must be done, and supervise her work closely.C. Assign the task to her and provide support and encouragement as needed.D. Assign the task to her and indicate to her precisely what needs to be done but make sure you

incorporate her suggestions.Development level ____________ Action ____________


Situation 2You have recently been made a department head of the new regional office. In getting to know yourdepartmental staff, you have noticed that one of your inexperienced employees is not following through onassigned tasks. She is enthusiastic about her new job and wants to get ahead in the organization.

A. Discuss the lack of follow-through with her and explore the alternative ways this problem can besolved.

B. Specify what she must do to complete the tasks but incorporate any suggestions she may have.C. Define the steps necessary for her to complete the assigned tasks and monitor her performance

frequently.D. Let her know about the lack of follow-through and give her more time to improve her performance.

Development level ____________ Action ___________


Situation 3Because of a new and very important unit project, for the past three months you have made sure that yourstaff members understood their responsibilities and expected level of performance, and you have supervisedthem closely. Due to some recent project setbacks, your staff members have become somewhat discouraged.Their morale has dropped, and so has their performance.

A. Continue to direct and closely supervise their performance.B. Give the group members more time to overcome the setbacks but occasionally check their progress.C. Continue to define group activities but involve the group members more in decision making and

incorporate their ideas.D. Participate in the group members’ problem-solving activities and encourage and support their

efforts to overcome the project setbacks.Development level ____________ Action ____________


Situation 4As a director of the sales department, you have asked a member of your staff to take charge of a new salescampaign. You have worked with this person on other sales campaigns, and you know he has the jobknowledge and experience to be successful at new assignments. However, he seems a little unsure about hisability to do the job.

A. Assign the new sales campaign to him and let him function on his own.B. Set goals and objectives for this new assignment but consider his suggestions and involve him in

decision making.C. Listen to his concerns but assure him he can do the job and support his efforts.D. Tell him exactly what the new campaign involves and what you expect of him, and supervise his

performance closely.Development level ____________ Action ____________

Source: Adapted from Game Plan for Leadership and the One Minute Manager (Figure 5.20, LearningActivity, p. 5), by K. Blanchard, P. Zigarmi, and D. Zigarmi, 1992, Escondido, CA: Blanchard Trainingand Development (phone 760-489-5005). Used with permission.


Scoring InterpretationA short discussion of the correct answers to the brief questionnaire will help to explain the nature of

Situational Leadership® questionnaires.

Situation 1 in the brief questionnaire describes a common problem faced by organizations duringdownsizing: the need to consolidate. In this particular situation, the leader has identified a person whoappears to be highly competent, experienced, and motivated to direct the downsizing project. According to

the SLII® model, this person is at Development Level 4, which calls for a delegative approach. Of the fourresponse alternatives, it is the (A) response, “Assign the project to her and let her determine how toaccomplish it,” that best represents delegating (S4): low supportive–low directive leadership.

Situation 2 describes a problem familiar to leaders at all levels in nearly all organizations: lack of follow-through by an enthusiastic follower. In the given example, the follower falls in Development Level 1

because she lacks the experience to do the job even though she is highly motivated to succeed. The SLII®

approach prescribes directing (S1) leadership for this type of follower. She needs to be told when and howto do her specific job. After she is given directions, her performance should be supervised closely. Thecorrect response is (C), “Define the steps necessary to complete the assigned tasks and monitor herperformance frequently.”

Situation 3 describes a very different circumstance. In this situation, the followers seem to have developedsome experience and an understanding of what is required of them, but they have lost some of theirmotivation to complete the goal. Their performance and commitment have stalled because of recent

setbacks, even though the leader has been directing them closely. According to SLII®, the correct responsefor the leader is to shift to a more supportive coaching style (S2) of leadership. The action response thatreflects coaching is (C), “Continue to define group activities but involve the group members more indecision making and incorporate their ideas.”

Situation 4 describes some of the concerns that arise for a director attempting to identify the correct personto head a new sales campaign. The person identified for the position obviously has the skills necessary to doa good job with the new sales campaign, but he appears apprehensive about his own abilities. In this

context, SLII® suggests that the director should use a supportive style (S3), which is consistent with leadingfollowers who are competent but lacking a certain degree of confidence. A supportive style is represented byaction response (C), “Listen to his concerns but assure him he can do the job and support his efforts.”

Now select two of your own followers. Diagnose their current development level on three different goalsand your style of leadership in each situation. Is there a match? If not, what specifically can you do for themas a leader to ensure that they have what they need to succeed?



Situational Leadership® is a prescriptive approach to leadership that suggests how leaderscan become effective in many different types of organizational settings involving a widevariety of organizational goals. This approach provides a model that suggests to leaders howthey should behave based on the demands of a particular situation.

Situational Leadership® II classifies leadership into four styles: S1 is high directive–lowsupportive, S2 is high directive–high supportive, S3 is low directive–high supportive, andS4 is low directive–low supportive. The model describes how each of the four leadershipstyles applies to followers who work at different levels of development, from D1 (low incompetence and high in commitment), to D2 (low to some competence and low incommitment), to D3 (moderately competent but lacking commitment), to D4 (a great dealof competence and a high degree of commitment).

Effective leadership occurs when the leader can accurately diagnose the development levelof followers in a goal situation and then exhibit the prescribed leadership style that matchesthat situation.

Leadership is measured in this approach with questionnaires that ask respondents to assess aseries of work-related situations. The questionnaires provide information about the leader’sdiagnostic ability, flexibility, and effectiveness. They are useful in helping leaders to learnabout how they can change their leadership style to become more effective across differentsituations.

There are four major strengths to the situational approach. First, it is recognized by manyas a standard for training leaders. Second, it is a practical approach, which is easilyunderstood and easily applied. Third, this approach sets forth a clear set of prescriptions forhow leaders should act if they want to enhance their leadership effectiveness. Fourth,Situational Leadership® recognizes and stresses that there is not one best style of leadership;instead, leaders need to be flexible and adapt their style to the requirements of the situation.

Criticisms of Situational Leadership® suggest that it also has limitations. Unlike many otherleadership theories, this approach does not have a strong body of research findings to justifyand support the theoretical underpinnings on which it stands. As a result, there isambiguity regarding how the approach conceptualizes certain aspects of leadership. It is notclear in explaining how followers move from developing levels to developed levels, nor is itclear on how commitment changes over time for followers. Without the basic researchfindings, the validity of the basic prescriptions for matching leaders’ styles to followers’development levels must be questioned. In addition, the model does not address howdemographic characteristics affect followers’ preferences for leadership. Finally, the modeldoes not provide guidelines for how leaders can use this approach in group settings as


opposed to one-to-one contexts.

Sharpen your skills with SAGE edge at


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6 Path–Goal Theory



Path–goal theory discusses how leaders motivate followers to accomplish designated goals.Drawing heavily from research on what motivates followers, path–goal theory first appearedin the leadership literature in the early 1970s in the works of Evans (1970), House (1971),House and Dessler (1974), and House and Mitchell (1974). The stated goal of this theoryis to enhance follower performance and follower satisfaction by focusing on followermotivation and the nature of the work tasks. At its inception, path–goal theory wasincredibly innovative in the sense that it shifted attention to follower needs andmotivations, and away from the predominant focus on tasks and relationships.

In contrast to the situational approach, which suggests that a leader must adapt to thedevelopment level of followers (see Chapter 5), path–goal theory emphasizes therelationship between the leader’s style and the characteristics of the followers and theorganizational setting. For the leader, the imperative is to use a leadership style that bestmeets followers’ motivational needs. This is done by choosing behaviors that complementor supplement what is missing in the work setting. Leaders try to enhance followers’ goalattainment by providing information or rewards in the work environment (Indvik, 1986);leaders provide followers with the elements they think followers need to reach their goals.According to House (1996), the heart of path–goal theory suggests that in order for leadersto be effective they must “engage in behaviors that complement subordinates’ environmentsand abilities in a manner that compensates for deficiencies and is instrumental tosubordinate satisfaction and individual and work unit performance” (p. 335). Put simply,path–goal theory puts much of the onus on leaders in terms of designing and facilitating ahealthy and productive work environment to propel followers toward success.

Figure 6.1 The Basic Idea Behind Path–Goal Theory

According to House and Mitchell (1974), leadership generates motivation when it increasesthe number and kinds of payoffs that followers receive from their work. Leadership also


motivates when it makes the path to the goal clear and easy to travel through coaching anddirection, removing obstacles and roadblocks to attaining the goal, and making the workitself more personally satisfying (Figure 6.1). For example, even in professions whereemployees are presumed to be self-motivated such as in technical industries, leaders cangreatly enhance follower motivation, engagement, satisfaction, performance, and intent tostay (Stumpf, Tymon, Ehr, & vanDam, 2016). Relatedly, research (Asamani, Naab, &Ansah Ofei, 2016) indicates that follower satisfaction and intent to leave are greatlyimpacted by a leader’s communicative style. In other words, employing path–goal theory interms of leader behavior and the needs of followers and the tasks they have to do could holdsubstantial implications for organizations that seek to enhance follower engagement andmotivation while also decreasing turnover.

In brief, path–goal theory is designed to explain how leaders can help followers along thepath to their goals by selecting specific behaviors that are best suited to followers’ needs andto the situation in which followers are working. By choosing the appropriate behaviors,leaders increase followers’ expectations for success and satisfaction.

Within path–goal theory, motivation is conceptualized from the perspective of theexpectancy theory of motivation (Vroom, 1964). The underlying assumption of expectancytheory is that followers will be motivated if they think they are capable of performing theirwork, if they believe their efforts will result in a certain outcome, and if they believe thatthe payoffs for doing their work are worthwhile. The challenge for a leader using ideas fromexpectancy theory is to understand fully the goals of each follower and the rewardsassociated with the goals. Followers want to feel efficacious, like they can accomplish whatthey set out to do. But, they also want to know that they will be rewarded if they canaccomplish their work. A leader needs to find out what is rewarding to followers about theirwork and then make those rewards available to them when they accomplish therequirements of their work. Expectancy theory is about the goals that followers choose andhow leaders help them and reward them for meeting those goals.

Figure 6.2 Major Components of Path–Goal Theory


Conceptually, path–goal theory is complex, and it is useful to break it down into smallerunits so we can better understand the complexities of this approach.

Figure 6.2 illustrates the different components of path–goal theory, including leaderbehaviors, follower characteristics, task characteristics, and motivation. Path–goal theorysuggests that each type of leader behavior has a different kind of impact on followers’motivation. Whether a particular leader behavior is motivating to followers is contingenton the followers’ characteristics and the characteristics of the task.


Leader Behaviors

Since its inception, path–goal leadership has undergone numerous iterations and revisions(i.e., House, 1971, 1996; House & Mitchell, 1974) that have increased the number ofcontingencies associated with the theory. However, for our purposes, we will discuss onlythe primary four leadership behaviors identified as part of path–goal theory—directive,supportive, participative, and achievement-oriented (House & Mitchell, 1974, p. 83). Thesefour leader behaviors are not only foundational to understanding how path–goal theoryworks but are still more commonly used by researchers in contemporary studies of thepath–goal leadership approach (e.g., Asamani et al., 2016).

Directive Leadership

Directive leadership is similar to the “initiating structure” concept described in the OhioState studies (Halpin & Winer, 1957) and the “telling” style described in SituationalLeadership® (Hersey & Blanchard, 1969). It characterizes a leader who gives followersinstructions about their task, including what is expected of them, how it is to be done, andthe timeline for when it should be completed. It is thought that by providing explicitexpectations and removing ambiguity, followers will have the clarity needed to focus ontheir jobs. A directive leader sets clear standards of performance and makes the rules andregulations clear to followers.

Supportive Leadership

Supportive leadership resembles the consideration behavior construct that was identified bythe Ohio State studies discussed in Chapter 4 (Hemphill & Coons, 1957; Stogdill, 1963).Supportive leadership consists of being friendly and approachable as a leader and includesattending to the well-being and human needs of followers. Leaders using supportivebehaviors go out of their way to make work pleasant for followers, which, in turn, providesfollowers with the confidence necessary to succeed (House, 1971). In addition, supportiveleaders treat followers as equals and give them respect for their status.

Participative Leadership

Participative leadership consists of inviting followers to share in the decision making. Aparticipative leader consults with followers, obtains their ideas and opinions, and integratestheir suggestions into the decisions about how the group or organization will proceed. Thisparticular leadership style may also result in increased group performance through memberparticipation and dedication to shared group goals.


Achievement-Oriented Leadership

Achievement-oriented leadership is characterized by a leader who challenges followers toperform work at the highest level possible. This leader establishes a high standard ofexcellence for followers and seeks continuous improvement. In addition to bringingsignificant expectations for followers, achievement-oriented leaders show a high degree ofconfidence that followers are capable of establishing and accomplishing challenging goals.

House and Mitchell (1974) suggested that leaders might exhibit any or all of these styleswith various followers and in different situations. Path–goal theory is not a trait approachthat locks leaders into only one kind of leadership. Leaders should adapt their styles to thesituation or to the motivational needs of their followers. For example, if followers needparticipative leadership at one point in a task and directive leadership at another, the leadercan change her or his style as needed. Different situations may call for different types ofleadership behavior. Furthermore, there may be instances when it is appropriate for a leaderto use more than one style at the same time.

In addition to leader behaviors, Figure 6.2 illustrates two other major components of path–goal theory: follower characteristics and task characteristics. Each of these two sets ofcharacteristics influences the way leaders’ behaviors affect follower motivation. In otherwords, the impact of leadership is contingent on the characteristics of both followers andtheir task.


Follower Characteristics

Follower characteristics determine how a leader’s behavior is interpreted by followers in agiven work context. Researchers have focused on followers’ needs for affiliation, preferencesfor structure, desires for control, and self-perceived level of task ability. These characteristicsand many others determine the degree to which followers find the behavior of a leader animmediate source of satisfaction or instrumental to some future satisfaction.

Path–goal theory predicts that followers who have strong needs for affiliation prefersupportive leadership because friendly and concerned leadership is a source of satisfaction.For followers who are dogmatic and authoritarian and have to work in uncertain situations,path–goal theory suggests directive leadership because that provides psychological structureand task clarity. Directive leadership helps these followers by clarifying the path to the goal,making it less ambiguous. The authoritarian type of follower feels more comfortable whenthe leader provides a greater sense of certainty in the work setting.

Followers’ desires for control have received special attention in path–goal research throughstudies of a personality construct locus of control that can be subdivided into internal andexternal dimensions. Followers with an internal locus of control believe that they are incharge of the events that occur in their life, whereas those with an external locus of controlbelieve that chance, fate, or outside forces determine life events. Path–goal theory suggeststhat for followers with an internal locus of control participative leadership is most satisfyingbecause it allows them to feel in charge of their work and to be an integral part of decisionmaking. For followers with an external locus of control, path–goal theory suggests thatdirective leadership is best because it parallels followers’ feelings that outside forces controltheir circumstances.

Another way in which leadership affects follower motivation is the followers’ perceptions oftheir own abilities to perform a specific task. As followers’ perceptions of their abilities andcompetence goes up, the need for directive leadership goes down. In effect, directiveleadership becomes redundant and perhaps excessively controlling when followers feelcompetent to complete their own work.


Task Characteristics

In addition to follower characteristics, task characteristics have a major impact on the way aleader’s behavior influences followers’ motivation (Figure 6.2). Task characteristics includethe design of the followers’ task, the formal authority system of the organization, and theprimary work group of followers. Collectively, these characteristics in themselves can providemotivation for followers. When a situation provides a clearly structured task, strong groupnorms, and an established authority system, followers will find the paths to desired goalsapparent and will not need a leader to clarify goals or coach them in how to reach thesegoals. Followers will feel as if they can accomplish their work and that their work is ofvalue. Leadership in these types of contexts could be seen as unnecessary, un-empathic, andexcessively controlling.

In some situations, however, the task characteristics may call for leadership involvement.Tasks that are unclear and ambiguous call for leadership input that provides structure. Inaddition, highly repetitive tasks call for leadership that gives support in order to maintainfollowers’ motivation. In work settings where the formal authority system is weak,leadership becomes a tool that helps followers by making the rules and work requirementsclear. In contexts where the group norms are weak or nonsupportive, leadership assists inbuilding cohesiveness and role responsibility.

A special focus of path–goal theory is helping followers overcome obstacles. Obstacles couldbe just about anything in the work setting that gets in the way of followers. Specifically,obstacles create excessive uncertainties, frustrations, or threats for followers. In thesesettings, path–goal theory suggests that it is the leader’s responsibility to help followers byremoving these obstacles or helping them around them. Helping followers around theseobstacles will increase followers’ expectations that they can complete the task and increasetheir sense of job satisfaction.

As we mentioned earlier in the chapter, path–goal theory has undergone many revisions. In1996, House published a reformulated path–goal theory that extends his original work toinclude eight classes of leadership behaviors. Besides the four leadership behaviors discussedpreviously in this chapter—(a) directive, (b) supportive, (c) participative, and (d)achievement-oriented behavior—the new theory adds (e) work facilitation, (f) group-oriented decision process, (g) work-group representation and networking, and (h) value-based leadership behavior. The essence of the new theory is the same as the original: To beeffective, leaders need to help followers by giving them what is missing in theirenvironment and by helping them compensate for deficiencies in their abilities.

Table 6.1 Path–Goal Theory: How It Works

Follower Task


Leadership Behavior Characteristics Characteristics


Provides guidance and psychologicalstructure




Unclear rules



Provides nurturance


Need for affiliation

Need for humantouch





Provides involvement


Need for control

Need for clarity




Achievement Oriented

Provides challenges

High expectations

Need to excel





How does Path–Goal Theory Work?

Path–goal theory is an approach to leadership that is not only theoretically complex, butalso pragmatic. It provides a set of assumptions about how various leadership styles interactwith characteristics of both followers and the work setting to affect the motivation offollowers. In practice, the theory provides direction about how leaders can help followers toaccomplish their work in a satisfactory manner. Table 6.1 illustrates how leadershipbehaviors are related to follower and task characteristics in path–goal theory.

Theoretically, the path–goal approach suggests that leaders need to choose a leadership stylethat best fits the needs of followers and the work they are doing. The theory predicts that adirective style of leadership is best in situations in which followers are dogmatic andauthoritarian, the task demands are ambiguous, the organizational rules are unclear, and thetask is complex. In these situations, directive leadership complements the work byproviding guidance and psychological structure for followers (House & Mitchell, 1974, p.90).

For tasks that are structured, unsatisfying, or frustrating, path–goal theory suggests thatleaders should use a supportive style. The supportive style provides what is missing bynurturing followers when they are engaged in tasks that are repetitive and unchallenging.Supportive leadership offers a sense of human touch for followers engaged in mundane,mechanized activity.

Participative leadership is considered best when a task is ambiguous: Participation givesgreater clarity to how certain paths lead to certain goals, and helps followers learn whatleads to what (House & Mitchell, 1974, p. 92). In addition, participative leadership has apositive impact when followers are autonomous and have a strong need for control becausethis kind of follower responds favorably to being involved in decision making and in thestructuring of work.

Furthermore, path–goal theory predicts that achievement-oriented leadership is mosteffective in settings in which followers are required to perform ambiguous tasks. In settingssuch as these, leaders who challenge and set high standards for followers raise followers’confidence that they have the ability to reach their goals. In effect, achievement-orientedleadership helps followers feel that their efforts will result in effective performance. Insettings where the task is more structured and less ambiguous, however, achievement-oriented leadership appears to be unrelated to followers’ expectations about their workefforts.

Pragmatically, path–goal theory is straightforward. An effective leader has to attend to theneeds of followers. The leader should help followers to define their goals and the paths theywant to take in reaching those goals. When obstacles arise, the leader needs to help


followers confront them. This may mean helping the follower around the obstacle, or itmay mean removing the obstacle. The leader’s job is to help followers reach their goals bydirecting, guiding, and coaching them along the way.



Path–goal theory has several positive features. First, path–goal theory provides a usefultheoretical framework for understanding how various leadership behaviors affect followers’satisfaction and work performance. It was one of the first theories to specify conceptuallydistinct varieties of leadership (e.g., directive, supportive, participative, achievement-oriented), expanding the focus of prior research, which dealt exclusively with task- andrelationship-oriented behaviors (Jermier, 1996). The path–goal approach was also one ofthe first situational contingency theories of leadership to explain how task and followercharacteristics affect the impact of leadership on follower performance. The frameworkprovided in path–goal theory informs leaders about how to choose an appropriateleadership style based on the various demands of the task and the type of followers beingasked to do the task. Additionally, later iterations of the theory offer suggestions for how tomotivate work groups for increased collaboration and enhanced performance.

A second positive feature of path–goal theory is that it attempts to integrate the motivationprinciples of expectancy theory into a theory of leadership. This makes path–goal theoryunique because no other leadership approach deals directly with motivation in this way.Path–goal theory forces us continually to ask questions such as these about followermotivation: How can I motivate followers to feel that they have the ability to do the work?How can I help them feel that if they successfully do their work, they will be rewarded?What can I do to improve the payoffs that followers expect from their work?Understanding the processes and dynamics behind motivation is critical in any organization(Kanfer, Frese, & Johnson, 2017), and path–goal theory is designed to keep those questionsthat address issues of motivation at the forefront of the leader’s mind.

Path–goal’s third strength, and perhaps its greatest, is that the theory provides a model thatin certain ways is very practical. The representation of the model (Figure 6.1) underscoresand highlights the important ways leaders help followers. It shouts out for leaders to clarifythe paths to the goals and remove or help followers around the obstacles to the goals. In itssimplest form, the theory reminds leaders that the overarching purpose of leadership is toguide and coach followers as they move along the path to achieve a goal.



Although path–goal theory has various strengths, it also has several identifiable weaknesses.First, path–goal theory is so complex and incorporates so many different aspects ofleadership and related contingencies that interpreting the theory can be confusing. Forexample, path–goal theory makes predictions about which of the different leadership stylesis appropriate for tasks with different degrees of structure, for goals with different levels ofclarity, for followers at different levels of ability, and for organizations with differentdegrees of formal authority. To say the least, it is a daunting task to incorporate all of thesefactors simultaneously into one’s selection of a preferred leadership style. Because the scopeof path–goal theory is so broad and encompasses so many different interrelated sets ofassumptions, it is difficult to use this theory fully in trying to improve the leadershipprocess in a given organizational context.

A second limitation of path–goal theory is that it has received only partial support from themany empirical research studies that have been conducted to test its validity (House &Mitchell, 1974; Indvik, 1986; Schriesheim, Castro, Zhou, & DeChurch, 2006;Schriesheim & Kerr, 1977; Schriesheim & Schriesheim, 1980; Stinson & Johnson, 1975;Wofford & Liska, 1993). For example, some research supports the prediction that leaderdirectiveness is positively related to follower satisfaction when tasks are ambiguous, butother research has failed to confirm this relationship. Furthermore, not all aspects of thetheory have been given equal attention. A great deal of research has been designed to studydirective and supportive leadership, but fewer studies address the other articulatedleadership behaviors. The claims of path–goal theory remain tentative because the researchfindings to date do not provide a full and consistent picture of the basic assumptions andcorollaries of path–goal theory (Evans, 1996; Jermier, 1996; Schriesheim & Neider, 1996).

A third and more recent criticism is that the theory does not account for gender differencesin how leadership is enacted or perceived (Mendez & Busenbark, 2015). Research has beendone on the impact of gender on directive, supportive, and participative leadership but hasnot been integrated into path–goal theory.

Relatedly, path–goal theory presumes that leaders possess the advanced communicationskills necessary to swiftly jockey between the various leadership behaviors to effectivelyinteract with followers in all given situations. As such, others (Cote, 2017) have criticizedthe theory for relying on leader behavior as the primary means to motivate followers.

Another criticism of path–goal theory is that it fails to explain adequately the relationshipbetween leadership behavior and follower motivation. Path–goal theory is unique in that itincorporates the tenets of expectancy theory; however, it does not go far enough inexplicating how leadership is related to these tenets. The principles of expectancy theorysuggest that followers will be motivated if they feel competent and trust that their efforts


will get results, but path–goal theory does not describe how a leader could use various stylesdirectly to help followers feel competent or assured of success. For example, path–goaltheory does not explain how directive leadership during ambiguous tasks increases followermotivation. Similarly, it does not explain how supportive leadership during tedious workrelates to follower motivation. The result is that the practitioner is left with an inadequateunderstanding of how her or his leadership will affect followers’ expectations about theirwork.

A final criticism that can be made of path–goal theory concerns a practical outcome of thetheory. Path–goal theory suggests that it is important for leaders to provide coaching,guidance, and direction for followers; to help followers define and clarify goals; and to helpfollowers around obstacles as they attempt to reach their goals. In effect, this approachtreats leadership as a one-way event: The leader affects the follower. The potential difficultyin this type of “helping” leadership is that followers may easily become dependent on theleader to accomplish their work. Path–goal theory places a great deal of responsibility onleaders and much less on followers. Over time, this kind of leadership could becounterproductive because it promotes dependency and fails to recognize the full abilities offollowers.



Path–goal theory is not an approach to leadership for which many management trainingprograms have been developed. You will not find many seminars with titles such as“Improving Your Path–Goal Leadership” or “Assessing Your Skills in Path–GoalLeadership,” either. Nevertheless, path–goal theory does offer significant insights that canbe applied in ongoing settings to improve one’s leadership.

Path–goal theory provides a set of general recommendations based on the characteristics offollowers and tasks for how leaders should act in various situations if they want to beeffective. It informs us about when to emphasize certain leader behaviors includingclarifying goal behavior, lending support, and enhancing group decision-making processes,among others (House, 1996). For instance, the theory suggests that leaders should bedirective when tasks are complex and that leaders should give support when tasks are dull.Similarly, it suggests that leaders should be participative when followers need control andthat leaders should be achievement oriented when followers need to excel. In a general way,path–goal theory offers leaders a road map that gives directions about ways to improvefollower satisfaction and performance.

The principles of path–goal theory can be used by leaders at all levels in the organizationand for all types of tasks. To apply path–goal theory, a leader must carefully assess thefollowers and their tasks, and then choose an appropriate leadership style to match thosecharacteristics. If followers are feeling insecure about doing a task, the leader needs to adopta style that builds follower confidence. For example, in a university setting where a juniorfaculty member feels apprehensive about his or her teaching and research, a departmentchair should give supportive leadership. By giving care and support, the chair helps thejunior faculty member gain a sense of confidence about his or her ability to perform thework (Bess & Goldman, 2001). If followers are uncertain whether their efforts will result inreaching their goals, the leader needs to prove to them that their efforts will be rewarded. Asdiscussed earlier in the chapter, path–goal theory is useful because it continually remindsleaders that their central purpose is to help followers define their goals and then to help followersreach their goals in the most efficient manner.


Case StudiesThe following cases provide descriptions of various situations in which a leader is attempting to apply path–goaltheory. Two of the cases, Cases 6.1 and 6.2, are from traditional business contexts; the third, Case 6.3, is fromthe academic perspective of teaching orchestra students. As you read the cases, try to apply the principles of path–goal theory to determine the degree to which you think the leaders in the cases have done a good job of using thistheory.


Case 6.1: Three Shifts, Three SupervisorsBrako is a small manufacturing company that produces parts for the automobile industry. The company hasseveral patents on parts that fit in the brake assembly of nearly all domestic and foreign cars. Each year, thecompany produces 3 million parts that it ships to assembly plants throughout the world. To produce the parts,Brako runs three shifts with about 40 workers on each shift.

The supervisors for the three shifts (Art, Bob, and Carol) are experienced employees, and each has been with thecompany for more than 20 years. The supervisors appear satisfied with their work and have reported no majordifficulty in supervising employees at Brako.

Art supervises the first shift. Employees describe him as being a very hands-on type of leader. He gets veryinvolved in the day-to-day operations of the facility. Workers joke that Art knows to the milligram the amount ofraw materials the company has on hand at any given time. Art often can be found walking through the plant andreminding people of the correct procedures to follow in doing their work. Even for those working on theproduction line, Art always has some directions and reminders.

Workers on the first shift have few negative comments to make about Art’s leadership. However, they arenegative about many other aspects of their work. Most of the work on this shift is very straightforward andrepetitive; as a result, it is monotonous. The rules for working on the production line or in the packaging area areall clearly spelled out and require no independent decision making on the part of workers. Workers simply needto show up and go through the motions. On lunch breaks, workers often are heard complaining about how boredthey are doing the same old thing over and over. Workers do not criticize Art, but they do not think he reallyunderstands their situation.

Bob supervises the second shift. He really enjoys working at Brako and wants all the workers on the afternoonshift to enjoy their work as well. Bob is a people-oriented supervisor whom workers describe as very genuine andcaring. Hardly a day goes by that Bob does not post a message about someone’s birthday or someone’s personalaccomplishment. Bob works hard at creating camaraderie, including sponsoring a company softball team, takingpeople out to lunch, and having people over to his house for social events.

Despite Bob’s personableness, absenteeism and turnover are highest on the second shift. The second shift isresponsible for setting up the machines and equipment when changes are made from making one part to makinganother. In addition, the second shift is responsible for the complex computer programs that monitor themachines. Workers on the second shift take a lot of heat from others at Brako for not doing a good job.

Workers on the second shift feel pressure because it is not always easy to figure out how to do their tasks. Eachsetup is different and entails different procedures. Although the computer is extremely helpful when it iscalibrated appropriately to the task, it can be extremely problematic when the software it uses is off the mark.Workers have complained to Bob and upper management many times about the difficulty of their jobs.

Carol supervises the third shift. Her style is different from that of the others at Brako. Carol routinely hasmeetings, which she labels troubleshooting sessions, for the purpose of identifying problems workers areexperiencing. Any time there is a glitch on the production line, Carol wants to know about it so she can helpworkers find a solution. If workers cannot do a particular job, she shows them how. For those who are uncertainof their competencies, Carol gives reassurance. Carol tries to spend time with each worker and help the workersfocus on their personal goals. In addition, she stresses company goals and the rewards that are available if workersare able to make the grade.

People on the third shift like to work for Carol. They find she is good at helping them do their job. They say shehas a wonderful knack for making everything fall into place. When there are problems, she addresses them. Whenworkers feel down, she builds them up. Carol was described by one worker as an interesting mixture of partparent, part coach, and part manufacturing expert. Upper management at Brako is pleased with Carol’sleadership, but they have experienced problems repeatedly when workers from Carol’s shift have been rotated to


other shifts at Brako.


Questions1. Based on the principles of path–goal theory, describe why Art and Bob appear to be less effective than

Carol.2. How does the leadership of each of the three supervisors affect the motivation of their respective

followers?3. If you were consulting with Brako about leadership, what changes and recommendations would you

make regarding the supervision of Art, Bob, and Carol?


Case 6.2: Direction for Some, Support for OthersDaniel Shivitz is the manager of a small business called The Copy Center, which is located near a large university.The Copy Center employs about 18 people, most of whom work part-time while going to school full-time. Thestore caters to the university community by specializing in course packs, but it also provides desktop publishingand standard copying services. It has three large, state-of-the-art copy machines and several computerworkstations.

There are two other national chain copy stores in the immediate vicinity of The Copy Center, yet this store doesmore business than both of the other stores combined. A major factor contributing to the success of this store isDaniel’s leadership style.

One of the things that stands out about Daniel is the way he works with his part-time staff. Most of them arestudents, who have to schedule their work hours around their class schedules, and Daniel has a reputation forbeing really helpful with working out schedule conflicts. No conflict is too small for Daniel, who is always willingto juggle schedules to meet the needs of everyone. Students talk about how much they feel included and like thespirit at The Copy Center. It is as if Daniel makes the store like a second family for them.

Work at The Copy Center divides itself into two main areas: duplicating services and desktop publishing. In bothareas, Daniel’s leadership is effective.

Duplicating is a straightforward operation that entails taking a customer’s originals and making copies of them.Because this job is tedious, Daniel goes out of his way to help the staff make it tolerable. He promotes a friendlywork atmosphere by doing such things as letting the staff wear casual attire, letting them choose their ownbackground music, and letting them be a bit wild on the job. Daniel spends a lot of time each day conversinginformally with each employee; he also welcomes staff talking with each other. Daniel has a knack for makingeach worker feel significant even when the work is insignificant. He promotes camaraderie among his staff, andhe is not afraid to become involved in their activities.

The desktop publishing area is more complex than duplicating. It involves creating business forms, advertisingpieces, and résumés for customers. Working in desktop publishing requires skills in writing, editing, design, andlayout. It is challenging work because it is not always easy to satisfy customers’ needs. Most of the employees inthis area are full-time workers.

Through the years, Daniel has found that employees who work best in desktop publishing are very different fromthose who work in duplicating. They are usually quite independent, self-assured, and self-motivated. Insupervising them, Daniel gives them a lot of space, is available when they need help, but otherwise leaves themalone.

Daniel likes the role of being the resource person for these employees. For example, if an employee is havingdifficulty on a customer’s project, he willingly joins the employee in troubleshooting the problem. Similarly, ifone of the staff is having problems with a software program, Daniel is quick to offer his technical expertise.Because the employees in desktop publishing are self-directed, Daniel spends far less time with them than withthose who work in duplicating.

Overall, Daniel feels successful with his leadership at The Copy Center. Profits for the store continue to groweach year, and its reputation for high-quality service is widespread.


Questions1. According to path–goal theory, why is Daniel an effective leader?2. How does his leadership style affect the motivation of employees at The Copy Center?3. How do characteristics of the task and the followers influence Daniel’s leadership?4. One of the principles of path–goal theory is to make the end goal valuable to workers. What could

Daniel do to improve follower motivation in this area?


Case 6.3: Playing in the OrchestraMartina Bates is the newly hired orchestra teacher at Middletown School District in rural Sparta, Kansas. Aftergraduating from the Juilliard School of Music, Martina had intended to play violin professionally, but when nojobs became available, she accepted an offer to teach orchestra in her hometown, believing it would be a goodplace to hone her skills until a professional position became available.

Being the orchestra instructor at Middletown is challenging because it involves teaching music classes, directingthe high school orchestra, and directing both the middle school and grade school orchestra programs. Whenclasses started, Martina hit the ground running and found she liked teaching, and was exhilarated by her workwith students. After her first year, however, she is having misgivings about her decision to teach. Most of all, sheis feeling troubled by how different students are in each of the three programs, and how her leadership does notseem to be effective with all the students.

Running the elementary orchestra program is demanding, but fun. A lot of parents want their children to play aninstrument, so the turnout for orchestra is really strong, and it is the largest of the three Middletown programs.Many students have never held an instrument before, so teaching them is quite a challenge. Learning to make thecornet sound like a cornet or moving the bow so a cello sounds like a cello is a huge undertaking. Whether it isdrums, bass viol, clarinet, or saxophone, Martina patiently shows the kids how to play and consistentlycompliments them every small step of the way. First and foremost, she wants each child to feel like he or she can“do it.” She instructs her students with great detail about how to hold the instruments, position their tongues,and read notes. They respond well to Martina’s kindness and forbearance, and the parents are thrilled. Theorchestra’s spring concert had many wild sounds but was also wildly successful, with excited children and happyparents.

The middle school orchestra is somewhat smaller in size and presents different challenges for Martina. Thestudents in this orchestra are starting to sound good on their instruments and are willing to play together as agroup, but some of them are becoming disinterested and want to quit. Martina uses a different style of leadershipwith the middle schoolers, stressing practice and challenging students to improve their skills. At this level,students are placed in “chairs” for each instrument. The best players sit in the first chair, the next best are secondchair, and so on down to the last chair. Each week, the students engage in “challenges” for the chairs. If studentspractice hard and improve, they can advance to a higher chair; students who don’t practice can slip down to alower chair. Martina puts up charts to track students’ practice hours, and when they reach established goals, theycan choose a reward from “the grab bag of goodies,” which has candy, trinkets, and gift cards. Never knowingwhat their prize will be motivates the students, especially as they all want to get the gift cards. Although somekids avoid practice because they find it tedious and boring, many enjoy it because it improves their performance,to say nothing about the chance to get a prize. The spring concert for this group is Martina’s favorite, because thesounds are better and the students are interested in playing well.

Middletown’s high school orchestra is actually very small, which is surprising to Martina. Why does she havenearly a hundred kids in the elementary orchestra and less than half that number in the high school program? Shelikes teaching the high school students, but they do not seem excited about playing. Because she is highly trainedherself, Martina likes to show students advanced techniques and give them challenging music to play. She spendshours listening to each student play, providing individualized feedback that, unfortunately in many cases, doesn’tseem to have any impact on the students. For example, Chris Trotter, who plays third-chair trumpet, isconsidering dropping orchestra to go out for cross-country. Similarly, Lisa Weiss, who is first-chair flute, seemsbored and may quit the orchestra to get a part-time job. Martina is frustrated and baffled; why would thesestudents want to quit? They are pretty good musicians, and most of them are willing to practice. The studentshave such wonderful potential but don’t seem to want to use it. Students profess to liking Martina, but many ofthem just don’t seem to want to be in the orchestra.


Questions1. Path–goal leadership is about how leaders can help followers reach their goals. Generally, what are the

goals for the students in each of the different orchestras? What obstacles do they face? In what way doesMartina help them address obstacles and reach their goals?

2. Based on the principles of expectancy theory described in the chapter, why is Martina effective with theelementary and middle school orchestras? Why do both of these groups seem motivated to play for her?In what ways did she change her leadership style for the middle schoolers?

3. Martina’s competencies as a musician do not seem to help her with the students who are becomingdisinterested in orchestra. Why? Using ideas from expectancy theory, what would you advise her to do toimprove her leadership with the high school orchestra?

4. Achievement-oriented leadership is one of the possible behaviors of path–goal leadership. For which ofthe three orchestras do you think this style would be most effective? Discuss.

Leadership Instrument

Because the path–goal theory was developed as a complex set of theoretical assumptions to direct researchersin developing new leadership theory, it has used many different instruments to measure the leadershipprocess. The Path–Goal Leadership Questionnaire has been useful in measuring and learning aboutimportant aspects of path–goal leadership (Indvik, 1985, 1988) and is still used in contemporary research(Asamani et al., 2016). This questionnaire provides information for respondents on the four leadershipbehaviors: directive, supportive, participative, and achievement-oriented. Respondents’ scores on each of thedifferent styles provide them with information on their strong and weak styles and the relative importancethey place on each of the styles.

To understand the path–goal questionnaire better, it may be useful to analyze a hypothetical set of scores.For example, hypothesize that your scores on the questionnaire were 29 for directive, which is high; 22 forsupportive, which is low; 21 for participative, which is average; and 25 for achievement-oriented, which ishigh. These scores suggest that you are a leader who is typically more directive and achievement-orientedthan most other leaders, less supportive than other leaders, and quite similar to other leaders in the degree towhich you are participative.

According to the principles of path–goal theory, if your scores matched these hypothetical scores, you wouldbe effective in situations where the tasks and procedures are unclear and your followers have a need forcertainty. You would be less effective in work settings that are structured and unchallenging. In addition,you would be moderately effective in ambiguous situations with followers who want control. Last, youwould do very well in uncertain situations where you could set high standards, challenge followers to meetthese standards, and help them feel confident in their abilities.

In addition to the Path–Goal Leadership Questionnaire, leadership researchers have commonly usedmultiple instruments to study path–goal theory, including measures of task structure, locus of control,follower expectancies, and follower satisfaction. Although the primary use of these instruments has been fortheory building, many of the instruments offer valuable information related to practical leadership issues.


Path–Goal Leadership QuestionnaireInstructions: This questionnaire contains questions about different styles of path–goal leadership. Indicatehow often each statement is true of your own behavior.

Key: 1 = Never 2 = Hardly ever 3 = Seldom 4 = Occasionally 5 = Often 6 = Usually 7 = Always

1. I let followers know what is expected of them. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

2. I maintain a friendly working relationship with followers. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

3. I consult with followers when facing a problem. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

4. I listen receptively to followers’ ideas and suggestions. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

5.I inform followers about what needs to be done and how itneeds to be done.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

6.I let followers know that I expect them to perform at theirhighest level.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

7. I act without consulting my followers. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

8.I do little things to make it pleasant to be a member of thegroup.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

9. I ask followers to follow standard rules and regulations. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

10.I set goals for followers’ performance that are quitechallenging.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

11. I say things that hurt followers’ personal feelings. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

12.I ask for suggestions from followers concerning how to carryout assignments.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

13. I encourage continual improvement in followers’ performance. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

14. I explain the level of performance that is expected of followers. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

15. I help followers overcome problems that stop them fromcarrying out their tasks.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

16.I show that I have doubts about followers’ ability to meet mostobjectives.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

17.I ask followers for suggestions on what assignments should bemade.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7


18. I give vague explanations of what is expected of followers onthe job.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

19. I consistently set challenging goals for followers to attain. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

20.I behave in a manner that is thoughtful of followers’ personalneeds.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7


Scoring1. Reverse the scores for Items 7, 11, 16, and 18.2. Directive style: Sum of scores on Items 1, 5, 9, 14, and 18.3. Supportive style: Sum of scores on Items 2, 8, 11, 15, and 20.4. Participative style: Sum of scores on Items 3, 4, 7, 12, and 17.5. Achievement-oriented style: Sum of scores on Items 6, 10, 13, 16, and 19.


Scoring InterpretationDirective style: A common score is 23, scores above 28 are considered high, and scores below 18 areconsidered low.Supportive style: A common score is 28, scores above 33 are considered high, and scores below 23are considered low.Participative style: A common score is 21, scores above 26 are considered high, and scores below 16are considered low.Achievement-oriented style: A common score is 19, scores above 24 are considered high, and scoresbelow 14 are considered low.

The scores you received on the Path–Goal Leadership Questionnaire provide information about whichstyles of leadership you use most often and which you use less often. In addition, you can use these scores toassess your use of each style relative to your use of the other styles.

Sources: Adapted from A Path-Goal Theory Investigation of Superior-Subordinate Relationships, by J. Indvik,unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Wisconsin–Madison, 1985; and from Indvik (1988). Basedon the work of House and Dessler (1974) and House (1977) cited in Fulk and Wendler (1982). Used bypermission.



Path–goal theory was developed to explain how leaders motivate followers to be productiveand satisfied with their work. It is a contingency approach to leadership becauseeffectiveness depends on the fit between the leader’s behavior and the characteristics offollowers and the task.

The basic principles of path–goal theory are derived from expectancy theory, whichsuggests that followers will be motivated if they feel competent, if they think their effortswill be rewarded, and if they find the payoff for their work valuable. A leader can helpfollowers by selecting a style of leadership (directive, supportive, participative, orachievement oriented) that provides what is missing for followers in a particular worksetting. In simple terms, it is the leader’s responsibility to help followers reach their goals bydirecting, guiding, and coaching them along the way.

Path–goal theory offers a large set of predictions for how a leader’s style interacts withfollowers’ needs and the nature of the task. Among other things, it predicts that directiveleadership is effective with ambiguous tasks, that supportive leadership is effective forrepetitive tasks, that participative leadership is effective when tasks are unclear and followersare autonomous, and that achievement-oriented leadership is effective for challenging tasks.

Path–goal theory has three major strengths. First, it provides a theoretical framework that isuseful for understanding how various styles of leadership affect the productivity andsatisfaction of followers. Second, path–goal theory is unique in that it integrates themotivation principles of expectancy theory into a theory of leadership. Third, it provides apractical model that underscores the important ways in which leaders help followers.

On the negative side, several criticisms can be leveled at path–goal theory. First, the scopeof path–goal theory encompasses so many interrelated sets of assumptions that it is hard touse this theory in a given organizational setting. Second, research findings to date do notsupport a full and consistent picture of the claims of the theory. Third, path–goal theorydoes not account for gender differences in how leadership is enacted or perceived. Thetheory also assumes that leaders have the skills to allow them to switch between variousleadership behaviors needed by differing followers, and it assumes that leader behavior isthe primary means to motivate followers.

Also, path–goal theory does not show in a clear way how leader behaviors directly affectfollower motivation levels. Last, path–goal theory is predominantly leader oriented and failsto recognize the interactional nature of leadership. It does not promote followerinvolvement in the leadership process.

Sharpen your skills with SAGE edge at


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7 Leader–Member Exchange Theory



Most of the leadership theories discussed thus far in this book have emphasized leadershipfrom the point of view of the leader (e.g., trait approach, skills approach, and styleapproach) or the follower and the context (e.g., Situational Leadership® and path–goaltheory). Leader–member exchange (LMX) theory takes still another approach andconceptualizes leadership as a process that is centered on the interactions between leadersand followers. As Figure 7.1 illustrates, LMX theory makes the dyadic relationship betweenleaders and followers the focal point of the leadership process.

Before LMX theory, researchers treated leadership as something leaders did toward all oftheir followers. This assumption implied that leaders treated followers in a collective way, asa group, using an average leadership style. LMX theory challenged this assumption anddirected researchers’ attention to the differences that might exist between the leader andeach of the leader’s followers.


Early Studies

In the first studies of exchange theory, which was then called vertical dyad linkage (VDL)theory, researchers focused on the nature of the vertical linkages leaders formed with each oftheir followers (Figure 7.2). A leader’s relationship to the work unit as a whole was viewedas a series of vertical dyads (Figure 7.3).

In assessing the characteristics of these vertical dyads, researchers found two general types oflinkages (or relationships): those that were based on expanded and negotiated roleresponsibilities (extra-roles), which were called the in-group, and those that were based onthe formal employment contract (defined roles), which were called the out-group (Figure7.4).

Figure 7.1 Dimensions of Leadership

Source: Reprinted from The Leadership Quarterly, 6(2), G. B. Graen & M. Uhl-Bien,“Relationship-Based Approach to Leadership: Development of Leader–MemberExchange (LMX) Theory of Leadership Over 25 Years: Applying a Multi-Level,Multi-Domain Perspective,” pp. 219–247, Copyright (1995), with permission fromElsevier.

Note: LMX theory was first described 28 years ago in the works of Dansereau, Graen,and Haga (1975), Graen (1976), and Graen and Cashman (1975). Since it firstappeared, it has undergone several revisions, and it continues to be of interest toresearchers who study the leadership process.

Within an organizational work unit, followers become a part of the in-group or the out-group based on how well they work with the leader and how well the leader works withthem. Personality and other personal characteristics are related to this process (Dansereau,Graen, & Haga, 1975; Maslyn, Schyns, & Farmer, 2017; Randolph-Seng et al., 2016). Inaddition, membership in one group or the other is based on how followers involve


themselves in expanding their role responsibilities with the leader (Graen, 1976). Followerswho are interested in negotiating with the leader what they are willing to do for the groupcan become a part of the in-group. These negotiations involve exchanges in which followersdo certain activities that go beyond their formal job descriptions, and the leader, in turn,does more for these followers. If followers are not interested in taking on new and differentjob responsibilities, they become a part of the out-group.

Followers in the in-group receive more information, influence, confidence, and concernfrom their leaders than do out-group followers (Dansereau et al., 1975). In addition, theyare more dependable, more highly involved, and more communicative than out-groupfollowers (Dansereau et al., 1975). Whereas in-group members do extra things for theleader and the leader does the same for them, followers in the out-group are less compatiblewith the leader and usually just come to work, do their job, and go home.

Figure 7.2 The Vertical Dyad

Note: The leader (L) forms an individualized working relationship with each of his orher followers (F). The exchanges (both content and process) between the leader andfollower define their dyadic relationship.

Figure 7.3 Vertical Dyads


Note: The leader (L) forms special relationships with all of his or her followers (F).Each of these relationships is special and has unique characteristics.


Later Studies

After the first set of studies, there was a shift in the focus of LMX theory. Whereas theinitial studies of this theory addressed primarily the nature of the differences between in-groups and out-groups, a subsequent line of research addressed how LMX theory wasrelated to organizational effectiveness.

Specifically, these studies focus on how the quality of leader–member exchanges was relatedto positive outcomes for leaders, followers, groups, and the organization in general (Graen& Uhl-Bien, 1995).

Researchers found that high-quality leader–member exchanges produced less employeeturnover, more positive performance evaluations, higher frequency of promotions, greaterorganizational commitment, more desirable work assignments, better job attitudes, moreattention and support from the leader, greater participation, and faster career progress over25 years (Buch, Kuvaas, Dysvik, & Schyns, 2014; Graen & Uhl-Bien, 1995; Liden,Wayne, & Stilwell, 1993; Malik, Wan, Ahmad, Naseem, & Rehman, 2015).

Figure 7.4 In-Groups and Out-Groups

Note: A leader (L) and his or her followers (F) form unique relationships.Relationships within the in-group are marked by mutual trust, respect, liking, andreciprocal influence. Relationships within the out-group are marked by formalcommunication based on job descriptions. Plus 3 is a high-quality relationship, andzero is a stranger.

In a meta-analysis of 164 LMX studies, Gerstner and Day (1997) found that leader–member exchange was consistently related to member job performance, satisfaction (overalland supervisory), commitment, role conflict and clarity, and turnover intentions. Inaddition, they found strong support in these studies for the psychometric properties of the


LMX 7 Questionnaire (included in this chapter). For purposes of research, they highlightedthe importance of measuring leader–member exchange from the perspective of both theleader and the follower.

Most recently, researchers are investigating the processual nature of leader–memberexchange and how work relationships are co-constructed through communication. Hill,Kang, and Seo (2014) studied the role of electronic communication in employeeempowerment and work outcomes and found that a higher degree of electroniccommunication between leaders and followers resulted in more positive leader–memberrelationships. Omilion-Hodges and Baker (2017) analyzed leader communication behaviorsand developed scales to assess how these behaviors can affect the growth or stagnation ofleader–member relationships.

Based on a review of 130 studies of LMX research conducted since 2002, Anand, Hu,Liden, and Vidyarthi (2011) found that interest in studying leader–member exchange hasnot diminished. A large majority of these studies (70%) examined the antecedents (e.g.,Maslyn et al., 2017) and outcomes of leader–member exchange. The research trends showincreased attention to the context surrounding LMX relationships (e.g., group dynamics),analyzing leader–member exchange from individual and group levels, and studying leader–member exchange with non-U.S. samples (Malik et al., 2015) or racially diverse dyads(Randolph-Seng et al., 2016).

For example, using a sample of employees in a variety of jobs in Israeli organizations,Atwater and Carmeli (2009) examined the connection between employees’ perceptions ofleader–member exchange and their energy and creativity at work. They found thatperceived high-quality leader–member exchange was positively related to feelings of energyin employees, which, in turn, was related to greater involvement in creative work. LMXtheory was not directly associated with creativity, but it served as a mechanism to nurturepeople’s feelings, which then enhanced their creativity.

Ilies, Nahrgang, and Morgeson (2007) did a meta-analysis of 51 research studies thatexamined the relationship between leader–member exchange and employee citizenshipbehaviors. Citizenship behaviors are discretionary employee behaviors that go beyond theprescribed role, job description, or reward system (Katz, 1964; Organ, 1988). They found apositive relationship between the quality of leader–member relationships and citizenshipbehaviors. In other words, followers who had higher-quality relationships with their leaderswere more likely to engage in more discretionary (positive “payback”) behaviors thatbenefited the leader and the organization.

Researchers have also studied how LMX theory is related to empowerment (Malik et al.,2015). Harris, Wheeler, and Kacmar (2009) explored how empowerment moderates theimpact of leader–member exchange on job outcomes such as job satisfaction, turnover, jobperformance, and organizational citizenship behaviors. Based on two samples of college


alumni, they found that empowerment and leader–member exchange quality had a slightsynergistic effect on job outcomes. The quality of leader–member exchange mattered mostfor employees who felt little empowerment. For these employees, high-quality leader–member exchange appeared to compensate for the drawbacks of not being empowered.Volmer, Spurk, and Niessen (2012) investigated the role of job autonomy in therelationship between leader–member exchange and creativity of followers. Their study of ahigh-technology firm found that greater autonomy increased the positive relationshipbetween leader–member exchange and creativity at work.

In essence, these findings clearly illustrate that organizations stand to gain much fromhaving leaders who can create good working relationships. When leaders and followers havegood exchanges, they feel better and accomplish more, and the organization prospers.


Leadership Making

Research into LMX theory has also focused on how exchanges between leaders andfollowers can be used for leadership making (Graen & Uhl-Bien, 1991). Leadership makingis a prescriptive approach to leadership emphasizing that leaders should develop high-quality exchanges with all of their followers rather than just a few. It attempts to makeevery follower feel as if he or she is a part of the in-group and, by so doing, avoids theinequities and negative implications of being in an out-group. In general, leadershipmaking promotes partnerships in which the leader tries to build effective dyads with allfollowers in the work unit (Graen & Uhl-Bien, 1995). In addition, leadership makingsuggests that leaders can create networks of partnerships throughout the organization,which will benefit the organization’s goals and the leader’s own career progress. Hermanand Troth’s (2013) findings regarding the emotional experiences described by followers inhigh- and low-quality LMX relationships align with the assertion that positive relationshipsbenefit organizational and personal leader goals.

Graen and Uhl-Bien (1991) suggested that leadership making develops progressively overtime in three phases: (1) the stranger phase, (2) the acquaintance phase, and (3) the maturepartnership phase (Table 7.1). During Phase 1, the stranger phase, the interactions in theleader–follower dyad generally are rule bound, relying heavily on contractual relationships.Leaders and followers relate to each other within prescribed organizational roles. They havelower-quality exchanges, similar to those of out-group members discussed earlier in thechapter. The follower complies with the formal leader, who has hierarchical status for thepurpose of achieving the economic rewards the leader controls. The motives of the followerduring the stranger phase are directed toward self-interest rather than toward the good ofthe group (Graen & Uhl-Bien, 1995).

Phase 2, the acquaintance phase, begins with an offer by the leader or the follower forimproved career-oriented social exchanges, which involve sharing more resources andpersonal or work-related information. It is a testing period for both the leader and thefollower to assess whether the follower is interested in taking on more roles andresponsibilities and to assess whether the leader is willing to provide new challenges for thefollower. During this time, dyads shift away from interactions that are governed strictly byjob descriptions and defined roles and move toward new ways of relating. As measured byLMX theory, it could be said that the quality of their exchanges has improved to mediumquality. Successful dyads in the acquaintance phase begin to develop greater trust andrespect for each other. They also tend to focus less on their own self-interests and more onthe purposes and goals of the group.

Phase 3, mature partnership, is marked by high-quality leader–member exchanges. Peoplewho have progressed to this stage in their relationships experience a high degree of mutual


trust, respect, and obligation toward each other. They have tested their relationship andfound that they can depend on each other. In mature partnerships, there is a high degree ofreciprocity between leaders and followers: Each affects and is affected by the other. Forexample, in a study of 75 bank managers and 58 engineering managers, Schriesheim,Castro, Zhou, and Yammarino (2001) found that good leader–member relations were moreegalitarian and that influence and control were more evenly balanced between thesupervisor and the follower.

Table 7.1 Phases in Leadership Making

Phase 1 Stranger Phase 2 Acquaintance Phase 3 Partnership

Roles Scripted Tested Negotiated

Influences One way Mixed Reciprocal

Exchanges Low quality Medium quality High quality

Interests Self Self and other Group


Source: Adapted from “Relationship-Based Approach to Leadership: Development of Leader–Member Exchange(LMX) Theory of Leadership Over 25 Years: Applying a Multi-Level, Multi-Domain Perspective,” by G. B.Graen and M. Uhl-Bien, The Leadership Quarterly, 6(2), pp. 219–247. Copyright 1995 by Elsevier. Reprintedwith permission.

In a study of leader–member relationship development, Nahrgang, Morgeson, and Ilies(2009) found that leaders look for followers who exhibit enthusiasm, participation,gregariousness, and extraversion. In contrast, followers look for leaders who are pleasant,trusting, cooperative, and agreeable. Leader extraversion did not influence relationshipquality for the followers, and follower agreeableness did not influence relationship qualityfor the leaders. A key predictor of relationship quality for both leaders and followers overtime was both leader and follower performance. Kelley (2014) investigated the ways leadersuse narrative story lines to determine how leaders identify trustworthy, indeterminate, anduntrustworthy followers. Others have suggested the importance of looking at the socialinteraction (Sheer, 2014) or cooperative communication between leaders and followers(Bakar & Sheer, 2013) as a means to predict and explore relationship quality. It has alsobeen suggested that exploring the use of traditional relationship building and maintenancetechniques such as conflict management, shared tasks, and positivity in leader–memberrelationships can shed light on how leader and follower behaviors impact the quality ofthese relationships (Madlock & Booth-Butterfield, 2012; Omilion-Hodges, Ptacek, &


Zerilli, 2015).

In addition, during Phase 3, members may depend on each other for favors and specialassistance. For example, leaders may rely on followers to do extra assignments, andfollowers may rely on leaders for needed support or encouragement. The point is thatleaders and followers are tied together in productive ways that go well beyond a traditionalhierarchically defined work relationship. They have developed an extremely effective way ofrelating that produces positive outcomes for themselves and the organization. In effect,partnerships are transformational in that they assist leaders and followers in moving beyondtheir own self-interests to accomplish the greater good of the team and organization (seeChapter 8).

The benefits for employees who develop high-quality leader–member relationships includepreferential treatment, increased job-related communication, ample access to supervisors,and increased performance-related feedback (Harris et al., 2009). The disadvantages forthose with low-quality leader–member relationships include limited trust and support fromsupervisors and few benefits outside the employment contract (Harris et al., 2009). Toevaluate leader–member exchanges, researchers typically use a brief questionnaire that asksleaders and followers to report on the effectiveness of their working relationships. Thequestionnaire assesses the degree to which respondents express respect, trust, and obligationin their exchanges with others. At the end of this chapter, a version of the LMXquestionnaire is provided for you to take for the purpose of analyzing some of your ownleader–member relationships.


How does LMX Theory Work?

LMX theory works in two ways: It describes leadership, and it prescribes leadership. Inboth instances, the central concept is the dyadic relationship that leaders form with each oftheir followers. Descriptively, LMX theory suggests that it is important to recognize theexistence of in-groups and out-groups within a group or an organization.

The differences in how goals are accomplished by in-groups and out-groups are substantial.Working with an in-group allows a leader to accomplish more work in a more effectivemanner than he or she can accomplish working without one. In-group members are willingto do more than is required in their job description and look for innovative ways to advancethe group’s goals. In response to their extra effort and devotion, leaders give them moreresponsibilities and more opportunities. Leaders also give in-group members more of theirtime and support.

