top answer: 1 2 LEADERSHIP Ninth Edition 3 4 DEDICATION To Madison, Isla, Sullivan, and Edi



Don't use plagiarized sources. Get Your Custom Essay on
top answer: 1 2 LEADERSHIP Ninth Edition 3 4 DEDICATION To Madison, Isla, Sullivan, and Edi
Just from $10/Page
Order Essay



Ninth Edition



To Madison, Isla, Sullivan, and Edison




Theory and Practice

Ninth Edition

Peter G. Northouse

Western Michigan University

Los Angeles


New Delhi


Washington DC





SAGE Publications, Inc.

2455 Teller Road

Thousand Oaks, California 91320

E-mail: [email protected]

SAGE Publications Ltd.

1 Oliver’s Yard

55 City Road

London EC1Y 1SP

United Kingdom

SAGE Publications India Pvt. Ltd.

B 1/I 1 Mohan Cooperative Industrial Area

Mathura Road, New Delhi 110 044


SAGE Publications Asia-Pacific Pte. Ltd.

18 Cross Street #10-10/11/12

China Square Central

Singapore 048423

Copyright © 2022 by SAGE Publications, Inc.

All rights reserved. Except as permitted by U.S. copyright law, no part of
this work may be reproduced or distributed in any form or by any means, or


stored in a database or retrieval system, without permission in writing from
the publisher.

All third party trademarks referenced or depicted herein are included solely
for the purpose of illustration and are the property of their respective

owners. Reference to these trademarks in no way indicates any relationship
with, or endorsement by, the trademark owner.

Printed in Canada

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Names: Northouse, Peter Guy, author.

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

Description: Ninth Edition. | Thousand Oaks : SAGE Publishing, 2021. | Revised edition of
the author’s Leadership, [2019] | Includes bibliographical references and index.

Identifiers: LCCN 2020045038 | ISBN 9781544397566 (paperback) | ISBN
9781071836149 | 9781071834466 (epub) | ISBN 9781071834473 (epub) | ISBN

9781071834480 (pdf)

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

Classification: LCC HM1261 .N67 2021 | DDC 303.3/4—dc23 LC record available at

This book is printed on acid-free paper.

21 22 23 24 25 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Acquisitions Editor: Maggie Stanley

Content Development Editor: Lauren Gobell

Editorial Assistant: Sarah Wilson

Production Editor: Tracy Buyan

Copy Editor: Melinda Masson

Typesetter: C&M Digitals (P) Ltd.


Proofreader: Jennifer Grubba

Indexer: Integra

Cover Designer: Gail Buschman

Marketing Manager: Jennifer Jones




About the Author
About the Contributors
Chapter 1 Introduction
Chapter 2 Trait Approach
Chapter 3 Skills Approach
Chapter 4 Behavioral Approach
Chapter 5 Situational Approach
Chapter 6 Path–Goal Theory
Chapter 7 Leader–Member Exchange Theory
Chapter 8 Transformational Leadership
Chapter 9 Authentic Leadership
Chapter 10 Servant Leadership
Chapter 11 Adaptive Leadership
Chapter 12 Inclusive Leadership
Chapter 13 Followership
Chapter 14 Gender and Leadership
Chapter 15 Leadership Ethics
Chapter 16 Team Leadership
Author Index
Subject Index




About the Author
About the Contributors
Chapter 1 Introduction

Leadership Defined
Ways of Conceptualizing Leadership
Definition and Components

Leadership Described
Trait Versus Process Leadership
Assigned Versus Emergent Leadership
Leadership and Power
Leadership and Coercion
Leadership and Morality

Leadership Is a Neutral Process
Leadership Is a Moral Process

Leadership and Management
Plan of the Book
Case Study
Case 1.1 Open Mouth . . .
Leadership Instrument
Conceptualizing Leadership Questionnaire

Chapter 2 Trait Approach

Five-Factor Personality Model and Leadership
Strengths and Leadership
Emotional Intelligence

How Does the Trait Approach Work?


Case Studies

Case 2.1 Choosing a New Director of Research
Case 2.2 Recruiting for the Bank
Case 2.3 Elon Musk

Leadership Instrument
Leadership Trait Questionnaire (LTQ)

Chapter 3 Skills Approach

Three-Skill Approach

Technical Skills
Human Skills
Conceptual Skills
Summary of the Three-Skill Approach

Skills Model
Individual Attributes
Influences on Skills Development
Leadership Outcomes
Summary of the Skills Model

How Does the Skills Approach Work?
Case Studies

Case 3.1 A Strained Research Team
Case 3.2 Andy’s Recipe
Case 3.3 2019 Global Teacher of the Year: Peter Tabichi

Leadership Instrument
Skills Inventory

Chapter 4 Behavioral Approach

Task and Relationship Behaviors
Task Orientation


Relationship Orientation
Historical Background of the Behavioral Approach

The Ohio State Studies
The University of Michigan Studies
Blake and Mouton’s Managerial (Leadership) Grid

Recent Studies
How Does the Behavioral Approach Work?
Case Studies

Case 4.1 A Drill Sergeant at First
Case 4.2 We Are Family
Case 4.3 Cheer Coach Monica Aldama

Leadership Instrument
Leadership Behavior Questionnaire

Chapter 5 Situational Approach

Leadership Style
Development Level

How Does SLII® Work?
Case Studies

Case 5.1 Marathon Runners at Different Levels
Case 5.2 Getting the Message Across
Case 5.3 Philosophies of Chinese Leadership

Leadership Instrument
SLII® Questionnaire: Sample Items

Chapter 6 Path–Goal Theory

Leader Behaviors


Directive Leadership
Supportive Leadership
Participative Leadership
Achievement-Oriented Leadership

Follower Characteristics
Task Characteristics

How Does Path–Goal Theory Work?
Case Studies

Case 6.1 Three Shifts, Three Supervisors
Case 6.2 Playing in the Orchestra
Case 6.3 Row the Boat

Leadership Instrument
Path–Goal Leadership Questionnaire

Chapter 7 Leader–Member Exchange Theory

Early Studies
Later Studies
Leadership Development

Emotions and LMX Development
How Does LMX Theory Work?
Case Studies

Case 7.1 His Team Gets the Best Assignments
Case 7.2 Working Hard at Being Fair
Case 7.3 Pixar: Creating Space for Success

Leadership Instrument
LMX-7 Questionnaire

Chapter 8 Transformational Leadership

Transformational Leadership Defined


Transformational Leadership and Charisma
A Model of Transformational Leadership

Transformational Leadership Factors
Transactional Leadership Factors
Nonleadership Factor
Transformational Leadership Measurements

Other Transformational Perspectives
Bennis and Nanus
Kouzes and Posner

How Does the Transformational Leadership Approach Work?
Case Studies

Case 8.1 The Vision Failed
Case 8.2 An Exploration in Leadership
Case 8.3 Grandmothers and Benches

Leadership Instrument
Transformational Leadership Inventory

Chapter 9 Authentic Leadership

Authentic Leadership Defined
Approaches to Authentic Leadership

Practical Approach
Theoretical Approach

How Does Authentic Leadership Work?
Case Studies

Case 9.1 Am I Really a Leader?
Case 9.2 Kassie’s Story
Case 9.3 The Arena of Authenticity

Leadership Instrument
Authentic Leadership Self-Assessment Questionnaire



Chapter 10 Servant Leadership

Servant Leadership Defined
Historical Basis of Servant Leadership
Ten Characteristics of a Servant Leader
Building a Theory About Servant Leadership

Model of Servant Leadership
Antecedent Conditions
Servant Leader Behaviors
Summary of the Model of Servant Leadership

How Does Servant Leadership Work?
Case Studies

Case 10.1 Global Health Care
Case 10.2 Servant Leadership Takes Flight
Case 10.3 Energy to Inspire the World

Leadership Instrument
Servant Leadership Questionnaire

Chapter 11 Adaptive Leadership

Adaptive Leadership Defined

A Model of Adaptive Leadership
Situational Challenges

Technical Challenges
Technical and Adaptive Challenges
Adaptive Challenges

Leader Behaviors
Adaptive Work

How Does Adaptive Leadership Work?
Case Studies


Case 11.1 Silence, Stigma, and Mental Illness
Case 11.2 Taming Bacchus
Case 11.3 Agonizing Options for Marlboro College

Leadership Instrument
Adaptive Leadership Questionnaire

Chapter 12 Inclusive Leadership

Inclusion Defined

A Model of Inclusive Leadership
Antecedent Conditions

Leader Characteristics
Group Diversity Cognitions
Organizational Policies and Practices

Inclusive Leadership Behaviors

How Does Inclusive Leadership Work?


Case Studies
Case 12.1 Difficult Decision
Case 12.2 The Extraversion Advantage
Case 12.3 Inclusive Leadership During a Crisis

Leadership Instrument
Inclusive Leadership Reflection Instrument

Chapter 13 Followership

Followership Defined
Role-Based and Relational-Based Perspectives
Typologies of Followership

The Zaleznik Typology
The Kelley Typology


The Chaleff Typology
The Kellerman Typology

Theoretical Approaches to Followership
Reversing the Lens
The Leadership Co-Created Process
New Perspectives on Followership

Perspective 1: Followers Get the Job Done
Perspective 2: Followers Work in the Best Interest of
the Organization’s Mission
Perspective 3: Followers Challenge Leaders
Perspective 4: Followers Support the Leader
Perspective 5: Followers Learn From Leaders

Followership and Destructive Leaders
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

How Does Followership Work?
Case Studies

Case 13.1 Bluebird Care
Case 13.2 Olympic Rowers
Case 13.3 Penn State Sexual Abuse Scandal

Leadership Instrument
Followership Questionnaire

Chapter 14 Gender and Leadership

The Glass Ceiling Turned Labyrinth

Evidence of the Leadership Labyrinth
Understanding the Labyrinth

Gender Differences in Leadership Styles and Effectiveness


Navigating the Labyrinth
Case Studies

Case 14.1 The “Glass Ceiling”
Case 14.2 Pregnancy as a Barrier to Job Status
Case 14.3 Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand

Leadership Instrument
Gender-Leader Bias Questionnaire

Chapter 15 Leadership Ethics

Ethics Defined

Level 1. Preconventional Morality
Level 2. Conventional Morality
Level 3. Postconventional Morality

Ethical Theories
Centrality of Ethics to Leadership
Heifetz’s Perspective on Ethical Leadership
Burns’s Perspective on Ethical Leadership
The Dark Side of Leadership
Principles of Ethical Leadership

Ethical Leaders Respect Others
Ethical Leaders Serve Others
Ethical Leaders Are Just
Ethical Leaders Are Honest
Ethical Leaders Build Community

Case Studies

Case 15.1 Choosing a Research Assistant
Case 15.2 Reexamining a Proposal
Case 15.3 Ship Shape

Leadership Instrument
Ethical Leadership Style Questionnaire (Short Form)


Chapter 16 Team Leadership

Team Leadership Model

Team Effectiveness
Leadership Decisions
Leadership Actions

How Does the Team Leadership Model Work?
Case Studies

Case 16.1 Team Crisis Within the Gates
Case 16.2 Starts With a Bang, Ends With a Whimper
Case 16.3 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team

Leadership Instrument
Team Excellence and Collaborative Team Leader

Author Index
Subject Index



As this ninth edition of Leadership: Theory and Practice goes to press, the
number of confirmed deaths worldwide from the COVID-19 pandemic is
over 1 million. The horrific nature of this pandemic has challenged societies
on a global scale and highlights for all of us the importance of
understanding how leadership works and the value of leadership in times of
crisis. To that end, this edition is written with the objective of bridging the
gap between the often-simplistic popular approaches to leadership and the
more abstract theoretical approaches. Like the previous editions, this edition
reviews and analyzes a selected number of leadership theories, giving
special attention to how each theoretical approach can be applied in real-
world organizations. In essence, my purpose is to explore how leadership
theory can inform and direct the way leadership is practiced.



First and foremost, this edition includes a new chapter on inclusive
leadership, which examines the nature of inclusive leadership, its
underpinnings, and how it functions. Authored by two scholars in the areas
of diversity and inclusion, Donna Chrobot-Mason and Quinetta Roberson,
the chapter presents definitions, a model, and the latest research and
applications of this emerging approach to leadership. Underscored in the
chapter is how inclusion is an integration of two factors: (1) an individual’s
connectedness to others and (2) a person’s uniqueness. Finally, this new
chapter provides case studies and leadership instruments to explore how to
practice inclusive leadership in a variety of contexts.

In addition to the discussion of inclusive leadership in Chapter 12, this
edition includes an expanded analysis of leadership and morality—the
“Hitler Question.” It discusses the perplexing question of whether the
process of leadership is inherently a moral process that is concerned with
the common good or whether it is a neutral process that is not dependent on
promoting the common good.

Another new feature in this edition is the inclusion of a real-world case
study in each chapter. Because it is important to acknowledge and see real
leaders exhibiting the behaviors and concepts behind the leadership
approaches discussed in the text, the third case study in each chapter
profiles a leader that epitomizes the chapter’s concepts. These new real-
world case studies include profiles from across the globe including a mental
health program utilizing grandmothers in Africa, an Italian energy
company, and New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern. In addition,
there are profiles of leaders responding to crisis including closing a college
and battling COVID-19 on a U.S. aircraft carrier.

This edition retains many special features from previous editions but has
been updated to include new research findings, figures and tables, and
everyday applications for many leadership topics including leader–member
exchange theory, transformational and authentic leadership, team
leadership, the labyrinth of women’s leadership, and historical definitions of


leadership. In addition, it includes an expanded look at the relationship
between emotional intelligence and leadership. The format of this edition
parallels the format used in earlier editions. As with previous editions, the
overall goal of Leadership: Theory and Practice is to advance our
understanding of the many different approaches to leadership and ways to
practice it more effectively.



Although this text presents and analyzes a wide range of leadership
research, every attempt has been made to present the material in a clear,
concise, and interesting manner. Reviewers of the book have consistently
commented that clarity is one of its major strengths. In addition 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 then practice.

Every chapter contains a discussion of the strengths and criticisms of
the approach under consideration, and assists readers in determining
the relative merits of each approach.

Each chapter includes an application section that discusses the
practical aspects of the approach and how it could be used in today’s
organizational settings.

Three case studies are provided in each chapter to illustrate common
leadership issues and dilemmas. Thought-provoking questions follow
each case study, helping readers to interpret the case.

A questionnaire is provided in each of the chapters to help readers
apply the approach to their own leadership style or setting.

Figures and tables illustrate the content of the theory and make the
ideas more meaningful.

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 of how it applies to real-life situations. Thus, it is intended for
undergraduate and graduate classes in management, leadership studies,
business, educational leadership, public administration, nursing and allied
health, social work, criminal justice, industrial and organizational
psychology, communication, religion, agricultural education, political and
military science, and training and development. It can also be utilized
outside of academia by small and large companies, as well as federal
government agencies, to aid in developing the learner’s leadership skills. It
is particularly well suited as a supplementary text for core organizational
behavior courses or as an overview text within MBA curricula. This book
would also be useful as a text in student activities, continuing education, in-
service training, and other leadership-development programs.



This text includes an array of instructor teaching materials designed to save
you time and to help you keep students engaged. To learn more, visit or contact your SAGE representative at

In the electronic edition of the book you have purchased, there are
several icons that reference links (videos, journal articles) to
additional content. Though the electronic edition links are not live,
all content referenced may be accessed at . This URL is referenced
at several points throughout your electronic edition.



Many people directly or indirectly contributed to the development of the
ninth edition of Leadership: Theory and Practice. First, I would like to
acknowledge my editor, Maggie Stanley, and her talented team at SAGE
Publications (Lauren Gobell and Sarah Wilson), who have contributed in so
many different ways to the quality and success of this book. For their very
capable work during the production phase, I would like to thank the copy
editor, Melinda Masson, and the project editor, Tracy Buyan. In her own
unique way, each of these people made valuable contributions to the ninth

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

Sidney R. Castle, National University

Jason Headrick, Texas Tech University

Michelle Jefferson, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

Gary F. Kohut, The University of North Carolina at Charlotte

R. Jeffery Maxfield, Utah Valley University

Daniel F. Nehring, Morehead State University

Michael Pace, Texas A&M University

Heather I. Scott, Kennesaw State University

Charlotte Silvers, Texas Tech University

Elena Svetieva, University of Colorado Colorado Springs

Mark Vrooman, Utica College


Isaac Wanasika, University of Northern Colorado

Rosie Watwood, Concordia University Texas

I would like to thank the following reviewers for their valuable
contributions to the development of the eighth-edition manuscript:

Sandra Arumugam-Osburn, St. Louis Community College–Forest Park

Rob Elkington, University of Ontario Institute of Technology

Abimbola Farinde, Columbia Southern University

Belinda S. Han, Utah Valley University

Deborah A. Johnson-Blake, Liberty University

Benjamin Kutsyuruba, Queen’s University

Chenwei Liao, Michigan State University

Heather J. Mashburn, Appalachian State University

Comfort Okpala, North Carolina A&T State University

Ric Rohm, Southeastern University

Patricia Dillon Sobczak, Virginia Commonwealth University

Victor S. Sohmen, Drexel University

Brigitte Steinheider, University of Oklahoma-Tulsa

Robert Waris, University of Missouri–Kansas City

Sandi Zeljko, Lake-Sumter State College


Mary Zonsius, Rush University

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

Hamid Akbari, Winona State University

Meera Alagaraja, University of Louisville

Mel Albin, Excelsior College

Thomas Batsching, Reutlingen University

Cheryl Beeler, Angelo State University

Julie Bjorkman, Benedictine University

Mark D. Bowman, Methodist University

Dianne Burns, University of Manchester

Eric Buschlen, Central Michigan University

Steven Bryant, Drury University

Daniel Calhoun, Georgia Southern University

David Conrad, Augsburg College

Joyce Cousins, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland

Denise Danna, LSUHSC School of Nursing

S. Todd Deal, Georgia Southern University

Caroline S. Fulmer, University of Alabama


Brad Gatlin, John Brown University

Greig A. Gjerdalen, Capilano University

Andrew Gonzales, University of California, Irvine

Decker B. Hains, Western Michigan University

Amanda Hasty, University of Colorado–Denver

Carl Holschen, Missouri Baptist University

Kiran Ismail, St. John’s University

Irma Jones, University of Texas at Brownsville

Michele D. Kegley, University of Cincinnati, Blue Ash College

Jeanea M. Lambeth, Pittsburg State University

David Lees, University of Derby

David S. McClain, University of Hawaii at Manoa

Carol McMillan, New School University

Richard Milter, Johns Hopkins University

Christopher Neck, Arizona State University–Tempe

Keeok Park, University of La Verne

Richard Parkman, University of Plymouth

Lori M. Pindar, Clemson University

Chaminda S. Prelis, University of Dubuque

Casey Rae, George Fox University


Noel Ronan, Waterford Institute of Technology

Louis Rubino, California State University, Northridge

Shadia Sachedina, Baruch College (School of Public Affairs)

Harriet L. Schwartz, Carlow University

Kelli K. Smith, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

David Swenson, The College of St. Scholastica

Danny L. Talbot, Washington State University

Robert L. Taylor, University of Louisville

Precious Taylor-Clifton, Cambridge College

John Tummons, University of Missouri

Kristi Tyran, Western Washington University

Tamara Von George, Granite State College

Natalie Walker, Seminole State College

William Welch, Bowie State University

David E. Williams, Texas Tech University

Tony Wohlers, Cameron University

Sharon A. Wulf, Worcester Polytechnic Institute School of Business

Alec Zama, Grand View University

Xia Zhao, California State University, Dominguez Hills


In addition, I would like to thank, for their exceptional work on the
leadership profile tool and the ancillaries, Isolde Anderson (Hope College),
John Baker (Western Kentucky University), and Eric Buschlen.

A very special acknowledgment goes to Laurel Northouse who has been my
number-one critic and supporter from the inception of the book in 1990 to
the present. In addition, I am especially grateful to Marie Lee for her
exceptional editing and guidance throughout this project. For her
comprehensive literature reviews and chapter updates, I would like to thank
Terri Scandura.

For his review of and comments on the morality and leadership section, I
am indebted to Joseph Curtin (Northeastern University). I would like to
thank Kate McCain (University of Nebraska–Lincoln) and Jason Headrick
(University of Nebraska–Lincoln) for their contributions to the adaptive
leadership chapter, John Baker for his contributions to the team leadership
chapter, Jenny Steiner for her case study on adaptive leadership, Jeff Brink
for sharing his story about transformational leadership, and Kassandra
Gutierrez for her case study on authentic leadership. In addition, I would
like to acknowledge Barbara Russell (Chemeketa Community College) for
her research and writing of many of the new real-world case studies.

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




Peter G. Northouse,
PhD, is Professor Emeritus of Communication in the School of Communication at
Western Michigan University. Leadership: Theory and Practice is the best-selling
academic textbook on leadership in the world and has been translated into 16 languages.
In addition to authoring publications in professional journals, he is the author of
Introduction to Leadership: Concepts and Practice (now in its fifth edition) and co-
author of Leadership Case Studies in Education (now in its third edition) and Health
Communication: Strategies for Health Professionals (now in its third edition). His
scholarly and curricular interests include models of leadership, leadership assessment,
ethical leadership, and leadership and group dynamics. For more than 30 years, he has
taught undergraduate and graduate courses in leadership, interpersonal communication,
and organizational communication on both the undergraduate and graduate levels.
Currently, he is a consultant and lecturer on trends in leadership research, leadership
development, and leadership education. He holds a doctorate in speech communication
from the University of Denver, and master’s and bachelor’s degrees in communication
education from Michigan State University.



Donna Chrobot-Mason,
PhD, is an associate professor and director of the Center for Organizational
Leadership at the University of Cincinnati (UC). She is director of UC
Women Lead, a 10-month executive leadership program for high-potential
women at UC. Her research and consulting work has spanned two decades
and centers on leadership across differences and strategies for creating
organizations that support diversity, equity, and inclusion and foster
intergroup collaboration. She has published nearly 40 articles and scholarly
works in journals such as the Journal of Management, The Leadership
Quarterly, Journal of Organizational Behavior, and Group and
Organization Management. She has served on the editorial review board for
the Journal of Management, Personnel Psychology, and the Journal of
Business and Psychology. Her book (co-authored with Chris Ernst),
Boundary Spanning Leadership: Six Practices for Solving Problems,
Driving Innovation, and Transforming Organizations, was published by
McGraw-Hill Professional in 2010. Dr. Chrobot-Mason has been invited to
address numerous audiences including the Brookings Institute, Federal
Bureau of Investigation, Environmental Protection Agency, Internal
Revenue Service, Catholic Health Partners, and the International
Leadership Association. She has consulted with numerous organizations
including Briggs and Stratton, Dayton Public Schools, Boehringer-
Ingelheim, Emory University, Milacron, and Forest City Enterprises. She
holds a PhD and master’s degree in applied psychology from the University
of Georgia.

Crystal L. Hoyt
is a professor and associate dean for academic affairs, and holds the
Thorsness Endowed Chair in Ethical Leadership at the Jepson School of
Leadership Studies at the University of Richmond. Her research explores
the role of belief systems, such as mindsets, self-efficacy, stereotypes, and
political ideologies, in a range of social issues including stigma and
discrimination, ethical failures in leadership, leadership and educational
achievement gaps, public health, and wealth inequality. Dr. Hoyt’s research
appears in journals such as Psychological Science, Journal of Experimental
and Social Psychology, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, Group


Processes & Intergroup Relations, and The Leadership Quarterly. She has
published over 70 journal articles and book chapters and has co-edited three
books. Dr. Hoyt is an associate editor at the Journal of Experimental
Psychology: General, is on the editorial boards at Leadership Quarterly and
Sex Roles, and has served as a reviewer for over 45 journals.

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

Quinetta Roberson,
PhD, is the John A. Hannah Distinguished Professor of Management and
Psychology at Michigan State University. Prior to her current position, she
was an Endowed Chair at Villanova University and a tenured professor at
Cornell University. She has been a visiting scholar at universities on six
continents and has more than 20 years of global experience in teaching
courses, facilitating workshops, and advising organizations on diversity and
inclusion, leadership, and talent management. Dr. Roberson has published
over 40 scholarly journal articles and book chapters and edited a Handbook
of Diversity in the Workplace (2013). Her research and consulting work
focus on developing organizational capability and enhancing effectiveness
through the strategic management of people, particularly diverse work
teams, and is informed by her background in finance, having worked as a
financial analyst and small business development consultant prior to
obtaining her doctorate. She earned her PhD in organizational behavior
from the University of Maryland and holds undergraduate and graduate
degrees in finance.

Stefanie Simon
is an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at Siena College.
She earned 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 College before joining the faculty at Siena. Her research
centers on the psychology of diversity, with a focus on prejudice,
discrimination, and leadership. In her work, she focuses on the perspective
of the target of prejudice and discrimination, as well as the perspective of
the perpetrator of prejudice and discrimination. She is particularly
interested in how leaders of diverse groups can promote positive intergroup
relations and reduce inequality in society. She has published articles in
various psychology and leadership journals including The Leadership
Quarterly, Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, Social Psychological
and Personality Science, and Sex Roles.



Leadership is a highly sought-after and highly valued commodity. In the 25 years since the first edition of this
book was published, the public has become increasingly captivated by the idea of leadership. People continue to
ask themselves and others what makes good leaders. As individuals, they seek more information on how to
become effective leaders. As a result, bookstore shelves are filled with popular books about leaders and how to be
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 believe these individuals bring special assets to their
organizations and, ultimately, improve the bottom line. Academic institutions throughout the country have
responded by offering programs in leadership studies, including at the master’s and doctoral levels.

In addition, leadership has gained the attention of researchers worldwide. Leadership research is increasing
dramatically, and findings underscore that there is a wide variety of different 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; J. Gardner, 1990; W. Gardner et al., 2020; Hickman,
2016; Mumford, 2006; Rost, 1991). Some researchers conceptualize leadership as a trait or as a behavior, whereas
others view leadership from an information-processing perspective or relational standpoint.

Leadership has been studied using both qualitative and quantitative methods in many contexts, including small
groups, therapeutic groups, and large organizations. In recent years, this research has included experiments
designed to explain how leadership influences follower attitudes and performance (Podsakoff & Podsakoff, 2019)
in hopes of increasing the practical usefulness of leadership research.

Collectively, the research findings on leadership provide a picture of a process that is far more sophisticated and
complex than the often-simplistic view presented in some of the popular books on leadership.

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



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 different definitions of leadership as there are people who
have tried to define it. It is much like the words democracy, love, and peace. Although each of us intuitively knows
what we mean by such 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 century without 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 a
challenging endeavor for scholars and practitioners alike. More than a century has lapsed since leadership
became 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
of the discipline in which the topic is being studied. In a seminal work, Rost (1991) analyzed materials
written from 1900 to 1990, finding more than 200 different definitions for leadership. His analysis
provides a succinct history of how leadership has been defined through the last century:



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



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



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



Three 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 on behavior
of the leader; and

effectiveness, in which leadership was defined by the ability to influence overall group effectiveness.



Although a tumultuous time for world affairs, the 1960s saw harmony among leadership scholars. The
prevailing definition of leadership as behavior that influences people toward shared goals was underscored
by Seeman (1960), who described leadership as “acts by persons which influence other persons in a shared
direction” (p. 53).



In the 1970s, the group focus gave way to the organizational behavior approach, where leadership became
viewed 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 to
emerge: “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
realize goals independently or mutually held by both leaders and followers” (p. 425).



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

Do as the leader wishes. Leadership definitions still predominantly delivered the message that
leadership is getting followers to do what the leader wants done.

Influence. Probably the most often used word in leadership definitions of the 1980s, influence was
examined from every angle. 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), the
leadership-as-excellence movement brought leader traits back to the spotlight. As a result, many
people’s understanding of leadership is based on a trait orientation.

Transformation. Burns (1978) is credited for initiating a movement defining leadership as a
transformational process, stating that leadership occurs “when one or more persons engage with
others in such a way that leaders and followers raise one another to higher levels of motivation and
morality” (p. 83).



While debate continued through the 1990s as to whether leadership and management were separate
processes, research emphasized the process of leadership with the focus shifting to followers. Several
approaches emerged that examine how leaders influence a group of individuals to achieve a common goal,
placing particular attention on the role of followers in the leadership process. Among these leadership
approaches were

servant leadership, which puts the leader in the role of a servant who utilizes “caring principles”
focusing on followers’ needs to help followers become more autonomous, knowledgeable, and like
servants themselves (Graham, 1991);

followership, which puts a spotlight on followers and the role they play in the leadership process
(Hollander, 1992); and

adaptive leadership, in which leaders encourage followers to adapt by confronting and solving
problems, challenges, and changes (Heifetz, 1994).


