Leaders as Heroes: Can They Liberate Themselves?

[We’re pleased to welcome author Gerardo D. Abreu Pederzini of the University of  Bath, UK. Pederzini recently published an article in the Journal of Management Inquiry entitled “Leaders, Power and the Paradoxical Position: Fantasies for Leaders’ Liberation. Below, Pederzini reflects on the inspiration for conducting this research:]

3042794481_1300140a3c_z.jpgOur world of illusions, sooner or later crumbles in front us. The dreams and fantasies that move us are doomed to show their true colors at some point or another. And, within those fantasies, that of the paternalistic leader is perhaps the most powerful. Since the times of the Romance of Leadership, we have known that people love a good hero story. Yet, finding out that the paternal figure, whoever that might be for us, is not as almighty as we used to think, is one of those crucial points in life when we cross a threshold from which most of the times we cannot go back. However, there is sometimes no way to avoid this moment, as the fantasy of great leaders usually ends with their inevitable fall. When I first realized this, I realized as well that there was a missing element in the latter narrative. We calm our fears and sorrows forcing certain people -leaders- to pretend they control it all. But, how do leaders feel playing a role that is probably doomed to fail?

It is like this that Leaders, Power and the Paradoxical Position: Fantasies for Leaders’ Liberation emerged from my curiosity to answer a perennial question: how do normal limited human beings (i.e. leaders) cope with the challenge of having to pretend that, for some magical reason, they know better than any of us what they are doing? Fantasy is the answer that my paper in the Journal of Management Inquiry proposes for the aforementioned question. But, it is not fantasy as pure magic that is explored in this paper, but fantasy as a subtle socio-cognitive process to find ways to disguise magic in reality itself. In short, it is magical realism fantasizing that explains how a group of leaders that I studied, were able to escape that paradoxical position of having to pretend that they can do it all, when actually knowing they cannot. Like this, the paper contributes to one fundamental aim: to rethink leaders from those who have all power to those that are actually subjects of it.

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Chalkboard photo attributed to thinkpublic (CC).

How Great Leadership Communication Yields Positive Job Satisfaction Scores

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Julian Erben of the University of Koblenz-Landau and Frank Schneider of the University of Mannheim. Erben and Schneider recently published an article in the International Journal of Business Communication entitled “In the Ear of the Beholder: Self-Other Agreement in Leadership Communication and Its Relationship With Subordinates’ Job Satisfaction,” co-authored by Michaela Maier. From Erben and Schneider:]

There is no doubt that effective leadership communication is one of the key factors for an organization’s success. But how good is leadership communication in the reality of everyday business? To answer this question, it’s not enough to rely solely on leaders’ self-ratings. Armed with a new instrument to assess the perceived quality of a leaders’ communication from the leaders own perspective and the perspective of their respective subordinates, we 17124643767_c7e281926f_z.jpgwere curious to explore how the perception of leadership communication within a leader-subordinate dyad may differ, and how different perceptions are related to concrete organizational outcomes.

The findings in this study underline the importance of taking into consideration both leader and subordinate perceptions of leadership communication. Results show, that they may in fact differ, and whether they differ or not is substantially related to relevant outcomes. It particularly points out the desirability of congruent positive perceptions of leadership communication as it appears to be a clear indicator of high job satisfaction of subordinates.

This has practical implications for the teaching and training of leadership communication, especially the importance of developing supervisory training programs that enhance the communicative behaviors of leaders and at the same time make them more perceptive for how their subordinates see things.