Out-group members act quite differently than in-group members. Rather than trying to doextra work, out-group members operate strictly within their prescribed organizational roles.They do what is required of them but nothing more. Leaders treat out-group membersfairly and according to the formal contract, but they do not give them special attention. Fortheir efforts, out-group members receive the standard benefits as defined in the jobdescription.

Prescriptively, LMX theory is best understood within the leadership-making model ofGraen and Uhl-Bien (1991). Graen and Uhl-Bien advocated that leaders should create aspecial relationship with all followers, similar to the relationships described as in-grouprelationships. Leaders should offer each follower the opportunity to take on new roles andresponsibilities. Furthermore, leaders should nurture high-quality exchanges with theirfollowers. Herman and Troth (2013) found that high-quality exchanges are described byfollowers as mentoring, respectful, and based on good communication. Rather thanfocusing on the differences between in-group and out-group members, the leadership-making model suggests that leaders should look for ways to build trust and respect with allof their followers, thus making the entire work unit an in-group. Hill et al. (2014) foundthat electronic communication mediates the LMX relationship and can have a positiveimpact, thus broadening avenues for developing good communication and positiverelationships across organizations—even those where workers are dispersed and workprimarily online. In addition, leaders should look beyond their own work unit and createhigh-quality partnerships with people throughout the organization.

Whether descriptive or prescriptive, LMX theory works by focusing our attention on theunique relationships that leaders can create with individual followers. When theserelationships are of high quality, the goals of the leader, the followers, and the organizationare all advanced.



LMX theory makes several positive contributions to our understanding of the leadershipprocess. First, it is a strong descriptive theory. Intuitively, it makes sense to describe workunits in terms of those who contribute more and those who contribute less (or the bareminimum) to the organization. Anyone who has ever worked in an organization has felt thepresence of in-groups and out-groups. Despite the potential harm of out-groups, we allknow that leaders have special relationships with certain people who do more and get more.We may not like this because it seems unfair, but it is a reality, and the LMX theory hasaccurately described this situation. LMX theory validates our experience of how peoplewithin organizations relate to each other and the leader. Some contribute more and receivemore; others contribute less and get less.

Second, LMX theory is unique in that it is the only leadership approach that makes theconcept of the dyadic relationship the centerpiece of the leadership process. Otherapproaches emphasize the characteristics of leaders, followers, contexts, or a combination ofthese, but none of them addresses the specific relationships between the leader and eachfollower. LMX theory underscores that effective leadership is contingent on effectiveleader–member exchanges.

Third, LMX theory is noteworthy because it directs our attention to the importance ofcommunication in leadership. The high-quality exchanges advocated in LMX theory areinextricably bound to effective communication. Communication is the vehicle throughwhich leaders and followers create, nurture, and sustain useful exchanges. Effectiveleadership occurs when the communication of leaders and followers is characterized bymutual trust, respect, and commitment.

Fourth, LMX theory provides an important alert for leaders. It warns leaders to avoidletting their conscious or unconscious biases influence who is invited into the in-group(e.g., biases regarding race, gender, ethnicity, religion, or age) (see Randolph-Seng et al.,2016). The principles outlined in LMX theory serve as a good reminder for leaders to befair and equal in how they approach each of their followers.

Finally, a large body of research substantiates how the practice of LMX theory is related topositive organizational outcomes. In a review of this research, Graen and Uhl-Bien (1995)pointed out that leader–member exchange is related to performance, organizationalcommitment, job climate, innovation, organizational citizenship behavior, empowerment,procedural and distributive justice, career progress, and many other importantorganizational variables. By linking the use of LMX theory to real outcomes, researchershave been able to validate the theory and increase its practical value.



LMX theory also has some limitations. First, leader–member exchange in its initialformulation (vertical dyad linkage theory) runs counter to the basic human value offairness. Throughout our lives, beginning when we are very young, we are taught to try toget along with everyone and to treat everyone equally. We have been taught that it is wrongto form in-groups or cliques because they are harmful to those who cannot be a part ofthem. Because LMX theory divides the work unit into two groups and one group receivesspecial attention, it gives the appearance of discrimination against the out-group.

Our culture is replete with examples of people of different genders, ages, cultures, andabilities who have been discriminated against. Although LMX theory was not designed todo so, it supports the development of privileged groups in the workplace. In so doing, itappears unfair and discriminatory. Furthermore, as reported by McClane (1991), theexistence of in-groups and out-groups may have undesirable effects on the group as awhole.

Whether LMX theory actually creates inequalities is questionable (cf. Harter & Evanecky,2002; Scandura, 1999). If a leader does not intentionally keep out-group members “out,”and if they are free to become members of the in-group, then LMX theory may not createinequalities. However, the theory does not elaborate on strategies for how one gains accessto the in-group if one chooses to do so.

Furthermore, LMX theory does not address other fairness issues, such as followers’perceptions of the fairness of pay increases and promotion opportunities (distributivejustice), decision-making rules (procedural justice), or communication of issues within theorganization (interactional justice) (Scandura, 1999). There is a need for further researchon how these types of fairness issues affect the development and maintenance of LMXrelationships.

A second criticism of LMX theory is that the basic ideas of the theory are not fullydeveloped. For example, the theory does not fully explain how high-quality leader–memberexchanges are created (Anand et al., 2011). In the early studies, it was implied that theywere formed when a leader found certain followers more compatible in regard topersonality, interpersonal skills, or job competencies, but these studies never described therelative importance of these factors or how this process worked (Yukl, 1994). Research hassuggested that leaders should work to create high-quality exchanges with all followers, butthe guidelines for how this is done are not clearly spelled out. Fairhurst and Uhl-Bien(2012) have done research into the construction of the LMX relationship, but more workneeds to be done to substantiate and clarify guidelines. For example, the model ofleadership making highlights the importance of role making, incremental influence, andtype of reciprocity (Table 7.1), but it does not explain how these concepts function to build


mature partnerships. Similarly, the model strongly promotes building trust, respect, andobligation in leader–follower relationships, but it does not describe the means by whichthese factors are developed in relationships.

Based on an examination of 147 studies of leader–member exchange, Schriesheim, Castro,and Cogliser (1999) concluded that improved theorization about leader–member exchangeand its basic processes is needed. Similarly, in a review of the research on relationalleadership, Uhl-Bien, Maslyn, and Ospina (2012) point to the need for furtherunderstanding of how high- and low-quality relationships develop in leader–memberexchange. Although many studies have been conducted on leader–member exchange, thesestudies have not resulted in a clear, refined set of definitions, concepts, and propositionsabout the theory.

A third criticism of the theory is that researchers have not adequately explained thecontextual factors that may have an impact on LMX relationships (Anand et al., 2011).Since leader–member exchange is often studied in isolation, researchers have not examinedthe potential impact of other variables on LMX dyads. For example, workplace norms andother organizational culture variables are likely to influence leader–member exchange.There is a need to explore how the surrounding constellations of social networks influencespecific LMX relationships and the individuals in those relationships.

Finally, questions have been raised about the measurement of leader–member exchanges inLMX theory (Graen & Uhl-Bien, 1995; Schriesheim et al., 1999; Schriesheim et al., 2001).For example, no empirical studies have used dyadic measures to analyze the LMX process(Schriesheim et al., 2001). In addition, leader–member exchanges have been measured withdifferent versions of leader–member exchange scales and with different levels of analysis, sothe results are not always directly comparable. Furthermore, the content validity anddimensionality of the scales have been questioned (Graen & Uhl-Bien, 1995; Schriesheimet al., 2001).



Although LMX theory has not been packaged in a way to be used in standard managementtraining and development programs, it offers many insights that leaders could use toimprove their own leadership behavior. Foremost, LMX theory directs leaders to assess theirleadership from a relationship perspective. This assessment will sensitize leaders to how in-groups and out-groups develop within their own organization. In addition, LMX theorysuggests ways in which leaders can improve their organization by building strong leader–member exchanges with all of their followers.

The ideas set forth in LMX theory can be used by leaders at all levels within anorganization. A CEO selects vice presidents and develops dyadic relationships with them.Vice presidents lead their own units, with their own dyadic relationships with followers.These paired relationships between leader and follower repeat down each level of anorganizational chart.

On a lower level, LMX theory could be used to explain how line managers in amanufacturing plant use a select few workers to accomplish the production quotas of theirwork unit. The ideas presented in LMX theory are applicable throughout organizations, notjust at the highest levels.

In addition, the ideas of LMX theory can be used to explain how individuals createleadership networks throughout an organization to help them accomplish work moreeffectively (Graen & Scandura, 1987). A person with a network of high-qualitypartnerships can call on many people to help solve problems and advance the goals of theorganization.

LMX theory can also be applied in different types of organizations. It applies in volunteersettings as well as traditional business, education, and government settings. Imagine acommunity leader who heads a volunteer program that assists older adults. To run theprogram effectively, the leader depends on a few of the volunteers who are moredependable and committed than the rest of the volunteers. This process of working closelywith a small cadre of trusted volunteers is explained by the principles of LMX theory.Similarly, a manager in a traditional business setting might use certain individuals toachieve a major change in the company’s policies and procedures. The way the managergoes about this process is explicated in LMX theory.

In summary, LMX theory tells leaders to be aware of how they relate to their followers. Ittells leaders to be sensitive to whether some followers receive special attention and somefollowers do not. In addition, it tells leaders to be fair to all followers and allow each ofthem to become as involved in the work of the unit as they want to be. LMX theory tellsleaders to be respectful and to build trusting relationships with all of their followers,


recognizing that each follower is unique and wants to relate to leadership in a special way.


Case StudiesIn the following section, three case studies (Cases 7.1, 7.2, and 7.3) are presented to clarify how LMX theory canbe applied to various group settings. The first case is about the creative director at an advertising agency, thesecond is about a production manager at a mortgage company, and the third is about the leadership of themanager of a district office of the Social Security Administration. After each case, there are questions that willhelp you analyze it, using the ideas from LMX theory.


Case 7.1: His Team Gets the Best AssignmentsCarly Peters directs the creative department of the advertising agency of Mills, Smith, & Peters. The agency hasabout 100 employees, 20 of whom work for Carly in the creative department. Typically, the agency maintains 10major accounts and a number of smaller accounts. It has a reputation for being one of the best advertising andpublic relations agencies in the country.

In the creative department, there are four major account teams. Each is led by an associate creative director, whoreports directly to Carly. In addition, each team has a copywriter, an art director, and a production artist. Thesefour account teams are headed by Jack, Terri, Julie, and Sarah.

Jack and his team get along really well with Carly, and they have done excellent work for their clients at theagency. Of all the teams, Jack’s team is the most creative and talented and the most willing to go the extra milefor Carly. As a result, when Carly has to showcase accounts to upper management, she often uses the work ofJack’s team. Jack and his team members are comfortable confiding in Carly and she in them. Carly is not afraidto allocate extra resources to Jack’s team or to give them free rein on their accounts because they always comethrough for her.

Terri’s team also performs well for the agency, but Terri is unhappy with how Carly treats her team. She feelsthat Carly is not fair because she favors Jack’s team. For example, Terri’s team was counseled out of pursuing anad campaign because the campaign was too risky, whereas Jack’s group was praised for developing a veryprovocative campaign. Terri feels that Jack’s team is Carly’s pet: His team gets the best assignments, accounts,and budgets. Terri finds it hard to hold back the animosity she feels toward Carly.

Like Terri, Julie is concerned that her team is not in the inner circle, close to Carly. She has noticed repeatedlythat Carly favors the other teams. For example, whenever additional people are assigned to team projects, it isalways the other teams who get the best writers and art directors. Julie is mystified as to why Carly doesn’t noticeher team or try to help it with its work. She feels Carly undervalues her team because Julie knows the quality ofher team’s work is indisputable.

Although Sarah agrees with some of Terri’s and Julie’s observations about Carly, she does not feel anyantagonism about Carly’s leadership. Sarah has worked for the agency for nearly 10 years, and nothing seems tobother her. Her account teams have never been earthshaking, but they have never been problematic either. Sarahviews her team and its work more as a nuts-and-bolts operation in which the team is given an assignment andcarries it out. Being in Carly’s inner circle would entail putting in extra time in the evening or on weekends andwould create more headaches for Sarah. Therefore, Sarah is happy with her role as it is, and she has little interestin trying to change the way the department works.


Questions1. Based on the principles of LMX theory, what observations would you make about Carly’s leadership at

Mills, Smith, & Peters?2. Is there an in-group and out-group, and if so, which are they?3. In what way are Carly’s relationships with the four groups productive or counterproductive to the overall

goals of the agency?4. Do you think Carly should change her approach toward the associate directors? If so, what should she do



Case 7.2: Working Hard at Being FairCity Mortgage is a medium-sized mortgage company that employs about 25 people. Jenny Hernandez, who hasbeen with the company for 10 years, is the production manager, overseeing its day-to-day operations.

Reporting to Jenny are loan originators (salespeople), closing officers, mortgage underwriters, and processing andshipping personnel. Jenny is proud of the company and feels as if she has contributed substantially to its steadygrowth and expansion.

The climate at City Mortgage is very positive. People like to come to work because the office environment iscomfortable. They respect each other at the company and show tolerance for those who are different fromthemselves.

Whereas at many mortgage companies it is common for resentments to build between people who earn differentincomes, this is not the case at City Mortgage.

Jenny’s leadership has been instrumental in shaping the success of City Mortgage. Her philosophy stresseslistening to employees and then determining how each employee can best contribute to the mission of thecompany. She makes a point of helping each person explore her or his own talents, and challenges each one to trynew things.

At the annual holiday party, Jenny devised an interesting event that symbolizes her leadership style. She bought alarge piece of colorful glass and had it cut into 25 pieces and handed out one piece to each person. Then sheasked each employee to come forward with the piece of glass and briefly state what he or she liked about CityMortgage and how he or she had contributed to the company in the past year. After the statements were made,the pieces of glass were formed into a cut glass window that hangs in the front lobby of the office. The glass is areminder of how each individual contributes his or her uniqueness to the overall purpose of the company.

Another characteristic of Jenny’s style is her fairness. She does not want to give anyone the impression that certainpeople have the inside track, and she goes to great lengths to prevent this from happening. For example, sheavoids social lunches because she thinks they foster the perception of favoritism. Similarly, even though her bestfriend is one of the loan originators, she is seldom seen talking with her, and if she is, it is always about businessmatters.

Jenny also applies her fairness principle to how information is shared in the office. She does not want anyone tofeel as if he or she is out of the loop, so she tries very hard to keep her employees informed on all the matters thatcould affect them. Much of this she does through her open-door office policy. Jenny does not have a specialgroup of employees with whom she confides her concerns; rather, she shares openly with each of them.

Jenny is very committed to her work at City Mortgage. She works long hours and carries a beeper on theweekend. At this point in her career, her only concern is that she could be burning out.


Questions1. Based on the LMX model, how would you describe Jenny’s leadership?2. How do you think the employees at City Mortgage respond to Jenny?3. If you were asked to follow in Jenny’s footsteps, do you think you could or would want to manage City

Mortgage with a similar style?


Case 7.3: Taking on Additional ResponsibilitiesJim Madison is manager of a district office for the Social Security Administration. The office serves a communityof 200,000 people and has a staff of 30 employees, most of whom work as claim representatives. The primarywork of the office is to provide the public with information about Social Security benefits and to processretirement, survivor, disability, and Medicare claims.

Jim has been the manager of the office for six years; during that time, he has made many improvements in theoverall operations of the office. People in the community have a favorable view of the office and have fewcomplaints about the services it provides. On the annual survey of community service organizations, the districtoffice receives consistently high marks for overall effectiveness and customer satisfaction.

Almost all of the employees who work for Jim have been employed at the district office for six years or more; oneemployee has been there for 22 years. Although Jim takes pride in knowing all of them personally, he calls on afew of them more frequently than others to help him accomplish his goals.

When it comes to training staff members about new laws affecting claim procedures, Jim relies heavily on twoparticular claim representatives, Shirley and Patti, both of whom are very knowledgeable and competent. Shirleyand Patti view the additional training responsibilities as a challenge. This helps Jim: He does not need to do thejob himself or supervise them closely because they are highly respected people within the office, and they have ahistory of being mature and conscientious about their work. Shirley and Patti like the additional responsibilitybecause it gives them greater recognition and increased benefits from receiving positive job appraisals.

To showcase the office’s services to the community, Jim calls on two other employees, Ted and Jana. Ted andJana serve as field representatives for the office and give presentations to community organizations about thenature of Social Security and how it serves the citizens of the district. In addition, they speak on local radiostations, answering call-in questions about the various complexities of Social Security benefits.

Although many of the claim people in the office could act as field representatives, Jim typically calls on Ted andJana because of their willingness to take on the public relations challenge and because of their special capabilitiesin this area. This is advantageous for Jim for two reasons: First, these people do an outstanding job inrepresenting the office to the public. Second, Jim is a reticent person, and he finds it quite threatening to be inthe public eye. Ted and Jana like to take on this additional role because it gives them added prestige and greaterfreedom. Being a field representative has its perks; because field staff can function as their own bosses when theyare not in the office, they can set their own schedules and come and go as they please.

A third area in which Jim calls on a few representatives for added effort is in helping him supervise the slowerclaim representatives, who seem to be continually behind in writing up the case reports of their clients. Wheneven a few staff members get behind with their work, it affects the entire office operation. To ameliorate thisproblem, Jim calls on Glenda and Annie, who are both highly talented, to help the slower staff complete theircase reports. Although it means taking on more work themselves, Glenda and Annie do it to be kind and to helpthe office run more smoothly. Other than personal satisfaction, no additional benefits accrue to them for takingon the additional responsibilities.

Overall, the people who work under Jim’s leadership are satisfied with his supervision. There are some who feelthat he caters too much to a few special representatives, but most of the staff think Jim is fair and impartial. Eventhough he depends more on a few, Jim tries very hard to attend to the wants and needs of his entire staff.


Questions1. From an LMX theory point of view, how would you describe Jim’s relationships with his employees at

the district Social Security office?2. Can you identify an in-group and an out-group?3. Do you think Jim’s placement of trust and respect in some of his staff is productive or counterproductive?

Why?4. As suggested in the chapter, leadership making recommends that the leader build high-quality

relationships with all of the followers. How would you evaluate Jim’s leadership in regards to leadershipmaking? Discuss.

Leadership Instrument

Researchers have used many different questionnaires to study LMX theory. All of them have been designedto measure the quality of the working relationship between leaders and followers. We have chosen toinclude the LMX 7 in this chapter, a seven-item questionnaire that provides a reliable and valid measure ofthe quality of leader–member exchanges (Graen & Uhl-Bien, 1995).

The LMX 7 is designed to measure three dimensions of leader–member relationships: respect, trust, andobligation. It assesses the degree to which leaders and followers have mutual respect for each other’scapabilities, feel a deepening sense of reciprocal trust, and have a strong sense of obligation to one another.Taken together, these dimensions are the ingredients of strong partnerships.


LMX 7 QuestionnaireInstructions: This questionnaire contains items that ask you to describe your relationship with either yourleader or one of your followers. For each of the items, indicate the degree to which you think the item istrue for you by circling one of the responses that appear below the item.

1. Do you know where you stand with your leader (follower) . . . [and] do you usually know howsatisfied your leader (follower) is with what you do?

Rarely Occasionally Sometimes Fairly often Very often1     2    3     4     5

2. How well does your leader (follower) understand your job problems and needs?Not a bit A little A fair amount Quite a bit A great deal1     2    3     4     5

3. How well does your leader (follower) recognize your potential?Not at all A little Moderately Mostly Fully1    2    3    4    5

4. Regardless of how much formal authority your leader (follower) has built into his or her position,what are the chances that your leader (follower) would use his or her power to help you solveproblems in your work?

None Small Moderate High Very high 1   2    3   4   5

5. Again, regardless of the amount of formal authority your leader (follower) has, what are the chancesthat he or she would “bail you out” at his or her expense?

None Small Moderate High Very high 1   2    3   4   5

6. I have enough confidence in my leader (follower) that I would defend and justify his or her decisionif he or she were not present to do so.

Strongly disagree Disagree Neutral Agree Strongly agree 1       2    3    4     5

7. How would you characterize your working relationship with your leader (follower)?Extremely ineffective Worse than average Average Better than average Extremelyeffective   1       2        3     4        5

By completing the LMX 7, you can gain a fuller understanding of how LMX theory works. The score youobtain on the questionnaire reflects the quality of your leader–member relationships, and indicates thedegree to which your relationships are characteristic of partnerships, as described in the LMX model.

You can complete the questionnaire both as a leader and as a follower. In the leader role, you wouldcomplete the questionnaire multiple times, assessing the quality of the relationships you have with each ofyour followers. In the follower role, you would complete the questionnaire based on the leaders to whomyou report.


Scoring InterpretationAlthough the LMX 7 is most commonly used by researchers to explore theoretical questions, you can alsouse it to analyze your own leadership style. You can interpret your LMX 7 scores using the followingguidelines: very high = 30–35, high = 25–29, moderate = 20–24, low = 15–19, and very low = 7–14. Scoresin the upper ranges indicate stronger, higher-quality leader–member exchanges (e.g., in-group members),whereas scores in the lower ranges indicate exchanges of lesser quality (e.g., out-group members).

Source: Reprinted from The Leadership Quarterly, 6(2), G. B. Graen and M. Uhl-Bien, “Relationship-BasedApproach to Leadership: Development of Leader–Member Exchange (LMX) Theory of Leadership Over 25Years: Applying a Multi- Level, Multi-Domain Perspective,” pp. 219–247. Copyright (1995) withpermission from Elsevier.



Since it first appeared more than 30 years ago under the title “vertical dyad linkage (VDL)theory,” leader–member exchange theory has been and continues to be a much-studiedapproach to leadership. LMX theory addresses leadership as a process centered on theinteractions between leaders and followers. It makes the leader–member relationship thepivotal concept in the leadership process.

In the early studies of LMX theory, a leader’s relationship to the overall work unit wasviewed as a series of vertical dyads, categorized as being of two different types: Leader–member dyads based on expanded role relationships were called the leader’s in-group, andthose based on formal job descriptions were called the leader’s out-group. According toLMX theory, followers become in-group members based on how well they get along withthe leader and whether they are willing to expand their role responsibilities. Followers whomaintain only formal hierarchical relationships with their leader are out-group members.Whereas in-group members receive extra influence, opportunities, and rewards, out-groupmembers receive standard job benefits.

Subsequent studies of LMX theory were directed toward how leader–member exchangesaffect organizational performance. Researchers found that high-quality exchanges betweenleaders and followers produced multiple positive outcomes (e.g., less employee turnover,greater organizational commitment, and more promotions). In general, researchersdetermined that good leader–member exchanges result in followers feeling better,accomplishing more, and helping the organization prosper.

A select body of LMX research focuses on leadership making, which emphasizes that leadersshould try to develop high-quality exchanges with all of their followers. Leadership makingdevelops over time and includes a stranger phase, an acquaintance phase, and a maturepartnership phase. By taking on and fulfilling new role responsibilities, followers movethrough these three phases to develop mature partnerships with their leaders. Thesepartnerships, which are marked by a high degree of mutual trust, respect, and obligation,have positive payoffs for the individuals themselves, and help the organization run moreeffectively.

There are several positive features to LMX theory. First, LMX theory is a strong descriptiveapproach that explains how leaders use some followers (in-group members) more thanothers (out-group members) to accomplish organizational goals effectively. Second, LMXtheory is unique in that, unlike other approaches, it makes the leader–member relationshipthe focal point of the leadership process. Related to this focus, LMX theory is noteworthybecause it directs our attention to the importance of effective communication in leader–member relationships. In addition, it reminds us to be evenhanded in how we relate to ourfollowers. Last, LMX theory is supported by a multitude of studies that link high-quality


leader–member exchanges to positive organizational outcomes.

There are also negative features in LMX theory. First, the early formulation of LMX theory(VDL theory) runs counter to our principles of fairness and justice in the workplace bysuggesting that some members of the work unit receive special attention and others do not.The perceived inequalities created by the use of in-groups can have a devastating impact onthe feelings, attitudes, and behavior of out-group members. Second, LMX theoryemphasizes the importance of leader–member exchanges but fails to explain the intricaciesof how one goes about creating high-quality exchanges. Although the model promotesbuilding trust, respect, and commitment in relationships, it does not fully explicate howthis takes place. Third, researchers have not adequately explained the contextual factors thatinfluence LMX relationships. Finally, there are questions about whether the measurementprocedures used in LMX research are adequate to fully capture the complexities of theleader–member exchange process.

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8 Transformational Leadership



One of the current and most popular approaches to leadership that has been the focus ofmuch research since the early 1980s is the transformational approach. Transformationalleadership is part of the “New Leadership” paradigm (Bryman, 1992), which gives moreattention to the charismatic and affective elements of leadership. In a content analysis ofarticles published in The Leadership Quarterly, Lowe and Gardner (2001) found that onethird of the research was about transformational or charismatic leadership. Similarly,Antonakis (2012) found that the number of papers and citations in the field has grown atan increasing rate, not only in traditional areas like management and social psychology, butin other disciplines such as nursing, education, and industrial engineering. Bass and Riggio(2006) suggested that transformational leadership’s popularity might be due to its emphasison intrinsic motivation and follower development, which fits the needs of today’s workgroups, who want to be inspired and empowered to succeed in times of uncertainty.Clearly, many scholars are studying transformational leadership, and it occupies a centralplace in leadership research. However, others (i.e., Andersen, 2015; Anderson, Baur,Griffith, & Buckley, 2017) have suggested that the interest in transformational leadershipmay be exaggerated and that this approach to leading may be less significant as millennialscontinue to flood into the workplace.

As its name implies, transformational leadership is a process that changes and transformspeople. It is concerned with emotions, values, ethics, standards, and long-term goals. Itincludes assessing followers’ motives, satisfying their needs, and treating them as full humanbeings. Transformational leadership involves an exceptional form of influence that movesfollowers to accomplish more than what is usually expected of them. It is a process thatoften incorporates charismatic and visionary leadership.

An encompassing approach, transformational leadership can be used to describe a widerange of leadership, from very specific attempts to influence followers on a one-to-one level,to very broad attempts to influence whole organizations and even entire cultures. Althoughthe transformational leader plays a pivotal role in precipitating change, followers andleaders are inextricably bound together in the transformation process. In fact,transformational leadership focuses so heavily on the relationship between leader andfollower that some (Andersen, 2015) have suggested that this bias may limit explanationsfor transformational leadership on organizational effectiveness.


Transformational Leadership Defined

The emergence of transformational leadership as an important approach to leadership beganwith a classic work by political sociologist James MacGregor Burns titled Leadership (1978).In his work, Burns attempted to link the roles of leadership and followership. He wrote ofleaders as people who tap the motives of followers in order to better reach the goals ofleaders and followers (p. 18). For Burns, leadership is quite different from power because itis inseparable from followers’ needs.

Transformational vs. Transactional Leadership.

Burns distinguished between two types of leadership: transactional and transformational.Transactional leadership refers to the bulk of leadership models, which focus on theexchanges that occur between leaders and their followers. Politicians who win votes bypromising “no new taxes” are demonstrating transactional leadership. Similarly, managerswho offer promotions to employees who surpass their goals are exhibiting transactionalleadership. In the classroom, teachers are being transactional when they give students agrade for work completed. The exchange dimension of transactional leadership is verycommon and can be observed at many levels throughout all types of organizations. Whileexchanges or transactions between leader and member are a natural component ofemployment contracts, research suggests that employees do not necessarily perceivetransactional leaders as those most capable of creating trusting, mutually beneficial leader–member relationships (Notgrass, 2014). Instead, employees prefer managers to performtransformational leadership behaviors such as encouraging creativity, recognizingaccomplishments, building trust, and inspiring a collective vision (Notgrass, 2014).

In contrast to transactional leadership, transformational leadership is the process whereby aperson engages with others and creates a connection that raises the level of motivation andmorality in both the leader and the follower. This type of leader is attentive to the needsand motives of followers and tries to help followers reach their fullest potential. Burnspoints to Mohandas Gandhi as a classic example of transformational leadership. Gandhiraised the hopes and demands of millions of his people and, in the process, was changedhimself.

Another good example of transformational leadership can be observed in the life of RyanWhite. This teenager raised the American people’s awareness about AIDS and in theprocess became a spokesperson for increasing government support of AIDS research. In theorganizational world, an example of transformational leadership would be a manager whoattempts to change his or her company’s corporate values to reflect a more humanestandard of fairness and justice. In the process, both the manager and the followers mayemerge with a stronger and higher set of moral values. In fact, Mason, Griffin, and Parker


(2014) demonstrated that through transformational leadership training, leaders were able toenhance their self-efficacy, positive affect, and ability to consider multiple perspectives.Their findings suggest that transformational leadership can result in positive psychologicalgains for both leader and follower.

Pseudotransformational Leadership.

Because the conceptualization of transformational leadership set forth by Burns (1978)includes raising the level of morality in others, it is difficult to use this term whendescribing a leader such as Adolf Hitler, who was transforming but in a negative way. Todeal with this problem, Bass (1998) coined the term pseudotransformational leadership. Thisterm refers to leaders who are self-consumed, exploitive, and power oriented, with warpedmoral values (Bass & Riggio, 2006). Pseudotransformational leadership is consideredpersonalized leadership, which focuses on the leader’s own interests rather than on theinterests of others (Bass & Steidlmeier, 1999). Authentic transformational leadership issocialized leadership, which is concerned with the collective good. Socializedtransformational leaders transcend their own interests for the sake of others (Howell &Avolio, 1993).

In a series of four experimental studies, Christie, Barling, and Turner (2011) set forth apreliminary model of pseudotransformational leadership that reflected four components oftransformational leadership discussed later in this chapter: idealized influence, inspirationalmotivation, intellectual stimulation, and individualized consideration. This model helps toclarify the meaning of pseudotransformational leadership. It suggests thatpseudotransformational leadership is inspired leadership that is self-serving, is unwilling toencourage independent thought in followers, and exhibits little general caring for others. Apseudotransformational leader has strong inspirational talent and appeal but ismanipulative and dominates and directs followers toward his or her own values. It isleadership that is threatening to the welfare of followers because it ignores the commongood.

To sort out the complexities related to the “moral uplifting” component of authentictransformational leadership, Zhu, Avolio, Riggio, and Sosik (2011) proposed a theoreticalmodel examining how authentic transformational leadership influences the ethics ofindividual followers and groups. The authors hypothesize that authentic transformationalleadership positively affects followers’ moral identities and moral emotions (e.g., empathyand guilt) and this, in turn, leads to moral decision making and moral action by thefollowers. Furthermore, the authors theorize that authentic transformational leadership ispositively associated with group ethical climate, decision making, and moral action. In thefuture, research is needed to test the validity of the assumptions laid out in this model.


Transformational Leadership and Charisma

At about the same time Burns’s book was published, House (1976) published a theory ofcharismatic leadership. Since its publication, charismatic leadership has received a great dealof attention by researchers (e.g., Conger, 1999; Hunt & Conger, 1999). It is oftendescribed in ways that make it similar to, if not synonymous with, transformationalleadership.

The word charisma was first used to describe a special gift that certain individuals possessthat gives them the capacity to do extraordinary things. Weber (1947) provided the mostwell-known definition of charisma as a special personality characteristic that gives a personsuperhuman or exceptional powers and is reserved for a few, is of divine origin, and resultsin the person being treated as a leader. Despite Weber’s emphasis on charisma as apersonality characteristic, he also recognized the important role played by followers invalidating charisma in these leaders (Bryman, 1992; House, 1976).

In his theory of charismatic leadership, House suggested that charismatic leaders act inunique ways that have specific charismatic effects on their followers (Table 8.1). For House,the personality characteristics of a charismatic leader include being dominant, having astrong desire to influence others, being self-confident, and having a strong sense of one’sown moral values.

In addition to displaying certain personality characteristics, charismatic leaders demonstratespecific types of behaviors. First, they are strong role models for the beliefs and values theywant their followers to adopt. For example, Gandhi advocated nonviolence and was anexemplary role model of civil disobedience. Second, charismatic leaders appear competentto followers. Third, they articulate ideological goals that have moral overtones. MartinLuther King Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech is an example of this type of charismaticbehavior.

Fourth, charismatic leaders communicate high expectations for followers, and they exhibitconfidence in followers’ abilities to meet these expectations. The impact of this behavior isto increase followers’ sense of competence and self-efficacy (Avolio & Gibbons, 1988),which in turn improves their performance.

Table 8.1 Personality Characteristics, Behaviors, and Effects on Followers ofCharismatic Leadership


Behaviors Effects on Followers

Sets strong role model


Sets strong role model

Desire to influence Shows competenceBelief similarity between leaderand follower

Self-confident Articulates goals Unquestioning acceptance

Strong moral valuesCommunicates highexpectations

Affection toward leader

Expresses confidence Obedience

Arouses motives Identification with leader

Emotional involvement

Heightened goals

Increased confidence

Fifth, charismatic leaders arouse task-relevant motives in followers that may includeaffiliation, power, or esteem. For example, former U.S. president John F. Kennedyappealed to the human values of the American people when he stated, “Ask not what yourcountry can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” Within the organizationalcontext, charismatic CEOs may motivate members of their organization by modeling andfostering a transformational leadership climate (Boehm, Dwertmann, Bruch, & Shamir,2015), which may result in increases in employee identification with their organization andin overall organizational performance.

According to House’s charismatic theory, several effects are the direct result of charismaticleadership. They include follower trust in the leader’s ideology, similarity between thefollowers’ beliefs and the leader’s beliefs, unquestioning acceptance of the leader, expressionof affection toward the leader, follower obedience, identification with the leader, emotionalinvolvement in the leader’s goals, heightened goals for followers, and increased followerconfidence in goal achievement. Consistent with Weber, House contends that thesecharismatic effects are more likely to occur in contexts in which followers feel distressbecause in stressful situations followers look to leaders to deliver them from theirdifficulties.

House’s charismatic theory has been extended and revised through the years (see Conger,1999; Conger & Kanungo, 1998). One major revision to the theory was made by Shamir,House, and Arthur (1993). They postulated that charismatic leadership transforms


followers’ self-concepts and tries to link the identity of followers to the collective identity ofthe organization. Charismatic leaders forge this link by emphasizing the intrinsic rewards ofwork and de-emphasizing the extrinsic rewards. The hope is that followers will view workas an expression of themselves. Throughout the process, leaders express high expectationsfor followers and help them gain a sense of confidence and self-efficacy.

In summary, charismatic leadership works because it ties followers and their self-conceptsto the organizational identity.


A Model of Transformational Leadership

In the mid-1980s, Bass (1985) provided a more expanded and refined version oftransformational leadership that was based on, but not fully consistent with, the priorworks of Burns (1978) and House (1976). In his approach, Bass extended Burns’s work bygiving more attention to followers’ rather than leaders’ needs, by suggesting thattransformational leadership could apply to situations in which the outcomes were notpositive, and by describing transactional and transformational leadership as a singlecontinuum (Figure 8.1) rather than mutually independent continua (Yammarino, 1993).Bass extended House’s work by giving more attention to the emotional elements andorigins of charisma and by suggesting that charisma is a necessary but not sufficientcondition for transformational leadership (Yammarino, 1993).

Figure 8.1 Leadership Continuum From Transformational to Laissez-FaireLeadership

Bass (1985, p. 20) argued that transformational leadership motivates followers to do morethan expected by (a) raising followers’ levels of consciousness about the importance andvalue of specified and idealized goals, (b) getting followers to transcend their own self-interest for the sake of the team or organization, and (c) moving followers to addresshigher-level needs. An elaboration of the dynamics of the transformation process isprovided in his model of transformational and transactional leadership (Bass, 1985, 1990;Bass & Avolio, 1993, 1994). Additional clarification of the model is provided by Avolio inhis book Full Leadership Development: Building the Vital Forces in Organizations (1999).

Table 8.2 Leadership Factors


Transactional Leadership Laissez-Faire Leadership

Factor 1

Idealized influence


Factor 5

Contingent reward

Constructive transactions

Factor 7



Factor 2

Factor 6

Management by


Factor 2

Inspirational motivation


Active and passive

Corrective transactions

Factor 3

Intellectual stimulation

Factor 4

Individualized consideration

As can be seen in Table 8.2, the model of transformational and transactional leadershipincorporates seven different factors. These factors are also illustrated in the Full Range ofLeadership model, which is provided in Figure 8.2 on page 170. A discussion of each ofthese seven factors will help to clarify Bass’s model. This discussion will be divided intothree parts: transformational factors (4), transactional factors (2), and the nonleadership,nontransactional factor (1).

Transformational Leadership Factors

Transformational leadership is concerned with improving the performance of followers anddeveloping followers to their fullest potential (Avolio, 1999; Bass & Avolio, 1990a). Peoplewho exhibit transformational leadership often have a strong set of internal values and ideals,and they are effective at motivating followers to act in ways that support the greater goodrather than their own self-interests (Kuhnert, 1994). Individuals’ intentions to lead in atransformational manner appear related to effective transformational leadership behaviors(Gilbert, Horsman, & Kelloway, 2016).

Idealized Influence.

Factor 1 is called charisma or idealized influence. It is the emotional component ofleadership (Antonakis, 2012). Idealized influence describes leaders who act as strong rolemodels for followers; followers identify with these leaders and want very much to emulatethem. These leaders usually have very high standards of moral and ethical conduct and canbe counted on to do the right thing. They are deeply respected by followers, who usuallyplace a great deal of trust in them. They provide followers with a vision and a sense ofmission.

Figure 8.2 Full Range of Leadership Model


Source: From Improving Organizational Effectiveness Through TransformationalLeadership, by B. M. Bass and B. J. Avolio, 1993, Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.Copyright 1994 by SAGE Publications, Inc. Reprinted with permission.

The idealized influence factor is measured on two components: an attributional componentthat refers to the attributions of leaders made by followers based on perceptions they haveof their leaders, and a behavioral component that refers to followers’ observations of leaderbehavior.

In essence, the charisma factor describes people who are special and who make others want


to follow the vision they put forward. A person whose leadership exemplifies the charismafactor is Nelson Mandela, the first non-White president of South Africa. Mandela is viewedas a leader with high moral standards and a vision for South Africa that resulted inmonumental change in how the people of South Africa would be governed. His charismaticqualities and the people’s response to them transformed an entire nation.

Inspirational Motivation.

Factor 2 is called inspiration or inspirational motivation. This factor is descriptive of leaderswho communicate high expectations to followers, inspiring them through motivation tobecome committed to and a part of the shared vision in the organization. In practice,leaders use symbols and emotional appeals to focus group members’ efforts to achieve morethan they would in their own self-interest. Team spirit is enhanced by this type ofleadership. An example of this factor would be a sales manager who motivates members ofthe sales force to excel in their work through encouraging words and pep talks that clearlycommunicate the integral role they play in the future growth of the company.

Intellectual Stimulation.

Factor 3 is intellectual stimulation. It includes leadership that stimulates followers to becreative and innovative and to challenge their own beliefs and values as well as those of theleader and the organization.

This type of leadership supports followers as they try new approaches and developinnovative ways of dealing with organizational issues. It encourages followers to thinkthings out on their own and engage in careful problem solving. An example of this type ofleadership is a plant manager who promotes workers’ individual efforts to develop uniqueways to solve problems that have caused slowdowns in production.

Individualized Consideration.

Factor 4 of transformational leadership is called individualized consideration. This factor isrepresentative of leaders who provide a supportive climate in which they listen carefully tothe individual needs of followers. Leaders act as coaches and advisers while trying to assistfollowers in becoming fully actualized. These leaders may use delegation to help followersgrow through personal challenges. An example of this type of leadership is a manager whospends time treating each employee in a caring and unique way. To some employees, theleader may give strong affiliation; to others, the leader may give specific directives with ahigh degree of structure.

In essence, transformational leadership produces greater effects than transactionalleadership (Figure 8.3). Whereas transactional leadership results in expected outcomes,transformational leadership results in performance that goes well beyond what is expected.


In a meta-analysis of 39 studies in the transformational literature, for example, Lowe,Kroeck, and Sivasubramaniam (1996) found that people who exhibited transformationalleadership were perceived to be more effective leaders with better work outcomes than thosewho exhibited only transactional leadership. These findings were true for higher- andlower-level leaders, and for leaders in both public and private settings.

Figure 8.3 The Additive Effect of Transformational Leadership

Source: Adapted from “The Implications of Transactional and TransformationalLeadership for Individual, Team, and Organizational Development,” by B. M. Bassand B. J. Avolio, 1990a, Research in Organizational Change and Development, 4, pp.231–272.

Transformational leadership has an additive effect; it moves followers to accomplish morethan what is usually expected of them. They become motivated to transcend their own self-interests for the good of the group or organization (Bass & Avolio, 1990a). In fact,transformational leaders are most likely to have a positive impact on followers whenfollowers identify with or find meaning in their work (Mohammed, Fernando, & Caputi,2013).

In a study of 220 employees at a large public transport company in Germany, Rowold andHeinitz (2007) found that transformational leadership augmented the impact oftransactional leadership on employees’ performance and company profit. In addition, theyfound that transformational leadership and charismatic leadership were overlapping butunique constructs, and that both were different from transactional leadership.

Similarly, Nemanich and Keller (2007) examined the impact of transformational leadershipon 447 employees from a large multinational firm who were going through a merger andbeing integrated into a new organization. They found that transformational leadership


behaviors such as idealized influence, inspirational motivation, individualizedconsideration, and intellectual stimulation were positively related to acquisition acceptance,job satisfaction, and performance.

Tims, Bakker, and Xanthopoulou (2011) examined the relationship betweentransformational leadership and work engagement in 42 employees and their supervisors intwo different organizations in the Netherlands. Findings revealed that employees becamemore engaged in their work (i.e., vigor, dedication, and absorption) when their supervisorswere able to boost employees’ optimism through a transformational leadership style. Thesefindings underscore the important role played by personal characteristics (i.e., optimism) inthe transformational leadership-performance process. Similarly, Hamstra, Van Yperen,Wisse, and Sassenberg (2014) found that transformational leaders were more likely thantransactional leaders to promote achievement of followers’ mastery goals. This suggests thattransformational leaders may be especially effective in environments where followers needto focus on learning, development, and mastering job-related tasks rather than a morecompetitive or performance-based work context. Transformational leaders can propelfollowers to even greater levels of success when they have a high-quality relationship basedon trust, loyalty, and mutual respect (Notgrass, 2014).

Transactional Leadership Factors

Transactional leadership differs from transformational leadership in that the transactionalleader does not individualize the needs of followers or focus on their personal development.Transactional leaders exchange things of value with followers to advance their own andtheir followers’ agendas (Kuhnert, 1994). Transactional leaders are influential because it isin the best interest of followers for them to do what the leader wants (Kuhnert & Lewis,1987).

Contingent Reward.

Factor 5, contingent reward, is the first of two transactional leadership factors (Figure 8.3).It is an exchange process between leaders and followers in which effort by followers isexchanged for specified rewards. With this kind of leadership, the leader tries to obtainagreement from followers on what must be done and what the payoffs will be for the peopledoing it. An example of this type of constructive transaction is a parent who negotiates with achild about how much time the child can spend playing video games after doing homeworkassignments. Another example often occurs in the academic setting: A dean negotiates witha college professor about the number and quality of publications he or she needs to havewritten in order to receive tenure and promotion. Notgrass (2014) found that contingentrewards, or the leader’s use of clarifying or supporting achievement behaviors, are mosteffective when followers feel that they have a high-quality relationship with their leader.


Management by Exception.

Factor 6 is called management by exception. It is leadership that involves corrective criticism,negative feedback, and negative reinforcement. Management by exception takes two forms:active and passive. A leader using the active form of management-by-exception watchesfollowers closely for mistakes or rule violations and then takes corrective action. An exampleof active management by exception can be illustrated in the leadership of a sales supervisorwho daily monitors how employees approach customers. She quickly corrects salespeoplewho are slow to approach customers in the prescribed manner. A leader using the passiveform intervenes only after standards have not been met or problems have arisen. Anexample of passive management by exception is illustrated in the leadership of a supervisorwho gives an employee a poor performance evaluation without ever talking with theemployee about her or his prior work performance. In essence, both the active and passivemanagement types use more negative reinforcement patterns than the positivereinforcement pattern described in Factor 5 under contingent reward.

Nonleadership Factor

In the model, the nonleadership factor diverges farther from transactional leadership andrepresents behaviors that are nontransactional.


Factor 7 describes leadership that falls at the far right side of the transactional–transformational leadership continuum (Figure 8.1). This factor represents the absence ofleadership. As the French phrase implies, the laissez-faire leader takes a “hands-off, let-things-ride” (nontransactional) approach. This leader abdicates responsibility, delaysdecisions, gives no feedback, and makes little effort to help followers satisfy their needs.There is no exchange with followers or attempt to help them grow. An example of a laissez-faire leader is the president of a small manufacturing firm who calls no meetings with plantsupervisors, has no long-range plan for the firm, acts detached, and makes little contactwith employees. While laissez-faire leadership has traditionally been viewed negatively,recent research (Yang, 2015) argues that laissez-faire leadership may not be the absence ofleadership, but instead may be a strategic behavioral choice by the leader to acknowledgeand defer to followers’ abilities, decrease their dependency, and increase their self-determination, self-competence, and autonomy. In this case, the leader would bestrategically performing laissez-faire leadership by empowering followers to lead.

Interestingly, research does indicate that leaders may be most effective when they combinetransformational leadership behaviors with elements of laissez-faire and transactionalleadership (Antonakis & House, 2014). This reiterates what most of the leadership theoriesin this book suggest: All approaches to leadership have strengths and weaknesses, and


because leading effectively means consistently surveying follower, task, and environmentalneeds and pressures, oftentimes the best approach is a combination of leadershipapproaches.


Other Transformational Perspectives

In addition to Bass’s (1985, 1990; Bass & Avolio, 1994) work, two other lines of researchhave contributed in unique ways to our understanding of the nature of transformationalleadership. They are the research of Bennis and Nanus (1985) and the work of Kouzes andPosner (2002, 2017). These scholars used similar research methods. They identified anumber of middle- or senior-level leaders and conducted interviews with them, using open-ended, semistructured questionnaires. From this information, they constructed theirmodels of leadership.

Bennis and Nanus

Bennis and Nanus (2007) asked 90 leaders basic questions such as “What are your strengthsand weaknesses?” “What past events most influenced your leadership approach?” and“What were the critical points in your career?” From the answers leaders provided to thesequestions, Bennis and Nanus identified four common strategies used by leaders intransforming organizations.

First, transforming leaders had a clear vision of the future state of their organizations. It wasan image of an attractive, realistic, and believable future (Bennis & Nanus, 2007, p. 89).The vision usually was simple, understandable, beneficial, and energy creating. Thecompelling nature of the vision touched the experiences of followers and pulled them intosupporting the organization. When an organization has a clear vision, it is easier for peoplewithin the organization to learn how they fit in with the overall direction of theorganization and even the society in general. It empowers them because they feel they are asignificant dimension of a worthwhile enterprise (pp. 90–91). Bennis and Nanus foundthat, to be successful, the vision had to grow out of the needs of the entire organization andto be claimed by those within it. Although leaders play a large role in articulating thevision, the emergence of the vision originates from both the leaders and the followers.

Second, transforming leaders were social architects for their organizations. This means theycreated a shape or form for the shared meanings people maintained within theirorganizations. These leaders communicated a direction that transformed theirorganization’s values and norms. In many cases, these leaders were able to mobilize peopleto accept a new group identity or a new philosophy for their organizations.

Third, transforming leaders created trust in their organizations by making their ownpositions clearly known and then standing by them. Trust has to do with being predictableor reliable, even in situations that are uncertain. For organizations, leaders built trust byarticulating a direction and then consistently implementing the direction even though thevision may have involved a high degree of uncertainty. Bennis and Nanus (2007) found


that when leaders established trust in an organization, it gave the organization a sense ofintegrity analogous to a healthy identity (p. 48).

Fourth, transforming leaders used creative deployment of self through positive self-regard.Leaders knew their strengths and weaknesses, and they emphasized their strengths ratherthan dwelling on their weaknesses. Based on an awareness of their own competence,effective leaders were able to immerse themselves in their tasks and the overarching goals oftheir organizations. They were able to fuse a sense of self with the work at hand. Bennis andNanus also found that positive self-regard in leaders had a reciprocal impact on followers,creating in them feelings of confidence and high expectations. In addition, leaders in thestudy were committed to learning and relearning, so in their organizations there wasconsistent emphasis on education.

Kouzes and Posner

Kouzes and Posner (2002, 2017) developed their model by interviewing leaders aboutleadership. They interviewed more than 1,300 middle- and senior-level managers in privateand public sector organizations and asked them to describe their “personal best” experiencesas leaders. Based on a content analysis of these descriptions, Kouzes and Posner constructeda model of leadership.

The Kouzes and Posner model consists of five fundamental practices that enable leaders toget extraordinary things accomplished: model the way, inspire a shared vision, challenge theprocess, enable others to act, and encourage the heart. For each of the five practices ofexemplary leadership, Kouzes and Posner also have identified two commitments that serveas strategies for practicing exemplary leadership.

Model the Way.

To model the way, leaders need to be clear about their own values and philosophy. Theyneed to find their own voice and express it to others. Exemplary leaders set a personalexample for others by their own behaviors. They also follow through on their promises andcommitments and affirm the common values they share with others.

Inspire a Shared Vision.

Effective leaders create compelling visions that can guide people’s behavior. They are ableto visualize positive outcomes in the future and communicate them to others. Leaders alsolisten to the dreams of others and show them how their dreams can be realized. Throughinspiring visions, leaders challenge others to transcend the status quo to do something forothers.

Challenge the Process.


Challenging the process means being willing to change the status quo and step into theunknown. It includes being willing to innovate, grow, and improve. Exemplary leaders arelike pioneers: They want to experiment and try new things. They are willing to take risks tomake things better. When exemplary leaders take risks, they do it one step at a time,learning from their mistakes as they go.

Enable Others to Act.

Outstanding leaders are effective at working with people. They build trust with others andpromote collaboration. Teamwork and cooperation are highly valued by these leaders. Theylisten closely to diverse points of view and treat others with dignity and respect. They alsoallow others to make choices, and they support the decisions that others make. In short,they create environments where people can feel good about their work and how itcontributes to the greater community.

Interestingly, research indicates that women tend to display transformational leadershipthrough more enabling behaviors whereas men tend to enact more challenging behavior(Brandt & Laiho, 2013).

Encourage the Heart.

Leaders encourage the heart by rewarding others for their accomplishments. It is natural forpeople to want support and recognition. Effective leaders are attentive to this need and arewilling to give praise to workers for jobs well done. They use authentic celebrations andrituals to show appreciation and encouragement to others. The outcome of this kind ofsupport is greater collective identity and community spirit.

Overall, the Kouzes and Posner model emphasizes behaviors and has a prescriptive quality:It recommends what people need to do in order to become effective leaders. The fivepractices and their accompanying commitments provide a unique set of prescriptions forleaders. Kouzes and Posner (2002, p. 13) stressed that the five practices of exemplaryleadership are available to everyone and are not reserved for those with “special” ability.The model is not about personality: It is about practice.

To measure the behaviors described in the model, Kouzes and Posner developed theLeadership Practices Inventory (LPI). The LPI is a 360-degree leadership assessment toolthat consists of 30 questions that assess individual leadership competencies. It has beenwidely used in leadership training and development.


How does the Transformational Leadership Approach Work?

The transformational approach to leadership is a broad-based perspective that encompassesmany facets and dimensions of the leadership process. In general, it describes how leaderscan initiate, develop, and carry out significant changes in organizations. Although notdefinitive, the steps followed by transformational leaders usually take the following form.

Transformational leaders set out to empower followers and nurture them in change. Theyattempt to raise the consciousness in individuals and to get them to transcend their ownself-interests for the sake of others. For example, Jung, Chow, and Wu (2003) studiedupper-level leadership in 32 Taiwanese companies and found that transformationalleadership was directly related to organizational innovation. Transformational leadershipcreated a culture in which employees felt empowered and encouraged to freely discuss andtry new things.

To create change, transformational leaders become strong role models for their followers.They have a highly developed set of moral values and a self-determined sense of identity(Avolio & Gibbons, 1988). They are confident, competent, and articulate, and they expressstrong ideals.

They listen to followers and are not intolerant of opposing viewpoints. A spirit ofcooperation often develops between these leaders and their followers. Followers want toemulate transformational leaders because they learn to trust them and believe in the ideasfor which they stand.

It is common for transformational leaders to create a vision. The vision emerges from thecollective interests of various individuals and units in an organization. The vision is a focalpoint for transformational leadership. It gives the leader and the organization a conceptualmap for where the organization is headed; it gives meaning and clarifies the organization’sidentity. Furthermore, the vision gives followers a sense of identity within the organizationand also a sense of self-efficacy (Shamir et al., 1993).

The transformational approach also requires that leaders become social architects. Thismeans that they make clear the emerging values and norms of the organization. Theyinvolve themselves in the culture of the organization and help shape its meaning. Peopleneed to know their roles and understand how they contribute to the greater purposes of theorganization. Transformational leaders are out front in interpreting and shaping fororganizations the shared meanings that exist within them. As Mason et al. (2014) pointedout, enacting transformational behaviors changes leaders too, not just followers.

Throughout the process, transformational leaders are effective at working with people.They build trust and foster collaboration with others. Transformational leaders encourage


others and celebrate their accomplishments. In the end, transformational leadership resultsin people feeling better about themselves and their contributions to the greater commongood.



In its present stage of development, the transformational approach has several strengths.First, transformational leadership has been widely researched from many differentperspectives, including a series of qualitative studies of prominent leaders and CEOs inlarge, well-known organizations. It has also been the focal point for a large body ofleadership research since its introduction in the 1970s. For example, content analysis of allthe articles published in The Leadership Quarterly from 1990 to 2000 showed that 34% ofthe articles were about transformational or charismatic leadership (Lowe & Gardner, 2001).

Second, transformational leadership has intuitive appeal. The transformational perspectivedescribes how the leader is out front advocating change for others; this concept is consistentwith society’s popular notion of what leadership means. People are attracted totransformational leadership because it makes sense to them. It is appealing that a leader willprovide a vision for the future.

Third, transformational leadership treats leadership as a process that occurs betweenfollowers and leaders. Because this process incorporates both the followers’ and the leader’sneeds, leadership is not the sole responsibility of a leader but rather emerges from theinterplay between leaders and followers. The needs of others are central to thetransformational leader. As a result, followers gain a more prominent position in theleadership process because their attributions are instrumental in the evolvingtransformational process (Bryman, 1992, p. 176).

Fourth, the transformational approach provides a broader view of leadership that augmentsother leadership models. Many leadership models focus primarily on how leaders exchangerewards for achieved goals—the transactional process. The transformational approachprovides an expanded picture of leadership that includes not only the exchange of rewards,but also leaders’ attention to the needs and growth of followers (Avolio, 1999; Bass, 1985).Transformational leadership has also been demonstrated to contribute to the leader’spersonal growth (Notgrass, 2014).

Fifth, transformational leadership places a strong emphasis on followers’ needs, values, andmorals. Burns (1978) suggested that transformational leadership involves attempts byleaders to move people to higher standards of moral responsibility. It includes motivatingfollowers to transcend their own self-interests for the good of the team, organization, orcommunity (Howell & Avolio, 1993; Shamir et al., 1993). Transformational leadership isfundamentally morally uplifting (Avolio, 1999). This emphasis sets the transformationalapproach apart from all other approaches to leadership because it suggests that leadershiphas a moral dimension. Therefore, the coercive uses of power by people such as Hitler, cultleader David Koresh, and Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte can be disregarded asmodels of leadership.


Finally, there is substantial evidence that transformational leadership is an effective form ofleadership (Yukl, 1999). In a critique of transformational and charismatic leadership, Yuklreported that in studies using the Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire (MLQ) to appraiseleaders, transformational leadership was positively related to follower satisfaction,motivation, and performance. Furthermore, in studies that used interviews andobservations, transformational leadership was shown to be effective in a variety of differentsituations.



Transformational leadership has several weaknesses. One criticism is that it lacks conceptualclarity. Because it covers such a wide range of activities and characteristics—includingcreating a vision, motivating, being a change agent, building trust, giving nurturance, andacting as a social architect, to name a few—it is difficult to define exactly the parameters oftransformational leadership. Specifically, research by Tracey and Hinkin (1998) has shownsubstantial overlap between each of the Four Is (idealized influence, inspirationalmotivation, intellectual stimulation, and individualized consideration), suggesting that thedimensions are not clearly delimited. Furthermore, the parameters of transformationalleadership often overlap with similar conceptualizations of leadership. Bryman (1992), forexample, pointed out that transformational and charismatic leadership often are treatedsynonymously, even though in some models of leadership (e.g., Bass, 1985) charisma isonly one component of transformational leadership. Others have questioned whether thefour dimensions of transformational leadership (i.e., the Four Is) are the reasons fortransformational leadership or if they are simply descriptions of transformational leadership(e.g., Andersen, 2015; Tourish, 2013). At present researchers are not sure if thesedimensions predict transformational leadership or just help to explain the presence oftransformational leadership.

In addition, Andersen (2015) suggested that transformational leadership was created to beused within social and political contexts—not in corporations. However, many researchershave been using the theory to explore managerial rather than political leadership.

Another criticism revolves around how transformational leadership is measured.Researchers typically have used some version of the MLQ to measure transformationalleadership. However, some studies have challenged the validity of the MLQ. In someversions of the MLQ, the four factors of transformational leadership (the Four Is) correlatehighly with each other, which means they are not distinct factors (Tejeda, Scandura, &Pillai, 2001). In addition, some of the transformational factors correlate with thetransactional and laissez-faire factors, which means they may not be unique to thetransformational model (Tejeda et al., 2001). It has also been suggested thattransformational leadership could be better measured and understood through a narrativeperspective (Andersen, 2015; Tengblad, 2012).

A third criticism is that transformational leadership treats leadership as a personality trait orpersonal predisposition rather than a behavior that people can learn (Bryman, 1992, pp.100–102). If it is a trait, training people in this approach becomes more problematicbecause it is difficult to teach people how to change their traits. Even though manyscholars, including Weber, House, and Bass, emphasized that transformational leadership isconcerned with leader behaviors, such as how leaders involve themselves with followers,


there is an inclination to see this approach from a trait perspective. Perhaps this problem isexacerbated because the word transformational creates images of one person being the mostactive component in the leadership process. For example, even though “creating a vision”involves follower input, there is a tendency to see transformational leaders as visionaries.There is also a tendency to see transformational leaders as people who have special qualitiesthat transform others. These images accentuate a trait characterization of transformationalleadership.