The 21st Century

The turn of the 21st century brought the emergence of moral approaches to leadership, with authentic and
ethical leadership gaining interest from researchers and executives. These new approaches also include
leader humility and spirituality. Leadership theory and research also highlighted communication between
leaders and followers, and as organizational populations became increasingly diverse, inclusive leadership
was introduced. Among these approaches were

authentic leadership, in which the authenticity of leaders and their leadership is emphasized (George,

ethical leadership, which draws attention to the appropriate conduct of leaders in their personal
actions and interpersonal relationships, and the promotion of such conduct to followers (Brown,
Treviño, & Harrison, 2005);

spiritual leadership, which focuses on leadership that utilizes values and sense of calling and
membership to motivate followers (Fry, 2003);

discursive 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 and follower
(Aritz, Walker, Cardon, & Zhang, 2017; Fairhurst, 2007);

humble leadership, in which leaders’ humility allows them to show followers how to grow as a result
of work (Owens & Hekman, 2012); and

inclusive leadership, which focuses on diversity and leader behaviors that facilitate followers’ feeling
of belongingness to the group while maintaining their individuality (Shore, Cleveland, & Sanchez,

After decades of dissonance, leadership scholars agree on one thing: They can’t come up with a common
definition 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 leadership is a complex concept for which a determined definition may long be in flux.


Ways of Conceptualizing Leadership

In the past 60 years, as many as 65 different classification systems have been developed to define the dimensions
of leadership (Fleishman et al., 1991). One such classification system, 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. From this perspective, the leader is at the center of group change and activity and embodies the
will of the group. Another set of definitions conceptualizes leadership from a personality perspective, which
suggests that leadership is a combination of special traits or characteristics that some individuals possess. These
traits enable those individuals to induce others to accomplish tasks. Other approaches to leadership define it as an
act or a behavior—the things leaders do to bring about change in a group.

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


Definition and Components

Despite the multitude of ways in which leadership has been conceptualized, the following components 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 involves common goals. Based on these components, the following
definition of leadership is used in this text:

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

Defining leadership as a process means that it is not a trait or characteristic that resides in the 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 leadership is not a linear, one-way event, but rather an interactive event.
When leadership is defined in this manner, it becomes available to everyone. It is not restricted to the formally
designated leader in a group.

Leadership involves influence. It is concerned with how the leader affects followers and the communication 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. This can be a small task group, a community
group, or a large group encompassing an entire organization. Leadership is about one individual influencing a
group of others to accomplish common goals. Others (a group) are required for leadership to occur. Leadership
training programs that teach people to lead themselves are not considered a part of leadership within the definition
that is set forth in this discussion.

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

Throughout this text, the people who engage in leadership will be called leaders, and those toward whom
leadership is directed will be called followers. Both leaders and followers are involved together in the leadership
process. Leaders need followers, and followers need leaders (Burns, 1978; Heller & Van Til, 1983; Hollander,
1992; Jago, 1982). An extended discussion of followership is provided in Chapter 12. Although leaders and
followers are closely linked, it is the leader who often initiates the relationship, creates the communication
linkages, and carries the burden for maintaining the relationship.

In our discussion of leaders and followers, attention will be directed toward follower issues as well as leader
issues. Leaders have an ethical responsibility to attend to the needs and concerns of followers. As Burns (1978)
pointed out, discussions of leadership sometimes are viewed as elitist because of the implied power and
importance often ascribed to leaders in the leader–follower relationship. Leaders are not above or better than
followers. Leaders and followers 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 the same coin (Rost, 1991).



In addition to definitional issues, it is important to discuss several other questions pertaining to the nature of
leadership. In the following section, we will address questions such as how leadership as a trait differs from
leadership as a process; how appointed leadership differs from emergent leadership; and how the concepts of
power, coercion, morality, and management interact with leadership.


Trait Versus Process Leadership

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

To describe leadership as a trait is quite different from describing it as a process (Figure 1.1). The trait viewpoint
conceptualizes leadership as a property or set of properties possessed in varying degrees by different people (Jago,
1982). This suggests that it resides in select people and restricts leadership to those who are believed to have
special, usually inborn, talents.


Figure 1.1 The Different Views of Leadership

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

The process viewpoint suggests that leadership is a phenomenon that resides in the context of the interactions
between leaders and followers and makes leadership available to everyone. As a process, leadership can be
observed in leader behaviors (Jago, 1982) and can be learned. The process definition of leadership is consistent
with the definition of leadership 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 others are leaders because of
the way other group members respond to them. These two common forms of leadership are called assigned
leadership and emergent leadership. Leadership that is based on occupying a position in an organization is
assigned leadership. Team leaders, plant managers, department heads, directors, and administrators are all
examples of assigned leaders.

Yet the person assigned to a leadership position does not always become the real leader in a particular setting.
When others perceive an individual as the most influential member of a group or an organization, regardless of the
individual’s title, the person is exhibiting emergent leadership. The individual acquires emergent leadership
through other people in the organization who support and accept that individual’s behavior. This type of leadership
is not assigned by position; rather, it emerges over a period through communication. Some of the positive
communication behaviors that account for successful leader emergence include 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 a role in leadership
emergence. For example, Smith and Foti (1998) found that certain personality traits were related to leadership
emergence in a sample of 160 male college students. The individuals who were more dominant, more intelligent,
and more confident about their own performance (general self-efficacy) were more likely to be identified as
leaders by other members of their task group. Although it is uncertain whether these findings apply to women as
well, Smith and Foti suggested that these three traits could be used to identify individuals perceived to be emergent

Leadership emergence may also be affected by gender-biased perceptions. In a study of 40 mixed-sex college
groups, Watson and Hoffman (2004) found that women who were urged to persuade their task groups to adopt
high-quality decisions succeeded with the same frequency as men with identical instructions. Although women
were equally influential leaders in their groups, they were rated significantly lower than comparable men were on
leadership. Furthermore, these influential women were also rated as significantly less likable than comparably
influential men were. Another study found that men who spoke up to promote new ideas in teams were granted
higher status compared to women who did so (McClean, Martin, Emich, & Woodruff, 2018). These results suggest
that there continue to be barriers 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 with the identity of the group as a whole. As
groups develop over time, a group prototype also develops. Individuals emerge as leaders in the group when they
become most like the group prototype. 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 equally to 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 on the leadership process that occurs when any individual is engaged in
influencing other group 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 the ability 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 they do, 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 and leadership, power is a concept
that people often associate with leadership. It is common for people to view leaders (both good and bad) and
people in positions of leadership as individuals who wield power over others, and as a result, power is often
thought of as synonymous with leadership. In addition, people are often intrigued by how leaders use their power.
Understanding how power is used in leadership is instrumental as well in understanding the dark side of
leadership, where leaders use their leadership to achieve their own personal ends and lead in toxic and destructive
ways (Krasikova, Green, & LeBreton, 2013). Studying how famous leaders, such as Adolf Hitler or Alexander the
Great, use power to effect change in others is titillating to many people because it underscores that power can
indeed 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 in leadership power during the
last 40 years. Power used to be the domain of leaders, but that is diminishing and shifting to followers. Changes in
culture have meant followers demand more from leaders, and leaders have responded. Access to technology has
empowered followers, given them access to huge amounts of information, and made leaders more transparent. The
result is a decline in respect for leaders and leaders’ legitimate power. In effect, followers have used information
power to level the playing field. Power is no longer synonymous with leadership, and in the social contract
between leaders and followers, leaders wield less power, according to Kellerman. For example, Posner (2015)
examined volunteer leaders, such as those who sit on boards for nonprofit organizations, and found that while
these individuals did not have positional authority in the organization, they were able to influence leadership.
Volunteer leaders engaged more frequently in leadership behaviors than did paid leaders.

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 from the framework of a dyadic relationship that
included both the person influencing and the person being influenced. French and Raven identified five common
and important bases of power—referent, expert, legitimate, reward, and coercive—and Raven (1965) identified a
sixth, information power (Table 1.1). Each of these bases of power increases a leader’s capacity to influence the
attitudes, values, or behaviors of others.

Table 1.1 Six Bases of Power



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


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


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


Derived from having the capacity to provide rewards to others. A supervisor who compliments
employees who work hard is using reward power.


Derived from having the capacity to penalize or punish others. A coach who sits players on the
bench for being late to practice is using coercive power.


Derived from possessing knowledge that others want or need. A boss who has information
regarding new criteria to decide employee promotion eligibility has information power.

Sources: 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 “Social Influence and Power,” by B. H. Raven, 1965, in I. D. Steiner & M. Fishbein
(Eds.), Current Studies in Social Psychology (pp. 371–382), New York, NY: Holt, Rinehart, & Winston.

In organizations, there are two major kinds of power: position power and personal power. Position power, which
includes legitimate, reward, coercive, and information power (Table 1.2), is the power a person derives from a
particular office or rank in a formal organizational system. It is the influence capacity a leader derives from having
higher status than the followers have. Position power allows leaders to attain central roles in organizations; for
example, vice presidents and department heads have more power than staff personnel do because of the positions


they hold in the organization. In addition, leaders’ informal networks bring them greater social power, which
separates leaders from nonleaders (Chiu, Balkundi, & Weinberg, 2017).

Table 1.2 Types and Bases of Power

Position Power Personal Power

Legitimate Referent

Reward Expert



Source: 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 as likable and
knowledgeable. When leaders act in ways that are important to followers, it gives leaders power. For example,
some managers have power because their followers consider them to be good role models. Others have power
because their followers view them as highly competent or considerate. In both cases, these managers’ power is
ascribed to them by others, based on how they are seen in their relationships with others. Personal power includes
referent and expert power (Table 1.2).

In discussions of leadership, it is not unusual for leaders to be described as wielders of power, as individuals who
dominate others. In these instances, power is conceptualized as a tool 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 entity that leaders use over others to achieve their own ends; instead, power occurs in relationships. 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 leaders and followers. We pay
attention to how leaders work with followers to reach common goals.


Leadership and Coercion

Coercive power is one of the specific kinds of power available to leaders. Coercion involves the use of force to
effect change. To coerce means to influence others to do something against their will and may include
manipulating penalties and rewards in their work environment. Coercion often involves the use of threats,
punishment, and negative reward schedules and is most often seen as a characteristic of the dark side of leadership.
Classic examples of coercive leaders are Adolf Hitler in Germany, the Taliban leaders in Afghanistan, Jim Jones in
Guyana, and Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte, each of whom used power and restraint to force followers to
engage in extreme behaviors. At an extreme, coercion combines with other bullying and tyrannical behaviors
known as abusive supervision (Tepper, 2007).

It is important to distinguish between coercion and leadership because it allows us to separate out from our
examples of leadership the behaviors of individuals such as Hitler, the Taliban, and Jones. In our discussions of
leadership, coercive people are not used as models of ideal leadership. Our definition suggests that leadership is
reserved for those who influence a group of individuals toward a common goal. Leaders who use coercion are
interested 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 Morality

In considering the relationship of leadership and morality, let’s start with a simple question: Do you agree or
disagree with the following statement:

Hitler’s rule in Germany could be considered a good example of leadership.

Throughout the United States and around the world, in classroom discussions of leadership, the question about
whether or not Adolf Hitler was a “great” leader inevitably comes up. Your response to this statement is intended
to bring out whether your conceptualization of leadership includes a moral dimension or if you think that
leadership is a neutral concept that treats leadership as amoral.

If you answered agree to the statement, you probably come down on the side of thinking the phenomenon of
leadership is neutral, or amoral. You might think it is obvious that Hitler was a leader because he was very
charismatic and persuasive and his actions had a huge impact on Germany and the world. On the other hand, if you
answered disagree, you most likely do not think of Hitler’s leadership as being in any way positive and that the
notion of Hitler as a model of leadership is repugnant because you reserve the concept of leadership for
nondestructive leaders who create change for the common good. That is, you believe leadership cannot be
divorced from values; it is a moral phenomenon and has a moral component.

For as long as leadership has been studied, the debate of whether or not leadership has a moral dimension has been
a focus of leadership scholars. It is an important debate because it gets at the core of what we think the
phenomenon of leadership actually entails. How we define leadership is central to how we talk about leadership,
how we develop the components of leadership, how we research it, and how we teach it.

There are two consistent trains of thought regarding the relationship of leadership and morality: Either leadership
is a neutral process that is not guided or dependent on a value system that advances the common good, or
leadership is a moral process that is guided and dependent on values promotive of the common good.

Leadership Is a Neutral Process

It is common for people to think of leadership as a neutral concept—one that is not tied to morality. From this
perspective, leadership can be used for good ends or bad, and can be employed both by individuals who have
worthy intentions and by those who do not. For example, moral leaders like Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, and
Martin Luther King Jr. used leadership for good. On the other hand, Adolf Hitler, Pol Pot, and Idi Amin used
leadership destructively. Common to all of these examples is that these leaders used leadership to influence
followers to move toward and accomplish certain goals. The only difference is that some leaders used leadership in
laudatory ways while others used leadership in highly destructive ways.

A classic historical example of treating leadership as an amoral concept can be found in Niccolò Machiavelli’s The
Prince (c. 1505; Nederman, 2019). In this book, Machiavelli philosophizes that moral values need not play a role
in decision making; instead, leaders should concentrate on using power to achieve their goals. Their focus should
be on the ends, or consequences, of their leadership and need not be about the means. Machiavelli endorsed
leaders’ use of fear and deception, if necessary, to accomplish tasks; he was concerned with the pragmatics of what
leaders do and not the rightness or wrongness of a leader’s actions (Nederman, 2019).

There are an abundance of definitions of leadership, and most of these treat the concept of morality in a neutral
fashion (e.g., Rost’s 1991 analysis of 221 definitions of leadership). These definitions do not require that
leadership result in only positive outcomes. To use a specific example, Padilla (2013) defines leadership as “an
organized group process with associated goals resulting in a set of outcomes” (p. 12), which involves a leader,
followers, and contexts. From his perspective, leadership is value-neutral and can be used for constructive or


destructive ends. Padilla argues that Hitler should be considered a leader even though the outcome of his
leadership was horrendously destructive.

Leadership Is a Moral Process

In contrast to describing leadership as a neutral process, some in the field of leadership argue (as we do in this
chapter) that leadership has a value dimension—it is about influencing others to make changes to achieve a
common good. From this perspective, Hitler, who thwarted the common good, cannot be considered a “great”

One of the first scholars to conceptualize leadership as a moral process was James MacGregor Burns in his book
Leadership (1978). For Burns, leadership is about raising the motivations and moral levels of followers. He argued
it is the responsibility of a leader to help followers assess their own values and needs in order to raise them to a
higher level of functioning, to a level that will stress values such as liberty, justice, and equality (Ciulla, 2014).
Burns (2003) argued that values are central to what leaders do.

Expanding on Burns, Bass (1985) developed a model of leadership (see Chapter 8, “Transformational Leadership”)
that delineated transforming leadership, a kind of leadership that affects the level of values of followers. Because it
is difficult to use the term transformational leadership when describing a leader such as Adolf Hitler, the term
pseudotransformational leadership was coined by Bass to refer to leaders who focus on their own personal goals
over the common good and are self-consumed, exploitive, and power-oriented, with warped moral values (Bass &
Riggio, 2006; Bass & Steidlmeier, 1999). In contrast to pseudotransformational leadership, “real” or “ideal”
transformational leadership is described as socialized leadership—leadership that is concerned with the collective
good. Socialized leaders transcend their own interests for the sake of others (Howell & Avolio, 1993).

Additionally, morals have a central role in two established leadership theories, authentic leadership and servant
leadership. Authentic leadership (see Chapter 9) is an extension of transformational leadership, stressing that
leaders do what is “right” and “good” for their followers and society. They understand their own values, place
followers’ needs above their own, and work with followers to align their interests in order to create a greater
common good. Similarly, servant leadership has a strong moral dimension. It makes altruism the central
component of the leadership process and frames leadership around the principle of caring for others. Within this
paradigm, leaders are urged to not dominate, direct, or control others; they are urged to give up control rather than
seek control.

Referring back to the question about whether you agree or disagree that Hitler is an example of leadership, your
answer has to be predicated on what you think leadership is. If you think leadership is a neutral process that does
not have a moral requirement, then Hitler is an example of leadership. On the other hand, if you think leadership
includes ethical considerations such as elevating the morals, values, and goals of followers to make more
principled judgments (Burns, 1978), then Hitler is not an example of leadership. In this view, he was nothing more
than a despotic, Machiavellian autocrat and an evil dictator responsible for the imprisonment, abuse, and execution
of millions of innocent people and the unprovoked origin of World War II—the deadliest armed conflict in history.


Leadership and Management

Leadership is a process that is similar to management in many ways. Leadership involves influence, as does
management. Leadership entails working with people, which management entails as well. Leadership is concerned
with effective goal accomplishment, and so is management. In general, many of the functions of management are
activities that are 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 be traced back to Aristotle,
management emerged around the turn of the 20th century with the advent of our industrialized society.
Management was created as a way to reduce chaos in organizations, to make them run more effectively and
efficiently. The primary functions of management, as first identified by Fayol (1916), were planning, organizing,
staffing, and controlling. 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 of management is to provide order and consistency
to organizations, whereas the primary function of leadership is to produce change and movement. Management is
about seeking order and stability; leadership is about seeking adaptive and constructive change.

As illustrated in Figure 1.2, the major activities of management are played out differently than 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 to prosper. For example, if an organization has strong management
without leadership, the outcome can be stifling and bureaucratic. Conversely, if an organization has strong
leadership without management, the outcome can be meaningless or misdirected change for change’s sake. To be
effective, organizations need to nourish both competent management and skilled leadership.

Figure 1.2 Functions of Management and Leadership

Source: Adapted from A Force for Change: How Leadership Differs From Management (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 are distinct constructs. For
example, Bennis and Nanus (2007) maintained that there is a significant difference between the two. To manage
means to accomplish activities and master 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 and management. He contended that
leadership is a multidirectional influence relationship and management is a unidirectional authority relationship.


Whereas leadership is concerned with the process of developing mutual purposes, management is directed toward
coordinating activities to get a job done. Leaders and followers work together to create 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 best to conceptualize leadership and management by
having 43 experts identify the overlap and differences between leadership and management in regard to 63
different competencies. They found a large number 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 by motivating intrinsically,
creative thinking, strategic planning, tolerance of ambiguity, and being able to read people, and management was
distinguished by rule orientation, short-term planning, motivating extrinsically, orderliness, safety concerns, and

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

Although there are clear differences between management and leadership, the two constructs 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 a group 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 of managers and leaders
similarly and do not emphasize the differences between them.



This book is user-friendly. It is based on substantive theories but is written to emphasize practice and application.
Each chapter in the book follows the same format. The first section of each chapter briefly describes the leadership
approach and discusses various research studies applicable to the approach. The second section of each chapter
evaluates the approach and how it works, highlighting its strengths and criticisms. Special attention is given to how
the approach contributes or fails to contribute to an overall understanding of the leadership process. Finally,
beginning with Chapter 2, each chapter has an application section with case studies and a leadership questionnaire
that measures the reader’s leadership style to prompt discussion of how the approach can be applied in ongoing
organizations. Each chapter ends with a summary and references.


Case Study

Case 1.1 is provided to illustrate different dimensions of leadership as well as allow you to examine your own
perspective on what defines a leader and leadership. At the end of the case, you will find questions that will help in
analyzing the case.

Case 1.1 Open Mouth . . .

When asked by a sports editor for the Lanthorn, Grand Valley State University’s student publication, what three
historical figures he would most like to have dinner with, Morris Berger, the newly announced offensive
coordinator for the GVSU Lakers football team, responded Adolf Hitler, John F. Kennedy, and Christopher

“This is probably not going to get a good review,” he said, “but I’m going to say Adolf Hitler. It was obviously
very sad and he had bad motives, but the way he was able to lead was second-to-none. How he rallied a group and
a following, I want to know how he did that. Bad intentions of course, but you can’t deny he wasn’t a great leader”
(Voss, 2020).

When the article ran, it caused a stir. Shortly after, the writer, Kellen Voss, was asked by someone in the
university’s athletics department to alter the online story to remove those comments. The Lanthorn initially
complied, but then changed course and added the full interview back in. Once the Lanthorn republished the quote,
the story went viral. It was covered in the Washington Post, on ESPN, and in Sports Illustrated and even ended up
in the monologue of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon (Boatner, 2020).

In addition to public dismay, GVSU’s Hillel chapter, a Jewish campus organization, spoke out strongly against
Coach Berger after his comments were made public. “It is unfortunate to see a member of our Grand Valley
community glorify the Holocaust, a period that brought such destruction and travesty to the world,” the group
posted to its Facebook page. “We appreciate the university’s swift response and we will continue to partner with
them to educate our campus community and provide a safe and inclusive environment for all students” (Colf,

Seven days after the article appeared, GVSU announced that Coach Berger, who had been suspended by the
university, had resigned. Matt Mitchell, the team’s head coach, gave a statement: “Nothing in our background and
reference checks revealed anything that would have suggested the unfortunate controversy that has unfolded,”
Coach Mitchell said. “This has been a difficult time for everyone. I accepted Coach Berger’s resignation in an
effort for him to move on and for us to focus on the team and our 2020 season” (Wallner, 2020).

In another statement, Coach Berger said he was disappointed to leave, but added, “I do not want to be a distraction
to these kids, this great university, or Coach Mitchell as they begin preparations for the upcoming season”
(Wallner, 2020).

Coach Berger also issued a more personal apology in a Twitter post:

I failed myself, my parents, and this university—the answer I attempted to give does not align with the
values instilled in me by my parents, nor [does it] represent what I stand for or believe in—I mishandled
the answer, and fell way short of the mark.

For the last 11-years, I worked tirelessly for each and every opportunity and was excited to be a Laker.

Throughout my life, I have taken great pride in that responsibility—as a teacher, mentor, coach, role-
model, and member of the community.

It is my hope that you will consider accepting my apology.


I recognize that I cannot undo the hurt and the embarrassment I have caused.

But I can control the way I choose to positively learn from my mistake moving forward—as I work to
regain the trust and respect of everyone that I have let down. (Berger, 2020)

A few weeks later, GVSU announced that it would increase its curriculum around the Holocaust and Native
American history. “We will use this moment to work diligently toward institutional systemic change that creates a
healthier campus climate for all,” the university’s president, Philomena Mantella, said (Colf, 2020).



1. Who are the leaders in this situation? How would you describe their actions as leaders based on the definition
of leadership in this chapter?

2. Do you think it was wrong for Coach Berger to cite Hitler as a “great leader”?
3. What is your reaction to Coach Berger resigning one week after signing a contract to coach at GVSU?
4. Based on our discussion of morality and leadership in this chapter, would you say Coach Berger’s comments

are based on leadership as a neutral process or on leadership as a process that has a moral dimension? Why?
5. What does the university’s response suggest regarding how the university views leadership?
6. If you were the president of the university and you were asked to define leadership, how would you define it?
7. Bobby Knight was a coach who was known to use questionable leadership tactics. Do you think Coach

Berger would have been safe to ask Coach Knight to dinner? Why?


Leadership Instrument

The meaning of leadership is complex and includes many dimensions. For some people, leadership is a trait or an
ability, for others it is a skill or a behavior, and for still others it is a relationship or a process. In reality, leadership
probably includes components of all of these dimensions. Each dimension explains a facet of leadership.

Which dimension seems closest to how you think of leadership? How would you define leadership? Answers to
these questions are important because how you think about leadership will strongly influence how you practice
leadership. In this section, the Conceptualizing Leadership Questionnaire is provided as an example of a measure
that can be used to assess how you define and view leadership.

Conceptualizing Leadership Questionnaire

Purpose: To identify how you view leadership and to explore your perceptions of different aspects of

Instructions: Using the scale below, indicate the extent to which you agree or disagree with the following
statements about leadership.

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


1. When I think of leadership, I think of a person with special personality traits. 1 2 3 4 5

2. Much like playing the piano or tennis, leadership is a learned ability. 1 2 3 4 5

3. Leadership requires knowledge and know-how. 1 2 3 4 5

4. Leadership is about what people do rather than who they are. 1 2 3 4 5

5. Followers can influence the leadership process as much as leaders. 1 2 3 4 5

6. Leadership is about the process of influencing others. 1 2 3 4 5

7. Some people are born to be leaders. 1 2 3 4 5

8. Some people have the natural ability to be leaders. 1 2 3 4 5

9. The key to successful leadership is having the right skills. 1 2 3 4 5

10. Leadership is best described by what leaders do. 1 2 3 4 5

11. Leaders and followers share in the leadership process. 1 2 3 4 5

12. Leadership is a series of actions directed toward positive ends. 1 2 3 4 5

13. A person needs to have certain traits to be an effective leader. 1 2 3 4 5

14. Everyone has the capacity to be a leader. 1 2 3 4 5

15. Effective leaders are competent in their roles. 1 2 3 4 5

16. The essence of leadership is performing tasks and dealing with people. 1 2 3 4 5

17. Leadership is about the common purposes of leaders and followers. 1 2 3 4 5

18. Leadership does not rely on the leader alone but is a process involving the leader,
followers, and the situation.

1 2 3 4 5

19. People become great leaders because of their traits. 1 2 3 4 5


20. People can develop the ability to lead. 1 2 3 4 5

21. Effective leaders have competence and knowledge. 1 2 3 4 5

22. Leadership is about how leaders work with people to accomplish goals. 1 2 3 4 5

23. Effective leadership is best explained by the leader–follower relationship. 1 2 3 4 5

24. Leaders influence and are influenced by followers. 1 2 3 4 5



1. Sum scores on items 1, 7, 13, and 19 (trait emphasis)
2. Sum scores on items 2, 8, 14, and 20 (ability emphasis)
3. Sum scores on items 3, 9, 15, and 21 (skill emphasis)
4. Sum scores on items 4, 10, 16, and 22 (behavior emphasis)
5. Sum scores on items 5, 11, 17, and 23 (relationship emphasis)
6. Sum scores on items 6, 12, 18, and 24 (process emphasis)


Total Scores

1. Trait emphasis: ____________________
2. Ability emphasis: __________________
3. Skill emphasis: ____________________
4. Behavior emphasis: _______________
5. Relationship emphasis: ____________
6. Process emphasis: _________________


Scoring Interpretation

The scores you received on this questionnaire provide information about how you define and view
leadership. The emphasis you give to the various dimensions of leadership has implications for how you
approach the leadership process. For example, if your highest score is for trait emphasis, it suggests that
you emphasize the role of the leader and the leader’s special gifts in the leadership process. However, if
your highest score is for relationship emphasis, it indicates that you think leadership is centered on the
communication between leaders and followers, rather than on the unique qualities of the leader. By
comparing your scores, you can gain an understanding of the aspects of leadership that you find most
important and least important. The way you think about leadership will influence how you practice



Leadership is a topic with universal appeal; in the popular press and academic research literature, much has been
written about leadership. Despite the abundance of writing on the topic, leadership has presented a major challenge
to practitioners and researchers interested in understanding the nature of leadership. It is a highly valued
phenomenon that is very complex.

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

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

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

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

Related to leadership is the concept of power, the potential to influence. There are two major kinds of power:
position and personal. Position power, which is much like assigned leadership, is the power an individual derives
from having a title in a formal organizational system. It includes legitimate, reward, information, and coercive
power. Personal power comes from followers and includes referent and expert power. Followers give it to leaders
because followers believe leaders have something of value. Treating power as a shared resource 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 using influence to bring individuals toward a common
goal, while coercion involves the use of threats and punishment to induce change in followers for the sake of the
leaders. Coercion runs counter to leadership because it does not treat leadership as a process that emphasizes
working with followers to achieve shared objectives.

There are two trains of thought regarding leadership and morality. Some argue that leadership is a neutral process
that can be used by leaders for good and bad ends and treats Hitler as an example of strong leadership. Others
contend that leadership is a moral process that involves influencing others to achieve a common good. From this
perspective Hitler would not be an example of leadership.

Leadership and management are different concepts that overlap. They are different in that management
traditionally focuses on the activities of planning, organizing, staffing, and controlling, whereas leadership
emphasizes the general influence process. According to some researchers, management is concerned with creating
order and stability, whereas leadership is about adaptation and constructive change. Other researchers go so far as
to argue that managers and leaders are different types of people, with managers being more reactive and less
emotionally involved and leaders being more proactive and more emotionally involved. The overlap between
leadership and management is centered on how both 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 improve leadership in real situations.


Descriptions of Images and Figures
Back to Figure

Trait definition of leadership: Leadership is defined by the traits such as height, intelligence, extraversion, fluency,
and other traits that a leader with followers possesses.

Process definition of leadership: Leadership is defined as the interaction between leader and followers.






Of interest to scholars throughout the 20th century, the trait approach was one of the first systematic attempts to
study leadership. In the early 20th century, leadership traits were studied to determine what made certain people
great leaders. The theories that were developed were called “great man” theories because they focused on
identifying the innate qualities 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 that only the “great” people possessed them. During
this time, research concentrated on determining 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 the universality of
leadership traits. In a major review, Stogdill (1948) suggested that no consistent 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 leader in another situation. Rather than being a quality that individuals possess, leadership
was reconceptualized as a relationship between people in a social situation. Personal factors related to leadership
continued to be important, but researchers contended that these factors were to be considered as relative to the
requirements of the situation.

