Moving to the Washington, DC area from the Midwest of Michigan presented a different perspective of leadership. Leadership in the blue-collar states of the Midwest for me was represented by hard work and dedication to a company. Many believe if you work hard for a company, you will gain new knowledge, and move up in your career, ultimately into a position of leadership.
By contrast, leadership in the Washington DC area seems to me to be represented by appointed or elected power and authority. It seems many attend business schools studying business management and aligning themselves with leaders and are thereby appointed to positions of leadership or authority based on power relationships. Depending on the type of leadership one is exposed to, it may cause you to judge one style as more valid than another.
Handbook of Leadership Theory and Practice, by Nitin Nohria and Rakesh Khurana, provides an academic treaties on leadership theory divided into five sections comprising, The Impact of Leadership: Performance and Meaning, The Theory of Leadership: Personal Attributes, Functions, and Relationships, The Variability of Leadership: What’s Core and Contingent, The Practice of Leadership: Agency and Constraint, and finally, The Development of Leaders: Knowing, Doing, and Being (Nohria and Khurana 2010). Leadership presented in these categories help to understand and validate a variety of leadership theories and practices.
I would identify the Midwest blue-collar type of leadership with Identity-based leader development as described in chapter 22 of section five, The Development of Leaders: Knowing, Doing and Being by Ibarra, Snook and Ramo. The authors state, “Our Identity-based leader development model posit that leader development unfolds as an identity transitions in which people disengage from central, behaviorally anchored identities while exploring new possible selves and eventually, integrate a new, alternative identity” (Nohria and Khurana 2010, 662). This position assumes that leadership is a process where leadership is gained through experience by taking on new roles and taking on the identity of the new role. This seems to me to fit with working your way up by hard work and following role models, which is typically the blue-collar work ethic.
The example of leadership I see in the Washington DC area relates to Power and Leadership as described in chapter 12 of section two, Power and Leadership by Joseph S. Nye, Jr. Nye states, “Leadership involves power, though not all power relationships are instances of leadership” and, “Leadership is a social relationship with three key components—leaders, followers, and the contexts in which they interact. One cannot lead without power” (Nohria and Khurana 2010, 305-306). Nye further divides power into hard, which uses inducements and threats, and soft, attractive power; (Nohria and Khurana 2010, 309). These examples remind me of the political work environment of Washington DC where many jockey for power and leadership using both hard and soft power.
Interestingly, these two examples of leadership are also found in the Bible. We see how David worked in the fields watching the sheep, fending them off from dangers such as lions and bears, moving up to slay a giant, taking on the identity of a great warrior. Even before David took on the role he was anointed for, King, he walked in that identity.
Conversely, King Saul was described in I Samuel 9:2 as, “a choice and handsome man, and there was not a more handsome person than he among the sons of Israel; from his shoulders and up he was taller than any of the people.” We see that Saul often used soft and hard power to rule the people of Israel; using the power of attraction, as well as breathing threats against David. Later we also see Absalom using the same combination of soft and hard power to first persuade the people to turn from David, and then threatening to kill his father, King David.
Although I focused on two types of leadership discussed in the readings, it is clear that there are many types of leadership, and leadership is truly a great gift. The study of leadership is not an exact science but there is much that we can learn from leaders both in the past and the present. The book, Handbook of Leadership Theory and Practice, by Nitin Nohria and Rakesh Khurana, is helpful in identifying the various theories and practices of leadership along with their advantages and disadvantages helping us to grow in our responsibilities as the next leaders.
Nohria, Nitin, and Rakesh Khurana. Handbook of Leadership Theory and Practice: A Harvard Business School Centennial Colloquium. Boston: Harvard Business School Publishing Corporation, 2010.