A Leader is an individual who influences others to follow him or her.
I was surprised to learn that there is a such a huge perceived lag between the need for good leaders and the research and training available to produce good leaders. “A common lament among executives is that their organizations suffer from a shortage of leadership talent.”
My undergraduate degree is in Business/Administration. It seemed like there were many leadership models and structures. Companies have boards, presidents, CEO’s, CFO’s, COO’s, upper management, middle management, lower management, supervisors, department heads and on and on. Isn’t everyone getting on ok? Why do we need so much more research?
After reading the book (Handbook of Leadership Theory and Practice – Edited by Nitin Nohria & Rakesh Khurana) and understanding the questions about leadership that are raised, I can agree with the editors and authors that there is a need for more research. There really is a lot more to think about than who to check off on the next Board of Directors election.
The members of the Harvard Business School Centennial Colloquium met to address and seek answers to questions in five main areas:
1. Is the leader’s main role to produce superior performance or to make meaning? Is the leader more like a manager or a figure head?
2. Is the leader a special person, or does he or she represent a special role?
3. What are the universal principles (if any) that are involved in leadership and what particular things are unique to each situation?
4. How much control, or agency, does a leader have and what are the constraints that limit his or her power?
5. How much emphasis should be placed on the leader as a “thinker and doer” as opposed to or in conjunction with the leader as “becoming and being”?
All of the books we have read so far touch on, in some way, our social interactions with others. And this book is no exception. Though it has an incredible amount of information on leadership theory and practice from many different perspectives, most of the authors address the area of leadership as a relationship between leaders and followers.
Doing my best to read syntopically (Adler), intelligently (Bayard), creatively, (Pink), critically (Elder), humbly (Lowney), interactively (Elliott), and reflectively (Grenz) I zeroed in on three articles that really resonated with an idea that Jason put into my head a few chats ago. I mentioned that I go to a church that does not allow women into leadership positions. But what is leadership? How do I use the gifts that God has given me to exercise whatever leadership (influence) role I may have? Here are some ideas:
1. “An emerging body of scholarship suggests that the most effective style of leadership in today’s world is ‘Transformational’” Transformational leaders work to gain trust and confidence in their followers and to empower them to develop their own potential.
Furthermore, “Meta-analyses of studies involving thousands of leaders suggest that women are somewhat more transformational than men, especially in providing support for subordinates.” At the minimum, I think a point could be made that an organization that leaves women out of leadership is missing some strengths that it could otherwise have.
2. Jay Lorsch prefers the term “influence” rather than “power” in his essay. “Power” is a situational variable that affects influence. But all leaders to be successful must have influence. He says that “…an individual is a leader whether she is a senior executive leading an effort to change the strategic direction of her company or is a supervisor leading a group of workers on an assembly line.” The task is to influence others to follow her.
Reflecting on Chris Lowney’s book, if we are all leaders then we need to carefully consider how we are influencing others. As a Christian woman in a church where women are denied “leadership” positions, is it possible that in answering God’s call to serve where I am, I have “influence” and don’t need “power”? Of course, power can be good (ethical supervisory) or bad (Machiavelli). How do we choose to use it? Don’t we tend to love leaders who serve but don’t exercise power? (Mother Theresa)
- In line with transformational and influential leadership, Bruce J. Avolio sought to lay the groundwork for “the next challenging frontier for both the science and practice of leadership – defining what constitutes genuine leadership development.” Building on the concept of transformational leadership, Lorsch sought to define genuine leaders as those who were “morally uplifting others, including such leaders a Nelson Mandela.” He clarified further, “An authentic leader is someone who is very self-aware, has a clear moral center, is transparent, and is a fair or balanced decision maker.”
4. In his paper on “An Economic Perspective on Leadership”, Mark Zupan declares that an important aspect of leadership is integrity. “without integrity nothing works.” (p. 278) Several other authors said that in order to be trusted, leaders need to walk the talk. (emphasis mine)
The world really wants the Mother Theresa’s and Nelson Mandela’s. People are angry about so many of our current political leaders. Is there something about the attitude of a humble, servant-like leader that is really attractive? Don’t we admire leaders who walk the talk? Does such a leader have tremendous influence?
How about that Man Who started with only twelve followers and then went away after only three years of leadership training leaving them to their task of taking His message of love and peace to the ends of the earth? Did He model transformational, influential, morally uplifting leadership? Did He walk the talk? What was that Man’s last bit of leadership training for his followers?
For who is greater, the one who reclines at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at the table? But I am among you as the one who serves. (Mt. 22:27)
 Jay Lorsch, “A Contingency Theory of Leadership”, Nitin Nohria and Rakesh Khurana Handbook of Leadership Theory and Practice (Boston Massachusetts: Harvard Business Press 2010), 414.
 Jay A. Conger, “Leadership Development Interventions: Ensuring a Return on the Investment”, Nohria, 709.
 Robin J. Ely and Deborah L. Rhode, “Women and Leadership: Defining the Challenges”, Nohria, 384. They are quoting from Avolio; I will have more to say from him later.
 Ibid. 384
 Lorsch, 414.
 Bruce J. Avolio, “Pursuing Authentic Leadership Development”, Nohria, 739.
 Ibid. 742.
 Ibid. 744.