The trait approach has generated much interest among researchers for its explanation of how 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 with individuals’ perceptions of leadership. More recently, Dinh and Lord (2012) examined the
relationship between leadership effectiveness and followers’ perception of leadership traits.

The trait approach has earned new interest through the current emphasis given by many researchers 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 2008 election of the United States’ first African American president, Barack Obama, who is
perceived by many to be charismatic, among many other attributes. In a study to determine what distinguishes
charismatic leaders from others, Jung and Sosik (2006) found that charismatic leaders consistently possess traits of
self-monitoring, engagement in impression management, 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 the
qualities 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.

When discussing the trait approach, it is important to define what is meant by traits. Traits refer to a set of
distinctive characteristics, qualities, or attributes that describe a person. They are inherent and relatively
unchanging over time. Taken together, traits are the internal factors that comprise our personality and make us
unique. Because traits are derived from our personality and are fundamentally fixed, this chapter will not
emphasize how people can use this approach to develop or change their leadership. Instead, the focus of the
chapter will be on identifying leaders’ traits and overall role of traits in leadership.

While research on traits spanned the entire 20th century, a good overview of the approach 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 and 1947. In his second study, he analyzed another 163 studies completed
between 1948 and 1970. By taking a closer look at each of these reviews, we can obtain a clearer picture of how
individuals’ traits contribute to the leadership process.

Stogdill’s first survey identified a group of important leadership traits that were related to how individuals in
various groups became leaders. His results showed that an average individual in a leadership role is different from
an average group member with regard to the following 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 a leader solely because
that individual possesses certain traits. Rather, the traits that leaders possess 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. Findings showed that leadership was not a passive state but resulted from a working relationship between
the leader and other group members. This research marked the beginning of a new approach to leadership research
that focused on leadership behaviors and leadership situations.

Stogdill’s second survey, published in 1974, analyzed 163 new studies and compared the findings of these studies
to the findings he had reported in his first survey. The second survey was more balanced in its description of the
role of traits and leadership. Whereas the first survey implied that leadership is determined principally by
situational factors and not traits, the second survey argued more moderately that both traits and situational factors
were determinants of leadership. In essence, the second survey validated the original trait idea that a leader’s
characteristics are indeed a part of leadership.

Similar to the first survey, Stogdill’s second survey identified traits that were positively associated 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

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 regarding traits and leadership in
small groups, but he placed less emphasis on how situational factors influenced leadership. Although tentative in
his conclusions, Mann suggested that certain traits could be used to distinguish leaders from nonleaders. His
results identified leaders as strong 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 procedure called meta-analysis
and found that intelligence, masculinity, and dominance were significantly related to how individuals perceived
leaders. From their findings, the authors argued strongly that traits could be used to make discriminations
consistently across situations between leaders and nonleaders.

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

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

In the 1990s, researchers began to investigate the leadership traits associated with “social intelligence,” 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 of the situation and social environment. A number of empirical studies showed these capacities to be


a key trait for effective leaders. Zaccaro, Kemp, and Bader (2017) included such social abilities in the categories of
leadership traits they outlined as important leadership attributes (Table 2.1).

Table 2.1 Studies of Leadership Traits and Characteristics



Stogdill (1974) Lord, DeVader,
and Alliger (1986)

Kirkpatrick and
Locke (1991)

Zaccaro, Kemp,
and Bader (2017)
































cognitive ability

task knowledge

cognitive ability



emotional stability




social intelligence



problem solving

Sources: 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).

Table 2.1 provides a summary of the traits and characteristics that were identified by researchers from the trait
approach. It illustrates clearly the breadth of traits related to leadership. Table 2.1 also shows how difficult it is to
select certain traits as definitive leadership traits; some of the traits appear in several of the survey studies, whereas
others appear 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.

Over the past 10 years, interest in leader traits has experienced a renaissance. Zaccaro, Green, Dubrow, and Kolze
(2018) found that basic personality traits and capacities contribute to who emerges as a leader and one’s
effectiveness as a leader.


What, then, can be said about trait research? What has a century of research on the trait approach given us that is
useful? The answer is an extended list of traits that individuals might 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).

Table 2.2 Major Leadership Traits








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

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

An example of a leader for whom intelligence was a key trait was Steve Jobs, founder and CEO of Apple, who
died in 2011. Jobs once said, “I have this really incredible product inside me and I have to get it out” (Sculley,
2011, p. 27). Those visionary products, first the Apple II and Macintosh computers and then the iMac, iPod,
iPhone, and iPad, revolutionized the personal computer and electronic device industry, changing the way people
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 of complex problem-solving skills and social judgment
skills. Intelligence is described as having 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 to be 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 influencing others, and self-confidence allows leaders to feel assured that their
attempts to influence others are appropriate and right.

Again, Steve Jobs is a good example of a self-confident leader. When Jobs described the devices he wanted to
create, many people said they weren’t possible. But Jobs never doubted his products would change the world, and
despite resistance, he did things the way he thought best. “Jobs was one of those CEOs who ran the company like
he wanted to. He believed 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 done and includes
characteristics such as initiative, persistence, dominance, and drive. People with determination are willing to assert
themselves, are proactive, and have the capacity to persevere in the face of obstacles. Being determined includes
showing dominance at times and in situations where followers need to be directed. Duckworth, Peterson,
Matthews, and Kelly (2007) expanded the concept of determination and conducted research on “grit,” which
measures the degree of perseverance toward goal attainment. Leaders with grit recover quickly from setbacks, not
letting obstacles impede their success (Duckworth et al., 2007).

Dr. Paul Farmer has shown determination in his efforts to secure health care and eradicate tuberculosis for the very
poor of Haiti and other third world countries. He began his efforts as a recent college graduate, traveling and
working in Cange, Haiti. While there, he was accepted to Harvard Medical School. Knowing that his work in Haiti
was invaluable to his training, he managed to do both: spending months traveling back and forth between Haiti and
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. Farmer found that there was more to providing health care than
just dispensing medicine: He secured donations to build schools, houses, and communal sanitation and water
facilities in the region. He spearheaded vaccinations of all the children in the area, dramatically reducing
malnutrition and infant mortality. To keep working in Haiti, he returned to America and founded Partners In
Health, a charitable foundation that raises money to fund these efforts. Since its founding, PIH not only has
succeeded in improving the health of 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 and Guatemala (Kidder, 2004;
Partners In Health, 2017; see also Case 10.1, page 272).



Integrity, another of the important leadership traits, is the quality of honesty and trustworthiness. People who
adhere to a strong set of principles and take responsibility for their actions are exhibiting integrity. Leaders with
integrity inspire confidence in others because 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 of our 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 regarding Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction
and the impeachment proceedings during the Bill 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 to
become skeptical of leaders who are not highly ethical. In the educational arena, new K–12 curricula are being
developed to teach character, values, and ethical leadership. (For instance, see the Character Counts! program
developed by the Josephson Institute of Ethics in California at, and the Pillars of
Leadership program taught at the J. W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development in Georgia at In short, society is demanding greater integrity of character in its leaders.



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

An example of a leader with great sociability skills is Michael Hughes, a university president. Hughes prefers to
walk to all his meetings because it gets him out on campus where he greets students, staff, and faculty. He has
lunch in the dorm cafeterias or student union and will often ask a table of strangers if he can sit with them.
Students rate him as very approachable, while faculty say he has an open-door policy. In addition, he takes time to
write personal notes to faculty, staff, and students to congratulate them on their successes.

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, they have lacked a common
organizing framework. However, the research described in the following section provides a quantitative
assessment of leadership traits that is conceptually framed around the five-factor model of personality. It describes
how five major personality traits are related to leadership.


Five-Factor Personality Model and Leadership

Over the past 25 years, a consensus has emerged among researchers regarding the basic factors 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).

Table 2.3 Big Five Personality Factors

Neuroticism The tendency to be depressed, anxious, insecure, vulnerable, and hostile

Extraversion The tendency to be sociable and assertive and to have positive energy

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

Agreeableness The tendency to be accepting, conforming, trusting, and nurturing

Conscientiousness The 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.

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 published between 1967 and 1998. In general, Judge
et al. found a strong relationship between the Big Five traits and leadership. It appears that having certain
personality traits is associated with being an effective leader.

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


Strengths and Leadership

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

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

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

Strengths have also been of interest to researchers in the field of positive psychology who look at the best aspects
in people, rather than their weaknesses. Most notably from this area of study, Peterson and Seligman (2004)
developed an inventory of character strengths called the Values In Action Classification (see Table 2.4).

Table 2.4 VIA Classification of Character Strengths and Virtues


Classification Strengths


Cognitive Strengths

1. Creativity

2. Curiosity

3. Open-mindedness

4. Love of learning

5. Perspective


Emotional Strengths

6. Authenticity

7. Bravery

8. Perseverance

9. Zest


Classification Strengths


Interpersonal Strengths

10. Kindness

11. Love

12. Social intelligence


Civic Strengths

13. Fairness

14. Leadership

15. Teamwork


Strengths Over Excess

16. Forgiveness

17. Modesty

18. Prudence

19. Self-regulation


Strengths About Meaning

20. Appreciation of beauty and excellence

21. Gratitude

22. Hope

23. Humor

24. Religiousness

Source: Adapted from A Primer in Positive Psychology, by Christopher Peterson, 2006, pp. 142–146.

Based on this classification, an individual’s strengths can be measured using the VIA Character Strengths Survey,
which includes 24 strengths organized under six basic virtues. This survey identifies individuals’ top five character
strengths as well as a rank order of their scores on all 24 character strengths. It takes about 30 minutes to complete
and is available free at

In recent years, there has been an increased interest in studying the way character strengths can be utilized to
improve leaders and leadership in organizations. For example, Sosik, Chun, Ete, Arenas, and Scherer (2019)
studied the character strengths of a sample of more than 200 U.S. Air Force officers and found that character
strengths played a pivotal role in fostering leader performance and psychological flourishing. When leaders
demonstrate high self-control along with high levels of honesty/humility, empathy, and moral courage, it appears
to benefit their ethical leadership, psychological functioning, and role performance. In another study, Sosik,
Gentry, and Chun (2012) assessed data for 191 top-level U.S. executives of for-profit and nonprofit organizations
and found that the character strengths of integrity, bravery, and social intelligence were positively related to
executive leader performance. In addition, they found integrity contributed the most to explaining the differences


in executive performance. These studies, as well as others, underscore the importance of understanding character
strengths and the role they play in leadership.


Emotional Intelligence

Another way of assessing the impact of traits on leadership is through the concept of emotional intelligence, which
emerged in the 1990s as an important area of study in psychology. It has been widely studied by researchers and
has captured the attention of many 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 (affective domain) and thinking
(cognitive domain) and the interplay between the two. Whereas intelligence 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 this understanding to life’s tasks. Specifically, emotional intelligence can be defined as the ability to
perceive and express emotions, to use emotions to facilitate thinking, to understand and reason with emotions, and
to effectively manage emotions within oneself and in relationships 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). The MSCEIT measures emotional intelligence as a
set of mental abilities, including the abilities to perceive, facilitate, understand, and manage emotion. In general,
the MSCEIT appears to have acceptable content validity and reliability (Boyatzis, 2019); however, a review of
research on emotional intelligence found that the emotional intelligence levels in people assessed using this
measure seem to be declining over time. Some posit that this may be due to initial studies of emotional intelligence
overstating the findings (Gong & Jiao, 2019).

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

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

Unlike other traits we’ve discussed in this chapter, there is evidence that emotional intelligence is not a fixed
characteristic; it can be improved through training that focuses on enabling leaders to label their emotions and then
regulate them (Ashkanasy, Dasborough, & Ascough, 2009). One experiment compared leaders who received
training to those who received no training (a control group). Those in the trained group exhibited improved
emotional intelligence competencies and significantly improved outcomes: lower stress, higher morale, and
improved civility (Slaski & Cartwright, 2003). Likewise, a meta-analysis of 58 studies of emotional intelligence
training that included control groups showed a moderate positive effect for the training (Mattingly & Kraiger,

Goleman and Boyatzis (2017) articulated four broad aspects of emotional intelligence: Self-awareness, self-
management, social awareness, and relationship management. They suggest that individuals can improve their
emotional intelligence by engaging in a combination of personal reflection and seeking feedback to the following

What are the differences between how you see yourself and how others see you? This can help you to
understand how your self-perception might differ from your reputation.

What matters to you? The areas of your emotional intelligence that you want to improve on should reflect the
feedback you’ve gotten as well as your personal aspirations.

What changes will you make to achieve these goals? Identify specific actions to take to improve.


Many organizations also see emotional intelligence as a trait that can be changed and have adopted emotional
intelligence training as part of their leadership development. For example, FedEx’s Global Leadership Institute has
an emotional intelligence training program for new managers that challenges these leaders to focus on the
following every day at work:

Know yourself—increase self-awareness of emotions and reactions

Choose yourself—shift from unconscious reactions to intentional responses

Give yourself—align moment-to-moment decisions with a larger sense of purpose

A key principle of the training is that “emotions drive people, [and] people drive performance.” FedEx has tracked
the improvements in managers’ emotional intelligence and reported an 8% to 11% increase in competencies due to
the training—a statistically significant difference (Freedman, 2014).

In addition, the U.S. Army developed a brief internet-based training program for enhancing emotional intelligence.
Because military personnel serve under dangerous and emotionally stressful conditions, the training was designed
to help reduce the development of depression, anxiety, and/or posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The training
helped service members strengthen their emotional flexibility, adaptability, and coping by improving the ability to
understand and control their emotions (Killgore, 2017).

There is a debate in the field regarding how big a role emotional intelligence plays in helping people be successful
in life. Some researchers, such as Goleman (1995), suggested that 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’s challenges. A
major review of leadership research identifies “emotions in leadership” as a general category but does not
specifically mention emotional intelligence (Dinh et al., 2014). It appears that emotional intelligence is not
considered mainstream in leadership research. At the same time, Kotsou, Mikolajczak, Heeren, Grégoire, and Leys
(2019) determined that the studies that have been done on the efficacy of emotional intelligence training have not
included follow-up research to determine the long-term effects of such training.

A review of the literature by Ashkanasy and Daus (2002) summarizes what we can safely conclude: Emotional
intelligence is distinct from, but positively related to, other intelligences (such as IQ). It is an individual difference;
some people have more emotional intelligence than others. Emotional intelligence develops over a person’s
lifetime and can be improved with training. Finally, it involves abilities to effectively identify and perceive
emotion and the skills to understand and manage emotions.

In summary, emotional intelligence appears to play a role in the leadership process. The underlying premise
suggested by the emotional intelligence framework is that people who are more sensitive to their emotions and the
impact of their emotions on others will be leaders who are more effective. As more research is conducted on
emotional intelligence, the intricacies of how emotional intelligence relates to leadership will be better understood.



The trait approach is very different from the other approaches discussed in subsequent chapters because it focuses
exclusively on the leader, not on the followers or the situation. This makes the trait approach theoretically more
straight forward than other approaches. In essence, the trait approach is concerned with what traits leaders exhibit
and who has these traits.

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

The trait approach suggests that organizations will work better if the people in managerial positions have
designated leadership profiles. To find the right people, it is common for organizations to use trait assessment
instruments. The assumption behind these procedures is that selecting the right people will increase organizational
effectiveness. Organizations can specify the characteristics or traits that are important to them for particular
positions and then 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 their own traits, managers
can gain an idea of their strengths and weaknesses and can get a feel for how others in the organization see them.
A trait assessment can help managers determine whether they have the qualities to move up or to move to other
positions in the company.

A trait assessment gives individuals a clearer picture of who they are as leaders and how they fit into the
organizational hierarchy. In areas where their traits are lacking, leaders can try to make 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 assess your leadership traits.
This instrument is typical of the kind of assessments that companies use to evaluate individuals’ leadership
potential. As you will discover by completing this instrument, trait measures are a good way to assess your own



The trait approach has several identifiable strengths. First, the trait approach is intuitively appealing. It fits clearly
with our notion that leaders are the individuals who are out front and leading the way in our society. The image in
the popular press and community at large is that leaders are a special kind of people—people with gifts who can do
extraordinary things. The trait approach is consistent with this perception because it is built on the premise that
leaders are different, and their difference resides in the special traits they possess. People have a need to see their
leaders as gifted people, and the trait approach fulfills this need.

A second strength of the trait approach is that it has a century of research to back it up. No other 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 of credibility that other approaches lack. Out of this abundance of
research has emerged a body 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 approach highlights the leader
component in the leadership process. Leadership is composed of leaders, 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 of the leader in leadership the trait approach has been able to provide us with a deeper and
more intricate understanding of how the leader and the leader’s traits are related to the leadership process.

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

Last, the trait approach helps organizations identify leaders and select individuals for leadership training programs.
Organizations often use a battery of personality tests when selecting and placing people within their organizations.
For example, conscientiousness, extraversion, and openness to experience are effective traits for sales positions
(Frieder, Wang, & Oh, 2018). Personality traits can be used to screen employees, once hired, who will benefit most
from leadership training. For example, one study found that extraversion, agreeableness, intellectual curiosity, and
emotional stability were positively related to both self-ratings and director ratings of leader development in a
training program (Blair, Palmieri, & Paz-Aparicio, 2018). Thus, traits offer a way to predict who will succeed in
certain positions and who is best suited to leadership development.



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

Another criticism is that the trait approach has failed to take situations into account. As Stogdill (1948) pointed out
more than 70 years ago, it is difficult to isolate a set of traits that 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 be leaders in another situation. Some people may have the traits that help them emerge as leaders but not the
traits that allow them to maintain their leadership over time. In other words, the situation influences leadership.

Leader traits also may interact with the situation in that certain traits may predispose a person to assume leadership
roles in organizations. For example, leaders with higher openness to experience may thrive in the innovative,
energetic environment of a high-technology start-up company, but once that company is established and running
on a routine, they may begin to feel stagnant, negatively affecting their performance. Yet, research on traits has not
incorporated the situation (Zaccaro et al., 2018), including such factors as the leader–member relationship, team
characteristics, or organizational culture that enhance or constrain the influence of traits on performance.

A third criticism, derived from the prior two criticisms, is that this approach has resulted in highly subjective
determinations of the most important leadership traits. Because the findings on traits have been so extensive and
broad, there has been much subjective interpretation of the meaning of the data. This subjectivity is readily
apparent in the many self-help, practice-oriented management books. For example, one author might identify
ambition and creativity as crucial leadership traits; another might identify empathy and calmness. In both cases, it
is the author’s subjective experience and observations that are the basis for the identified leadership traits. These
books may be helpful to readers because they identify and describe important leadership traits, but the methods
used to generate these lists 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 in strong, reliable research.

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

A final criticism of the trait approach is that, other than for emotional intelligence, its usefulness for leadership
training and development is limited. Even if definitive traits could be identified, teaching leaders to improve these
traits is not an easy process because traits are not easily changed. For example, it is not reasonable to send
managers to a training program to raise their IQ or to train them to become extraverted. While there is some
evidence that the trait of emotional intelligence may be improved with training, it is unclear whether these effects
are long lasting. The point is that traits are largely fixed psychological structures, and this limits the value of
teaching and leadership training.



Despite its shortcomings, the trait approach provides valuable information about leadership. 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 provide direction regarding which traits are good to have if one aspires to a leadership position.
By taking trait assessments and other similar questionnaires, people can gain insight into whether they have certain
traits deemed important for leadership, and they can pinpoint their strengths and weaknesses with regard to

As we discussed previously, managers can use information from the trait approach to assess where they stand in
their organization and what they need to do to strengthen their position. Trait information can suggest areas in
which their personal characteristics are very beneficial to the company and areas in which they may want to get
more training to enhance their overall approach. Using trait information, managers can develop a deeper
understanding of who they are and how they will affect others in the organization.



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


Case 2.1 Choosing a New Director of Research

Sandra Coke is vice president for research and development at Great Lakes Foods (GLF), a large snack food
company that has approximately 1,000 employees. As a result of a recent reorganization, Sandra must choose the
new director of research. The director will report directly to Sandra and will be responsible for developing and
testing new products. The research division of GLF employs about 200 people. The choice of directors is
important because Sandra is receiving pressure from the president and board of GLF to improve the company’s
overall growth and productivity.

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

A second candidate for the new position is Kelsey Metts, who has been with GLF for five years and is manager of
quality control for established products. Kelsey has a reputation for being very bright. Before joining GLF, she
received her MBA at Harvard, graduating at the top of her class. People talk about Kelsey as the kind of person
who will be president of her own company someday. Kelsey is also very personable. On all her performance
reviews, she received extra-high scores on sociability and human relations. There isn’t a supervisor in the company
who doesn’t have positive things to say about how comfortable it is to work with Kelsey. Since joining GLF,
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 upper
management regarding strategic planning and corporate direction setting. Thomas has been very involved in
establishing the vision for GLF and is a company person all the way. He believes in the values of GLF, and
actively promotes its mission. The two qualities that stand out above the rest in Thomas’s performance reviews are
his honesty and integrity. Employees who have worked under his supervision consistently report that they feel they
can trust Thomas to be fair and consistent. Thomas is highly respected at GLF. In his tenure at the company,
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 the
new position.


1. 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 Recruiting for the Bank

Pat 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 as he 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 same
schools, year after year.

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

The bank wants to hire people who can be groomed for higher-level leadership positions. Although certain
competencies are required of entry-level credit analysts, the bank is equally interested in skills that will allow
individuals 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 strong
interpersonal skills, they need to be confident, and they need to show poise and initiative. Next, because banking
involves fiduciary responsibilities, applicants need to have proper ethics, including a strong sense of the
importance of confidentiality. In addition, to do the work in the bank, they need to have strong analytical and
technical 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 upper management
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.


1. 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?


Case 2.3 Elon Musk

When he was 12, Elon Musk created and sold his first product. That video game, Blastar, was the start of Musk’s
meteoric entrepreneurial career, which has seen him take on everything from electric cars to space travel to
alternative energy.

Musk grew up in South Africa, the son of an engineer and a Canadian model. In grade school Musk was
introverted and often bullied, but at 15 he learned how to defend himself with karate and wrestling. He moved to
Canada at 17 to attend university and three years later left Canada to attend the University of Pennsylvania where
he earned degrees in economics and physics. In 1995, only two days into a PhD program in energy physics at
Stanford, Musk dropped out to launch his first company, Zip2, with his brother Kimbal. An online city guide, Zip2
provided content for websites of both the New York Times and the Chicago Tribune. Four years later, Compaq
Computer Corporation bought Zip2 for $307 million.

The Musk brothers then founded, an online financial services/payments company, which became PayPal.
Three years later, eBay acquired PayPal for $1.5 billion.

Now a billionaire, Musk started Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, or SpaceX, in 2002 with the
intention of building reusable spacecraft for commercial space travel. A year after launching SpaceX, Musk
became the cofounder, CEO, and product architect at Tesla Motors, dedicated to producing affordable, mass-
market electric cars as well as battery products and solar roofs. He also launched several other side projects,
including establishment of The Boring Company devoted to boring and building underground tunnels to reduce
street traffic, becoming cochair of the nonprofit research organization OpenAI with the mission of advancing
digital intelligence to benefit humanity, and development of the Hyperloop to create a more expedient form of
transportation between cities.

But unlike his earlier ventures, both SpaceX and Tesla had considerable challenges. In 2008, Musk was nearly out
of money after SpaceX’s Falcon 1 rocket, of which he was the chief designer, suffered three failed launches before
it finally had a successful one. Meanwhile, Tesla was hitting speed bump after speed bump in the development of
its vehicles, hemorrhaging money, and losing investor confidence as well as orders from customers who were
unhappy with the long wait time to get their vehicles.

Musk faced these challenges the way he did as a bullied school kid: head on. “Leaders are . . . expected to work
harder than those who report to them and always make sure that their needs are taken care of before yours, thus
leading by example,” he said (Jackson, 2017).

At SpaceX, Musk continued to innovate, and the company accomplished a stunning number of achievements
including successfully having rockets land safely back on earth after launches, transporting supplies to the
International Space Station, and developing a rocket that could carry heavier payloads. By 2019, SpaceX had
6,000-plus contracts, worth $12 billion, with NASA and other commercial satellite companies. The company,
which says its ultimate mission is to foster interplanetary life, is planning a cargo mission to Mars in 2022 (Space
Exploration Technologies Corp., 2020).

Many credit SpaceX’s success to the unified culture at the company created by its fairly flat organizational
structure and the fact that, despite its growth, the company still maintains a start-up mentality and feel.

“It’s an incredible place to work,” said one engineer. “There’s a great sense of connectedness between everyone.
Everyone’s got the same goal in mind. Everyone’s working super hard to deliver a product successfully. It’s
amazing when it all culminates in launch” (Mind & Machine, 2017).

Dolly Singh, the former head of human resources at SpaceX, said, “The thing that makes Elon Elon is his ability to
make people believe in his vision” (Snow, 2015). Jim Cantrell, SpaceX’s first engineer, added, “He is the smartest
guy I’ve ever met, period. I know that sounds overblown. But I’ve met plenty of smart people, and I don’t say that
lightly. He’s absolutely, frickin’ amazing. I don’t even think he sleeps” (Feloni, 2014).


But to turn Tesla around, Musk had to roll up his shirtsleeves. The company, which was four years behind on the
production of its Model 3, was under severe public scrutiny from investors and industry analysts. After missing
one deadline after another, Musk restructured the organization in April 2018 and took over as the head of
engineering to personally oversee efforts in that division. In a 2018 Twitter post, Musk said that to meet production
goals, it was time to “divide & conquer, so I’m back to sleeping at factory.” By the end of June 2018, Tesla had
met its goal of producing 5,000 Model 3 cars per week, while churning out another 2,000 Model S sedans and
Model X SUVs (Sage & Rodriguez, 2018).

Musk has been described as an unconventional leader, even by Silicon Valley standards. He is a prolific tweeter in
which he comments on everything from building cyborg dragons, to jokes about bankruptcy, to mixing Ambien
with red wine (Davies, 2018). He has graced magazine covers and goes on talk shows and appeared on animated
television shows The Simpsons and South Park. His peculiar sense of humor was on dramatic display when he
launched his own red Tesla Roadster sports car into space atop the first SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket. At the same
time, some of his behavioral quirks have also become liabilities.

In a public earnings call with investors and financial analysts, Musk attacked two analysts for asking what he
called “bonehead” and “dry” questions that he refused to answer, resulting in Tesla’s stock value plunging 10%
(Davies, 2018). When his efforts to assist in the rescue of 12 young soccer players and their coach from a flooded
cave in Thailand were criticized as self-aggrandizing rather than serious, Musk responded with a tweet calling one
of the divers involved in the rescue “pedo guy,” insinuating he was a child molester (Levin, 2018).

In August 2018, Musk wrote on Twitter that he was considering taking Tesla private and that he had the necessary
funding “secured” to do so. As a result, Tesla’s stock price immediately shot up, gaining the attention of the
Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which investigated and ultimately fined Musk $20 million. Less than
two weeks after that episode, Musk gave an emotional interview with the New York Times, in which he alternately
laughed and cried in a display that left many questioning his mental state and sent Tesla investors into sell mode
with their stock (Crum, 2018).

Not long after that interview, Musk changed his mind and said Tesla would remain a public company. He followed
that decision with an appearance on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast during which he smoked what was said to
be a marijuana-laced cigarette (Davies, 2018).

“The reason Elon seems to attract drama is that he is so transparent, so open, in a way that can come back to bite
him,” his brother and Tesla board member Kimbal Musk told the New York Times. “He doesn’t know how to do it
differently. It’s just who he is” (Gelles, 2018).

After all of the drama in 2018, there were many concerns about where Tesla would go in 2019. The answer? Tesla
ended 2019 on a high note, with a record stock price topping out at more than $400 per share.

“It’s been quite the turnaround for Musk since his ‘funding secured’ tweet debacle of last year,” one analyst noted.
“Tesla’s stock has been one of the top performers of the second-half of the year and Musk is proof that you can
take on the SEC, smoke weed on podcasts, call people pedo guy and still run a $70 billion company” (Crum,


1. How does Musk exhibit each of the major leadership traits (Table 2.2)? Which of these traits do you believe
he is the strongest in? Is there one where he is weak?

2. Describe how Musk has exhibited each of the Big Five personality factors. Which of these factors do you
think has the most correlation with Musk’s success as a leader?

3. Shankman and Allen (2015) suggest that an emotionally intelligent leader is conscious of context, self, and
others. How would you characterize Musk’s emotional intelligence using these three facets?

4. If you were asked to design a leadership training program based on the trait approach, how could you
incorporate the story of Elon Musk and his leadership? Around which of his traits would you structure your
training? Are some of his leadership traits more teachable than others? Discuss.


Leadership Instrument

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

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

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

Leadership Trait Questionnaire (LTQ)

Purpose: The purpose of this questionnaire is to measure personal characteristics of leadership and to gain
an understanding of how traits are used in leadership assessment.