Fourth, researchers have not established that transformational leaders are actually able totransform individuals and organizations (Antonakis, 2012). There is evidence that indicatesthat transformational leadership is associated with positive outcomes, such as organizationaleffectiveness; however, studies have not yet clearly established a causal link betweentransformational leaders and changes in followers or organizations. However, there may bea glimmer of hope in this regard as Arthur and Hardy (2014) were able to use anexperimental design to evaluate the effectiveness of a transformational leadershipintervention in remediating poor performance in an organization. This provides initialevidence that transformational leadership behaviors may result in some expected positivechanges.

A fifth criticism some have made is that transformational leadership is elitist andantidemocratic (Avolio, 1999; Bass & Avolio, 1993). Transformational leaders often play adirect role in creating changes, establishing a vision, and advocating new directions. Thisgives the strong impression that the leader is acting independently of followers or puttinghimself or herself above the followers’ needs. Although this criticism of elitism has beenrefuted by Bass and Avolio (1993) and Avolio (1999), who contended thattransformational leaders can be directive and participative as well as democratic andauthoritarian, the substance of the criticism raises valid questions about transformationalleadership.

Related to this criticism, some have argued that transformational leadership suffers from a“heroic leadership” bias (Yukl, 1999). Transformational leadership stresses that it is theleader who moves followers to do exceptional things. By focusing primarily on the leader,researchers have failed to give attention to shared leadership or reciprocal influence.Followers can influence leaders just as leaders can influence followers. More attentionshould be directed toward how leaders can encourage followers to challenge the leader’svision and share in the leadership process.

Another criticism of transformational leadership is that it has the potential to be abused.Transformational leadership is concerned with changing people’s values and moving themto a new vision. But who is to determine whether the new directions are good and moreaffirming? Who decides that a new vision is a better vision? If the values to which the leaderis moving his or her followers are not better, and if the set of human values is not moreredeeming, then the leadership must be challenged. However, the dynamics of how


followers challenge leaders or respond to their visions are not fully understood. There is aneed to understand how transformational leaders affect followers psychologically and howleaders respond to followers’ reactions. In fact, Burns (1978) argued that understanding thisarea (i.e., charisma and follower worship) is one of the central problems in leadershipstudies today (Bailey & Axelrod, 2001). The charismatic nature of transformationalleadership presents significant risks for organizations because it can be used for destructivepurposes (Conger, 1999; Howell & Avolio, 1993).

History is full of examples of charismatic individuals who used coercive power to leadpeople to evil ends. For this reason, transformational leadership puts a burden onindividuals and organizations to be aware of how they are being influenced and in whatdirections they are being asked to go. Christie et al. (2011) warn that astute followers needto be vigilant and pay careful attention to the vision of their leader, whether the vision iscollective or self-focused, whether the leader is tolerant or intolerant of opposingviewpoints, and whether or not the leader is caring of followers. The potential for abuse oftransformational leadership is mitigated when followers are aware and engaged in how theyare being led.

A final potential weakness of transformational leadership is the fact that it may not be wellreceived by millennials (Anderson et al., 2017). As millennials continue to replace babyboomers, organizations are recognizing that they are having to modify previous ways ofdoing things to meet millennials’ needs. Transformational leadership is one such example.Drawing from the individualistic orientation of many millennials, Anderson and colleaguespredict that transformational leaders may be less effective because this cohort may be lesswilling to collaborate with others to achieve common goals. Relatedly, today’stransformational leaders communicate in a way to encourage followers to prioritizeorganizational and task needs and goals over individual interests (Anderson et al., 2017).However, it is predicted that this will be met with resistance as millennials have expressed agreater desire for work–life balance and want to “work to live” rather than “live to work”(Ng, Schweitzer, & Lyons, 2010). Finally, it has been suggested that because millennialsexpect frequent promotions and value extrinsic rewards, two of the fundamentalcomponents of transformational leadership—idealized influence and inspirationalmotivation—may be ineffective (Anderson et al., 2017).



Rather than being a model that tells leaders what to do, transformational leadershipprovides a broad set of generalizations of what is typical of leaders who are transforming orwho work in transforming contexts. Unlike other leadership approaches, such as SituationalLeadership® (discussed in Chapter 5), transformational leadership does not provide a clearlydefined set of assumptions about how leaders should act in a particular situation to besuccessful. Rather, it provides a general way of thinking about leadership that emphasizesideals, inspiration, innovations, and individual concerns. Transformational leadershiprequires that leaders be aware of how their own behavior relates to the needs of theirfollowers and the changing dynamics within their organizations.

Bass and Avolio (1990a) suggested that transformational leadership can be taught to peopleat all levels in an organization and that it can positively affect a firm’s performance. It canbe used in recruitment, selection and promotion, and training and development. It can alsobe used in improving team development, decision-making groups, quality initiatives, andreorganizations (Bass & Avolio, 1994).

Programs designed to develop transformational leadership usually require that leaders ortheir associates take the MLQ (Bass & Avolio, 1990b) or a similar questionnaire todetermine the leader’s particular strengths and weaknesses in transformational leadership.Taking the MLQ helps leaders pinpoint areas in which they could improve their leadership.For example, leaders might learn that it would be beneficial if they were more confident inexpressing their goals, or that they need to spend more time nurturing followers, or thatthey need to be more tolerant of opposing viewpoints. The MLQ is the springboard tohelping leaders improve a whole series of their leadership attributes.

One particular aspect of transformational leadership that has been given special emphasis intraining programs is the process of building a vision. For example, it has become quitecommon for training programs to have leaders write elaborate statements that describe theirown five-year career plans and their perceptions of the future directions for theirorganizations. Working with leaders on vision statements is one way to help them enhancetheir transformational leadership behavior. Another important aspect of training is teachingleaders to exhibit greater individual consideration and promote intellectual stimulation fortheir followers. Lowe et al. (1996) found that this is particularly valuable for lower-levelleaders in organizations.

The desire to provide effective training in how to be more successful in demonstratingtransactional and transformational leadership resulted in the development of a guide bySosik and Jung (2010). This comprehensive, evidence-based approach includes self-assessments, 360-degree feedback, and leadership development planning. Their work servesas a thorough training guide that explains how, when, and why the full range of leadership


behaviors work.

Overall, transformational leadership provides leaders with information about a full range oftheir behaviors, from nontransactional to transactional to transformational. In the nextsection, we provide some actual leadership examples to which the principles oftransformational leadership can be applied.


Case StudiesIn the following section, three brief case studies (Cases 8.1, 8.2, and 8.3) from very different contexts areprovided. Each case describes a situation in which transformational leadership is present to some degree. Thequestions at the end of each case point to some of the unique issues surrounding the use of transformationalleadership in ongoing organizations.


Case 8.1: The Vision FailedHigh Tech Engineering (HTE) is a 50-year-old family-owned manufacturing company with 250 employees thatproduces small parts for the aircraft industry. The president of HTE is Harold Barelli, who came to the companyfrom a smaller business with strong credentials as a leader in advanced aircraft technology. Before Harold, theonly other president of HTE was the founder and owner of the company. The organizational structure at HTEwas very traditional, and it was supported by a very rich organizational culture.

As the new president, Harold sincerely wanted to transform HTE. He wanted to prove that new technologies andadvanced management techniques could make HTE one of the best manufacturing companies in the country. Tothat end, Harold created a vision statement that was displayed throughout the company. The two-pagestatement, which had a strong democratic tone, described the overall purposes, directions, and values of thecompany.

During the first three years of Harold’s tenure as president, several major reorganizations took place at thecompany. These were designed by Harold and a select few of his senior managers. The intention of eachreorganization was to implement advanced organizational structures to bolster the declared HTE vision.

Yet the major outcome of each of the changes was to dilute the leadership and create a feeling of instabilityamong the employees. Most of the changes were made from the top down, with little input from lower or middlemanagement. Some of the changes gave employees more control in circumstances where they needed less,whereas other changes limited employee input in contexts where employees should have been given more input.There were some situations in which individual workers reported to three different bosses, and other situations inwhich one manager had far too many workers to oversee. Rather than feeling comfortable in their various roles atHTE, employees began to feel uncertain about their responsibilities and how they contributed to stated goals ofthe company. The overall effect of the reorganizations was a precipitous drop in worker morale and production.

In the midst of all the changes, the vision that Harold had for the company was lost. The instability thatemployees felt made it difficult for them to support the company’s vision. People at HTE complained thatalthough mission statements were displayed throughout the company, no one understood in which direction theywere going.

To the employees at HTE, Harold was an enigma. HTE was an American company that produced U.S.products, but Harold drove a foreign car. Harold claimed to be democratic in his style of leadership, but he wasarbitrary in how he treated people. He acted in a nondirective style toward some people, and he showed arbitrarycontrol toward others. He wanted to be seen as a hands-on manager, but he delegated operational control of thecompany to others while he focused on external customer relations and matters of the board of directors.

At times Harold appeared to be insensitive to employees’ concerns. He wanted HTE to be an environment inwhich everyone could feel empowered, but he often failed to listen closely to what employees were saying.

He seldom engaged in open, two-way communication. HTE had a long, rich history with many unique stories,but the employees felt that Harold either misunderstood or did not care about that history.

Four years after arriving at HTE, Harold stepped down as president after his operations officer ran the companyinto a large debt and cash-flow crisis. His dream of building HTE into a world-class manufacturing company wasnever realized.


Questions1. If you were consulting with the HTE board of directors soon after Harold started making changes, what

would you advise them regarding Harold’s leadership from a transformational perspective?2. Did Harold have a clear vision for HTE? Was he able to implement it?3. How effective was Harold as a change agent and social architect for HTE?4. What would you advise Harold to do differently if he had the chance to return as president of HTE?


Case 8.2: An Exploration in LeadershipEvery year, Dr. Cook, a college professor, leads a group of 25 college students to the Middle East on anarchaeological dig that usually lasts about eight weeks. The participants, who come from big and small collegesthroughout the country, usually have little prior knowledge or background in what takes place during anexcavation. Dr. Cook enjoys leading these expeditions because he likes teaching students about archaeology andbecause the outcomes of the digs actually advance his own scholarly work.

While planning for his annual summer excavation, Dr. Cook told the following story:

This summer will be interesting because I have 10 people returning from last year. Last year was quite a dig.During the first couple of weeks everything was very disjointed. Team members seemed unmotivated and tired.In fact, there was one time early on when it seemed as if nearly half the students were either physically ill ormentally exhausted. Students seemed lost and uncertain about the meaning of the entire project.

For example, it is our tradition to get up every morning at 4:30 a.m. to depart for the excavation site at 5:00 a.m.However, during the first weeks of the dig, few people were ever ready on time, even after several reminders.

Every year it takes some time for people to learn where they fit with each other and with the purposes of the dig.The students all come from such different backgrounds. Some are from small, private, religious schools, andothers are from large state universities. Each comes with a different agenda, different skills, and different workhabits. One person may be a good photographer, another a good artist, and another a good surveyor. It is my jobto complete the excavation with the resources available to us.

At the end of Week 2, I called a meeting to assess how things were going. We talked about a lot of thingsincluding personal things, how our work was progressing, and what we needed to change. The students seemedto appreciate the chance to talk at this meeting. Each of them described his or her special circumstances andhopes for the summer.

I told the students several stories about past digs; some were humorous, and others highlighted accomplishments.I shared my particular interests in this project and how I thought we as a group could accomplish the work thatneeded to be done at this important historical site. In particular, I stressed two points: (a) that they shared theresponsibility for the successful outcome of the venture, and (b) that they had independent authority to design,schedule, and carry out the details of their respective assignments, with the director and other senior staffavailable at all times as advisers and resource persons. In regard to the departure time issue, I told the participantsthat the standard departure time on digs was 5:00 a.m.

Well, shortly after our meeting I observed a real shift in the group attitude and atmosphere. People seemed tobecome more involved in the work, there was less sickness, and there was more camaraderie. All assignments werecompleted without constant prodding and in a spirit of mutual support. Each morning at 5:00 a.m. everyone wasready to go.

I find that each year my groups are different. It’s almost as if each of them has a unique personality. Perhaps thatis why I find it so challenging. I try to listen to the students and use their particular strengths. It really is quiteamazing how these students can develop in eight weeks. They really become good at archaeology, and theyaccomplish a great deal.

This coming year will again be different because of the 10 returning “veterans.”


Questions1. How is this an example of transformational leadership?2. Where are Dr. Cook’s strengths on the Full Range of Leadership model (Figure 8.2)?3. What is the vision Dr. Cook has for the archaeology excavations?


Case 8.3: Her Vision of a Model Research CenterRachel Adams began as a researcher at a large pharmaceutical company. After several years of observing howclinical drug studies were conducted, she realized that there was a need and an opportunity for a research centernot connected with a specific pharmaceutical company. In collaboration with other researchers, she launched anew company that was the first of its kind in the country. Within five years, Rachel had become president andCEO of the Independent Center for Clinical Research (ICCR). Under Rachel’s leadership, ICCR has grown to acompany with revenues of $6 million and profits of $1 million. ICCR employs 100 full-time employees, most ofwhom are women.

Rachel wants ICCR to continue its pattern of formidable growth. Her vision for the company is to make it amodel research center that will blend credible science with efficient and cost-effective clinical trials. To that end,the company, which is situated in a large urban setting, maintains strong links to academia, industry, and thecommunity.

Rachel and her style have a great deal to do with the success of ICCR. She is a freethinker who is always open tonew ideas, opportunities, and approaches. She is a positive person who enjoys the nuances of life, and she is notafraid to take risks. Her optimistic approach has had a significant influence on the company’s achievements andits organizational climate. People employed at ICCR claim they have never worked at a place that is soprogressive and so positive in how it treats its employees and customers. The women employees at ICCR feelparticularly strongly about Rachel’s leadership, and many of them use Rachel as a role model. It is not by accidentthat the majority (85%) of the people who work at ICCR are women. Her support for women’s concerns isevident in the type of drug studies the company selects to conduct and in her service to national committees onwomen’s health and research issues. Within ICCR, Rachel has designed an on-site day care program, flextimescheduling for mothers with young children, and a benefit package that gives full health coverage to part-timeemployees. At a time when most companies are searching for ways to include more women in decision making,ICCR has women in established leadership positions at all levels.

Although Rachel has been extremely effective at ICCR, the success of the company has resulted in many changesthat have affected Rachel’s leadership at the company.

Rapid growth of ICCR has required that Rachel spend a great deal of time traveling throughout the country.Because of her excessive travel, Rachel has begun to feel distant from the day-to-day operations of ICCR. She hasbegun to feel as if she is losing her handle on what makes the company tick. For example, although she used togive weekly pep talks to supervisors, she finds that she now gives two formal presentations a year. Rachel alsocomplains of feeling estranged from employees at the company. At a recent directors’ meeting, she expressedfrustration that people no longer called her by her first name, and others did not even know who she was.

Growth at ICCR has also demanded that more planning and decision making be delegated to department heads.This has been problematic for Rachel, particularly in the area of strategic planning. Rachel finds that thedepartment heads are beginning to shift the focus of ICCR in a direction that contradicts her ideal model of whatthe company should be and what it is best at doing. Rachel built the company on the idea that ICCR would be astrong blend of credible science and cost-effective clinical trials, and she does not want to give up that model. Thedirectors, on the other hand, would like to see ICCR become similar to a standard pharmaceutical companydedicated primarily to the research and development of new drugs.


Questions1. What is it about Rachel’s leadership that clearly suggests that she is engaged in transformational

leadership?2. In what ways has the growth of ICCR had an impact on Rachel’sleadership?3. Given the problems Rachel is confronting as a result of the growth of the company, what should she do

to reestablish herself as a transformational leader at ICCR?

Leadership Instrument

The most widely used measure of transformational leadership is the Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire(MLQ). An earlier version of the MLQ was developed by Bass (1985), based on a series of interviews he andhis associates conducted with 70 senior executives in South Africa. These executives were asked to recallleaders who had raised their awareness to broader goals, moved them to higher motives, or inspired them toput others’ interests ahead of their own. The executives were then asked to describe how these leadersbehaved—what they did to effect change. From these descriptions and from numerous other interviewswith both junior and senior executives, Bass constructed the questions that make up the MLQ. Thequestions measure followers’ perceptions of a leader’s behavior for each of the factors in the Full Range ofLeadership model (Figure 8.2).

Antonakis, Avolio, and Sivasubramaniam (2003) assessed the psychometric properties of the MLQ using abusiness sample of more than 3,000 raters and found strong support for the validity of the MLQ. Theyfound that the MLQ (Form 5X) clearly distinguished nine factors in the Full Range of Leadership model.Similarly, Hinkin and Schriesheim (2008) examined the empirical properties of the transactional and thenonleadership factors on the MLQ and identified several ways to use the questionnaire to generate morereliable and valid results. Since the MLQ was first designed, it has gone through many revisions, and itcontinues to be refined to strengthen its reliability and validity.

Based on a summary analysis of a series of studies that used the MLQ to predict how transformationalleadership relates to outcomes such as effectiveness, Bryman (1992) and Bass and Avolio (1994) havesuggested that the charisma and motivation factors on the MLQ are the most likely to be related to positiveeffects. Individualized consideration, intellectual stimulation, and contingent reward are the next mostimportant factors. Management by exception in its passive form has been found to be somewhat related tooutcomes, and in its active form it has been found to be negatively related to outcomes. Generally, laissez-faire leadership has been found to be negatively related to outcomes such as effectiveness and satisfaction inorganizations.

We present sample items from the MLQ (Form 5X-short) in this section so that you can explore yourbeliefs and perceptions about transformational, transactional, and nontransactional leadership. Thisquestionnaire should give you a clearer picture of your own style and the complexity of transformationalleadership itself.


Sample Items From the Multifactor LeadershipQuestionnaire (MLQ) Form 5X-ShortThese questions provide examples of the items that are used to evaluate leadership style. The MLQ isprovided in both Self and Rater forms. The Self form measures self-perception of leadership behaviors. TheRater form is used to measure leadership. By thinking about the leadership styles as exemplified below, youcan get a sense of your own belief about your leadership.

Key: 0 = Not at all 1 = Once in a while 2 = Sometimes 3 = Fairly often 4 = Frequently, ifnot always


Transformational Leadership Styles

Idealized Influence(Attributes)

I go beyond self-interest for the good of the group. 0 1 2 3 4

Idealized Influence(Behaviors)

I consider the moral and ethical consequences ofdecisions.

0 1 2 3 4


I talk optimistically about the future. 0 1 2 3 4


I reexamine critical assumptions to question whetherthey are appropriate.

0 1 2 3 4


I help others to develop their strengths. 0 1 2 3 4


Transactional Leadership Styles

Contingent RewardI make clear what one can expect to receive whenperformance goals are achieved.

0 1 2 3 4

Management byException: Active

I keep track of all mistakes. 0 1 2 3 4


Passive/Avoidant Leadership Styles

Management by Exception:Passive

I wait for things to go wrong before takingaction.

0 1 2 3 4

Laissez-Faire I avoid making decisions. 0 1 2 3 4

Source: Reproduced by special permission of the publisher, MIND GARDEN, Inc., www.mindgarden.comfrom the Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire by Bernard M. Bass and Bruce J. Avolio. Copyright © 1995,2000, 2004 by Bernard M. Bass and Bruce J. Avolio. Further reproduction is prohibited without thepublisher’s written consent.



One of the most encompassing approaches to leadership—transformational leadership—isconcerned with the process of how certain leaders are able to inspire followers toaccomplish great things. This approach stresses that leaders need to understand and adaptto the needs and motives of followers. Transformational leaders are recognized as changeagents who are good role models, who can create and articulate a clear vision for anorganization, who empower followers to meet higher standards, who act in ways that makeothers want to trust them, and who give meaning to organizational life.

Transformational leadership emerged from and is rooted in the writings of Burns (1978)and Bass (1985). The works of Bennis and Nanus (1985, 2007) and Kouzes and Posner(2002, 2017) are also representative of transformational leadership.

Transformational leadership can be assessed through use of the Multifactor LeadershipQuestionnaire (MLQ), which measures a leader’s behavior in seven areas: idealizedinfluence (charisma), inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation, individualizedconsideration, contingent reward, management by exception, and laissez-faire. High scoreson individualized consideration and motivation factors are most indicative of strongtransformational leadership.

There are several positive features of the transformational approach, including that it is apopular model that has received a lot of attention by researchers, it has strong intuitiveappeal, it emphasizes the importance of followers in the leadership process, it goes beyondtraditional transactional models and broadens leadership to include the growth of followers,and it places strong emphasis on morals and values.

Balancing against the positive features of transformational leadership are several weaknesses.These include that the approach lacks conceptual clarity; it is based on the MLQ, whichhas been challenged by some research; it creates a framework that implies thattransformational leadership has a trait-like quality; it is sometimes seen as elitist andundemocratic; it suffers from a “heroic leadership” bias; and it has the potential to be usedcounterproductively in negative ways by leaders. Despite the weaknesses, transformationalleadership appears to be a valuable and widely used approach.

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9 Authentic Leadership



Authentic leadership represents one of the newer areas of leadership research. It focuses onwhether leadership is genuine and “real.” As the title of this approach implies, authenticleadership is about the authenticity of leaders and their leadership. Unlike many of thetheories that we have discussed in this book, authentic leadership is still in the formativephase of development. As a result, authentic leadership needs to be considered moretentatively: It is likely to change as new research about the theory is published.

In recent times, upheavals in society have energized a tremendous demand for authenticleadership. The destruction on 9/11, corporate scandals at companies like WorldCom andEnron, “fake news,” and fears of foreign influence in presidential elections have all createdanxiety and uncertainty. People feel apprehensive and insecure about what is going onaround them, and as a result, they long for bona fide leadership they can trust and forleaders who are honest and good. People’s demands for trustworthy leadership make thestudy of authentic leadership timely and worthwhile.

In addition to the public’s interest, authentic leadership has been intriguing to researchers:It was identified earlier in transformational leadership research but never fully articulated(Bass, 1990; Bass & Steidlmeier, 1999; Burns, 1978; Howell & Avolio, 1993).Furthermore, practitioners had developed approaches to authentic leadership that were notevidence based and so needed further clarification and testing. In attempts to more fullyexplore authentic leadership, researchers set out to identify the parameters of authenticleadership and more clearly conceptualize it, efforts that continue today.


Authentic Leadership Defined

On the surface, authentic leadership appears easy to define. In actuality, it is a complexprocess that is difficult to characterize. Among leadership scholars, there is no singleaccepted definition of authentic leadership. Instead, there are multiple definitions, eachwritten from a different viewpoint and with a different emphasis (Chan, 2005).

One of those viewpoints is the intrapersonal perspective, which focuses closely on the leaderand what goes on within the leader. It incorporates the leader’s self-knowledge, self-regulation, and self-concept. In their description of the intrapersonal approach, Shamir andEilam (2005) suggest that authentic leaders exhibit genuine leadership, lead fromconviction, and are originals. This perspective emphasizes the life experiences of a leaderand the meaning he or she attaches to those experiences as being critical to the developmentof the authentic leader.

A second way of defining authentic leadership is as an interpersonal process. Thisperspective outlines authentic leadership as relational, created by leaders and followerstogether (Eagly, 2005). It results not from the leader’s efforts alone, but also from theresponse of followers. Authenticity emerges from the interactions between leaders andfollowers. It is a reciprocal process because leaders affect followers and followers affectleaders.

Finally, authentic leadership can be defined from a developmental perspective, which isexemplified in the work of Avolio and his associates (Avolio & Gardner, 2005; Gardner,Avolio, & Walumbwa, 2005b; Walumbwa, Avolio, Gardner, Wernsing, & Peterson,2008). This perspective, which underpins the approaches to authentic leadership discussedin the following section, views authentic leadership as something that can be nurtured in aleader, rather than as a fixed trait. Authentic leadership develops in people over a lifetimeand can be triggered by major life events, such as a severe illness or a new career.

Taking a developmental approach, Walumbwa et al. (2008) conceptualized authenticleadership as a pattern of leader behavior that develops from, and is grounded in, theleader’s positive psychological qualities and strong ethics. They suggest that authenticleadership is composed of four distinct but related components: self-awareness, internalizedmoral perspective, balanced processing, and relational transparency (Avolio, Walumbwa, &Weber, 2009). Over a lifetime, authentic leaders learn and develop each of these four typesof behavior.


Approaches to Authentic Leadership

Formulations about authentic leadership can be differentiated into two areas: (1) thepractical approach, which evolved from real-life examples as well as the training anddevelopment literature; and (2) the theoretical approach, which is based on findings fromsocial science research. Both approaches offer interesting insights about the complex processof authentic leadership.

Practical Approach

Books and programs about authentic leadership are popular today; people are interested inthe basics of this type of leadership. Specifically, they want to know the “how to” steps tobecome an authentic leader. In this section, we discuss Bill George’s (2003) authenticleadership approach.

Bill George’s Authentic Leadership Approach.

The authentic leadership approach developed by George (2003; George & Sims, 2007)focuses on the characteristics of authentic leaders. George describes, in a practical way, theessential qualities of authentic leadership and how individuals can develop these qualities ifthey want to become authentic leaders.

Based on his experience as a corporate executive and through interviews with a diversesample of 125 successful leaders, George found that authentic leaders have a genuine desireto serve others, they know themselves, and they feel free to lead from their core values.Specifically, authentic leaders demonstrate five basic characteristics: (1) They have a strongsense of purpose, (2) they have strong values about the right thing to do, (3) they establishtrusting relationships with others, (4) they demonstrate self-discipline and act on theirvalues, and (5) they are sensitive and empathetic to the plight of others (Figure 9.1; George,2003).

Figure 9.1 illustrates five dimensions of authentic leadership identified by George: purpose,values, relationships, self-discipline, and heart. The figure also illustrates each of the relatedcharacteristics—passion, behavior, connectedness, consistency, and compassion—thatindividuals need to develop to become authentic leaders.

In his interviews, George found that authentic leaders have a real sense of purpose. Theyknow what they are about and where they are going. In addition to knowing their purpose,authentic leaders are inspired and intrinsically motivated about their goals. They arepassionate individuals who have a deep-seated interest in what they are doing and truly careabout their work.


A good example of an authentic leader who exhibited passion about his goals was TerryFox, a cancer survivor, whose leg was amputated above his right knee after a malignanttumor was discovered. Using a customized leg prosthesis, Terry attempted to run acrossCanada, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, to raise awareness and money for cancer research.Although he died before he finished his run, his courage and passion affected the lives ofmillions of people. He also accomplished his goals to increase cancer awareness and to raisemoney for cancer research. Today, the Terry Fox Foundation is going strong and has raisedmore than $750 million (Canadian) for cancer research ( Of thedimensions and characteristics in Figure 9.1, Terry Fox clearly demonstrated purpose andpassion in his leadership.

Figure 9.1 Authentic Leadership Characteristics

Source: From Authentic Leadership: Rediscovering the Secrets to Creating LastingValue by Bill George. Copyright 2003 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Reproduced withpermission.


Authentic leaders understand their own values and behave toward others based on thesevalues. Stated another way, George suggests that authentic leaders know their “TrueNorth.” They have a clear idea of who they are, where they are going, and what the rightthing is to do. When tested in difficult situations, authentic leaders do not compromisetheir values, but rather use those situations to strengthen their values.

An example of a leader with a strong set of values is Nobel Peace Prize laureate NelsonMandela. Mandela was a deeply moral man with a strong conscience. While fighting toabolish apartheid in South Africa, he was unyielding in his pursuit of justice and equalityfor all. When he was in prison and was offered early release in exchange for denouncing hisviewpoint, he chose to remain incarcerated rather than compromise his position. NelsonMandela knew who he was at his core. He knew his values, and his leadership reflectedthose values.

A third characteristic of authentic leadership in the George approach is strong relationships.Authentic leaders have the capacity to open themselves up and establish a connection withothers. They are willing to share their own story with others and listen to others’ stories.Through mutual disclosure, leaders and followers develop a sense of trust and closeness.

George argued that people today want to have access to their leaders and they want theirleaders to be open with them. In a sense, people are asking leaders to soften the boundaryaround their leadership role and to be more transparent. People want to have a trustingrelationship with their leaders. In exchange, people are willing to give leaders greater loyaltyand commitment.

As we discussed in Chapter 7 (leader–member exchange theory), effective leader–followerrelationships are marked by high-quality communication in which leaders and followersdemonstrate a high degree of mutual trust, respect, and obligation toward each other.Leaders and followers are tied together in productive ways that go beyond the stereotypicalleader–follower relationship. This results in strong leader–member relationships, greaterunderstanding, and higher productivity.

Self-discipline is another dimension of authentic leadership and is the quality that helpsleaders to reach their goals. Self-discipline gives leaders focus and determination. Whenleaders establish objectives and standards of excellence, self-discipline helps them to reachthese goals and to keep everyone accountable. Furthermore, self-discipline gives authenticleaders the energy to carry out their work in accordance with their values.

Like long-distance runners, authentic leaders with self-discipline are able to stay focused ontheir goals. They are able to listen to their inner compass and can discipline themselves tomove forward, even in challenging circumstances. In stressful times, self-discipline allowsauthentic leaders to remain cool, calm, and consistent. Because disciplined leaders arepredictable in their behavior, other people know what to expect and find it easier to


communicate with them. When the leader is self-directed and “on course,” it gives otherpeople a sense of security.

Last, the George approach identifies compassion and heart as important aspects of authenticleadership. Compassion refers to being sensitive to the plight of others, opening one’s selfto others, and being willing to help them. George (2003, p. 40) argued that as leadersdevelop compassion, they learn to be authentic. Leaders can develop compassion by gettingto know others’ life stories, doing community service projects, being involved with otherracial or ethnic groups, or traveling to developing countries (George, 2003). These activitiesincrease the leader’s sensitivity to other cultures, backgrounds, and living situations.

In summary, George’s authentic leadership approach highlights five important features ofauthentic leaders. Collectively, these features provide a practical picture of what peopleneed to do to become authentic in their leadership. Authentic leadership is a lifelongdevelopmental process, which is formed and informed by each individual’s life story.

Theoretical Approach

Although still in its initial stages of development, a theory of authentic leadership isemerging in social science literature (see Kumar, 2014; Leroy, Anseel, Gardner, & Sels,2015; Peus, Wescher, Streicher, Braun, & Frey, 2012). In this section, we identify the basiccomponents of authentic leadership and describe how these components are related to oneanother.

Background to the Theoretical Approach. Although people’s interest in “authenticity” isprobably timeless, research on authentic leadership is rather recent. Luthans and Avolio(2003) published one of the first articles on the topic, focusing on authentic leadershipdevelopment and positive organizational scholarship. Initial writing on authentic leadershipgave rise to a leadership summit at the University of Nebraska. This summit was sponsoredby the Gallup Leadership Institute, and focused on the nature of authentic leadership andits development. From the summit, two sets of publications emerged: (1) a special issue ofThe Leadership Quarterly in the summer of 2005, and (2) Monographs in Leadership andManagement, titled “Authentic Leadership Theory and Process: Origins, Effects andDevelopment,” also published in 2005.

Interest in authentic leadership increased following 9/11, a time in which there was a greatdeal of societal upheaval and instability in the United States. The attacks of 9/11,widespread corporate corruption, and a troubled economy all created a sense of uncertaintyand anxiety in people about leadership. Widespread unethical and ineffective leadershipnecessitated the need for more humane, constructive leadership that served the commongood (Fry & Whittington, 2005; Luthans & Avolio, 2003).

In addition, researchers felt the need to extend the work of Bass (1990) and Bass and


Steidlmeier (1999) regarding the meaning of authentic transformational leadership. Therewas a need to operationalize the meaning of authentic leadership and create a theoreticalframework to explain it. To develop a theory of authentic leadership, researchers drew fromthe fields of leadership, positive organizational scholarship, and ethics (Cooper, Scandura,& Schriesheim, 2005; Gardner et al., 2005b).

A major challenge confronting researchers in developing a theory was to define theconstruct and identify its characteristics. As we discussed earlier in the chapter, authenticleadership has been defined in multiple ways, with each definition emphasizing a differentaspect of the process. For this chapter, we have selected the definition set forth byWalumbwa et al. (2008), who defined authentic leadership as

a pattern of leader behavior that draws upon and promotes both positivepsychological capacities and a positive ethical climate, to foster greater self-awareness, an internalized moral perspective, balanced processing of information,and relational transparency on the part of leaders working with followers,fostering positive self-development. (p. 94)

Although complex, this definition captures the current thinking of scholars regarding thephenomenon of authentic leadership and how it works.

In the research literature, different models have been developed to illustrate the process ofauthentic leadership. Gardner et al. (2005b) created a model that frames authenticleadership around the developmental processes of leader and follower self-awareness andself-regulation. Ilies, Morgeson, and Nahrgang (2005) constructed a multicomponentmodel that discusses the impact of authenticity on leaders’ and followers’ happiness andwell-being. In contrast, Luthans and Avolio (2003) formulated a model that explainsauthentic leadership as a developmental process. In this chapter, we will present a basicmodel of authentic leadership that is derived from the research literature that focuses on thecore components of authentic leadership. Our discussion will focus on authentic leadershipas a process.

Components of Authentic Leadership.

In an effort to further our understanding of authentic leadership, Walumbwa and associates(2008) conducted a comprehensive review of the literature and interviewed groups ofcontent experts in the field to determine what components constituted authentic leadershipand to develop a valid measure of this construct. Their research identified fourcomponents: self-awareness, internalized moral perspective, balanced processing, andrelational transparency (Figure 9.2). Together, these four components form the foundationfor a theory of authentic leadership.


Self-awareness refers to the personal insights of the leader. It is not an end in itself but aprocess in which individuals understand themselves, including their strengths andweaknesses, and the impact they have on others. Self-awareness includes reflecting on yourcore values, identity, emotions, motives, and goals, and coming to grips with who youreally are at the deepest level. In addition, it includes being aware of and trusting your ownfeelings (Kernis, 2003). When leaders know themselves and have a clear sense of who theyare and what they stand for, they have a strong anchor for their decisions and actions(Gardner et al., 2005b). Other people see leaders who have greater self-awareness as moreauthentic. More recently, research has shown that self-knowledge and self-consistency alsohave a positive impact on followers’ satisfaction with leaders, organizational commitment,and perceived team effectiveness (Peus et al., 2012; Leroy et al., 2015). Internalized moralperspective refers to a self-regulatory process whereby individuals use their internal moralstandards and values to guide their behavior rather than allow outside pressures to controlthem (e.g., group or societal pressure). It is a self-regulatory process because people havecontrol over the extent to which they allow others to influence them. Others see leaderswith an internalized moral perspective as authentic because their actions are consistent withtheir expressed beliefs and morals.

Figure 9.2 Authentic Leadership

Source: Adapted from “Authentic Leadership Development,” by F. Luthans and B. J.Avolio, in K. S. Cameron, J. E. Dutton, and R. E. Quinn (Eds.), PositiveOrganizational Scholarship (pp. 241–258), 2003, San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler;and “’Can you see the real me?’ A self-based model of authentic leader and followerdevelopment,” by W. L. Gardner, B. J. Avolio, F. Luthans, D. R. May, and F. O.Walumbwa, 2005, The Leadership Quarterly, 16, pp. 343–372.


Balanced processing is also a self-regulatory behavior. Although not completely clear from itstitle, it refers to an individual’s ability to analyze information objectively and explore otherpeople’s opinions before making a decision. It also means avoiding favoritism about certainissues and remaining unbiased. Balanced processing includes soliciting viewpoints fromthose who disagree with you and fully considering their positions before taking your ownaction. Leaders with balanced processing are seen as authentic because they are open abouttheir own perspectives, but are also objective in considering others’ perspectives.

Relational transparency refers to being open and honest in presenting one’s true self toothers. It is self-regulating because individuals can control their transparency with others.Relational transparency occurs when individuals share their core feelings, motives, andinclinations with others in an appropriate manner (Kernis, 2003). It includes theindividuals showing both positive and negative aspects of themselves to others. In short,relational transparency is about communicating openly and being real in relationships withothers.

Fundamentally, authentic leadership comprises the above four factors—self-awareness,internalized moral perspective, balanced processing, and relational transparency. Thesefactors form the basis for authentic leadership.

Factors That Influence Authentic Leadership.

There are other factors such as positive psychological capacities, moral reasoning, andcritical life events that influence authentic leadership (Figure 9.2).

Table 9.1 Related PositivePsychological Capacities

• Confidence • Optimism

• Hope • ResilienceSource: From “Authentic Leadership Development,” by F. Luthans and B. J. Avolio, in K. S. Cameron, J. E.Dutton, and R. E. Quinn (Eds.), Positive Organizational Scholarship (pp. 241–258), 2003, San Francisco, CA:Berrett-Koehler.

The four key positive psychological attributes that have an impact on authentic leadership—confidence, hope, optimism, and resilience—have been drawn from the fields of positivepsychology and positive organizational behavior (Table 9.1; Luthans & Avolio, 2003).Positive attributes predispose or enhance a leader’s capacity to develop the components ofauthentic leadership discussed in the previous section. Each of these attributes has a trait-like and a state-like quality. They are trait-like because they may characterize a relativelyfixed aspect of someone’s personality that has been evident throughout his or her life (e.g.,extraversion), and they are state-like because, with training or coaching, individuals arecapable of developing or changing their characteristics.


Confidence refers to having self-efficacy—the belief that one has the ability to successfullyaccomplish a specified task. Leaders who have confidence are more likely to be motivated tosucceed, to be persistent when obstacles arise, and to welcome a challenge (Bandura, 1997;Luthans & Avolio, 2003). Hope is a positive motivational state based on willpower and goalplanning (Luthans & Avolio, 2003). Authentic leaders with hope have goals they know canbe accomplished; their hope inspires followers to trust them and believe in their goals.Optimism refers to the cognitive process of viewing situations from a positive light andhaving favorable expectations about the future. Leaders with optimism are positive abouttheir capabilities and the outcomes they can achieve. They approach life with a sense ofabundance rather than scarcity (Covey, 1990). Resilience is the capacity to recover from andadjust to adverse situations. It includes the ability to positively adapt to hardships andsuffering. During difficult times, resilient people are able to bounce back from challengingsituations and feel strengthened and more resourceful as a result of them (Sutcliffe &Vogus, 2003).

Moral reasoning is another factor that can influence authentic leadership (Figure 9.2). It isthe capacity to make ethical decisions about issues of right or wrong and good or bad.Developing the capacity for moral reasoning is a lifelong process. Higher levels of moralreasoning make it possible for the authentic leader to make decisions that transcendindividual differences and align individuals toward a common goal. They enable leaders tobe selfless and make judgments that serve the greater good of the group, organization, orcommunity. Moral reasoning capacity also enables authentic leaders to use this ability topromote justice and achieve what is right for a community. An extended discussion of howmoral reasoning develops is provided in Chapter 13.

Critical life events are major events that shape people’s lives, and therefore also shape anindividual’s development as an authentic leader (Figure 9.2). They can be positive events,like receiving an unexpected promotion, having a child, or reading an important book; orthey can be negative events, like being diagnosed with cancer, getting a negative year-endevaluation, or experiencing the death of a loved one. Critical life events act as catalysts forchange. Shamir and Eilam (2005) argued that authentic leadership rests heavily on theinsights people attach to their life experiences. When leaders tell their life stories, they gaingreater self-knowledge, more clarity about who they are, and a better understanding of theirrole. By understanding their own life experiences, leaders become more authentic.

Critical life events also stimulate growth in individuals and help them become strongerleaders (Luthans & Avolio, 2003). For example, Howard Schultz (founder and executivechairman of Starbucks) tells a story about when he was little: His father, who was a deliverydriver, fell and was hurt on the job. His father did not have health insurance or worker’scompensation. Seeing the problems that resulted from his father’s difficulties, when Schultzbuilt Starbucks he provided comprehensive health insurance for employees who worked asfew as 20 hours a week. Schultz’s style of leadership was triggered by his childhoodexperience (“Howard Schultz,” 2008).


As the theory of authentic leadership develops further, other antecedent factors thatinfluence the process may be identified. To date, however, it is positive psychologicalcapacities, moral reasoning capacities, and critical life events that have been identified asfactors that are influential in a person’s ability to become an authentic leader.


How does Authentic Leadership Work?

In this chapter, we have discussed authentic leadership from a practical and theoreticalperspective. Both perspectives describe authentic leadership as a process that develops inleaders over time; however, both perspectives provide different descriptions for howauthentic leadership works.

The practical approach provides prescriptions for how to be authentic and how to developauthentic leadership. For example, the George approach focuses on five characteristicsleaders should develop to become authentic leaders. More specifically, George (2003)advocates that leaders become more purposeful, value centered, relational, self-disciplined, andcompassionate. The essence of authentic leadership is being a leader who stronglydemonstrates these five qualities.

Rather than simple prescriptions, the theoretical approach describes what authenticleadership is and what accounts for it. From this perspective, authentic leadership worksbecause leaders demonstrate self-awareness, an internalized moral perspective, balancedprocessing, and relational transparency. Leaders develop these attributes through a lifelongprocess that is often influenced by critical life events. In addition, the literature suggeststhat positive psychological characteristics and moral reasoning have a significant impact onauthentic leaders.

Authentic leadership is a complex process that emphasizes the development of qualities thathelp leaders to be perceived as trustworthy and believable by their followers. The leader’sjob is to learn to develop these qualities and apply them to the common good as he or sheserves others.

Throughout this chapter, we have focused on the development of authentic leadership in theleader. Recent research has focused on the effects of authentic leadership on followers, andthe impact of followers on authentic leadership development. Xu, Zhao, Li, and Lin (2017)and Semedo, Coehlo, and Ribeiro (2016) not only found that authentic leadershipcorrelates directly to followers who thrive at work, but also found a positive relationshipbetween employee creativity and authentic leadership. Rego, Sousa, Marques, and Pina eCunha (2014) found similar results regarding creativity, and also found positiverelationships between authentic leadership and employees’ hope. Stander, de Beer, andStander (2015) found that authentic leadership led significantly to optimism and trust, andthat those qualities led directly to stronger work engagement.

Furthermore, Wang, Sui, Luthans, Wang, and Wu (2014) directly investigated, andpositively correlated, the impact of authentic leadership on follower performance. Azanza,Moriano, Molero, and Lévy Mangin (2015) extended the findings of positive relationshipsbetween authentic leadership and work engagement to also include employee satisfaction


and intent to stay while Kumar (2014) studied the effects of authentic leadership onfollowers’ psychological ownership of their organizations.



Although it is in its initial stages of development, the authentic leadership approach hasseveral strengths. First, it fulfills an expressed need for trustworthy leadership in society.During the past 20 years, failures in public and private leadership have created distrust inpeople. Authentic leadership helps to fill a void and provides an answer to people who aresearching for good and sound leadership in an uncertain world. When leaders are authentic,it gives followers a clear picture of who they are and how they will act. It informs theirunderstanding of the leader and whether or not they can depend on his or her leadership.

Second, authentic leadership provides broad guidelines for individuals who want to becomeauthentic leaders. Both the practical and theoretical approaches clearly point to whatleaders should do to become authentic leaders. Social science literature emphasizes that it isimportant for leaders to have self-awareness, an internalized moral perspective, balancedprocessing, and relational transparency to be authentic. Taken together, these approachesprovide a map for becoming an authentic leader.

Third, similar to transformational and servant leadership, authentic leadership has anexplicit moral dimension. Underlying both the practical and theoretical approaches is theidea that authenticity requires leaders to do what is “right” and “good” for their followersand society. Authentic leaders understand their own values, place followers’ needs abovetheir own, and work with followers to align their interests in order to create a greatercommon good. Steffens, Mols, Haslam, and Okimoto (2016) found that when leaderschampion the collective good, followers are more inspired, and the leader’s authenticity isenhanced.

Authentic leadership emphasizes that authentic values and behaviors can be developed inleaders over time. Authentic leadership is not an attribute that only some people exhibit:Everyone can develop authenticity and learn to be more authentic. For example, leaders canlearn to become more aware and transparent, or they can learn to be more relational andother-directed. Leaders can also develop moral reasoning capacities. Furthermore, Luthansand Avolio (2003) contended that leaders can learn to develop positive psychologicalcapacities such as confidence, hope, optimism, and resilience, and can use these to create apositive organizational climate. They contended that there are many ways that leaders canlearn to become authentic leaders over a lifetime.

Finally, authentic leadership can be measured using the Authentic LeadershipQuestionnaire (ALQ). The ALQ is a validated, theory-based instrument comprising 16items that measure four factors of authentic leadership (Avolio et al., 2009; Walumbwa etal., 2008). As research moves forward in refining authentic leadership theory, it is valuableto have an established instrument of this construct that is theory-based and can be used tomeasure authentic leadership in future research.



Authentic leadership is still in the formative stages of development, and a number ofquestions still need to be addressed about the theory. First, the concepts and ideaspresented in George’s practical approach are not fully substantiated. While the practicalapproach is interesting and offers insight on authentic leadership, it is not built on a broadempirical base, nor has it been tested for validity. Without research support, the ideas setforth in the practical approach should be treated cautiously as explanations of the authenticleadership process.

Second, the moral component of authentic leadership is not fully explained. Whereasauthentic leadership implies that leaders are motivated by higher-order end values such asjustice and community, the way that these values function to influence authentic leadershipis not clear. For example, how are a leader’s values related to a leader’s self-awareness? Or,what is the path or underlying process through which moral values affect other componentsof authentic leadership? In its present form, authentic leadership does not offer thoroughanswers to these questions.

Third, researchers have questioned whether positive psychological capacities should beincluded as components of authentic leadership. Although there is an interest in the socialsciences to study positive human potential and the best of the human condition (Cameron,Dutton, & Quinn, 2003), the rationale for including positive psychological capacities as aninherent part of authentic leadership has not been clearly explained by researchers. Inaddition, some have argued that the inclusion of positive leader capacities in authenticleadership broadens the construct of authentic leadership too much and makes it difficultto measure (Cooper et al., 2005). At this point in the development of research on authenticleadership, the role of positive psychological capacities in authentic leadership theory needsfurther clarification.

In addition, new research is required to determine if the millennial generation can beeffectively led by authentic leaders. This generation’s individualism, commitment to work–life balance, and subsequent preference for extrinsic rewards have been identified byAnderson, Baur, Griffith, and Buckley (2017) as potential stumbling points for effectivelyleading millennials as followers using the model of authentic leadership.

Finally, it is not clear how authentic leadership results in positive organizational outcomes.Given that it is a new area of research, it is not unexpected that there are few data onoutcomes. Research has begun to come out on organizational outcomes (see Azanza et al.,2015; Gatling, Kang, & Kim, 2016; Rego, Sousa, Marques, & Pina e Cunha, 2012;Semedo et al., 2016; Xu et al., 2017), but more data are necessary to substantiate the valueof the theory. Although authentic leadership is intuitively appealing on the surface,questions remain about whether this approach is effective, in what contexts it is effective,


and whether authentic leadership results in productive outcomes. In some contexts,authenticity may be counterproductive. Relatedly, it is also not clear in the researchwhether authentic leadership is sufficient to achieve organizational goals. For example, canan authentic leader who is disorganized and lacking in technical competence be an effectiveleader? Authenticity is important and valuable to good leadership, but how authenticityrelates to effective leadership is unknown. Clearly, future research should be conducted toexplore how authentic leadership is related to organizational outcomes.



Because authentic leadership is still in the early phase of its development, there has beenlittle research on strategies that people can use to develop or enhance authentic leadershipbehaviors. While there are prescriptions set forth in the practical approach, there is littleevidence-based research on whether these prescriptions or how-to strategies actuallyincrease authentic leadership behavior.

In spite of the lack of intervention research, there are common themes from the authenticleadership literature that may be applicable to organizational or practice settings. Onetheme common to all of the formulations of authentic leadership is that people have thecapacity to learn to be authentic leaders. In their original work on authentic leadership,Luthans and Avolio (2003) constructed a model of authentic leadership development.Conceptualizing it as a lifelong learning process, they argued that authentic leadership is aprocess that can be developed over time. This suggests that human resource departmentsmay be able to foster authentic leadership behaviors in employees who move into leadershippositions.

Another theme that can be applied to organizations is the overriding goal of authenticleaders to try to do the “right” thing, to be honest with themselves and others, and to workfor the common good. Authentic leadership can have a positive impact in organizations.For example, Cianci, Hannah, Roberts, and Tsakumis (2014) investigated the impact ofauthentic leadership on followers’ morality. Based on the responses of 118 MBA students,they found that authentic leaders significantly inhibited followers from making unethicalchoices in the face of temptation. Authentic leadership appears to be a critical contextualfactor that morally strengthens followers. Cianci et al. suggest that the four components ofauthentic leadership (i.e., self-awareness, internalized moral perspective, balancedprocessing, and relational transparency) should be developed in organizational leadership toincrease ethical organizational behavior.

Last, authentic leadership is shaped and reformed by critical life events that act as triggers togrowth and greater authenticity. Being sensitive to these events and using them asspringboards to growth may be relevant to many people who are interested in becomingleaders who are more authentic.


Case StudiesThe following section provides three case studies (Cases 9.1, 9.2, and 9.3) of individuals who demonstrateauthentic leadership. The first case is about Sally Helgesen, author of The Female Advantage: Women’s Ways ofLeadership (1990). The second case is about Greg Mortenson and how his mission to promote schools and peacein Pakistan and Afghanistan came under fire when he was accused of lying and financial impropriety. The finalcase is about Betty Ford, former First Lady of the United States, and her work in the areas of breast cancerawareness and substance abuse treatment. At the end of each of the cases, questions are provided to help youanalyze the case using ideas from authentic leadership.


Case 9.1: Am I Really a Leader?Sally Helgesen was born in the small Midwest town of Saint Cloud, Minnesota. Her mother was a housewifewho later taught English, and her father taught speech as a college professor. After attending a local state college,where she majored in English and comparative religion, Sally spread her wings and moved to New York, inspiredby the classic film Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

Sally found work as a writer, first in advertising and then as an assistant to a columnist at the then-influentialVillage Voice. She contributed freelance articles to magazines such as Harper’s, Glamour, Vogue, Fortune, andInside Sports. She also returned to school, completing a degree in classics at Hunter College and taking languagecourses at the city graduate center in preparation for a PhD in comparative religion. She envisioned herself as acollege professor, but also enjoyed freelancing. She felt a strong dichotomy within her, part quiet scholar and partfootloose dreamer. The conflict bothered her, and she wondered how she would resolve it. Choosing to be awriter—actually declaring herself to be one—seemed scary, grandiose, and fraudulent.

Then one day, while walking on a New York side street in the rain, Sally saw an adventuresome black cat runningbeside her. It reminded her of Holly Golightly’s cat in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, an emblem in the movie for Holly’sdreamy temperament and rootlessness. It made her realize how much the freedom and independence offered byher “temporary” career as a writer suited her temperament. Sally told the cat she was a writer—she’d never beenable to say the words before—and decided she was going to commit to full-time writing, at least for a time.When she saw the opportunity to cover a prominent murder trial in Fort Worth, Texas, she took it.

While covering the trial, Sally became intrigued with the culture of Texas, and decided she wanted to write abook on the role of independent oil producers in shaping the region. Doing so required a huge expenditure oftime and money, and for almost a year Sally lived out of the trunk of her car, staying with friends in remoteregions all over Texas. It was lonely and hard and exhilarating, but Sally was determined to see the projectthrough. When the book, Wildcatters (1981), was published, it achieved little recognition, but Sally felt anenormous increase in confidence and commitment as a result of having finished the book. It strengthened herconviction that, for better or worse, she was a writer.

Sally moved back to New York and continued to write articles and search around for another book. She alsobegan writing speeches for the CEO at a Fortune 500 company. She loved the work, and particularly enjoyedbeing an observer of office politics, even though she did not perceive herself to be a part of them. Sally viewed herrole as being an “outsider looking in,” an observer of the culture. She sometimes felt like an actor in a play aboutan office, but this detachment made her feel professional rather than fraudulent.

As a speechwriter, Sally spent a lot of time interviewing people in the companies she worked for. Doing so madeher realize that men and women often approach their work in fundamentally different ways. She also becameconvinced that many of the skills and attitudes women brought to their work were increasingly appropriate forthe ways in which organizations were changing, and that women had certain advantages as a result. She alsonoticed that the unique perspectives of women were seldom valued by CEOs or other organizational leaders, whocould have benefited if they had better understood and been more attentive to what women had to offer.

These observations inspired Sally to write another book. In 1988, she signed a contract with a major publisher towrite a book on what women had to contribute to organizations. Until then, almost everything written aboutwomen at work focused on how they needed to change and adapt. Sally felt strongly that if women wereencouraged to emphasize the negative, they would miss a historic opportunity to help lead organizations in a timeof change. The time was right for this message, and The Female Advantage: Women’s Ways of Leadership (1990)became very successful, topping a number of best-seller charts and remaining steadily in print for nearly 20 years.The book’s prominence resulted in numerous speaking and consulting opportunities, and Sally began travelingthe world delivering seminars and working with a variety of clients.

This acclaim and visibility was somewhat daunting to Sally. While she recognized the value of her book, she also


knew that she was not a social scientist with a body of theoretical data on women’s issues. She saw herself as anauthor rather than an expert, and the old questions about fraudulence that she had dealt with in her early years inNew York began to reassert themselves in a different form. Was she really being authentic? Could she take on themantle of leadership and all it entailed? In short, she wondered if she could be the leader that people seemed toexpect.

The path Sally took to answer these questions was simply to present herself for who she was. She was SallyHelgesen, an outsider looking in, a skilled and imaginative observer of current issues. For Sally, the path toleadership did not manifest itself in a step-by-step process. Sally’s leadership began with her own journey offinding herself and accepting her personal authenticity. Through this self-awareness, she grew to trust her ownexpertise as a writer with a keen eye for current trends in organizational life.

Sally continues to be an internationally recognized consultant and speaker on contemporary issues, and haspublished five books. She remains uncertain about whether she will finish her degree in comparative religion andbecome a college professor, but always keeps in mind the career of I. F. Stone, an influential political writer in the1950s and 1960s who went back to school and got an advanced degree in classics at the age of 75.


Questions1. Learning about one’s self is an essential step in becoming an authentic leader. What role did self-

awareness play in Sally Helgesen’s story of leadership?2. How would you describe the authenticity of Sally Helgesen’s leadership?3. At the end of the case, Sally Helgesen is described as taking on the “mantle of leadership.” Was this

important for her leadership? How is taking on the mantle of leadership related to a leader’s authenticity?Does every leader reach a point in his or her career where embracing the leadership role is essential?


Case 9.2: A Leader Under Fire(The sixth edition of this book includes a case study outlining Greg Mortenson’s creation of the Central Asia Instituteand highlighting his authentic leadership qualities in more detail. For an additional perspective on Mortenson, you canaccess the original case study at

By 2011, there were few people who had never heard of Greg Mortenson. He was the subject of two best-sellingbooks, Three Cups of Tea (2006, with David O. Relin) and Stones Into Schools (2009), both of which tell the storyof how the former emergency trauma room nurse became a hero who built schools in rural areas of Afghanistanand Pakistan.

His story was phenomenal: lost and sick after attempting to scale K2, Greg was nursed back to health by thevillagers of remote Korphe, Afghanistan. Greg promised to build the village a school, a monumental effort thattook him three years as he learned to raise money, navigate the foreign culture, and build a bridge above a 60-foot-deep chasm. His success led him to create the Central Asia Institute (CAI), a nonprofit organization whose“mission is to empower communities of Central Asia through literacy and education, especially for girls; topromote peace through education; and to convey the importance of these activities globally” (Central AsiaInstitute, 2017). By 2011, the CAI had successfully established or supported more than 170 schools in Pakistanand Afghanistan, and helped to educate more than 68,000 students (Haq, 2011).

Greg’s story seemed too good to be true. In April 2011, television news show 60 Minutes and author JonKrakauer (Into Thin Air, 1997, and Under the Banner of Heaven, 2003) alleged that it was. 60 Minutes accusedGreg of misusing money and benefiting excessively from the CAI. The show’s reporter visited schools the CAIhad built overseas and claimed that he could not find six of the schools and that others were abandoned. Theshow featured an interview with Krakauer, who claimed Greg had fabricated parts of his best-selling book ThreeCups of Tea. When 60 Minutes approached Greg for comment at a book signing, he refused to talk to theprogram.

The day following the 60 Minutes story, Krakauer published a short online book, Three Cups of Deceit (2011), inwhich he claimed Greg lied many times in Three Cups of Tea, starting with his initial tale of being in Korphe.

Greg and the CAI were caught in a firestorm of media and public scrutiny. An investigation into the allegedfinancial improprieties was launched by Montana’s attorney general (the CAI is based in Bozeman), and twoMontana legislators filed a $5 million class action lawsuit claiming Greg fooled 4 million people into buying hisbooks.

Greg withdrew from the public eye. The day the 60 Minutes program aired, he posted a letter on the CAI websitesaying he stood by his books and claiming the news show “paints a distorted picture using inaccurateinformation, innuendo and a microscopic focus on one year’s (2009) IRS 990 financial, and a few points in thebook Three Cups of Tea that occurred almost 18 years ago” (Schabner & Dolak, 2011). Many criticized theorganization’s founder for not more aggressively defending himself.

What many people did not know, however, was that two days before the 60 Minutes segment appeared, Greg hadbeen diagnosed with a hole and a large aneurysm in his heart and was scheduled for open-heart surgery in thenext few months. Meanwhile, the CAI worked to ensure its transparency by posting its tax returns and a masterlist of projects and their status. The report documented 210 schools, 17 of which were listed as receiving “fullsupport” from the CAI, which includes teachers’ salaries, supplies, books, and furniture and monitoring by CAIcontractors (Flandro, 2011).

The attorney general investigation concluded in 2012 and determined that Greg, as well as CAI board members,had mismanaged the CAI, and that Greg had personally profited from it. In a settlement, Greg agreed to pay $1million to the CAI for expenses he incurred that were deemed personal. The attorney general’s conclusions didnot address the allegations that Greg fabricated parts of his book. While he continues to be a CAI employee,Greg is not allowed to have any financial oversight for the organization or sit on its board of directors (Flandro,



Despite the controversy and subsequent finding of wrongdoing, former CAI board member Andrew Marcushopes the public will consider what Greg and the organization have accomplished.

