Leadership That Matters: The Critical Factors for Making a Difference in People's Lives and Organizations' Success

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Leadership That Matters examines transformational leadership-leadership that not only improves productivity and performance but also makes a positive difference in the lives of organization members. Traditional leaders achieve superior results because of their ability to transform people from dutiful followers into self-directed leaders who go beyond simply doing what is expected of them. Drawing on research that investigates leadership, culture, and performance in dozens of organizations, the Sashkins describe the specific behaviors and personal characteristics of transformational leaders. They show how you can construct an empowering organizational culture that nurtures self-reliance and long-term thinking. They offer practical advice on how you can become a transformational leader-and make leadership matter.

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Chapter One

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Good leadership consists of doing less and being more.

Lao Tzu 1

To those who really understand leadership, Lao Tzu’s assertion is no surprise. The classic Tao Te Ching, from which we took the above and other quotations in this book, was written by Lao Tzu more than two thousand years ago. The Tao is the source of many common sayings, such as “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

One reason the Tao was written was to help enlighten the warlords who then ruled various parts of China. One of Lao Tzu’s main aims was to show these rulers how to be better leaders. The essence of his eighty-one lessons can be found in Chapter 17 of the Tao. Our version goes like this:

Some leaders accomplish a great deal and are loved and praised by followers.

Lesser leaders use threat and fear to get results.

The worst leaders use force and lie; they are despised.

But of the best leaders, when the work is done and the goal attained, the people say, “We did it ourselves!”

We think that this is a wonderful illustration of how leadership matters. Leadership based on the leader’s engaging personality and style is not leadership that matters, in the long run. Cults fade and their leaders are forgotten, except to historians. And how often has a leader who was once loved and praised later turned to fear and threat of punishment to get results?

 

Chapter Two

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A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Tao Te Ching, Chapter 64

To begin to understand leadership that matters, we start with the beginning of leadership research. We will review some results of the past hundred years of formal research on leadership. But, before we can look at these research results, we must consider the definition of leadership and the difference between leadership and management.

Historically, researchers made little distinction between the terms “leadership” and “management.” In contrast, today there appears to be considerable agreement that management and leadership are not at all the same. Much of the research on leadership, however—even recent research—uses the two terms interchangeably.

Most of the research from 1900 to the early 1980s was limited to the study of supervisors and lower-level managers. Even through the 1950s you could count the number of research studies involving senior executives and CEOs on the fingers of one hand. It was not until 1977 that Abraham Zaleznik, an internationally recognized leadership scholar at Harvard University, published a classic essay outlining what he asserted were key differences between managers and leaders.1

 

Chapter Three

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The effective leader is aware of the importance of small actions.

Tao Te Ching, Chapter 63

In Chapter One we identified the three major themes of research on leadership: traits, behavior, and the situational context. In Chapter Two we saw that none of these themes produced a leadership approach, model, or theory that gave a convincing or especially useful answer to the questions, “What is leadership?” and “How can leaders be more effective?” It was the political historian James McGregor Burns who addressed these issues in a new way. He argued that leadership is about transforming people and social organizations, not about motivating employees to exchange work efforts for pay.

Burns didn’t explain just how leaders actually go about this transformational leadership process. Obviously, leaders must engage in actions—behaviors—that have this effect, but what are these behaviors? What dimensions underlie them? In this chapter we will explain how we identified the dimensions of transformational leadership behavior. This was a crucial first step in understanding the nature of transformational leadership.

 

Chapter Four

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Power comes through cooperation, independence through service, and a greater self through selflessness.

Tao Te Ching, Chapter 391

In Chapter Three, we described how various researchers, including ourselves, adopted Burns’ ideas about transformational leadership. The aim was to identify the behaviors associated with this new concept of leadership—an approach that raises leaders and followers to new levels of achievement and new heights of moral development.