Instructions: Using the following scale, indicate the degree to which you agree or disagree with each of the
14 statements when viewing yourself as a leader. After you complete this questionnaire, it should be
completed by five people you know (e.g., roommates, coworkers, relatives, friends) to show how they
view you as a leader.

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 oneself and one’s ability 1 2 3 4 5


4. Self-assured: Is secure with oneself, 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



1. 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 1 Rater 2 Rater 3 Rater 4 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

11. Conscientious 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 Interpretation

The scores you received on the LTQ provide information about how you see yourself as a leader and how
others see you as a leader. There are no “perfect” scores for this questionnaire. The purpose of the
instrument is to provide a way to assess your strengths and weaknesses. This assessment can help you
understand your assets as well as areas in which you may seek to improve. The chart allows you to see
where your perceptions are the same as those of others and where they differ.

The example ratings show how the leader self-rated higher than the observers did on the characteristic
articulate. On the second characteristic, perceptive, the leader self-rated substantially higher than others.
On the self-confident characteristic, the leader self-rated quite close to others’ ratings but lower.

A low or moderate self-rating (3 or below) on a trait may indicate that you have had little opportunity to
develop this part of your personality or that your current work or school setting does not require you to
exercise this trait. A high score (4 or above) suggests you are aware of this trait and use it often. How
similar or dissimilar your self-ratings are from others’ ratings may be affected by whom you chose to
evaluate you, how long these people have known you, and the contexts in which they have observed your



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

Around the mid-20th century, several major studies questioned the basic premise that a unique set of traits defined
leadership. As a result, attention shifted to incorporating the impact of situations and of followers on leadership.
Researchers began to study the interactions 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 renewed interest in
focusing directly on the critical traits of leaders.

From the multitude of studies conducted through the years on personal characteristics, it is clear that many traits
contribute to leadership. Some of the important traits that are consistently identified in many of these studies are
intelligence, self-confidence, determination, integrity, and sociability. In addition, researchers have found a strong
relationship between leadership and the traits described by the five-factor personality model. Extraversion was the
trait most strongly associated with leadership, followed by conscientiousness, openness, low neuroticism, and
agreeableness. Conscientiousness was found to have the highest correlation with overall job performance, task
performance, organizational citizenship behavior, and counterproductive work behavior (negative correlation) and
to be the most frequently assessed trait in job interviews for a variety of occupations.

Another recent line of research has focused on emotional intelligence and its relationship to leadership. This
research suggests that leaders who are sensitive to their emotions and to the impact of their emotions on others
may be leaders who are more effective.

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

There are several advantages to viewing leadership from the trait approach. First, it is intuitively appealing because
it fits clearly into the popular idea that leaders are special people who are out front, leading the way in society.
Second, a great deal of research validates the basis of this perspective. Third, by focusing exclusively on the
leader, the trait approach provides an in-depth understanding of the leader component in the leadership process.
Last, it has provided some benchmarks against which individuals can evaluate their own personal leadership

On the negative side, the trait approach has failed to provide a definitive list of leadership traits. 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 most important leadership traits, which are not necessarily grounded in strong,
reliable research.

Furthermore, the trait approach has not adequately linked the traits of leaders with other outcomes such as group
and team performance, which makes this approach not particularly useful for training and development for
leadership because individuals’ personal attributes are largely stable and fixed, and their traits are not amenable to
change. While there is some evidence that the trait of emotional intelligence may be improved with training,
follow-up studies have not been conducted to determine the long-term effects of such training.






Like the trait approach discussed in Chapter 2, the skills approach takes a leader-centered perspective on
leadership. However, in the skills approach we shift our thinking from focusing exclusively on traits to an
emphasis on skills and abilities that can be learned and developed. Although personality and behavior certainly
play a role in leadership, the skills approach emphasizes the capabilities, knowledge, and skills that are needed for
effective leadership.

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

In this chapter, our discussion of the skills approach is divided into two parts. First, we discuss the general ideas
set forth by Katz regarding three basic administrative skills: technical, human, and conceptual. Second, we discuss
the recent work of Mumford and colleagues 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 executives in the workplace, Katz
(1955, p. 34) suggested that effective administration (i.e., leadership) depends on three basic personal skills:
technical, human, and conceptual. Katz argued that these skills are quite different from traits or qualities of leaders.
Skills are what leaders 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 and competencies to accomplish
a set of goals or objectives. This chapter shows that these leadership 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 use appropriate tools and techniques (Katz,
1955). For example, in a computer software company, technical skills might include knowing software language
and programming, the company’s software products, and how to make these products function for clients.
Similarly, in an accounting firm, technical skills might include understanding and having the ability to apply
generally accepted accounting principles to a client’s audit. In both of these examples, technical skills involve a
hands-on activity with a basic product or process within an organization. Technical skills play an essential role in
producing the actual products a company is designed to produce.

As illustrated in Figure 3.1, technical skills are most important at lower and middle levels of management 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 the physical operation.

Human Skills

Human skills are knowledge about and ability to work with people. They are quite different from technical skills,
which have to do with working with things (Katz, 1955). Human skills are “people skills.” They are the abilities
that help a leader to work effectively with followers, peers, and superiors to accomplish the organization’s goals.
Human skills allow a leader to assist group members in working cooperatively as a group to achieve common
goals. For Katz, it means being aware of one’s own perspective on issues and, at the same time, being aware of the
perspective of others. Leaders with human skills adapt their own ideas to those of others. Furthermore, they create
an atmosphere of trust where followers can 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 being
sensitive to the needs and motivations of others and considering others’ needs in one’s decision making. In short,
human skills are the capacity to get along with others as you 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.

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 of followers, 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. Whereas technical skills deal
with things and human skills deal with people, conceptual skills involve the ability to work with ideas. A leader
with conceptual skills is comfortable talking about the ideas that shape an organization and the intricacies
involved. They are good at putting the organization’s goals into words and can understand and express the
economic principles that affect the organization. A leader with conceptual skills works easily with abstractions and
hypothetical notions.

Conceptual skills are central to creating a vision and strategic plan for an organization. For example, it would take
conceptual skills for a CEO in a struggling manufacturing company to articulate a vision for a line of new products
that would steer the company into profitability. Similarly, it would take conceptual skills for the director of a
nonprofit health organization to create a strategic plan to compete successfully with for-profit health organizations
in a market with scarce resources. The point of these examples is that conceptual skills have to do with the mental
work of shaping the meaning of organizational or policy issues—understanding what an organization stands for
and where it is or should be going.

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 can jeopardize the whole organization. Conceptual skills
are also important in middle management; as we move down to lower management levels, conceptual skills
become less important.


Summary of the Three-Skill Approach

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

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 received recognition in leadership research. In the next
section, the comprehensive skill-based model of leadership is presented.


Skills Model

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

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 good problem solvers and others are not? What
specific skills do high-performing leaders exhibit? How do leaders’ individual characteristics, career experiences,
and environmental influences affect their job performance? As a whole, researchers wanted to identify the
leadership factors that create exemplary job performance in an actual organization.

Based on the extensive findings from the project, M. Mumford and colleagues formulated a skill-based model of
leadership (Figure 3.2). The model is characterized as a capability model because it examines the relationship
between a leader’s knowledge and skills (i.e., capabilities) and the leader’s performance (M. Mumford, Zaccaro,
Harding, et al., 2000, p. 12). Leadership capabilities 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 is reserved 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 can acquire leadership skills. The skills approach can also be
distinguished from the leadership approaches, discussed in subsequent chapters, that focus on behavioral patterns
of leaders (e.g., the style approach, leader–member exchange theory, and transformational leadership). Rather than
emphasizing what leaders do, the skills approach frames leadership as the capabilities (knowledge and skills) that
make effective leadership possible (M. Mumford, Zaccaro, Harding, et al., 2000, p. 12).


Figure 3.2 Influence of Leader Characteristics on Leader Performance

Source: Adapted from “Leadership Skills for a Changing World: Solving Complex Social 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 by Elsevier.

The skill-based model of M. Mumford’s group has five components: competencies, individual attributes, career
experiences, environmental influences, and leadership outcomes (performance and problem solving) (Figure 3.2).


Individual Attributes

The leftmost box in Figure 3.2 identifies four individual attributes that have an impact on leadership skills and
knowledge: general cognitive ability, crystallized cognitive ability, motivation, and personality. These attributes
play important roles in the skills model. Complex problem solving is a very difficult process and becomes more
difficult as people move up in an organization. These attributes support people as they apply their leadership

General Cognitive Ability.

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

General cognitive ability is sometimes described as fluid intelligence, a type of intelligence that usually grows and
expands up through early adulthood and then declines with age. In the skills model, intelligence is described as
having a positive impact on the leader’s acquisition 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 is the store of knowledge
we acquire through experience. We learn and increase our capacities over a lifetime, increasing our leadership
potential (e.g., problem-solving skills, conceptual ability, and social judgment skills). In normally functioning
adults, this type of cognitive ability 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 as being 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 and mental abilities people learn through experience. Because it
stays fairly stable over time, this type 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 three categories of
motivations (self-interest, career considerations, and higher purposes) that propel leaders, the skills model takes a
different approach, instead suggesting there are three aspects of motivation—willingness, dominance, and social
good—that are essential to developing leadership skills (M. Mumford, Zaccaro, Harding, et al., 2000, p. 22).

First, leaders must be willing to tackle complex organizational problems. This first step is critical. For leadership to
occur, a person must want to lead. Second, leaders must be willing to express dominance—to exert their influence,
as we discussed in Chapter 2. In influencing others, the leader must take on the responsibility of dominance
because the influence component of leadership is inextricably bound to dominance. Third, leaders must be
committed to the social good of the organization. Social good is a broad term that can refer to a host of outcomes.
However, in the skills model it refers to the leader’s willingness to take on the responsibility of trying to advance
the overall human good and value of the organization. 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 the model, this attribute
reminds us that our personality has an impact on the development of our leadership skills. For example, openness,
tolerance for ambiguity, and curiosity may affect a leader’s motivation to try to solve some organizational
problems. Or, in conflict situations, traits such as confidence and adaptability may be beneficial to a leader’s
performance. The skills model hypothesizes that any personality characteristic that helps people to cope with
complex organizational situations probably is related to leader performance (M. Mumford, Zaccaro, Harding, et
al., 2000).



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

Problem-Solving Skills.

What are problem-solving skills? According to M. Mumford, Zaccaro, Harding, and colleagues (2000), problem-
solving skills are a leader’s creative ability to solve new and unusual, ill-defined organizational problems. The
skills include being able to define significant problems, gather problem information, formulate new understandings
about the problem, and generate prototype plans for problem solutions. M. 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 problems affecting the organization
2. Cause/goal analysis, the ability to analyze the causes and goals relevant to addressing problems
3. Constraint analysis, the ability to identify the constraints, or limiting factors, influencing any problem

4. Planning, the ability to formulate plans, mental simulations, and actions arising from cause/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
9. 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 development of the next.



Figure 3.3 Hypothetical Relationships Between Problem-Solving Skills

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

To clarify how these problem-solving skills work in conjunction with one another, consider the following
hypothetical situation. Imagine that you are the director of human resources for a medium-sized company and you
have been informed by the president that you must 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
full ramifications for employees of changing their health insurance coverage (problem definition; forecasting).
What is the impact going to be (cause/goal analysis)? Second, you gather information about how benefits can be
scaled back (constraint analysis). What other companies 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 clearly understood (planning; creative
thinking; wisdom)? Fourth, you create possible scenarios for how the changes will be instituted (forecasting; idea
evaluation). How will the plan be described? Fifth, you look closely at the solution itself (idea evaluation). How
will implementing this change affect the company’s mission and your own career (sensemaking; visioning)? Last,
are there issues in the organization (e.g., union rules) that may affect the implementation of these changes
(constraint analysis; forecasting)?

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

Being able to construct solutions plays a special role in problem solving. In considering solutions to organizational
problems, skilled leaders need to attend to the time frame for constructing 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 (M. Mumford, Zaccaro, Harding, et al., 2000, p. 15).

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

Social Judgment and Social Skills.

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

Conceptually, social judgment skills are like Katz’s (1955) early work on the role of human skills in management.
In contrast to Katz’s work, Mumford and colleagues have delineated social judgment skills into the following:
perspective taking, social perceptiveness, behavioral flexibility, and social performance.

Perspective taking means understanding the attitudes that others have toward a particular problem or solution. It is
empathy applied to problem solving. Perspective taking means being sensitive to other people’s perspectives and
goals—being able to understand their point of view on different issues. Included in perspective taking is knowing
how different constituencies in an organization view a problem and possible solutions (Gasiorek & Ebesu
Hubbard, 2017). According to Zaccaro, Gilbert, Thor, and Mumford (1991), perspective-taking skills can be
likened to social intelligence. These skills are concerned with knowledge about 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 how do they react to change? Social


perceptiveness means understanding the unique needs, goals, and demands of different organizational
constituencies (Zaccaro et al., 1991). A leader with social perceptiveness has a keen sense of how followers will
respond to any proposed change in the organization. In a sense, you could say it allows the leader to know the
pulse of followers on any issue at any time.

In addition to understanding others accurately, social judgment skills involve reacting to others with flexibility.
Behavioral flexibility is the capacity to change and adapt one’s behavior in light of understanding others’
perspectives in the organization. Being flexible means one is not locked into a singular approach to a problem. One
is not dogmatic 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 an understanding of followers’
perspectives, leaders need to be able to communicate their own vision 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 to function as mediators. To this end, skill in conflict resolution is an important aspect of
social performance competency. In addition, social performance sometimes requires that leaders coach followers,
giving them direction and support as they move toward selected organizational goals. In all, social performance
includes many related skills that may come under the umbrella of communication.

To review, social judgment skills are about being sensitive to how your ideas fit in with others. Can you understand
others’ perspectives and their unique needs and motivations? Are you flexible, and can you adapt your own ideas
to those of others? Can you work with others even when there is resistance and conflict? Social judgment skills are
the people skills needed 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 complex organizational problems and to attempt to solve them (M. Mumford, Zaccaro,
Harding, et al., 2000). Knowledge is the accumulation of information and the mental structures used to organize
that information. Such a mental structure is called a schema (a summary, a diagrammatic representation, or an
outline). Knowledge results from having developed an assortment of complex schemata for learning and
organizing data.

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

Consider the following baseball example. A baseball expert knows a lot of facts about the game; 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 complex mental structures used in organizing and structuring those facts. This
person knows not only the season and lifetime statistics for each player, but also each player’s quirks and injuries,
the personality of the manager, the strengths and weaknesses of available substitutes, and so on. The expert
comprehends the complexities and nuances of baseball, and thus knows the game. The same is true for leadership
in organizations. Leaders with knowledge know much about the products, the tasks, the people, the organization,
and all the different ways these elements are related to each other. A knowledgeable leader has many mental
structures with which to organize the facts of organizational life.

Knowledge has a positive impact on how leaders engage in problem solving. It is knowledge and expertise that
make it possible for people to think about complex system issues and identify possible strategies for appropriate
change. Furthermore, this capacity allows people to use prior cases and incidents to plan for needed change. It is
knowledge that allows 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 positively related to effective leadership performance (Figure



Influences on Skills Development

As you can see in Figure 3.2, the skills model identifies two influences that are related to the leader’s attributes and
competencies and leadership outcomes: career experiences and environmental influences.

Career Experiences.

The skills model suggests that the career experiences (represented in Figure 3.2 as the topmost box) acquired in
the course of leaders’ careers influence their development of knowledge and skills for solving complex problems.
M. Mumford, Zaccaro, Harding, and colleagues (2000, p. 24) pointed out that leaders can be helped through
challenging job assignments, mentoring, appropriate training, and hands-on experience in solving new and unusual
problems. In addition, the authors think that career experiences can positively affect the individual attributes 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 that conceptual skills are essential
for upper-level administrators. This is consistent with M. Mumford, Zaccaro, Harding, and colleagues’ (2000)
skills model, which contends that leaders develop competencies over time. Career experiences help leaders to
improve their skills and knowledge over time. Leaders learn and develop higher levels of conceptual capacity if, as
they ascend the organizational hierarchy, the kinds of problems they confront are progressively more complex and
longer term (M. Mumford, Zaccaro, Connelly, et al., 2000). Similarly, upper-level leaders, as opposed to first-line
supervisors, develop new competencies because they are required to address problems that are more novel, are
more poorly defined, and demand more human interaction. As these people move through their careers, higher
levels of problem-solving and social judgment skills become increasingly important (M. Mumford & Connelly,

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

Environmental Influences.

Another important component of the skills model is environmental influences, which is illustrated at the bottom of
Figure 3.2. Environmental influences represent factors that lie outside the leader’s competencies, characteristics,
and experiences. These environmental influences can be internal and external.

Internal environmental influences include such factors as technology, facilities, expertise of followers, and
communication. For example, an aging factory lacking in high-speed technology could have a major impact on the
nature 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’s problem solving and performance. Similarly, if a
task is particularly complex or a group’s communication poor, the leader’s performance will be affected.

External environmental influences, including economic, political, and social issues, as well as natural disasters, can
provide unique challenges to leaders. How U.S. public schools responded to the COVID-19 pandemic is a good
recent example of this. As stay-at-home restrictions were enacted, most public schools closed months before the
school year would have ended. A majority of these schools were unprepared to switch to online learning. Many
districts faced an additional barrier in delivery of online learning due to access: 17% of U.S. students did not have
computers in the home, and 18% of students lacked access to high-speed internet (Melia, Amy, & Fenn, 2019).

School leaders across the country scrambled to come up with solutions, including working with local governments
and nonprofits to find ways to establish internet hotspots in neighborhoods and to secure and distribute devices to


students so they could access online learning. In addition, because most teachers had never actually engaged in
online teaching, they were untrained and struggled and underperformed. Others, however, found that having to
teach online serendipitously improved their teaching performance. School leaders nationwide had to respond to the
very unique challenges posed by an external force completely beyond their control and did so with varying degrees
of success.

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 indeed influences that can affect a leader’s performance, but
not usually under the control of the leader.

Leadership Outcomes

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

Effective Problem Solving.

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


In the model, performance outcomes reflect how well individual leaders have done their job. To measure
performance, standard external criteria are used. If a leader has done well and been successful, the leader’s
evaluations will be positive. Leaders who are effective receive good annual performance reviews, get merit raises,
and are recognized by superiors and followers as competent leaders. In the end, performance is the degree to which
a leader has successfully performed the assigned duties.

Taken together, effective problem solving and performance are the outcomes used to assess leadership
effectiveness in the skills model. Furthermore, good problem solving and good performance go hand in hand.

Summary of the Skills Model

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



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 a structure for understanding the
nature of effective leadership. In the previous sections, we discussed the skills perspective based on the work of
Katz (1955) and M. Mumford, Zaccaro, Harding, and colleagues (2000). What does each of these bodies of work
suggest about the structure and functions of leadership?

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

This approach was reinforced in a 2007 study that examined the skills needed by executives at different levels of
management. The researchers used a four-skill model, similar to Katz’s approach, to assess cognitive skills,
interpersonal skills, business skills, and strategic skills of 1,000 managers at the junior, middle, and senior levels of
an organization. The results showed that interpersonal and cognitive skills were required more than business and
strategic skills for those on the lower levels of management. As one climbed the career ladder, however, the
execution of higher levels of all four of these leadership skills became necessary (T. Mumford, Campion, &
Morgeson, 2007).

In their skills model, M. Mumford, Zaccaro, Harding, and colleagues (2000) provided a more complex picture of
how skills relate to the manifestation of effective leadership. Their skills model contends that leadership outcomes
are the direct result of a leader’s competencies in problem-solving skills, social judgment skills, and knowledge.
Each of these competencies includes 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, crystallized cognitive
ability, motivation, and personality influence the leader’s competencies. And finally, the model describes how
career experiences and environmental influences play a direct or indirect role in leadership performance.

The skills approach works by providing a map for how to reach effective leadership in an organization: Leaders
need to have problem-solving skills, social judgment skills, and knowledge. Workers can improve their capabilities
in these areas through training and experience. Although individual leaders’ personal attributes affect their skills, it
is a leader’s skills themselves that are most important in addressing organizational problems.



In several ways, the skills approach contributes positively to our understanding about leadership. First, it is a
leader-centered model that stresses the importance of developing particular leadership skills. It is the first approach
to conceptualize and create a structure of the process of leadership around skills. Whereas the early research on
skills highlighted the importance of skills and the value of skills across different management levels, the later work
placed learned skills at the center of effective leadership performance at all management levels. The skills
approach also supports succession planning in organizations by ensuring that there is a pool of potential managers
ready to assume leadership at the next level (Griffith, Baur, & Buckley, 2019).

Second, the skills approach is intuitively appealing. To describe leadership in terms of skills makes leadership
available to everyone. Unlike personality traits, skills are competencies that people can learn or develop. It is like
playing a sport such as tennis or golf. Even without natural ability in these sports, people can improve their games
with practice and instruction. The same is true with leadership. When leadership is framed as a set of skills, it
becomes a process that people can study and practice to become better at performing their jobs.

An example of how individuals can improve their leadership skills is evident in game-based learning (GBL),
which has been applied to developing leadership skills in recent years. Through GBL, individuals work toward a
goal, choosing actions and experiencing the consequences of those actions in a risk-free setting. Through
experimentation, participants learn and practice the right way to do things. In one study, a leadership game was
found to improve motivation, facilitation, coaching, mindset changing, and communication (Sousa & Rocha, 2019)
in participants. GBL also gives individuals at all levels in an organization access to training for leadership

Third, the skills approach provides an expansive view of leadership that incorporates a wide variety of
components, including problem-solving skills, social judgment skills, knowledge, individual attributes, career
experiences, and environmental influences. Each of these components can further be subdivided into several
subcomponents. The result is a picture of leadership that encompasses a multitude of factors. Because it includes
so many variables, the skills approach captures many of the intricacies and complexities of leadership not found in
other models.

Last, the skills approach provides a structure that is very consistent with the curricula of most leadership education
programs. Leadership development was estimated to be a $14 billion industry in the United States (Gurdjian,
Halbeisen, & Lane, 2014), and leadership education programs throughout the country have traditionally taught
classes in creative problem solving, conflict resolution, listening, and teamwork, to name a few. The content of
these classes closely mirrors many of the components in the skills model. Clearly, the skills approach provides a
structure that helps to frame the curricula of leadership education and development programs.



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

Second, related to the first criticism, the skills model is weak in predictive value. It does not explain specifically
how variations in social judgment skills and problem-solving skills affect performance. The model suggests that
these components are related, but it does not describe with any precision just how that works. In short, the model
can be faulted because it does not explain how skills lead to effective leadership performance. Despite the billions
of dollars spent on leadership training, the overall effectiveness of these programs has not been clearly
substantiated (Kellerman, 2012). In addition, the ability of leaders to transfer skills training to the job may be
limited by the followers, the situation, or the organizational culture.

The final criticism of the skills approach is that it may not be suitably or appropriately applied to other contexts of
leadership. The skills model was constructed by using a large sample of military personnel and observing their
performance in the armed services. This represents a highly structured, hierarchical organizational culture where
the variance in leader behavior is restricted. This raises an obvious question: Can the results be generalized to other
populations or organizational settings? Although some research suggests that these military findings can be
generalized to other groups (M. Mumford, Zaccaro, Connelly, et al., 2000), more research is needed to address this



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

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

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



The following three case studies (Cases 3.1, 3.2, and 3.3) describe leadership situations that can be analyzed and
evaluated from the skills perspective. The first case involves the principal investigator of a federally funded
research grant. In the second case, we learn about how the owner of an Italian restaurant has created his own recipe
for success. The third case profiles Kenyan teacher Peter Tabichi and his work to improve not only his students’
lives, but their community as well.

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


Case 3.1 A Strained Research Team

Dr. Adam Wood is the principal investigator on a three-year, $1 million federally funded research grant to study
health education programs for older populations, called the Elder Care Project. Unlike previous projects, in which
Dr. Wood worked alone or with one or two other investigators, on this project Dr. Wood has 11 colleagues. 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 and the 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 team members are committed to
the project; they believe in its goals and the importance of its outcomes. Dr. Wood is known throughout the
country as the foremost scholar in this area of health education research. He is often asked to serve on national
review and advisory boards. His publication record is second to none. In addition, his colleagues in the university
know Dr. Wood as a very competent researcher. People come to Dr. Wood for advice on research design and
methodology questions. They also come to him for questions about theoretical formulations. 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 a
great deal of work to be done but that the members of the team are not devoting sufficient time to the Elder Care
Project. He is frustrated because many of the day-to-day research tasks of the project are falling into his lap. He
enters a research meeting, throws his notebook down on the table, and says, “I wish I’d never taken this project on.
It’s taking way too much of my time. The rest of you aren’t pulling your fair share.” Team members feel
exasperated at Dr. Wood’s comments. Although they respect his competence, they find his leadership style
frustrating. 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 pay or credit than
expected. The project is sucking away a lot of staff energy, yet Dr. Wood does not seem to understand the pressures
confronting his staff.

The research staff is starting to feel burned out, but members realize they need to keep trying because they are
under time constraints from the federal government to do the work promised. The team needs to develop a
pamphlet for the participants in the Elder Care Project, but the pamphlet costs are significantly more than budgeted
in the grant. Dr. Wood has been very adept at finding out where they might find small pockets of money 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 just
another example of how he was the one doing most of the work on the project.


1. 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 competencies would you
address with him? What changes would you suggest that he make in his leadership?


Case 3.2 Andy’s Recipe

Andy Garafallo owns an Italian restaurant that sits in the middle of a cornfield near a large midwestern city. On the
restaurant’s far wall is an elaborate mural of the canals of Venice. A gondola hangs on the opposite wall, up by the
ceiling. Along another wall is a row of real potted lemon trees. “My ancestors are from Sicily,” says Andy. “In
fact, 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 is celebrating
its 25th anniversary. “I’m darned sure of what I want to do. I’m not trying different fads to get people to come
here. People come here because they know they will get great food. They also want to support someone with
whom they can connect. This is my approach. Nothing more, nothing less.” Although other restaurants have
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, and
Patrick. 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 her
because 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 working
at Garafallo’s—she lives and breathes the place. She fully buys into Andy’s approach of putting customers first. In
fact, Andy says she has a knack for knowing what customers need even before they ask. Although she is very
hospitable, 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 some
reason, Patrick treats customers as if they are faceless, coming across as very unemotional. In addition, Patrick
tends to approach problems with an either–or perspective. This has gotten him into trouble on more than one
occasion. Andy wishes that Patrick would learn to lighten up. “He’s a good manager, but he needs to recognize that
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. He sees
part of his responsibility as teaching them every aspect of the restaurant business. Andy’s stated goal is that he
wants his managers to be “A” players when they leave his business to take on jobs elsewhere. Helping people to
become 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 ways
to 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 and wondered if
they could bring along a cake. I said ‘yes’ with one stipulation. . . . I get a piece! Well, the people came and spent a
lot of money. Then they told me that they had actually wanted to go to another restaurant, but the 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 quite well. Although many
places are happy to net 5%–7% profit, Andy’s Italian restaurant nets 30% profit, year in and year out.


1. 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 their skills?
3. How would you describe Andy’s competencies? Does Andy’s leadership suggest that one does not need all

three skills to be effective?


Case 3.3 2019 Global Teacher of the Year: Peter Tabichi

How does one take nearly 500 secondary math and science students at a school in an impoverished, remote part of
Kenya with only one computer, a poor internet connection, and a student–teacher ratio of 58:1 and turn them into
motivated, successful students and award-winning scientists?

That’s the question many have been asking Peter Tabichi, a math and science teacher at Keriko Mixed Day
Secondary School in Pwani village, who was named the Varkey Foundation’s 2019 Global Teacher of the Year
after being chosen from more than 10,000 nominations from 179 countries.

For Peter, who is a friar in the Franciscan Brotherhood, teaching starts with understanding his students, their
cultures, and the challenges they face. Keriko is a government-run school in a part of Kenya frequently stricken
with drought and famine, and Peter’s students come from poor families who barely eke out a living farming the
land. A third of the school’s students are orphans or have only one parent and have lives marked by drug abuse,
teenage pregnancies, early school dropout, young marriages, and suicide.

The fifth of eight children, Peter understands his students’ hardships. Peter’s father was a teacher and his mother a
farmer. “We lived in a mud house, and we ate maize and vegetables grown in the garden,” he says. His mother died
when he was 11, and his youngest sibling just 1. “After that, I had to go to the school where my father taught, and
that was a 7-kilometer walk each way,” he says. “It was hard, but I knew I was lucky to be getting an education.
My father took out loan after loan to put us through school” (Moorhead, 2019).

Peter went on to university to become a teacher and began his teaching career in a private school, and while he felt
he was making a difference for his students, he wanted to do more. “I felt that the surrounding communities, they
also needed my help. I said, ‘Let me stretch and extend the same love to the surrounding community’” (Talking
Education, 2019).