“It’s hard to imagine anyone who’s done more for education in that part of the world,” Marcus has said. “It tooka real human being to do that” (Flandro, 2011).


Questions1. Would you describe Greg Mortenson as an authentic leader? Explain your answer.2. In the chapter, we discussed moral reasoning and transparency as components of authentic leadership.

Do you think Greg Mortenson exhibited these components as part his leadership?3. How was Greg Mortenson’s response to the allegations against him characteristic of an authentic leader?4. How did the outcome of the investigation affect the authenticity of Greg Mortenson’s leadership?


Case 9.3: The Reluctant First LadyBetty Ford admits that August 9, 1974, the day her husband was sworn in as the 38th president of the UnitedStates, was “the saddest day of my life” (Ford, 1978, p. 1).

Elizabeth Bloomer Ford was many things—a former professional dancer and dance teacher, the mother of fournearly grown children, the wife of a 13-term U.S. congressman who was looking forward to their retirement—but she never saw being the country’s First Lady as her destiny.

As she held the Bible her husband’s hand rested on while he took the oath of office, Betty began a journey inwhich she would become many more things: a breast cancer survivor, an outspoken advocate of women’s rights, arecovering alcoholic and addict, and cofounder and president of the Betty Ford Center, a nonprofit treatmentcenter for substance abuse.

The Fords’ path to the White House began in October 1973, when Gerald “Jerry” R. Ford was tapped to replacethen–U.S. vice president Spiro Agnew following Agnew’s resignation. After only nine months in that role, Jerrybecame the U.S. president after Richard M. Nixon left office amidst the Watergate scandal.

In her first days as the First Lady, Betty became known for her openness and candor. At the time, women wereactively fighting for equal rights in the workplace and in society. Less than half of American women wereemployed outside the home, and women’s earnings were only 38% of their male counterparts’ (Spraggins, 2005).Betty raised a number of eyebrows in her first press conference, when she spoke out in support of abortion rights,women in politics, and the Equal Rights Amendment.

Betty hadn’t even been in the White House a month when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She again brokewith social conventions and spoke openly about the diagnosis and treatment for a disease that was not widelydiscussed in public. With her cooperation, Newsweek magazine printed a complete account of her surgery andtreatment, which included a radical mastectomy. This openness helped raise awareness of breast cancer screeningand treatment options and created an atmosphere of support and comfort for other women fighting the disease.

“Lying in the hospital, thinking of all those women going for cancer checkups because of me, I’d come torecognize more clearly the power of the woman in the White House,” she said in her first autobiography, TheTimes of My Life. “Not my power, but the power of the position, a power which could be used to help” (Ford,1978, p. 194).

After her recuperation, Betty made good use of that newfound power. She openly supported and lobbied forpassage of the Equal Rights Amendment, a bill that would ensure that “equality of rights under the law shall notbe denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex” (Francis, 2009).

In an interview with 60 Minutes, Betty drew the ire of many conservatives when she candidly shared her views onthe provocative issues of abortion rights, premarital sex, and marijuana use. After the interview aired, publicopinion of Betty plummeted, but her popularity quickly rebounded, and within months her approval rating hadclimbed to 75%.

At the same time, Betty was busy with the duties of First Lady, entertaining dignitaries and heads of state fromcountries across the globe. In 1975 she began actively campaigning for her husband for the 1976 presidentialelection, inspiring buttons that read “Vote for Betty’s Husband.” Ford lost the election to Jimmy Carter and,because he was suffering from laryngitis, Betty stepped into the spotlight to read Jerry’s concession speech to thecountry, congratulating Carter on his victory. Betty’s time as First Lady ended in January 1977, and the Fordsretired to Rancho Mirage, California, and Vail, Colorado.

A little more than a year later, at the age of 60, Betty began another personal battle: overcoming alcoholism andan addiction to prescription medicine. Betty had a 14-year dependence on painkillers for chronic neck spasms,arthritis, and a pinched nerve, but refused to admit she was addicted to alcohol. After checking into the Long


Beach Naval Hospital’s Alcohol and Drug Rehabilitation Service, she found the strength to face her demons and,again, went public with her struggles.

“I have found that I am not only addicted to the medications I’ve been taking for my arthritis, but also toalcohol,” she wrote in a statement released to the public. “I expect this treatment and fellowship to be a solutionfor my problems and I embrace it not only for me but for all the others who are here to participate” (Ford, 1978,p. 285).

Betty Ford found recovering from addiction was particularly daunting at a time when most treatment centerswere geared toward treating men. “The female alcoholic has more emotional problems, more health problems,more parenting problems, makes more suicide attempts, than the alcoholic man,” Betty explained in her secondautobiography, Betty, a Glad Awakening (Ford, 1987, p. 129).

For this reason, Betty helped to establish the nonprofit Betty Ford Center in 1982 in Rancho Mirage. The centersplits its space equally between male and female patients, but the treatment is gender specific with programs forthe entire family system affected by addiction. The center’s success has attracted celebrities as well as everydaypeople including middle-class moms, executives, college students, and laborers. Betty’s activism in the field ofrecovery earned her the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1991 and the Congressional Medal of Honor in 1999.

Speaking at an alumni reunion of Betty Ford Center patients, Betty said, “I’m really proud of this center. AndI’m really grateful for my own recovery, because with my recovery, I was able to help some other people comeforward and address their own addictions. And I don’t think there’s anything as wonderful in life as being able tohelp someone else” (Ford, 1987, p. 217).


Questions1. How would you describe Betty Ford’s leadership? In what ways could her leadership be described as

authentic?2. How did critical life events play a role in the development of her leadership?3. Is there a clear moral dimension to Betty Ford’s leadership? In what way is her leadership about serving

the common good? Discuss.4. As we discussed in the chapter, self-awareness and transparency are associated with authentic leadership.

How does Betty Ford exhibit these qualities?

Leadership Instrument

Although still in its early phases of development, the Authentic Leadership Questionnaire (ALQ) wascreated by Walumbwa and associates (2008) to explore and validate the assumptions of authenticleadership. It is a 16-item instrument that measures four factors of authentic leadership: self-awareness,internalized moral perspective, balanced processing, and relational transparency. Based on samples in China,Kenya, and the United States, Walumbwa and associates validated the dimensions of the instrument andfound it positively related to outcomes such as organizational citizenship, organizational commitment, andsatisfaction with supervisor and performance. To obtain this instrument, contact Mind Garden Inc., inMenlo Park, California, or visit

In this section, we provide an authentic leadership self-assessment to help you determine your own level ofauthentic leadership. This questionnaire will help you understand how authentic leadership is measured andprovide you with your own scores on items that characterize authentic leadership. The questionnaireincludes 16 questions that assess the four major components of authentic leadership discussed earlier in thischapter: self-awareness, internalized moral perspective, balanced processing, and relational transparency.Your results on this self-assessment questionnaire will give you information about your level of authenticleadership on these underlying dimensions of authentic leadership. This questionnaire is intended forpractical applications to help you understand the complexities of authentic leadership. It is not designed forresearch purposes.


Authentic Leadership Self-Assessment QuestionnaireInstructions: This questionnaire contains items about different dimensions of authentic leadership. There areno right or wrong responses, so please answer honestly. Use the following scale when responding to eachstatement by writing the number from the scale below that you feel most accurately characterizes yourresponse to the statement.

Key: 1 = Strongly disagree 2 = Disagree 3 = Neutral 4 = Agree 5 = Strongly agree

1. I can list my three greatest weaknesses. 1 2 3 4 5

2. My actions reflect my core values. 1 2 3 4 5

3. I seek others’ opinions before making up my own mind. 1 2 3 4 5

4. I openly share my feelings with others. 1 2 3 4 5

5. I can list my three greatest strengths. 1 2 3 4 5

6. I do not allow group pressure to control me. 1 2 3 4 5

7. I listen closely to the ideas of those who disagree with me. 1 2 3 4 5

8. I let others know who I truly am as a person. 1 2 3 4 5

9. I seek feedback as a way of understanding who I really am as a person. 1 2 3 4 5

10. Other people know where I stand on controversial issues. 1 2 3 4 5

11. I do not emphasize my own point of view at the expense of others. 1 2 3 4 5

12. I rarely present a “false” front to others. 1 2 3 4 5

13. I accept the feelings I have about myself. 1 2 3 4 5

14. My morals guide what I do as a leader. 1 2 3 4 5

15. I listen very carefully to the ideas of others before making decisions. 1 2 3 4 5

16. I admit my mistakes to others. 1 2 3 4 5


Scoring1. Sum the responses on items 1, 5, 9, and 13 (self-awareness).2. Sum the responses on items 2, 6, 10, and 14 (internalized moral perspective).3. Sum the responses on items 3, 7, 11, and 15 (balanced processing).4. Sum the responses on items 4, 8, 12, and 16 (relational transparency).


Total ScoresSelf-Awareness: ______Internalized Moral Perspective: _____Balanced Processing: _____Relational Transparency: _____


Scoring InterpretationThis self-assessment questionnaire is designed to measure your authentic leadership by assessing fourcomponents of the process: self-awareness, internalized moral perspective, balanced processing, andrelational transparency. By comparing your scores on each of these components, you can determine whichare your stronger and which are your weaker components in each category. You can interpret your authenticleadership scores using the following guideline: high = 16–20 and low = 15 and below. Scores in the upperrange indicate stronger authentic leadership, whereas scores in the lower range indicate weaker authenticleadership.



As a result of leadership failures in the public and private sectors, authentic leadership isemerging in response to societal demands for genuine, trustworthy, and good leadership.Authentic leadership describes leadership that is transparent, morally grounded, andresponsive to people’s needs and values. Even though authentic leadership is still in theearly stages of development, the study of authentic leadership is timely and worthwhile,offering hope to people who long for true leadership.

Although there is no single accepted definition of authentic leadership, it can beconceptualized intrapersonally, developmentally, and interpersonally. The intrapersonalperspective focuses on the leader and the leader’s knowledge, self-regulation, and self-concept. The interpersonal perspective claims that authentic leadership is a collectiveprocess, created by leaders and followers together. The developmental perspectiveemphasizes major components of authentic leadership that develop over a lifetime and aretriggered by major life events.

The practical approach to authentic leadership provides basic “how to” steps to become anauthentic leader. George’s (2003) approach identifies five basic dimensions of authenticleadership and the corresponding behavioral characteristics individuals need to develop tobecome authentic leaders.

In the social science literature, a theoretical approach to authentic leadership is emerging.Drawing from the fields of leadership, positive organizational scholarship, and ethics,researchers have identified four major components of authentic leadership: self-awareness,internalized moral perspective, balanced processing, and relational transparency.

In addition, researchers have found that authentic leadership is influenced by a leader’spositive psychological capacities, moral reasoning, and critical life events.

Authentic leadership has several positive features. First, it provides an answer to people whoare searching for good and sound leadership in an uncertain world. Second, authenticleadership provides broad guidelines about how leaders can learn to become authentic.Third, it has an explicit moral dimension that asserts that leaders need to do what is “right”and “good” for their followers and society. Fourth, it is framed as a process that isdeveloped by leaders over time rather than as a fixed trait. Last, authentic leadership can bemeasured with a theory-based instrument.

There are also negative features to authentic leadership. First, the ideas set forth in thepractical approach need to be treated cautiously because they have not been fullysubstantiated by research. Second, the moral component of authentic leadership is not fullyexplained. For example, it does not describe how values such as justice and community are


related to authentic leadership. Third, the rationale for including positive psychologicalcapacities as an inherent part of a model of authentic leadership has not been fullyexplicated. Fourth, there is evidence emerging that authentic leadership may be ineffectivewith the millennial generation. Finally, there is a lack of evidence regarding theeffectiveness of authentic leadership and how it is related to positive organizationaloutcomes.

In summary, authentic leadership is a new and exciting area of research, which holds a greatdeal of promise. As more research is conducted on authentic leadership, a clearer picturewill emerge about the true nature of the process and the assumptions and principles that itencompasses.

Sharpen your skills with SAGE edge at


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10 Servant Leadership



Servant leadership is a paradox—an approach to leadership that runs counter to commonsense. Our everyday images of leadership do not coincide with leaders being servants.Leaders influence, and servants follow. How can leadership be both service and influence?How can a person be a leader and a servant at the same time? Although servant leadershipseems contradictory and challenges our traditional beliefs about leadership, it is anapproach that offers a unique perspective.

Servant leadership, which originated in the writings of Greenleaf (1970, 1972, 1977), hasbeen of interest to leadership scholars for more than 40 years. Until recently, little empiricalresearch on servant leadership has appeared in established peer-reviewed journals. Most ofthe academic and nonacademic writing on the topic has been prescriptive, focusing on howservant leadership should ideally be, rather than descriptive, focusing on what servantleadership actually is in practice (van Dierendonck, 2011). However, in the past 10 years,multiple publications have helped to clarify servant leadership and substantiate its basicassumptions.

Similar to earlier leadership theories discussed in this book (e.g., skills approach andbehavioral approach), servant leadership is an approach focusing on leadership from thepoint of view of the leader and his or her behaviors. Servant leadership emphasizes thatleaders be attentive to the concerns of their followers, empathize with them, and nurturethem. Servant leaders put followers first, empower them, and help them develop their fullpersonal capacities. Furthermore, servant leaders are ethical (see Chapter 13, “LeadershipEthics,” for an extended discussion of this topic) and lead in ways that serve the greatergood of the organization, community, and society at large.


Servant Leadership Defined

What is servant leadership? Scholars have addressed this approach from many differentperspectives resulting in a variety of definitions of servant leadership. Greenleaf (1970)provides the most frequently referenced definition:

[Servant leadership] begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, toserve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. . . . The differencemanifests itself in the care taken by the servant—first to make sure that otherpeople’s highest priority needs are being served. The best test . . . is: do thoseserved grow as persons; do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer,more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? And, what is theeffect on the least privileged in society; will they benefit, or, at least, will they notbe further deprived? (p. 15)

Although complex, this definition sets forth the basic ideas of servant leadership that havebeen highlighted by current scholars. Servant leaders place the good of followers over theirown self-interests and emphasize follower development (Hale & Fields, 2007). Theydemonstrate strong moral behavior toward followers (Graham, 1991; Walumbwa, Hartnell,& Oke, 2010), the organization, and other stakeholders (Ehrhart, 2004). Practicing servantleadership comes more naturally for some than others, but everyone can learn to be aservant leader (Spears, 2010). Although servant leadership is sometimes treated by others asa trait, in our discussion, servant leadership is viewed as a behavior.


Historical Basis of Servant Leadership

Robert K. Greenleaf coined the term servant leadership and is the author of the seminalworks on the subject. Greenleaf’s persona and writings have significantly influenced howservant leadership has developed on the practical and theoretical level. He founded theCenter for Applied Ethics in 1964, now the Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership,which provides a clearinghouse and focal point for research and writing on servantleadership.

Greenleaf worked for 40 years at AT&T and, after retiring, began exploring howinstitutions function and how they could better serve society. He was intrigued by issues ofpower and authority and how individuals in organizations could creatively support eachother. Decidedly against coercive leadership, Greenleaf advocated using communication tobuild consensus in groups.

Greenleaf credits his formulation of servant leadership to Hermann Hesse’s (1956) novelThe Journey to the East. It tells the story of a group of travelers on a mythical journey whoare accompanied by a servant who does menial chores for the travelers but also sustainsthem with his spirits and song. The servant’s presence has an extraordinary impact on thegroup. When the servant becomes lost and disappears from the group, the travelers fall intodisarray and abandon the journey. Without the servant, they are unable to carry on. It wasthe servant who was ultimately leading the group, emerging as a leader through his selflesscare of the travelers.

In addition to serving, Greenleaf states that a servant leader has a social responsibility to beconcerned about the “have-nots” and those less privileged. If inequalities and socialinjustices exist, a servant leader tries to remove them (Graham, 1991). In becoming aservant leader, a leader uses less institutional power and control while shifting authority tothose who are being led. Servant leadership values community because it provides a face-to-face opportunity for individuals to experience interdependence, respect, trust, andindividual growth (Greenleaf, 1970).


Ten Characteristics of a Servant Leader

In an attempt to clarify servant leadership for practitioners, Spears (2002) identified 10characteristics in Greenleaf’s writings that are central to the development of servantleadership. Together, these characteristics comprise the first model or conceptualization ofservant leadership.

1. Listening. Communication between leaders and followers is an interactive process thatincludes sending and receiving messages (i.e., talking and listening). Servant leaderscommunicate by listening first. They recognize that listening is a learned disciplinethat involves hearing and being receptive to what others have to say. Throughlistening, servant leaders acknowledge the viewpoint of followers and validate theseperspectives.

2. Empathy. Empathy is “standing in the shoes” of another person and attempting to seethe world from that person’s point of view. Empathetic servant leaders demonstratethat they truly understand what followers are thinking and feeling. When a servantleader shows empathy, it is confirming and validating for the follower. It makes thefollower feel unique.

3. Healing. To heal means to make whole. Servant leaders care about the personal well-being of their followers. They support followers by helping them overcome personalproblems. Greenleaf argues that the process of healing is a two-way street—in helpingfollowers become whole, servant leaders themselves are healed.

4. Awareness. For Greenleaf, awareness is a quality within servant leaders that makesthem acutely attuned and receptive to their physical, social, and politicalenvironments. It includes understanding oneself and the impact one has on others.With awareness, servant leaders are able to step aside and view themselves and theirown perspectives in the greater context of the situation.

5. Persuasion. Persuasion is clear and persistent communication that convinces others tochange. As opposed to coercion, which utilizes positional authority to forcecompliance, persuasion creates change through the use of gentle nonjudgmentalargument. According to Spears (2002), Greenleaf’s emphasis on persuasion overcoercion is perhaps related to his denominational affiliation with the ReligiousSociety of Friends (Quakers).

6. Conceptualization. Conceptualization refers to an individual’s ability to be a visionaryfor an organization, providing a clear sense of its goals and direction. Thischaracteristic goes beyond day-to-day operational thinking to focus on the “bigpicture.” Conceptualization also equips servant leaders to respond to complexorganizational problems in creative ways, enabling them to deal with the intricacies ofthe organization in relationship to its long-term goals.

7. Foresight. Foresight encompasses a servant leader’s ability to know the future. It is anability to predict what is coming based on what is occurring in the present and what


has happened in the past. For Greenleaf, foresight has an ethical dimension becausehe believes leaders should be held accountable for any failures to anticipate whatreasonably could be foreseen and to act on that understanding.

8. Stewardship. Stewardship is about taking responsibility for the leadership roleentrusted to the leader. Servant leaders accept the responsibility to carefully managethe people and organization they have been given to lead. In addition, they hold theorganization in trust for the greater good of society.

9. Commitment to the growth of people. Greenleaf’s conceptualization of servantleadership places a premium on treating each follower as a unique person withintrinsic value that goes beyond his or her tangible contributions to the organization.Servant leaders are committed to helping each person in the organization growpersonally and professionally. Commitment can take many forms, includingproviding followers with opportunities for career development, helping them developnew work skills, taking a personal interest in their ideas, and involving them indecision making (Spears, 2002).

10. Building community. Servant leadership fosters the development of community. Acommunity is a collection of individuals who have shared interests and pursuits andfeel a sense of unity and relatedness. Community allows followers to identify withsomething greater than themselves that they value. Servant leaders build communityto provide a place where people can feel safe and connected with others, but are stillallowed to express their own individuality.

These 10 characteristics of servant leadership represent Greenleaf’s seminal work on theservant as leader. They provide a creative lens from which to view the complexities ofservant leadership.


Building a Theory About Servant Leadership

For more than three decades after Greenleaf’s original writings, servant leadership remaineda set of loosely defined characteristics and normative principles. In this form it was widelyaccepted as a leadership approach, rather than a theory, that has strong heuristic andpractical value. Praise for servant leadership came from a wide range of well-knownleadership writers, including Bennis (2002), Blanchard and Hodges (2003), Covey (2002),DePree (2002), Senge (2002), and Wheatley (2002). At the same time, servant leadershipwas adopted as a guiding philosophy in many well-known organizations such as The ToroCompany, Herman Miller, Synovus Financial Corporation, ServiceMaster, Men’sWearhouse, Southwest Airlines, and TDIndustries (Spears, 2002). Although novel andparadoxical, the basic ideas and prescriptions of servant leadership resonated with many asan ideal way to run an organization.

More recently, researchers have begun to examine the conceptual underpinnings of servantleadership in an effort to build a theory about it. This has resulted in a wide array of modelsthat describe servant leadership that incorporate a multitude of variables. For example,Russell and Stone (2002) developed a practical model of servant leadership that contained20 attributes, 9 functional characteristics (distinctive behaviors observed in the workplace)and 11 accompanying characteristics that augment these behaviors. Similarly, Patterson(2003) created a value-based model of servant leadership that distinguished 7 constructsthat characterize the virtues and shape the behaviors of servant leaders.

Other conceptualizations of servant leadership have emerged from researchers’ efforts todevelop and validate instruments to measure the core dimensions of the servant leadershipprocess. Table 10.1 provides a summary of some of these studies, illustrating clearly theextensiveness of characteristics related to servant leadership. This table demonstrates howservant leadership is treated as a trait phenomenon (e.g., courage, humility) in some studieswhile other researchers regard it as a behavioral process (e.g., serving and developingothers).

Table 10.1 also exhibits the lack of agreement among researchers on what specificcharacteristics define servant leadership. While some of the studies include commoncharacteristics, such as humility or empowerment, none of the studies conceptualize servantleadership in exactly the same way. Most recently, Coetzer, Bussin, and Geldenhuys (2017)analyzed the existing literature and created a framework that summarizes the functions ofservant leadership to make it more practical in organizations. They highlight 8 servantleadership characteristics (authenticity, humility, integrity, listening, compassion,accountability, courage, and altruism), 4 competencies, and 10 measures and 3 outcomes ofservant leadership. Although scholars are not in agreement regarding the primary attributesof servant leadership, all these studies provide the groundwork necessary for the


development of a refined model of servant leadership.

Table 10.1 Key Characteristics of Servant Leadership


Wong &Davey(2007)

Barbuto &Wheeler(2006)

Dennis &Bocarnea(2005)

Sendjaya,Sarros, &Santora (2008)

vanDierendonck& Nuijten(2011)


• Sharingleadership


• Valuingpeople

• Providingleadership

• Buildingcommunity

• Servinganddevelopingothers


• Humilityandselflessness

• Modelingintegrityandauthenticity

• Inspiringandinfluencingothers

• Altruisticcalling

• Emotionalhealing

• Persuasivemapping


• Wisdom


• Trust

• Humility

• Agapao love

• Vision


• Voluntarysubordination

• Authentic self


• Covenantalrelationship

• Responsiblemorality


• Humility

• Standingback

• Authenticity

• Forgiveness

• Courage


• Stewardship

Source: Adapted from “Servant leadership: A review and synthesis,” by D. van Dierendonck, 2011, Journal ofManagement, 37(4), pp. 1228–1261.

Figure 10.1 Model of Servant Leadership


Source: Adapted from Liden, R. C., Panaccio, A., Hu, J., & Meuser, J. D. (2014).Servant leadership: Antecedents, consequences, and contextual moderators. In D. V.Day (Ed.), The Oxford handbook of leadership and organizations. Oxford, UK:Oxford University Press; and van Dierendonck, D. (2011). Servant leadership: Areview and syntheses. Journal of Management, 37(4), 1228–1261.


Model of Servant Leadership

This chapter presents a servant leadership model based on Liden, Wayne, Zhao, andHenderson (2008) and Liden, Panaccio, Hu, and Meuser (2014) that has three maincomponents: antecedent conditions, servant leader behaviors, and leadership outcomes (Figure10.1). The model is intended to clarify the phenomenon of servant leadership and providea framework for understanding its complexities.


Antecedent Conditions

As shown on the left side of Figure 10.1, three antecedent, or existing, conditions have animpact on servant leadership: context and culture, leader attributes, and follower receptivity.These conditions are not inclusive of all the conditions that affect servant leadership, but dorepresent some factors likely to influence the leadership process.

Context and Culture.

Servant leadership does not occur in a vacuum but occurs within a given organizationalcontext and a particular culture. The nature of each of these affects the way servantleadership is carried out. For example, in health care and nonprofit settings, the norm ofcaring is more prevalent, while for Wall Street corporations it is more common to havecompetition as an operative norm. Because the norms differ, the ways servant leadership isperformed may vary.

Dimensions of culture (see Chapter 16, “Culture and Leadership”) will also influenceservant leadership. For example, in cultures where power distance is low (e.g., NordicEurope) and power is shared equally among people at all levels of society, servant leadershipmay be more common. In cultures with low humane orientation (e.g., Germanic Europe),servant leadership may present more of a challenge. The point is that cultures influence theway servant leadership is able to be achieved.

Leader Attributes.

As in any leadership situation, the qualities and disposition of the leader influence theservant leadership process. Individuals bring their own traits and ideas about leading toleadership situations. Some may feel a deep desire to serve or are strongly motivated to lead.Others may be driven by a sense of higher calling (Sendjaya, Sarros, & Santora, 2008).These dispositions shape how individuals demonstrate servant leadership. In addition,people differ in areas such as moral development, emotional intelligence, and self-determinedness, and these traits interact with their ability to engage in servant leadership.

Recent research has attempted to determine if there are specific leader traits that areimportant to servant leadership. Emotional intelligence, or the leader’s ability to monitorthe feelings, beliefs, and internal states of the self and followers, has been identified as animportant attribute for a leader implementing a servant-leader ideology (Barbuto,Gottfredson, & Searle, 2014; Beck, 2014; Chiniara & Bentein, 2016). An empirical studyby Hunter and colleagues (2013) concluded that “leaders scoring high in agreeableness andlow in extraversion were more likely to be perceived as servant leaders by their followers”(p. 327). In addition, a study by Sousa and van Dierendonck (2017) determined thathaving humility can make a servant leader more impactful regardless of his or her


hierarchical position in an organization.

Follower Receptivity.

The receptivity of followers is a factor that appears to influence the impact of servantleadership on outcomes such as personal and organizational job performance. Followerreceptivity concerns the question “Do all followers show a desire for servant leadership?”Research suggests the answer may be no. Some followers do not want to work with servantleaders. They equate servant leadership with micromanagement, and report that they donot want their leader to get to know them or try to help, develop, or guide them (Liden etal., 2008). Similarly, empirical studies have shown that when servant leadership wasmatched with followers who desired it, this type of leadership had a positive impact onperformance and organizational citizenship behavior (Meuser, Liden, Wayne, &Henderson, 2011; Otero-Neira, Varela-Neira, & Bande, 2016; Ozyilmaz & Cicek, 2015).The opposite was seen when there was no match between servant leadership and the desireof followers for it. It appears that, for some followers, servant leadership has a positiveimpact and, for others, servant leadership is not effective.


Servant Leader Behaviors

The middle component of Figure 10.1 identifies seven servant leader behaviors that are thecore of the servant leadership process. These behaviors emerged from Liden et al.’s (2008)vigorous efforts to develop and validate a measure of servant leadership. The findings fromtheir research provide evidence for the soundness of viewing servant leadership as amultidimensional process. Collectively, these behaviors are the central focus of servantleadership. Individually, each behavior makes a unique contribution.


Conceptualizing refers to the servant leader’s thorough understanding of the organization—its purposes, complexities, and mission. This capacity allows servant leaders to thinkthrough multifaceted problems, to know if something is going wrong, and to addressproblems creatively in accordance with the overall goals of the organization.

For example, Kate Simpson, a senior nursing supervisor in an emergency room of a largehospital, uses conceptualizing to lead her department. She fully understands the mission ofthe hospital and, at the same time, knows how to effectively manage staff on a day-to-daybasis. Her staff members say Kate has a sixth sense about what is best for people. She isknown for her wisdom in dealing with difficult patients and helping staff diagnose complexmedical problems. Her abilities, competency, and value as a servant leader earned her thehospital’s Caregiver of the Year Award.

Emotional Healing.

Emotional healing involves being sensitive to the personal concerns and well-being ofothers. It includes recognizing others’ problems and being willing to take the time toaddress them. Servant leaders who exhibit emotional healing make themselves available toothers, stand by them, and provide them with support.

Emotional healing is apparent in the work of Father John, a much sought-after hospicepriest on Chicago’s South Side. Father John has a unique approach to hospice patients: Hedoesn’t encourage, give advice, or read Scripture. Instead he simply listens to them. “Whenyou face death, the only important thing in life is relationships,” he says. “I practice the artof standing by. I think it is more important to come just to be there than to do anythingelse.”

Putting Followers First.

Putting others first is the sine qua non of servant leadership—the defining characteristic. Itmeans using actions and words that clearly demonstrate to followers that their concerns are


a priority, including placing followers’ interests and success ahead of those of the leader. Itmay mean a leader breaks from his or her own tasks to assist followers with theirs.

Dr. Autumn Klein, a widely published health education professor at a major researchuniversity, is responsible for several ongoing large interdisciplinary public health studies.Although she is the principal investigator on these studies, when multiauthored articles aresubmitted for publication, Dr. Klein puts the names of other researchers before her own.She chooses to let others be recognized because she knows it will benefit them in theirannual performance reviews. She puts the success of her colleagues ahead of her owninterests.

Helping Followers Grow and Succeed.

This behavior refers to knowing followers’ professional or personal goals and helping themto accomplish those aspirations. Servant leaders make followers’ career development apriority, including mentoring followers and providing them with support. At its core,helping followers grow and succeed is about aiding these individuals to become self-actualized, reaching their fullest human potential.

An example of how a leader helps others grow and succeed is Mr. Yon Kim, a high schoolorchestra teacher who consistently receives praise from parents for his outstanding workwith students. Mr. Kim is a skilled violinist with high musical standards, but he does not letthat get in the way of helping each student, from the most highly accomplished to the leastcapable. Students like Mr. Kim because he listens to them and treats them as adults. Hegives feedback without being judgmental. Many of his former students have gone on tobecome music majors. They often visit Mr. Kim to let him know how important he was tothem. Yon Kim is a servant leader who helps students grow through his teaching andguidance.

Behaving Ethically.

Behaving ethically is doing the right thing in the right way. It is holding to strong ethicalstandards, including being open, honest, and fair with followers. Servant leaders do notcompromise their ethical principles in order to achieve success.

An example of ethical behavior is how CEO Elizabeth Angliss responded when one of heremployees brought her a copy of a leaked document from their company’s chiefcompetitor, outlining its plans to go after some of Angliss’s largest customers. Although sheknew the document undoubtedly had valuable information, she shredded it instead ofreading it. She then called the rival CEO and told him she had received the document andwanted him to be aware that he might have a security issue within his company. “I didn’tknow if what I received was real or not,” she explains. “But it didn’t matter. If it was thereal thing, someone on his end did something wrong, and my company wasn’t going to


capitalize on that.”


Empowering refers to allowing followers the freedom to be independent, make decisions ontheir own, and be self-sufficient. It is a way for leaders to share power with followers byallowing them to have control. Empowerment builds followers’ confidence in their owncapacities to think and act on their own because they are given the freedom to handledifficult situations in the way they feel is best.

For example, a college professor teaching a large lecture class empowers two teachingassistants assigned to him by letting them set their own office hours, independently gradestudent papers, and practice teaching by giving one of the weekly class lectures. Theybecome confident in their teaching abilities and bring new ideas to the professor to try inthe classroom.

Creating Value for the Community.

Servant leaders create value for the community by consciously and intentionally giving backto the community. They are involved in local activities and encourage followers to alsovolunteer for community service. Creating value for the community is one way for leadersto link the purposes and goals of an organization with the broader purposes of thecommunity.

An example of creating value for the community can be seen in the leadership of MercedesUrbanez, principal of Alger High School. Alger is an alternative high school in a midsizecommunity with three other high schools. Mercedes’s care and concern for students atAlger is remarkable. Ten percent of Alger’s students have children, so the school provideson-site day care. Fifteen percent of the students are on probation, and Alger is often theirlast stop before dropping out entirely and resuming criminal activities. While the otherschools in town foster competition and push Advanced Placement courses, Alger focuses onremoving the barriers that keep its students from excelling and offers courses that providewhat its students need, including multimedia skills, reading remediation, and parenting.

Under Mercedes, Alger High School is a model alternative school appreciated at every levelin the community. Students, who have failed in other schools, find they have a safe place togo where they are accepted and adults try to help them solve their problems. Lawenforcement supports the school’s efforts to help these students get back into themainstream of society and away from crime. The other high schools in the communityknow that Alger provides services they find difficult to provide. Mercedes serves the have-nots in the community, and the whole community reaps the benefits.

Other researchers have used the servant leadership behaviors as identified by Liden et al.’s


(2008) work as well as the work of Page and Wong (2000), Sendjaya and Sarros (2002),Dennis and Bocarnea (2005), and Barbuto and Wheeler (2006) as the foundation forefforts to understand the essential behaviors of servant leadership and how they areestablished in an organization. For example, Winston and Fields (2015) developed andvalidated a scale that identifies 10 leader behaviors that are essential to servant leadershipand establishing servant leadership in an organization.



Although servant leadership focuses primarily on leader behaviors, it is also important toexamine the potential outcomes of servant leadership. The outcomes of servant leadershipare follower performance and growth, organizational performance, and societal impact (seeFigure 10.1). As Greenleaf highlighted in his original work (1970), the central goal ofservant leadership is to create healthy organizations that nurture individual growth,strengthen organizational performance, and, in the end, produce a positive impact onsociety.

Follower Performance and Growth.

In the model of servant leadership, most of the servant leader behaviors focus directly onrecognizing followers’ contributions and helping them realize their human potential. Theexpected outcome for followers is greater self-actualization. That is, followers will realizetheir full capabilities when leaders nurture them, help them with their personal goals, andgive them control.

Another outcome of servant leadership, suggested by Meuser et al. (2011), is that it willhave a favorable impact on follower in-role performance—the way followers do theirassigned work. When servant leaders were matched with followers who were open to thistype of leadership, the results were positive. Followers became more effective ataccomplishing their jobs and fulfilling their job descriptions. For example, studies ofservant leadership in a sales setting in Spain found that sales managers’ servant leadershipwas directly related to salespeople’s performance within the organization and indirectlyrelated to salespeople’s identification with the organization. In addition, it enhanced thesalespeople’s adaptability and proactivity by positively affecting their self-efficacy andintrinsic motivation (Bande, Fernández-Ferrín, Varela-Neira, & Otero-Neira, 2016; Otero-Neira et al., 2016). Hunter et al. (2013) found that servant leadership fosters a positiveservice climate, induces followers to help coworkers and sell products, and reduces turnoverand disengagement behaviors. In addition, Chiniara and Bentein (2016) found that whenservant leaders attended to followers’ needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness, ithad a positive impact on followers’ task performance and organizational citizenshipbehavior.

Finally, another expected result of servant leadership is that followers themselves maybecome servant leaders. Greenleaf’s conceptualization of servant leadership hypothesizesthat when followers receive caring and empowerment from ethical leaders, they, in turn,will likely begin treating others in this way. Servant leadership would produce a ripple effectin which servant leaders create more servant leaders. For example, Hunter et al. (2013)report that employees who perceived their leaders as having servant qualities were more


likely to help their coworkers with task and interpersonal matters, as well as less likely todisengage.

Organizational Performance.

Initial research has shown that, in addition to positively affecting followers and theirperformance, servant leadership has an influence on organizational performance. Severalstudies have found a positive relationship between servant leadership and organizationalcitizenship behaviors (OCBs), which are follower behaviors that go beyond the basicrequirements of the follower’s duties and help the overall functioning of the organization(Ehrhart, 2004; Liden et al., 2008; Neubert, Kacmar, Carlson, Chonko, & Roberts, 2008;Walumbwa et al., 2010).

Servant leadership also affects the way organizational teams function. Hu and Liden (2011)found that servant leadership enhanced team effectiveness by increasing the members’shared confidence that they could be effective as a work group. Furthermore, their resultsshowed that servant leadership contributed positively to team potency by enhancing groupprocess and clarity. However, when servant leadership was absent, team potency decreased,despite clearer goals. In essence, it frustrates people to know exactly what the goal is, butnot get the support needed to accomplish the goal.

While research on the organizational outcomes of servant leadership is in its initial stages,more and more studies are being undertaken to substantiate the direct and indirect waysthat servant leadership is related to organizational performance.

Societal Impact.

Another outcome expected of servant leadership is that it is likely to have a positive impacton society. Although societal impact is not commonly measured in studies of servantleadership, there are examples of servant leadership’s impact that are highly visible. Oneexample we are all familiar with is the work of Mother Teresa, whose years of service for thehungry, homeless, and unwanted resulted in the creation of a new religious order, theMissionaries of Charity. This order now has more than 1 million workers in over 40countries that operate hospitals, schools, and hospices for the poor. Mother Teresa’s servantleadership has had an extraordinary impact on society throughout the world.

In the business world, an example of the societal impact of servant leadership can beobserved at Southwest Airlines (see Case 10.3). Leaders at Southwest instituted an “othersfirst” organizational philosophy in the management of the company, which starts with howit treats its employees. This philosophy is adhered to by those employees who themselvesbecome servant leaders in regards to the airline’s customers. Because the company thrives, itimpacts society by providing jobs in the communities it serves and, to a lesser extent, byproviding the customers who rely on it with transportation.


In his conceptualization of servant leadership, Greenleaf did not frame the process as onethat was intended to directly change society. Rather, he visualized leaders who becomeservants first and listen to others and help them grow. As a result, their organizations arehealthier, ultimately benefiting society. In this way, the long-term outcomes of puttingothers first include positive social change and helping society flourish.


Summary of the Model of Servant Leadership

In summary, the model of servant leadership consists of three components: antecedentconditions, servant leader behaviors, and outcomes. The central focus of the model is theseven behaviors of leaders that foster servant leadership: conceptualizing, emotional healing,putting followers first, helping followers grow and succeed, behaving ethically,empowering, and creating value for the community. These behaviors are influenced bycontext and culture, the leader’s attributes, and the followers’ receptivity to this kind ofleadership. When individuals engage in servant leadership, it is likely to improve outcomesat the individual, organizational, and societal levels.


How Does Servant Leadership Work?

The servant leadership approach works differently than many of the prior theories we havediscussed in this book. For example, it is unlike the trait approach (Chapter 2), whichemphasizes that leaders should have certain specific traits. It is also unlike path–goal theory(Chapter 6), which lays out principles regarding what style of leadership is needed invarious situations. Instead, servant leadership focuses on the behaviors leaders shouldexhibit to put followers first and to support followers’ personal development. It isconcerned with how leaders treat followers and the outcomes that are likely to emerge.

So what is the mechanism that explains how servant leadership works? It begins whenleaders commit themselves to putting their followers first, being honest with them, andtreating them fairly. Servant leaders make it a priority to listen to their followers anddevelop strong long-term relationships with them. This allows leaders to understand theabilities, needs, and goals of followers, which, in turn, allows these followers to achieve theirfull potential. When many leaders in an organization adopt a servant leadership orientation,a culture of serving others within and outside the organization is created (Liden et al.,2008).

Servant leadership works best when leaders are altruistic and have a strong motivation anddeep-seated interest in helping others. In addition, for successful servant leadership tooccur, it is important that followers are open and receptive to servant leaders who want toempower them and help them grow.

It should be noted that in much of the writing on servant leadership there is an underlyingphilosophical position, originally set forth by Greenleaf (1970), that leaders should bealtruistic and humanistic. Rather than using their power to dominate others, leaders shouldmake every attempt to share their power and enable others to grow and becomeautonomous. Leadership framed from this perspective downplays competition in theorganization and promotes egalitarianism.

Finally, in an ideal world, servant leadership results in community and societal change.Individuals within an organization who care for each other become committed todeveloping an organization that cares for the community. Organizations that adopt aservant leadership culture are committed to helping those in need who operate outside ofthe organization. Servant leadership extends to serving the “have-nots” in society (Graham,1991). Case 10.2 in this chapter provides a striking example of how one servant leader’swork led to positive outcomes for many throughout the world.



In its current stage of development, research on servant leadership has made several positivecontributions to the field of leadership. First, while there are other leadership approachessuch as transformational and authentic leadership that include an ethical dimension,servant leadership is unique in the way it makes altruism the central component of theleadership process. Servant leadership argues unabashedly that leaders should put followersfirst, share control with followers, and embrace their growth. It is the only leadershipapproach that frames the leadership process around the principle of caring for others.

Second, servant leadership provides a counterintuitive and provocative approach to the useof influence, or power, in leadership. Nearly all other theories of leadership treat influenceas a positive factor in the leadership process, but servant leadership does just the opposite. Itargues that leaders should not dominate, direct, or control; rather, leaders should sharecontrol and influence. To give up control rather than seek control is the goal of servantleadership. Servant leadership is an influence process that does not incorporate influence ina traditional way.

Third, rather than imply that servant leadership is a panacea, research on servant leadershiphas shown there are conditions under which servant leadership is not a preferred kind ofleadership. Findings indicate that servant leadership may not be effective in contexts wherefollowers are not open to being guided, supported, and empowered. Followers’ readiness toreceive servant leadership moderates the potential usefulness of leading from this approach(Liden et al., 2008).

Fourth, recent research has resulted in a sound measure of servant leadership. Using arigorous methodology, Liden et al. (2008) developed and validated the Servant LeadershipQuestionnaire (SLQ), which appears at the end of the chapter. It comprises 28 items thatidentify seven distinct dimensions of servant leadership. Studies show that the SLQ isunique and measures aspects of leadership that are different from those measured by thetransformational and leader–member exchange theories (Liden et al., 2008; Schaubroeck,Lam, & Peng, 2011). The SLQ has proved to be a suitable instrument for use in researchon servant leadership.



In addition to the positive features of servant leadership, this approach has severallimitations. First, the paradoxical nature of the title “servant leadership” creates semanticnoise that diminishes the potential value of the approach. Because the name appearscontradictory, servant leadership is prone to be perceived as fanciful or whimsical. Inaddition, being a servant leader implies following, and following is viewed as the oppositeof leading. Although servant leadership incorporates influence, the mechanism of howinfluence functions as a part of servant leadership is not fully explicated in the approach.

Second, there is debate among servant leadership scholars regarding the core dimensions ofthe process. As illustrated in Table 10.1, servant leadership is hypothesized to include amultitude of abilities, traits, and behaviors. To date, researchers have been unable to reachconsensus on a common definition or theoretical framework for servant leadership (vanDierendonck, 2011). Until a larger body of findings is published on servant leadership, therobustness of theoretical formulations about it will remain limited.

Third, a large segment of the writing on servant leadership has a prescriptive overtone thatimplies that good leaders “put others first.” While advocating an altruistic approach toleadership is commendable, it has a utopian ring because it conflicts with individualautonomy and other principles of leadership such as directing, concern for production, goalsetting, and creating a vision (Gergen, 2006). Furthermore, along with the “value-push”prescriptive quality, there is an almost moralistic nature that seems to surround servantleadership. As a result, many practitioners of servant leadership are not necessarilyresearchers who want to conduct studies to test the validity of servant leadership theory.

Finally, it is unclear why “conceptualizing” is included as one of the servant leadershipbehaviors in the model of servant leadership (see Figure 10.1). Is conceptualizing actually abehavior, or is it a cognitive ability? Furthermore, what is the rationale for identifyingconceptualizing as a determinant of servant leadership? Being able to conceptualize isundoubtedly an important cognitive capacity in all kinds of leadership, but why is it adefining characteristic of servant leadership? A clearer explanation for its central role inservant leadership needs to be addressed in future research.



Servant leadership can be applied at all levels of management and in all types oforganizations. Within a philosophical framework of caring for others, servant leadershipsets forth a list of behaviors that individuals can engage in if they want to be servant leaders.The prescribed behaviors of servant leadership are not esoteric; they are easily understoodand generally applicable to a variety of leadership situations.

Unlike leader–member exchange theory (Chapter 7) or authentic leadership (Chapter 9),which are not widely used in training and development, servant leadership has been usedextensively in a variety of organizations for more than 30 years. Many organizations in theFortune 500 (e.g., Starbucks, AT&T, Southwest Airlines, and Vanguard Group) employideas from servant leadership. Training in servant leadership typically involves self-assessment exercises, educational sessions, and goal setting. The content of servantleadership is straightforward and accessible to followers at every level within theorganization.

Liden et al. (2008) suggest that organizations that want to build a culture of servantleadership should be careful to select people who are interested in and capable of buildinglong-term relationships with followers. Furthermore, because “behaving ethically” ispositively related to job performance, organizations should focus on selecting people whohave high integrity and strong ethics. In addition, organizations should develop trainingprograms that spend time helping leaders develop their emotional intelligence, ethicaldecision making, and skills for empowering others. Behaviors such as these will help leadersnurture followers to their full potential.

Servant leadership is taught at many colleges and universities around the world and is thefocus of numerous independent coaches, trainers, and consultants. In the United States,Gonzaga University and Regent University are recognized as prominent leaders in this areabecause of the academic attention they have given to servant leadership. Overall, the mostrecognized and comprehensive center for training in servant leadership is the GreenleafCenter for Servant Leadership (

In summary, servant leadership provides a philosophy and set of behaviors that individualsin the organizational setting can learn and develop. The following section features casesillustrating how servant leadership has been manifested in different ways.


Case StudiesThis section provides three case studies (Cases 10.1, 10.2, and 10.3) that illustrate different facets of servantleadership. The first case describes the servant leadership of a high school secretary. The second case is about Dr.Paul Farmer and his efforts to stop disease in Haiti and other parts of the world. The third case is about theleaders of Southwest Airlines who created a servant leadership culture that permeates the company. At the end ofeach case, several questions are provided to help analyze the case from the perspective of servant leadership.


Case10.1: Everyone Loves Mrs. NobleSharon Noble is in charge of the main office at Essex High School, a position she has held for nearly 30 years.She does not have a college degree, but that does not seem to hinder her work as “secretary” for the school. She isan extravert, and people say her jokes are corny, but she runs the office efficiently and well, getting along withteachers and students and dealing with the rules and procedures that govern day-to-day Essex school life.

When people describe Sharon, they say that she is wise and seems to know just about everything there is to knowabout the school. She understands the core curriculum, testing, dress code, skip policy, after-school programs,helicopter parents, and much more. If students want to have a bake sale, she tells them the best way to do it. Ifthey want to take Advanced Placement courses, she tells them which ones to take. The list of what she knows isendless. For years parents have told one another, “If you want to know anything about the school, go to Mrs.Noble—she is Essex High School.”

There is nothing pretentious about Mrs. Noble. She drives an old car and wears simple clothes. Students saythey’ve never seen her wear makeup. But nevertheless, she is still “with it” when it comes to student fads andeccentricities. When students had long hair and fringed vests in the 1970s, Sharon was cool with it. She nevermocks students who are “way out” and seems to even enjoy these students. When students wear clothes to getattention because they feel ostracized, Sharon is accepting and even acknowledges the “uniqueness” of their act,unless it violates the dress code. In those cases, she talks nonjudgmentally with students about their clothing,guiding them to make different choices to stay out of trouble.

Even though it isn’t technically in her job description, Mrs. Noble excels at helping juniors prepare applicationsfor college. She knows all the requirements and deadlines and the materials required by the different universities.She spends hours pushing, nudging, and convincing students to stay on task and get their applications submitted.She doesn’t care if students go to Ivy League schools, state schools, or community colleges; but she does care ifthey go on to school. Mrs. Noble regrets not having been able to attend college, so it is important to her that“her” students do everything they can to go.

At times her job is challenging. For example, the principal made teaching assignments that the faculty did notlike, and Sharon was the one they shared their concerns with. She was a great listener and helped them see thediffering perspectives of the situation. One year, when a student was in a car accident and unable to come toschool for several months, Sharon personally worked with each one of the student’s teachers to get herassignments, delivered them to the student’s home, and picked them up when they were complete. When theseniors held a dance marathon to raise money for cancer research, it was Sharon who pledged the most, eventhough she didn’t make very much as the school’s secretary. She wanted to make sure each senior participatinghad at least one pledge on his or her roster; in most cases it was Sharon’s.

In 2010, the class of 1989 had its 25-year reunion, and of all the memories shared, the most were about SharonNoble. Essex High School had a wonderful principal, many good teachers, and great coaches, but when alumniwere asked, who runs the school? The answer was always “Mrs. Noble.”


Questions1. What servant leader behaviors would you say Mrs. Noble demonstrates?2. Who are Mrs. Noble’s followers?3. Based on the model of servant leadership (Figure 10.1), what outcomes has Mrs. Noble’s servant

leadership attained?4. Can you think of someone at a school or organization you were part of who acted like Mrs. Noble?

Describe what this person did and how it affected you and the school or organization.


Case 10.2: Doctor to the Poor

“Education wasn’t what he wanted to perform on the world . . . He was after transformation.”

—Kidder (2003, p. 44)

When Paul Farmer graduated from Duke University at 22, he was unsure whether he wanted to be ananthropologist or a doctor. So he went to Haiti. As a student, Paul had become obsessed with the island nationafter meeting many Haitians at local migrant camps. Paul was used to the grittier side of life; he had grown up ina family of eight that lived in a converted school bus and later on a houseboat moored in a bayou. But what heobserved at the migrant camps and learned from his discussions with Haitian immigrants made his childhoodseem idyllic.

In Haiti, he volunteered for a small charity called Eye Care Haiti, which conducted outreach clinics in rural areas.He was drawn in by the deplorable conditions and lives of the Haitian people and determined to use his timethere to learn everything he could about illness and disease afflicting the poor. Before long, Paul realized that hehad found his life’s purpose: He’d be a doctor to poor people, and he’d start in Haiti.

Paul entered Harvard University in 1984 and, for the first two years, traveled back and forth to Haiti where heconducted a health census in the village of Cange. During that time he conceived of a plan to fight disease inHaiti by developing a public health system that included vaccination programs and clean water and sanitation.The heart of this program, however, would be a cadre of people from the villages who were trained to administermedicines, teach health classes, treat minor ailments, and recognize the symptoms of grave illnesses such as HIV,tuberculosis, and malaria.

His vision became reality in 1987, thanks to a wealthy donor who gave $1 million to help Paul create Partners InHealth (PIH). At first it wasn’t much of an organization—no staff, a small advisory board, and three committedvolunteers. But its work was impressive: PIH began building schools and clinics in and around Cange. Soon PIHestablished a training program for health outreach workers and organized a mobile unit to screen residents of areavillages for preventable diseases.

In 1990, Paul finished his medical studies and became a fellow in infectious diseases at Brigham and Women’sHospital in Boston. He was able to remain in Haiti for most of each year, returning to Boston to work atBrigham for a few months at a time, sleeping in the basement of PIH headquarters.

It wasn’t long before PIH’s successes started gaining attention outside of Haiti. Because of its success treating thedisease in Haiti, the World Health Organization appointed Paul and PIH staffer Jim Yong Kim to spearheadpilot treatment programs for multiple-drug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB). Paul’s attention was now divertedto the slums of Peru and Russia where cases of MDR-TB were on the rise. In Peru, Paul and PIH encounteredbarriers in treating MDR-TB that had nothing to do with the disease. They ran headlong into governmentalresistance and had to battle to obtain expensive medications. Paul learned to gently navigate governmentalobstacles, while the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation stepped in with a $44.7 million grant to help fund theprogram.

In 2005, PIH turned its attention to another part of the world: Africa, the epicenter of the global AIDSpandemic. Beginning its efforts in Rwanda, where few people had been tested or were receiving treatment, PIHtested 30,000 people in eight months and enrolled nearly 700 in drug therapy to treat the disease. Soon, theorganization expanded its efforts to the African nations of Lesotho and Malawi (Partners In Health, 2011).

But Paul’s efforts weren’t just in far-flung reaches of the world. From his work with patients at Brigham, Paulobserved the needs of the impoverished in Boston. The Prevention and Access to Care and Treatment (PACT)project was created to offer drug therapy for HIV and diabetes for the poor residents of the Roxbury and


Dorchester districts. PIH has since sent PACT project teams across the United States to provide support to othercommunity health programs.

By 2009, PIH had grown to 13,600 employees working in health centers and hospitals in eight countries(Partners In Health, 2013), including the Dominican Republic, Peru, Mexico, Rwanda, Lesotho, Malawi, theNavajo Nation (U.S.), and Russia. Each year the organization increases the number of facilities and personnelthat provide health care to the residents of some of the most impoverished and diseased places in the world. Paulcontinues to travel around the world, monitoring programs and raising funds for PIH in addition to leading theDepartment of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School.


Questions1. Would you characterize Paul Farmer as a servant leader? Explain your answer.2. Putting others first is the essence of servant leadership. In what way does Paul Farmer put others first?3. Another characteristic of a servant leader is getting followers to serve. Who are Paul Farmer’s followers,

and how did they become servants to his vision?4. What role do you think Paul Farmer’s childhood had in his development as a servant leader?


Case 10.3: Servant Leadership Takes FlightA young mother traveling with a toddler on a long cross-country flight approached the flight attendant lookingrather frantic. Because of weather and an hour-and-a-half wait on the runway to take off, the plane would arriveat its destination several hours late. The plane had made an intermediate stop in Denver to pick up passengersbut not long enough for travelers to disembark. The mother told the attendant that with the delays and the longflight, her child had already eaten all the food she brought and if she didn’t feed him soon he was bound to havea total meltdown. “Can I get off for five minutes just to run and get something for him to eat?” she pleaded.

“I have to recommend strongly that you stay on the plane,” the attendant said, sternly. But then, with a smile,she added, “But I can get off. The plane won’t leave without me. What can I get your son to eat?”

Turns out that flight attendant not only got the little boy a meal, but brought four other children on board mealsas well. Anyone who has traveled in a plane with screaming children knows that this flight attendant not onlytook care of some hungry children and frantic parents, but also indirectly saw to the comfort of a planeload ofother passengers.

This story doesn’t surprise anyone familiar with Southwest Airlines. The airline’s mission statement is postedevery 3 feet at all Southwest locations: Follow the Golden Rule—treat people the way you want to be treated.

It’s a philosophy that the company takes to heart and begins with how it treats employees. Colleen Barrett, theformer president of Southwest Airlines, says the company’s cofounder and her mentor, Herb Kelleher, wasadamant that “a happy and motivated workforce will essentially extend that goodwill to Southwest’s customers”(Knowledge@Wharton, 2008). If the airline took care of its employees, the employees would take care of thecustomers, and the shareholders would win, too.

From the first days of Southwest Airlines, Herb resisted establishing traditional hierarchies within the company.He focused on finding employees with substance, willing to say what they thought and committed to doingthings differently. Described as “an egalitarian spirit,” he employed a collaborative approach to management thatinvolved his associates at every step.

Colleen, who went from working as Herb’s legal secretary to being the president of the airline, is living proof ofhis philosophy. A poor girl from rural Vermont who got the opportunity of a lifetime to work for Herb when hewas still just a lawyer, she rose from his aide to become vice president of administration, then executive vicepresident of customers, and then president and chief operating officer in 2001 (which she stepped down from in2008). She had no formal training in aviation, but that didn’t matter. Herb “always treated me as a completeequal to him,” she says.

It was Colleen who instituted the Golden Rule as the company motto and developed a model that focuses onemployee satisfaction and issues first, followed by the needs of the passengers. The company hired employees fortheir touchy-feely attitudes and trained them for skill. Southwest Airlines developed a culture that celebrated andencouraged humor. The example of being themselves on the job started at the top with Herb and Colleen.

This attitude has paid off. Southwest Airlines posted a profit for 35 consecutive years and continues to makemoney while other airlines’ profits are crashing. Colleen says the most important numbers on the balance sheet,however, are those that indicate how many millions of people have become frequent flyers of the airline, anumber that grows every year.


Questions1. What type of servant leader behaviors did Herb Kelleher exhibit in starting the airline? What about

Colleen Barrett?2. How do the leaders of Southwest Airlines serve others? What others are they serving?3. Southwest Airlines emphasizes the Golden Rule. What role does the Golden Rule play in servant

leadership? Is it always a part of servant leadership? Discuss.4. Based on Figure 10.1, describe the outcomes of servant leadership at Southwest Airlines, and how

follower receptivity may have influenced those outcomes.

Leadership Instrument

Many questionnaires have been used to measure servant leadership (see Table 10.1). Because of its relevanceto the content, the Servant Leadership Questionnaire (SLQ) by Liden et al. (2008) was chosen for inclusionin this chapter. It is a 28-item scale that measures seven major dimensions of servant leadership:conceptualizing, emotional healing, putting followers first, helping followers grow and succeed, behavingethically, empowering, and creating value for the community. Using exploratory and confirmatory factoranalysis, Liden et al. established the multiple dimensions of this scale and described how it is uniquelydifferent from other leadership measures. In addition, Liden et al. (2015) have developed and validated a 7-item scale that measures global servant leadership, which correlates strongly with the 28-item measure usedin this section.

By completing the SLQ you will gain an understanding of how servant leadership is measured and explorewhere you stand on the different dimensions of servant leadership. Servant leadership is a complex process,and taking the SLQ is one way to discover the dynamics of how it works.


Servant Leadership QuestionnaireInstructions: Select two people who know you in a leadership capacity such as a coworker, fellow groupmember, or follower. Make two copies of this questionnaire and give a copy to each individual you havechosen. Using the following 7-point scale, ask them to indicate the extent to which they agree or disagreewith the following statements as they pertain to your leadership. In these statements, “He/She” is referringto you in a leadership capacity.