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Image attributed to David Sanabria (CC)

What It Takes to Lead in Life-Threatening Situations

[We’re pleased to welcome author Deirdre Dixon of the University of Tampa, Florida. Dixon recently published an article in the Journal of Leadership and Organization Studies entitled “Making Sense When It Matters Most: An Exploratory Study of Leadership In Extremis,” co-authored by Michael Weeks, Richard Boland, and Sheri Perelli. Below, Dixon explains the inspiration for conducting this research:]

I first became interested in leadership in dangerous environments as an Army officer serving in Iraq. I knew I wanted to help find out how we co3007805773_38716560d9_z.jpguld train our leaders in these difficult environments to become better.  I set out to discover how leaders make sense in these in extremis environments, and how did they give sense to their teams. This journey led me to interview 30 soldiers who had recently returned from conflict in the Middle East. As the US begins our 16th year with conflict in the Middle East, more and more leaders are faced with deploying overseas.  As our society changes and crises seem to be happening on US soil more frequently, more than just soldiers will have to understand leadership in crises environments.  This empirical study helps begin the dialogue.

The full abstract to the article is below:

Leading in in extremis situations, when lives are in peril, remains one of the least addressed areas of leadership research. Little is known about how leaders make sense in these dangerous situations and communicate these contexts to others. Because most of the literature on in extremis is theoretical, we sought empirical evidence of how sensemaking proceeds in practice. A qualitative study was conducted based on interviews with 30 Army leaders who had recently led teams in combat. Our findings suggest that during these life-threatening situations, sensemaking and sensegiving are actually occurring simultaneously, the type of training leaders receive is critical, and a sense of duty can influence a person’s role as a leader. Our findings have implications for both theory and practice since crisis leadership is now a coveted executive quality for leadership competency.

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Image attributed to the U.S. Army (CC)

Small Family Firms: How Knowledge is Shared

One could imagine that every small family firm has their particular habits when knowledge sharing, especially when the success (or failure) of the business relies on effective communication.

A recent study published in Family Business Review analyzes the different leadership approaches to knowledge sharing, and we are pleased to welcome one of the authors, James Cunningham, who reflects on the foundation and findings of the research. The paper, entitled “Perceptions of Knowledge Sharing Amongst Small Family Firm Leaders–A Structural Equation Model,” is co-authored by Claire Seaman and David McGuire. From Cunningham:]

Family firms are known for the unique ways in which they view and run their business. This has led many to believe that firms with a family influence behave differeFBR_72ppiRGB_powerpoint.jpgntly to their non-family counterparts. While a lot of research focuses on the many implications of this difference for the economic impact family firms, in terms of strategi
c direction, longevity, etc., we were more curious to know how the influence of family impacts what it is like inside the firm.

In this respect, knowledge is increasingly becoming the most important internal resource for a competitive organisation in the contemporary business environment. Integrating and exploiting the knowledge of people in the business has become one of the key activities of the modern business leader. The impact of leadership on how the firm manages knowledge is long established in the broader management literature, but our instincts would tell us that family firms will have their own way of approaching and managing knowledge. In this article, we uncover the different leadership behaviours played out in small family firms and how these behaviours are related to the leader’s perception of knowledge sharing in the firm. Essentially, we ask the question, does family influence help or hinder the development of a knowledge resource?

Unsurprisingly, we found a variety of leadership behaviours employed by family firm leaders. We present a choice in how the family firm views its knowledge resource. We suggest that a greater level of family influence implies more guidance-based leadership when it comes to knowledge. Knowledge here is considered a quality the family leaders have, which must be ‘distilled’ to other organisational members. While, the alternative is a participative approach to knowledge in the firm, one more accepting of input from others, but with the potential to reduce family control.

This choice of leadership approach is important for family business leaders to consider, as there are important implications for the development of their knowledge resource. We see these findings as part of a research direction which moves away from viewing family firms as a homogenous group, subject to the overbearing influence of family. Instead, we present the behaviours inside these organisation as choices, and these choices at the most basic level represent the business intentions of family firm leaders.