“I felt increasingly inspired by the life of St. Francis of Assisi. His humility and simplicity appealed to me,” he
says. Peter took his vows to become a Franciscan in 2018. “It’s a challenging life, but I knew it was the right path
for me. There are big commitments to make, but this life brings me much happiness” (Moorhead, 2019).

Coming to Keriko, Peter began by giving away 80% of his income every year to provide the school’s students with
books and uniforms because many of the students’ families could not afford to do so. Peter also saw that his
students were “not able to concentrate mainly because they are not able to get enough meals at home” (Talking
Education, 2019). To battle this food insecurity, he used his knowledge of science and farming to teach members
of the community sustainable agriculture including ways of growing vegetables that use a very small portion of
land and water. “Teaching the members of the community new ways of farming is a matter of life and death,” he
says (Talking Education, 2019).

Part of his efforts in the community also involved convincing families and community members of the value of
education. He would personally visit families whose children were at risk of dropping out of school and try to
change the minds of those who expected their daughters to get married at an early age, encouraging the families to
instead keep their girls in school (Zaki, 2019).

In the classroom, Peter saw that he needed to do more for his students than impart the basics of math and science.
For many of his students, success in school was about instilling them with confidence. “It is all about having
confidence in the student. Every child has potential, a gift or a talent. I try to engage students in various activities
and mentor them. It is not a matter of telling them ‘do this’ and then walking away. You need to work with them
closely” (Wodon, 2019).

To help build his students’ self-esteem, Peter started a series of school societies, notably the Talent Nurturing Club.
“Everyone had something they were good at, and then they started to believe in themselves, and they started to do
better at everything” (Moorhead, 2019).

Another pivotal group Peter formed was the Peace Club. Because the school’s students are a mix of genders and
come from several different tribes and villages, there was the potential for students to form groups and for conflict


to occur between the groups. Members of the Peace Club engage in activities like debating, tree planting, and
sports where they have to work together. “They see that they can achieve as a group, not only as individuals. They
see themselves as people who are united. This also helps them do well in the classroom because they are able to
work as a team,” Peter explains (Wodon, 2019).

Peter also expanded the school’s Science Club, an effort that has been so successful that 60% of the club’s research
projects qualify for national competitions. At the 2018 Kenya Science and Engineering Fair, Keriko students
showcased a device they invented to help people with vision and hearing impairments to measure objects. The
club’s math and science team qualified to participate at the Intel-sponsored International Science and Engineering
Fair in 2019. Another group of students was recognized by the Royal Society of Chemistry for their work in
harnessing local plant life to generate electricity.

Despite the school only having one computer, limited internet access, and no library or labs, Peter has been able to
incorporate information technology into 80% of his lessons. He visits internet cafés to download online content to
be used offline in class, which he pays for out of his own pocket. He and his colleagues also visit struggling
students’ homes on the weekends to provide one-on-one tutoring and meet their families to identify the challenges
they face.

In just three years, Peter has dramatically improved his pupils’ achievement and self-esteem. The school’s
enrollment has doubled, girls’ achievement has been boosted, and discipline cases have fallen from 30 per week to
3. In 2017, only 16 out of Keriko’s 59 graduating students went on to college; in 2018, 26 did (Wodon, 2019).

A colleague describes Peter as dedicated, passionate, and humble. “Bro Tabichi’s belief in his students has made
our poorly equipped school perform well in national science competitions. . . . He became our role model” (Matara
& Njeru, 2019).

“The fact that many students have varying needs, has taught me to be creative in using the best approaches while
teaching them. They want to feel recognized, loved, appreciated and respected. They have taught me that for them
to realize their dreams, you need to work with them closely with a lot of resilience, patience and dedication”
(Koigi, 2019).


1. Applying the Katz three-skills approach, describe Peter Tabichi’s technical, human, and conceptual skills.
Which of these three skills is most important to Tabichi’s success as a leader?

2. How would you describe Peter’s competencies?
3. Describe how you believe Peter’s career experiences and environmental influences have shaped his leadership

4. Describe some of the problem-solving skills Peter has exhibited. How have his competencies and individual

attributes contributed to his problem solving?


Leadership Instrument

Many questionnaires assess an individual’s skills for leadership. A quick search of the internet provides a host of
these questionnaires. Almost all of them are designed to be used in training and development to give people a feel
for their leadership abilities. Surveys have been used for years to help people understand and improve their
leadership style, but most questionnaires are not used in research because they have not been tested for reliability
and validity. Nevertheless, they are useful as self-help instruments because they provide specific 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, they are not
suitable for our more pragmatic discussion of leadership in this text. In essence, they are too complex and
involved. For example, M. Mumford, Zaccaro, Harding, and colleagues (2000) used measures that included open-
ended responses and very sophisticated scoring procedures. Though critically important for validating the 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 are measured
and what your own skills might be. Your scores on the inventory will give you a sense of your own leadership
competencies. You may be strong in all three skills, or you may be stronger in some skills than in others. The
questionnaire will give you a sense of your own skills profile. If you are stronger in one skill and weaker in
another, this may help you determine where you want to improve in the future.

Skills Inventory

Purpose: The purpose of this questionnaire is to determine your leadership strengths and weaknesses.

Instructions: Read each item carefully and decide whether the item describes you as a person. Indicate
your response to each item by selecting one of the five options 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



The skills inventory is designed to measure three broad types of leadership skills: technical, human, and
conceptual. 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 your
conceptual skill score.

Total scores: Technical skill _____ Human skill _____ Conceptual skill _____


Scoring Interpretation

For each category:

23–30 High Range

14–22 Moderate Range

6–13 Low Range

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



The skills approach is a leader-centered perspective that emphasizes the competencies of leaders. It is best
represented in the early work of Katz (1955) on the three-skill approach and the more recent work of M. Mumford
and his colleagues (M. Mumford, Zaccaro, Harding, et al., 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, the importance of each skill varies between
management levels. At lower management levels, technical and human skills are most important. For middle
managers, the three different skills are equally important. At upper management levels, conceptual and human
skills are most important, and technical skills become less important. Leaders are more effective when their skills
match their management level.

In the 1990s, the skills model was developed to explain the capabilities (knowledge and skills) that make effective
leadership possible. Far more complex than Katz’s paradigm, this model delineated five components of effective
leader performance: competencies, individual attributes, career experiences, environmental influences, and
leadership outcomes. The leader competencies at the heart of the model are problem-solving skills, social
judgment skills, and knowledge. These competencies are directly affected by the leader’s individual attributes,
which include general cognitive ability, crystallized cognitive ability, motivation, and personality. Individual
leaders’ competencies are also affected by their career experiences and the environment. The model postulates that
effective problem solving and performance can be explained by a leader’s basic competencies and that these
competencies 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 is a leader-centered
model that stresses the importance of the leader’s abilities, and it places learned skills at the center of effective
leadership performance. Second, the skills approach describes leadership in such a way that makes it available to
everyone. Skills are competencies that we all can learn to develop and improve. Third, the skills approach provides
a sophisticated map that explains how effective leadership performance can be achieved. Based on the model,
researchers can develop complex plans for studying the leadership process. Last, this approach provides a structure
for leadership education and development 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, and personality 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 is weak in general application because it was constructed using data only from military
personnel. Until the model has been tested with other populations, such as small and large organizations and
businesses, its basic tenets must still be questioned.


Descriptions of Images and Figures
Back to Figure

The skills needed at each level of management are as follows.

Top management: Equal amount of human and conceptual skills, and a lesser amount of technical skills.

Middle management: Equal amount of technical, human, and conceptual skills.

Supervisory management: Equal amount of technical and human skills, and a lesser amount of conceptual skills.

Back to Figure

Individual attributes are general cognitive ability, crystallized cognitive ability, motivation, and personality.
Competencies are problem-solving skills, social judgement and social skills, and knowledge. Individual attributes
influence competencies, which influence problem solving, which in turn influence performance. Career
experiences influence individual attributes and competencies. Environmental influences affect individual
attributes, competencies, problem-solving, and performance. Leadership outcomes are problem-solving and

Back to Figure

The steps are as follows:

Problem definition

Cause or goal analysis and constraint analysis



Creative thinking

Idea evaluation and wisdom, which influence each other

Sensemaking and visioning






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

Researchers studying the behavioral approach determined that leadership is composed of two general kinds of
behaviors: task behaviors and relationship behaviors. Task behaviors facilitate 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
behavioral approach is to explain how leaders combine these two kinds of behaviors to influence followers in their
efforts to reach a goal.

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

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


Task and Relationship Behaviors

The essence of leadership behavior has two dimensions—task behaviors and relationship behaviors. There are
leadership situations and challenges that call for strong task behavior, while others demand strong relationship
behavior, but some degree of each is required in every situation. At the same time, because of personality and life
experiences, leaders bring to every situation their own unique tendencies to be either more task oriented or more
relationship oriented, or some unique blend of the two. On the surface, this may seem incidental or ho-hum, but in
regard to leader effectiveness, the utilization of both of these behaviors is absolutely pivotal to success or failure.

Task Orientation

Simply put, task-oriented people are doers, and task leadership behaviors facilitate goal accomplishment.
Researchers have labeled these behaviors differently, but they are always about task accomplishment. Task
leadership considers the elements involved in task accomplishment from organizing work and defining roles to
determining policies and procedures to facilitate production.

Relationship Orientation

Relationship-oriented people differ from task-oriented people in that they are not as goal directed in their
leadership behavior; they are more interested in connecting with others. Relationship-oriented leadership behaviors
focus on the well-being of followers, how they relate to each other, and the atmosphere in which they work.
Relationship leadership explores the human aspects of leadership from building camaraderie, respect, trust, and
regard between leaders and followers to valuing followers’ uniqueness and attending to their personal needs.

Task and relationship leadership behaviors are inextricably tied together, and the behavioral approach looks at how
leaders engage in both of these behaviors and the extent to which situational factors affect these behaviors.


Historical Background of the Behavioral Approach

The Ohio State Studies

A group of researchers at Ohio State believed that the results of studying leadership as a personality trait seemed
fruitless and decided to analyze how individuals acted when they were leading a group or an organization. This
analysis was conducted by having followers complete questionnaires about their leaders. On the questionnaires,
followers had to identify 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 than 1,800 items describing
different aspects of leader behavior. From this long list of items, a questionnaire composed of 150 questions was
formulated; it was called the Leader Behavior Description Questionnaire (LBDQ; Hemphill & Coons, 1957). The
LBDQ was given to hundreds of people in educational, military, and industrial settings, and the results showed that
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 questionnaire similar to the LBDQ, which you can use to assess your own leadership
behavior, appears later in this chapter.

Researchers found that followers’ responses on the questionnaire clustered around two general types of leader
behaviors: initiating structure and consideration (Stogdill, 1974). Initiating structure behaviors are essentially task
behaviors, including such acts as organizing work, giving structure to the work context, defining role
responsibilities, and scheduling work activities. Consideration behaviors are essentially relationship behaviors and
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 the behavioral approach and are
central to what leaders do: Leaders provide structure for followers, and they nurture them. The Ohio State studies
viewed these two behaviors as distinct and independent. They were thought of not as two points along a single
continuum, but as two different continua. For example, a leader can be high in initiating structure and high or low
in task behavior. Similarly, a leader can be low in setting structure and low or high in consideration behavior. The
degree to which leaders exhibit one behavior is not related to the degree to which they exhibit the other behavior.

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

The University of Michigan Studies

While researchers at Ohio State were developing the LBDQ, researchers at the University of Michigan were also
exploring leadership behavior, giving special attention to the impact of 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: employee orientation and
production orientation. Employee orientation is the behavior of leaders who approach followers with a strong
human relations emphasis. They take an interest in workers as human beings, value their individuality, and give
special attention to their personal needs (Bowers & Seashore, 1966). Employee orientation is very similar to the
cluster of behaviors identified as consideration in the Ohio State studies.


Production orientation consists of leadership behaviors that stress the technical and production aspects of a job.
From this orientation, workers are viewed as a means for getting work accomplished (Bowers & Seashore, 1966).
Production orientation parallels the 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 single continuum. This suggested that leaders who were oriented
toward production were less oriented toward employees, and those who were employee oriented were less
production oriented. As more studies were completed, however, the researchers reconceptualized the two
constructs, as in the Ohio State studies, as two independent leadership orientations (Kahn, 1956). When the two
behaviors are treated as independent orientations, leaders are seen 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 both Ohio State and the
University of Michigan to determine how leaders could best combine their task and relationship behaviors to
maximize the impact of these behaviors on the satisfaction and performance of followers. In essence, the
researchers were looking for a universal 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 both highly task oriented and highly
relationship oriented in all situations (Misumi, 1985), the preponderance 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 first appeared 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 used extensively in organizational training and development. The Managerial
Grid, which has been renamed the Leadership Grid®, was designed to explain how leaders help organizations to
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 closely parallel the task and relationship leadership
behaviors we discuss throughout this chapter.

Concern for production refers to how a leader is concerned with achieving organizational tasks. It involves a wide
range of activities, including attention to policy decisions, new product development, process issues, workload,
and sales volume, to name a few. Not limited to an organization’s manufactured product or service, concern for
production can refer 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 are trying to achieve its
goals. This concern includes building organizational commitment and trust, 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 in a model that has two
intersecting axes (Figure 4.1). The horizontal axis represents the leader’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 minimum concern and 9 represents maximum concern. By plotting scores from each of the axes, various
leadership styles can be illustrated. The Leadership Grid portrays five major leadership styles: authority–
compliance management (9,1), country-club management (1,9), impoverished management (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 figure from Leadership Dilemmas—Grid
Solutions, by Robert R. Blake and Anne Adams McCanse. (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 Management (9,1).

The 9,1 style of leadership places heavy emphasis on task and job requirements, and less emphasis 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 giving instructions about the task. This style is result driven, and people are
regarded as tools to that end. The 9,1 leader is often seen as controlling, demanding, hard driving, and

Country-Club Management (1,9).

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

Impoverished Management (1,1).

The 1,1 style is representative of a leader who is unconcerned with both the task and interpersonal relationships.
This type of leader goes through the motions of being a leader but acts uninvolved and withdrawn. The 1,1 leader
often has little contact with followers and 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 concern for the task and an
intermediate concern for the people who do the task. They find a balance 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 the attention to employee needs. To arrive at an equilibrium, the 5,5 leader avoids conflict and emphasizes
moderate levels of production and interpersonal relationships. This type of leader often is described as one who is
expedient, prefers the middle ground, soft-pedals disagreement, and swallows convictions in the interest of

Team Management (9,9).

The 9,9 style places a strong emphasis on both tasks and interpersonal relationships. It promotes a high degree of
participation and teamwork in the organization and satisfies a basic need in employees to be involved and
committed to their work. The following are some 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 his colleagues 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 not integrate the two (Figure
4.2). This is the “benevolent dictator” who acts graciously but does so for the purpose of goal accomplishment. In
essence, the paternalistic/maternalistic style treats people as if they were dissociated from the task.
Paternalistic/maternalistic leaders are often described as “fatherly” or “motherly” toward their followers, regard
the organization as a “family,” make most of the key decisions, and reward loyalty and obedience while punishing

Figure 4.2 Paternalism/Maternalism

Source: The Leadership Grid© figure, Paternalism figure, and Opportunism figure from Leadership Dilemmas—Grid
Solutions, by Robert R. Blake and Anne Adams McCanse. (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 the purpose of personal
advancement (Figure 4.3). Opportunistic leaders will adapt and shift their leadership behavior to gain personal
advantage, putting self-interest ahead of other priorities. Both the performance and the effort of the leader are to


realize personal gain. Some phrases used to describe this leadership behavior include ruthless, cunning, and self-
motivated, while some could argue that these types of leaders are adaptable and strategic.


Figure 4.3 Opportunism

Source: The Leadership Grid© figure, Paternalism figure, and Opportunism figure from Leadership Dilemmas—Grid
Solutions, by Robert R. Blake and Anne Adams McCanse. (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.

Blake and Mouton (1985) indicated that people usually have a dominant grid style (which they use in most
situations) and a backup style. The backup style is what the leader reverts to 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 is based on the two major
leadership behaviors: task and relationship. It closely parallels the ideas and findings that emerged in the Ohio
State and University of Michigan studies. It is used in consulting for organizational development throughout the


Recent Studies

More recently, Behrendt, Matz, and Göritz (2017) have created a leadership behavior model that reflects the
evolving demands of organizational environments. The Integrated Model of Leadership Behavior (IMoLB; Figure
4.4), which is based on a multitude of studies on leader behavior, builds on the heuristic taxonomy of leader
behavior developed by Yukl (2012). The IMoLB relates task-oriented behavior to organizational change demands
through envisioning change, innovation, and encouraging learning. Relations-oriented behavior relates to
influencing followers to meet the external demands of networking, monitoring the environment, and mobilizing
resources to respond to them.


Figure 4.4 Integrated Model of Leadership Behavior (IMoLB)

Source: Behrendt, P., Matz, S., & Göritz, A. S. (2017). An integrative model of leadership behavior. The Leadership
Quarterly, 28(1), 229–244.

Still in the early stages of its development, this model has not been measured or tested at the time of this printing,
but still offers a relevant look at the relationship of leadership behaviors in the context of modern organizational



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

The behavioral approach reminds leaders that their actions toward others occur on a task level 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 followers need leaders who provide a lot of direction, whereas others need leaders who
can show them a great deal of nurturance and support. And in some cases, a leader must combine both approaches
(Casimir & Ng, 2010).

An example may help explain how the behavioral approach works. Imagine two college classrooms 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 to know
one another by having each of the students describe a little about themselves, their majors, and their favorite
nonacademic activities. The leadership behaviors of Professors Smith and Jones are quite different. The
preponderance of what Professor Smith does could be labeled task behavior, and the majority of what Professor
Jones does could be labeled relationship behavior. The behavioral approach provides a way to inform the
professors about the differences in their behaviors. Depending on the response of the students to their leadership
behaviors, the professors may want to change their behavior to improve their teaching on the first day of class.

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



The behavioral approach makes several positive contributions to our understanding of the leadership process. First,
the behavioral approach marked a major shift in the general focus of leadership research. Before the inception of
this approach, researchers treated leadership exclusively as a trait (see Chapter 2). The behavioral approach
broadened the scope of leadership research to include the behaviors of leaders and what they do in various
situations. 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. The early research examined a broad set of leader behaviors (over
1,800) and distilled these down to two dimensions—consideration and initiation structure. These two behaviors—
caring for others and goal attainment—are the two fundamental aspects of human behavior in groups, whether they
be tribes, families, or work teams.

Second, a wide range of studies on leadership behavior validates and gives credibility to the basic tenets of the
approach. First formulated and reported by researchers from The Ohio State University and the University of
Michigan, and subsequently reported in the works of Blake and Mouton (1964, 1978, 1985); Blake and McCanse
(1991); Judge, Piccolo, and Ilies (2004); and Littrell (2013), the behavioral approach is substantiated by a
multitude of research studies that offer a viable approach to understanding the leadership process. An extensive
meta-analysis of the LBDQ-XII developed by the Ohio State studies has been carried out by Judge et al. (2004),
who found that all the survey instruments had significant predictive validity for leader success (Littrell, 2013). The
Managerial Grid, which translates the research into categories that can be easily understood, is a popular
leadership approach among managers.

Third, on a conceptual level, researchers of the behavioral approach have ascertained that a leader’s style consists
primarily of two major types of behaviors: task and relationship. The significance of this idea is not to be
understated. Whenever leadership occurs, the leader is acting out both task and relationship behaviors; the key to
being an effective leader often rests on how the leader balances these two behaviors. Together they form the core
of the leadership process. Blake and Mouton defended 9,9 leadership, refuting what they called “situationalism”
(see the next chapter), arguing that concerns for people and production reflect the situational context in
organizations (Cai, Fink, & Walker, 2019).

Fourth, the behavioral approach is heuristic. It provides us with a broad conceptual map that 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 to see their behaviors in light of the task and relationship dimensions. Based
on the behavioral approach, leaders can assess their actions and determine how they may want to change to
improve their leadership behaviors. Unlike with most traits, leaders can learn to lead through leadership training.



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

In addition, leader behavior questionnaires are typically completed by followers, and their perceptions of
leadership may differ from actual leader behavior (Dinh et al., 2014). Follower perceptions of their leaders may be
biased due to overly positive attributions resulting in overestimation of a leader’s effects (Behrendt et al., 2017). In
other words, if a leader is considerate, then followers may overestimate that leader’s task behavior because they
like the leader.

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

The difficulty in identifying a universal style may be due to the impact of contextual factors. For example, research
by Martin, Rowlinson, Fellows, and Liu (2012) found that there is a strong situational element that impacts
whether one leadership behavior or another 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 ethnic boundaries (cross-functional teams)
must “juggle between both task and person-oriented leadership when involved in managing problem solving teams
across boundaries” (p. 19).

Leader effectiveness also may be influenced by characteristics of the leaders, the followers, and the situation, and
the behavioral approach lacks attention to the possible interactions among these elements. For example, highly
skilled followers who have a strong reward system make it easier for a leader to succeed. These leaders’
effectiveness may be due more to the attributes of their followers who are rewarded for using their skills at work.

Another criticism of the behavioral approach is that it implies that the most effective leadership style is the high–
high style (i.e., high task and high relationship). Although some researchers (e.g., Blake & McCanse, 1991;
Misumi, 1985) suggested that high–high managers are most effective, that may not be the case in all situations. In
fact, the full range of 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) argues that in modern business the
high-task-leadership orientation is essential to be successful.

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

A final criticism is that most of the research undertaken on the behavioral approach has come 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 different leadership 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). For example, the
paternalistic leadership style of benevolence plus authority is effective in Turkey, China, and India (Pellegrini &
Scandura, 2008).



The behavioral approach can be applied easily in ongoing leadership settings. At all levels in all types of
organizations, managers are continually engaged in task and relationship behaviors. By assessing their own
behaviors, managers can determine how they are coming across 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 the frequently asked question, “How am I doing as a leader?”

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

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

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



In this section, you will find three case studies (Cases 4.1, 4.2, and 4.3) that describe the leadership behaviors of
three different managers, each of whom is working in a different organizational setting. The first case is about a
maintenance director in a large hospital, the second is concerned with the director of marketing and
communications at a college, and the third is about the leadership behind a nationally recognized cheer team. At
the end of each case are questions that will help you to analyze the case from the perspective of the behavioral


Case 4.1 A Drill Sergeant at First

Mark is the head of the painting department in a large hospital; 20 union employees report to him. Before coming
on board at the hospital, he had worked as an independent contractor. At the hospital, he took a position that 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. His
findings supported the perceptions of his administrators that painting services were inefficient and costly. As a
result, Mark completely reorganized the department, designed a new scheduling procedure, and redefined the
expected 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 any input
from his soldiers. From Mark’s point of view, the hospital environment did not leave much room for errors, so he
needed to be strict about getting painters to do a good job within the constraints of the hospital environment.

As time went along, Mark relaxed his style and was less demanding. He delegated some responsibilities to two
crew leaders who reported to him, but he always stayed in close touch with each of the employees. On a weekly
basis, Mark was known to take small groups of workers to the local sports bar for burgers on the house. He loved
to 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 about
running his department. He enjoys working with people; in particular, he says he likes to see the glint in their eyes
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 in
other departments as the most productive department in hospital maintenance. Painting services received a
customer rating of 92%, which is the highest of any service in the hospital.


1. 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 We Are Family

Betsy has been hired as the director of marketing and communications for a medium-sized college in the Midwest.
With a long history of success as a marketing and public relations professional, she was the unanimous choice of
the hiring committee. Betsy is excited to be working for Marianne, the vice president of college advancement, who
comes from a similar background to Betsy’s. In a meeting with Marianne, Betsy is told the college needs an
aggressive plan to revamp and energize the school’s marketing and communications efforts. Betsy and Marianne
seem in perfect sync with the direction they believe is right for the college’s program. Marianne also explains that
she has established a departmental culture of teamwork and empowerment and that she is a strong 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 in their 20s; and Carol and Francine,
graphic designers who are in their 50s. In her first month, Betsy puts together a meeting with her direct reports to
develop a new communications plan for the college, presenting the desired goals to the team and asking for their
ideas on initiatives and improvements to meet those goals. Bridget and Suzanne provide little in the 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 from the
team. Marianne nods, saying she heard some of the team members’ concerns when she went to lunch with them
earlier in the week. When Betsy looks surprised, Marianne gives her a knowing smile. “We are like a family here;
we have close relationships outside of work. I go to lunch or the movies with Suzanne and Bridget at least once a
week. But don’t worry; I am only a sounding board for them, and encourage them to come to you to resolve 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 a
result, she misses the weekly planning meetings. When Betsy approaches her about it, Bridget tells her, “It’s OK
with 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. Suzanne
gets defensive, accusing Betsy of insulting her work. Later, Betsy watches Suzanne and Marianne leave the office
together for lunch. A few hours later, Marianne comes into Betsy’s office and tells her, “Go easy on the newsletter
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 with
Marianne that the younger team members have. They seem enthusiastic and supportive of the new direction Betsy
wants to take the program in.

As the weeks go by, Marianne begins having regular “Mentor Meetings” with Bridget and Suzanne, going to lunch
with them at least twice a week. After watching the three walk out together one day, Francine asks Betsy if it
troubles her. Betsy replies calmly, “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 with
every day.”

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

Marianne gives her the knowing smile again. “I see a lot of potential in Bridget and Suzanne and want to help
foster that,” she explains. “They are still young in their careers, and my relationship with them is important
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 can circumvent
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 empower people,
and you like to boss them around.”


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

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?


Case 4.3 Cheer Coach Monica Aldama

In January 2020, the world was introduced to the Navarro College cheer team and its coach of 25 years, Monica
Aldama, through the Netflix docuseries Cheer.

The six-hour series followed the 40-member team from the small Texas community college as it prepared over a
period of four months for the penultimate event of its season, the 2019 National Cheerleaders Association
championships in Daytona Beach, Florida. At that meet, Navarro College would be seeking its 14th title in 19

College-level competitive cheer is an exceedingly difficult and dangerous sport. With stunts including lifts,
tumbling, towering pyramids, and basket tosses where a “flyer” is thrown high in the air, does several twists and
turns, and is caught in the arms of the “bases” below, the risk of catastrophic injury is second only to football
according to the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research (NCCSIR; Greenspan, 2020). This risk is
apparent in the show as team member after team member is dropped, falls, or is injured while performing stunts.
Concussions, fractured ribs, ankle injuries, and twisted, swollen limbs are the norm. And this is just at team

For the 40 cheerleaders, it’s all about “making mat”—securing one of the 20 spots on the team to compete at the
national championships. For Coach Aldama, it is about creating and executing a two-minute, 15-second
performance with breathtaking stunts that will result in the highest score possible to secure the team’s legacy.

Coach Aldama records all the practice sessions on her tablet, watching the videos over and over to determine if the
choreography needs to be altered and to monitor how each of the athletes is performing. She also consults with her
two assistant coaches, Andy Cosferent and Kāpena Kea, about changes to make to the routine, which athletes to
push, and which to cut.

As a leader, Coach Aldama sets high expectations for her team regarding their personal conduct, class attendance,
and the effort and work they put into practice. She clearly articulates that accountability is her number-one
criterion. When students don’t meet expectations, there are consequences. The whole team will be required to run
laps if one student sloughs off class. Team members are often roommates, and Coach Aldama says that, “whereas
before they might just walk out and go to class and let their roommates stay in bed, now they’re going to make
sure that that person is up. And they do get mad if someone’s not there yet. When class is about to start, they’ll
start texting them” (Zakin & Weisberg, 2020).

“That’s just a big thing for me—self accountability. If you have a responsibility, you show up for it. If it’s class,
you show up for it. If it’s practice, you show up for it. If it’s a job, you show up for it. If you made the commitment
to do it, you show up,” she says (Zakin & Weisberg, 2020).

Athlete T. T. Barker gets a painful lesson in this when he arrives at practice with a back injury from competing
with another, noncollegiate team after Coach Aldama advised him not to. Coach Aldama doesn’t cut T. T. any
slack, and he continues to practice, repeatedly hoisting flyers overhead, wincing and grunting in pain until he
finally drops to the mat, crying.

Coach Aldama, who has a bachelor’s degree in finance and an MBA, says she first approached coaching the team
from a business perspective. “I was like, okay, what’s the ultimate goal? To win?” she says. “I started from there
and worked backwards (asking) what I need to do to win. And it was very black and white. ‘There’s a score sheet.
I need to get a score. How am I gonna get this score?’

“I really started there, but then quickly realized, ‘Oh, there’s a whole ’nother part of coaching that has nothing to
do with the score sheet. And it’s these kids that are bickering or they broke up with their boyfriend or you know,
okay, now I have to be a psychologist. I have to be an advisor, I have to be a counselor, I have to be a mother”
(Zakin & Weisberg, 2020).

Many of the team members come from difficult life circumstances, and a place on the team is a ticket out of
trouble and hardship. One of those is Morgan Simianer, who lived with an older brother in a Wyoming trailer after


her biological parents abandoned them both at an early age. Morgan has an unwavering drive to succeed and to
please her coach.