Key: 1 = Strongly disagree 2 = Disagree 3 = Disagree somewhat 4 = Undecided 5 = Agreesomewhat 6 = Agree 7 = Strongly agree

1.Others would seek help from him/her if they had a personalproblem.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

2.He/She emphasizes the importance of giving back to thecommunity.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

3. He/She can tell if something work related is going wrong. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

4.He/She gives others the responsibility to make importantdecisions about their own jobs.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

5. He/She makes others’ career development a priority. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

6. He/She cares more about others’ success than his/her own. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

7. He/She holds high ethical standards. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

8. He/She cares about others’ personal well-being. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

9.He/She is always interested in helping people in thecommunity.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

10. He/She is able to think through complex problems. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

11.He/She encourages others to handle important work decisionson their own.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

12.He/She is interested in making sure others reach their careergoals.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

13. He/She puts others’ best interests above his/her own. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

14. He/She is always honest. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

15. He/She takes time to talk to others on a personal level. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

16. He/She is involved in community activities. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7


17. He/She has a thorough understanding of the organization andits goals.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

18.He/She gives others the freedom to handle difficult situationsin the way they feel is best.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

19.He/She provides others with work experiences that enablethem to develop new skills.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

20. He/She sacrifices his/her own interests to meet others’ needs. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

21.He/She would not compromise ethical principles in order tomeet success.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

22.He/She can recognize when others are feeling down withoutasking them.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

23. He/She encourages others to volunteer in the community. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

24. He/She can solve work problems with new or creative ideas. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

25.If others need to make important decisions at work, they donot need to consult him/her.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

26. He/She wants to know about others’ career goals. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

27. He/She does what he/she can to make others’ jobs easier. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

28. He/She values honesty more than profits. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7Source: Reprinted (adapted version) from The Leadership Quarterly, 19, R. C. Liden, S. J. Wayne, H.Zhao, and D. Henderson, “Servant Leadership: Development of a Multidimensional Measure andMulti-Level Assessment,” pp. 161-177, Copyright (2008), with permission from Elsevier


ScoringUsing the questionnaires on which others assessed your leadership, take the separate scores for each item,add them together, and divide that sum by two. This will give you the average score for that item. Forexample, if Person A assessed you at 4 for Item 2, and Person B marked you as a 6, your score for Item 2would be 5.

Once you have averaged each item’s scores, use the following steps to complete the scoring of thequestionnaire:

1. Add up the scores for 1, 8, 15, and 22. This is your score for emotional healing.2. Add up the scores for 2, 9, 16, and 23. This is your score for creating value for the community.3. Add up the scores for 3, 10, 17, and 24. This is your score for conceptual skills.4. Add up the scores for 4, 11, 18, and 25. This is your score for empowering.5. Add up the scores for 5, 12, 19, and 26. This is your score for helping followers grow and succeed.6. Add up the scores for 6, 13, 20, and 27. This is your score for putting followers first.7. Add up the scores for 7, 14, 21, and 28. This is your score for behaving ethically.


Scoring InterpretationHigh range: A score between 23 and 28 means you strongly exhibit this servant leadership behavior.Moderate range: A score between 14 and 22 means you tend to exhibit this behavior in an averageway.Low range: A score between 8 and 13 means you exhibit this leadership behavior below the averageor expected degree.Extremely low range: A score between 0 and 7 means you are not inclined to exhibit this leadershipbehavior at all.

The scores you received on the Servant Leadership Questionnaire indicate the degree to which you exhibitthe seven behaviors characteristic of a servant leader. You can use the results to assess areas in which youhave strong servant leadership behaviors and areas in which you may strive to improve.



Originating in the seminal work of Greenleaf (1970), servant leadership is a paradoxicalapproach to leadership that challenges our traditional beliefs about leadership andinfluence. Servant leadership emphasizes that leaders should be attentive to the needs offollowers, empower them, and help them develop their full human capacities.

Servant leaders make a conscious choice to serve first—to place the good of followers overthe leaders’ self-interests. They build strong relationships with others, are empathic andethical, and lead in ways that serve the greater good of followers, the organization, thecommunity, and society at large.

Based on an idea from Hermann Hesse’s (1956) novel The Journey to the East, Greenleafargued that the selfless servant in a group has an extraordinary impact on the othermembers. Servant leaders attend fully to the needs of followers, are concerned with the lessprivileged, and aim to remove inequalities and social injustices. Because servant leaders shiftauthority to those who are being led, they exercise less institutional power and control.

Scholars have conceptualized servant leadership in multiple ways. According to Spears(2002), there are 10 major characteristics of servant leadership: listening, empathy, healing,awareness, persuasion, conceptualization, foresight, stewardship, commitment to thegrowth of people, and building community. Additional efforts by social science researchersto develop and validate measures of servant leadership have resulted in an extensive list ofother servant leadership attributes (Coetzer et al., 2017; Winston & Fields, 2015).

Liden, Panaccio, et al. (2014) created a promising model of servant leadership that hasthree main components: antecedent conditions, servant leader behaviors, and leadershipoutcomes. Antecedent conditions that are likely to impact servant leaders include context andculture, leader attributes, and follower receptivity. Central to the servant leader process arethe seven servant leader behaviors: conceptualizing, emotional healing, putting followersfirst, helping followers grow and succeed, behaving ethically, empowering, and creatingvalue for the community. The outcomes of servant leadership are follower performance andgrowth, organizational performance, and societal impact.

Research on servant leadership has several strengths. First, it is unique because it makesaltruism the main component of the leadership process. Second, servant leadership providesa counterintuitive and provocative approach to the use of influence wherein leaders give upcontrol rather than seek control. Third, rather than a panacea, research has shown thatthere are conditions under which servant leadership is not a preferred kind of leadership.Last, recent research has resulted in a sound measure of servant leadership (ServantLeadership Questionnaire) that identifies seven distinct dimensions of the process.


The servant leadership approach also has limitations. First, the paradoxical nature of thetitle “servant leadership” creates semantic noise that diminishes the potential value of theapproach. Second, no consensus exists on a common theoretical framework for servantleadership. Third, servant leadership has a utopian ring that conflicts with traditionalapproaches to leadership. Last, it is not clear why “conceptualizing” is a definingcharacteristic of servant leadership.

Despite the limitations, servant leadership continues to be an engaging approach toleadership that holds much promise. As more research is done to test the substance andassumptions of servant leadership, a better understanding of the complexities of the processwill emerge.

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ReferencesBande, B., Fernández-Ferrín, P., Varela-Neira, C., & Otero-Neira, C. (2016). Exploring

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11 Adaptive Leadership



As the name of the approach implies, adaptive leadership is about how leaders encouragepeople to adapt—to face and deal with problems, challenges, and changes. Adaptiveleadership focuses on the adaptations required of people in response to changingenvironments. Simply stated, adaptive leaders prepare and encourage people to deal withchange. Unlike the trait approach (Chapter 2) and authentic leadership (Chapter 9), whichfocus predominantly on the characteristics of the leader, adaptive leadership stresses theactivities of the leader in relation to the work of followers in the contexts in which they findthemselves.

Since Heifetz first published Leadership Without Easy Answers (1994), the seminal book onadaptive leadership, this approach has occupied a unique place in the leadership literature.Adaptive leadership has been used effectively to explain how leaders encourage effectivechange across multiple levels, including self, organizational, community, and societal.However, most of the writing about adaptive leadership has been prescriptive and based onanecdotal and observational data rather than data derived from rigorous scientific inquiry.Scholars and practitioners have recognized the merits of the approach, but the theoreticalunderpinnings of adaptive leadership remain in the formative stages.

Development of the adaptive leadership framework emerged largely from the work ofHeifetz and his associates (Heifetz, 1994; Heifetz, Grashow, & Linsky, 2009; Heifetz &Laurie, 1997; Heifetz & Linsky, 2002; Heifetz, Sinder, Jones, Hodge, & Rowley, 1991).From the beginning, they set out to create a different approach to leadership. Rather thanseeing the leader as a savior who solves problems for people, they conceptualized the leaderas one who plays the role of assisting people who need to confront tough problems (e.g.,drug abuse or sexism in the workplace). An adaptive leader challenges others to facedifficult challenges, providing them with the space or opportunity they need to learn newways of dealing with the inevitable changes in beliefs, attitudes, perceptions, and behaviorsthat they are likely to encounter in addressing real problems.


Adaptive Leadership Defined

Although people often think of adaptive leadership as being leader-centered, it is actuallymore follower-centered. It focuses primarily on how leaders help others do the work theyneed to do, in order to adapt to the challenges they face. Generally, adaptive leadership isconcerned with how people change and adjust to new circumstances. In this chapter, weemphasize the process leaders use to encourage others to grapple with difficult problems.

In the leadership literature, Heifetz and his colleagues suggest that “adaptive leadership isthe practice of mobilizing people to tackle tough challenges and thrive” (Heifetz et al.,2009, p. 14). In contrast to emphasizing the position or characteristics of the leader, thisdefinition suggests that leadership is concerned with the behaviors of leaders. Adaptiveleaders engage in activities that mobilize, motivate, organize, orient, and focus the attention ofothers (Heifetz, 1994). In addition, adaptive leadership is about helping others to exploreand change their values. The goal of adaptive leadership is to encourage people to changeand to learn new ways of living so that they may effectively meet their challenges and growin the process. In short, adaptive leadership is the behavior of and the actions undertakenby leaders to encourage others to address and resolve changes that are central in their lives.To better understand how adaptive leadership works, Table 11.1 provides some examplesof situations in which adaptive leadership would be an ideal form of leadership.

Conceptually, the process of adaptive leadership incorporates ideas from four differentviewpoints: a systems perspective, a biological perspective, a service orientation perspective,and a psychotherapy perspective (Heifetz, 1994). First, adaptive leadership takes a systemsperspective, in that this approach assumes that many problems people face are actuallyembedded in complicated interactive systems (see Uhl-Bien, Marion, & McKelvey, 2007).Problems are viewed as complex with many facets, dynamic in that they can evolve andchange, and connected to others in a web of relationships. Second, the biological perspectiveto adaptive leadership recognizes that people develop and evolve as a result of having toadapt to both their internal cues/state and external environments. The ability to adaptallows people to thrive in new circumstances. Third, adaptive leadership assumes a serviceorientation. Similar to a physician, an adaptive leader uses his or her expertise or authorityto serve the people by diagnosing their problems and helping them find solutions. Fourth,this approach incorporates the psychotherapy perspective to explain how people accomplishadaptive work. Adaptive leaders understand that people need a supportive environment andadapt more successfully when they face difficult problems directly, learn to distinguishbetween fantasy and reality, resolve internal conflicts, and learn new attitudes andbehaviors. Taken together, these four viewpoints help explain and characterize the nature ofadaptive leadership.

Table 11.1 Adaptive Leadership in Practice


Adaptive leaders mobilize, motivate, organize, orient, and focus the attention of othersto address and resolve changes that are central in their lives. These are someexamples of cases where adaptive leadership would be beneficial:

Church Membership

Over the past decade, the membership of a large traditional denomination ofchurches in the United States has shrunken by 200,000 members, which manyattribute to the denomination’s stand against gay marriage. If the church wants toreverse the trend and begin to grow, the church leadership and its membership needto confront the social implications of their doctrinal stand on gay marriage.

Company Merger

A midsize, family-owned paper company merges with another similar papercompany. The merger creates tensions between the employees regarding job titlesand duties, different wage schedules, overtime, and vacation pay. The new ownersmust bring these two groups of employees together to have the company functionsuccessfully.

Merit Pay

In an established engineering company, a small group of young, high-achievingengineers wants to change the way merit pay is given by removing seniority andyears of service as part of the criteria. Longtime employees are resisting the change.The management must find a way to address this issue without alienating eithergroup.

Condominium Rules

You are president of a small condominium association, and two groups within theassociation are at odds about a rule requiring condo owners to be 55 years old orolder. Some think it is important to have young people around, while others donot. In addition, young, new homeowners in this area are buying condos at higherrates than empty nesters. As the president, you must guide the association to reachconsensus in a way that will benefit the association.

In addition to the way Heifetz and his colleagues defined adaptive leadership, it has beenconceptualized as an element or subset of Complexity Leadership Theory, a frameworkdesigned to explain leadership for organizations of the 21st century that concentrate onknowledge or information as a core commodity, rather than the production of goods as wasprevalent in the industrial era (Uhl-Bien et al., 2007). Complexity Leadership Theory


(which includes administrative, adaptive, and enabling leadership) focuses on the strategiesand behaviors that encourage learning, creativity, and adaptation in complex organizationalsystems. Within this framework, adaptive leadership is described as a complex process thatemerges to produce adaptive change in a social system. It originates in struggles or tensionsamong people over conflicting needs, ideas, and preferences. It is not conceptualized as aperson or a specific act, but rather is defined as leadership that seeks to emerge from asystem, or a “generative dynamic” (see Uhl-Bien et al., 2007, p. 299). Similarly, DeRue(2011) addresses adaptive leadership as a process where individuals engage in repeatedleading–following interactions that evolve as group needs change, enabling groups to adaptand remain viable in dynamic contexts.

Adaptive leadership is a unique kind of leadership that focuses on the dynamics ofmobilizing people to address change. In the next section, we describe the variouscomponents of adaptive leadership and discuss how each component contributes to theoverall process of adaptive leadership.


A Model of Adaptive Leadership

Figure 11.1 offers a visual representation of the major components of adaptive leadershipand how they fit together, including situational challenges, leader behaviors, and adaptivework. Heuristically, this model provides a basis for clarifying the process of adaptiveleadership as well as generating empirical research to validate and refine the concepts andprinciples described by the model.


Situational Challenges

As illustrated on the left side of Figure 11.1, this practice of leadership requires that leadersaddress three kinds of situational challenges. There are challenges or problems that areprimarily technical in nature, challenges that have both a technical and adaptive dimension,and challenges that are primarily adaptive in nature. While addressing technical challengesis important, adaptive leadership is concerned with helping people address adaptivechallenges.


Technical Challenges

Technical challenges are problems in the workplace, community, or self that are clearlydefined, with known solutions that can be implemented through existing organizationalprocedures. They are problems that can be solved by experts or by those who have whatHeifetz calls a “repertoire” of skills or procedures based on current know-how. Fortechnical challenges, people look to the leader for a solution, and they accept the leader’sauthority to resolve the problem. For example, if employees at a tax accounting firm arefrustrated about a newly adopted tax software program, the manager at the firm can assessthe software issues, identify the weaknesses and problems with the software, contact thecompany that provided the software, and have the programs modified in accordance withthe accountants’ needs at the tax firm. In this example, the problem is identifiable, it has anachievable solution, and the manager at the tax firm has the authority to address theproblem through the accepted structures and procedures of the organization. Theemployees look to the manager to solve the technical problem and accept her or hisauthority to do so.

Figure 11.1 Model of Adaptive Leadership


Technical and Adaptive Challenges

Some challenges have both a technical and adaptive dimension. In this case, they arechallenges that are clearly defined but do not have distinct straightforward solutions withinthe existing organizational system. The responsibility of tackling this type of challenge isshared between the leader and the people. The leader may act as a resource for others andprovide support, but the people need to do the work—they need to learn to change andadapt. For example, if an urban hospital with a traditional approach to care (i.e., providersare the experts, and patients are the visitors) wanted to establish a patient-centered culture,the goal could be clearly laid out. To reach the goal, the hospital leadership, through itshierarchical authority, could provide in-service training on how to involve patients in theirown care. New rules could be designed to preserve patients’ personal routines, give themaccess to their own records, and give them more control of their own treatment. However,the staff, doctors, patients, and family members would need to accept the proposed changeand learn how to implement it. Making the hospital a model of patient-centered care wouldrequire a lot of work and adaptation on the part of many different people.


Adaptive Challenges

Central to the process of adaptive leadership are adaptive challenges. Adaptive challengesare problems that are not clear-cut or easy to identify. They cannot be solved solely by theleader’s authority or expertise, or through the normal ways of doing things in theorganization. Adaptive challenges require that leaders encourage others to definechallenging situations and implement solutions. Not easy to tackle and often resisted,adaptive challenges are difficult because they usually require changes in people’s priorities,beliefs, roles, and values. An example of adaptive challenges would be the problems andconcerns a family confronts when placing a parent in hospice care. In a hospice, there is agreat deal of uncertainty for patients and families about how and when the patient will die,and how to best comfort the patient during this time. While hospice workers can givesupport and informal feedback about the dying process, the patient and families have tocome to grips with how they want to approach the patient’s final days. What does theimpending loss mean? How can they prepare for it? How will they cope with the loss goingforward? In this context, adaptive leadership is about mobilizing the patient and familymembers to address the many questions and concerns that surround the death of the familymember. Hospice nurses, social workers, and staff all play an important role in helpingfamilies cope, but at the same time, it is the families that have to confront the complexitiesand concerns of the impending loss.


Leader Behaviors

As shown in the middle of Figure 11.1, six leader behaviors, or activities, play a pivotal rolein the process of adaptive leadership. Based on the work of Heifetz and his colleagues(Heifetz, 1994; Heifetz & Laurie, 1997), these behaviors are general prescriptions forleaders when helping others confront difficult challenges and the inevitable changes thataccompany them. Although there is a general order as to which leader behavior comes firstin the adaptive leadership process, many of these behaviors overlap with each other andshould be demonstrated by leaders at the same time. Taken together, these leader behaviorssuggest a kind of recipe for being an adaptive leader.

1. Get on the Balcony.

A prerequisite for the other adaptive leader behaviors, “getting on the balcony” is ametaphor for stepping out of the fray and finding perspective in the midst of a challengingsituation. It is an allusion to a dance floor and that one needs to be above the dancing tounderstand what’s going on below. Being on the balcony enables the leader to see the bigpicture—what is really happening. On the balcony, the leader is momentarily away fromthe noise, activity, and chaos of a situation, allowing him or her to gain a clearer view ofreality. It allows the leader to identify value and power conflicts among people, ways theymay be avoiding work, and other dysfunctional reactions to change (Heifetz & Laurie,1997). Getting on the balcony can include such things as taking some quiet time, forminga group of unofficial advisers for alternative discussions about organizational issues, orsimply attending meetings as an observer. In this model, the adaptive leader is urged to stepaway from the conflict in order to see it fully, but never to dissociate entirely from theconflict. Effective leaders are able to move back and forth as a participant and observerbetween the struggles of their people and the intentions of the organization or community.

To understand what it means to stand on the balcony, imagine yourself as the principal ofan elementary school. From the balcony, you see all the pieces that go into educating yourstudents: federal and state requirements, teachers and staff, budgets, teacher evaluations,parents, and discipline, not to mention the children themselves. From above, you can seehow these issues relate to and affect one another, and who is dancing with which partners,all while working toward the common goal of educating children.

Another example would be a chief union negotiator who, in the midst of difficult labortalks, steps away from the table for a moment in order to separate from the emotion andintensity of the talks and to reflect on the goals of the talks. Once she feels she again has agrasp of the issues at hand, she dives directly back into negotiations.

In both of these examples, the leader takes time to see the big picture as an observer butalso stays engaged as a participant with the challenges his or her people are confronting.


2. Identify Adaptive Challenges.

In addition to getting on the balcony and observing the dynamics of the complex situationspeople face, leaders must analyze and diagnose these challenges. Central to this process isdifferentiating between technical and adaptive challenges. Failures in leadership often occurbecause leaders fail to diagnose challenges correctly. The adaptive leadership processsuggests that leaders are most effective using adaptive leadership behaviors for adaptivechallenges and technical leadership for technical challenges. Approaching challenges withthe wrong style of leadership is maladaptive.

If challenges are technical in nature, leaders can fix the problem with their own expertise.For example, in a manufacturing environment, problems that arise in scheduling, productsales quotas, facility expansion, or raising the minimum wage are all problems the leadercan use his or her authority to resolve. However, it is essential that a leader also know whenhis or her authority is not sufficient or appropriate to address a particular challenge.

When people’s beliefs, attitudes, and values are affected by a problem, leaders need to takean adaptive approach. Determining if the challenge is an adaptive one requires the leader todetermine whether or not the challenge strikes at the core feelings and thoughts of others.Adaptive challenges are usually value-laden, and stir up people’s emotions. Furthermore, ifchallenges are adaptive, they require that people learn new ways of coping. Take themanufacturing environment discussed earlier: If another company buys that manufacturingfacility and the new owners implement production procedures and standards that thefacility’s workers are unfamiliar with, these changes would create adaptive challenges for theworkers. Identifying adaptive challenges means leaders need to focus their attention onproblems they cannot solve themselves and that demand collaboration between the leaderand followers. For adaptive challenges, leaders make themselves available to support othersas they do the work they need to do.

To more easily identify complex adaptive challenges and also distinguish them fromtechnical challenges, there are four archetypes or basic patterns in need of adaptive changeto consider (Heifetz et al., 2009).

Archetype 1: Gap Between Espoused Values and Behavior.

This archetype is present when an organization espouses, or claims to adhere to, values thataren’t in reality supported by its actions. For example, a company that promotes itself as afamily-friendly place to work but does not have a flexible work policy, an extendedmaternity leave policy, or in-house childcare doesn’t have behaviors that match the family-friendly image it promotes itself as having.

Archetype 2: Competing Commitments.


When an organization has numerous commitments and some come into conflict with eachother, this archetype is in play. For example, a health and fitness center wants to grow andexpand its services but at the same time sees the best way to reduce costs is by trimming thenumber of trainers and staff it employs.

Archetype 3: Speaking the Unspeakable.

The phrases “sacred cow” and “elephant in the room” are examples of this archetype; itoccurs when there are radical ideas, unpopular issues, or conflicting perspectives that peopledon’t dare address because of their sensitive or controversial nature. Speaking out aboutthese is seen as “risky.” Consider an organization with a well-liked, established owner whois perceived by the employees as “over the hill” and not in touch with the current businessclimate, but no one is willing to discuss the matter. It is easier to suffer the consequences ofthe owner’s dated leadership than confront the man and risk angering him.

Archetype 4: Work Avoidance.

This archetype represents a situation where people avoid addressing difficult issues bystaying within their “comfort zone” or by using diversionary methods. For example,coworkers at a company refuse to confront or discuss a very skilled employee who is notparticipating in organizational planning because he feels the company suffers frominstitutional racism. It is easier to continue to do the same things and avoid the concerns ofthe disgruntled employee. Another example would be an ad agency that has a graphicdesigner who is not able to produce the quality of creative work needed, so, rather thanaddress the problem directly, that designer is assigned menial jobs that are essentiallybusywork. The agency then hires a second graphic designer to do the more creative workdespite the cost and the fact that the agency doesn’t have enough work to justify twodesigners.

These four archetypes are representative of some of the common challenges that requireadaptive change. Although they do not describe every possible type of adaptive change, theyare useful as frames of reference when trying to identify adaptive challenges in a particularorganizational setting.

3. Regulate Distress.

A third behavior, or activity, important for adaptive leaders is to regulate distress.Psychologically, we all have a need for consistency—to keep our beliefs, attitudes, andvalues the same. In fact, it is quite natural for individuals to be more comfortable whenthings are predictable and their way of doing things stays the same. But adaptive challengescreate the need to change, and the process of change creates uncertainty and distress forpeople. Feeling a certain level of distress during change is inevitable and even useful formost, but feeling too much distress is counterproductive and can be debilitating. The


challenge for a leader is to help others recognize the need for change but not becomeoverwhelmed by the need for the change itself. The adaptive leader needs to monitor thestress people are experiencing and keep it within a productive range, or regulate it. Themodel suggests three ways that leaders can maintain productive levels of stress: (1) create aholding environment; (2) provide direction, protection, orientation, conflict management, andproductive norms; and (3) regulate personal distress.

Creating a holding environment refers to establishing an atmosphere in which people can feelsafe tackling difficult problems, but not so safe that they can avoid the problem. The ideaof a holding environment has its roots in the field of psychotherapy where the counselorcreates a therapeutic setting and uses effective communication and empathy to provide asense of safety and protection for the client (Heifetz & Linsky, 2002; Modell, 1976;Winnicott, 1965). You can think of a holding environment in terms of a child learning toswim—the instructor is within a watchful distance, but allows the child to do the hardwork of overcoming his or her fears and learning to kick, breathe, and stroke in sync. Aholding environment is a structural, procedural, or virtual space formed by cohesiverelationships between people. It can be physical space, a shared language, common history,a deep trust in an institution and its authority, or a clear set of rules and processes thatallow groups to function with safety. As illustrated in Figure 11.1, the holding environmentrepresents the space where the work of adaptive leadership gets played out. Within theholding environment, adaptive leaders use their leverage to help people attend to the issues,to act as a reality test regarding information, to orchestrate conflicting perspectives, and tofacilitate decision making (Heifetz, 1994, p. 113).

Creating a holding environment also allows a leader to regulate the pressures people facewhen confronting adaptive challenges. Heifetz often describes it as analogous to a pressurecooker, because initially a leader turns up the heat on the issues. This gets dialogue startedand also allows some of the pressures from the issues to escape. If too much tensionconcerning issues is expressed, the holding environment can become too intense andineffective for addressing problems. However, without the leader’s initial catalyst, littledialogue would transpire.

Similar to labor negotiations in organizations, the holding environment is the place whereall parties gather to begin talking to each other, define issues, and clarify competinginterests and needs. If this discussion is too heated, negotiations reach a quick impasse.However, as negotiation develops, newer issues can be addressed. Over time the holdingenvironment provides the place where new contractual relationships can be agreed uponand enacted.

Providing direction, protection, orientation, conflict management, and productive norms referto specific ways leaders can help people manage the uncertainty and distress thataccompany adaptive work. They are prescribed behaviors for adaptive leaders.


Providing direction involves identifying the adaptive challenges that others face andthen framing these so they can be addressed. In difficult situations, it is notuncommon for people to be unclear or confused about their goals. Sometimes thegoal is unknown, sometimes it is obscure, and at other times it is entangled withcompeting goals. By providing direction, the leader helps people feel a sense ofclarity, order, and certainty, reducing the stress people feel in uncertain situations.Protection refers to a leader’s responsibility to manage the rate of adaptive change forpeople. It includes monitoring whether the change is too much or too fast for people.Furthermore, it requires monitoring external pressures people are experiencing andkeeping these within a range they can tolerate.Orientation is the responsibility a leader has to orient people to new roles andresponsibilities that may accompany adaptive change. When a change requiresadopting new values and acting in accordance with those values, people may need toadopt entirely new roles within the organization. Orientation is the process ofhelping people to find their identity within a changing system.Conflict management refers to the leader’s responsibility to handle conflict effectively.Conflict is inevitable in groups and organizations during adaptive challenges andpresents an opportunity for people to learn and grow. Although conflict can beuncomfortable, it is not necessarily unhealthy, nor is it necessarily bad. The questionis not “How can people avoid conflict and eliminate change?” but rather “How canpeople manage conflict and produce positive change?”Establishing productive norms is a responsibility of the adaptive leader. Norms are therules of behavior that are established and shared by group members that are not easilychanged. When norms are constructive, they have a positive influence on the progressof the group. However, when norms are unproductive and debilitating, they canimpede the group. A leader should pay close attention to norms and challenge thosethat need to be changed and reinforce those that maximize the group’s effectivenessand ability to adapt to change.

Collectively, the five prescribed behaviors above provide a general blueprint for howadaptive leaders can mitigate the frustrations people feel during adaptive change. While notinclusive, they highlight some of the many important ways leaders can help people duringthe change process.

Regulating personal distress is another way leaders can maintain a productive level of stressduring adaptive change. As we discussed previously, change and growth within anorganization do not occur without uncertainty and stress. Because stress is inherent inchange, adaptive leaders need to withstand the pressures from those who want to avoidchange and keep things the same. While moderate amounts of tension are normal andnecessary during change, too much or too little tension is unproductive. Leaders need tokeep people focused on the hard work they need to do and the tension that accompaniesthat, while at the same time being sensitive to the very real frustrations and pain that people


feel when doing adaptive work.

To help others through the adaptive process, adaptive leaders need to make sure their ownideas, opinions, and processes are well thought out. They must be strong and steadybecause people look to them and depend on them for support in situations that can be verytrying and painful. Adaptive leaders need to be role models and exhibit confidence and theemotional capacity to handle conflict. This is not a stress-free role. Adaptive leaders need tobe willing to experience the frustrations and pain that people feel during change but not tothe extent that they lose their own sense of who they are as leaders.

An example of the demands of regulating personal distress can be seen in the leadership of atherapist who runs a support group for high school students recovering from substanceabuse. In her role as a group facilitator, the therapist faces many challenges. She has tolisten to students’ stories and the challenges they face as they try to stay clean. She also hasto push people to be honest about their successes and failures regarding drug use. Shecannot push so hard, however, that group members feel threatened, stop communicating,or stop attending the group sessions. In the holding environment, she has to be able toshow nurturance and support, but not enable destructive behavior. The pain andfrustration recovering addicts feel is tremendous, and the therapist has to be in touch withthis pain without losing her role as a therapist. Hearing stories of recovery and failedrecovery can be heartbreaking, while hearing success stories can be uplifting. Throughoutall of this, the therapist needs to monitor herself closely and control her own anxietiesregarding recovery. Group members look to the therapist for direction and support. Theywant the therapist to be strong, confident, and empathic. Regulating her own stress isessential in order to make herself fully available to students who are recovering fromsubstance abuse.

4. Maintain Disciplined Attention.

The fourth leader behavior prescribed by the adaptive leadership process is to maintaindisciplined attention. This means that the leader needs to encourage people to focus on thetough work they need to do. This does not come easily; people naturally do not want toconfront change, particularly when it is related to changing their beliefs, values, orbehaviors. It is common for all of us to resist change and strive for a sense of balance andequilibrium in our day-to-day experiences. People do not like things “out of sync,” so whentheir sense of balance is disrupted by the need to change, it is natural for them to engage inavoidance behavior. This leader behavior is about helping people address change and notavoid it.

Avoidance behaviors can take many forms. People can ignore the problem, blame theproblem on the authority, blame coworkers for the problem, attack those who want toaddress the problem, pretend the problem does not exist, or work hard in areas unrelated tothe problem. No matter the form of avoidance, the leader’s task is to mobilize and


encourage people to drop their defenses and openly confront their problems. Adaptiveleaders help people focus on issues. If some topics are deemed too “hot” in the organization,the leader should support people in getting these topics on the agenda for discussion. Ifsome issues create deep divisions between people, the leader should provide a vessel ofsafety where competing sides can address the issues without feeling as if the organizationwill explode. If there is an “elephant in the room”—an issue no one wants to address butthat is pivotal in making change—the leader needs to nudge people to talk about it.Whatever the situation, the adaptive leader gets people to focus, and to show disciplinedattention to the work at hand.

An example of disciplined attention can be seen in how the director of a nursing homeresponds to the members of a family who are struggling with their decision to move their80-year-old mother into nursing care. The mother has early signs of dementia, but hassuccessfully lived alone since her husband died 10 years earlier. She prides herself on beingable to cook, drive, and live independently. But her forgetfulness and physical problems areworrisome to her two adult children who are very concerned about their mother’s healthand safety. The children know their mother could benefit from nursing care, but they justcannot bring themselves to force their mother to move from her home to the care facility.They say things like “Mom just doesn’t need it yet. We’ll just take her car keys away. She isso much better than those people at the care facility. She won’t survive in a newenvironment. She just won’t be herself if she’s not at her own home. We have the resources;we just don’t need to put her in there yet.” The director of the nursing home frequentlyhears the arguments expressed by the children, and his challenge is help them make thedecision—a decision they are afraid of making and avoiding. He consistently gives alistening ear and sets up multiple appointments for the children to visit the care facility aswell as meetings for the children to talk to staff members and other families who haveparents at the facility. Throughout all of these sessions, the director emphasizes theimportance of the children communicating their concerns. He lets them know that it isnormal to not want to take a parent out of her own home, and to want to think of a parentas independent and whole. He lets them know that everyone has trouble accepting thefailing health of a parent, and as difficult as this decision is, going into the nursing carefacility is a good and reasonable decision because the parent will be safer, receive good care,and learn to thrive in her new home. In this example, the director is sensitive to theadaptive challenges the children face, and he makes a point of “standing by” and givingguidance and support. The director helps the children stay focused on the changes theyneed to make and mobilizes them to confront the decisions they need to make.

5. Give the Work Back to the People.

People want leaders to provide some direction and structure to their work and want to feelsecure in what they are doing; they also want to actively participate in problem solving. Toomuch leadership and authority can be debilitating to an organization, decrease people’s


confidence to solve problems on their own, and suppress their creative capacities. Overlydirective leadership can result in people being dependent on their leaders and inhibit themfrom doing adaptive work. Even though it makes people feel comfortable and secure tohave leaders tell them what to do, leaders need to learn ways to curtail their influence andshift problem solving back to the people involved.

Leaders need to be aware of and monitor the impact they have on others. Giving work backto the people requires a leader to be attentive to when he or she should drop back and letthe people do the work that they need to do. This can be a fine line; leaders have to providedirection, but they also have to say, “This is your work—how do you think you want tohandle it?” For adaptive leaders, giving work back to the people means empowering peopleto decide what to do in circumstances where they feel uncertain, expressing belief in theirability to solve their own problems, and encouraging them to think for themselves ratherthan doing that thinking for them.

Summerhill, the famous boarding school on the east coast of England, provides a goodexample of where giving the work back to the people takes center stage. Summerhill is aself-governing, democratic school where adults and students have equal status.Summerhill’s philosophy stresses that students have the freedom to take their own path inlife and develop their own interests so long as it does not harm others. Classes are optionalfor students who have the freedom to choose what they do with their time. The schedulesand rules of the school are established in weekly group meetings at which all participantshave an equal vote. Summerhill’s leaders give the work of learning back to the students.Instead of the teachers telling students what to study and learn, the students themselvesmake those decisions within a supportive environment. It is an unusual model of educationand not without its problems, but it clearly demonstrates recognition of the need forstudents, and not their teachers, to identify and define their goals and take responsibility formeeting those goals.

6. Protect Leadership Voices From Below.

This final leader behavior means that adaptive leaders have to be careful to listen, and beopen to the ideas of people who may be at the fringe, marginalized, or even deviant withinthe group or organization. This is a challenge because when the leader gives voice to an out-group member, it is upsetting to the social equilibrium of the group. To be open to theideas of low-status individuals, who often may express themselves ineffectively, is alsochallenging because it is disruptive to the “normal” way of doing things. Too often, leadersfind it convenient to ignore the dissident, nonconforming voices in an effort to maintainthings as they are and keep things moving. Adaptive leaders should try to resist thetendency to minimize or shut down minority voices for the sake of the majority. To givevoice to others requires that a leader relinquish some control, giving other individualmembers more control. This is why it is a challenging process.


Protecting voices from below puts low-status individuals on equal footing with othermembers of the group. It means the leader and the other people of the group give credenceto the out-group members’ ideas and actions. When out-group members have a voice, theyknow their interests are being recognized and that they can have an impact on the leaderand the group. Giving them a voice allows low-status members to be more involved,independent, and responsible for their actions. It allows them to become more fullyengaged in the adaptive work of the group, and they can feel like full members in theplanning and decision making of the group.

Consider a college social work class in which students are required to do a service-learningproject. For this project, one group chose to build a wheelchair ramp for an elderly womanin the community. In the initial stages of the project, morale in the group was downbecause one group member (Alissa) chose not to participate. Alissa said she was notcomfortable using hand tools, and she chose not to do manual labor. The other teammembers, who had been doing a lot of planning for the project, wanted to proceed withouther help. As a result, Alissa felt rejected and began to criticize the purpose of the project andthe personalities of the other team members. At that point, one of the group’s leadersdecided to start listening to Alissa’s concerns and learned that while Alissa could not workwith her hands, she had two other talents: She was good with music and she madewonderful lunches.

Once the leader found this out, things started to change. Alissa started to participate.During the construction of the ramp, Alissa kept up morale by playing each groupmember’s and the elderly woman’s favorite music while they worked on the ramp. Inaddition, Alissa made sandwiches and provided drinks that accommodated each of thegroup members’ unique dietary interests. By the last day, Alissa felt so included by thegroup, and was praised for providing great food, that she joined in the manual labor andbegan raking up trash around the ramp site. Although Alissa’s talents didn’t tie in directlywith constructing a ramp, she still contributed to building a successful team. Everybodywas included and useful in a community-building project that could have turned sour if theleader had not given voice to Alissa’s concerns and talents.


Adaptive Work

As represented on the right side of the model of adaptive leadership (Figure 11.1), adaptivework is the process toward which adaptive leaders direct their work. It is the focus andintended goal of adaptive leadership. Adaptive work develops from the communicationprocesses that occur between the leader and followers but is primarily the work of followers.Ideally, it occurs within a holding environment where people can feel safe as they confrontpossible changes in their roles, priorities, and values.

The model illustrates that the holding environment is the place where adaptive work isconducted. It is a real or virtual space where people can address the adaptive challenges thatconfront them. Because the holding environment plays a critical role in the adaptiveprocess, leaders direct considerable energy toward establishing and maintaining it.

While the term followers is used to depict individuals who are not the leader, it is importantto note that throughout most of the writing on adaptive leadership, the term is avoided,due to its implication of a submissive role in relationship to the leader. In adaptiveleadership, leaders do not use their authority to control others; rather, leaders interact withpeople to help them do adaptive work. Followers is used in the model simply to distinguishthe specific individuals who are doing adaptive work.

An example of adaptive work can be seen at a fitness center where a fitness instructor isrunning a class for a group of individuals who have had heart problems and struggle withbeing overweight. The goal of the instructor is to provide a safe place where people canchallenge themselves to do mundane training exercises that will help them to lose weightand reduce their risk for health problems. Because the people must change their lifestyles tolive more healthfully, they must engage in adaptive work with the support of the fitnessinstructor. Another example where adaptive work can be observed is in a public elementaryschool where the principal is asking the teachers to adopt new Common Core standards butthe teachers, who have a proven record of success using their own student-centeredcurriculum, are resisting. To help the teachers with the intended change, the principal setsup a series of 10 open faculty meetings where teachers are invited to freely discuss theirconcerns about the new policies. The meetings provide a holding environment where theteachers can confront their deeply held positions regarding the usefulness and efficacy ofstandardized testing and what it will mean for them to have to shift to Common Corestandards. The principal’s role is to communicate in ways that support the teachers in theiradaptive work, and help shift values, beliefs, and perceptions to allow them to workeffectively under the new system.


How does Adaptive Leadership Work?

Adaptive leadership is a complex process comprising multiple dimensions, includingsituational challenges, leader behaviors, and adaptive work. The overriding focus of theprocess is to engage individuals in doing adaptive work. This unique emphasis onmobilizing individuals (followers) to confront adaptive challenges makes adaptiveleadership very different from other traditional leadership approaches that focus on leadertraits (Chapter 2), skills (Chapter 3), behaviors (Chapter 4), and authenticity (Chapter 9).Adaptive leadership centers on the adaptations required of people in response to changingenvironments, and how leaders can support them during these changes.

The process of adaptive leadership works like this: First, the leader takes time to step backfrom a challenging situation to understand the complexities of the situation and obtain afuller picture of the interpersonal dynamics occurring among the participants. Second, inany situation or context where people are experiencing change, the leader makes an initialassessment to determine if the change creates challenges that are technical or adaptive innature. If the challenges are technical, the leader addresses the problems with his or herauthority and expertise or through the rules and procedures of the organization. If thechallenges are adaptive, the leader engages in several specific leader behaviors to move theadaptive process forward.

While the recipe for adaptive leadership comprises many leader behaviors and activities,there is no particular order to the prescribed behaviors. Adaptive leadership incorporatesmany of these behaviors simultaneously, and interdependently, with some of them beingmore important at the beginning of a particular process and others at the end. Someimportant adaptive leader behaviors are regulating distress, creating a holding environment,providing direction, keeping people focused on important issues, empowering people, andgiving voice to those who feel unrecognized or marginalized.

Overall, it is safe to say that adaptive leadership works because leaders are willing to engagein all of these behaviors with the intention of helping followers do adaptive work.



In its present stage of development, adaptive leadership has multiple strengths. First, incontrast to many other leadership theories, adaptive leadership takes a process approach tothe study of leadership. Consistent with the process definition of leadership discussed inChapter 1, adaptive leadership underscores that leadership is not a trait or characteristic ofthe leader, but rather a complex transactional event that occurs between leaders andfollowers in different situations. The process perspective highlights that leaders andfollowers mutually affect each other, making leadership an interactive activity that is notrestricted to only a formally designated leader. This approach emphasizes that thephenomenon of leadership is a complex interactive process comprising multiple dimensionsand activities.

Second, adaptive leadership stands out because it is follower-centered. Adaptive leadersmobilize people to engage in adaptive work. The adaptive approach to leadership is other-directed, stressing follower involvement and follower growth. A primary obligation ofadaptive leaders is to provide interventions to enable progress and regulate stress, and tocreate holding environments where others can learn, grow, and work on the changes thatare needed. This approach encapsulates leadership as those behaviors and actions leadersneed to engage in to give followers the greatest opportunity to do adaptive work.

Third, adaptive leadership is unique in how it directs authority to help followers deal withconflicting values that emerge in changing work environments and social contexts. Changeand learning are inherent in organizational life, and adaptive leadership focuses specificallyon helping followers to confront change and examine the emergence of new values thatmay accompany change. No other leadership approach holds as a central purpose to helpfollowers confront their personal values and adjust these as needed in order for change andadaptation to occur.

Another strength of adaptive leadership is that it provides a prescriptive approach toleadership that is useful and practical. In their writings, Heifetz and his colleagues identifymany things leaders can do to facilitate adaptive leadership. The leader behaviors in Figure11.1 are prescriptions for what an adaptive leader should do. For example, “get on thebalcony,” “regulate distress,” and “give the work back to the people” are all prescriptivebehaviors leaders can use to mobilize followers to do the work they need to do to adapt orchange. In a general sense, even the model is prescriptive. It suggests that followers shouldlearn to adapt and leaders should set up a context where this is most likely to occur. Inshort, adaptive leadership provides a recipe for what leaders and followers should do tofacilitate adaptive change. It describes the kind of work (i.e., technical or adaptive) thatfollowers should address and then the behaviors leaders should employ to help themaccomplish this work.


Finally, adaptive leadership makes a unique contribution to the field of leadership studiesby identifying the concept of a holding environment as an integral part of the leadershipprocess. Few leadership theories discuss how leaders are responsible for creating a safeenvironment for followers to address difficult issues. The holding environment can bephysical, virtual, or relational, but most important, it is an atmosphere where people shouldfeel safe tackling difficult issues. It is a place where leaders get a dialogue started, but do notlet it become too heated or explosive. Although abstract, the concept of a holdingenvironment can be easily visualized and is useful for anyone wanting to demonstrateadaptive leadership.



In addition to its strengths, adaptive leadership has several weaknesses. First, very littleempirical research has been conducted to test the claims of adaptive leadership theory eventhough the conceptual framework for this approach was set forth more than 20 years ago inHeifetz’s Leadership Without Easy Answers (1994). Originally intended as a practicalframework for theory building, adaptive leadership is based on ideas and assumptions, butnot on established research. Without evidence-based support for the tenets of the model,the ideas and principles set forth on adaptive leadership should be viewed cautiously.Recently, however, several studies have been published that provide an evidentiary basis tothe theoretical framework (see Adams, Bailey, Anderson, & Galanos, 2013; Benzie, Pryce,& Smith, 2017; Corazzini et al., 2014; Gilbert, 2013; Hlalele, Manicom, Preece, &Tsotetsi, 2015; Klau & Hufnagel, 2016; Mugisha & Berg, 2017; Preece, 2016).

Second, conceptualization of the process of adaptive leadership needs further refinement.Adaptive leadership was designed intentionally as a practical approach to leadership and iscomposed of a series of prescriptions about what leaders should do to help people engage inadaptive work. However, the major factors in the adaptive process and the way these factorsrelate to one another to facilitate adaptive work are not clearly delineated. Figure 11.1provides a “first attempt” at modeling the phenomenon of adaptive leadership, but muchmore needs to be done to clarify the essential factors in the model, the empiricalrelationships among these factors, and the process through which these factors lead toadaptive change within groups and organizations.

Third, adaptive leadership can be criticized for being too wide-ranging and abstract. Forexample, the approach suggests that leaders should “identify your loyalties,” “protectleadership voices from below,” “mobilize the system,” “name the default,” “hold steady,”“act politically,” “anchor yourself,” and many more that were not discussed in this chapter.Interpreting what these prescriptions mean and their relationship to being an adaptiveleader can become overwhelming because of the breadth and wide-ranging nature of theseprescriptions. In addition, the recommended leader behaviors such as “give the work backto the people” often lack specificity and conceptual clarity. Without clearconceptualizations of recommended behaviors, it is difficult to know how to analyze themin research or implement them in practice. As a result, leaders may infer their ownconceptualizations of these prescriptions, which may vary widely from what Heifetz and hiscolleagues intended.

Finally, from a theoretical perspective, the adaptive leadership framework hints at but doesnot directly explain how adaptive leadership incorporates a moral dimension. Adaptiveleadership focuses on how people evolve and grow through change. It implies that theevolution of one’s values leads to a greater common good, but the way the evolution of


values leads to a greater common good is not fully explicated. It advocates mobilizingpeople to do adaptive work but does not elaborate or explain how doing adaptive workleads to socially useful outcomes. The model acknowledges the importance of promotingvalues such as equality, justice, and community, but the link between adaptive work andachieving those social values is not clear.



How can adaptive leadership be applied to real-life situations? There are several ways. Onan individual level, adaptive leadership provides a conceptual framework made up of aunique set of constructs that help us determine what type of challenges we face (e.g.,technical versus adaptive) and strategies for managing them (e.g., establishing a holdingenvironment). Individuals can easily integrate these constructs into their own practice ofleadership. Furthermore, it is an approach to leadership that people can apply in a widevariety of settings, including family, school, work, community, and societal.

Figure 11.2 Adaptive Leadership Framework Developed by Heifetz & Linsky

Source: Adapted from “Finding your way through EOL challenges in the ICU usingadaptive leadership behaviours: A qualitative descriptive case study,” by J. A. Adams,D. E. Bailey Jr., R. A. Anderson, and M. Thygeson, 2013, Intensive and Critical CareNursing, 29, pp. 329–336; and “Adaptive leadership and the practice of medicine: Acomplexity-based approach to reframing the doctor-patient relationship,” by M.Thygeson, L. Morrissey, and V. Ulstad, 2010, Journal of Evaluation in ClinicalPractice, 16, pp. 1009–1015.

On the organizational level, adaptive leadership can be used as a model to explain andaddress a variety of challenges that are ever present during change and growth. Consultantshave applied adaptive leadership at all levels in many different kinds of organizations. Inparticular, it has been an approach to leadership of special interest to people in nonprofits,faith-based organizations, and health care.

At this point in the development of adaptive leadership, the context in which most of theresearch has been conducted is health care. For example, one group of researchers suggeststhat adaptive leadership can improve the practice of medicine (Thygeson, Morrissey, &Ulstad, 2010). They contend that health professionals who practice from an adaptiveleadership perspective would view patients as complex adaptive systems who face bothtechnical and adaptive challenges (Figure 11.2). Overall, they claim the adaptive leadership


approach has promise to make health care more efficient, patient-centered, and sustainable.

Eubank, Geffken, Orzano, and Ricci (2012) used adaptive leadership as the overarchingframework to guide the curriculum they developed for a family medicine residencyprogram. They argue that if physicians practice the behaviors promoted in adaptiveleadership (e.g., get on the balcony, identify adaptive challenges, or regulate distress), they canacquire the process skills that are necessary to implement and sustain true patient-centeredcare and healing relationships. Furthermore, to assist patients who are suffering, theycontend that physicians need more than technical problem-solving competencies.Physicians also need adaptive skills that will enable them to help patients process and learnto live with the challenges resulting from changes in their health and well-being.

In two separate case studies, researchers found adaptive leadership could be used to helppatients and family members confront health care challenges. Using the adaptive leadershipframework, Adams, Bailey, Anderson, and Thygeson (2013) identified nurse and physicianbehaviors that can facilitate the transition from curative to palliative care by helping familymembers do the adaptive work of letting go. Similarly, Adams, Bailey, Anderson, andGalanos (2013) found adaptive leadership principles were useful in helping family membersof ICU patients come to terms with loss and change, and to make decisions consistent withthe patient’s goals.

In summary, there are many applications for adaptive leadership, on both the personal andorganizational level, as well as in the research environment. While further research needs tobe done to support the tenets of adaptive leadership, it is clearly a leadership approach thatcan be utilized in many settings.


Case StudiesThis section provides three case studies (Cases 11.1, 11.2, and 11.3) from very different contexts where adaptiveleadership is present to a degree. The first case describes the challenges faced by two editors of a high schoolnewspaper who wanted to write about lessening the stigma of mental illness. The second case is about how twoco-captains tried to change the culture of their college ultimate disc team. The third case describes the challengesfaced by people in a small town when trying to change the name of a high school mascot. At the end of each case,questions are provided to help you explore dimensions of adaptive leadership and how it can be utilized inaddressing “real” problems.


Case 11.1: Silence, Stigma, and Mental IllnessMadeline Halpert and Eva Rosenfeld had three things in common: They were on the high school newspaperstaff, they both suffered from depression, and until they shared their experiences with each other, both felt theisolation of the stigma that comes with suffering from mental illness.

The two student editors knew they were far from the only ones in their high school that experienced thesechallenges and, in a concerted effort to support others and lessen the stigma of mental illness, decided to write anin-depth feature on the topic for their student newspaper. Recent cases of school shootings had brought mentalillness in teens to the forefront, and evidence shows that depression is a major cause of suicide in young people.Yet, the strong stigma that surrounds depression and mental illness often isolates those who suffer from it. Thepurpose of Eva and Madeline’s feature was to open the dialogue and end the stigma. They interviewed a numberof teens from schools in the surrounding area who agreed to use their real names and share their personal storiesabout mental illness, including depression, eating disorders, and homelessness. The student editors even obtainedwaivers from the subjects’ parents giving them permission to use the stories. However, their stories never made itto print.

While they were putting the story together, their school’s principal called them into her office and told themabout a former college football player from the area who struggled with depression and would be willing to beinterviewed. The editors declined, not wanting to replace the deeply personal articles about their peers with onefrom someone removed from the students. The principal then told them she wouldn’t support printing thestories. She objected to the use of students’ real names, saying she feared potential personal repercussions such asbullying or further mental health problems that publishing such an article could have on those students. Districtofficials stood by the principal’s decision to halt printing of the piece, saying it was the right one to protect thestudents featured in the article.

This move surprised the two student editors because they felt that their school had a very tolerant atmosphere,which included offering a depression awareness group. “We were surprised that the administration and the adultswho advocated for mental health awareness were the ones standing in the way of it,” they wrote. “By telling usthat students could not talk openly about their struggles, they reinforced the very stigma we were trying toeliminate.”

Instead, the two editors penned an op-ed piece, “Depressed, but Not Ashamed,” which was published in TheNew York Times. The article discussed their dismay with having the articles halted by school administrators, anact that they believe further stigmatized those with mental illnesses.

“By interviewing these teenagers for our newspaper, we tried—and failed—to start small in the fight againststigma. Unfortunately, we’ve learned this won’t be easy. It seems that those who are charged with advocating forour well-being aren’t ready yet to let us have an open and honest dialogue about depression,” they wrote.

The op-ed piece generated a response—and, interestingly, a dialogue—about the topic.

The two student editors were subsequently interviewed on the National Public Radio show Weekend Edition(2014). In that interview, the editors acknowledged that they had experienced mostly positive reactions to theirpiece, with more than 200 comments after the initial publishing of their article. Many of those comments saidthe article resonated with readers and gave them the courage to talk to someone about their struggles with mentalillness in a way they hadn’t before.

“And I think, most importantly, it’s opening a dialogue,” said one of the editors in the interview. “There werenegative comments. There were positive comments. But the most important thing is that it’s so amazing to seepeople discussing this and finally opening up about it.”


Questions1. How do you define the problem the editors were trying to address? Was this a technical or an adaptive

challenge?2. What is your reaction to what the principal did in this situation? How do you think what she did fits in

with providing direction, protection, orientation, conflict management, and productive norms?3. Describe the holding environment in this case. Was the holding environment sufficient to meet the

adaptive challenges in this situation? How would you improve it?4. Based on Figure 11.1, discuss who were the adaptive leaders in this case. Which of the leader behaviors

(get on the balcony, identify adaptive challenges, regulate distress, etc.) did these leaders exhibit?


Case 11.2: Taming BacchusKyle Barrett is a serious ultimate player. He became involved in the sport—which is a bit like soccer, only with aflying disc—in middle school and played competitively in high school. When he went to college at a small liberalarts school in the Pacific Northwest, he was excited to find the school had an ultimate team. His excitementquickly turned to dismay when he found the team members were more interested in partying than playing.

Kyle remembers this about his first year on the team: “The team really had this sort of fraternity culture in thatthere was light hazing, drinking was a priority, and tournaments were about parties, not competition. The teamthrew a lot of parties and had this reputation for exclusivity.” Even the team’s name, Bacchus (the Roman god ofwine and drunkenness), reflected this culture.

Kyle found a like-minded soul in his teammate Harrison, and together they sought to turn the team into aprogram that operated on a more competitive level. The two were chosen as co-captains and began to share theirdeeper knowledge of the sport with the team. They also communicated their aspirations for success. This flew inthe face of some team members who were there for the parties. As one player put it, “Either you were down withit or you decided it was too intense and you left the club.”

The two captains knew that the team’s culture wasn’t going to change just because they wanted it to. They alsoknew that they couldn’t be captains, coach the team, and be players at the same time. They began taking anumber of steps to help the team change its own culture.

First, they brought in Mario O’Brien, a well-known ultimate coach, to help guide the team and teach the playersskills and strategy. The team had had other coaches in the past, but none of those had the knowledge, experience,or reputation that O’Brien did.

“That really took some forethought,” says a player, “to be able to step back and say, ‘What does this team reallyneed to become a strong program?’ And then making a move to bring in someone of O’Brien’s stature.”

After a few weeks of practice with O’Brien, the captains and coach organized a team dinner. Before the dinnerthey asked each player to anonymously submit in writing what he thought of the team and what he wanted to seethe team be. “There were no rules—just say what you need to say,” says a player. Each submission was read aloudand discussed by team members.

“No one was put in the position of having to publicly speak out and be embarrassed in front of the others,” says aplayer. “We came out of that meeting more together, more bonded as a team. We hashed out a lot of issues, andcame to the realization that we were looking for the same goals. The process helped filter out those that weren’t ascommitted to those goals, but not in a confrontational way.”

The goals agreed to at that dinner meeting were for the team to do well enough at the sectional competition toobtain a berth at the national collegiate competition. But the team had a number of inexperienced players, whichsometimes caused stress, frustration, and friction. The captains continued to have multiple meetings to talk aboutconcerns, discussed the team’s goals before and after each practice, and organized social events (with a minimumof drinking) where team members engaged in activities together other than playing ultimate. More experiencedplayers began mentoring the newer players to help improve their skills. Even Harrison, who was an exceptionaloffensive player, put himself on the defensive line to help improve those players’ skills. While it wasn’t optimumfor his own enjoyment and playing abilities, he felt it was needed to help improve the team.

Bacchus reached its goals two years later; it came in second at sectionals and earned a spot in the nationalcompetition. After the team completed its last game at nationals, Kyle and Harrison gathered the team memberstogether in a circle. “We accomplished something more than being here today,” Kyle said. “We’ve become afamily with goals, and with respect for one another and for our game. And that’s a better victory than any other.”


Questions1. What changes were Kyle and Harrison trying to make? How did these changes affect the beliefs,

attitudes, or values of the players?2. Were the challenges the team faced technical, technical and adaptive, or adaptive? What examples can

you give to explain your answer?3. Citing examples, explain how the captains engaged in each of these adaptive leader behaviors: (1) get on

the balcony, (2) identify adaptive challenges, (3) regulate distress, (4) maintain disciplined attention, (5) givethe work back to the people, and (6) protect leadership voices from below.

4. Describe the holding environment that the co-captains created for the team. Do you think it wassuccessful? Why or why not?


Case 11.3: Redskins No MoreWhen a vacancy arose on the school board for Gooding Public Schools, Scott Rogers decided to throw his hatinto the ring for consideration. A former college professor who had retired to the small Midwest town, Scott washoping to help the historically “good old boy” board focus more on educational pursuits than its traditionalemphasis on high school athletics.

Shortly after Scott was appointed to the board, a local family with Native American ancestry came before theboard to ask that the name of the Gooding High School’s athletic teams be changed from the Redskins. Thefamily found the use of Redskins as a team name to be offensive. “The use of the word Redskin is essentially aracial slur,” said Scott, “and as a racial slur, it needed to be changed.”

The request set off a firestorm in the small town of 7,000. The school’s athletic teams had competed as Redskinsfor 50 years, and many felt the name was an integral part of the community. People personally identified with theRedskins, and the team and the team’s name were ingrained in the small town’s culture.

“We went through months of folks coming to the school board meetings to speak on the issue, and it got totallyout of control,” Scott says. “Locals would say, ‘I was born a Redskin, and I’ll die a Redskin.’ They argued that thename was never intended to be offensive and that it honored the area’s relatively strong Native Americanpresence. The local family that raised the issue was getting all sorts of national support, and speakers came infrom as far away as Oklahoma to discuss the negative ramifications of Native American mascots. Local groupsargued back that these speakers weren’t from Gooding and shouldn’t even be allowed to be at the boardmeetings.”

Scott felt strongly that the name needed to be changed. In meeting after meeting, he tried to explain to both hisfellow board members and those in the audience that if the name is offensive to someone and recognized as aracial slur, then the intent of its original choosing was irrelevant. If someone was offended by the name, then itwas wrong to maintain it.

Finally, Scott put forward a motion to change the name. That motion included a process for the students atGooding High School to choose a new name for their athletic teams. The board approved the motion 5–2. Thestudents immediately embraced the opportunity to choose a new name, developing designs and logos for theirproposed choices. In the end, the student body voted to become the Redhawks.

There was still an angry community contingent, however, that was festering over the change. They begancirculating petitions to recall the school board members who voted for the change, and received enoughsignatures for the recall to be put up for an election.

“While the kids are going about the business of changing the name and the emblem, the community holds anelection and proceeds to recall five of the seven members of the board,” Scott says. The five recalled membersinclude Scott and the other board members who voted in favor of the name change.

The remaining two board members, both of whom were ardent members of the athletic booster organization,held a special meeting of the board (all two of them) and voted to change the name back to the Redskins.

That’s when the state’s Department of Civil Rights and the Commission for High School Athletics stepped in.They told the Gooding School Board there could not be a reversal of the name change and that Gooding HighSchool’s teams would have to go for four years without one, competing only as Gooding.

Over the course of those four years, new school board members were elected, and the issue quieted down. At theend of that period, the students again voted to become the Gooding Redhawks.

“You know, the kids were fine with it,” says Scott. “It’s been ten years, and there’s an entire generation of kidsthat don’t have a clue that it was ever different. They are Redhawks and have always been Redhawks.