We had some success in identifying such behaviors. However, we became concerned about this exclusive focus on leadership behaviors or, as training jargon now has it, “skillsets.” We remembered that researchers of the 1950s and ‘60s who studied leadership behaviors came to some false conclusions. Many believed, incorrectly, that by learning to use certain behavioral skills, one would become an effective leader.

The focus on behavioral skills proved to be quite limited in terms of producing strong effects on performance. We therefore became convinced that teaching leaders a new skillset could not account for the effects of transformational leadership. We felt that we had to look for something else, something more than behavioral skills, to really understand transformational leadership.

 

Chapter Five

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Good leaders serve followers, just as good followers serve.
A relationship of service goes both ways and benefits both. But to truly be of service is even more difficult for the leader than for the follower.

Tao Te Ching, Chapter 61

We concluded Chapter Three by mentioning the start of a search for some elusive factor that might explain the success of transformational leaders. Some call this factor “charisma.”1 However, using charisma to explain leaders’ success is merely another way of saying that we don’t know why they succeed. That is, we saw in Chapter Two that research of the early twentieth century failed to identify any clear leadership traits. And in Chapter Three we concluded that behavioral skills alone didn’t seem to define effective leadership, either. Simply labeling charisma as its source is not a satisfactory explanation for transformational leadership.

In Chapter Four, we proposed that one very important factor is the need for power. We traced the concept of charisma, to better understand two crucial issues in leadership. The first concerns the differences among transactional leadership, transformational leadership, and charismatic leadership. We showed that we could understand these differences in terms of the exercise of power. We examined how leaders develop a need for power. Finally, we looked at how leaders use power in positive and negative ways.

 

Chapter Six

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Everyone must decide whether or not to act. Understanding how things happen will help make clear the right decision.

Tao Te Ching, Chapter 73

In Chapters Four and Five we described a crucial aspect of transformational leadership, the need for power. It is neither a skill nor an aspect of the situation or context in which leadership occurs. It is part of the character of the leader.

A leader might, however, be more likely to act successfully on the basis of the power need in certain situations and contexts. For example, Adolph Hitler might not have been able to use his psychotic power need so effectively, had the economic situation in 1930s Germany been different. It might even have made a difference had Hitler received critical appreciation for his work as a painter.

Regardless of the situation, and irrespective of skills, the need for power is part of everyone’s personality. This need is an aspect of what we call “character,” the relatively stable dimensions of an individual’s personality. The power need is about feelings, what psychologists call “affect.” It concerns, in essence, the need we all feel for a degree of control over our lives and the world we live in. In Chapters Four and Five, we explored how this need develops and how it is directed.

 

Chapter Seven

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Some leaders look but don’t see how things happen … Understanding how things happen makes the right actions obvious … Effective leaders understand the consequences of actions.

Tao Te Ching, Chapters 35, 73, and 74

Chapter Three concluded with our recognition that there must be more to transformational leadership than learning a set of skills. Specifically, we came to believe that certain aspects of the leader’s character play a crucial role in guiding leadership action. Our notion of character is more than the old idea of fixed “traits.” We see key elements of the leader’s character as attributes that leaders can develop. The elements of leadership character parallel three basic aspects of human personality: emotion, cognition, and action.

In Chapter Four we began to explore the emotional nature of transformational leaders’ character. In that chapter we examined a central element of leadership character: the sense of power, or control, over one’s own life. Everyone needs such a sense of personal control, but this need is especially important for leaders. In Chapter Five we continued our examination of leaders’ need for power. Our focus there was on how leaders express power in their relationships with followers. Transformational leaders can empower followers because they are comfortably secure in their own sense of power. They want to empower followers because they understand that this is how work is done and goals attained in organizations.

 

Chapter Eight

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Change: What is flexible survives, what is unchanging dies.

Tao Te Ching, Chapter 76

Goals: A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Tao Te Ching, Chapter 64

Teamwork: Leaders and followers are part of a single whole; strength comes from this unity.

Tao Te Ching, Chapter 39

Culture: Leaders instill three values—compassion, sharing, and equality.