“Not everyone in the world has a strong mother figure in their lives . . . Monica has filled the gap [that was]
created by what I didn’t have. I didn’t have anyone to go prom shopping with or talk about my boyfriend. I think
because of that, I am even more appreciative of her and what we share. I feel like her kid,” she says. “I really
idolize her. Monica has changed my life in so many ways and truly helped me become a better version of myself”
(Bennett, 2020).

That devotion is evident in episode five of the show when Morgan goes to the emergency room between practices
for excruciating rib pain caused by “ribiosis,” what team members call the damage to flyers’ ribs caused by
repeatedly falling from great heights into the arms of bases. At the ER, Morgan refuses treatment because the
muscle relaxers she’s prescribed would keep her from participating in that afternoon’s practice, and—despite a
warning that more stress on her ribs could damage her organs or kill her—she leaves and returns to the gym. “If
Monica says full-out, I’m going full-out,” she says (Whiteley, 2020).

Navarro College is located in Corsicana, a small town in a rural, conservative part of Texas. Several of the male
athletes on the team are gay, and despite her Christian faith, Coach Aldama says she “will fight tooth and nail to
protect my boys.”

“I get upset when I see the world being so harsh and not understanding. I am not a very political person at all. I
would say I’m smack in the middle: I’ve got some of the very conservative, some very liberal . . . I think everyone
needs to be open to learning about different people’s lifestyles and not be so closed-minded,” she says (Silman,

Nurturing aside, Coach Aldama ultimately makes the very hard decision of selecting the athletes who will “make
mat” and, even if they are chosen for mat, replacing the athletes if they aren’t cutting it. She has also kicked key
members off the team for rule infractions.

“I try to separate the coaching part and the nurturing part. Sometimes I’ll have to ‘mat-talk’ myself to separate the
feelings of ‘I’m going to break this kid’s heart because I’m not going to put them on mat.’ I love this kid more than
anything and I know what they’ve overcome,” she says. “But you know that they don’t have the skills that this
other person does and that’s where it really pulls at your heartstrings and that’s where I have to be, like, ‘Come on,
Monica, you can do this. It’s fine. Just separate it. Just separate it. Just separate it.’ And I do. I always try to still
circle back around and make sure they know ‘You’re still good, you’re still good enough. It’s just that you know
right now it’s not your time’” (Zakin & Weisberg, 2020).

When one team member didn’t make mat, he was encouraged by his teammates to ask the coach why. He resisted,
saying he thought it would be disrespectful to question her. When he finally did ask, she told him “he was not
putting himself out there.”

“I’m very honest with them. I will let them know, pull them to the side and tell them, ‘I feel like maybe you don’t
want it as badly as someone else or you don’t have that fight in you. Which makes me worried about are you going
to have that fight when it’s go-time.’ I know I’m very honest because how are they going to know?” (Zakin &
Weisberg, 2020).

As a result, the team member put in twice the amount of effort and adjusted his contributions in practice and
ultimately made mat.

Coach Aldama appears patient, calm, and composed, even in crisis. In the national competition, one of the team
members, Austin Bayles, was injured, and a replacement had to be made. The person replacing Austin had to learn
his new role in mere minutes.

“When we were at finals and Austin got hurt, I was proud of myself because I literally went into focus mode. And
although I was terrified, I couldn’t even go there because I was so focused on what we needed to do to fix it in a
very short time span,” she says. “I definitely have always told myself no matter what I’m feeling inside, I can’t let
the team know. Because cheerleading is a very mental game. We can do all this work preparing mentally, but if


they see me looking terrified or scared or losing it, all that work we’ve done could go down the drain” (Silman,

“I’m very competitive and I want to be successful, but I also want to be that person that leads by example. I really
set a high standard for myself,” Coach Aldama says (Church, 2020).


1. How would you describe Coach Aldama’s leadership behavior in terms of initiating structure and
consideration? Is she more task oriented or relationship oriented?

2. Where on the Blake and Mouton Leadership Grid would you place Coach Aldama? Defend your answer.
3. How would you describe Coach Aldama’s leadership behavior in terms of paternalism/maternalism?
4. Do you think the leadership behavior of opportunism could apply to Coach Aldama? Explain your answer.


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 leader acts task directed
or people directed. The LBDQ was designed primarily for research and has been used extensively since the 1960s.
The Leadership Grid was designed primarily for training and development; it continues 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 your own
behavior might be, a leadership behavior questionnaire is included in this section. This questionnaire is made up of
20 items that assess two orientations: task and relationship. By scoring the Leadership Behavior Questionnaire,
you can obtain a general profile of your leadership behavior.

Leadership Behavior Questionnaire

Purpose: The purpose of this questionnaire is to assess your task and relationship orientations as a leader.

Instructions: Read each item carefully and think about how often you engage in the described behavior.
Indicate your response to each item by selecting one of the five options to the 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 their 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 their 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



The 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 is
your relationship score.

Total scores: Task ______________________ Relationship _______________________


Scoring Interpretation

For each category:

40–50 High range

30–39 Moderate range

10–29 Low range

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

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



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

The behavioral approach originated from three different lines of research: the Ohio State studies, the University of
Michigan studies, and the work of Blake and Mouton on the Managerial Grid (now known as the Leadership

Researchers at Ohio State developed a leadership questionnaire called the Leader Behavior Description
Questionnaire (LBDQ), which identified initiation of structure and consideration as the core leadership behaviors.
The Michigan studies provided similar findings 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 out to find the best way for
leaders to combine task and relationship behaviors. The goal has been to find a universal set of leadership
behaviors capable of explaining leadership effectiveness 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 described leadership 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 management (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 has broadened the scope of
leadership research to include the study of the behaviors of leaders rather than only their personal traits or
characteristics. Second, it is a reliable approach because it is supported by a wide range of studies. Third, the
behavioral approach is valuable because it underscores the importance of the two core dimensions of leadership
behavior: task and relationship. Fourth, it has heuristic value in that it provides us with a broad conceptual map
that is useful in gaining an understanding of our own leadership behaviors. On the negative side, researchers have
not been able to associate the behaviors of leaders (task and relationship) with outcomes such as morale, job
satisfaction, and productivity. In addition, researchers from the behavioral approach have not been able to identify
a universal set of leadership behaviors that would consistently result in effective leadership. Furthermore, the
behavioral approach implies but fails to support fully the idea that the most effective leadership style is a high–
high style (i.e., high task and high relationship). Last, the approach is United States–centric and may not easily
generalize to other cultures.

Overall, the behavioral approach is not a refined theory that provides a neatly organized set of prescriptions for
effective leadership behavior. Rather, the behavioral approach provides a valuable framework for assessing
leadership in a broad way as assessing behavior with task and relationship dimensions. Finally, the behavioral
approach reminds leaders that their impact on others occurs along both dimensions.


Descriptions of Images and Figures
Back to Figure

The horizontal axis is labeled concern for results, the vertical axis is labeled concern for people, and both the axes
range from 1 at low to 9 at high. The different types of leaderships are as follows.

1, 9 at the top-left corner of the grid: Country-club management. Thoughtful attention to the needs of the people
for satisfying relationships leads to a comfortable, friendly organization atmosphere, and work tempo.

9, 9 at the top-right corner of the grid: Team management. Work accomplishment is from committed people.
Interdependence through a common stake in organization purpose leads to relationships of trust and respect.

5, 5 in the middle of the grid: Middle-of-the-Road management. Adequate organization performance is possible
through balancing the necessity to get work out while maintaining morale of people at a satisfactory level.

1, 1 at the bottom-left corner of the grid: Impoverished management. Minimum effort is exerted to get required
work done as appropriate to sustain organization membership.

1, 9 at the bottom-left corner of the grid: Authority-compliance management. Efficiency in operations results from
arranging conditions of work in such a way that human elements interfere to a minimum degree.

Back to Figure

In the leadership grid, represented as a flat surface, 1, 9 is at the top-left corner, 9, 9 is at the top-right corner, 5, 5
is in the middle, 1, 1 is at the bottom-left corner, and 1, 9 is at the bottom-right corner. Arrows from each position
on the grid point towards the word opportunism, at the top. An inset image shows an illustration of a square. Its
top-left corner is labeled 1, 9, and its bottom-left corner is labeled 9, 1. The bidirectional arrows from each corner
point to the center of the square, which is labeled 9 plus 9.

Back to Figure

A flow diagram shows the following task-oriented behaviors in a block from top to bottom:

Enhancing understanding

Strengthening motivation

Facilitating implementation

The relations-oriented behaviors from left to right in a block positioned to the right of the first block are as

Activating resources

Promoting cooperation

Fostering coordination

Arrows point from the relations-oriented block to each behavior in the task-oriented block. A bidirectional vertical
arrow to the right of the relations-oriented block is labeled internal at the top and external at the bottom. A
bidirectional horizontal arrow under the task-oriented block is labeled routine on the left and change on the right.






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-D management style theory. The situational approach
has been refined and revised several times since its inception (see Blanchard, 1985; Blanchard, Zigarmi, & Nelson,
1993; Blanchard, Zigarmi, & Zigarmi, 2013; Hersey & Blanchard, 1977, 1988), and it has been used extensively in
organizational leadership training and development.

As its name implies, the situational approach focuses on leadership in situations. The premise of the theory is that
different situations demand different kinds of leadership. From this perspective, effective leadership requires that
people adapt their style to the demands of different situations.

The situational approach is illustrated in the model developed by Blanchard and his colleagues (Blanchard et al.,
1993; Blanchard et al., 2013), called SLII® (Figure 5.1). The SLII® model, which is Blanchard’s situational
approach to effective leadership, is an extension and refinement of the original model developed by Hersey and
Blanchard (1969a). This chapter focuses on the SLII® model.

Blanchard’s model stresses that leadership is composed of both a directive and a supportive dimension, and that
each has to be applied appropriately in a given situation. To determine what is needed in a particular situation,
leaders must evaluate their followers and assess how competent and committed the followers are to perform a
given goal. Based on the assumption that followers’ skills and motivation vary over time, Blanchard’s SLII®
suggests that leaders should change the degree to which they are directive or supportive to meet the changing
needs of followers.

In brief, the essence of Blanchard’s SLII® approach demands that leaders match their style to the competence and
commitment of their followers. Effective leaders are those who can recognize what followers need and then adapt
their style to meet those needs.

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


Leadership Style

Leadership style consists of the behavior pattern of a person who attempts to influence others. It includes both
directive behaviors and supportive behaviors. Directive behaviors help individuals and group members accomplish
goals by giving directions, establishing goals and methods of evaluation, 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 it is to be done, and who is responsible for doing it. Supportive behaviors help individuals and
group members feel comfortable about themselves, their coworkers, and the situation. Supportive behaviors
involve two-way communication and responses that show social and emotional support to others. Examples of
supportive behaviors include asking for input, solving problems, praising others, sharing information about
oneself, and listening. Supportive behaviors are mostly job related.

Leadership styles can be classified further into four distinct categories of directive and supportive behaviors
(Figure 5.1). The first style (S1) is a high directive–low supportive style, which is also called a directing style. In
this approach, the leader focuses communication on goal achievement, and spends a smaller amount of time using
supportive behaviors. Using this style, a leader gives instructions about what and how goals are 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 supportive style. In this approach,
the leader focuses communication on both achieving goals and meeting followers’ socioemotional needs. The
coaching style requires that leaders involve themselves 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 the final
decision on the what and how of goal accomplishment.

The third style (S3) is a supporting approach that requires that the leader take a high supportive–low directive
style. In this approach, the leader does not focus exclusively on goals but uses supportive behaviors that bring out
followers’ skills around the goal to be accomplished. The supportive style includes listening, praising others,
asking for input, and giving feedback. A leader using this style gives followers control of day-to-day decisions but
remains available to facilitate problem solving. An S3 leader is quick to give recognition and social support to



Figure 5.1 SLII® Model

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

Last, the fourth style (S4) is called the low supportive–low directive style, or a delegating approach. In this
approach, the leader offers less goal input and social support, facilitating followers’ confidence and motivation in
reference to the goal. The delegative leader lessens involvement in planning, control of details, and goal
clarification. After the group agrees on what to do, this style lets followers take responsibility for getting the job
done the way they 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 behaviors combine for each of
the four different leadership styles. As shown by the arrows on the bottom and left side of the model, directive
behaviors are high in the S1 and S2 quadrants and low in S3 and S4, whereas supportive behaviors are high in S2
and S3 and low in S1 and 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 commitment necessary to accomplish a given goal or activity
(Blanchard et al., 2013). Stated another way, it indicates whether a person has mastered the skills to achieve a
specific goal and whether 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 of the follower (Bass, 2008; Hersey
& Blanchard, 1969a, 1969b, 1977, 1996).

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

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 on a given goal. There are two aspects of
commitment: motivation and confidence; and two aspects of competence: transferable skills and task knowledge.
Development levels are intended to be goal specific and are not intended to be used for the purpose of labeling

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 high in commitment. They are new to a goal and
do not know exactly how to do it, but they are excited about the challenge of it. D2 followers are described as
having some competence but low commitment. They have started to learn a job, but they also have lost some of
their initial confidence about the job. D3 represents followers who have moderate to high competence but may
have variable commitment. They have essentially developed the skills for the job, but they are uncertain as to
whether they can accomplish the goal by themselves. Finally, D4 followers are the highest in development, having
both a high degree of competence and a high degree of commitment to getting the job done. They have the
transferable skills and task knowledge to do the job and the confidence and motivation to get it done.



SLII® is constructed around the idea that followers move forward and backward along the developmental
continuum, which represents the relative competence and commitment of followers. For leaders to be effective, it
is essential that they determine where followers are on the developmental continuum and adapt their leadership
styles to directly match their followers’ development levels.

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

Having identified the correct development level, the second task for leaders is to adapt their style to the prescribed
leadership style represented in the SLII® model. There is a one-to-one relationship between the development level
of followers (D1, D2, etc.) and the leader’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, or directing). If
followers are more advanced and at the second development level, D2, the leader 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 should adopt.

An example of this would be Rene Martinez, who owns a house painting business. Rene specializes in restoration
of old homes and over 30 years has acquired extensive knowledge of the specialized abilities required including
understanding old construction, painting materials and techniques, plaster repair, carpentry, and window glazing.
Rene has three employees: Ashley, who has worked for him for seven years and whom he trained from the
beginning of her career; Levi, who worked for a commercial painter for four years before being 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 primarily D3. She is very
competent, but still seeks Rene’s insight on some tasks. She is completely comfortable prepping surfaces for
painting and directing the others but has some reluctance to taking on jobs that involve carpentry. Depending on
the work he assigns Ashley, Rene moves between S3 (supporting) and S4 (delegating) leadership behaviors.

When it comes to painting, Levi is a developed follower needing little direction or support from Rene. But Levi
has to be trained in many other aspects of home restoration, making him a D1 or D2 in those skills. Levi is a quick
learner, and Rene finds he only needs to be shown or told how to do something once before he is able to complete
it easily. In most situations, Rene uses an S2 (coaching) leadership behavior with Levi. If the goal is more
complicated 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 he lacks in experience he
more than makes up for in energy. He is always willing to jump in and do whatever he’s asked to do. He is not as
careful as he needs to be, however, often neglecting 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 to give 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 development continuum, requiring
leaders to be flexible in their leadership behavior. Followers may move from one development level to another
rather quickly over a short period (e.g., a day or a week), or more slowly on goals that proceed over much longer
periods of time (e.g., a month). Leaders cannot use the same style in all contexts; rather, they need to adapt their
style to followers and their unique situations. Unlike the trait approach, which emphasizes that leaders have a fixed
style, SLII® demands that leaders demonstrate a high degree of flexibility.


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



The SLII® approach to leadership has several strengths, particularly for practitioners. The first strength is that it
has a history of usefulness in the marketplace. SLII® 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 of more than
400 of the Fortune 500 companies. It is perceived by corporations as offering a useful model for training people to
become effective leaders.

A second strength of the approach is its practicality. SLII® is easy to understand, intuitively sensible, and easily
applied in a variety of settings. Whereas some leadership approaches provide complex and sophisticated ways to
assess your own leadership behavior (e.g., the decision-making approach in Vroom & Yetton, 1973), SLII®
provides a straightforward approach that is easily used. Because it is described at a level that is easily grasped, the
ideas behind the approach are quickly acquired. Managers can relate to the description of followers as
combinations of competence and commitment. In addition, the principles suggested by this approach are easy to
apply across 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 SLII® approach is prescriptive. It tells you what you should and should
not do in various contexts. For example, if your followers are very low in competence, the approach prescribes a
directing style for you as the leader. On the other hand, if your followers appear to be competent but lack
confidence, SLII® suggests that you lead with a supporting style. These prescriptions provide leaders with a
valuable set of guidelines that can 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 the performance and
satisfaction of the employees. A computer simulation found that when leaders adapted their style to follower
readiness over time, the followers’ performance improved (Bosse, Duell, Memon, Treur, & van der Wal, 2017).

A fourth strength of the situational approach to leadership is that it emphasizes leader flexibility (Graeff, 1983;
Yukl, 1989). This approach was one of the first contingency theories of leadership, which stated that leader
effectiveness depends on situational factors. The approach stresses that leaders need to find out about their
followers’ needs and then adapt their leadership style accordingly. Leaders cannot lead using a single style: They
must be willing to change their style to meet the requirements of the situation. This approach recognizes that
followers act differently when working toward different goals, and that they may act differently during different
stages of achieving the same goal. Effective leaders are those who can change their own style based on the goal
requirements and the followers’ 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 own needs, it is positively
related to job affect, trust, and favorable work intentions. In retrospect, the focus of the theory on followers was
many years ahead since there has been a recent emphasis on “followership” in leadership theory and research.

Finally, the SLII® reminds us to treat each follower differently based on the goal 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 approach underscores that followers have unique needs and deserve our help in trying to
become better at doing their work. The focus on the commitment and competence of followers allows leaders to
assess follower performance and influence them through style and behavior (Cote, 2017).



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

The first criticism of this approach is that only a few research studies have been conducted to justify the
assumptions and propositions set forth by the approach. Although many doctoral dissertations address dimensions
of the situational approach to leadership, most of these research studies have not been published. The lack of a
strong body of research on this approach raises questions about the theoretical basis for it (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 this approach does indeed improve performance? Does this
approach compare favorably with other leadership approaches in its impact on followers? It is difficult to give firm
answers to these questions when the testing of this approach has not resulted in a significant amount of published
research findings.

A second criticism of SLII® concerns the ambiguous conceptualization in the model of followers’ development
levels. The authors of the model do not make clear how commitment is combined with competence to form four
distinct levels of development (Graeff, 1997; Yukl, 1989). In one of the earliest versions of the model, Hersey and
Blanchard (1969b) defined the four levels of commitment (maturity) as unwilling 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,
low commitment and some competence in D2, variable commitment and high competence in D3, and high
commitment and high competence in D4.

The authors of SLII® do not explain the theoretical basis for these changes in the composition of each of the
development levels. Furthermore, they do not explain how competence and commitment are weighted across
different development levels. As pointed out by Blanchard et al. (1993), there is a need for further research to
establish how competence and commitment are conceptualized for each development level.

Closely related to the general criticism of ambiguity about followers’ development levels is a concern with how
commitment itself is conceptualized in the model. For example, Graeff (1997) suggested the conceptualization is
very unclear. Blanchard et al. (2013) stated that followers’ commitment is composed of confidence and motivation,
but it is not clear how confidence 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 as existing on a continuum moving from low to moderate to
high. Rather than viewing commitment and competence as having varying levels, the range of scores is cut, and
followers are classified into categories. For example, a follower may be very close to the cutoff for having high
commitment but is placed into the low category.

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 may become discouraged and disillusioned.
Next, they may begin to lack confidence or motivation, or both, and, last, they become highly confident and
motivated. But why is this so? Why do followers who learn a task become less committed? Why is there a
decrease in commitment at D2 and D3? Without more research to substantiate the way follower commitment is
conceptualized, this dimension of SLII® remains unclear.

Some clarification of the ambiguity surrounding development levels is suggested by Thompson and Glasø (2015),
who found that the predictions of the earlier model of the situational approach to leadership were more likely to
hold true when the leaders’ ratings and followers’ ratings of competence and commitment are congruent. They
stressed the importance of finding mutual agreement between leaders and followers on these ratings. These
findings were replicated and extended by the authors (Thompson & Glasø, 2018). Again, the research showed that
the principles underlying the situational approach are supported when leaders’ ratings and followers’ ratings of
competence and commitment are in agreement. In comparing the two perspectives, there is no support for using


followers’ self-ratings of competence and commitment to predict performance. However, the leader’s ratings
appear to be more useful for determining the right type of direction to give followers.

A fourth criticism of the SLII® model has to do with how the model matches leader style with follower
development levels—the prescriptions of the model. To determine the validity 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. He found that newly hired teachers were more satisfied and performed better under principals who
had highly structured leadership styles, but that the performance of more experienced and mature teachers was
unrelated to the style their principals exhibited.

Vecchio and his colleagues replicated this study twice: first in 1997, using university employees (Fernandez &
Vecchio, 1997), and most recently in 2006, studying more than 800 U.S. Military Academy cadets (Vecchio et al.,
2006). Both studies failed to find strong evidence to support the basic prescriptions suggested in the situational

To further test the assumptions and validity of the situational approach, Thompson and Vecchio (2009) analyzed
the original and revised versions of the model using data collected from 357 banking employees and 80
supervisors. They found no clear empirical support for the model in any of its versions. At best, they found some
evidence to support leaders being more directive with newer employees and being more supportive and less
directive as employees become more senior. Also, Meirovich and Gu (2015) found evidence that followers with
more experience indicated a more positive response to autonomy and participation, a finding supporting the
importance of leaders being less directive with experienced employees. There is also research evidence that shows
that the directive style is being used less frequently, regardless of the readiness levels of followers (Zigarmi &
Roberts, 2017). This may be due to a shift in organizational cultures toward empowering followers rather than
“micromanaging” them.

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

SLII® can also be criticized from a practical standpoint because it does not fully address the issue of one-to-one
versus group leadership in an organizational setting. The developers of the theory did not specify whether the
theory operates at the individual, dyadic, or group level of analysis, and the sparse empirical research does not
consider levels (Yammarino, Dionne, Chun, & Dansereau, 2005). For example, should leaders with a group of 20
followers lead by matching their style to the overall development level of the group or to the development level of
individual members of the group? Carew, Parisi-Carew, and Blanchard (1990) suggested that groups go through
development stages that are similar to individuals’, and that therefore leaders should try to match their styles to the
group’s development level. However, if the leaders match their style to the mean development level of a group,
how will this affect the individuals whose development levels are quite different from those of their colleagues?
Existing research on SLII® does not answer this question. More research is needed to explain how leaders can
adapt their styles simultaneously to the development levels of individual group members and to the group as a

A final criticism of SLII® can be directed at the leadership questionnaires that accompany the model.
Questionnaires on SLII® typically ask respondents to analyze various work situations and select the best
leadership style for each situation. The questionnaires are constructed to force respondents to describe leadership
style in terms of four specific parameters (i.e., directing, coaching, supporting, and delegating) rather than in terms
of other leadership behaviors. Because the best answers available to respondents have been predetermined, the
questionnaires are biased in favor of the situational approach (Graeff, 1983; Yukl, 1989).



SLII® is frequently used by trainers and practitioners because it is an approach that is easy to conceptualize and
apply. The straightforward nature of SLII® makes it practical for managers to use.

The principles of this approach can be applied at many different levels in an organization—from how a CEO of a
large corporation works with a board of directors to how a crew chief in an assembly plant leads a small group of
production workers. Middle managers can use SLII® to direct staff meetings, and heads of departments can use
this approach in planning structural changes within an organization. There is no shortage of opportunities for using

SLII® applies during the initial stages of a project, when idea formation is important, and during the various
subsequent phases of a project, when implementation issues are important. The fluid nature of SLII® makes it
ideal for applying to followers as they move forward or go backward (regress) on various projects. Because SLII®
stresses adapting to followers, it is ideal for use with followers whose commitment and competence change over
the course of a project.

Given the breadth of Blanchard’s SLII® model, it is applicable in almost any type of organization, at any level, for
nearly all types of goals. It is an encompassing model with a wide range of applications.



To see how SLII® can be applied in different organizational settings, you may want to assess Cases 5.1, 5.2, and
5.3. The first case looks at a leader coaching runners at differing levels who hope to complete the New York City
Marathon. The second case is concerned with problems of training new DJs at a campus radio station. The third
explores two Chinese philosophies of leadership—Confucianism and Daoism—and how these philosophies
contrast and affect leadership in the workplace. For each of these cases, ask yourself what you would do if you
found yourself in a similar situation. At the end of each case, there are questions that will help you analyze the
context from the perspective of the situational approach.


Case 5.1 Marathon Runners at Different Levels

David Abruzzo is the newly elected president of the Metrocity Striders Track Club (MSTC). One of his duties is to
serve as the coach for runners who hope to complete the New York City Marathon. Because Abruzzo has run many
marathons and ultramarathons successfully, he feels quite comfortable assuming the role and responsibilities 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 of
training, Abruzzo 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 questions in
Abruzzo’s mind regarding how best to help his runners. The issues of concern seemed quite different from those
that Abruzzo had expected to hear from runners in a marathon training program. All in all, the runners and their
concerns 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 a
challenging event successfully. They asked questions about how far to run in training, what to eat, how much to
drink, 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. For Abruzzo
the questions were never-ending and rather basic. He wanted to treat the runners like informed adults, but they
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 know precisely how
their per-week running mileage related to their possible marathon finishing time. Would running long practice runs
help them through the wall at the 20-mile mark? Would taking a rest day during training actually help their overall
conditioning? Basically, the runners in this group seemed to want assurances from Abruzzo that they were training
in the right way for New York. For Abruzzo, talking to this group was easy because he 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 whom had
finished in the top 10 of their respective age divisions. Sometimes they complained of feeling flat and acted a bit
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 raised
usually concerned such things as whether their overall training strategy was appropriate or whether their training
would help them in other races besides the New York City Marathon. Because of his running experience, Abruzzo
liked to offer running tips to this group. However, when he did, he felt like the runners ignored and discounted his
suggestions. He was concerned that they might not appreciate him or his coaching.


1. 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 Abruzzo, and what kind of leadership does he seem prepared to
give them?

2. How would you describe the fit between the runners in Group 2 and Abruzzo’s coaching style? Discuss.
3. The experienced runners in Group 3 appear to be a challenge to Abruzzo. Using SLII®, explain why he

appears ineffective with this group.
4. If you were helping Abruzzo 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 Getting the Message Across

Ann Caldera is the program director of a college campus radio station (WCBA) that is supported by the university.
WCBA has a long history and is viewed favorably by students, faculty, the board of trustees, and the people in the

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

One of the biggest problems that confronts Caldera every semester is how to train new students to follow the rules
and procedures of WCBA when they are doing on-air announcing for news, sports, music, and other radio
programs. It seems as if every semester numerous incidents arise in which an announcer violates in no small way
the 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 was playing in
town, the cover was $10, and everyone should go to hear the group. Making an announcement such as this is a
clear violation of FCC rules: It is illegal.

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

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


1. What’s the problem at WCBA?
2. Using SLII® as a basis, what would you advise Caldera to do differently at the station?
3. Based on SLII®, what creative schemes could Caldera use to reduce FCC infractions at WCBA?


Case 5.3 Philosophies of Chinese Leadership

Before reading this case study, access and listen to the 2019 TED Talk by management consultant Fang Ruan here:
Transcripts are also available on the site.

In China, the business leadership landscape has long been guided by the ancient philosophical teachings of
Confucius, which encourage authority, seniority, and obedience (Confucianism). For a nation, this is a time-tested
formula to ensure order and harmony. For a company, this ensures precise execution on a large scale. But as
business environments constantly change with internet and technology disrupting traditional industries and
millennials becoming a major workforce, new ways of management are emerging within China.

Management consultant Fang Ruan says she sees many Chinese entrepreneurs leaning toward a more dynamic
leadership style based on the philosophy of another revered, ancient Chinese thought leader, Lao-tzu (Laozi),
known as Daoism. To understand these differences between the two, it’s important to understand the underlying
tenets of each of the philosophies.


Although sometimes referred to as a religion, Confucianism is more a habit of thought, a life philosophy. China’s
dominant social and political value system for over 1,000 years, Confucianism is based on the concepts of “respect
for family, hard work and education” and “emphasizes social order and an active life” (Min-Huei, 2016).

Confucianism is built on the tenet that proper human relationships are essential to a well-functioning society. Four
traits of Confucian ideology that have remained constant are

socialization within the family unit in such a way as to promote sobriety, education, the acquisition of skills,
and seriousness about tasks, job, family, and obligations;

a tendency to help the group (however it might be identified);

a sense of hierarchy and of its naturalness and rightness; and

a sense of complementarity in relationships, which, combined with the sense of hierarchy, enhances
perceptions of fairness and equity in institutions (Huang, 2000).