“It was the adults who had the problem. There’s still a small contingent today that can’t get over it. A localhardware store still sells Gooding Redskins T-shirts and other gear. There is just this group of folks that believethere was nothing disrespectful in the Redskins name. Once that group is gone, it will be a nonissue.”


Questions1. What change were the people in Gooding trying to avoid? Why do you think they wanted to avoid this

change? What tactics did they use to resist change?2. Would you describe the efforts of Scott Rogers or the school board as adaptive leadership? Why or why

not?3. How would you describe the holding environment created by the school board? Do you think it was

successful? Why or why not?4. Citing examples, describe how the school board engaged or didn’t engage in each of these adaptive leader

behaviors: get on the balcony, maintain disciplined attention, and give the work back to the people.5. What group would you describe as the “low-status group”? How did the school board seek to give voice

to this group?

Leadership Instrument

To assist you in understanding the process of adaptive leadership and what your own style might be, theAdaptive Leadership Questionnaire is included in this section. This questionnaire provides 360-degree, ormultirater, feedback about your leadership. The Adaptive Leadership Questionnaire comprises 30 items thatassess the six dimensions of adaptive leadership discussed earlier in this chapter: get on the balcony, identifythe adaptive challenge, regulate distress, maintain disciplined attention, give the work back to the people, andprotect leadership voices from below. The results you obtain on this questionnaire will provide youinformation on how you view yourself and how others view you on these six dimensions of adaptiveleadership.

Adaptive leadership is a complex process, and taking this questionnaire will help you understand the theoryof adaptive leadership as well as your own style of adaptive leadership.


Adaptive Leadership QuestionnaireInstructions: This questionnaire contains items that assess different dimensions of adaptive leadership andwill be completed by you and others who know you (coworkers, friends, members of a group you belongto).

1. Make five copies of this questionnaire.2. Fill out the assessment about yourself; where you see the phrase “this leader,” replace it with “I” or

“me.”3. Have each individual indicate the degree to which he or she agrees with each of the 30 statements

below regarding your leadership by circling the number from the scale that he or she believes mostaccurately characterizes their response to the statement. There are no right or wrong responses.

Key: 1 = Strongly disagree 2 = Disagree 3 = Neutral 4 = Agree 5 = Strongly agree

1.When difficulties emerge in our organization, this leader is good atstepping back and assessing the dynamics of the people involved.

1 2 3 4 5

2.When events trigger strong emotional responses among employees, thisleader uses his/her authority as a leader to resolve the problem.

1 2 3 4 5

3.When people feel uncertain about organizational change, they trustthat this leader will help them work through the difficulties.

1 2 3 4 5

4.In complex situations, this leader gets people to focus on the issues theyare trying to avoid.

1 2 3 4 5

5.When employees are struggling with a decision, this leader tells themwhat he/she thinks they should do.

1 2 3 4 5

6.During times of difficult change, this leader welcomes the thoughts ofgroup members with low status.

1 2 3 4 5

7.In difficult situations, this leader sometimes loses sight of the “bigpicture.”

1 2 3 4 5

8.When people are struggling with value questions, this leader remindsthem to follow the organization’s policies.

1 2 3 4 5

9.When people begin to be disturbed by unresolved conflicts, this leaderencourages them to address the issues.

1 2 3 4 5

10.During organizational change, this leader challenges people toconcentrate on the “hot” topics.

1 2 3 4 5

11.When employees look to this leader for answers, he/she encouragesthem to think for themselves.

1 2 3 4 5

12. Listening to group members with radical ideas is valuable to this leader. 1 2 3 4 5


13. When this leader disagrees with someone, he/she has difficulty listeningto what the person is really saying.

1 2 3 4 5

14.When others are struggling with intense conflicts, this leader steps in toresolve the differences.

1 2 3 4 5

15.This leader has the emotional capacity to comfort others as they workthrough intense issues.

1 2 3 4 5

16.When people try to avoid controversial organizational issues, this leaderbrings these conflicts into the open.

1 2 3 4 5

17.This leader encourages his/her employees to take initiative in definingand solving problems.

1 2 3 4 5

18.This leader is open to people who bring up unusual ideas that seem tohinder the progress of the group.

1 2 3 4 5

19.In challenging situations, this leader likes to observe the partiesinvolved and assess what’s really going on.

1 2 3 4 5

20. This leader encourages people to discuss the “elephant in the room.” 1 2 3 4 5

21.People recognize that this leader has confidence to tackle challengingproblems.

1 2 3 4 5

22.This leader thinks it is reasonable to let people avoid confrontingdifficult issues.

1 2 3 4 5

23.When people look to this leader to solve problems, he/she enjoysproviding solutions.

1 2 3 4 5

24.This leader has an open ear for people who don’t seem to fit in withthe rest of the group.

1 2 3 4 5

25.In a difficult situation, this leader will step out of the dispute to gainperspective on it.

1 2 3 4 5

26.This leader thrives on helping people find new ways of coping withorganizational problems.

1 2 3 4 5

27. People see this leader as someone who holds steady in the storm. 1 2 3 4 5

28.In an effort to keep things moving forward, this leader lets people avoidissues that are troublesome.

1 2 3 4 5

29.When people are uncertain about what to do, this leader empowersthem to decide for themselves.

1 2 3 4 5

30.To restore equilibrium in the organization, this leader tries toneutralize comments of out-group members.

1 2 3 4 5


ScoringGet on the Balcony—This score represents the degree to which you are able to step back and see thecomplexities and interrelated dimensions of a situation.

To arrive at this score:

Sum items 1, 19, and 25 and the reversed (R) score values for 7 and 13 (i.e., change 1 to 5, 2 to 4, 4to 2, and 5 to 1, with 3 remaining unchanged).____ 1 ____ 7(R) ____ 13(R) ____ 19 ____ 25 ____ Total (Get on the Balcony)

Identify the Adaptive Challenge—This score represents the degree to which you recognize adaptivechallenges and do not respond to these challenges with technical leadership.

To arrive at this score:

Sum items 20 and 16 and the reversed (R) score values for 2, 8, and 14 (i.e., change 1 to 5, 2 to 4, 4to 2, and 5 to 1, with 3 remaining unchanged).____ 2(R) ____ 8(R) ____ 14(R) ____ 20 ____ 26 ____ Total (Identify the Adaptive Challenge)

Regulate Distress—This score represents the degree to which you provide a safe environment in whichothers can tackle difficult problems and to which you are seen as confident and calm in conflict situations.

To arrive at this score:

Sum items 3, 9, 15, 21, and 27.____ 3 ____ 9 ____ 15 ____ 21 ____ 27 ____ Total (Regulate Distress)

Maintain Disciplined Attention—This score represents the degree to which you get others to facechallenging issues and not let them avoid difficult problems.

To arrive at this score:

Sum items 4, 10, and 26 and the reversed (R) score values for 22 and 28 (i.e., change 1 to 5, 2 to 4,4 to 2, and 5 to 1, with 3 remaining unchanged).____ 4 ____ 10 ____ 16 ____ 22(R) ____ 28(R) ____ Total (Maintain Disciplined Attention)

Give the Work Back to the People—This score is the degree to which you empower others to think forthemselves and solve their own problems.

To arrive at this score:

Sum items 11, 17, and 29 and the reversed (R) score values for 5 and 23 (i.e., change 1 to 5, 2 to 4,4 to 2, and 5 to 1, with 3 remaining unchanged).____ 5(R) ____ 11 ____ 17 ____ 23(R) ____ 29 ____ Total (Give the Work Back to the People)

Protect Leadership Voices From Below—This score represents the degree to which you are open andaccepting of unusual or radical contributions from low-status group members.

To arrive at this score:

Sum items 6, 12, 18, and 24 and the reversed (R) score value for 30 (i.e., change 1 to 5, 2 to 4, 4 to2, and 5 to 1, with 3 remaining unchanged).____ 6 ____ 12 ____ 18 ____ 24 ____ 30(R) ____ Total (Protect Leadership Voices From Below)


Scoring ChartTo complete the scoring chart, enter the raters’ scores and your own scores in the appropriate column onthe scoring sheet below. Find the average score from your five raters, and then calculate the differencebetween the average and your self-rating.









Get on the Balcony

Identify the AdaptiveChallenge

Regulate Distress

Maintain DisciplinedAttention

Give the Work Backto the People

Protect LeadershipVoices From Below


Scoring InterpretationHigh range: A score between 21 and 25 means you are strongly inclined to exhibit this adaptiveleadership behavior.Moderately high range: A score between 16 and 20 means you moderately exhibit this adaptiveleadership behavior.Moderate low range: A score between 11 and 15 means you at times exhibit this adaptive leadershipbehavior.Low range: A score between 5 and 10 means you are seldom inclined to exhibit this adaptiveleadership behavior.

This questionnaire measures adaptive leadership assessing six components of the process: get on the balcony,identify the adaptive challenge, regulate distress, maintain disciplined attention, give the work back to thepeople, and protect leadership voices from below. By comparing your scores on each of these components,you can determine which are your stronger and which are your weaker components in each category. Thescoring chart allows you to see where your perceptions are the same as those of others and where they differ.There are no “perfect” scores for this questionnaire. While it is confirming when others see you in the sameway as you see yourself, it is also beneficial to know when they see you differently. This assessment can helpyou understand those dimensions of your adaptive leadership that are strong and dimensions of youradaptive leadership you may seek to improve.



Adaptive leadership is about helping people change and adjust to new situations. Originallyformulated by Heifetz (1994), adaptive leadership conceptualizes the leader not as one whosolves problems for people, but rather as one who encourages others to do the problemsolving. Adaptive leadership occupies a unique place in the leadership literature. While themerits of the approach are well recognized, the theoretical conceptualizations of adaptiveleadership remain in the formative stages.

While the name of this approach, adaptive leadership, makes one think it is concerned withhow leaders adapt, it is actually more about the adaptations of followers. Adaptiveleadership is defined as “the practice of mobilizing people to tackle tough challenges andthrive” (Heifetz et al., 2009, p. 14). Consistent with complexity theory, adaptive leadershipis about leader behaviors that encourage learning, creativity, and adaptation by followers incomplex situations.

This chapter offers a model of the major components of adaptive leadership and how theyfit together, including situational challenges, leader behaviors, and adaptive work (Figure11.1). Leaders confront three kinds of situational challenges (technical, technical andadaptive, and adaptive); adaptive leadership is concerned with helping people addressadaptive challenges. The six leader behaviors that play a major role in the process are (1) geton the balcony, (2) identify adaptive challenges, (3) regulate distress, (4) maintain disciplinedattention, (5) give the work back to the people, and (6) protect leadership voices from below.These six behaviors form a kind of recipe for being an adaptive leader. Adaptive work is thefocus and goal of adaptive leadership. Central to adaptive work is awareness of the need forcreating a holding environment, and skill in creating holding environments when needed. Aholding environment is a space created and maintained by adaptive leaders where peoplecan feel secure as they confront and resolve difficult life challenges.

Adaptive leadership has several strengths. First, adaptive leadership takes a unique approachthat emphasizes that leadership is a complex interactive process comprising multipledimensions and activities. Second, unlike most other leadership theories, adaptiveleadership clearly describes leadership as actions the leaders undertake to afford followersthe best opportunity to do adaptive work. Third, adaptive leadership is unique indescribing how leaders can help people confront and adjust their values in order to adaptand thrive. Fourth, adaptive leadership provides a useful and practical set of prescriptionsfor what leaders and followers should do to facilitate adaptive change. Last, adaptiveleadership highlights the important role a holding environment plays in the leadershipprocess.

The adaptive leadership process also has certain weaknesses. Foremost, there is very littleempirical research to support the claims and tenets of adaptive leadership. Second, the


conceptualizations of the process of adaptive leadership need further refinement. The majorfactors and how they fit together are not clearly delineated. Third, interpreting theprescriptions of adaptive leadership can become overwhelming because of the breadth andwide-ranging nature of these prescriptions. In addition, the abstract nature of therecommended leadership behaviors makes these behaviors difficult to analyze in research orimplement in practice. Finally, on a theoretical level, adaptive leadership acknowledges themoral dimension of leadership and the importance of change for the common good, butdoes not show how doing adaptive work leads to such socially useful outcomes.

Overall, adaptive leadership offers a unique prescriptive approach to leadership that isapplicable in many situations. Going forward, more research is needed to clarify theconceptualizations of adaptive leadership and validate the assumptions and propositionsregarding how it works.

Sharpen your skills with SAGE edge at


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Eubank, D., Geffken, D., Orzano, J., & Ricci, R. (2012, September). Teaching adaptiveleadership to family medicine residents: What? Why? How? Families, Systems & Health,30(3), 241–252.

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12 Followership



You cannot have leaders without followers. In the previous chapter, “Adaptive Leadership”(Chapter 11), we focused on the efforts of leaders in relation to the work of followers indifferent contexts. The emphasis was on how leaders engage people to do adaptive work. Inthis chapter, we focus primarily on followers and the central role followers play in theleadership process. The process of leading requires the process of following. Leaders andfollowers together create the leadership relationship, and without an understanding of theprocess of following, our understanding of leadership is incomplete (Shamir, 2007; Uhl-Bien, Riggio, Lowe, & Carsten, 2014).

For many people, being a follower and the process of followership have negativeconnotations. One reason is that people do not find followership as compelling asleadership. Leaders, rather than followers, have always taken center stage. For example, inschool, children are taught early that it is better to be a leader than a follower. In athleticsand sports, the praise for performance consistently goes to the leaders, not the team players.When people apply for jobs, they are asked to describe their leadership abilities, not theirfollowership activities. Clearly, it is leadership skills that are applauded by society, notfollowership skills. It is just simply more intriguing to talk about how leaders use powerthan to talk about how followers respond to power.

While the interest in examining the active role of followers was first approached in the1930s by Follett (1949), groundwork on follower research wasn’t established until severaldecades later through the initial works of scholars such as Zaleznik (1965), Kelley (1988),Meindl (1990), and Chaleff (1995). Still, until recently, only a minimal number of studieshave been published on followership. Traditionally, leadership research has focused onleaders’ traits, roles, and behaviors because leaders are viewed as the causal agents fororganizational change. At the same time, the impact of followers on organizationaloutcomes has not been generally addressed. Researchers often conceptualize leadership as aleader-centric process, emphasizing the role of the leader rather than the role of thefollower. Furthermore, little research has conceptualized leadership as a shared processinvolving the interdependence between leaders and followers in a shared relationship. Eventhough followers share in the overall leadership process, the nature of their role has notbeen scrutinized. In effect, followership has rarely been studied as a central variable in theleadership process.

There are indications that this is beginning to change. In a recent New York Times article,Susan Cain (author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking)decries the glorification of leadership skills in college admissions and curricula and arguesthat the world needs more followers. It needs team players, people called to service, andindividuals committed to something outside of themselves. Followership is also receiving


more attention now because of three major works devoted exclusively to the process offollowing: The Art of Followership: How Great Followers Create Great Leaders andOrganizations by Riggio, Chaleff, and Lipman-Blumen (2008), Followership: How FollowersAre Creating Change and Changing Leaders by Kellerman (2008), and Followership: What IsIt and Why Do People Follow? by Lapierre and Carsten (2014). Collectively, these bookshave put the spotlight on followership and helped to establish it as a legitimate andsignificant area of study.

In this chapter, we examine followership and how it is related to the leadership process.First, we define followers and followership and discuss the implications of these definitions.Second, we discuss selected typologies of followership that illustrate different styles used byfollowers. Next, we explore a formal theory of followership that has been set forth by Uhl-Bien et al. (2014) and new perspectives on followership suggested by Carsten, Harms, andUhl-Bien (2014).Last, we explore types of ineffective followership that contribute todestructive leadership.


Followership Defined

It is challenging to define followership because the term conjures up different meanings forpeople, and the idea of being a follower is positive for some and negative for others. Forexample, followership is seen as valuable in military situations when soldiers follow ordersfrom a platoon leader to complete a mission, or when passengers boarding a plane followthe boarding agent’s instructions. In contrast, however, followers are thought of negativelyin such situations as when people follow a cult leader such as David Koresh of the BranchDavidians, or in a college fraternity when individuals are required to conduct life-threatening hazing rituals with new members. Clearly, followership can be positive ornegative, and it plays out differently in different settings.

What is followership? Followership is a process whereby an individual or individuals accept theinfluence of others to accomplish a common goal. Followership involves a power differentialbetween the follower and the leader. Typically, followers comply with the directions andwishes of leaders—they defer to leaders’ power.

Followership also has an ethical dimension. Like leadership, followership is not amoral; thatis, it is not a process that is morally neutral. Followership carries with it a responsibility toconsider the morality of one’s actions and the rightness or wrongness of the outcomes ofwhat one does as a follower. Followers and leaders work together to achieve common goals,and both share a moral obligation regarding those goals. There are ethical consequences tofollowership and to what followers do because the character and behavior of followers hasan impact on organizational outcomes.


Role-Based and Relational-Based Perspectives

Followership can be divided into two broad categories: role-based and relational-based (Uhl-Bien et al., 2014).

The role-based perspective focuses on followers in regard to the typical roles or behaviorsthey exhibit while occupying a formal or informal position within a hierarchical system. Forexample, in a staff planning meeting, some people are very helpful to the group becausethey bring energy and offer insightful suggestions regarding how the group might proceed.Their role as engaged followers, in this case, has a positive impact on the meeting and itsoutcomes. Emphasis in the role-based approach is on the roles and styles of followers andhow their behaviors affect the leader and organizational outcomes.

The relational-based approach to followership is quite different from the role-basedapproach. To understand the relational-based approach it is helpful to understand socialconstructivism. Social constructivism is a sociological theory that argues that people createmeaning about their reality as they interact with each other. For example, a fitnessinstructor and an individual in an exercise class negotiate with each other about the kind ofinfluence the instructor will have and the amount of influence the individual will accept.From a social constructivist perspective, followership is co-created by the leader and followerin a given situation. The meaning of followership emerges from the communicationbetween leaders and followers and stresses the interplay between following and leading.Rather than focusing on roles, it focuses on the interpersonal process and one person’sattempt to influence and the other person’s response to these influence attempts.Leadership occurs within the interpersonal context of people exerting influence andresponding to those influence attempts. In the relational-based approach, followership istied to interpersonal behaviors rather than to specific roles (Carsten et al., 2010; DeRue &Ashford, 2010; Fairhurst & Uhl-Bien, 2012; Uhl-Bien et al., 2014).

Table 12.1 Typologies of Followership

Zaleznik (1965) Kelley (1992) Chaleff (1995) Kellerman (2008)

Withdrawn Alienated Resource Isolate

Masochistic Passive Individualist Bystander

Compulsive Conformist Implementer Participant

Impulsive Pragmatist Partner Activist


Exemplary DiehardSource: Adapted from “Conceptualizing followership: A review of the literature,” by B. Crossman and J.Crossman, 2011, Leadership, 7(4), 481–497.


Typologies of Followership

How can we describe followers’ roles? Trying to do just that has been the primary focus ofmuch of the existing followership research. As there are many types of leaders, so, too, arethere many types of followers (Table 12.1). Grouping followers’ roles into distinguishablecategories to create an accurate classification system, or typology, of follower behaviors hasbeen undertaken by several researchers. A typology enhances our understanding of thebroader area of followership by breaking it down into smaller pieces. In this case, thesepieces are different types of follower roles observed in various settings.

The Zaleznik Typology

The first typology of followers was provided by Zaleznik (1965) and was intended to helpleaders understand followers and also to help followers understand and become leaders. Inan article published in the Harvard Business Review, Zaleznik created a matrix thatdisplayed followers’ behaviors along two axes: Dominance–Submission and Activity–Passivity (Figure 12.1). The vertical axis represents a range of followers from those whowant to control their leaders (i.e., be dominant) to those who want to be controlled by theirleaders (i.e., be submissive). The horizontal axis represents a range of followers from thosewho want to initiate and be involved to those who sit back and withdraw. Based on the twoaxes, the model identifies four types of followers: withdrawn (submissive/passive),masochistic (submissive/active), compulsive (high dominance/passive), and impulsive (highdominance/active). Because Zaleznik was trained in psychoanalytic theory, these followertypes are based on psychological concepts. Zaleznik was interested in explaining thecommunication breakdowns between authority figures and subordinates, in particular thedynamics of subordinacy conflicts. The follower types illustrated in Figure 12.1 exist as aresult of followers’ responses to inner tensions regarding authority. These tensions may beunconscious but can often come to the surface and influence the communication in leader–follower relationships.

Figure 12.1 Zalzenik Follower Typology


Source: Adapted from “The dynamics of subordinacy,” by A. Zaleznik, 1965, HarvardBusiness Review (p. 122).

The Kelley Typology

Kelley’s (1992) typology (Figure 12.2) is currently the most recognized followershiptypology. Kelley believes followers are enormously valuable to organizations and that thepower of followers often goes unrecognized. He stresses the importance of studyingfollowers in the leadership process and gave impetus to the development of the field offollowership. While Zaleznik (1965) focused on the personal aspects of followers, Kelleyemphasizes the motivations of followers and follower behaviors. In his efforts to givefollowership equal billing to leadership, Kelley examined those aspects of followers thataccount for exemplary followership.

Kelley sorted followers’ styles on two axes: independent critical thinking–dependentuncritical thinking and active–passive. These dimensions resulted in five follower role types:

passive followers (sometimes pejoratively called “sheep”), who look to the leader fordirection and motivation,conformist followers, who are “yes people”—always on the leader’s side but stilllooking to the leader for direction and guidance,alienated followers, who think for themselves and exhibit a lot of negative energy,pragmatics, who are “fence-sitters” who support the status quo but do not get on


board until others do, andexemplary followers (sometimes called “star” followers), who are active and positiveand offer independent constructive criticism.

Figure 12.2 Kelley Follower Typology

Source: Based on excerpts from The Power of Followership by Robert E. Kelly,copyright © 1992 by Consultants to Executives and Organizations, Ltd. Used bypermission of Doubleday, an imprint of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, adivision of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved.

Based on his observations, Kelley (1988, 2008) asserts that effective followers share thesame indispensible qualities: (1) They self-manage and think for themselves, exercisecontrol and independence, and work without supervision; (2) they show strongcommitment to organizational goals (i.e., something outside themselves) as well as theirown personal goals; (3) they build their competence and master job skills; and (4) they arecredible, ethical, and courageous. Rather than framing followership in a negative light,Kelley underscores the positive dimensions of following.

The Chaleff Typology

Chaleff (1995, 2008, 2009) developed a typology to amplify the significance of the role offollowers in the leadership process (Table 12.1). He developed his typology as a result of adefining moment in his formative years when he became aware of the horrors of the WorldWar II Holocaust that killed more than 6 million European Jews. Chaleff felt a moral


imperative to seek answers as to why people followed German leader Adolf Hitler, apurveyor of hate and death. What could be done to prevent this from happening again?How could followers be emboldened to help leaders use their power appropriately and actto keep leaders from abusing their power?

Figure 12.3 Leader–Follower Interaction

Source: Adapted from “Creating new ways of following” by I. Chaleff, in R. E. Riggio,I. Chaleff, and J. Lipman-Blumen (Eds.), The Art of Followership: How GreatFollowers Create Great Leaders and Organizations (p. 71), 2008. Permission conveyedthrough Copyright Clearance Center, Inc. Republished with permission of JohnWiley & Sons.

Rather than serving leaders, Chaleff argues that followers serve a common purpose along withleaders (Figure 12.3) and that both leaders and followers work to achieve commonoutcomes. Chaleff states that followers need to take a more proactive role that brings it intoparity with the leader’s role. He sought to make followers more responsible, to change theirown internal estimates of their abilities to influence others, and to help followers feel agreater sense of agency.

To achieve equal influence with leaders, Chaleff emphasizes that followers need to becourageous. His approach is a prescriptive one; that is, it advocates how followers ought tobehave. According to Kelley, followers need the courage to

a. assume responsibility for the common purpose,b. support the leader and the organization,c. constructively challenge the leader if the common purpose or integrity of group is

being threatened,d. champion the need for change when necessary, and


e. take a moral stand that is different from the leader’s to prevent ethical abuses.

In short, Chaleff proposes that followers should be morally strong and work to do the rightthing when facing the multiplicity of challenges that leaders place upon them.

Chaleff created a follower typology (Figure 12.4), which is constructed using twocharacteristics of courageous followership: the courage to support the leader (vertical axis) andthe courage to challenge the leader’s behavior and policies (horizontal axis). This typologydifferentiates four styles of followership:

Figure 12.4 Chaleff Follower Typology

Source: Adapted from “Creating new ways of following” by I. Chaleff, in R. E. Riggio,I. Chaleff, and J. Lipman-Blumen (Eds.), The Art of Followership: How GreatFollowers Create Great Leaders and Organizations (p. 71), 2008; permission conveyedthrough Copyright Clearance Center, Inc. Republished with permission of JohnWiley & Sons.

1. Resource (lower left quadrant), which exhibits low support and low challenge. This isthe person who does just enough to get by.

2. Individualist (lower right quadrant), which demonstrates low support and highchallenge. Often marginalized by others, the individualist speaks up and lets theleader know where she or he stands.

3. Implementer (upper left quadrant), which acts with high support and low challenge.Often valued by the leader, implementers are supportive and get the work done but,on the downside, fail to challenge the leader’s goals and values.

4. Partner (upper right quadrant), which shows high support and high challenge. This


style of follower takes responsibility for him- or herself and the leader and fullysupports the leader, but is always willing to challenge the leader when necessary.

The Kellerman Typology

Kellerman’s (2008) typology of followers was developed from her experience as a politicalscientist and her observations about followers in different historical contexts. Kellermanargues that the importance of leaders tends to be overestimated because they generally havemore power, authority, and influence, while the importance of followers is underestimated.From her perspective, followers are subordinates who are “unleaders,” by which she meansthey have little power, no position of authority, and no special influence.

Figure 12.5 Kellerman Follower Typology

Source: From Followership: How Followers Are Creating Change and ChangingLeaders, by Barbara Kellerman, 2008, Brighton, MA: Harvard Business Review Press.

Kellerman designed a typology that differentiates followers in regard to a single attribute:level of engagement. She suggests a continuum (Figure 12.5), which describes followers onone end as being detached and doing nothing for the leader or the group’s goals andfollowers on the opposite end as being very dedicated and deeply involved with the leaderand the group’s goals. As shown in the figure, Kellerman’s typology identifies five levels offollower engagement and behaviors:

Isolates are completely unengaged. They are detached and do not care about theirleaders. Isolates who do nothing actually strengthen the influence potential of aleader. For example, when an individual feels alienated from the political system andnever votes, elected officials end up having more power and freedom to exert theirwill.Bystanders are observers who do not participate. They are aware of the leader’sintentions and actions but deliberately choose to not become involved. In a groupsituation, the bystander is the person who listens to the discussion but, when it istime to make a decision, disengages and declares neutrality.Participants are partially engaged individuals who are willing to take a stand on issues,either supporting or opposing the leader. For example, participants would be the


employees who challenge or support the leader regarding the fairness of theircompany’s new overtime policy.Activists feel strongly about the leader and the leader’s policies and are determined toact on their own beliefs. They are change agents. For example, in 2017, activists werewilling to sit in the halls of the U.S. Capitol to protest proposed changes to theAffordable Care Act.Diehards are engaged to the extreme. They are deeply committed to supporting theleader or opposing the leader. Diehards are totally dedicated to their cause, evenwilling to risk their lives for it. In a small-group setting, a diehard is a follower who isall-consumed with his or her own position within the group to the point of forcingthe group members to do what he or she wants them to do or forcing the groupprocess to implode. For example, there have been U.S. congresspersons willing toforce the government into economic calamity by refusing to vote to raise thecountry’s debt ceiling in order to force their will on a particular issue, such asincreased defense spending or funding for a roads project in their district.

What do these four typologies (i.e., Zaleznik, Kelley, Chaleff, and Kellerman) tell us aboutfollowers? What insights or conclusions are suggested by the typologies?

First, these typologies provide a starting point for research. The first step in building theoryis to define the phenomenon under observation, and these typologies are that first step toidentifying key followership variables. Second, these typologies highlight the multitude ofdifferent ways followers have been characterized, from alienated or masochistic to activist orindividualist. Third, while the typologies do not differentiate a definitive list of followertypes, there are some commonalities among them. Generally, the major followership typesare active–engaged, independent–assertive, submissive–compliant, and supportive–conforming—or, as suggested by Carsten et al. (2014), passive followers, antiauthoritarianfollowers, and proactive followers.

Fourth, the typologies are important because they label individuals engaged in theleadership process. This labeling brings followers to the forefront and gives them morecredence for their role in the leadership process. These descriptions can also assist leaders ineffectively communicating with followers. By knowing that a follower adheres to a certaintype of behavior, the leader can adapt her or his style to optimally relate to the role thefollower is playing.

Collectively, the typologies of followership provide a beginning point for theory buildingabout followership. Building on these typologies, the next section discusses some of the firstattempts to create a theory of followership.


Theoretical Approaches to Followership

What is the phenomenon of followership? Is there a theory that explains it? Uhl-Bien andher colleagues (2014) set out to answer those questions by systematically analyzing theexisting followership literature and introducing a broad theory of followership. They statethat followership comprises “characteristics, behaviors and processes of individuals acting inrelation to leaders” (p. 96). In addition, they describe followership as a relationally basedprocess that includes how followers and leaders interact to construct leadership and itsoutcomes (Uhl-Bien et al., 2014, p. 99).

Based on these definitions, Uhl-Bien et al. proposed a formal theory of followership. Theyfirst identified the constructs (i.e., components or attributes) and variables that comprisethe process of followership as shown in Table 12.2.

Table 12.2 Theoretical Constructs and Variables of Followership









Follower Traits Leader PowerFollowershipBehaviors


Follower MotivationPerceptions andConstructions


Individual LeaderOutcomes

Follower Perceptionsand Constructions

Leader AffectRelationshipOutcomes

LeadershipProcess Outcomes

Source: From “Followership Theory: A Review and Research Agenda,” by M. Uhl-Bien, R. R. Riggio, R. B.Lowe, and M. K. Carsten, The Leadership Quarterly, 25, p. 98. Copyright 2014 by Elsevier. Reprinted withpermission.

The constructs listed in Table 12.2 are a first attempt to differentiate the majorcomponents of followership. Followership characteristics refer to the attributes of followers,such as the follower’s traits (e.g., confidence), motivations, and the way an individualperceives what it means to be a follower. Leader characteristics refer to the attributes of the


leader, such as the leader’s power and/or willingness to empower others, the leader’sperceptions of followers, and the leader’s affect (i.e., the leader’s positive or negative feelingstoward followers). Followership behaviors are the behaviors of individuals who are in thefollower role—that is, the extent to which they obey, defer, or resist the leader. Leadershipbehaviors are the behaviors of the individuals in the leadership role, such as how the leaderinfluences followers to respond. Finally, followership outcomes are the results that occurbased on the followership process. The outcomes can influence the individual follower, theleader, the relationship between the leader and the follower, and the leadership process. Forexample, how a leader reacts to a follower, whether the follower receives positive or negativereinforcement from a leader, and whether a follower advances the organizational goals allcontribute to followership outcomes.

To explain the possible relationships between the variables and constructs identified inTable 12.2, the authors proposed two theoretical frameworks: reversing the lens (Figure12.6) and the leadership co-created process (Figure 12.7).


Reversing the Lens

Reversing the lens is an approach to followership that addresses followers in a manneropposite of the way they have been studied in most prior leadership research. Rather thanfocusing on how followers are affected by leaders, it focuses on how followers affect leadersand organizational outcomes. Reversing the lens emphasizes that followers can be changeagents. As illustrated in Figure 12.6, this approach addresses (1) the impact of followers’characteristics on followers’ behaviors, (2) the impact of followers’ behaviors on leaders’perceptions and behavior and the impact of the leaders’ perceptions and behavior onfollowers’ behaviors, and (3) the impact of both followers and leaders on followershipoutcomes.

Figure 12.6 Reversing the Lens

Source: From “Followership Theory: A Review and Research Agenda,” by M. Uhl-Bien, R. R. Riggio, R. B. Lowe, and M. K. Carsten, The Leadership Quarterly, 25, p.98. Copyright 2014 by Elsevier. Reprinted with permission.

A hypothetical example of how the reversing the lens framework might work is the research ateam is doing on employees and followership in a small, nonprofit organization. In thissituation, researchers might be interested in how followers’ personality traits (e.g.,introversion–extraversion, dogmatism) relate to how they act at work—that is, their styleand work behavior. Researchers might also examine how employees’ behavior affects theirsupervisor’s leadership behavior or how the follower–leader relationship affectsorganizational outcomes. These are just a sample of the research questions that could beaddressed. However, notice that the overriding purpose and theme of the study is theimpact of followers on the followership process.


The Leadership Co-Created Process

A second theoretical approach, the leadership co-created process, is shown in Figure 12.7. Thename of this approach almost seems like a misnomer because it implies that it is aboutleadership rather than followership. However, that is not the case. The leadership co-createdprocess framework conceptualizes followership as a give-and-take process where oneindividual’s following behaviors interact with another individual’s leading behaviors tocreate leadership and its resulting outcomes. This approach does not frame followership asrole-based or as a lower rung on a hierarchical ladder; rather, it highlights how leadership isco-created through the combined act of leading and following.

Figure 12.7 The Leadership Co-Created Process

Source: Based on The Allure of Toxic Leaders by J. Lipman-Blumen, 2005, p. 29;permission conveyed through Copyright Clearance Center, Inc. Republished withpermission of Oxford University Press.

Leading behaviors are influence attempts—that is, using power to have an impact onanother. Following behaviors, on the other hand, involve granting power to another,complying, or challenging. Figure 12.7 illustrates that (1) followers and leaders have amutual influence on each other; (2) leadership occurs as a result of their interaction (i.e.,their leading and following); and (3) this resulting process affects outcomes.

The following example illustrates what followership would entail using the leadership co-created process framework in Figure 12.7. Terry Smith is a seasoned high school footballcoach who paints houses in the summer to supplement his income. One summer, CoachSmith invited one of his players, Jason Long, to work with him as a painter. Coach Smith


and Jason worked well together, sharing painting responsibilities, and often findinginnovative ways to accomplish their painting jobs more efficiently.

When the summer was over and football practice resumed, however, Coach Smith andJason ran into problems. At practice, Jason called Coach Smith by his first name, jokingwith him about their painting jobs, and behaving as a peer rather than a team member.Although Coach Smith liked being on a first-name basis with Jason in the summer, he wasconcerned that other team members would also start calling him by his first name and hewould lose their respect of him as the coach. Jason, on the other hand, felt good about hisrelationship with Coach Smith and the influence he had with him. He did not want to losethis, which would happen if he was forced to resume calling him Coach Smith, like the restof the players.

To resolve their issues, Coach Smith and Jason discussed how they would address oneanother in a series of interactions and decided it was best for Jason to call Terry “CoachSmith” during the academic year to facilitate a positive working relationship between thecoach and all of the team members.

In this example, the leadership co-created process framework can be seen in the differentleading and following moves Terry and Jason made. For example, when Coach Smith askedJason to join him to paint, he was asserting friendly influence to which Jason accepted byagreeing to work with Terry. When Jason suggested more efficient methods of painting,Terry accepted the influence attempt and deferred to Jason’s ideas. By calling each other bytheir first names while working together, both Jason and Terry assumed that leadership wasbeing shared.

But, when football practice started in the fall and Jason continued to call Terry by his firstname instead of “Coach Smith,” it was apparent that for Coach Smith to retain hisinfluence with the other players, Jason and Terry needed to reach an agreeable decision on“who was in charge” and “who was to follow.” Together they decided what leadership (i.e.,coaching) and followership meant in the different contexts. The result was better footballpractices because all players received what they perceived as equal treatment. In thissituation, researchers studying followership would focus on the way Terry’s and Jason’sleading and following behaviors resulted in leadership that in turn resulted in effective orineffective outcomes.

Because followership research is in the initial stages of development, the two frameworks—reversing the lens and the leadership co-created process—set forth by Uhl-Bien and hercolleagues (2014) are initial attempts to create a theory of followership. The frameworksprovide a way to conceptualize followership that is useful to researchers in generatingfurther studies to explore the intricacies of followership such as the work we discuss in thenext section.


New Perspectives on Followership

In an attempt to advance the study of followership and present followership in a positivelight, Carsten et al. (2014) suggest several practical perspectives on followership. Theseperspectives are intended to help organizations understand followers and to help individualsunderstand the positive facets of being a follower.

Perspective 1: Followers Get the Job Done

In the past, there has been what Meindl (1995) called a “romance of leadership,” whichemphasized the importance of leaders and leadership to the functioning of groups andorganizations. There has been less recognition of the importance of followers to getting thejob done. When viewed from a less leader-centric perspective, leadership can be seen assomething that occurs among followers as a result of how they interpret leadership. Thisplaces less emphasis on the personality of the leader and more on followers’ reactions to theleader. It shifts attention away from leaders as the causal agents of organizational changeand focuses on how the behavior of followers affects organizational outcomes. Clearly,followers carry out the mission of the group and the organization; in short, they do thework. They are central to the life of the organization. Going forward, more attention needsto be given to the personalities, cognitive abilities, interpersonal skills, and problem-solvingabilities of followers (Carsten et al., 2014).

Perspective 2: Followers Work in the Best Interest of theOrganization’s Mission

Although not true of all followers, proactive followers are committed to achieving the goalsof the group or organization to which they belong. Rather than being passive and blindlyobedient to the wishes of the leader, these followers report asserting themselves in ways thatare in alignment with the goals of the organization. They put the organization’s goals aheadof the leader’s goals. The advantage of proactive followers is that they guard against leaderswho act in self-serving or unethical ways. For example, if the president of the United Statesasked a cabinet member to do something that would personally benefit only the president,the cabinet member might refuse, arguing that what she was asked to do was not in the bestinterests of the country, which she ultimately serves. Followers act as a check and balanceon a leader’s power, protecting the organization against abuse of this power. Proactivefollowers keep the organization front and center.

Perspective 3: Followers Challenge Leaders

As illustrated in the typologies outlined earlier in the chapter, being engaged, active, and


challenging are identifying characteristics of effective followers. But followers who challengethe leader can also help to make an organization run more effectively and successfully.When followers have knowledge about a process or procedure of which the leader isunaware, the followers become a strong asset both to the leader and to the organization.They become extra “eyes” to make sure the leader sees the organization from another angle.In addition, followers who are proactive and challenge the leader can keep the leader insync with the overall mission of the organization.

To illustrate this point, consider what happened between Amy Malley, an upper-levelcollege student, and her professor, Dr. Orville. After Dr. Orville posted the final grades fora capstone course that he taught, Amy came to see him in his office.

“I saw my posted grade, and I want you to know it is wrong,” she said. “I know for certainI did very well on the exam and my grade for the course should be an A, but your postingindicates I got a B. Something is wrong with your calculations or the key for the exam.”

Dr. Orville, who had taught for 25 years and never made an error in a student’s grade,began to shrug off Amy’s assertions and tell her she was wrong. She persisted andchallenged Dr. Orville because she was confident that her exam grade was incorrect. Aftermuch discussion, Dr. Orville offered to let Amy see her exam and the scoring key. To hissurprise, her answers were correct, but he had marked them wrong. Upon looking furtherinto the matter, Dr. Orville became aware that he had wrongly scored all the students’exams because he had used the incorrect scoring key. Recognizing his error, Dr. Orvilleimmediately changed Amy’s grade and recalculated the grades for the rest of the class. Inthis example, Amy’s challenging of Dr. Orville’s leadership resulted in positive outcomesfor all the students and also for the leader.

Perspective 4: Followers Support the Leader

In addition to challenging a leader, it is equally important for followers to support theleader. To advance an organization’s mission, it is valuable for leaders when followersvalidate and affirm the leaders’ intentions. Consider what happens in a small-group settingwhen an individual member attempts to make a point or advance an idea. If someone inthe group supports the individual, the group member’s idea is heard and gains traction inthe group, as does the group member. However, if an individual member does not receivesupport from other group members, the individual tends to feel disconfirmed and questionshis or her role in the group.

For a leader, having a follower who supports you is like having a lieutenant. The lieutenantaffirms the leader’s ideas to others and in so doing gives the leader’s ideas validity. Thissupport strengthens a leader’s position in the group and helps to advance the leader’s goals.We all need lieutenants, but leaders especially need lieutenants. Support from others isessential to advancing ideas with others. An example of how not having this support can


affect outcomes can be seen at the national level, when U.S. president Donald Trumpwanted to advance a new national health care policy but could not muster enough supportin his own party (the Republicans) to get the measure to pass in Congress. In this case, nothaving the support of others in a group is detrimental to a leader.

Perspective 5: Followers Learn From Leaders

A serendipitous outcome of being a follower is that in the process of following you learnabout leading. Followership gives individuals the opportunity to view leadership from aposition unencumbered from the burdens and responsibilities of being the leader. Followersget to observe what does or does not work for a leader; they can learn which leadershipapproaches or methods are effective or ineffective and apply this learning if they becomeleaders.

Consider the training that individuals undergo to become teachers. In most educationprograms, becoming certified as a teacher requires students to do “student teaching” or“supervised teaching,” spending a semester working with a certified teacher in a classroomwhere actual teaching and learning are taking place. The student gets a chance to observewhat teachers do and what teaching requires without the full responsibility of being incharge of the students and the educational outcomes. These student teachers have theopportunity to explore their own competencies and hone their teaching skills. From afollowership perspective, the student is playing the following role but in the process learnsthe leadership role.


Followership and Destructive Leaders

Thus far in this chapter, we have focused on effective rather than ineffective followership.For example, we have discussed how followers provide valuable confirmation to leaders andhelp them accomplish organizational goals. But there is another side to followership inwhich followers can play unproductive, and even harmful, roles.

For example, when followers are passive or submissive, their inaction can contribute tounfettered leadership and unintentionally support toxic leaders. Furthermore, followers cancreate contexts that are unhealthy and make it possible for leaders who are not interested inthe common good to thrive. When followers act in ways that contribute to the power ofdestructive leaders and their goals, it can have a debilitating impact on not just the group ororganization they serve, but the followers as well.

In The Allure of Toxic Leaders (2005), Jean Lipman-Blumen explored toxic leadership fromthe perspective of followership. Toxic, or harmful, leaders are leaders who havedysfunctional personal characteristics and engage in numerous destructive behaviors. Yet,people follow them. There are many examples of such leaders in world history: AdolfHitler, whose leadership led to the extermination of 6 million Jews in Europe; formerSerbian and Yugoslavic president Slobodan Milosevic, who ordered the genocide ofthousands of Albanians and forced deportation of nearly a million; Enron Corporation’sJeffrey Skilling and Kenneth Lay, whose conspiracy and fraud cost nearly 20,000 peopletheir jobs and future retirement earnings.

Lipman-Blumen seeks to answer this question: Why do people follow bad leaders? Sheidentifies a series of psychological factors on the part of followers that contribute to harmfulleadership and explains why followers can be compliant even to highly destructive leaders.She also examines how some followers become “henchmen” for toxic leaders, helping andsupporting the toxic leader in enacting the leader’s destructive agenda.

Her thesis is that unhealthy followership occurs as a result of people’s needs to find safety,feel unique, and be included in community, and her work is useful for developing anunderstanding of why some followership is negative and has counterproductive outcomes.

Among the psychological factors of followers that can foster destructive leadershipidentified by Lipman-Blumen are our need for reassuring authority figures; our need forsecurity and certainty; our need to feel chosen or special; our need for membership in thehuman community; our fear of ostracism, isolation, and social death; and our fear ofpowerlessness to challenge a bad leader.

1. Our Need for Reassuring Authority Figures


As far back as psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud’s research in the early 1900s, much has beenwritten about how people deal with authority. When we are very young, we depend on ourparents to guide and protect us; but as we mature, we learn to be our owncompass/authority/person and make decisions without being dependent on others.However, even as adults, some people still have a high need for authority figures. Theywant their leaders to provide guidance and protection like their parents used to. This needcan open the door for leaders who use followers for their own ends. When followers’ needsfor a reassuring authority figure are extremely strong, it makes them vulnerable to followingabusive and destructive leaders. For example, a middle school student who plays aninstrument may practice considerably more than is necessary just to obtain assurance fromthe teacher that he is good and worthwhile. In this example, the teacher could takeadvantage of this student’s need for validation by having the student do more than iscommonly required.

2. Our Need for Security and Certainty

The freedom many people experience when achieving adulthood can bring uncertainty anddisruption to their lives. Psychologists who study people’s belief systems have found thatpeople have a need for consistency—to keep their beliefs and attitudes balanced. Our drivefor certainty means we struggle in contexts where things are disrupted and we do not feel“in charge” of events. This uncertainty and insecurity creates stress from which we seek tofind relief. It is in contexts like these that followers are susceptible to the lure of unethicalleaders who have power. For example, think about migrant workers who come fromMexico to the United States to work on a large produce farm. The farmer they work for haspromised good wages and a place to live. But upon arriving at the farm, the workers findthey are required to work in the fields for up to 15 hours a day, seven days a week, and thehousing provided is substandard. In addition, the farmer charges the workers a high rentfor the housing, plus additional fees for providing drinking water in the fields. The workers,who are undocumented immigrants, put up with these conditions because they need themeager income they make and they know that if they were to complain, the farmer couldreport the workers to immigration authorities and they would be deported. The fragilesecurity of working for the farmer outweighs the uncertainty of what their impoverishedlives in Mexico would bring.

3. Our Need to Feel Chosen or Special

To explain the need to feel “chosen,” Lipman-Blumen points to historic religious leaders,such as Moses and John Calvin, who emphasized to their people that there were “chosenones” among them who were special and singled out by a higher authority. Being a part of“the chosen” means one has “truth” on one’s side and those who are the “others” do not.Being chosen means protecting one’s uniqueness and distinguishing oneself from others.While being chosen provides some comfort and even a feeling of immortality, it can


motivate one to do battle with others. Being part of the chosen and feeling that one is“right” gives a sense of security to followers, but it does so at the expense of appreciating thehumanity of “the other.”

Consider, for example, those who adhere to a White supremacist ideology based on thebelief that White people are “chosen” and superior to all other races and should havecontrol over people of those other races. White supremacists oppose people of color andthose members of non-Christian religions who they believe “threaten” the purity of theWhite race. Followers of White supremacy’s belief in being somehow special reinforcestheir behaviors, which often involve treating others inhumanely.

4. Our Need for Membership in the Human Community

Psychologist William Schutz (1958) argued that one of humans’ strongest interpersonalneeds is to know whether they belong to the group. Are we “in” or “out”? Are we includedwith others and acknowledged as a member of the community or not?

When groups and organizations function positively, it is healthy for all group members, notdetrimental. Group members feel accepted, comfortable, valued, and inspirited. Butpeople’s need to be members of the group can be exploited by destructive leaders who takeadvantage of individuals who are highly dependent on the group for their own personalmeaning and purpose. Highly dependent followers may be willing to give up theirindividuality, beliefs, and integrity just to make sure they can retain their social belonging(Lipman-Blumen, 2005).

Consider the number of disturbing hazing incidents at fraternities or other groups oncollege campuses that have resulted in the injuries and deaths of new members (pledges)who are willing to endure dangerous rituals because of their high need to belong to thegroup. Followers can become vulnerable to bad leadership when they are unable tomoderate their own personal need for belonging.

5. Our Fear of Ostracism, Isolation, and Social Death

When an individual becomes a part of and acquires full membership to a group, theindividual typically learns and begins to practice the norms of the group. Surrounded bythe group, followers become comfortable with the group’s values, mission, and beliefs. Inaddition, followers begin to like being a group member and doing what group members doand find the inclusion and community of the group comforting.

But being a part of the group also has a downside. This inclusion and community makes itdifficult for individuals to break out of the group or dissent if the group’s mission or valuesrun counter to their own. Pressure to conform to the group makes it challenging for


individuals to disagree with the group or try to get the group to change. When followers actagainst group norms or bring attention to the negative aspects of what the group is doing(e.g., whistle-blowers), they run a high risk of becoming ostracized and isolated from thegroup.

For example, imagine being in a group of friends, and several members of your group havestarted to make fun of a young man in your class who is autistic and often acts awkwardlyin social situations. You dislike how they treat this young man and consider their behaviorto be bullying. Do you speak up and tell them to stop, knowing that you might beostracized by the rest of the group? Or do you “keep quiet” and maintain your relationshipswith your friends? Being an ethical follower carries with it the burden of acting out yourindividual values even when it can mean social death.

6. Our Fear of Powerlessness to Challenge a Bad Leader

Finally, followers may unintentionally enable destructive leaders because they feel helplessto change them. Once a part of a group, followers often feel pressure to conform to thenorms of the group. They find that it is not easy to challenge the leader or go against theleader’s plans for the group. Even when a leader acts inappropriately or treats others inharmful ways, it is hard for followers to muster the courage to address the leader’s behavior.Groups provide security for followers, and the threat of losing this security can make itscary to challenge authority figures. To speak truth to power is a brave act, and followersoften feel impotent to express themselves in the face of authority. Although being anaccepted follower in a group carries with it many benefits, it does not always promotepersonal agency. After all, who would support you if you challenged the leader? Forexample, imagine what it would be like to be a homosexual employee in an organizationwhose leadership is openly prejudiced against LGBT rights. Would you be likely to expressdisapproval of the leadership and its policies?

Table 12.3 Psychological Factors and DysfunctionalLeadership

1. Our need for reassuring authority figures

2. Our need for security and certainty

3. Our need to feel chosen or special

4. Our need for membership in the human community

5. Our fear of ostracism, isolation, and social death

6. Our fear of powerlessness to challenge a bad leader


Source: From “Followership Theory: A Review and Research Agenda,” by M. Uhl-Bien, R. R. Riggio, R. B.Lowe, and M. K. Carsten, The Leadership Quarterly, 25, p. 98. Copyright 2014 by Elsevier. Reprinted withpermission.

Table 12.3 provides a summary of the six psychological needs of followers that fosterdestructive leadership. When followers attempt to fulfill these needs, it can create contextswhere unethical and destructive leaders are allowed to thrive.


How Does Followership Work?

Unlike established leadership theories such as leader–member exchange theory (Chapter 7)or transformational leadership (Chapter 8) for which there are formulated models,assumptions, and theorems, followership is an area of study still in its infancy. However, itdoes provide several “takeaways” that have valuable implications for practicing followership.

First, simply discussing followership forces us to elevate its importance and the value offollowers. For many years, the role of leaders in the leadership process has been esteemed farabove that of followers, as evidenced by the thousands of research studies that exist onleaders and leadership approaches and the very few that have been done on followership.Leadership has been idealized as a central component of organizational behavior. But byfocusing on followership, we are forced to engage in a new way of thinking about thosewho do the work of leadership and to explore the merits of the people who do the work offollowership. Leadership does not exist in a vacuum; it needs followers to beoperationalized. Followership research highlights the essential role that followers fulfill inevery aspect of organizational accomplishments. Why should we focus on followership?Because it is just as important as leadership.

Second, followership is about how individuals accept the influence of others to reach acommon goal. It describes the characteristics and actions of people who have less powerthan the leader yet are critical components in the leadership process. The typologies offollower behaviors discussed in this chapter provide a criterion of what followers typicallydo in different situations when they are being influenced by a leader. Do they help theleader, or do they fight the leader? Do they make the organization run better or worse?Categorizations of followers are beneficial because they help us understand the way peopleact when occupying a follower role. To know that a person is a follower is useful, but toknow if that follower is a dependent-passive follower or a proactive-antiauthoritarianfollower is far more valuable. These categories provide information about how followers actand how a leader can respond accordingly. It also helps leaders know followers’ attitudestoward work and the organization and how to best communicate with these followers.

Third, followership research provides a means of understanding why harmful leadershipoccurs and sometimes goes unrestrained. Followers are interdependent with leaders in theleadership process—each affects and is affected by the other. When leaders are abusive orunethical, it affects followers. But followers often feel restrained to respond. While theymay want to respond to destructive leaders, followers will often become passive and inactiveinstead. This occurs because they fear losing the security provided by their membership inthe group. By understanding their own feelings of powerlessness and need for security andcommunity, followers can more easily identify and confront destructive leaders.



In this chapter, we trace the development of followership and how it has beenconceptualized by researchers over the past 50 years. This research has several strengths.

First, it gives recognition to followership as an integral part of the leadership equation.While some earlier theories of leadership (e.g., implicit leadership theory [Lord & Maher,1991] and social identity theory [Tajfel & Turner, 1986]) recognize followers as an elementin the leadership process, the most recent literature suggests an approach to followershipthat elevates it considerably and gives it equal footing with leadership. This emphasisbroadens our purview of leadership and suggests that followership will—and should—receive far more attention by researchers and practitioners in the future.

Second, a focus on followership forces a whole new way for people to think aboutleadership. While there are textbooks on leadership, such as Hughes, Ginnett, andCurphy’s Leadership: Enhancing the Lessons of Experience (2014), that give special attentionto followership, current followership research and literature go further and challenge us totake leadership off its pedestal and replace it with followership. It forces us to focus onfollowers rather than leaders. It looks to answer questions like these: What makes effectivefollowership? How do followers affect group processes and influence goal accomplishment?How do followers influence leaders? And, how can we teach people to become capablefollowers?

In addition, the new followership literature invites us to view leadership as a co-constructedprocess in which followers and leaders share equally. Rather than focusing on theindividuals with the power, our thinking needs to shift to embracing the individualswithout the power and the relationship these people make with the leader. The study offollowership reminds us that leadership is incomplete and cannot be understood withoutfocusing on and understanding the role and dimensions of followers.

Third, although in its infancy, followership research provides a set of basic prescriptions forwhat a follower should or should not do to be an effective follower. These prescriptionsprovide a general blueprint of the types of behaviors that create effective followership. Forexample, effective followers balance their need for community with their need for self. Theyact in the best interests of the organization and challenge the leader when the leader’sagenda is self-serving or unethical. Effective followers do not act antiauthoritarian, butcollaborate to get the job done. Furthermore, they recognize powerlessness in themselvesbut do not let this keep them from challenging the leader when necessary. While thefollowership research has not yet produced elegant theories that explain the intricacies ofhow followership works, it does provide a set of ideas that have strong practicalapplications.



In addition to its strengths, the study of followership has certain limitations.

First, little methodical research has been conducted on the process of followership. Theabsence of such research makes it difficult to concretely conceptualize the nature offollowership including what defines followers and how followers contribute to theleadership process. Without precise theories and models of followership, there can be noclear set of principles or practices about how followership works and the role it plays ingroups, organizations, and the community.

Second, the current followership literature is primarily personal observations and anecdotal.For example, the typologies of followership styles discussed earlier in the chapter (i.e.,Zaleznik, Kelley, Chaleff, and Kellerman) are useful category systems to differentiatebetween followers’ styles, but the derivation of the typologies is simply the conjectures andhypotheses of a single author. While such descriptive research, including designing differenttypologies, is a traditional process in the initial phase of theory development, the value andpower of our thinking on followership will not advance until followership is fullyconceptualized and tested.

Third, the leader-centric orientation that exists in the world may be too ingrained forfollowership to blossom. For followership to succeed, it will need both leaders and followersto be strong in their roles; followers must serve the purpose of teaching the leader as well aslearning from the leader (Chaleff, 1995). And in a leader-centric world, wherefollowership’s primary purpose is seen only as important to make leaders leaders (you can’tbe a leader if no one is following), this evolution may take a very long time to come about.



“Follow the leader” is an expression familiar to many. Whether it was a way for a teacher toavoid confusion and keep peace with her charges or a game played on the playground,“follow the leader” means people need to get in line behind the designated leader and dowhat the leader tells them to do. Following the leader is about the process of accepting theleader’s authority and influence. More importantly, it is about deciding how to respond towhat the leader says.

Followership research is about just that: understanding how and why followers respond toleaders. There are several applications of followership research:

First and foremost, the research underscores the importance of followership—it is asimportant as leadership. This chapter helps us understand the critical and complex rolefollowers play in regard to leaders. It differentiates common roles followers play, from veryactive and positive to very inactive and negative. When applied to real-life leadershipsituations, knowledge about followers and their roles and behaviors expands ourunderstanding of the major components that contribute to group and organizationalsuccess.

In addition, the study of followership has implications for organizational training anddevelopment. Although followership is not currently recognized as a top topic in thetraining and development field, it is not difficult to see how workshops and training infollowership could become very important to organizations in the near future. Learningabout followership could help followers understand themselves, how they function, andhow they can best contribute to the goals of the group or organization of which they are amember. Clearly, there is demonstrable value in training programs on such topics as “Beingan Effective Follower,” “Dealing With Destructive Bosses,” or “Accepting the Challenges ofFollowership.” With the increased attention being given to followership research, it isexpected that an increase in training programs on followership will result as well.

Furthermore, the information described in this chapter can help leaders to understandfollowers and how to most effectively work with them. So much of current leadershipliterature is about the leader and the leader’s behavior; however, this chapter shifts theattention to the follower and why followers act the way they do. Leaders can use thisfollowership information to adjust their style to the needs of followers. For example, if theleader finds that a follower is aggressive and disruptive, the information in this chaptersuggests that the follower may have authority issues and is acting out because of his or herown needs for security. Or, some followers may be quiet and compliant, suggesting theyneed leadership that assures them that they are a part of the group and encourages them toparticipate more in the group process. Leaders have tried for years to treat followers asindividuals with unique needs, but this chapter goes further and provides leaders with cues


for action that are derived directly from the followership literature.


Case StudiesThe following three case studies (Cases 12.1, 12.2, and 12.3) present followership in three different contexts. Thefirst case, Bluebird Care, describes a home health care agency and the unique ways followers contribute to thework of the agency. The second case, Olympic Rowers, discusses a renowned rowing team and the way thefollowers worked together to create cohesiveness and a magical outcome. The last case, Penn State Sexual AbuseScandal, examines the role of followership in the circumstances that brought down a well-regarded collegiatefootball program and the university’s leadership. At the end of each case, there are questions that will help you toanalyze the case utilizing the principles of followership discussed in the chapter.


Case 12.1: Bluebird CareRobin Martin started Bluebird Care, an in-home health care agency, 20 years ago with a staff of 2 and 5 clients.The agency has grown to a staff of 25 serving 50 clients.