Tao Te Ching, Chapter 67

In Chapter Three we examined research designed to identify and measure the behaviors and skills used by transformational leaders. We identified several transformational leadership behaviors that came up consistently, across research studies. This led us to define and present our own versions of four especially important behaviors. These behaviors are skilled communication, trust-building, expression of care and respect for others, and creating empowerment opportunities. We realized, however, that this could not be the whole answer to the puzzle and practice of transformational leadership. These skilled behaviors express and illustrate transformational leadership in action. They do not, however, address the nature of transformational leadership and how it works. These actions are the result of transformational leadership, not its cause or source.

 

Chapter Nine

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When the leader knows how things happen, people deal effectively with change, with their goals, and with one another all by themselves.

Tao Te Ching, Chapter 37

Chapter Eight introduced and defined the organizational context. We described the four key functions that create the context. Finally, we focused in particular on how the organizational culture defines and maintains these functions. In this chapter we will explore just how leaders construct culture.

In his book Organizational Culture and Leadership, the noted organizational psychologist and consultant Edgar Schein identified a variety of ways that leaders construct culture.1 He said, for example, that “what leaders pay attention to” partly determines cultural values. Some of the methods he described are, in our view, especially important. What we and Schein agree on most, however, is that leaders do not create culture in the ways popularized by many management consultants. Developing rituals and ceremonies, a strategy advanced by many consultants to top management, does not construct culture. Neither is culture defined by storytelling or identifying organizational “heros.” Some see these methods as dramatic and inspiring, but we think of them as heavy-handed efforts to impose culture. Like Schein, we believe these methods may be useful for reinforcing existing cultural values. They are not, however, especially useful for creating or changing culture. How, then, do leaders go about constructing organizational culture?

 

Chapter Ten

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People don’t change and improve by listening to scholars … . Good leaders are the best teachers, for they need followers to teach and to serve.

Tao Te Ching, Chapters 19 and 27

In Chapter Nine we raised the issue of how transformational leaders transform organizations. We identified three specific strategies. First, these leaders, with the involvement of followers, define key values as part of an organizational philosophy. They then design and implement organizational policies, programs, and procedures based on those values. Finally, transformational leaders model the values with their own behavior. In these ways transformational leaders, working with followers, construct an organization’s culture.

Earlier, we said that transformational leaders transform people as well as organizations. In fact, transforming followers is a crucial aspect of transforming the organization. Leaders cannot engineer all of the steps in organizational transformation by themselves. For cultural transformation to be successful leaders must have the active help of many organization members. The followers must themselves have the necessary knowledge, skills, and abilities. Thus, leaders must transform followers so that followers can work with leaders to transform the organization.

 

Chapter Eleven

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The fundamental principle works regardless of our wishes or preferences… . Effective leaders don’t put on a show of being great but, knowing how things work, they can achieve great things.

Tao Te Ching, Chapters 5 and 34

We have until now implicitly asked you to accept the word of James McGregor Burns, and our word, as well, about the effects of transformational leadership. Burns asserted that this sort of leadership raises leaders and followers together to new heights of achievement and moral development. In prior chapters, we’ve tried to show what he and we mean by this.

Transformational leaders create organizational conditions in which organization members can develop their own leadership capabilities. These followers learn new behavioral skills and develop the three personal characteristics of transformational leadership within themselves. This seems to us a form of moral development. Leaders, too, develop in this process. They improve their own skills and characteristics; even more, transformational leaders develop morally, in constructing organizational cultures that benefit others. Thus they create meaning in their own lives and an organizational context in which others can make their own meaning.

 

Chapter Twelve

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There are enough “special issues” in leadership to fill several books. Certain issues, however, stand out to us. The four issues we will examine in this chapter are clearly important: women’s leadership, how empowerment works, uncertainty and ambiguity in organizations, and globalization. Moreover, each has an important connection to transformational leadership.