The Confucian hierarchical order is considered to lend stability and order; by understanding, honoring, and
maintaining their place in society, followers can achieve harmony.

In the workplace, the hierarchical structure of Confucianism plays a pertinent role in the functioning of
organizations. The characteristics of loyalty, obedience, respect, and service are expected of subordinates, and
wisdom, moral purity, and leadership are expected of superiors (Huang, 2000). The patriarchal nature of Chinese
culture is in direct relationship to Confucius’s teachings, which advocate an authoritative and patriarchal ruler. This
authoritarian culture has developed a superior–subordinate bureaucracy where the paramount leader is the center
of power (Huang, 2000). This perspective lends itself to elitist and patriarchal organizations where everyone
knows their place and does not stray from the established boundaries.

Chinese communication styles are indirect, and that applies to those in leadership positions, as well. Wang (2018)
notes that “the wise Confucian is expected to listen in silence.” It’s not that Chinese employees are unwilling to
share information; rather, they must be prompted if one wants details. This becomes particularly complicated when
the exchange involves criticism or a discussion of problems. To prevent a loss of face, or mianzi (MY-ann-ZEE),


which is showing respect to others according to their status and reputation in society, such discussions are often
held in private (Wang, 2018).

Yi-Hui Huang (2000) summarizes classic Confucianism dogma this way: “All will be right with the world if
everyone conscientiously performs one’s assigned role” (p. 227).



Daoism (also referred to as Taoism) is the less rigid and more simplistic sibling of Confucianism and arose in the
same period, known as the Hundred Schools of Thought.

Daoism originated with Chinese philosopher Laozi (also referred to as Lao-tzu), who was born in 604 BCE in
central China. Laozi was the Keeper of Royal Archives for the Zhou dynasty until 516 BCE when he left the post
to travel. He was inspired to write down his teachings in a book, which would become known as the Dao De Jing
(aka the Tao Te Ching) or “The Way.”

Like Confucianism, harmony is the backbone of the Daoist perspective, but with a key difference: Humans must
be in harmony not only with each other but also with the natural flow of life, letting things take their natural
course. Natural ways were considered better than imposed ways by Laozi. Allowing things to evolve in accordance
with natural law is the cornerstone of Daoism. Where Confucianism focuses on creating social harmony, the goal
of the Dao is to achieve balance.

The Dao is more dynamic and fluid, recognizing the need to navigate the duality of life—the Yin and the Yang—
principles of life that are both complementing and opposing, such as dark and light, stillness and movement, sun
and moon.

The metaphor of water is often used in Daoism. Water is seen to be powerful, yet altruistic, as it serves others. It is
modest, flexible, and humble, because by its nature it seeks out the lowest place. Lee, Han, Byron, and Fan (2008)
noted that “we human beings, especially leaders, should learn from water because water always remains in the
lowest position and never competes with other things. Instead, water is very helpful and beneficial to all things.”

The rivers and seas lead the hundred streams.

Because they are skillful at staying low.

Thus, they are able to lead the hundred streams. (Laozi, Chapter 66) (Lee et al., 2008, p. 91)

Laozi viewed leaders as being servants and followers. “The more one serves, the more one leads. Leadership, first,
means follower-ship or service-ship just like water. Second, leadership means non-intrusiveness or non-
interference” (Lee et al., 2008, p. 91).

Among other tenets, individuals who follow the Dao

exert minimal influence on the lives of followers;

encourage followers to take ownership of tasks;

employ “soft tactics,” such as persuasion, empowerment, modeling, teamwork, collaboration, and service;

demonstrate creativity and flexibility;

promote harmony with nature and others;

reject the trappings of status and promote equality; and

give to and serve others (Johnson, 1999).

Simplicity of life and respect for its natural flow epitomize a Daoist’s life view.



1. Where on the SLII® model would you generally classify a leader who strictly leans toward Confucianism?
Where would you classify a follower in an environment that strictly adheres to the Confucianist philosophy?
Explain your reasoning.

2. Where on the SLII® model would you generally classify a leader who models the Daoist philosophy? Where
would you classify a follower in an environment that follows Daoist principles? Explain your reasoning.

In Fang Ruan’s TED Talk, she discusses companies that have achieved notable success as they adopted more
Daoist leadership philosophies. The following questions relate to those companies:

3. Raun discusses the situation of the founder of Ping An who, desiring to steer innovation, found it difficult to
adopt Daoism-based philosophical changes due to the size and complexity of the business.

a. From the perspective of the SLII® model, how does an organization’s size and complexity relate to the
effectiveness of each of the leadership styles represented in Figure 5.1?

b. What about the development levels of the followers? How does size and complexity affect the needed
directive behavior of leaders?

4. Which of these two philosophies most reflects your own? How does your own philosophical perspective
affect your expression of the four styles of leadership?

— Barbara Russell, MBA, BSCS, BBA, Chemeketa Community College


Leadership Instrument

Although over the years different versions of instruments have been developed to measure SLII®, nearly all of
them are constructed similarly. As a rule, the SLII® provides 20 work-related situations and asks respondents to
select their preferred style for each situation from four alternatives. The situations and 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 secondary leadership styles, their flexibility, and their leadership

The brief questionnaire provided in this section illustrates how the SLII® measures leadership style in the
situational approach. For each situation on the questionnaire, you are asked to identify the development level of the
followers in the situation and then select one of the four response alternatives that indicate 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. By
analyzing the alternatives a respondent makes on the questionnaire, one can determine that respondent’s primary
and secondary leadership styles. By analyzing the range of choices a respondent makes, one can determine that
respondent’s leadership flexibility. Leadership effectiveness and diagnostic ability can be measured by analyzing
the number of times the respondent made accurate assessments of a preferred leadership style.

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

SLII® Questionnaire: Sample Items

Purpose: The purpose of this questionnaire is to explore how different styles of leadership in the
situational approach are used depending on the development level of the followers.

Instructions: Look at the following four leadership situations, from Blanchard, Zigarmi, and Zigarmi
(1992), and indicate which SLII® leadership style is needed in each situation provided in the answer
options beneath each statement.


Situation A B C D

1. Because of budget restrictions imposed on your department, it is necessary to
consolidate. You are thinking of 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 must be done but make

sure you incorporate her suggestions.



Situation A B C D

2. You have recently been made a department head of the new regional office. In
getting to know your departmental staff, you have noticed that one of your
inexperienced employees is not following through on assigned 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 explain the alternative ways this
problem can be solved.

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.


3. Because of a new and very important unit project, for the past three months you
have made sure that your staff members understood their responsibilities and expected
level of performance, and you have supervised them 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.


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


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


Scoring Interpretation

A short discussion of the correct answers to the brief questionnaire will help to explain the nature of SLII®

Situation 1 in the brief questionnaire describes a common problem faced by organizations during
downsizing: the need to consolidate. In this particular situation, the leader has identified a person who
appears 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 four
response alternatives, it is the (A) response, “Assign the project to her and let her determine how to
accomplish 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 how
to do her specific job. After she is given directions, her performance should be supervised closely. The
correct response is (C), “Define the steps necessary to complete the assigned tasks and monitor her
performance frequently.”

Situation 3 describes a very different circumstance. In this situation, the followers seem to have developed
some experience and an understanding of what is required of them, but they have lost some of their
motivation 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 response
for the leader is to shift to a more supportive coaching style (S2) of leadership. The action response that
reflects coaching is (C), “Continue to define group activities but involve the group members more in
decision making and incorporate their ideas.”

Situation 4 describes some of the concerns that arise for a director attempting to identify the correct person
to head a new sales campaign. The person identified for the position obviously has the skills necessary to
do a 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
leading followers who are competent but lacking a certain degree of confidence. A supportive style is
represented by action response (C), “Listen to his concerns but assure him he can do the job and support
his efforts.”



SLII® is a prescriptive approach to leadership that suggests how leaders can become effective in many different
types of organizational settings involving a wide variety of organizational goals. This approach provides a model
that suggests to leaders how they should behave based on the demands of a particular situation.

The SLII® model classifies leadership into four styles: S1 is high directive–low supportive, S2 is high directive–
high supportive, S3 is low directive–high supportive, and S4 is low directive–low supportive. The model describes
how each of the four leadership styles applies to followers who work at different levels of development, from D1
(low in competence and high in commitment), to D2 (low to some competence and low in commitment), to D3
(moderately competent but lacking commitment), to D4 (a great deal of competence and a high degree of

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

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

There are four major strengths to the situational approach. First, it is recognized by many as a standard for training
leaders. Second, it is a practical approach, which is easily understood and easily applied. Third, this approach sets
forth a clear set of prescriptions for how leaders should act if they want to enhance their leadership effectiveness.
Fourth, the situational approach 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 the situational approach suggest that it also has limitations. Unlike many other leadership theories,
this approach does not have a strong body of research findings to justify and support the theoretical underpinnings
on which it stands. As a result, there is ambiguity regarding how the approach conceptualizes certain aspects of
leadership. It is not clear in explaining how followers move from developing levels to developed levels, nor is it
clear on how commitment changes over time for followers. Without the basic research findings, the validity of the
basic prescriptions for matching leaders’ styles to followers’ development levels must be questioned. In addition,
the model does not address how demographic characteristics affect followers’ preferences for leadership. Finally,
the model does not provide guidelines for how leaders should adapt their style to groups as opposed to one-to-one


Descriptions of Images and Figures
Back to Figure

The matrix of leadership styles shows directive behavior along the horizontal axis and supportive behavior along
the vertical axis, both ranging from low to high. The different leadership styles are as follows.

S1 on the bottom-right side of the matrix: High directive and low supportive behavior.

S2 on the top-right side of the matrix: High directive and high supportive behavior.

S3 on the top-left side of the matrix: High supportive and low directive behavior.

S4 on the bottom-left side of the matrix: Low supportive and low directive behavior.

A bell-shaped curve is labeled delegating in the S4 block, supporting in the S3 block, coaching in the S2 block,
and directing in the S1 block.

The four development levels under the matrix, from developing on the right to developed on the left are as follows.

D1: Low competence, high commitment.

D2: Low to some competence, low commitment.

D3: Moderate to high competence, variable commitment.

D4: High competence and high commitment.






Path–goal theory discusses how leaders motivate followers to accomplish designated goals. Drawing heavily from
research on what motivates followers, path–goal theory first appeared in 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 theory is to enhance follower performance and follower satisfaction by focusing on follower
motivation and the nature of the work tasks. At its inception, path–goal theory was incredibly innovative in the
sense that it shifted attention to follower needs and motivations, and away from the predominant focus on tasks
and relationships.

In contrast to the situational approach, which suggests that a leader must adapt to the development level of
followers (see Chapter 5), path–goal theory emphasizes the relationship between the leader’s style and the
characteristics of the followers and the organizational setting. For the leader, the imperative is to use a leadership
style that best meets followers’ motivational needs. This is done by choosing behaviors that complement or
supplement what is missing in the work setting. Leaders try to enhance followers’ goal attainment 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
for leaders to be effective they must “engage in behaviors that complement subordinates’ environments and
abilities in a manner that compensates for deficiencies and is instrumental to subordinate 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 a healthy and productive work environment to propel followers toward success.

According to House and Mitchell (1974), leadership generates motivation when it increases the 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 and direction, removing obstacles and roadblocks to attaining the goal,
and making the work itself more personally satisfying (Figure 6.1). For example, even in professions where
employees are presumed to be self-motivated such as in technical industries, leaders can greatly enhance follower
motivation, engagement, satisfaction, performance, and intent to stay (Stumpf, Tymon, Ehr, & vanDam, 2016).
Relatedly, research (Asamani, Naab, & Ansah Ofei, 2016) indicates that follower satisfaction and intent to leave
are greatly impacted by a leader’s communicative style. In other words, employing path–goal theory in terms of
leader behavior and the needs of followers and the tasks they have to do could hold substantial implications for
organizations that seek to enhance follower engagement and motivation while also decreasing turnover.

Figure 6.1 The Basic Idea Behind Path–Goal Theory

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

Within path–goal theory, motivation is conceptualized from the perspective of the expectancy theory of motivation
(Vroom, 1964). The underlying assumption of expectancy theory is that followers will be motivated if they think
they are capable of performing their work, if they believe their efforts will result in a certain outcome, and if they


believe that the payoffs for doing their work are worthwhile. Motivation rests with individuals and the choices they
make about how a given behavior matches up with a given result. The challenge for a leader using ideas from
expectancy theory is to understand fully the goals of each follower and the rewards associated with the goals.
Followers want to feel efficacious, like they can accomplish what they set out to do. But they also want to know
that they will be rewarded if they can accomplish their work. A leader needs to find out what is rewarding to
followers about their work and then make those rewards available to them when they accomplish the requirements
of their work. Expectancy theory is about the goals that followers choose and how leaders help them and reward
them for meeting those goals.

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

Figure 6.2 illustrates the different components of path–goal theory, including leader behaviors, follower
characteristics, task characteristics, and motivation. Path–goal theory suggests 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 contingent on the followers’ characteristics and the characteristics of the task.

Figure 6.2 Major Components of Path–Goal Theory


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 of contingencies associated with the theory. However, for
our purposes, we will discuss only the primary four leadership behaviors identified as part of path–goal theory—
directive, supportive, participative, and achievement oriented (House & Mitchell, 1974, p. 83). These four leader
behaviors are not only foundational to understanding how path–goal theory works but are still more commonly
used by researchers in contemporary studies of the path–goal leadership approach (e.g., Asamani et al., 2016).

Directive Leadership

Directive leadership is similar to the “initiating structure” concept described in the Ohio State studies (Halpin &
Winer, 1957), discussed in Chapter 4, and the “telling” style described in the situational leadership approach
(Hersey & Blanchard, 1969), the subject of Chapter 5. It characterizes a leader who gives followers instructions
about their task, including what is expected of them, how it is to be done, and the timeline for when it should be
completed. It is thought that by being provided with explicit expectations and removing ambiguity, followers will
have the clarity needed to focus on their jobs. A directive leader sets clear standards of performance and makes the
rules and regulations clear to followers.

A good example of a directive leader is Professor Smith, discussed in Chapter 4 (page 93), an instructor who, at
the beginning of a term, provides a syllabus to students that outlines what will be studied in the course, what
chapters in a text to read, deadlines for assignments, and when tests will be administered. Often these syllabi will
also outline grading policies so students know what scores are required to earn certain grades.

Supportive Leadership

Supportive leadership resembles the “consideration” behavior construct identified by the Ohio State studies
(Hemphill & Coons, 1957; Stogdill, 1963). Supportive leadership consists of being friendly and approachable as a
leader and includes attending to the well-being and human needs of followers. Leaders using supportive behaviors
go out of their way to make work pleasant for followers, which, in turn, provides followers with the confidence
necessary to succeed (House, 1971). In addition, supportive leaders treat followers as equals and give them respect
for their status.

To understand the supportive leader role, consider the example of a coordinator of volunteers assigned to clean up
trash and litter after an outdoor music festival. The task itself is not especially pleasant, especially in the hot sun,
but the coordinator makes sure there are cool beverages and snacks for the volunteers, as well as a meal at the
conclusion of their work. To give them extra incentive, he has developed a game of “trash bingo” in which
volunteers have to find an array of items, such as caps to specific beverage bottles or pieces of trash in different
colors, to win prizes. As the volunteers work, he walks among them, pulling a wagon filled with cold drinks,
snacks, extra trash bags, sunscreen, and other necessities, which he offers them while asking each of them how
they are doing and if they need anything.

Participative Leadership

Participative leadership consists of inviting followers to share in the decision making. A participative leader
consults with followers, obtains their ideas and opinions, and integrates their suggestions into the decisions about
how the group or organization will proceed. This particular leadership style may also result in increased group
performance through member participation and dedication to shared group goals.


An example of a participative leader is the owner and chef of a fine dining restaurant that became very popular
shortly after its opening. To deal with the “growing pains” of this quick success, she has regular weekly meetings
with her staff to talk about what is working and what’s not and how to improve processes. She looks to the servers
to tell her about menu items that should be changed and has the kitchen staff discuss how changes to the menu can
be implemented. At the same time, they all discuss plans to scale up the restaurant’s capacity to lower the wait
times for customers, without sacrificing quality.

Achievement-Oriented Leadership

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

The captain of a firefighting crew that deals with wildfires is an example of an achievement-oriented leader. The
goal for the crew is to contain the fire while saving property and people. The captain rigorously trains his crew
members in the months before wildfire season, running them through countless drills that practice safety and
firefighting methods so that they can perform at their highest level in the face of danger. For each drill, the captain
grades crew members on a scale from 1 to 10. Those crew members who score the highest on the drills receive a
special award at the end of training.

House and Mitchell (1974) suggested that leaders might exhibit any or all of these styles with various followers
and in different situations. Path–goal theory is not a trait approach that locks leaders into only one kind of
leadership. Leaders should adapt their styles to the situation or to the motivational needs of their followers. For
example, if followers need participative leadership at one point in a task and directive leadership at another,
leaders can change their style as needed. Different situations may call for different types of leadership behavior.
Furthermore, there may be instances when it is appropriate for a leader to 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 of characteristics influences the way leaders’
behaviors affect follower motivation. In other words, the impact of leadership is contingent on the characteristics
of both followers and their task.


Follower Characteristics

Follower characteristics determine how a leader’s behavior is interpreted by followers in a given work context.
Researchers have focused on followers’ needs for affiliation, preferences for structure, desires for control, and
self-perceived level of task ability. These characteristics and many others determine the degree to which followers
find the behavior of a leader an immediate source of satisfaction or instrumental to some future satisfaction. As we
discuss these follower characteristics, it is helpful to relate them to the characteristics exhibited by the athletes and
coach of the Navarro College cheerleading team (Case Study 4.3). College-level competitive cheer is physically
demanding and dangerous, and the coach of this 40-member team knows that each athlete has different follower
characteristics that she must respond to in order to keep the individual athletes motivated to put in the hard work
and practice required for the team to win at the national competition.

Path–goal theory predicts that followers who have strong needs for affiliation prefer supportive leadership
because friendly and concerned leadership is a source of satisfaction. For many of the Navarro College cheer
team’s athletes, having been chosen by Coach Monica Aldama to be part of this elite squad makes them feel
special and talented. The coach continues to foster those feelings in them by verbally recognizing her team
members’ hard work at practices and by attending to them individually when they need support.

For followers who are dogmatic and authoritarian and have to work in uncertain situations, path–goal theory
suggests directive leadership because task clarity satisfies their preferences for structure. Directive leadership
helps these followers by clarifying the path to the goal, making it less ambiguous. The authoritarian type of
follower feels more comfortable when the leader provides a greater sense of certainty in the work setting. By
establishing a mandatory, consistent team practice schedule and policies regarding the athletes’ class attendance,
practices, and personal conduct, Coach Aldama provides a very clear structure for her athletes. They know what is
expected of them and what the consequences are if those expectations are not met.

Followers’ desires for control have received special attention in path–goal research through studies of a
personality construct locus of control that can be subdivided into internal and external dimensions. Followers with
an internal locus of control believe that they are in charge of the events that occur in their life, whereas those with
an external locus of control believe that chance, fate, or outside forces determine life events. Path–goal theory
suggests that for followers with an internal locus of control participative leadership is most satisfying because it
allows them to feel in charge of their work and to be an integral part of decision making. For followers with an
external locus of control, path–goal theory suggests that directive leadership is best because it parallels followers’
feelings that outside forces control their circumstances. On the Navarro College cheer team, Coach Aldama’s
assistant coach exhibits his internal locus of control in directing practices and also in participating with Coach
Aldama regarding who will make the final cut for the team. On the other hand, for those athletes who have an
external locus of control, Coach Aldama has to be very directive and tell them exactly what she needs from them.

Another way in which leadership affects follower motivation is the followers’ self-perceived level of task ability to
perform a specific task. As followers’ perceptions of their abilities and competence go up, the need for directive
leadership goes down. In effect, directive leadership becomes redundant and perhaps excessively controlling when
followers feel competent to complete their own work. Through grueling, two-a-day practices, the cheer team’s
athletes become stronger and more competent performing the stunts, tumbling, and moves of the routine. As they
do, their coach is able to pull back from directing them on their performance, instead focusing on the details that
will enhance the team’s routine. Athletes who do not gain confidence in their own abilities to be able to perform
without direction will not make the cut for the 20-person competition squad.


Task Characteristics

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

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

A special focus of path–goal theory is helping followers overcome obstacles. Obstacles could be 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 these settings, path–goal theory suggests that it is the leader’s responsibility
to help followers by removing these obstacles or helping followers to navigate around them. Helping followers
around these obstacles will increase followers’ expectations that they can complete the task and increase their
sense of job satisfaction. In coaching the Navarro cheer team, Coach Aldama sometimes finds elements of the
routines that have been developed for her team to be too challenging for her athletes to accomplish. As a leader she
will try to solve these issues by reworking the routine’s elements and guiding the athletes on skills to help them
master these elements.

As we mentioned earlier in the chapter, path–goal theory has undergone many revisions. In 1996, House published
a reformulated path–goal theory that extends his original work to include eight classes of leadership behaviors.
Besides the four leadership behaviors discussed previously 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 be effective, leaders need to help followers by giving
them what is missing in their environment and by helping them compensate for deficiencies in their abilities.



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

Table 6.1 Path–Goal Theory: How It Works

Leadership Behavior Follower Characteristics Task Characteristics

Directive Leadership

Provides structure




Unclear rules


Supportive Leadership

Provides nurturance


Need for affiliation

Need for human touch




Participative Leadership

Provides involvement


Need for control

Need for clarity





Leadership Behavior Follower Characteristics Task Characteristics

Achievement-Oriented Leadership

Provides challenges

High expectations

Need to excel




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

For tasks that are structured, unsatisfying, or frustrating, path–goal theory suggests that leaders should use a
supportive style. The supportive style provides what is missing by nurturing 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 gives greater clarity to how
certain paths lead to certain goals, and helps followers learn what leads to what (House & Mitchell, 1974, p. 92). In
addition, participative leadership has a positive impact when followers are autonomous and have a strong need for
control because this kind of follower responds favorably to being involved in decision making and in the
structuring of work.

Furthermore, path–goal theory predicts that achievement-oriented leadership is most effective in settings in which
followers are required to perform ambiguous tasks. In settings such 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-oriented leadership helps followers feel that their efforts will result in effective performance. In
settings where the task is more structured and less ambiguous, however, achievement-oriented leadership appears
to be unrelated to followers’ expectations about their work efforts.

Pragmatically, path–goal theory is straightforward. An effective leader has to attend to the needs of followers. The
leader should help followers to define their goals and the paths they want to take in reaching those goals. When
obstacles arise, the leader needs to help followers confront them. This may mean helping a follower around the
obstacle, or it may mean removing an obstacle. The leader’s job is to help followers reach their goals by directing,
guiding, and coaching them along the way.



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

A second positive feature of path–goal theory is that it attempts to integrate the motivation principles of
expectancy theory into a theory of leadership. This makes path–goal theory unique 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 follower motivation: How can I motivate followers to feel that they can 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 questions that
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 that in certain ways is very
practical. The representation of the model (Figure 6.1) underscores and highlights the important ways leaders help
followers. It shouts out for leaders to clarify the paths to the goals and remove or help followers around the
obstacles to the goals. In its simplest form, the theory reminds leaders that the overarching purpose of leadership is
to guide and coach followers as they move along the path to achieve a goal. The theory includes characteristics of
both the followers and the situation and is more comprehensive than prior contingency theories.



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 of leadership and related contingencies that
interpreting the theory can be confusing. For example, path–goal theory makes predictions about which of the
different leadership styles is appropriate for tasks with different degrees of structure, for goals with different levels
of clarity, for followers at different levels of ability, and for organizations with different degrees of formal
authority. To say the least, it is a daunting task to incorporate all these factors simultaneously into one’s selection
of a preferred leadership style. Because the scope of path–goal theory is so broad and encompasses so many
different interrelated sets of assumptions, it is difficult to use this theory fully in trying to improve the leadership
process in a given organizational context. The theory also includes follower characteristics that include personality
traits. Due to the complexity of the theory, there has not been a complete empirical test of its propositions.

A second limitation of path–goal theory is that it has received only partial support from the many empirical
research studies that have been conducted to test its validity (House & Mitchell, 1974; Indvik, 1986; C.
Schriesheim, Castro, Zhou, & DeChurch, 2006; C. Schriesheim & Kerr, 1977; J. Schriesheim & Schriesheim,
1980; Stinson & Johnson, 1975; Wofford & Liska, 1993). For example, some research supports the prediction that
leader directiveness is positively related to follower satisfaction when tasks are ambiguous, but other research has
failed to confirm this relationship. Furthermore, not all aspects of the theory have been given equal attention. A
great deal of research has been designed to study directive and supportive leadership, but fewer studies address the
other articulated leadership behaviors. The claims of path–goal theory remain tentative because the research
findings to date do not provide a full and consistent picture of the basic assumptions and corollaries of path–goal
theory (Evans, 1996; Jermier, 1996; C. Schriesheim & Neider, 1996). There also is some confusion in the literature
due to several iterations of path–goal theory and House’s (1996) version having not been tested (Turner, Baker, &
Kellner, 2018).

A third and more recent criticism is that the theory does not account for gender differences in how leadership is
enacted or perceived (Mendez & Busenbark, 2015). Research has been done on the impact of gender on directive,
supportive, and participative leadership but has not been integrated into path–goal theory. For example, Eagly and
Johnson (1990) conducted a meta-analysis comparing leadership styles and found that women are more
participative, while men are more directive. Other research has found that directive leadership by women is viewed
negatively, regardless of whether path–goal theory prescribes it. Female leaders who show direction are negatively
perceived compared to male leaders who demonstrate the same behavior (Eagly, Makhijani, & Klonsky, 1992),
particularly in “masculine” jobs (Heilman, Wallen, Fuchs, & Tamkins, 2004). Race has also shown to be a factor—
Black women and Asian women are perceived negatively when they show directive behavior (Rosette, Koval, Ma,
& Livingston, 2016).

Another criticism of path–goal theory is that it fails to explain adequately the relationship between leadership
behavior and follower motivation. Path–goal theory is unique in that it incorporates the tenets of expectancy
theory; however, it does not go far enough in explicating how leadership is related to these tenets. The principles
of expectancy theory suggest 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 styles directly to help followers
feel competent or assured of success. For example, path–goal theory does not explain how directive leadership
during ambiguous tasks increases follower motivation. Similarly, it does not explain how supportive leadership
during tedious work relates to follower motivation. The result is that practitioners are left with an inadequate
understanding of how their leadership will affect followers’ expectations about their work.

In addition, path–goal theory presumes that leaders possess the advanced communication skills necessary to
swiftly jockey between the various leadership behaviors to effectively interact with followers in all given
situations. Without constant feedback from followers, the shifting of leader behavior among directive, supportive,
participative, and achievement-oriented behaviors may be viewed as inconsistent and confusing by followers.

A final criticism that can be made of path–goal theory concerns a practical outcome of the theory. 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 help followers around obstacles as they attempt to reach their goals.
Therefore, it is a “leader-centric” approach. As such, others have criticized the theory for relying on leader


behavior as the primary means to motivate followers (Cote, 2017). In effect, this approach treats leadership as a
one-way event: The leader affects the follower. The potential difficulty in this type of “helping” leadership is that
followers may easily become dependent on the leader to accomplish their work. Path–goal theory places a great
deal of responsibility on leaders and much less on followers. Over time, this kind of leadership could be
counterproductive because it promotes dependency and fails to recognize the full abilities of followers.



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

Path–goal theory provides a set of general recommendations based on the characteristics of followers and tasks for
how leaders should act in various situations if they want to be effective. It informs us about when to emphasize
certain leader behaviors including clarifying goal behavior, lending support, and enhancing group decision-making
processes, among others (House, 1996). For instance, the theory suggests that leaders should be directive 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 and that 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 improve follower satisfaction and performance.

The principles of path–goal theory can be used by leaders at all levels in the organization and for all types of tasks.
To apply path–goal theory, a leader must carefully assess the followers and their tasks, and then choose an
appropriate leadership style to match those characteristics. If followers are feeling insecure about doing a task, the
leader needs to adopt a style that builds follower confidence. For example, in a university setting where junior
faculty members feel apprehensive about their teaching and research, a department chair should give supportive
leadership. By giving care and support, the chair helps the junior faculty members gain a sense of confidence about
their ability to perform the work (Bess & Goldman, 2001). If followers are uncertain whether their efforts will
result in reaching their goals, the leader needs to prove to them that their efforts will be rewarded. As discussed
earlier in the chapter, path–goal theory is useful because it continually reminds leaders that their central purpose
is to help followers define their goals and then to help followers reach their goals in the most efficient manner.