Robin started in elder care as an aide at a reputable assisted living facility. She liked caring for patients and wasgood at it. When she began running Bluebird Care, Robin knew all her staff members and their clients. But asthe demand for in-home health care has increased, Bluebird Care has grown as well—hiring more staff andexpanding its service area. For Robin, this means less time with the company’s clients and more time managingher growing agency. She admits she feels as if she is losing her connections with her clients and staff.

When asked to describe a time when the agency was really running smoothly, Robin talks about when BluebirdCare had just 10 employees. “This was a good time for us. Everyone did what they were assigned and did notcomplain. No one called in sick; they were very dependable. But, it was different then because we all lived in thesame area and I would see each of our employees every week. On Tuesdays they had to hand in their time sheets,and every other Thursday they stopped to pick up their paycheck. I enjoyed this.”

Because the agency’s service area is much larger now, encompassing many of the city’s suburbs, Robin seldomsees her employees. Time sheets are emailed in by employees, and paychecks are sent through the mail or directlydeposited into employees’ bank accounts. Robin says, “Because they never see us, the staff feels like they can dowhat they want, and management has nothing to say about it. It’s not the same as when we were smaller.”

There is a core of agency staff that Robin does interact with nearly every day. Terry, a staff member who has beenwith Robin since the beginning, is Robin’s go-to person. “I trust her,” Robin says. “When she says, ‘Robin—weneed to do it this way,’ I do what she says. She is always right.” Terry is very positive and promotive of the agencyand complimentary of Robin. When other staff members challenge the rules or procedures of the agency, Terry isthe person to whom Robin goes to for advice. But, Terry also challenges Robin to make Bluebird Care the bestagency it can be.

Terry is a direct contrast to Belinda, another employee. A five-year staff member, Belinda is dogmatic and doesn’tlike change, yet frequently challenges Robin and the rules of the agency. Robin describes Belinda as “a bully” andnot a team player. For example, Belinda and Robin had a conflict about a rule in the agency’s procedural manualthat requires staff to work every other weekend. Belinda argued that it was unfair to force staff members to workevery other weekend and that other similar agencies don’t have such policies. To prove her point, Belindaobtained a competing agency’s manual that supported her position and showed it to Robin.

Robin, who does not like confrontation, was frustrated by Belinda’s aggressive conflict style. Robin brought upthe issue about weekends with Terry, and Terry supported her and the way the policy was written. In the end,Belinda did not get the policy changed, but both Belinda and Robin are sure there will be more conflicts to come.

Two other key staff members are Robin’s son, Caleb, who hires and trains most of the employees, and her son-in-law, James, who answers the phone and does scheduling. Robin says as a manager James does his work in a quiet,respectful manner and seldom causes problems. In addition to handling all the hiring and training, Robin relieson Caleb to troubleshoot issues regarding client services. For both James and Caleb, the job can become stressfulbecause it is their phones that ring when a staff member doesn’t show up to a client’s for work and they have tofind someone to fill in.

Caleb also says he is working hard to instill a sense of cohesiveness among the agency’s far-flung staff and toreduce turnover with their millennial-age staff members. Caleb says while the agency’s growth is seen as positive,he worries that the caring philosophy his mother started the agency with is becoming lost.


Questions1. Who are the followers at Bluebird Care?2. In what way is followership related to the mission of the agency? Do Robin and her managers recognize

the importance of followership? Explain.3. Using the roles identified in Chaleff’s follower typology (Figure 12.4), what roles do Terry, Belinda,

Caleb, and James play at the agency?4. Using the “reversing the lens” framework (Figure 12.6), explain how Caleb and James’s characteristics

contribute to the followership outcomes at Bluebird Care.5. Terry and Robin have a unique relationship in that they both engage in leading and following. How do

you think each of them views leadership and followership? Discuss.6. If you were an organizational consultant, what would you suggest to Robin that could strengthen

Bluebird Care? If you were a followership coach, how would you advise Robin?


Case 12.2: Olympic RowersIn the 1930s, rowing was the most popular sport in the country. The sport not only was physically brutal, butrequired inexhaustible teamwork. In an eight-man rowing shell, each member of the team has a role to fulfillbased on where he sits in the boat. The movements of each rower are precisely synchronized with the movementsof the others in the boat. Every rower in the shell must perform flawlessly with each and every pull of the oar; ifone member of the crew is off, the whole team is off. Any one rower’s mistake can throw off the tempo for theboat’s thrust and jeopardize the balance and success of the boat.

In the early 1930s, rowing was a sport dominated by elite East Coast universities like Cornell, Harvard, andPrinceton. However, two West Coast teams, the University of California, Berkeley, and the University ofWashington, had an intense rivalry not only with the crews from the East Coast but with one another as well. AlUlbrickson, the varsity crew coach at the University of Washington, had watched jealously as the California teamascended to national prominence, representing the United States in the 1932 Olympics, and was determined thathis University of Washington team would be the one to represent the United States at the 1936 Olympics inBerlin, Germany.

Ulbrickson’s program had a number of talented rowers, including those who had rowed to win the nationalfreshman championships in 1934. Unlike teams from the East Coast whose members’ lives were often marked byprivilege and wealth, many of the boys in the University of Washington program came from poor, working-classbackgrounds. They were the sons of loggers, farmers, and fishermen, and gaining a spot on the rowing teamwould help pay for their college education. Over the summer break these same boys would work, often indangerous and physically taxing jobs, so they could afford to return to college in the fall.

Finding the ideal makeup of members for a successful rowing team is a complex process. A great crew is acarefully balanced mix of rowers with different physical abilities and personalities. According to Brown (2013),“Good crews are blends of personalities: someone to lead the charge, someone to hold something in reserve,someone to pick a fight, someone to make peace, someone to think through, someone to charge ahead withoutthinking . . . Even after the right mixture is found, each oarsman must recognize their place in the fabric of thecrew and accept the others as they are” (pp. 179–180).

To find that magic mix, Ulbrickson experimented with different combinations of rowers, putting individualrowers on different teams to see how they performed together. But it was more than just putting the right abilitiestogether; it was finding the right chemistry. He finally did with a team of boys who “had been winnowed downby punishing competition, and in the winnowing a kind of common character had issued forth: they were allskilled, they were all tough, they were all fiercely determined, but they were also all good-hearted. Every one ofthem had come from humble origins or been humbled by the hard times in which they had grown up . . . Thechallenges they had faced together had taught them humility—the need to subsume their individual egos for thesake of the boat as a whole—and humility was the common gateway through which they were able now to cometogether” (Brown, 2013, p. 241). One of those team members said when he stepped into the shell with his newteammates, he finally felt at home.

This Washington varsity team decimated the competition on the East and West Coasts, earning a spot on theU.S. Olympic team. At the Berlin Olympics, the team faced a number of challenges. One of their key oarsmenhad fallen seriously ill on the transatlantic voyage to Germany and remained sick throughout the competition.There were distractions everywhere. But every time the American boys saw tension or nervousness in one another,they drew closer together as a group and talked earnestly and seriously to each other. They draped arms over oneanother’s shoulders and talked through their race plan. “Each of them knew a defining moment in his life wasnearly at hand and no one wanted to waste it. And none wanted to waste it for the others” (Brown, 2013, p.326).

The team defeated England in its preliminary heat, and made it to the finals. But the odds were stacked againstthem: They were in the worst lane in the final race, which put them at a two-length disadvantage; they


experienced a delayed start because their coxswain missed the signal that the race had begun; and their sickoarsman was barely conscious. But they came from behind and triumphed, winning Olympic gold.

As Brown (2013) points out, “No other sport demands and rewards the complete abandonment of the self theway that rowing does. Great crews may have men or women of exceptional talent or strength; they may haveoutstanding skills . . . but they have no stars. The team effort—the perfectly synchronized flow of muscle, oars,boat, and water . . . the single, whole, unified, and beautiful symphony that a crew in motion becomes—is allthat matters. Not the individual, not the self” (pp. 177–178).


Questions1. In what way is this case about followership? Who were the followers? Who were the leaders?2. The coxswain is the crew member who sits in the stern facing the bow, steers the boat, and coordinates

the power and rhythm of the rowers. In this case, is the coxswain’s role more or less important than theroles of other crew members? Explain your answer.

3. Reversing the lens emphasizes that followers can be change agents—what was the impact of followers’characteristics on followers’ behaviors in this case? What impact do you think Ulbrickson’s perceptionand behaviors had on the rowers in his program?

4. How would you describe the impact of both followers and leaders on followership outcome?5. In this case, the boys in the boat created a highly cohesive unit. Do you think highly effective

followership always results in cohesiveness? Defend your answer.


Case 12.3: Penn State Sexual Abuse ScandalIn the 46 years that Joe Paterno was head football coach of the Penn State Nittany Lions, he racked up 409victories and was the most victorious coach in NCAA football history. Paterno called his brand of coaching “TheGrand Experiment” because he aimed to prove that football excellence and academic integrity could coexist.Imbuing his program with the motto “Success With Honor,” Paterno was as interested in the moral character ofhis players as in their physical abilities, a fact borne out by the program’s unusually high graduation rates(Mahler, 2011). Over four decades, a positive mythology enveloped the program, the university, and Paterno,instilling a fervent Penn State pride in students, faculty, staff, athletes, and fans across the globe, contributing toPenn State’s reputation as one of the most highly regarded public universities in the United States.

But in 2011, a child sexual abuse scandal involving a former Penn State assistant football coach caused “TheGrand Experiment” to tumble from its high perch, bringing down with it not only Coach Paterno, theuniversity’s athletic director Tim Curley, and the storied Penn State football program, but also the university’spresident, Graham B. Spanier.

The seeds of the scandal began in 1977 when Penn State’s then defensive line coach Jerry Sandusky established anonprofit organization called Second Mile that was described as a “group foster home devoted to helpingtroubled boys.” Sandusky’s position and association with Penn State gave the charity credibility, but Second Mileultimately proved to be a cover and conduit for Sandusky’s sexual abuse of boys. It is alleged that through SecondMile, Sandusky was able to identify and meet many of the young men who ultimately became his victims.

Fast forward to more than 30 years later, when, in 2008, the mother of a high school freshman reported toofficials that her son was sexually abused by Sandusky. Sandusky had been retired from Penn State since 1999,but continued to coach as a volunteer, working with kids through his Second Mile charity. As a result of the call,the state’s attorney general launched an investigation of Sandusky, and evidence was uncovered that this wasn’tthe first time Sandusky had been alleged of sexual abuse. Allegations of his abuse had been cropping up since thelate 1990s.

In 1998, the mother of an 11-year-old boy called Penn State University police after she learned her son hadshowered naked with Sandusky in the campus’s athletic locker room and that Sandusky touched the childinappropriately. At the time, Paterno, Curley, and Spanier, as well as Gary C. Schultz, senior vice president forfinance and business, were all informed of the incident, and an investigation was conducted. Even though policetalked with another boy who reported similar treatment, they opted to close the case. During an interview withuniversity police and a representative from the State Department of Public Welfare, Sandusky said he would notshower with children again.

Two years later, in the fall of 2000, a janitor in Penn State’s Lasch football building told a coworker andsupervisor that he saw Sandusky engaged in sexual activity with a boy in the assistant coach’s shower. Fearing fortheir jobs, neither the janitor nor his coworker filed a report; their supervisor did not file a report, either.

“They knew who Sandusky was,” Special Investigative Counsel Louis J. Freeh later said after he completed aneight-month investigation of the scandal in 2012. “They said the university would circle around it. It was likegoing against the President of the United States. If that’s the culture on the bottom, God help the culture at thetop” (Wolverton, 2012).

In 2001, Penn State graduate assistant Mike McQueary witnessed Sandusky sexually assaulting a boy in theshowers at the Lasch football building. McQueary visited Coach Paterno’s home the next morning to tell thecoach what he had witnessed. Paterno, in turn, reported the incident to Athletic Director Curley. It wasn’t until10 days later, however, that McQueary finally met with Curley and Schultz to describe what he saw.

Initially Curley, Schultz, and Spanier decided to report the incident to the State Department of Public Welfare.However, two days later, Curley informed Schultz and Spanier that he had changed his mind after “talking itover with Joe” Paterno. They decided instead to offer Sandusky “professional help” and tell him to stop bringing


guests to the locker room (Wolverton, 2012). No report was made to the police or the child protection agency. Itwas later found that in an email, Spanier told Curley he approved of the athletic director’s decision not to reportthe incident, calling it a “humane and reasonable way to proceed” (Wolverton, 2012).

McQueary, meanwhile, continued to work at Penn State, being promoted to an assistant football coach’sposition. And over the next seven years, Sandusky reportedly kept meeting and sexually assaulting young boys.

When Sandusky was finally arrested and charged with 40 counts of sexual abuse in 2011, it was at the end of athree-year investigation launched by that mother’s 2008 phone call. The investigation not only uncovered thatSandusky sexually abused eight boys over a 15-year period, but determined that university leaders, includingSpanier and Schultz, knew about the coach’s behavior and did not act. During testimony they gave during theattorney general’s investigation, these same leaders denied knowing about the 1998 and 2001 incidents; but theinvestigation proved through emails and other documents that university leaders did not truthfully admit whatthey knew about these incidents and when they knew it. As a result, Curley and Schultz were charged withperjury and failure to report what they knew of the allegations.

While Spanier called Sandusky’s behavior “troubling,” he pledged his unconditional support for both Curley andSchultz, predicting they would be exonerated (Keller, 2012). Two days later, however, Paterno and Spanier werefired by the university’s Board of Trustees, and the board hired Freeh to conduct an independent investigation ofthe scandal.

Eight months later, Freeh released a scathing 267-page report that detailed how and when university leaders knewabout Sandusky’s behavior and stated that they failed to report repeated allegations of child sexual abuse bySandusky. The report stated that Spanier and Paterno displayed “a total disregard for the safety and welfare ofchildren” and hid critical facts from authorities on the alleged abuses (Wolverton, 2012).

The investigation by Freeh found emails and other documents suggesting that Spanier, Paterno, Schultz, andCurley all knew for years about the sexual nature of the accusations against Sandusky and kept these allegationsunder wraps. The report stated that Paterno, especially, “was an integral part of the act to conceal” (Keller, 2012).Athletic Director Curley was described in the report as “someone who followed instruction regardless of theconsequences and was ‘loyal to a fault.’” One senior official called Curley Paterno’s “errand boy.” And finally, theinvestigation concluded that President Spanier “failed in his duties as president” for “not promptly and fullyadvising the Board of Trustees about the 1998 and 2001 child-sexual abuse allegations against Sandusky and thesubsequent grand jury investigation of him” (Keller, 2012).

But it wasn’t just the university administrators who took fire. The report also cited the university’s Board ofTrustees for failing “to exercise its oversight,” stating “the Board did not create a ‘tone at the top’ environmentwherein Sandusky and other senior university officials believed they were accountable to it.” Ultimately, Freeh’sreport concluded that the reputations of the university and its exalted football program were “more important toits leaders than the safety and welfare of young children” (Keller, 2012).

Joe Paterno died in January 2012. Six months later, Sandusky, the assistant coach he protected, was convicted of45 counts of child sexual abuse and sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison. Former Penn State officials Curley,Schultz, and Spanier were all sentenced to jail time for failing to alert authorities of the allegations againstSandusky, allowing him to continue molesting boys for years.

A month after Sandusky’s conviction and 10 days after Freeh’s report was released, a much-beloved 7-foot, 900-pound bronze statue of Paterno was removed from its pedestal outside Penn State’s Beaver Stadium, providingsymbolic evidence of the failure of Paterno’s “Success With Honor” motto and the public’s faith in Penn State’sprogram.


Questions1. How would you describe the followership at Penn State? Whom would you identify as the followers?

Who are the leaders?2. Using Kelley’s typology, how would you describe the follower styles for Schultz and Curley? What about

McQueary?3. How did followers in this case act in ways that contribute to the power of destructive leaders and their

goals? What was the debilitating impact their actions had on the organization?4. Based on Lipman-Blumen’s psychological factors that contribute to harmful leadership, explain why

those who could have reported Sandusky’s behaviors chose not to.5. Based on the outcome, where did Paterno’s intentions go wrong? In what ways could followers have

changed the moral climate at Penn State?6. In the end, who carries the burden of responsibility regarding the failure of Paterno’s program—the

leaders or the followers? Defend your answer.

Leadership Instrument

As discussed earlier in this chapter, Kelley (1992) developed a typology that categorized followers into oneof five styles (exemplary, alienated, conformist, passive, and pragmatist) based on two axes (independentthinking and active engagement). These different dimensions of followership became the basis for Kelley’sFollowership Questionnaire, a survey that allows followership style to be determined through an empiricalapproach, rather than through observation.


Followership QuestionnaireInstructions: Think of a specific leader–follower situation where you were in the role of follower. For eachstatement, please use the scale below to indicate the extent to which the statement describes you and yourbehavior in this situation.

1.Does your work help you fulfill some societal goal or personaldream that is important to you?

0 1 2 3 4 5 6

2.Are your personal work goals aligned with the organization’spriority goals?

0 1 2 3 4 5 6

3.Are you highly committed to and energized by your work andorganization, giving them your best ideas and performance?

0 1 2 3 4 5 6

4.Does your enthusiasm also spread to and energize yourcoworkers?

0 1 2 3 4 5 6

5.Instead of waiting for or merely accepting what the leader tellsyou, do you personally identify which organizational activitiesare most critical for achieving the organization’s priority goals?

0 1 2 3 4 5 6

6.Do you actively develop a distinctive competence in thosecritical activities so that you become more valuable to theleader and the organization?

0 1 2 3 4 5 6

7.When starting a new job or assignment, do you promptlybuild a record of successes in tasks that are important to theleader?

0 1 2 3 4 5 6


Can the leader give you a difficult assignment without thebenefit of much supervision, knowing that you will meet yourdeadline with highest-quality work and that you will “fill inthe cracks” if need be?

0 1 2 3 4 5 6

9.Do you take the initiative to seek out and successfullycomplete assignments that go above and beyond your job?

0 1 2 3 4 5 6

10.When you are not the leader of a group project, do you stillcontribute at a high level, often doing more than your share?

0 1 2 3 4 5 6


11.Do you independently think up and champion new ideas thatwill contribute significantly to the leader’s or theorganization’s goals?

0 1 2 3 4 5 6

12.Do you try to solve the tough problems (technical ororganizational), rather than look to the leader to do it for you?

0 1 2 3 4 5 6

13.Do you help out other coworkers, making them look good,even when you don’t get any credit?

0 1 2 3 4 5 6

14.Do you help the leader or group see both the upside potentialand downside risks of ideas or plans, playing the devil’sadvocate if need be?

0 1 2 3 4 5 6

15.Do you understand the leader’s needs, goals, and constraints,and work hard to help meet them?

0 1 2 3 4 5 6

16.Do you actively and honestly own up to your strengths andweaknesses rather than put off evaluation?

0 1 2 3 4 5 6

17.Do you make a habit of internally questioning the wisdom ofthe leader’s decision rather than just doing what you are told?

0 1 2 3 4 5 6

18.When the leader asks you to do something that runs contraryto your professional or personal preferences, do you say “no”rather than “yes”?

0 1 2 3 4 5 6

19.Do you act on your own ethical standards rather than theleader’s or the group’s standards?

0 1 2 3 4 5 6

20.Do you assert your views on important issues, even though itmight mean conflict with your group or reprisals from theleader?

0 1 2 3 4 5 6

Source: Excerpts from The Power of Followership by Robert E. Kelly, copyright © 1992 by Consultantsto Executives and Organizations, Ltd. Used by permission of Doubleday, an imprint of the KnopfDoubleday Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved.


ScoringThe Followership Questionnaire measures your style as a follower based on two dimensions of followership:independent thinking and active engagement. Your responses indicate the degree to which you are anindependent thinker and actively engaged in your follower role. Score the questionnaire by doing thefollowing. Your scores will classify you as being primarily one of the five styles: exemplary, alienated,conformist, pragmatist, or passive.

1. Independent Thinking Score: Sum of questions 1, 5, 11, 12, 14, 16, 17, 18, 19, and 202. Active Engagement Score: Sum of questions 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 13, and 15

Exemplary Followership Style: If you scored high (above 40) on both independent thinkingand active engagement, your followership style is categorized as exemplary.Alienated Followership Style: If you scored high (above 40) on independent thinking and low(below 20) on active engagement, your followership style is categorized as alienated.Conformist Followership Style: If you scored low (below 20) on independent thinking andhigh (above 40) on active engagement, your followership style is categorized as conformist.Pragmatist Followership Style: If you scored in the middle range (from 20 to 40) on bothindependent thinking and active engagement, your followership style is categorized aspragmatist.Passive Followership Style: If you scored low (below 20) on both independent thinking andactive engagement, your followership style is categorized as passive.

Followership Style Independent Thinking Score Active Engagement Score




PRAGMATIST Middling Middling

PASSIVE Low LowSource: Adapted from The Power of Followership (pp. 89–98), by R. E. Kelley, 1992, New York, NY:Doubleday Business. Adapted with permission.


Scoring InterpretationWhat do the different styles mean? How should you interpret your style? The followership stylescharacterize how you carry out the followership role, not who you are as a person. At any point in time, orunder different circumstances, you may use one followership pattern rather than another.

Exemplary Follower

Exemplary followers score high in both independent thinking and active engagement. They exhibitindependent, critical thinking, separate from the group or leader. They are actively engaged, using theirtalents for the benefit of the organization, even when confronted with bureaucracy or other noncontributingmembers. Up to 35% of people are categorized as exemplary followers.

Alienated Follower

Alienated followers score high in independent thinking but low in active engagement. This means that theythink independently and critically, but are not active in carrying out the role of a follower. They mightdisengage from the group at times and may view themselves as victims who have received unfair treatment.Approximately 15%–25% of people are categorized as alienated followers.

Conformist Follower

Conformist followers often say “yes” when they really want to say “no.” Low in independent thinking andhigh in active engagement, they willingly take orders and are eager to please others. They believe that theleader’s position of power entitles the leader to followers’ obedience. They do not question the social orderand find comfort in structure. Approximately 20%–30% of people are categorized as conformist followers.

Pragmatist Follower

With independent thinking and active engagement styles that fall between high and low, pragmaticfollowers are most comfortable in the middle of the road and tend to adhere to a motto of “better safe thansorry.” They will question a leader’s decisions, but not too often or too openly. They perform requiredtasks, but seldom do more than is asked or expected. Approximately 25%–35% of people are categorized aspragmatist followers.

Passive Follower

With low independent thinking and low active engagement behaviors, passive followers are the opposite ofexemplary followers, looking to the leader to do their thinking for them. They do not carry out theirassignments with enthusiasm and lack initiative and a sense of responsibility. Approximately 5%–10% ofpeople are categorized as passive followers.

Source: Based on excerpts from The Power or Followership by Robert E. Kelly, copyright © 1992 byConsultants to Executives and Organizations, Ltd. Used by permission of Doubleday, an imprint of theKnopf Doubleday Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved.



Leadership requires followership, and without understanding what the act of followingentails, it is difficult to fully understand leaders and leadership. Therefore, the focus in thischapter is on followership and the central role followers play in the leadership process.

In recent years, followership has received increased attention as a legitimate and significantarea of leadership study. Followership is defined as a process whereby an individual orindividuals accept the influence of others to accomplish a common goal. It involves a powerdifferential between the follower and the leader. From a social constructivist perspective,followership emerges from communication between leaders and followers and involves therelational process of people exerting influence and others responding to that influence.

Early research on followership resulted in a series of typologies that differentiate the rolesfollowers can play. The primary types of follower roles identified are active–engaged,independent–assertive, submissive–compliant, and supportive–conformer.

The development of these typologies provides a starting point for building theory onfollowership. Based on a systematic analysis of the research literature, Uhl-Bien and hercolleagues (2014) introduced a broad theory of followership comprising the characteristics,behaviors, and outcomes of followers and leaders acting in relation to each other.Furthermore, these researchers proposed two ways of theorizing about followership: (1)reversing the lens, which addresses followers in the opposite way they have been studied inmost prior leadership research, and (2) the leadership co-created process, which conceptualizesfollowership as a give-and-take process in which individuals’ following behaviors andleading behaviors interact with each other to create leadership and its resulting outcomes.

Work by Carsten and colleagues (2014) also advanced several positive facets of followership—followers get the job done, work in the best interest of the organization’s mission, challengeleaders, support the leader, and learn from leaders.

In addition to having a positive impact, there is another, darker side to followership.Followers can play ineffective, and even harmful, roles. Lipman-Blumen (2005) identified aseries of psychological factors of followers that contribute to harmful, dysfunctionalleadership. These factors include people’s need for reassuring authority figures; need forsecurity and certainty; need to feel chosen or special; need for membership in the humancommunity; fear of ostracism, isolation, and social death; and fear of powerlessness to challenge abad leader. The emergence of these factors occurs as a result of people’s needs to find safetyto feel unique and to be included in community.

The existing followership literature has several strengths and certain limitations. On thepositive side, the most recent literature gives recognition to followership as an integral part


of the leadership equation and elevates it considerably, giving it equal footing withleadership. Second, it forces us to take leadership off its pedestal and replace it withfollowership. Third, it provides a useful set of basic prescriptions for what a follower shouldor should not do in order to be an effective follower.

On the negative side, very little methodical research has been conducted on the process offollowership, which makes it difficult to theorize about followership’s role in groups,organizations, and the community. Furthermore, the descriptive research that has beenconducted on followership is primarily anecdotal and observational. Last, the world’spervasive emphasis on and glorification of leadership may be so ingrained that the study offollowership will remain constrained and never flourish.

In summary, the demand in society for effective, principled followers is growing and alongwith it a strong need for research-based theories of the process of followership. Until moreresearch is done on the intricacies of followership, our understanding of leadership will beincomplete.

Sharpen your skills with SAGE edge at


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13 Leadership Ethics



This chapter is different from many of the other chapters in this book. Most of the otherchapters focus on one unified leadership theory or approach (e.g., trait approach, path–goaltheory, or transformational leadership), whereas this chapter is multifaceted and presents abroad set of ethical viewpoints. The chapter is intended not as an “ethical leadershiptheory,” but rather as a guide to some of the ethical issues that arise in leadership situations.

Probably since our cave-dwelling days, human beings have been concerned with the ethicsof our leaders. Our history books are replete with descriptions of good kings and bad kings,great empires and evil empires, and strong presidents and weak presidents. But despite awealth of biographical accounts of great leaders and their morals, very little research hasbeen published on the theoretical foundations of leadership ethics. There have been manystudies on business ethics in general since the early 1970s, but these studies have been onlytangentially related to leadership ethics. Even in the literature of management, writtenprimarily for practitioners, there are very few books on leadership ethics. This suggests thattheoretical formulations in this area are still in their infancy.

One of the earliest writings that specifically focused on leadership ethics appeared asrecently as 1996. It was a set of working papers generated from a small group of leadershipscholars, brought together by the W. K. Kellogg Foundation. These scholars examined howleadership theory and practice could be used to build a more caring and just society. Theideas of the Kellogg group are now published in a volume titled Ethics, the Heart ofLeadership (Ciulla, 1998).

Interest in the nature of ethical leadership has continued to grow, particularly because ofthe many recent scandals in corporate America and the political realm. On the academicfront, there has also been a strong interest in exploring the nature of ethical leadership (seeAronson, 2001; Brown & Treviño, 2006; Ciulla, 2001, 2003, 2014; Johnson, 2011, 2018;Kanungo, 2001; Lawton & Páez, 2015; Price, 2008; Treviño, Brown, & Hartman, 2003).


Ethics Defined

From the perspective of Western tradition, the development of ethical theory dates back toPlato (427–347 b.c.) and Aristotle (384–322 b.c.). The word ethics has its roots in theGreek word ethos, which translates to “customs,” “conduct,” or “character.” Ethics isconcerned with the kinds of values and morals an individual or a society finds desirable orappropriate. Furthermore, ethics is concerned with the virtuousness of individuals and theirmotives. Ethical theory provides a system of rules or principles that guide us in makingdecisions about what is right or wrong and good or bad in a particular situation. It providesa basis for understanding what it means to be a morally decent human being.

In regard to leadership, ethics is concerned with what leaders do and who leaders are. It hasto do with the nature of leaders’ behavior, and with their virtuousness. In any decision-making situation, ethical issues are either implicitly or explicitly involved. The choicesleaders make and how they respond in a given circumstance are informed and directed bytheir ethics.

A leader’s choices are also influenced by his or her moral development. For example, in astudy of 24 exemplary leaders in journalism, Plaisance (2014) found “an overarchingemphasis on notions of care and respect for others, professional duty, concern for harm,and proactive social engagement—all of which characterize higher stages of moraldevelopment” (p. 308). The most widely recognized theory advanced to explain howpeople think about moral issues is Kohlberg’s stages of moral development. Kohlberg (1984)presented a series of dilemmas (the most famous of which is “the Heinz dilemma”) togroups of young children whom he then interviewed about the reasoning behind theirchoices regarding the dilemmas. From these data he created a classification system of moralreasoning that was divided into six stages: Stage 1—Obedience and Punishment, Stage 2—Individualism and Exchange, Stage 3—Interpersonal Accord and Conformity, Stage 4—Maintaining the Social Order, Stage 5—Social Contract and Individual Rights, and Stage 6—Universal Principles (Table 13.1). Kohlberg further classified the first two stages aspreconventional morality, the second two as conventional morality, and the last two aspostconventional morality.

Level 1. Preconventional Morality

When an individual is at the preconventional morality level, he or she tends to judge themorality of an action by its direct consequences. There are two stages that fall withinpreconventional morality:

Table 13.1 Kohlberg’s Stages of Moral Development


Stage 1—Obedience and Punishment. At this stage, the individual is egocentric andsees morality as external to self. Rules are fixed and handed down by authority.Obeying rules is important because it means avoiding punishment. For example, achild reasons it is bad to steal because the consequence will be to go to jail.Stage 2—Individualism and Exchange. At this stage, the individual makes moraldecisions based on self-interest. An action is right if it serves the individual.Everything is relative, so each person is free to do his or her own thing. People do notidentify with the values of the community (Crain, 1985) but are willing to exchangefavors. For example, an individual might say, “I’ll do a favor for you, if you do a favorfor me.”

Level 2. Conventional Morality

Those who are at this level judge the morality of actions by comparing them to society’sviews and expectations. Authority is internalized but not questioned, and reasoning is basedon the norms of the group to which the person belongs. Kohlberg identified two stages atthe conventional morality level:

Stage 3—Interpersonal Accord and Conformity. At this stage, the individual makesmoral choices based on conforming to the expectations of others and trying to behavelike a “good” person. It is important to be “nice” and live up to the communitystandard of niceness. For example, a student says, “I am not going to cheat becausethat is not what a good student does.”


Stage 4—Maintaining the Social Order. At this stage, the individual makes moraldecisions in ways that show concern for society as a whole. In order for society tofunction, it is important that people obey the laws, respect authority, and support therules of the community. For example, a person does not run a red light in the middleof the night when no other cars are around because it is important to maintain andsupport the traffic laws of the community.

Level 3. Postconventional Morality

At this level of morality, also known as the principled level, individuals have developedtheir own personal set of ethics and morals that guide their behavior. Postconventionalmoralists live by their own ethical principles—principles that typically include such basichuman rights as life, liberty, and justice. There are two stages that Kohlberg identified aspart of the postconventional morality level:

Stage 5—Social Contract and Individual Rights. At this stage, the individual makesmoral decisions based on a social contract and his or her views on what a good societyshould be like. A good society supports values such as liberty and life, and fairprocedures for changing laws (Crain, 1985), but recognizes that groups have differentopinions and values. Societal laws are important, but people need to agree on them.For example, if a boy is dying of cancer and his parents do not have money to pay forhis treatment, the state should step in and pay for it.Stage 6—Universal Principles. At this stage, the individual’s moral reasoning is basedon internalized universal principles of justice that apply to everyone. Decisions thatare made need to respect the viewpoints of all parties involved. People follow theirinternal rules of fairness, even if they conflict with laws. An example of this stagewould be a civil rights activist who believes a commitment to justice requires awillingness to disobey unjust laws.

Kohlberg’s model of moral development has been criticized for focusing exclusively onjustice values, for being sex-biased since it is derived from an all-male sample, for beingculturally biased since it is based on a sample from an individualist culture, and foradvocating a postconventional morality where people place their own principles abovethose of the law or society (Crain, 1985). Regardless of these criticisms, this model isseminal to developing an understanding of what forms the basis for individuals’ ethicalleadership.

Table 13.2 Domains of Ethical Theories

Conduct Character

Consequences (teleological theories)


• Ethical egoism

• Utilitarianism

Virtue-based theories

Duty (deontological theories)


Ethical Theories

For the purposes of studying ethics and leadership, ethical theories can be thought of asfalling within two broad domains: theories about leaders’ conduct and theories aboutleaders’ character (Table 13.2). Stated another way, ethical theories when applied toleadership are about both the actions of leaders and who they are as people. Throughoutthe chapter, our discussions about ethics and leadership will always fall within one of thesetwo domains: conduct or character. Ethical theories that deal with the conduct of leadersare in turn divided into two kinds: theories that stress the consequences of leaders’ actionsand those that emphasize the duty or rules governing leaders’ actions (see Table 13.2).Teleological theories, from the Greek word telos, meaning “ends” or “purposes,” try toanswer questions about right and wrong by focusing on whether a person’s conduct willproduce desirable consequences. From the teleological perspective, the question “What isright?” is answered by looking at results or outcomes. In effect, the consequences of anindividual’s actions determine the goodness or badness of a particular behavior.

In assessing consequences, there are three different approaches to making decisionsregarding moral conduct (Figure 13.1): ethical egoism, utilitarianism, and altruism. Ethicalegoism states that a person should act so as to create the greatest good for her- or himself. Aleader with this orientation would take a job or career that she or he selfishly enjoys (Avolio& Locke, 2002). Self-interest is an ethical stance closely related to transactional leadershiptheories (Bass & Steidlmeier, 1999). Ethical egoism is common in some business contextsin which a company and its employees make decisions to achieve its goal of maximizingprofits. For example, a midlevel, upward-aspiring manager who wants her team to be thebest in the company could be described as acting out of ethical egoism.

A second teleological approach, utilitarianism, states that we should behave so as to createthe greatest good for the greatest number. From this viewpoint, the morally correct actionis the action that maximizes social benefits while minimizing social costs (Schumann,2001). When the U.S. government allocates a large part of the federal budget for preventivehealth care rather than for catastrophic illnesses, it is acting from a utilitarian perspective,putting money where it will have the best result for the largest number of citizens.

Figure 13.1 Ethical Theories Based on Self-Interest Versus Interest for Others


Closely related to utilitarianism, and opposite of ethical egoism, is a third teleologicalapproach, altruism. Altruism is an approach that suggests that actions are moral if theirprimary purpose is to promote the best interests of others. From this perspective, a leadermay be called on to act in the interests of others, even when it runs contrary to his or herown self-interests (Bowie, 1991). Authentic transformational leadership (Chapter 8) isbased on altruistic principles (Bass & Steidlmeier, 1999; Kanungo & Mendonca, 1996),and altruism is pivotal to exhibiting servant leadership (Chapter 10). The strongest exampleof altruistic ethics can be found in the work of Mother Teresa, who devoted her life tohelping the poor. Quite different from looking at which actions will produce whichoutcomes, deontological theory is derived from the Greek word deos, which means “duty.”Whether a given action is ethical rests not only with its consequences (teleological), but alsowith whether the action itself is good. Telling the truth, keeping promises, being fair, andrespecting others are all examples of actions that are inherently good, independent of theconsequences. The deontological perspective focuses on the actions of the leader and his orher moral obligations and responsibilities to do the right thing. A leader’s actions are moralif the leader has a moral right to do them, if the actions do not infringe on others’ rights,and if the actions further the moral rights of others (Schumann, 2001).

In the late 1990s, the president of the United States, Bill Clinton, was brought beforeCongress for misrepresenting under oath an affair he had maintained with a White Houseintern. For his actions, he was impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives, but thenwas acquitted by the U.S. Senate. At one point during the long ordeal, the presidentappeared on national television and, in what is now a famous speech, declared hisinnocence. Because subsequent hearings provided information that suggested that he mayhave lied during this television speech, many Americans felt President Clinton had violatedhis duty and responsibility (as a person, leader, and president) to tell the truth. From a


deontological perspective, it could be said that he failed his ethical responsibility to do theright thing—to tell the truth.

Whereas teleological and deontological theories approach ethics by looking at the behavioror conduct of a leader, a second set of theories approaches ethics from the viewpoint of aleader’s character (Table 13.2). These theories are called virtue-based theories; they focus onwho leaders are as people. In this perspective, virtues are rooted in the heart of theindividual and in the individual’s disposition (Pojman, 1995). Furthermore, it is believedthat virtues and moral abilities are not innate but can be acquired and learned throughpractice. People can be taught by their families and communities to be morally appropriatehuman beings.

With their origin traced back in the Western tradition to the ancient Greeks and the worksof Plato and Aristotle, virtue theories are experiencing a resurgence in popularity. TheGreek term associated with these theories is aretaic, which means “excellence” or “virtue.”Consistent with Aristotle, current advocates of virtue-based theory stress that moreattention should be given to the development and training of moral values (Velasquez,1992). Rather than telling people what to do, attention should be directed toward tellingpeople what to be, or helping them to become more virtuous.

What, then, are the virtues of an ethical person? There are many, all of which seem to beimportant. Based on the writings of Aristotle, a moral person demonstrates the virtues ofcourage, temperance, generosity, self-control, honesty, sociability, modesty, fairness, andjustice (Velasquez, 1992). For Aristotle, virtues allowed people to live well in communities.Applying ethics to leadership and management, Velasquez has suggested that managersshould develop virtues such as perseverance, public-spiritedness, integrity, truthfulness,fidelity, benevolence, and humility.

In essence, virtue-based ethics is about being and becoming a good, worthy human being.Although people can learn and develop good values, this theory maintains that virtues arepresent in one’s disposition. When practiced over time, from youth to adulthood, goodvalues become habitual, and part of the people themselves. By telling the truth, peoplebecome truthful; by giving to the poor, people become benevolent; by being fair to others,people become just. Our virtues are derived from our actions, and our actions manifest ourvirtues (Frankena, 1973; Pojman, 1995).


Centrality of Ethics to Leadership

As discussed in Chapter 1, leadership is a process whereby the leader influences others toreach a common goal. The influence dimension of leadership requires the leader to have animpact on the lives of those being led. To make a change in other people carries with it anenormous ethical burden and responsibility. Because leaders usually have more power andcontrol than followers, they also have more responsibility to be sensitive to how theirleadership affects followers’ lives.

Whether in group work, organizational pursuits, or community projects, leaders engagefollowers and utilize them in their efforts to reach common goals. In all these situations,leaders have the ethical responsibility to treat followers with dignity and respect—as humanbeings with unique identities. This “respect for people” demands that leaders be sensitive tofollowers’ own interests, needs, and conscientious concerns (Beauchamp & Bowie, 1988).In a qualitative study of 17, mostly Swiss, executive ethical leaders, Frisch andHuppenbauer (2014) reported that these ethical leaders cared about other stakeholders,such as customers, suppliers, owners of companies, the natural environment, and society.Although all of us have an ethical responsibility to treat other people as unique humanbeings, leaders have a special responsibility, because the nature of their leadership puts themin a special position in which they have a greater opportunity to influence others insignificant ways.

Ethics is central to leadership, and leaders help to establish and reinforce organizationalvalues. Every leader has a distinct philosophy and point of view. “All leaders have anagenda, a series of beliefs, proposals, values, ideas, and issues that they wish to ‘put on thetable’” (Gini, 1998, p. 36). The values promoted by the leader have a significant impact onthe values exhibited by the organization (see Carlson & Perrewe, 1995; Demirtas, 2015;Eisenbeiss, van Knippenberg, & Fahrbach, 2015; Schminke, Ambrose, & Noel, 1997;Treviño, 1986; Xu, Loi, & Ngo, 2016; Yang, 2014). Because of their influence, leadersplay a major role in establishing the ethical climate of their organizations. For example, in ameta-analytic review of 147 articles on ethical leadership, Bedi, Alpaslan, and Green (2016)found that ethical leadership was positively related to followers’ perceptions of the leader’sfairness and the followers’ ethical behavior.

In short, ethics is central to leadership because of the nature of the process of influence, theneed to engage followers in accomplishing mutual goals, and the impact leaders have on theorganization’s values.

The following section provides a discussion of some of the work of prominent leadershipscholars who have addressed issues related to ethics and leadership. Although manyadditional viewpoints exist, those presented are representative of the predominant thinkingin the area of ethics and leadership today.


Heifetz’s Perspective on Ethical Leadership

Based on his work as a psychiatrist and his observations and analysis of many world leaders(e.g., President Lyndon Johnson, Mohandas Gandhi, and Margaret Sanger), RonaldHeifetz (1994) has formulated a unique approach to ethical leadership. His approachemphasizes how leaders help followers to confront conflict and to address conflict byeffecting changes. Heifetz’s perspective is related to ethical leadership because it deals withvalues: the values of workers and the values of the organizations and communities in whichthey work. According to Heifetz, leadership involves the use of authority to help followersdeal with the conflicting values that emerge in rapidly changing work environments andsocial cultures. It is an ethical perspective because it addresses the values of workers.

For Heifetz (1994), leaders must use authority to mobilize people to face tough issues. Asdiscussed in the chapter on adaptive leadership (Chapter 11), it is up to the leader toprovide a “holding environment” in which there is trust, nurturance, and empathy. In asupportive context, followers can feel safe to confront hard problems. Specifically, leadersuse authority to get people to pay attention to the issues, to act as a reality test regardinginformation, to manage and frame issues, to orchestrate conflicting perspectives, and tofacilitate decision making (Heifetz, 1994, p. 113). The leader’s duties are to assist thefollower in struggling with change and personal growth.


Burns’s Perspective on Ethical Leadership

As discussed in Chapter 8, Burns’s theory of transformational leadership places a strongemphasis on followers’ needs, values, and morals. Transformational leadership involvesattempts by leaders to move followers to higher standards of moral responsibility. Thisemphasis sets transformational leadership apart from most other approaches to leadershipbecause it clearly states that leadership has a moral dimension (see Bass & Steidlmeier,1999).

Similar to that of Heifetz, Burns’s (1978) perspective argues that it is important for leadersto engage themselves with followers and help them in their personal struggles regardingconflicting values. The resulting connection raises the level of morality in both the leaderand the follower.

The origins of Burns’s position on leadership ethics are rooted in the works of such writersas Abraham Maslow, Milton Rokeach, and Lawrence Kohlberg (Ciulla, 1998). Theinfluence of these writers can be seen in how Burns emphasizes the leader’s role inattending to the personal motivations and moral development of the follower. For Burns, itis the responsibility of the leader to help followers assess their own values and needs inorder to raise them to a higher level of functioning, to a level that will stress values such asliberty, justice, and equality (Ciulla, 1998).

Burns’s position on leadership as a morally uplifting process has not been without its critics.It has raised many questions: How do you choose what a better set of moral values is? Whois to say that some decisions represent higher moral ground than others? If leadership, bydefinition, entails raising individual moral functioning, does this mean that the leadershipof corrupt leaders is not actually leadership? Notwithstanding these very legitimatequestions, Burns’s perspective is unique in that it makes ethics the central characteristic ofthe leadership process. His writing has placed ethics at the forefront of scholarly discussionsof what leadership means and how leadership should be carried out.


The Dark Side of Leadership

Although Burns (1978) placed ethics at the core of leadership, there still exists a dark sideof leadership that exemplifies leadership that is unethical and destructive. It is what wedefined in Chapter 8 (“Transformational Leadership”) as pseudotransformational leadershipand discussed in Chapter 12 (“Followership”) in regard to destructive leadership. The darkside of leadership is the destructive and toxic side of leadership in that a leader usesleadership for personal ends. Lipman-Blumen (2005) suggests that toxic leaders arecharacterized by destructive behaviors such as leaving their followers worse off than theyfound them, violating the basic human rights of others, and playing to followers’ basestfears. Furthermore, Lipman-Blumen identifies many dysfunctional personal characteristicsdestructive leaders demonstrate including lack of integrity, insatiable ambition, arrogance,and reckless disregard for their actions. In addition, using two different toxic leadershipquestionnaires, Singh, Sengupta, and Dev (2017) identified eight factors of perceivedtoxicity in leaders in Indian organizations. The toxicity factors included managerialincompetency, dark traits, derisive supervision, impervious despotic leadership, dearth ofethics, erratic behavior, narcissism, and self-promoting. The same characteristics andbehaviors that distinguish leaders as special can also be used by leaders to producedisastrous outcomes (Conger, 1990). Because researchers have been focused on the positiveattributes and outcomes of effective leadership, until recently, there has been little attentionpaid to the dark side of leadership. Nevertheless, it is important to understand that it exists.

In a meta-analysis of 57 studies of destructive leadership and its outcomes, Schyns andSchilling (2013) found a strong relationship between destructive leadership and negativeattitudes in followers toward the leader. Destructive leadership is also negatively related tofollowers’ attitudes toward their jobs and toward their organization as a whole.Furthermore, Schyns and Schilling found it closely related to negative affectivity and to theexperience of occupational stress.

Figure 13.2 The Toxic Triangle


Source: From “The Toxic Triangle: Destructive Leaders, Susceptible Followers, andConducive Environments,” by A. Padilla, R. Hogan, and R. B. Kaiser, The LeadershipQuarterly, 18, p. 180. Copyright 2007 by Elsevier. Reprinted with permission.

In an attempt to more clearly define destructive leadership, Padilla, Hogan, and Kaiser(2007) developed the concept of a toxic triangle that focuses on the influences ofdestructive leaders, susceptible followers, and conducive environments (Figure 13.2). Asshown in the model, destructive leaders are characterized by having charisma and a need touse power and coercion for personal gains. They are also narcissistic and often attention-getting and self-absorbed. Destructive leaders often have negative life stories that can betraced to traumatic childhood events. Perhaps from self-hatred, they often express anideology of hate in their rhetoric and worldview.

As illustrated in Figure 13.2, destructive leadership also incorporates susceptible followerswho have been characterized as conformers and colluders. Conformers go along withdestructive leaders to satisfy unmet needs such as emptiness, alienation, or need forcommunity. These followers have low self-esteem and identify with charismatic leaders inan attempt to become more desirable. Because they are psychologically immature,conformers more easily go along with authority and engage in destructive activity. On theother hand, colluders may respond to destructive leaders because they are ambitious, desire


status, or see an opportunity to profit. Colluders may also go along because they identifywith the leader’s beliefs and values, which may be unsocialized such as greed and selfishness.

Finally, the toxic triangle illustrates that destructive leadership includes a conduciveenvironment. When the environment is unstable, the leader is often granted more authorityto assert radical change. When there is a perceived threat, followers often accept assertiveleadership. People are attracted to leaders who will stand up to the threats they feel in theenvironment. Destructive leaders who express compatible cultural values with followers aremore likely to succeed. For example, cultures high on collectiveness would prefer a leaderwho promotes community and group identity. Destructive leadership will also thrive whenthe checks and balances of the organization are weak and the rules of the institution areineffective.

Although research on the dark side of leadership has been limited, it is an area critical toour understanding of leadership that is unethical. Clearly, there is a need for thedevelopment of models, theories, and assessment instruments about the process ofdestructive leadership.


Principles of Ethical Leadership

In this section, we turn to a discussion of five principles of ethical leadership, the origins ofwhich can be traced back to Aristotle. The importance of these principles has beendiscussed in a variety of disciplines, including biomedical ethics (Beauchamp & Childress,1994), business ethics (Beauchamp & Bowie, 1988), counseling psychology (Kitchener,1984), and leadership education (Komives, Lucas, & McMahon, 1998), to name a few.Although not inclusive, these principles provide a foundation for the development of soundethical leadership: respect, service, justice, honesty, and community (Figure 13.3).

Ethical Leaders Respect Others

Philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) argued that it is our duty to treat others withrespect. To do so means always to treat others as ends in themselves and never as means toends. As Beauchamp and Bowie (1988, p. 37) pointed out, “Persons must be treated ashaving their own autonomously established goals and must never be treated purely as themeans to another’s personal goals.” These writers then suggested that treating others as endsrather than as means requires that we treat other people’s decisions and values with respect:Failing to do so would signify that we were treating them as a means to our own ends.

Leaders who respect others also allow them to be themselves, with creative wants anddesires. They approach other people with a sense of their unconditional worth and valuableindividual differences (Kitchener, 1984). Respect includes giving credence to others’ ideasand confirming them as human beings. At times, it may require that leaders defer to others.As Burns (1978) suggested, leaders should nurture followers in becoming aware of theirown needs, values, and purposes, and assist followers in integrating these with the leader’sneeds, values, and purposes.

Figure 13.3 Principles of Ethical Leadership

Respect for others is a complex ethic that is similar to but goes deeper than the kind ofrespect that parents teach little children. Respect means that a leader listens closely tofollowers, is empathic, and is tolerant of opposing points of view. It means treatingfollowers in ways that confirm their beliefs, attitudes, and values. When a leader exhibitsrespect to followers, followers can feel competent about their work. In short, leaders whoshow respect treat others as worthy human beings.


Ethical Leaders Serve Others

Earlier in this chapter, we contrasted two ethical theories, one based on a concern for self(ethical egoism) and another based on the interests of others (ethical altruism). The serviceprinciple clearly is an example of altruism. Leaders who serve are altruistic: They place theirfollowers’ welfare foremost in their plans. In the workplace, altruistic service behavior canbe observed in activities such as mentoring, empowerment behaviors, team building, andcitizenship behaviors, to name a few (Kanungo & Mendonca, 1996).

The leader’s ethical responsibility to serve others is very similar to the ethical principle inhealth care of beneficence. Beneficence is derived from the Hippocratic tradition, whichholds that health professionals ought to make choices that benefit patients. In a generalway, beneficence asserts that providers have a duty to help others pursue their ownlegitimate interests and goals (Beauchamp & Childress, 1994). Like health professionals,ethical leaders have a responsibility to attend to others, be of service to them, and makedecisions pertaining to them that are beneficial and not harmful to their welfare.

In the past, the service principle has received a great deal of emphasis in the leadershipliterature. It is clearly evident in the writings of Block (1993), Covey (1990), De Pree(1989), Gilligan (1982), and Kouzes and Posner (1995), all of whom maintained thatattending to others is the primary building block of moral leadership. Further emphasis onservice can be observed in the work of Senge (1990) in his well-recognized writing onlearning organizations. Senge contended that one of the important tasks of leaders inlearning organizations is to be the steward (servant) of the vision within the organization.Being a steward means clarifying and nurturing a vision that is greater than oneself. Thismeans not being self-centered, but rather integrating one’s self or vision with that of othersin the organization. Effective leaders see their own personal vision as an important part ofsomething larger than themselves—a part of the organization and the community at large.

The idea of leaders serving others was more deeply explored by Robert Greenleaf (1970,1977), who developed the servant leadership approach. Servant leadership, which is exploredin depth in Chapter 10, has strong altruistic ethical overtones in how it emphasizes thatleaders should be attentive to the concerns of their followers and should take care of themand nurture them. In addition, Greenleaf argues that the servant leader has a socialresponsibility to be concerned with the have-nots and should strive to remove inequalitiesand social injustices. Greenleaf places a great deal of emphasis on listening, empathy, andunconditional acceptance of others.

In short, whether it is Greenleaf’s notion of waiting on the have-nots or Senge’s notion ofgiving oneself to a larger purpose, the idea behind service is contributing to the greatergood of others. Recently, the idea of serving the “greater good” has found an unusualfollowing in the business world. In 2009, 20% of the graduating class of the HarvardBusiness School, considered to be one of the premier schools producing today’s business


leaders, took an oath pledging that they will act responsibly and ethically, and refrain fromadvancing their own ambitions at the expense of others. Similarly, Columbia BusinessSchool requires all students to pledge to an honor code requiring they adhere to truth,integrity, and respect (Wayne, 2009). In practicing the principle of service, these and otherethical leaders must be willing to be follower centered, must place others’ interests foremostin their work, and must act in ways that will benefit others.

Ethical Leaders Are Just

Ethical leaders are concerned about issues of fairness and justice. They make it a toppriority to treat all of their followers in an equal manner. Justice demands that leaders placeissues of fairness at the center of their decision making. As a rule, no one should receivespecial treatment or special consideration except when his or her particular situationdemands it. When individuals are treated differently, the grounds for different treatmentmust be clear and reasonable, and must be based on moral values. For example, many of uscan remember being involved with some type of athletic team when we were growing up.The coaches we liked were those we thought were fair with us. No matter what, we did notwant the coach to treat anyone differently from the rest. When someone came late topractice with a poor excuse, we wanted that person disciplined just as we would have beendisciplined. If a player had a personal problem and needed a break, we wanted the coach togive it, just as we would have been given a break. Without question, the good coaches werethose who never had favorites and who made a point of playing everyone on the team. Inessence, what we wanted was that our coach be fair and just.

When resources and rewards or punishments are distributed to employees, the leader playsa major role. The rules that are used and how they are applied say a great deal aboutwhether the leader is concerned about justice and how he or she approaches issues offairness. Rawls (1971) stated that a concern with issues of fairness is necessary for all peoplewho are cooperating together to promote their common interests. It is similar to the ethicof reciprocity, otherwise known as the Golden Rule—“Do unto others as you would havethem do unto you”—variations of which have appeared in many different culturesthroughout the ages. If we expect fairness from others in how they treat us, then we shouldtreat others fairly in our dealings with them. Issues of fairness become problematic becausethere is always a limit on goods and resources, and there is often competition for thelimited things available. Because of the real or perceived scarcity of resources, conflicts oftenoccur between individuals about fair methods of distribution. It is important for leaders toclearly establish the rules for distributing rewards. The nature of these rules says a lot aboutthe ethical underpinnings of the leader and the organization.

Beauchamp and Bowie (1988) outlined several of the common principles that serve asguides for leaders in distributing the benefits and burdens fairly in an organization (Table13.3). Although not inclusive, these principles point to the reasoning behind why leaders


choose to distribute things as they do in organizations. In a given situation, a leader mayuse a single principle or a combination of several principles in treating followers.

To illustrate the principles described in Table 13.3, consider the following hypotheticalexample: You are the owner of a small trucking company that employs 50 drivers. You havejust opened a new route, and it promises to be one that pays well and has an ideal schedule.Only one driver can be assigned to the route, but seven drivers have applied for it. Eachdriver wants an equal opportunity to get the route. One of the drivers recently lost his wifeto breast cancer and is struggling to care for three young children (individual need). Two ofthe drivers are minorities, and one of them feels strongly that he has a right to the job. Oneof the drivers has logged more driving hours for three consecutive years, and she feels hereffort makes her the logical candidate for the new route. One of the drivers serves on theNational Transportation Safety Board and has a 20-year accident-free driving record(societal contribution). Two drivers have been with the company since its inception, andtheir performance has been meritorious year after year.

Table 13.3 Principles of Distributive Justice

These principles are applied in different situations.

To each person

• An equal share or opportunity

• According to individual need

• According to that person’s rights

• According to individual effort

• According to societal contribution

• According to merit or performance

As the owner of the company, your challenge is to assign the new route in a fair way.Although many other factors could influence your decision (e.g., seniority, wage rate, oremployee health), the principles described in Table 13.3 provide guidelines for decidingwho is to get the new route.

Ethical Leaders Are Honest

When we were children, grown-ups often told us we must “never tell a lie.” To be goodmeant we must be truthful. For leaders the lesson is the same: To be a good leader, onemust be honest.


The importance of being honest can be understood more clearly when we consider theopposite of honesty: dishonesty (see Jaksa & Pritchard, 1988). Dishonesty is a form oflying, a way of misrepresenting reality. Dishonesty may bring with it many objectionableoutcomes; foremost among those outcomes is the distrust it creates. When leaders are nothonest, others come to see them as undependable and unreliable. People lose faith in whatleaders say and stand for, and their respect for leaders is diminished. As a result, the leader’simpact is compromised because others no longer trust and believe in the leader.

When we relate to others, dishonesty also has a negative impact. It puts a strain on howpeople are connected to each other. When we lie to others, we are in essence saying that weare willing to manipulate the relationship on our own terms. We are saying that we do nottrust the other person in the relationship to be able to deal with information we have. Inreality, we are putting ourselves ahead of the relationship by saying that we know what isbest for the relationship. The long-term effect of this type of behavior is that it weakensrelationships. Even when used with good intentions, dishonesty contributes to thebreakdown of relationships.

But being honest is not just about telling the truth. It has to do with being open withothers and representing reality as fully and completely as possible. This is not an easy task,however, because there are times when telling the complete truth can be destructive orcounterproductive. The challenge for leaders is to strike a balance between being open andcandid while monitoring what is appropriate to disclose in a particular situation. Manytimes, there are organizational constraints that prevent leaders from disclosing informationto followers. It is important for leaders to be authentic, but it is also essential that they besensitive to the attitudes and feelings of others. Honest leadership involves a wide set ofbehaviors.

Dalla Costa (1998) made the point clearly in his book, The Ethical Imperative, that beinghonest means more than not deceiving. For leaders in organizations, being honest means,“Do not promise what you can’t deliver, do not misrepresent, do not hide behind spin-doctored evasions, do not suppress obligations, do not evade accountability, do not acceptthat the ‘survival of the fittest’ pressures of business release any of us from the responsibilityto respect another’s dignity and humanity” (p. 164). In addition, Dalla Costa suggestedthat it is imperative that organizations recognize and acknowledge the necessity of honestyand reward honest behavior within the organization.

Ethical Leaders Build Community

In Chapter 1, we defined leadership as a process whereby an individual influences a groupof individuals to achieve a common goal. This definition has a clear ethical dimensionbecause it refers to a common goal. A common goal requires that the leader and followersagree on the direction to be taken by the group. Leaders need to take into account their


own and followers’ purposes while working toward goals that are suitable for both of them.This factor, concern for others, is the distinctive feature that delineates authentictransformational leaders from pseudotransformational leaders (Bass & Steidlmeier, 1999)(for more on pseudotransformational leadership see page 165 in Chapter 8). Concern forthe common good means that leaders cannot impose their will on others. They need tosearch for goals that are compatible with everyone.