The first issue we will discuss is gender. That is, does gender make a difference? Are male and female transformational leaders essentially the same, other than gender? Are women as effective—or, perhaps, more effective—as transformational leaders than men? We have some interesting evidence that addresses these questions.

The second issue concerns empowerment, a term that has become so common in the management literature as to be almost meaningless. Nevertheless, empowerment is a central issue for transformational leadership, as we explained in Chapters Four and Five. How an individual’s need for power develops will determine, to some degree, the sort of a leader that person will be. Will a person become an exceptional transformational leader or a charismatic but narcissistic tyrant? A good manager or an empowered follower? Or, is an individual so desperate for a sense of power and control that total dependency on a leader appears a desirable option? Finally, just how does empowerment work? Again, we have empirical data that helps explain how empowerment works for transformational leaders.

 

Chapter Thirteen

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When people forget the principle of how things work they are faced with paradoxes… . Understanding the way things happen resolves paradoxes.

Tao Te Ching, Chapters 18 and 21

Although we have only begun our journey of a thousand miles, we believe that we’ve taken several important beginning steps. Those who write about leadership, researchers and scholars as well as popular authors and consultants, have many disagreements. These quarrels are sometimes vehement. However, we see most such differences as superficial. Our understanding of leadership points to a fundamental, underlying agreement, which we’ve called the “new paradigm” of transformational leadership.

In Chapter Three we expressed dissatisfaction with the notion of transformational leadership as a set of behavioral skills. As we looked for other answers, we began to see more of the underlying nature of transformational leadership. Our explorations led us to examine the personal characteristics of the leader (Chapters Four, Five, Six, and Seven). We then added to our approach an understanding of the situation, of leadership in context (Chapter Eight).

 

Appendix One

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This bibliography is divided into three sections. The first includes reports published in books and conference proceedings. Only reports that were subject to peer review and accepted for publication by referees and/or editors are listed.

Section Two lists papers presented at professional, scholarly meetings. Again, only papers that were accepted for presentation after being subjected to peer review are listed.

The third section lists doctoral dissertations investigating Visionary Leadership Theory.

Endeman, J.L. (1993) Visionary superintendents and their districts. In M. Sashkin and H.J. Walberg (Eds.), Educational leadership and school culture (pp. 146–162). Berkeley, CA: McCutchan.

Sashkin, M. (1988) The visionary leader: A new theory of organizational leadership. In J.A. Conger and R.N. Kanungo (Eds.), Charismatic leadership: The elusive factor in organizational effectiveness (pp. 120–160). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Sashkin, M. (1992) Strategic leadership competencies: What are they? How do they operate? What can be done to develop them? In R.L. Phillips and J.G. Hunt (Eds.), Leadership: A multiorganizational-level perspective (pp. 139–160). New York: Quorum Books.

 

Appendix Two

ePub

Our primary measure of leadership that matters is a questionnaire that asks about a leader’s behavior. It is usually completed by the leader and by several observers. The first version, published in 1984, assessed behaviors in five areas. It also measured followers’ feelings of charisma toward the leader. Five items measured each of the five behavior dimensions. There were a total of six scales and thirty items. We expanded this questionnaire to ten scales, adding scales to assess four dimensions of leadership defined by Bowers and Seashore.2 This fifty-item leadership assessment was published in 1985 as the Leader Behavior Questionnaire (LBQ).

Over the next ten years we continued to develop and refine our questionnaire. We dropped some measures (the four Bowers-Seashore dimensions of leadership, for example) and added others (measures of character and culture building). In 1995, we made three major revisions to the LBQ. First, we reduced the behavior scales from five to four. The first two scales both dealt with communication, so we combined them into a single measure. Second, we combined the two culture-building scales into a single measure. Finally, we added two scales to assess transactional leadership. Because our research has, since then, been based on use of this new assessment questionnaire, The Leadership Profile (TLP), the psychometric properties of earlier versions won’t be reviewed here. We’ll define and give examples of items from each scale of the TLP.

 

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