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Navigating the Study of Executive Leaders’ Spirituality

[Wejmia_26_1-cover’re pleased to welcome Dr. Stuart Allen, Associate Professor at Robert Morris University in Organizational Leadership. Allen recently published an article in Journal of Management Inquiry entitled “Navigating the Study of Executive Leaders’ Spirituality: André Delbecq’s Journey.” From Allen:]

We first began to communicate with André Delbecq in 2014. After reading his articles and hearing him speak at conferences we were eager to include him in an instructional video we were working on that addressed the role of spirituality in leadership and the workplace. André invited us to visit him at his home in San Francisco in early 2015 to video-record an hour long discussion. André is a renowned figure in the Academy of Management, and especially in the Management Spirituality and Religion (MSR) Interest Group, due to his long history of contributions to the management field (over 225 scholarly articles) and his pioneering work on topics such as the Nominal Group Technique. In his late career, in the late 1990s, André began to focus on executive leadership spirituality, publishing various accounts of his approach in delivering seminars on this topic to his graduate management students at Santa Clara University, where he served as senior fellow in the Ignatian Center for Jesuit Education and professor of management in the Leavey School of Business.

In the months following the interview, while editing the video footage, we realized that we had much more content than we could include in our initial video; we also recognized the depth of André’s rich experience and warm approach in sharing his experiences and perspective. After seeing an article about Fred Luthans (Sommer, 2006) in the unique Meet the Person format included in the Journal of Management Inquiry (JMI), we contacted André and JMI’s editors to gauge interest in an article in this format about André. In August 2016 we met with André for a second interview at the Academy of Management’s 2016 Annual Conference in Anaheim and spent another 90 minutes with André. He elaborated on some of the earlier issues we had explored with him while adding a great focus on his career and experiences as a pioneering teaching practitioner and author. By this time, we had come to know André better, and later that same morning we presented a panel with him and Jody Fry.

Wanting to see the interviews published, we finished the manuscript in September 2016 and sent it to André for his review and approval. He responded on October 1 letting us know that we could publish the article, but also letting us know he was experiencing some health challenges and would be heading to hospital. Twelve days later we heard of André’s passing. This was a challenging end to the beginning of great friendship as we were just getting to know André at a new level. We were also awed by his generosity and commitment to scholarship through the detailed comments we received in his review, even when he was ill and about to go to the hospital.

This article reports on the two interviews, providing a broader picture of André’s career and experiences as a pioneering scholar and teacher. André also shared some of his thinking about the current state of the MSR field and opportunities for new research. He has shared his thoughts on how to approach the challenges of researching new topics and the rewards he received for doing so. It is hard to communicate the full essence of the experience of working with André, who was a wise, patient, generous, bold, and joyful person to be with. He exemplified the transformative presence of a great leader and scholar. We were honored with the opportunity to capture his thoughts and experiences at what unexpectedly turned out to be the end of his life. Anyone who knew André, is interested in MSR research, teaching, and scholarship, or those seeking to learn from the example of pioneering scholar might enjoy reading the interview.

 

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#OSEditorPicks: Temporary Organizing and Institutional Change

org[We are pleased to welcome Trish Reay, Editor-in-Chief of Organization Studies.]

Much of today’s work is accomplished within projects. In Temporary Organizing and Institutional Change, recently published in Organization Studies, Sampo Tukiainen and Nina Granqvist investigate how people engage in temporary project work that ultimately holds potential for institutional change. They analyzed how events unfolded over time within a project designed to establish the “Innovation University” that contributed to a nationwide university reform in a European country. The article shows how the process of establishing this university took many twists and turns, and highlights the way that “lock-ins” can occur and promote change.

I particularly like this article because the authors show us the real messiness of such project work, while also giving attention to the temporal aspects of institutional change. Tukiainen and Granqvist develop a theoretical model of institutional project work that shows how actors engage in interactions while scoping and specifying the change. In addition, their case study suggests that successful institutional projects build on previous change attempts; the odds of success are improved by finding ways to build on previous activities and learning, even those arising from previous failures. This is an important article for everyone who wants to gain a greater understanding of temporary organizations and how they can drive institutional change.