Burns (1978) placed this idea at the center of his theory on transformational leadership. Atransformational leader tries to move the group toward a common good that is beneficialfor both the leaders and the followers. In moving toward mutual goals, both the leader andthe followers are changed. It is this feature that makes Burns’s theory unique. For Burns,leadership has to be grounded in the leader–follower relationship. It cannot be controlledby the leader, such as Hitler’s influence in Germany. Hitler coerced people to meet his ownagenda and followed goals that did not advance the goodness of humankind.

An ethical leader takes into account the purposes of everyone involved in the group and isattentive to the interests of the community and the culture. Such a leader demonstrates anethic of caring toward others (Gilligan, 1982) and does not force others or ignore theintentions of others (Bass & Steidlmeier, 1999).

Rost (1991) went a step further and suggested that ethical leadership demands attention toa civic virtue. By this, he meant that leaders and followers need to attend to more than theirown mutually determined goals. They need to attend to the community’s goals and purpose.As Burns (1978, p. 429) wrote, transformational leaders and followers begin to reach out towider social collectivities and seek to establish higher and broader moral purposes.Similarly, Greenleaf (1970) argued that building community was a main characteristic ofservant leadership. All of our individual and group goals are bound up in the commongood and public interest. We need to pay attention to how the changes proposed by aleader and followers will affect the larger organization, the community, and society. Anethical leader is concerned with the common good, in the broadest sense. This isunderscored by Wilson and McCalman (2017), who argued that leadership for the greatergood is the ultimate end toward which ethical leadership ought to be directed.



This chapter discusses a broad set of ideas regarding ethics and leadership. This general fieldof study has several strengths. First, it provides a body of timely research on ethical issues.There is a high demand for moral leadership in our society today. Beginning with theRichard Nixon administration in the 1970s and continuing through Donald Trump’sadministration, people have been insisting on higher levels of moral responsibility fromtheir leaders. At a time when there seems to be a vacuum in ethical leadership, this researchoffers us some direction on how to think about and practice ethical leadership.

Second, this body of research suggests that ethics ought to be considered as an integral partof the broader domain of leadership. Except for servant, transformational, and authenticleadership, none of the other leadership theories discussed in this book focuses on the roleof ethics in the leadership process. This chapter suggests that leadership is not an amoralphenomenon. Leadership is a process of influencing others; it has a moral dimension thatdistinguishes it from other types of influence, such as coercion or despotic control.Leadership involves values, including showing respect for followers, being fair to others,and building community. It is not a process that we can demonstrate without showing ourvalues. When we influence, we have an effect on others, which means we need to payattention to our values and our ethics.

Third, this body of research highlights several principles that are important to thedevelopment of ethical leadership. The virtues discussed in this research have been aroundfor more than 2,000 years. They are reviewed in this chapter because of their significancefor today’s leaders.



Although the area of ethics and leadership has many strengths, it also has some weaknesses.First, it is an area of research in its early stage of development, and therefore lacks a strongbody of traditional research findings to substantiate it. There is conceptual confusionregarding the nature of ethical leadership, and it is difficult to measure (Yukl, Mahsud,Hassan, & Prussia, 2013). Very little research has been published on the theoreticalfoundations of leadership ethics. Although many studies have been published on businessethics, these studies have not been directly related to ethical leadership. One exception isthe work of Yukl and colleagues (2013), who identified key components of ethicalleadership as a result of their efforts to validate an ethical leadership questionnaire, whichthey developed based on existing measurement instruments that all had limitations. In thiswork, they suggest the construct domain of ethical leadership includes integrity, honesty,fairness, communication of ethical values, consistency of behavior with espoused values,ethical guidance, and altruism. In general, the dearth of research on leadership ethics makesspeculation about the nature of ethical leadership difficult. Until more research studies havebeen conducted that deal directly with the ethical dimensions of leadership, theoreticalformulations about the process will remain tentative.

Another criticism is that leadership ethics today relies primarily on the writings of just a fewpeople who have written essays and texts that are strongly influenced by their personalopinions about the nature of leadership ethics and their view of the world. Although thesewritings, such as Heifetz’s and Burns’s, have stood the test of time, they have not beentested using traditional quantitative or qualitative research methods. They are primarilydescriptive and anecdotal. Therefore, leadership ethics lacks the traditional kind ofempirical support that usually accompanies accepted theories of human behavior.

The fact that most of the research on ethical leadership has focused primarily on theWestern world and Anglo-American countries (Eisenbeiss, 2012; Wilson & McCalman,2017) is a third criticism. There is a need to widen the scope of research on ethicalleadership to include European and Asian perspectives. As you will read in Chapter 16 onculture and leadership, different cultures vary widely in what they view as positiveleadership attributes; they also vary in what they define as ethical behavior of leaders. As theworld becomes more connected and cross-cultural, an understanding of these differentcultural perspectives on ethical leadership will be important.

Similarly, there are also generational differences in ethical perspectives. From an analysis ofthe literature, Anderson, Baur, Griffith, and Buckley (2017) suggest that today’s generationof workers, millennials, presents unique challenges regarding ethical leadership. First,because millennials are more individualistic than older employees, they are less likely toview the intensity of moral decisions in the same way and less likely to look to their leaders


for guidance on making ethical decisions. Second, because millennials see their work as lesscentral to their lives, they are less likely to view ethical dilemmas at work as particularlyproblematic. Third, because millennials value highly extrinsic rewards, they are less likely torespond to ethical appeals to do the right thing for the organization. In fact, researchsuggests that these employees may be even more likely to succumb to temptations to beunethical if such behavior is likely to lead to pay-offs (Ethics Resource Center, 2011).

Because ethical perspectives can change quickly, empirical ethical leadership research willstruggle to be up-to-date and relevant.



Although issues of morality and leadership are discussed more often in society today, thesediscussions have not resulted in a large number of programs in training and developmentdesigned to teach ethical leadership. Many new programs are oriented toward helpingmanagers become more effective at work and in life in general, but these programs do notdirectly target the area of ethics and leadership.

Yet the ethics and leadership research in this chapter can be applied to people at all levels oforganizations and in all walks of life. At a very minimum, it is crucial to state that leadershipinvolves values, and one cannot be a leader without being aware of and concerned aboutone’s own values. Because leadership has a moral dimension, being a leader demandsawareness on our part of the way our ethics defines our leadership.

Managers and leaders can use the information in this research to better understandthemselves and strengthen their own leadership. Ethical theories can remind leaders to askthemselves, “What is the right and fair thing to do?” or “What would a good person do?”Leaders can use the ethical principles described in this research as benchmarks for their ownbehavior. Do I show respect to others? Do I act with a generous spirit? Do I show honestyand faithfulness to others? Do I serve the community? Finally, we can learn from theoverriding theme in this research that the leader–follower relationship is central to ethicalleadership. To be an ethical leader, we must be sensitive to the needs of others, treat othersin ways that are just, and care for others.


Case StudiesThe following section contains three case studies (Cases 13.1, 13.2, and 13.3) in which ethical leadership isneeded. Case 13.1 describes a department chair who must choose which student will get a special assignment.Case 13.2 is concerned with one manufacturing company’s unique approach to safety standards. Case 13.3 dealswith the ethical issues surrounding how a human resource service company established the pricing for its services.At the end of each case, there are questions that point to the intricacies and complexities of practicing ethicalleadership.


Case 13.1: Choosing a Research AssistantDr. Angi Dirks is the chair of the state university’s organizational psychology department, which has fourteaching assistants (TAs). Angi has just found out that she has received a grant for research work over the summerand that it includes money to fund one of the TAs as her research assistant. In Angi’s mind, the top twocandidates are Roberto and Michelle, who are both available to work over the summer. Roberto, a foreignstudent from Venezuela, has gotten very high teaching evaluations and is well liked by the faculty. Roberto needsa summer job to help pay for school since it is too expensive for him to return home for the summer to work.Michelle is also an exceptional graduate student; she is married and doesn’t necessarily need the extra income, butshe is going to pursue a PhD, so the extra experience would be beneficial to her future endeavors.

A third teaching assistant, Carson, commutes to school from a town an hour away, where he is helping to takecare of his aging grandparents. Carson manages to juggle school, teaching, and his home responsibilities well,carrying a 4.0 GPA in his classwork. Angi knows Carson could use the money, but she is afraid that he has toomany other responsibilities to take on the research project over the summer.

As Angi weighs which TA to offer the position, a faculty member approaches her about considering the fourthTA, Analisa. It’s been a tough year with Analisa as a TA. She has complained numerous times to her facultymentor and to Angi that the other TAs treat her differently, and she thinks it’s because of her race. The studentnewspaper printed a column she wrote about “being a speck of brown in a campus of white,” in which sheexpressed her frustration with the predominantly White faculty’s inability to understand the unique perspectivesand experiences of minority students. After the column came out, the faculty in the department became wary ofworking with Analisa, fearing becoming part of the controversy. Their lack of interaction with her made Analisafeel further alienated.

Angi knows that Analisa is a very good researcher and writer, and her skills would be an asset to the project.Analisa’s faculty mentor says that giving the position to her would go a long way to “smooth things over”between faculty and Analisa and make Analisa feel included in the department. Analisa knows about the openposition and has expressed interest in it to her faculty mentor, but hasn’t directly talked to Angi. Angi is afraidthat by not giving it to Analisa, she may stir up more accusations of ill treatment while at the same time facingaccusations from others that she is giving Analisa preferential treatment.


Questions1. Of the four options available to Angi, which is the most ethical?2. Using the principles of distributive justice, who would Angi choose to become the research assistant?3. From Heifetz’s perspective, can Angi use this decision to help her department and faculty face a difficult

situation? Should she?4. Do you agree with Burns’s perspective that it is Angi’s responsibility to help followers assess their own

values and needs in order to raise them to a higher level that will stress values such as liberty, justice, andequality? If so, how can Angi do that through this situation?


Case 13.2: How Safe Is Safe?Perfect Plastics Incorporated (PPI) is a small injection molding plastics company that employs 50 people. Thecompany is 10 years old, has a healthy balance sheet, and does about $4 million a year in sales. The company hasa good safety record, and the insurance company that has PPI’s liability policy has not had to pay any claims toemployees for several years. There have been no major injuries of any kind since the company began.

Tom Griffin, the owner, takes great pride in the interior design and working conditions at PPI. He describes theinterior of the plant as being like a hospital compared with his competitors. Order, efficiency, and cleanliness aretop priorities at PPI. It is a remarkably well-organized manufacturing company.

PPI has a unique approach to guaranteeing safe working conditions. Each year, management brings in outsideconsultants from the insurance industry and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) toaudit the plant for unsafe conditions. Each year, the inspections reveal a variety of concerns, which are thenaddressed through new equipment, repairs, and changed work-flow designs. Although the inspectors continue tofind opportunities for improvement, the overall safety improves each year.

The attorneys for PPI are very opposed to the company’s approach to safety. The lawyers are vehemently againstthe procedure of having outside auditors. If a lawsuit were to be brought against PPI, the attorneys argue that anyprevious issues could be used as evidence of a historical pattern and knowledge of unsafe conditions. In effect, theaudits that PPI conducts voluntarily could be used by plaintiffs to strengthen a case against the company.

The president and management recognize the potential downside of outside audits, but they point out that theperiodic reviews are critical to the ongoing improvement of the safety of everyone in the plant. The purpose ofthe audits is to make the shop a secure place, and that is what has occurred. Management also points out that PPIemployees have responded positively to the audits and to the changes that result.


Questions1. As a company, would you describe PPI as having an identifiable philosophy of moral values? How do its

policies contribute to this philosophy?2. Which ethical perspective best describes PPI’s approach to safety issues? Would you say PPI takes a

utilitarian-, duty-, or virtue-based approach?3. Regarding safety issues, how does management see its responsibilities toward its employees? How do the

attorneys see their responsibilities toward PPI?4. Why does it appear that the ethics of PPI and its attorneys are in conflict?


Case 13.3: Reexamining a ProposalAfter working 10 years as the only minority manager in a large printing company, David Jones decided hewanted to set out on his own. Because of his experience and prior connections, David was confident he couldsurvive in the printing business, but he wondered whether he should buy an existing business or start a new one.As part of his planning, David contacted a professional employer organization (PEO), which had a sterlingreputation, to obtain an estimate for human resource services for a startup company. The estimate was to includecosts for payroll, benefits, worker’s compensation, and other traditional human resource services. Because Davidhad not yet started his business, the PEO generated a generic quote applicable to a small company in the printingindustry. In addition, because the PEO had nothing tangible to quote, it gave David a quote for human resourceservices that was unusually high.

In the meantime, David found an existing small company that he liked, and he bought it. Then he contacted thePEO to sign a contract for human resource services at the previously quoted price. David was ready to takeownership and begin his new venture. He signed the original contract as presented.

After David signed the contract, the PEO reviewed the earlier proposal in light of the actual figures of thecompany he had purchased. This review raised many concerns for management. Although the goals of the PEOwere to provide high-quality service, be competitive in the marketplace, and make a reasonable profit, the quoteit had provided David appeared to be much too high. It was not comparable in any way with the other servicecontracts the PEO had with other companies of similar size and function.

During the review, it became apparent that several concerns had to be addressed. First, the original estimate madethe PEO appear as if it was gouging the client. Although the client had signed the original contract, was it fair tocharge such a high price for the proposed services? Would charging such high fees mean that the PEO would losethis client or similar clients in the future? Another concern was related to the PEO’s support of minoritybusinesses. For years, the PEO had prided itself on having strong values about affirmative action and fairness inthe workplace, but this contract appeared to actually hurt and to be somewhat unfair to a minority client. Finally,the PEO was concerned with the implications of the contract for the salesperson who drew up the proposal forDavid. Changing the estimated costs in the proposal would have a significant impact on the salesperson’scommission, which would negatively affect the morale of others in the PEO’s sales area.

After a reexamination of the original proposal, a new contract was drawn up for David’s company with lowerestimated costs. Though lower than the original proposal, the new contract remained much higher than theaverage contract in the printing industry. David willingly signed the new contract.


Questions1. What role should ethics play in the writing of a proposal such as this? Did the PEO do the ethical thing

for David? How much money should the PEO have tried to make? What would you have done if youwere part of management at the PEO?

2. From a deontological (duty) perspective and a teleological (consequences) perspective, how would youdescribe the ethics of the PEO?

3. Based on what the PEO did for David, how would you evaluate the PEO on the ethical principles ofrespect, service, justice, honesty, and community?

4. How would you assess the ethics of the PEO if you were David? If you were among the PEOmanagement? If you were the salesperson? If you were a member of the printing community?

Leadership Instrument

It is human to want others to see you as an ethical leader, because being viewed as an unethical leader cancarry with it very strong negative connotations. But the social desirability of being judged by others as anethical leader makes measuring ethical leadership challenging. Self-reported scores of ethical leadership areoften biased and skewed in a positive direction.

The Ethical Leadership Style Questionnaire (ELSQ) presented in this chapter is a self-reporting measure ofethical leadership that does not measure whether one is or is not ethical, but rather assesses the leader’s styleof ethical leadership. The ELSQ is a 45-question instrument that measures how a leader approaches ethicaldilemmas. The six ethical styles assessed by the dilemmas are (a) duty ethics (I would do what is right), (b)utilitarianism ethics (I would do what benefits the most people), (c) virtue ethics (I would do what a goodperson would do), (d) caring ethics (I would do what shows that I care about my close personalrelationships), (e) egoism ethics (I would do what benefits me the most), and (f) justice ethics (I would dowhat is fair). Based on the individual’s responses, the ELSQ identifies a leader’s primary and secondaryethical leadership styles.

Although the ELSQ is in its initial stages of development, data from two studies (Baehrend, 2016;Chikeleze, 2014) confirmed that when leaders face ethical dilemmas, they have a preference for a particularstyle of ethical leadership. The ELSQ can be used by leaders as a self-assessment tool to understand theirdecision-making preferences when confronting ethical dilemmas. Organizations will find it a useful trainingtool to educate leaders on decision making (Chikeleze & Baehrend, 2017).


Ethical Leadership Style Questionnaire (Short Form)Instructions: Please read the following 10 hypothetical situations in which a leader is confronted with anethical dilemma. Place yourself in the role of the leader or manager in the situation and indicate with an “X”your most preferred response. Your most preferred response is the response that best describes why youwould do what you would do in that particular situation. Choose only one response. There are no right orwrong answers.

Response alternatives explained:

I would do what is right: This option includes following the rules, meeting my responsibilities,fulfilling my obligations, and adhering to organization policy. Rules in this context may be explicitor implicit.I would do what benefits the most people: This option includes doing what helps the most peopleoverall and what creates the greatest total happiness. It also includes doing the greatest good for thegreatest number.I would do what a good person would do: This option includes exhibiting excellence of character,acting with integrity, and being faithful to one’s principles. This option includes employing virtuessuch as courage, honesty, and loyalty.I would do what shows that I care about my close relationships: This option includes building andmaintaining caring relationships, nurturing relationships, and being responsive to the needs ofothers. It gives special consideration to those with whom I share a personal bond or commitment.I would do what benefits me the most: This option includes achieving my goals, being successful inmy assigned task, and advancing my career. It also includes doing things that are in my self-interest.I would do what is fair: This option includes acting with justice, being equitable to others, andtreating others fairly. It also includes distributing benefits and burdens to everyone equally.


Situations1. You are the leader of a manufacturing team and learn that your employees are falsifying product

quality results to sell more products. If you report the matter, most of them will lose their jobs, youmay lose yours, and your company will take a significant hit to its reputation. What would you doin this situation?

□ A. I would do what is right.□ B. I would do what benefits the most people.□ C. I would do what a good person would do.□ D. I would do what shows that I care about my relationships.□ E. I would do what benefits me the most.□ F. I would do what is fair.

2. You have an employee who has been having performance problems, which is making it hard foryour group to meet its work quota. This person was recommended to you as a solid performer. Younow believe the person’s former manager had problems with the employee and just wanted to getrid of the person. If you give the underperforming employee a good recommendation, leaving outthe performance problems, you will have an opportunity to pass the employee off to another group.What would you do in this situation?

□ A. I would do what is right.□ B. I would do what benefits the most people.□ C. I would do what a good person would do.□ D. I would do what shows that I care about my relationships.□ E. I would do what benefits me the most.□ F. I would do what is fair.

3. Your team is hard-pressed to complete a critical project. You hear about a job opening that wouldbe much better for one of your key employees’ career. If this individual leaves the team, it wouldput the project in danger. What would you do in this situation?

□ A. I would do what is right.□ B. I would do what benefits the most people.□ C. I would do what a good person would do.□ D. I would do what shows that I care about my relationships.□ E. I would do what benefits me the most.□ F. I would do what is fair.

4. An employee of yours has a child with a serious illness and is having trouble fulfilling obligations atwork. You learn from your administrative assistant that this employee claimed 40 hours on a timesheet for a week when the employee actually only worked 30 hours. What would you do in thissituation?

□ A. I would do what is right.□ B. I would do what benefits the most people.□ C. I would do what a good person would do.□ D. I would do what shows that I care about my relationships.□ E. I would do what benefits me the most.□ F. I would do what is fair.

5. You are a manager, and some of your employees can finish their quotas in much less than theallotted time to do so. If upper management becomes aware of this, they will want you to increasethe quotas. Some of your employees are unable to meet their current quotas. What would you do inthis situation?

□ A. I would do what is right.□ B. I would do what benefits the most people.□ C. I would do what a good person would do.□ D. I would do what shows that I care about my relationships.


□ E. I would do what benefits me the most.□ F. I would do what is fair.

6. You are an organization’s chief financial officer, and you are aware that the chief executive officerand other members of the senior leadership team want to provide exaggerated financial informationto keep the company’s stock price high. The entire senior management team holds significant stockpositions. What would you do in this situation?

□ A. I would do what is right.□ B. I would do what benefits the most people.□ C. I would do what a good person would do.□ D. I would do what shows that I care about my relationships.□ E. I would do what benefits me the most.□ F. I would do what is fair.

7. Two new employees have joined your accounting team right out of school. They are regularly foundsurfing the Internet or texting on their phones. Your accounting work regularly requires overtime atthe end of the month to get the financial reports completed. These employees refuse to do anyovertime, which shifts work to other team members. The other team members are getting resentfuland upset. What would you do in this situation?

□ A. I would do what is right.□ B. I would do what benefits the most people.□ C. I would do what a good person would do.□ D. I would do what shows that I care about my relationships.□ E. I would do what benefits me the most.□ F. I would do what is fair.

8. You are the director of a neighborhood food cooperative. A member—a single parent with fourchildren—is caught shoplifting $30 in groceries from the co-op. You suspect this person has beenstealing for years. You consider pressing charges. What would you do in this situation?

□ A. I would do what is right.□ B. I would do what benefits the most people.□ C. I would do what a good person would do.□ D. I would do what shows that I care about my relationships.□ E. I would do what benefits me the most.□ F. I would do what is fair.

9. You have been accused of discriminating against a particular gender in your hiring practices. A newposition opens up, and you could hire a candidate of the gender you’ve been accused ofdiscriminating against over a candidate of another gender, even though the latter candidate hasslightly better qualifications. Hiring the former candidate would let you address this accusation andimprove your reputation in the company. What would you do in this situation?

□ A. I would do what is right.□ B. I would do what benefits the most people.□ C. I would do what a good person would do.□ D. I would do what shows that I care about my relationships.□ E. I would do what benefits me the most.□ F. I would do what is fair.

10. You are a professor. One of your best students buys an essay online and turns it in for a grade. Laterin the term, the student begins to feel guilty and confesses to you that the paper was purchased. It isthe norm at the university to fail a student guilty of plagiarism. You must decide if you will flunkthe student. What would you do in this situation?

□ A. I would do what is right.□ B. I would do what benefits the most people.□ C. I would do what a good person would do.□ D. I would do what shows that I care about my relationships.□ E. I would do what benefits me the most.□ F. I would do what is fair.


ScoringTo score the questionnaire, sum the number of times you selected item A, B, C, D, E, or F. The sum of Aresponses represents your preference for Duty Ethics, the sum of B responses represents your preference forUtilitarian Ethics, the sum of C responses represents your preference for Virtue Ethics, the sum of Dresponses represents your preference for Caring Ethics, the sum of E responses represents your preference forEgoism Ethics, and the sum of F responses represents your preference for Justice Ethics. Place these sums inthe Total Scores section that follows.

A. Duty Ethics: __________B. Utilitarian Ethics: __________C. Virtue Ethics: __________D. Caring Ethics: __________E. Egoism Ethics: __________F. Justice Ethics: __________


Scoring InterpretationThe scores you received on this questionnaire provide information about your ethical leadership style; theyrepresent your preferred way of addressing ethical dilemmas. Given a situation with an ethical dilemma, thisquestionnaire points to what ethical perspective is behind the choices you would make to resolve thedilemma. As you look at your total scores, your highest score represents your primary or dominant ethicalleadership style, your second-highest score is the next most important, and so on. If you scored 0 for acategory, it means that you put lower priority on that particular ethical approach to guide your decisionmaking when facing ethical dilemmas.

If you scored higher on Duty Ethics, it means you follow the rules and do what you think you aresupposed to do when facing ethical dilemmas. You focus on fulfilling your responsibilities anddoing what you think is the right thing to do.If you scored higher on Utilitarian Ethics, it means you try to do what is best for the most peopleoverall when facing ethical dilemmas. You focus on what will create happiness for the largestnumber of individuals.If you scored higher on Virtue Ethics, it means that you pull from who you are (your character) whenfacing ethical dilemmas. You act out of integrity, and you are faithful to your own principles ofgoodness.If you scored higher on Caring Ethics, it means that you give attention to your relationships whenfacing ethical dilemmas. You may give special consideration to those with whom you share apersonal bond or commitment.If you scored higher on Egoism Ethics, it means that you do what is best for yourself when facingethical dilemmas. You are not afraid to assert your own interests and goals when resolving problems.If you scored higher on Justice Ethics, it means that you focus on treating others fairly when facingethical dilemmas. You try to make sure the benefits and burdens of decisions are shared equitablybetween everyone concerned.

Comparing your scores regarding each of these ethical perspectives can give you a sense of what is importantto you when addressing an ethical concern. A low score in any of the categories suggests that you give lesspriority to that ethical perspective. All of the ethical perspectives have merit, so there is no “best” perspectiveto maintain.

This questionnaire is intended as a self-assessment exercise. Although each ethical approach is presented as adiscrete category, it is possible that one category may overlap with another category. It is also possible thatyou may have an ethical leadership style that is not fully captured in this questionnaire. Since thisquestionnaire is an abridged version of an expanded questionnaire, you may wish to take the fullquestionnaire to gain a more accurate reflection of your ethical approach. It can be taken



Although there has been an interest in ethics for thousands of years, very little theoreticalresearch exists on the nature of leadership ethics. This chapter has presented an overview ofethical theories as they apply to the leadership process.

Ethical theory provides a set of principles that guide leaders in making decisions about howto act and how to be morally decent. In the Western tradition, ethical theories typically aredivided into two kinds: theories about conduct and theories about character. Theories aboutconduct emphasize the consequences of leader behavior (teleological approach) or the rulesthat govern their behavior (deontological approach). Virtue-based theories focus on thecharacter of leaders, and they stress qualities such as courage, honesty, fairness, and fidelity.

Ethics plays a central role in the leadership process. Because leadership involves influenceand leaders often have more power than followers, they have an enormous ethicalresponsibility for how they affect other people. Leaders need to engage followers toaccomplish mutual goals; therefore, it is imperative that they treat followers and their ideaswith respect and dignity. Leaders also play a major role in establishing the ethical climate intheir organization; that role requires leaders to be particularly sensitive to the values andideals they promote.

Several prominent leadership scholars, including Heifetz, Burns, and Greenleaf, have madeunique contributions to our understanding of ethical leadership. The theme common tothese authors is an ethic of caring, which pays attention to followers’ needs and theimportance of leader–follower relationships.

This chapter suggests that sound ethical leadership is rooted in respect, service, justice,honesty, and community. It is the duty of leaders to treat others with respect—to listen tothem closely and be tolerant of opposing points of view. Ethical leaders serve others bybeing altruistic, placing others’ welfare ahead of their own in an effort to contribute to thecommon good. Justice requires that leaders place fairness at the center of their decisionmaking, including the challenging task of being fair to the individual while simultaneouslybeing fair to the common interests of the community. Good leaders are honest. They do notlie, nor do they present truth to others in ways that are destructive or counterproductive.Finally, ethical leaders are committed to building community, which includes searching forgoals that are compatible with the goals of followers and with society as a whole.

Research on ethics and leadership has several strengths. At a time when the public isdemanding higher levels of moral responsibility from its leaders, this research provides somedirection in how to think about ethical leadership and how to practice it. In addition, thisresearch reminds us that leadership is a moral process. Scholars should include ethics as anintegral part of leadership studies and research. Third, this area of research describes basic


principles that we can use in developing real-world ethical leadership.

On the negative side, this research area of ethical leadership is still in an early stage ofdevelopment. Few studies have been done that directly address the nature of ethicalleadership. As a result, the theoretical formulations about the process remain tentative.Second, this area of research relies on the writings of a few individuals whose work has beenprimarily descriptive and anecdotal. As a result, the development of theory on leadershipethics lacks the traditional empirical support that usually accompanies theories of humanbehavior. Despite these weaknesses, the field of ethical leadership is wide open for futureresearch. There remains a strong need for research that can advance our understanding ofthe role of ethics in the leadership process.

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14 Team Leadership

Susan E. Kogler Hill



Work teams are very prevalent in today’s organizations. The reliance on teams is duepartially to increasingly complex tasks, more globalization, and the flattening oforganizational structures. A team is a type of organizational group that is composed ofmembers who are interdependent, who share common goals, and who must coordinatetheir activities to accomplish these goals. Team members must work collectively to achievetheir goals. Examples of organizational teams include senior executive teams, projectmanagement teams, task forces, work units, standing committees, quality teams, andimprovement teams. Teams can be located in the same place meeting face-to-face, or theycan be geographically dispersed “virtual” teams meeting across time and distance via variousforms of communication technology. Teams can also be hybrids of face-to-face and virtualteams with some members being co-located and some being dispersed. The exact definitionof which organizational group is a team or not is constantly evolving as organizationsconfront the many new forms of contemporary collaboration (Wageman, Gardner, &Mortensen, 2012).

The study of organizational teams has focused on strategies for maintaining a competitiveadvantage. Team-based organizations have faster response capability because of their flatterorganizational structures, which rely on teams and new technology to enablecommunication across time and space (Porter & Beyerlein, 2000). These newerorganizational structures have been referred to as “team-based and technology-enabled”(Mankin, Cohen, & Bikson, 1996). A majority of multinational companies are dependingon virtual teams, or teams that are geographically dispersed and rely on technology tointeract and collaborate (Muethel, Gehrlein, & Hoegl, 2012). Such teams allow companiesto (1) use the best talent across the globe, (2) facilitate collaboration across time and space,and (3) reduce travel costs (Paul, Drake, & Liang, 2016). These virtual teams face moredifficulty with members separated by time, distance, and culture. They often have less trust,more conflict, and more subgroup formation. In virtual teams, face-to-face communicationis rare, with decisions and scheduling taking more time. With the development of socialmedia, new communication technologies, and software applications for meetingmanagement, virtual teams have richer and more realistic communication environmentswhere collaboration is facilitated (Schmidt, 2014; Schouten, van den Hooff, & Feldberg,2016; Scott, 2013).

The organizational team-based structure is an important way for organizations to remaincompetitive by responding quickly and adapting to constant, rapid changes. Studies of bothface-to-face and virtual teams have increasingly become focused on team processes andteam outcomes (Ilgen, Hollenbeck, Johnson, & Jundt, 2005; Thomas, Martin, & Riggio,2013). Also, researchers focused on the problems work teams confront as well as how tomake these work teams more effective (Ilgen, Major, Hollenbeck, & Sego, 1993). Effective


organizational teams lead to many desirable outcomes, such as

greater productivity,more effective use of resources,better decisions and problem solving,better-quality products and services, andgreater innovation and creativity (Parker, 1990).

However, for teams to be successful, the organizational culture needs to support memberinvolvement. The traditional authority structure of many organizations does not supportdecision making at lower levels, and this can lead to the failure of many teams. Teamworkis an example of lateral decision making as opposed to the traditional vertical decisionmaking that occurs in the organizational hierarchy based on rank or position in theorganization. The dynamic and fluid power shifting in teams has been referred to asheterarchy (Aime, Humphrey, DeRue, & Paul, 2014). Such power shifting within teamscan lead to positive outcomes as long as team members see these shifting sources of poweras legitimate. Teams will have great difficulty in organizational cultures that are notsupportive of such collaborative work and decision making. Changing an organizationalculture to one that is more supportive of teams is possible, but it takes time and effort(Levi, 2011).

Leadership of teams has also become an important area of study. The ideas of “teamleadership” are quite different from leadership within the organizational vertical structure.Many theories of leadership, such as situational (discussed in Chapter 5) andtransformational (discussed in Chapter 8), can be applied in the team setting. However,team leadership is a unique setting for leadership, and it is very process oriented. How doteams develop their “critical capabilities”? How do team leaders shift their actions over timeto deal with contingencies as they arise? How do leader actions promote task andinterpersonal development (Kozlowski, Watola, Jensen, Kim, & Botero, 2009)? Effectiveteam leadership facilitates team success and helps teams to avoid team failure (Stagl, Salas,& Burke, 2007; Stewart & Manz, 1995). Effective leadership processes are the most criticalfactor in team success (Zaccaro, Rittman, & Marks, 2001, p. 452).

Shared or Distributed Leadership:

The complexities of team processes demand the attention and focus of all members of theteam. Some teams are autonomous and self-directed with no formal leader. But even thosewith a formal leader will benefit from shared leadership among team members. Teamleadership functions can be performed by the formal team leader and/or shared by teammembers. Shared team leadership occurs when members of the team take on leadershipbehaviors to influence the team and to maximize team effectiveness (Bergman, Rentsch,Small, Davenport, & Bergman, 2012). Shared leadership has been referred to as teamleadership capacity, encompassing the leadership repertoire of the entire team (Day, Gronn,


& Salas, 2004). Such distributed leadership involves the sharing of influence by teammembers. Team members step forward when situations warrant, providing the leadershipnecessary, and then step back to allow others to lead. Such shared leadership has becomemore and more important in today’s organizations to allow faster responses to morecomplex issues (Morgeson, DeRue, & Karam, 2010; Pearce, Manz, & Sims, 2009;Solansky, 2008).

Shared leadership, while very important, does involve risk and takes some courage for themember who steps forward to provide leadership outside the formal role of team leader(Amos & Klimoski, 2014). Risks aside, teams with shared leadership have less conflict,more consensus, more trust, and more cohesion than teams that do not have sharedleadership (Bergman et al., 2012). Shared leadership is even more important for virtualteams. Empowering leadership that shares power with virtual team members promotes botheffective collaboration and performance (Drescher & Garbers, 2016; Hill & Bartol, 2016).Virtual teams are simply more effective when there is shared team leadership (Hoch &Kozlowski, 2014; Muethel et al., 2012; Wang, Waldman, & Zhang, 2014). How leadersand members can share the leadership of teams so that these teams can truly becomeeffective and achieve excellence is discussed in this chapter. It introduces a model thatprovides a mental road map to help the leader or any team member providing leadershipdiagnose team problems and take appropriate action to correct those problems.


Team Leadership Model

The Hill Model for Team Leadership (Figure 14.1) is based on the functional leadershipclaim that the leader’s job is to monitor the team and then take whatever action is necessaryto ensure team effectiveness. The model provides a tool for understanding the very complexphenomenon of team leadership, starting at the top with its initial leadership decisions,moving to leader actions, and finally focusing on the indicators of team effectiveness. Inaddition, the model suggests specific actions that leaders can perform to improve teameffectiveness. Effective team leaders need a wide repertoire of communication skills tomonitor and take appropriate action. The model is designed to simplify and clarify thecomplex nature of team leadership and to provide an easy tool to aid leadership decisionmaking for team leaders and members alike.

Effective team performance begins with how the leader sees the situation that the team isexperiencing (the leader’s mental model). This mental model reflects not only thecomponents of the problem confronting the team, but also the environmental andorganizational contingencies that define the larger context of team action. The leaderdevelops a mental conception of what the team problem is and what solutions are possiblein this context, given the environmental and organizational constraints and resources(Zaccaro et al., 2001).

To respond appropriately to the problem envisioned in the mental model, a good teamleader needs to be behaviorally flexible and have a wide repertoire of actions or skills tomeet the team’s diverse needs (Barge, 1996). When his or her behavior matches thecomplexity of the situation, the leader is behaving with “requisite variety,” or the set ofbehaviors necessary to meet the team’s needs (Drecksel, 1991). Effective team leaders areable to construct accurate mental models of the team’s problems by observing teamfunctioning, and can take requisite action to solve these problems. Effective team leaderscan diagnose correctly and choose the right action.

Figure 14.1 The Hill Model for Team Leadership


The leader has special responsibility for functioning in a manner that will help the teamachieve effectiveness. Within this perspective, leadership behavior is seen as team-basedproblem solving, in which the leader attempts to achieve team goals by analyzing theinternal and external situation and then selecting and implementing the appropriatebehaviors to ensure team effectiveness (Fleishman et al., 1991). Leaders must use discretionabout which problems need intervention, and make choices about which solutions are themost appropriate (Zaccaro et al., 2001). The appropriate solution varies by circumstanceand focuses on what should be done to make the team more effective. Effective leaders havethe ability to determine what leadership interventions are needed, if any, to solve teamproblems. When leadership is shared throughout the team, various members are diagnosingproblems and intervening with appropriate behaviors. The monitoring and selection ofbehaviors is shared throughout the team membership. Given the complexity of teamfunctioning, such shared leadership can—and, in fact, does—lead to greater teameffectiveness.

Team Effectiveness

At the bottom of the Hill Model for Team Leadership (Figure 14.1) is “TeamEffectiveness,” which focuses on team excellence or the desired outcomes of teamwork.Two critical functions of team effectiveness are performance (task accomplishment) anddevelopment (team maintenance). Performance refers to the quality of the outcomes of theteam’s work. Did the team accomplish its goals and objectives in a quality manner?


Development refers to the cohesiveness of the team and the ability of team members tosatisfy their own needs while working effectively with other team members (Nadler, 1998).Excellent teams accomplish both of these objectives: getting the job done and maintaining acohesive team.

Scholars have systematically studied organizational work teams and developed standards ofeffectiveness or criteria of excellence that can be used to assess a team’s health (Hackman,1990, 2002, 2012; Hughes, Ginnett, & Curphy, 1993; Katzenbach & Smith, 2008;LaFasto & Larson, 2001; Larson & LaFasto, 1989; Lencioni, 2005; Zaccaro et al., 2001).Hackman (2012) has posited six enabling conditions that lead to effective teamfunctioning: (1) Is it a real team? (2) Does it have a compelling purpose? (3) Does it havethe right people? (4) Are the norms of conduct clear? (5) Is there support from theorganizational context? (6) Is there team-focused coaching? Larson and LaFasto (1989)studied successful teams and found that, regardless of the type of team, eight characteristicswere consistently associated with team excellence. Table 14.1 demonstrates the similarity ofthese excellence characteristics to the enabling conditions suggested by Hackman (2012).

Table 14.1 Comparison of Theory and Research Criteria of Team Effectiveness

Enabling Conditions of Group Effectiveness

(Hackman, 2012)

Characteristics of Team Excellence

(Larson & LaFasto, 1989)

Compelling purpose Clear, elevating goal

Results-driven structure

Right people Competent team members

Real team Unified commitment

Collaborative climate

Clear norms of conduct Standards of excellence

Supportive organizational context External support and recognition

Team-focused coaching Principled leadership

It is helpful if team leaders understand the conditions that contribute to or enable teamexcellence. Such understanding will allow the leader to benchmark or compare his or herteam’s performance to these standards and to determine possible areas of team weakness or


ineffectiveness. Assessing how well the team compares to these established indicators ofteam success provides a valuable source of information to guide the leader to takeappropriate actions to improve team success.

1. Clear, Elevating Goal.

“A compelling purpose energizes team members, orients them toward their collectiveobjective, and fully engages their talents” (Hackman, 2012, p. 437). Team goals must bevery clear so that one can tell whether the performance objective has been realized. Teamssometimes fail because they are given a vague task and then asked to work out the details(Hackman, 1990). In addition, the team goal must be involving or motivating so that themembers believe it to be worthwhile and important. Teams often fail because they letsomething else replace their goal, such as personal agendas or power issues (Larson &LaFasto, 1989). Research data from numerous teams show that effective leaders keep theteam focused on the goal (LaFasto & Larson, 2001).

2. Results-Driven Structure.

Teams need to find the best structure for accomplishing their goals. Structural features thatlead to effective teamwork include task design, team composition, and core norms ofconduct (Wageman, Fisher, & Hackman, 2009). Top management teams typically dealwith power and influence, task forces deal with ideas and plans, customer service teams dealwith clients, and production teams deal with technology (Hackman, 1990). Problemresolution teams such as task forces need a structure that emphasizes trust so that all will bewilling and able to contribute. Creative teams such as advertising teams need to emphasizeautonomy so that all can take risks and be free from undue censorship. Tactical teams suchas emergency room teams need to emphasize clarity so that everyone knows what to do andwhen. In addition, all teams need clear roles for team members, a good communicationsystem, methods of assessing individual performance, and an emphasis on fact-basedjudgments (Larson & LaFasto, 1989). Appropriate structures enable teams to meet theirneeds while still accomplishing team goals.

3. Competent Team Members.

Teams should be composed of the right number and mix of members to accomplish all thetasks of the team. In addition, members need sufficient information, education, andtraining to become or remain competent team members (Hackman & Walton, 1986). As awhole, the individual team members need to possess the requisite technical competence toaccomplish the team’s goals. Members also need to be personally competent ininterpersonal and teamwork skills. A common mistake in forming teams is to assume thatpeople who have all the technical skills necessary to solve a problem also have theinterpersonal skills necessary to collaborate effectively (Hackman, 1990). Just becausesomeone is a good engineer or doctor does not mean he or she has the interpersonal skills to


function on a team. Team members need certain core competencies that include the abilityto do the job and the ability to solve problems. In addition, members need certainteamwork factors such as openness, supportiveness, action orientation, and a positivepersonal style (LaFasto & Larson, 2001).

4. Unified Commitment.

A common mistake is to call a work group a team but treat it as a collection of individuals(Hackman, 1990). Teams do not just happen: They are carefully designed and developed.Excellent teams are those that have developed a sense of unity or identification. Such teamspirit often can be developed by involving members in all aspects of the process (Larson &LaFasto, 1989).

5. Collaborative Climate.

The ability of a team to collaborate or work well together is essential to team effectiveness.A collaborative climate is one in which members can stay problem focused, listen to andunderstand one another, feel free to take risks, and be willing to compensate for oneanother. To build an atmosphere that fosters collaboration, we need to develop trustingrelationships based on honesty, openness, consistency, and respect (Larson & LaFasto,1989). Integration of individual actions is one of the fundamental characteristics ofeffective teams. Team members each have their own unique roles that they typicallyperform to contribute to the team’s success. Team failure may result from the members’“collective failure to coordinate and synchronize their individual contributions” (Zaccaro etal., 2001, p. 451). Effective team leaders can facilitate a collaborative climate by managingtheir own needs to control, by making communication safe, by demanding and rewardingcollaborative behavior, and by guiding the team’s problem-solving efforts (LaFasto &Larson, 2001).

6. Standards of Excellence.

Clear norms of conduct (how we should behave) are important for team functioning(Hackman, 2012). Team members’ performance should be regulated so that actions can becoordinated and tasks completed (Hackman & Walton, 1986). It is especially importantthat the organizational context or the team itself set up standards of excellence so thatmembers will feel pressure to perform at their highest levels. The standards must be clearand concrete, and all team members must be required to perform to standard (Larson &LaFasto, 1989). A team leader can facilitate this process by requiring results—makingexpectations clear and reviewing results—providing feedback to resolve performance issues,and rewarding results by acknowledging superior performance (LaFasto & Larson, 2001).With such standards in place and monitored, members will be encouraged to perform attheir highest levels.


7. External Support and Recognition.

A supportive organizational context includes material resources, rewards for excellentperformance, an educational system to develop necessary team skills, and an informationsystem to provide data needed to accomplish the task (Wageman et al., 2009). A commonmistake is to give organizational teams challenging assignments but fail to give themorganizational support to accomplish these assignments (Hackman, 1990). The leader mustidentify which type of support is needed and intervene as needed to secure this support(Hackman, 2002). The best goals, team members, and commitment will not mean much ifthere is no money, equipment, or supplies for accomplishing the goals. Also, organizationsoften ask employees to work on a difficult team assignment and then do not reward themwith raises or bonuses for that performance. Hyatt and Ruddy (1997) found that havingsystems in place to support teams (clear direction, information, data, resources, rewards,and training) enables the team to become more effective and achieve performance goals.Teams can achieve excellence if they are given the resources needed to do their jobs, arerecognized for team accomplishments, and are rewarded for team performance rather thanfor individual performances (Larson & LaFasto, 1989).

8. Principled Leadership.

Effective team leadership has been found to consistently relate to team effectiveness(Zaccaro, Heinen, & Shuffler, 2009). Leadership has been described as the central driver ofteam effectiveness, influencing the team through four sets of processes: cognitive,motivational, affective, and coordination (Zaccaro et al., 2001). Cognitively, the leaderhelps the team understand the problems confronting the team. Motivationally, the leaderhelps the team become cohesive and capable by setting high performance standards andhelping the team to achieve them. Affectively, the leader helps the team handle stressfulcircumstances by providing clear goals, assignments, and strategies. Coordinately, the leaderhelps integrate the team’s activities by matching members’ skills to roles, providing clearperformance strategies, monitoring feedback, and adapting to environmental changes.

Effective team leaders are committed to the team’s goals and give members autonomy tounleash their talents when possible. Leaders can reduce the effectiveness of their team bybeing unwilling to confront inadequate performance, diluting the team’s ability to performby having too many priorities, and overestimating the positive aspects of team performance.Leaders can enhance the effectiveness of their team by keeping the team focused on itsgoals, maintaining a collaborative climate, building confidence among members,demonstrating technical competence, setting priorities, and managing performance (Larson& LaFasto, 1989). It is essential that the leadership of the team be assessed along with theother criteria of team excellence. Such feedback is essential to the health and effectiveness ofthe team.

The leadership of the team can use these eight characteristics of team excellence (Table


14.1) in a normative fashion to assess the health of the team and to take appropriate actionto address any weaknesses. If the team leader assesses that one or more of the eightcharacteristics of team success are not being achieved, then he or she needs to address theseweaknesses. Continually assessing the standards of team effectiveness can also providefeedback, enabling leaders to determine whether past actions and interventions had thedesired results. To assess team effectiveness, team leaders need to use whatever tools are attheir disposal, such as direct observation, surveys, feedback, and performance indicators.The information gained from the analysis of team effectiveness can provide feedback to theleader and guide future leadership decisions. The line on the Hill Model of TeamLeadership (Figure 14.1) that connects the “Team Effectiveness” box at the bottom to the“Leadership Decisions” box at the top reflects the ongoing learning process of datagathering, analysis, and decision making. Such feedback loops demonstrate the dynamicand evolving nature of teams (Ilgen et al., 2005). Past leadership decisions and actions arereflected in the team’s performance and relational outcomes. In turn, these indicators ofteam effectiveness shape the future analysis and decisions of the team leadership.

Leadership Decisions

At the top of the Hill Model for Team Leadership (Figure 14.1) are “LeadershipDecisions,” which include the major decisions the team’s leadership needs to make whendetermining whether and how to intervene to improve team functioning. The first of thesedecisions is whether it is most appropriate to continue to observe and monitor the team orto intervene in the team’s activities and take action. The second decision is to choosewhether a task or a relational intervention is needed (i.e., does the team need help inaccomplishing its tasks, or does it need help in maintaining relationships?). The finaldecision is whether to intervene at the internal level (within the team itself) or at theexternal level (in the team’s environment).

Figure 14.2 McGrath’s Critical Leadership Functions


Source: Based on McGrath’s critical leadership functions as cited in “Leading Groupsin Organizations,” by J. R. Hackman and R. E. Walton, 1986, in P. S. Goodman &Associates (Eds.), Designing Effective Work Groups (p. 76). San Francisco, CA:Jossey-Bass.

Leadership Decision 1:

Should I monitor the team or take action? The first decision confronting the team’sleadership is whether to keep observing the team or to take action to help the team.McGrath (as cited in Hackman & Walton, 1986) outlined the critical leadership functionsof group effectiveness, taking into account the analysis of the situation both internally andexternally and whether this analysis indicates that the leader should take an immediateaction. Figure 14.2, “McGrath’s Critical Leadership Functions,” demonstrates these twodimensions of leadership behavior: monitoring versus taking action and internal group issuesversus external group issues. As leaders, we can diagnose, analyze, or forecast problems(monitoring), or we can take immediate action to solve a problem. We can also focus onthe problems within the group (internal) or problems outside the group (external). Thesetwo dimensions result in the four types of team leadership functions shown in Figure 14.2.

Quadrants 1 and 2 in Figure 14.2 focus on the internal operations of the team. InQuadrant 1, the leader is diagnosing group deficiencies, and in Quadrant 2, the leader isacting to repair or remedy the observed problems. Quadrants 3 and 4 focus on the externaloperations of the team. In the third quadrant, the leader is scanning the environment todetermine and forecast any external changes that will affect the group. In the fourthquadrant, the leader acts to prevent any negative changes in the environment from hurtingthe team.

Therefore, the first decision confronting the team’s leadership is “Should I continuemonitoring these factors, or should I take action based on the information I have alreadygathered and structured?” To develop an accurate mental model of team functioning,leaders need to monitor both the internal and external environments to gather information,reduce equivocality, provide structure, and overcome barriers. Fleishman et al. (1991)described two phases in this initial process: information search and structuring. A leadermust first seek out information to understand the current state of the team’s functioning(information search), and then this information must be analyzed, organized, andinterpreted so the leader can decide how to act (information structuring). Leaders can alsohelp their information search process by obtaining feedback from team members,networking with others outside the team, conducting team assessment surveys, andevaluating team outcomes. Once information on the team is gathered, the leader needs tostructure or interpret this information so that he or she can make action plans. Virtualteams operate under the same group dynamics principles and also need to monitor andintervene as appropriate (Berry, 2011).


All members of the team can engage in monitoring (information search and structuring)and collectively provide distributed or shared leadership to help the team adapt to changingconditions. In fast-paced, rapidly changing situations, the team leader and members mighthave to work in concert to assess the situation accurately. The official leader of the teammight be too busy processing information from the environment to process informationinternal to the team. The team members can help the leader by staying on top of internalproblems. Together, they can form an accurate picture of the team’s effectiveness.

In addition to gathering and interpreting information, team leaders must take the rightaction based on this information. Determining the right action to take is at the very heartof team leadership. It involves selecting from among competing courses of action tofacilitate the team’s work (Barge, 1996). Leaders differ in their tendencies to take actionquickly (hasty to act) or their tendencies to delay taking action by analyzing the situation atlength (slow to act). “Hasty to act” leaders might prevent problems from getting out ofcontrol; however, they might not make the right intervention because they do not have allthe information, and such fast action might undermine the development of sharedleadership. “Slow to act” leaders might encourage other team members to emerge as leaders(shared leadership), but the action-taking delay might cause the team’s problem to becomeunmanageable.

The exact timing of a leadership intervention is as important as the specific type ofintervention (Wageman et al., 2009). It has been proposed that groups go throughdevelopmental stages of forming, storming, norming, performing, and adjourning(Tuckman & Jensen, 2010). Certain behaviors are common and even expected at each ofthese stages. If, for example, conflict was occurring during the storming stage of team life,the leadership might not intervene at that time but just continue monitoring. Or, theleadership might choose an intervention that advances the team to the next phase ofnorming. Others have described three phases of group life and the leadership needed duringeach: (1) motivational coaching (at start), (2) consultative coaching (at midpoint), and (3)educational coaching (at end). The important aspect of timing is that the leader shouldunderstand where the team is in its life cycle and provide the type of leadership needed atthat time (Hackman, 2012).

Leadership Decision 2:

Should I intervene to meet task or relational needs? Returning to the top box in Figure 14.1(“Leadership Decisions”), the second decision confronting the leader is whether the teamneeds help in dealing with relational issues or task issues. Since the early study of smallgroups, the focus has been on two critical leadership functions: task and maintenance. Taskleadership functions include getting the job done, making decisions, solving problems,adapting to changes, making plans, and achieving goals. Maintenance functions includedeveloping a positive climate, solving interpersonal problems, satisfying members’ needs,and developing cohesion. These two functions have also been referred to in terms of


performance and development (i.e., how well the team has accomplished its task and howwell the team has developed effective relationships).

Superior team leadership focuses constantly on both task and maintenance functions(Kinlaw, 1998); both types of leadership behaviors (task-focused and person-focused) havebeen found to be related to perceived team effectiveness (Burke et al., 2006).

Task functions are closely intertwined with relational functions. If the team is wellmaintained and has good interpersonal relationships, then the members will be able towork together effectively and get their job done. If not, they will spend all of their timeinfighting, sniping, and working at cross-purposes. Similarly, if the team is productive andsuccessful in accomplishing its task, it will be easier to maintain a positive climate and goodrelations. Conversely, failing teams often take their lack of performance out on each other,and fighting teams often accomplish little.

In virtual teams connected across time and space by electronic media, it is important tofocus on both task and relational issues (Han & Beyerlein, 2016). The focus on buildingteam relationships is even more critical for virtual teams than in traditional co-locatedteams. Virtual team leaders must be able to “read” all the personal and contextual nuancesin a world of electronic communications. They must be able to understand the possiblecauses of silence, misunderstanding, and slights without any of the usual signs to guidethem. Leaders must be sensitive to the team process and must pay attention to even smallmatters that could interfere with the team’s success (Pauleen, 2004). Virtual teams placeeven greater demands on team leaders—50% more time investment—than the moretraditional co-located team (Dyer, Dyer, & Dyer, 2007).

Research suggests that leaders of virtual teams should begin the team with face-to-facemeetings, if possible, to facilitate trust, comfort, and rapport. In addition, virtual teamleaders need to focus on project management and regular, organized team meetings.However, virtual team leaders need to be careful not to be too task focused and to alsowork to develop social relationships among the team. Virtual team leaders also need to keepliterate in all new communication technologies and know when to use them for optimalteamwork (Humbley, O’Neill, & Kline, 2009). As the prevalence of virtual teams expands,specific leadership issues and interventions related to these virtual teams are increasinglybecoming the focus of study (Berry, 2011; Cordery, Soo, Kirkman, Rosen, & Mathieu,2009; Zaccaro, Ardison, & Orvis, 2004).

Leadership Decision 3:

Should I intervene internally or externally? If a decision was made to take action or intervene,the leader must make the third strategic leadership decision in Figure 14.1 and determinewhat level of the team process needs leadership attention: internal leadership actions orexternal leadership actions. Do I need to intervene inside of the team, or is the problem


external to the team? Effective team leaders analyze and balance the internal and externaldemands of the team and react appropriately (Barge, 1996).

Is there internal conflict between members of the team? Then perhaps taking an internalrelational action to maintain the team and improve interpersonal relationships would bemost appropriate. Are the team goals unclear? Then perhaps an internal task intervention isneeded to focus on goals. Is the organizational environment not providing proper supportto the team to do its job? Then perhaps an external environmental intervention focusing onobtaining external support for the team might be the most appropriate intervention.

The current focus of research is on real-life organizational work teams that exist within alarger organizational environment. In addition to balancing the internal task and relationalneeds of the team, the leader has to help the team adapt to and function effectively in itsenvironment. Most teams focus on the internal problems of the team. But it is increasinglyimportant for teams to also be externally oriented to “reach across boundaries to forgedense networks of connection, both inside and outside the organization” so that they candeal effectively with the fast-changing environment (Ancona, Bresman, & Caldwell, 2009).

Leadership Actions

The middle section of the Hill Model for Team Leadership (Figure 14.1) lists a number ofspecific leadership actions that can be performed internally (“Task” and “Relational”) orexternally (“Environmental”). These lists are not exhaustive but are compiled from researchon team excellence and team performance discussed earlier in this chapter. For example,teams that have clear goals, standards, effective structure, and decision making will havehigher task performance. Teams that can manage conflict, collaborate well together, andbuild commitment will have good relationships. Teams that are well connected to andprotected from their environment will also be more productive.

It is up to the leader to assess what action, if any, is needed and then intervene with thespecific leadership function to meet the demands of the situation. The leader needs theability to perform these skills and to make a strategic choice as to the most appropriatefunction or skill for the intervention. For example, if the leader decided that team memberswere arguing, he or she might decide to initiate conflict management. To be an effectiveleader, one needs to respond with the action that is required of the situation. Thus, it is the jobof the leader to analyze and mediate the situation to make the best decisions for the good ofthe team. A detailed knowledge of group dynamics and interpersonal processes is key toeffective team leadership.

A team leader also needs to recognize and interpret what is getting in the way of the team’sgoal accomplishment and then make a strategic choice and respond with the appropriateaction (Gouran & Hirokawa, 1996). If a problem is diagnosed as a team performanceproblem, then the leader needs to determine the appropriate action to solve this task


problem (e.g., goal focusing, standard setting, or training). If a problem is diagnosed as ateam development problem, then the leader needs to determine the appropriate action tosolve this relational problem (e.g., managing conflict or building commitment). If aproblem is diagnosed as an environmental problem, then the leader needs to determine theappropriate action to solve this context problem (e.g., networking, advocating, or sharinginformation).

Internal Task Leadership Actions. The “Task” box in the Hill Model for Team Leadership(Figure 14.1) lists the set of skills or actions that the leader might perform to improve taskperformance. After monitoring the team’s performance, the leader might choose tointervene in one of the following task areas:

Goal focusing (clarifying, gaining agreement)

For example, if team members seem to be going off in different directions, the leadermight intervene to clarify the team’s goals or work with members to obtainagreement on goals.Structuring for results (planning, visioning, organizing, clarifying roles, delegating)

For example, if the leader determines that the team is stuck in day-to-day affairs andnot looking to or building for the future, then he or she might intervene by helpingthe team vision and plan for the future.Facilitating decision making (informing, controlling, coordinating, mediating,synthesizing, focusing on issues)

For example, if the leader determines that members are not adequately sharinginformation with each other, he or she might ask questions to seek out theinformation that is not being shared.Training team members in task skills (educating, developing)

For example, if the leader observes that the team members do not have the skillsnecessary to make well-reasoned decisions, the leader might provide a trainingseminar in decision making.Maintaining standards of excellence (assessing team and individual performance,confronting inadequate performance)

For example, if the leader observes that some team members are coming late tomeetings or not attending meetings, the leader might have to take direct action andconfront these members to address this inadequate performance.

Internal Relational Leadership Actions. The second set of internal leadership actions inFigure 14.1 reflects those that the leader needs to implement to improve team relationships.After monitoring the team’s performance, the leader might choose to intervene in one ofthe following interpersonal areas:


Coaching team members in interpersonal skills

For example, if the team leader observes that team members do not seem to belistening to one another, then he or she might intervene by leading team members ina listening exercise.Collaborating (including, involving)

For example, if the leader observes that some team members are not taking others’opinions into account, then the leader might intervene to encourage compromise.Managing conflict and power issues (fighting or avoiding confrontation, questioningideas, avoiding groupthink)

For example, if the leader observes that the members are not questioning ideas andare just agreeing with each other in order to move quickly to a decision, then theleader might intervene by providing a discussion on the negative aspects ofgroupthink (Neck & Manz, 1994).Building commitment and esprit de corps (being optimistic, innovating, envisioning,socializing, rewarding, recognizing)

For example, if the team seems to have low morale, the leader could intervene tobuild commitment and unity by recognizing past team successes.Satisfying individual member needs (trusting, supporting, advocating)

For example, if a team member seems stressed due to disrespect from other members,the leader might provide support to the upset member and advocate to the team onhis or her behalf.Modeling ethical and principled practices (fair, consistent, normative)

For example, if a team leader monitors the team and observes that it is inconsistentvis-à-vis the members sometimes treating in-group members differently from out-group members, then the leader might intervene and change his or her own behaviorto be fair and consistent to all members.

External Environmental Leadership Actions. The “External Leadership Actions” (Figure 14.1)reflect those actions the leader might implement to improve the environmental interfacewith the team. Real-