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Learning to Lead: A Comparison of Women’s and General Leadership Development Programs

6109345368_004befc070_z[We’re pleased to welcome Keimei Sugiyama of Case Western Reserve University. Keimei recently published an article in Journal of Management Education with co-authors Kevin V. Cavanagh, Chantal van Esch, Diana Bilimoria, and Cara Brown entitled “Inclusive Leadership Development: Drawing from Pedagogies of Women’s and General Leadership Development Programs.” From Keimei:]

The importance of leadership development training focused on women has been well understood given the challenges of overcoming gender biases, stereotypes and unwritten rules that affect women in their leadership identity transition.  Yet there have also been shifts in how we think about the important qualities of leaders such that general programs include enhancing competence in self-awareness and emotional and social skills, making the work of leadership not just about meeting business demands but also about meeting the interpersonal needs of an increasingly globalized and diverse workforce.  If this is the case, then does there continue to be a need for women-focused programs or has our very understanding of leadership shifted enough to include women?

In this context, we were inspired to compare general and women’s leadership development programs in order to explore the following questions:

  • Are general and women’s leadership development programs becoming more similar or do they remain distinct in assumptions of what “leadership” is?
  • How do these assumptions affect how relating to others is addressed in developing as a leader?
  • How do these assumptions address the leadership identity transition of understanding both self and others to develop leadership capabilities?

What we found was that although General Leadership Development Programs JME(GLDPs) and Women’s Leadership Development Program (WLDPs) shared similar themes of leadership development, there was a stark contrast in what each type of program emphasized.  GLDPs were more likely to reflect assumptions of a leader as an independent self, separate from others, and manifested in more agentic and transactional leadership approaches.  WLDPs were more likely to reflect assumptions of a leader as a relational self, learning through connecting with others, and approaching the transition to leadership as relational and identity-based.  Given these contrasts and the challenges that continue to face women in the transition to leadership, we concluded that WLDPs do continue to offer significant value in supporting the advancement of women in leadership.

What surprised us in this study is that despite acknowledgement of the global context of the increasingly diverse workforce, both types of programs in their descriptions did not directly highlight how leadership involves being inclusive of multiple diverse identities and intersectionality (e.g., being a woman of color). We suggest that highlighting the importance of inclusive leadership that both values uniqueness and creates belonging for diverse multiple identities is important for any leadership development program.

We also developed a model that integrates pedagogies implicit in both types of programs to suggest a framework for inclusive leadership development. We anticipate that this framework will be helpful in better balancing and promoting more inclusive approaches to leadership in both types of programs. We also hope that this model helps to expand the research on inclusive leadership and informs new pathways for leaders to be developed in ways that value and enhance all their meaningful identities.

The abstract for the paper:

Trends in extant literature suggest that more relational and identity-based leadership approaches are necessary for leadership that can harness the benefits of the diverse and globalized workforces of today and the future. In this study, we compared general leadership development programs (GLDPs) and women’s leadership development programs (WLDPs) to understand to what extent program descriptions addressed inclusive leadership—leadership that draws on relational skills to value both the uniqueness and belonging needs of diverse identities to create business effectiveness for the long term. GLDPs predominantly reflected pedagogical assumptions of separate knowing, development of the autonomous self, and masculine leadership approaches of agentic and transactional leadership. In contrast, pedagogical assumptions of connected knowing, development of the relational self, and relational and identity-based leadership approaches were more prevalent in WLDPs. These findings suggest that WLDPs continue to offer significant value to supporting women leaders in their advancement, yet both WLDPs and GLDPs can do more to be inclusive of additional diverse identities to better develop leaders of the future who can lead with inclusive behaviors. We suggest a pedagogical framework for inclusive leadership development that may better balance and promote synergies between achieving business priorities and relating to others and their diverse identities.

You can read “Inclusive Leadership Development: Drawing from Pedagogies of Women’s and General Leadership Development Programs” from Journal of Management Education free for the next two weeks by clicking here. Want to be the first to know about the latest research published by Journal of Management EducationClick here to sign up for e-alerts!

*Image attributed to aiesecgermany (CC)