The following case studies (Cases 6.1, 6.2, and 6.3) provide descriptions of various situations in which a leader is
attempting to apply path–goal theory. The first case looks at the leadership of three managers at a manufacturing
company. The second case is from the academic perspective of teaching orchestra students. The final case profiles
football coach P. J. Fleck and how his unique leadership rejuvenated two floundering college teams. 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 based on this theory.


Case 6.1 Three Shifts, Three Supervisors

Brako is a small manufacturing company that produces parts for the automobile industry. The company has several
patents on parts that fit in the brake assembly of nearly all domestic and foreign cars. Each year, the company
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 the
company for more than 20 years. The supervisors appear satisfied with their work and have reported no major
difficulty in supervising employees at Brako.

Art supervises the first shift. Employees describe him as being a very hands-on type of leader. He gets very
involved in the day-to-day operations of the facility. Workers joke that Art knows to the milligram the amount of
raw materials the company has on hand at any given time. Art often can be found walking through the plant and
reminding people of the correct procedures to follow in doing their work. Even for those working on the
production 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 are negative
about many other aspects of their work. Most of the work on this shift is very straightforward and repetitive; as a
result, it is monotonous. The rules for working on the production line or in the packaging area are all clearly
spelled out and require no independent decision making on the part of workers. Workers simply need to show up
and go through the motions. On lunch breaks, workers often are heard complaining about how bored they are
doing the same old thing over and over. Workers do not criticize Art, but they do not think he really understands
their situation.

Bob supervises the second shift. He really enjoys working at Brako and wants all the workers on the afternoon
shift to enjoy their work as well. Bob is a people-oriented supervisor whom workers describe as very genuine and
caring. Hardly a day goes by that Bob does not post a message about someone’s birthday or someone’s personal
accomplishment. Bob works hard at creating camaraderie, including sponsoring a company softball team, taking
people 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 is
responsible for setting up the machines and equipment when changes are made from making one part to making
another. In addition, the second shift is responsible for the complex computer programs that monitor the machines.
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. Each
setup is different and entails different procedures. Although the computer is extremely helpful when it is calibrated
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 has
meetings, which she labels troubleshooting sessions, for the purpose of identifying problems workers are
experiencing. Any time there is a glitch on the production line, Carol wants to know about it so she can help
workers find a solution. If workers cannot do a particular job, she shows them how. For those who are uncertain of
their competencies, Carol gives reassurance. Carol tries to spend time with each worker and help the workers focus
on their personal goals. In addition, she stresses company goals and the rewards that are available if workers are
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 she
has a wonderful knack for making everything fall into place. When there are problems, she addresses them. When
workers feel down, she builds them up. Carol was described by one worker as an interesting mixture of part parent,
part coach, and part manufacturing expert. Upper management at Brako is pleased with Carol’s leadership, but
they have experienced problems repeatedly when workers from Carol’s shift have been rotated to other shifts at



1. 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 Playing in the Orchestra

Martina Bates is the newly hired orchestra teacher at Middletown School District in rural Sparta, Kansas. After
graduating from the Juilliard School of Music, Bates had intended to play violin professionally, but when no jobs
became available, she accepted an offer to teach orchestra in her hometown, believing it would be a good place to
hone her skills until a professional position became available.

Being the orchestra instructor at Middletown is challenging because it involves teaching music classes, directing
the high school orchestra, and directing both the middle school and grade school orchestra programs. When classes
started, Bates hit the ground running and found she liked teaching, and was exhilarated by her work with students.
After her first year, however, she is having misgivings about her decision to teach. Most of all, she is feeling
troubled by how different students are in each of the three programs, and how her leadership does not seem 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 an
instrument, 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 the
cornet sound like a cornet or moving the bow so a cello sounds like a cello is a huge undertaking. Whether it is
drums, bass viol, clarinet, or saxophone, Bates patiently shows the kids how to play and consistently compliments
them every small step of the way. First and foremost, she wants all of her learners to feel like they 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 Bates’s kindness and forbearance, and the parents are thrilled. The orchestra’s spring concert
had many wild sounds but was also wildly successful, with excited children and happy parents.

The middle school orchestra is somewhat smaller in size and presents different challenges for Bates. The students
in this orchestra are starting to sound good on their instruments and are willing to play together as a group, but
some of them are becoming disinterested and want to quit. Bates uses a different style of leadership with 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 second chair, and so
on down to the last chair. Each week, the students engage in “challenges” for the chairs. If students practice hard
and improve, they can advance to a higher chair; students who don’t practice can slip down to a lower chair. Bates
puts up charts to track students’ practice hours, and when they reach established goals, they can choose a reward
from “the grab bag of goodies,” which has candy, trinkets, and gift cards. Never knowing what their prize will be
motivates the students, especially as they all want to get the gift cards. Although some kids 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 Bates’s favorite, because the sounds are better and the
students are interested in playing well.

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



1. 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 does Bates help
them address obstacles and reach their goals?

2. Based on the principles of expectancy theory described in the chapter, why is Bates effective with the
elementary 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. Bates’s competencies as a musician do not seem to help her with the students who are becoming disinterested
in orchestra. Why? Using ideas from expectancy theory, what would you advise her to do to improve her
leadership with the high school orchestra?

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


Case 6.3 Row the Boat

When P. J. Fleck was a wide receivers’ coach for the Rutgers University football team, he told the team’s then
offensive coordinator, Kirk Ciarrocca, that his goal was to become the youngest head football coach of a college
team (Mattingly, 2017a).

Just two years later, at the age of 32, he was named the head coach of the Western Michigan University (WMU)
Broncos, making him the youngest coach of a NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision team. When Coach
Fleck took over the Broncos team, it had a 22–27 record. Four years later, the team was 13–1, became the Mid-
American Conference (MAC) champion for the first time in 28 years, and earned a trip to the 2017 Cotton Bowl.

Coach Fleck then took the top coaching job at the University of Minnesota, a Big Ten school that hadn’t seen a
championship season in 50 years. In just three seasons, he built another floundering team into a formidable one. In
2019, the Golden Gophers finished the season 10–2. They also tied for the Big Ten West title, the first time the
team had won a share of a division title since the Big Ten began divisional play. Minnesota defeated No. 9 Auburn
in the 2020 Outback Bowl for its 11th win, the team’s most since 1904.

The thing about being a successful football coach is that your success is based on how your players perform.
Coach Fleck could only achieve his goals by setting goals for his players and then leading his players in achieving
those. He boils down the ability to turn around a program into three pieces: the right people, cultural consistency,
and the value of long-term vision over short-term desires (Giambalvo, 2019).

One of Coach Fleck’s first actions as coach at WMU was to rescind all the scholarship offers to incoming players
who had verbally committed to attend the university in Kalamazoo, under the previous coach. The scholarship
withdrawals occurred just weeks before the national signing day and left players unable to arrange other Division I
scholarships as slots were already filled at other schools. Despite the bad press and the hit to his reputation that
resulted, Coach Fleck said his decision to start recruiting fresh was for the good of the program because recruits
“commit to the coaching staff” (Ambrogi, 2013).

“He built Western Michigan by building it with better players,” said Sports Illustrated writer Andy Staples
(Mattingly, 2017b). By the next year, Coach Fleck had one of the highest-ranked recruiting classes in the MAC
conference, and he continued that streak for the next three years.

When he began his tenure at WMU, Coach Fleck was clear that he was creating a culture for the program that
emphasized athletes’ growth in four areas: “academically, athletically, socially and spiritually.”

He established a team mantra, which also became the team’s rallying cry: Row the Boat. It came from the tragedy
of losing his second son, Colt, to a heart condition just days after he was born in 2011. But it was more than a
mantra; it was a mindset.

Coach Fleck explained the phrase, saying, “It’s very simple when you break it down. There are three parts to
rowing the boat. There is the oar, which is the energy behind rowing the boat. There is the boat, which is the actual
sacrifice, either our team or the administration or the boosters or the audience or whoever is willing to sacrifice for
this program. There is also the compass. Every single person that comes in contact with our football program, fans
or not, they are all going for one common goal and that is success” (Drew, 2013).

Holding onto that mindset became important after his first season at WMU, when the team went 1–11. Coach
Fleck, along with his rallying cry of Row the Boat, which was emblazoned on billboards, T-shirts, and posters in
bars and restaurants across Kalamazoo, became an object of ridicule among fans, the media, and rivals, who
happily flouted broken oars at away games. But he made it clear to his team that Row the Boat was for times of

“It’s very easy to row the boat in times of triumph and success in calm seas, but when you’re in the middle of the
night, and there are really big storms and there are really big waves, and it’s cold, and it’s dark, and you can’t see,
you have to continue to keep your oar in the water. That’s what it’s for. It’s not for the really amazing times. It’s for
when you get really tough times and you’re tested,” he said (Nothaft, 2017).


“And at one point, he was the only one who believed in it,” said WMU running back Jarvion Franklin. “His voice
never wavered. People were screaming at him and he stayed true to himself and his beliefs” (Markgraff, 2018).

Despite the team’s deplorable record, Coach Fleck’s energy and charisma was enough to help him draw top-level
players to WMU, and the coach preached patience.

“When you take over a program, all 125 players have to adapt to your culture,” he said. “I think it takes two or
three years when you first get into a program,” he said. “There’s a new personality, and it takes two or three years
until everyone begins wearing that personality. Once you start getting into year three and year four, it’s really just
incoming freshmen that are adapting” (Markgraff, 2018).

That culture made his players focus on more than athletics. Coach Fleck stressed that he was preparing the players
for life after college. He wanted them to have the tools to be successful and overcome adversity in whatever life
threw at them.

“Coaching is way different in 2018 than it was in 2008,” he said. “All areas of the student-athletes’ lives are
affected by everything they do in college. I have to teach these four areas more than I ever have before”
(Markgraff, 2018).

In the team’s meeting room, a large sign detailed how to improve “academically, athletically, socially and
spiritually.” Under spirituality, it read, “connect with three new people.”

“Stepping outside your comfort zone in all four areas helps you change the narrative of whatever that narrative is,”
said Coach Fleck. “We are here to change that by our actions every day of doing the right things. You should never
be a better football player than you are a person” (Greder, 2017).

The winning record was one indication Coach Fleck was achieving what he set out to. Another was that by 2017,
the WMU Broncos football team had the highest grade point average in the conference. Another indication was
how the players’ own outlooks had changed.

“It’s not just about football or not just about the program, it’s about life,” WMU defensive lineman Keion Adams
said. “It’s about never giving up. The boat is sacrifice and the oar is the compass and direction you set for yourself.
It’s guided me through my life and made me the person that I am today” (Nichols, 2016).

Coach Fleck’s success at WMU meant bigger football programs would be calling, and within months of the team’s
Cotton Bowl experience, it was announced that he would leave WMU to coach football at the University of
Minnesota. Once in the Twin Cities, Coach Fleck immediately began to instill the same culture he created at WMU
with his new team, building camaraderie, teaching life lessons, and developing a multilevel leadership committee
of players. He was insistent that players assume leadership roles and consistently model the desired culture of the
team, often repeating, “Bad teams, nobody leads. Average teams, coaches lead. Elite teams, players lead.”

Once again, Coach Fleck knew it would take a couple of years before his culture became ingrained in his players.
But with time, consistency, and a focus on cultural values, he produced “mature players who are ready to lead”
(Markgraff, 2018).

“We define maturity as, ‘When doing what you have to do becomes doing what you want to do,’” he said. “If our
guys don’t know what they have to do because it’s a new program, that takes a couple of years for this maturity to
take place. Once the expectations are laid out for them, they know what they ‘have to do.’ Once they want to do it,
they also know every reason why they want to do it. That shows a very mature football team. That’s when you start
seeing players lead elite football teams” (Markgraff, 2018).

“Everything’s connected,” Coach Fleck told ESPN. “How we live our life is going to be how we play. It sounds
like a lot of slogans and all this other stuff. It’s really not. It’s very well connected, it’s very organized, it’s a very
detailed culture, there’s a standard, and that standard can’t be compromised in any area of your life” (Rittenberg,



1. The focus of path–goal theory is for leaders to enhance follower performance by focusing on follower
motivation and the nature of work tasks. Describe how Coach Fleck achieved this through (a) follower
motivation and (b) work tasks.

2. Describe Coach Fleck in terms of the four path–goal leader behaviors—directive, supportive, participative,
and achievement oriented.

3. Regarding the follower characteristics outlined in the chapter, how did Coach Fleck address followers’ (a)
needs for affiliation, (b) preferences for structure, (c) desires for control, and (d) self-perceived level of task

4. Path–goal leadership and expectancy theory are about how leaders can help followers reach their goals. Were
the goals the players were working toward their own or Coach Fleck’s?

5. Explain Coach Fleck’s leadership in terms of expectancy theory.


Leadership Instrument

Because the path–goal theory was developed as a complex set of theoretical assumptions to direct researchers in
developing new leadership theory, it has used many different instruments to measure the leadership process. The
Path–Goal Leadership Questionnaire has been useful in measuring and learning about important 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 leadership behaviors: directive, supportive,
participative, and achievement oriented. Respondents’ scores on each of the different styles provide them with
information on their strong and weak styles and the relative importance they 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 for supportive,
which is moderate; 21 for participative, which is moderate; and 25 for achievement oriented, which is moderate.
These scores suggest that you are a leader who is typically more directive than most other leaders, and quite
similar to other leaders in the degree to which you are supportive, participative, and achievement oriented.

According to the principles of path–goal theory, if your scores matched these hypothetical scores, you would be
effective in situations where the tasks and procedures are unclear and your followers have a need for certainty. 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, you would do fairly well in
uncertain situations where you could set high standards, challenge followers to meet these standards, and help
them feel confident in their abilities.

In addition to the Path–Goal Leadership Questionnaire, leadership researchers have commonly used multiple
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 for theory
building, many of the instruments offer valuable information related to practical leadership issues.

Path–Goal Leadership Questionnaire

Purpose: The purpose of this questionnaire is to identify your path–goal styles of leadership and examine
how your use of each style relates to other styles of leadership.

Instructions: This questionnaire contains questions about different styles of path–goal leadership. Indicate
how often each statement is true of your own behavior.

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


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 it needs to be

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

6. I let followers know that I expect them to perform at their highest 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 the group. 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 quite challenging. 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 carry out

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 from carrying out their

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

16. I show that I have doubts about followers’ ability to meet most objectives. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

17. I ask followers for suggestions on what assignments should be made. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

18. I give vague explanations of what is expected of followers on the 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’ personal needs. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7



1. 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 Interpretation

For each style, scores 17 and below are considered low, a moderate score is between 18 and 28, and scores
29 and above are considered high.

The scores you received on the Path–Goal Leadership Questionnaire provide information about which
styles of leadership you use most often and which you use less often. In addition, you can use these scores
to assess 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). Based on the work of House and Dessler
(1974) and House (1977) cited in Fulk and Wendler (1982).



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

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

Path–goal theory offers a large set of predictions for how a leader’s style interacts with followers’ needs and the
nature of the task. Among other things, it predicts that directive leadership is effective with ambiguous tasks, that
supportive leadership is effective for repetitive tasks, that participative leadership is effective when tasks are
unclear and followers are 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 is useful for
understanding how various styles of leadership affect the productivity and satisfaction of followers. Second, path–
goal theory is unique in that it integrates the motivation principles of expectancy theory into a theory of leadership.
Third, it provides a practical 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 scope of path–goal theory
encompasses so many interrelated sets of assumptions that it is hard to use this theory in a given organizational
setting. Second, research findings to date do not support a full and consistent picture of the claims of the theory.
Third, path–goal theory does not account for gender differences in how leadership is enacted or perceived. Fourth,
path–goal theory does not show in a clear way how leader behaviors directly affect follower motivation levels.
Also, the theory assumes that leaders have the skills to allow them to switch between various leadership behaviors
needed by differing followers, and it assumes that leader behavior is the primary means to motivate followers.
Last, path–goal theory is predominantly leader oriented and fails to recognize the interactional nature of
leadership. It does not promote follower involvement in the leadership process.






Most of the leadership theories discussed thus far in this book have emphasized leadership from the point of view
of the leader (e.g., trait approach, skills approach, and behavioral approach) or the follower and the context (e.g.,
situational approach and path–goal theory). Leader–member exchange (LMX) theory takes still another approach
and conceptualizes leadership as a process that is centered on the interactions between leaders and followers. As
Figure 7.1 illustrates, LMX theory makes the dyadic relationship between leaders and followers the focal point of
the leadership process.

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–Member Exchange (LMX) Theory of Leadership Over 25 Years: Applying a
Multi-Level, Multi-Domain Perspective,” pp. 219–247, Copyright (1995), with permission from Elsevier.

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 first appeared, it has undergone several revisions, and it continues to be of
interest to researchers who study the leadership process.

Before LMX theory, researchers treated leadership as something leaders did toward followers in a collective way,
as a group, using an average leadership style. LMX theory challenged this assumption and directed researchers’
attention to the differences that might exist between the leader and each 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 of their followers (Figure 7.2). A leader’s
relationship to the work unit as a whole was viewed as a series of vertical dyads (Figure 7.3).

Figure 7.2 The Vertical Dyad

Note: The leader (L) forms an individualized working relationship with each follower (F). The exchanges (both content
and process) between the leader and the follower define their dyadic relationship.

Figure 7.3 Vertical Dyads

Note: The leader (L) forms special relationships with all followers (F). Each of these relationships is special and has
unique characteristics.

In assessing the characteristics of these vertical dyads, researchers found two general types of linkages (or
relationships): those that were based on expanded and negotiated role responsibilities (extra-roles), which were
called the in-group, and those that were based on the formal employment contract (defined roles), which were
called the out-group (Figure 7.4).



Figure 7.4 In-Groups and Out-Groups

Note: A leader (L) and followers (F) form unique relationships. Relationships within the in-group are marked by
mutual trust, respect, liking, and reciprocal influence. Relationships within the out-group are marked by formal
communication based on job descriptions. Plus-3 is a high-quality relationship, and zero is a stranger.

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 with them. Personality and other personal characteristics
are related to this process (Dansereau, Graen, & Haga, 1975; Maslyn, Schyns, & Farmer, 2017; Randolph-Seng et
al., 2016). In addition, membership in one group or the other is based on how followers involve themselves in
expanding their role responsibilities with the leader (Graen, 1976). Followers who are interested in negotiating
with the leader what they are willing to do for the group can become a part of the in-group. These negotiations
involve exchanges in which followers do 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 different job
responsibilities, they become a part of the out-group.

Followers in the in-group receive more information, influence, confidence, and concern from their leaders than do
out-group followers (Dansereau et al., 1975). In addition, they are more dependable, more highly involved, and
more communicative than out-group followers (Dansereau et al., 1975). Whereas in-group members do extra
things for the leader and the leader does the same for them, followers in the out-group are less compatible with the
leader and usually just come to work, do their job, and go home. Not to say that out-group members are poor
performers. Poor performers are a third group that must be managed differently due to the need for performance
monitoring and documentation. Out-group members perform to the specifications of their job description, but they
don’t go above and beyond that to help the leader and the work group.


Later Studies

After the first set of studies, there was a shift in the focus of LMX theory. Whereas the initial 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 was related to organizational effectiveness.

Specifically, these studies focus on how the quality of leader–member exchanges was related to 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 employee turnover, more positive
performance evaluations, higher frequency of promotions, greater organizational commitment, more desirable
work assignments, better job attitudes, more attention and support from the leader, greater participation, and faster
career progress over 25 years (Buch, Kuvaas, Dysvik, & Schyns, 2014; Graen & Uhl-Bien, 1995; Liden, Wayne, &
Stilwell, 1993; Malik, Wan, Ahmad, Naseem, & Rehman, 2015).

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 (overall and supervisory), commitment, role conflict
and clarity, and turnover intentions. In addition, 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 highlighted the
importance of measuring leader–member exchange from the perspective of both the leader and the follower.

Most recently, researchers are investigating the processual nature of leader–member exchange and how work
relationships are co-constructed through communication. N. Hill, Kang, and Seo (2014) studied the role of
electronic communication in employee empowerment and work outcomes and found that a higher degree of
electronic communication between leaders and followers resulted in more positive leader–member relationships.
Omilion-Hodges and Baker (2017) analyzed leader communication behaviors and developed scales to assess how
these behaviors can affect the growth or stagnation of leader–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 has not 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 show increased 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 of leader–member exchange and their energy and
creativity at work. They found that perceived high-quality leader–member exchange was positively related to
feelings of energy in employees, which, in turn, was related to greater involvement in creative work. LMX theory
was not directly associated with creativity, but it served as a mechanism to nurture people’s feelings, which then
enhanced their creativity.

Ilies, Nahrgang, and Morgeson (2007) did a meta-analysis of 51 research studies that examined the relationship
between leader–member exchange and employee citizenship behaviors. Citizenship behaviors are discretionary
employee behaviors that go beyond the prescribed role, job description, or reward system (Katz, 1964; Organ,
1988). They found a positive relationship between the quality of leader–member relationships and citizenship
behaviors. In other words, followers who had higher-quality relationships with their leaders were more likely to
engage in more discretionary (positive “payback”) behaviors that benefited 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 the impact of leader–member exchange on job
outcomes such as job satisfaction, turnover, job performance, and organizational citizenship behaviors. Based on
two samples of college alumni, they found that empowerment and leader–member exchange quality had a slight
synergistic effect on job outcomes. The quality of leader–member exchange mattered most for 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


the relationship between leader–member exchange and creativity of followers. Their study of a high-technology
firm found that greater autonomy increased the positive relationship between leader–member exchange and
creativity at work.

Finally, a meta-analysis conducted by Martin, Guillaume, Thomas, Lee, and Epitropaki (2016) supported LMX
predictions regarding job performance. There was a positive relationship between LMX and task performance as
well as citizenship performance, while a negative relationship existed between LMX and counterproductive
performance. Of particular importance in this study, it was found that LMX was positively related to objective task
performance (actual performance measurements, not ratings by supervisors). This study also found that trust,
motivation, empowerment, and job satisfaction explain the effects of LMX on job performance with trust in the
leader having the largest effect.

In essence, these findings clearly illustrate that organizations stand to gain much from having leaders who can
create good working relationships. When leaders and followers have good exchanges, they feel better and
accomplish more, and the organization prospers.


Leadership Development

Research into LMX theory has also focused on how exchanges between leaders and followers can be used for
leadership development (Graen & Uhl-Bien, 1991). Leadership development emphasizes that leaders should
develop high-quality exchanges with all of their followers rather than just a few. It attempts to make all followers
feel as if they are a part of the in-group and, by so doing, avoids the inequities and negative implications of being
in an out-group. In general, leadership development promotes partnerships in which the leader tries to build
effective dyads with all followers in the work unit (Graen & Uhl-Bien, 1995). In addition, LMX theory suggests
that leaders can create networks of partnerships throughout the organization, which will benefit the organization’s
goals and the leader’s own career progress. Herman and Troth’s (2013) findings regarding the emotional
experiences described by followers in high- and low-quality LMX relationships align with the assertion that
positive relationships benefit organizational and personal leader goals.

Graen and Uhl-Bien (1991) suggested that high-quality leader–member relationships develop progressively over
time in three phases: (1) the stranger phase, (2) the acquaintance phase, and (3) the mature partnership phase
(Table 7.1). During Phase 1, the stranger phase, the interactions in the leader–follower dyad generally are rule
bound, relying heavily on contractual relationships. Leaders and followers relate to each other within prescribed
organizational roles. They have lower-quality exchanges, similar to those of out-group members discussed earlier
in the chapter. The follower complies with the formal leader, who has hierarchical status for the purpose of
achieving the economic rewards the leader controls. The motives of the follower during the stranger phase are
directed toward self-interest rather than toward the good of the group (Graen & Uhl-Bien, 1995).

Table 7.1 Phases in Leadership Development

Phase 1 Stranger Phase 2 Acquaintance Phase 3 Mature Partnership

Roles Scripted Tested Negotiated

Influences One way Mixed Reciprocal

Exchanges Low quality Medium quality High quality

Interests Self Self and other Group


Phase 1 Stranger Phase 2 Acquaintance Phase 3 Mature Partnership


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. Reprinted with permission.

While early descriptions of the LMX development process focused on the leader initiating the development
process, followers have been shown to have an influence on how the LMX process unfolds as well. Xu, Loi, Cai,
and Liden (2019) found that follower proactivity positively influenced LMX development. They found that take-
charge followers whose efforts and actions make the leader’s work more effective and whom the leader recognizes
can subsequently develop high-quality LMX relationships with leaders. This is particularly true for followers who
work for leaders with high achievement goals, so it is prescribed that LMX training include sensitizing leaders to
appreciate followers’ proactive attempts to build the relationship.

Phase 2, the acquaintance phase, begins with an offer by the leader or the follower for improved career-oriented
social exchanges, which involve sharing more resources and personal or work-related information. It is a testing
period for both the leader and the follower to assess whether the follower is interested in taking on more roles and
responsibilities and to assess whether the leader is willing to provide new challenges for the follower. During this
time, dyads shift away from interactions that are governed strictly by job descriptions and defined roles and move
toward new ways of relating. As measured by LMX theory, it could be said that the quality of their exchanges has
improved to medium quality. Successful dyads in the acquaintance phase begin to develop greater trust and respect
for each other. They also tend to focus less on their own self-interests and more on the purposes and goals of the

Phase 3, mature partnership, is marked by high-quality leader–member exchanges. People who have progressed to
this stage in their relationships experience a high degree of mutual trust, respect, and obligation toward each other.
In addition, during Phase 3, members may depend on each other for favors and special assistance. For example,
leaders may rely on followers to do extra assignments, and followers may rely on leaders for needed support or
encouragement. They have tested their relationship and found that they can depend on each other. In mature
partnerships, there is a high degree of reciprocity between leaders and followers: Each affects and is affected by
the other. For example, in a study of 75 bank managers and 58 engineering managers, Schriesheim, Castro, Zhou,
and Yammarino (2001) found that good leader–member relations were more egalitarian and that influence and
control were more evenly balanced between the supervisor and the follower.

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
relationship quality for the followers, and follower agreeableness did not influence relationship quality for the
leaders. A key predictor of relationship quality for both leaders and followers over time was both leader and
follower performance. Kelley (2014) investigated the ways leaders use narrative story lines to determine how
leaders identify trustworthy, indeterminate, and untrustworthy followers. Others have suggested the importance of
looking at the social interaction (Sheer, 2014) or cooperative communication between leaders and followers (Bakar
& Sheer, 2013) as a means to predict and explore relationship quality. It has also been suggested that exploring the
use of traditional relationship-building and maintenance techniques such as conflict management, shared tasks, and
positivity in leader–member relationships can shed light on how leader and follower behaviors impact the quality
of these relationships (Madlock & Booth-Butterfield, 2012; Omilion-Hodges, Ptacek, & Zerilli, 2015).

The point is that leaders and followers are tied together in productive ways that go well beyond a traditional
hierarchically defined work relationship. They develop extremely effective ways of relating that produce positive
outcomes for themselves and the organization. In effect, partnerships are transformational in that they assist


leaders and followers in moving beyond their own self-interests to accomplish the greater good of the team and
organization (see Chapter 8).

Emotions and LMX Development

Recently, Cropanzano, Dasborough, and Weiss (2017) have suggested that emotions play a critical role in the
development of high-quality leader–member relationships. To explain the role of emotions in LMX, they
constructed a model that complements the original phases suggested by Graen and Uhl-Bien as described in Table

As illustrated in Table 7.2, Cropanzano et al. (2017) suggest that leaders and followers experience different
emotional, or affective, processes as they progress through three stages—role taking, role making, and role
routinization—in LMX development.

Table 7.2 Affective Processes and LMX Development

STAGE I Role Taking STAGE II Role Making STAGE III Role Routinization


Leader initiates possibility
of LMX relationship

Series of dyadic affective
events shapes LMX quality

Stable relationship disrupted by
LMX differentiation


Leader emotional
expressions are affective

Leader and members share
affect (entrainment)

LMX relationship can change
based on LMX differentiation

Level Individual Dyadic Group

Source: Adapted from Cropanzano, R., Dasborough, M. T., & Weiss, H. M. (2017). Affective events and the development of leader–member
exchange. Academy of Management Review, 42(2), 233–258.

Role Taking.


In the first stage, the leader initiates a relationship, and cues are taken directly from the leader regarding the
development of a higher-quality relationship based on interpersonal liking. In this stage, the leader’s emotions are
pivotal in the initiation and development of the LMX relationship.

Role Making.

As depicted in Figure 7.5, through interactions that occur during the second stage, leaders’ and members’
emotional states become entrained, or synchronized. Leaders and followers begin sharing emotional affect at
similar times, and leaders’ and members’ emotions become “contagious.”


Figure 7.5 Stage II of LMX Development

Source: Adapted from Cropanzano, R., Dasborough, M. T., & Weiss, H. M. (2017). Affective events and the
development of leader–member exchange. Academy of Management Review, 42(2), 233–258.

Role Routinization.

During the third stage, LMX relationships have been formed and maintained, but can change based on LMX
differentiation, or the emotional responses of other organizational members to the distribution of LMX
relationships within the group. For example, the emergence of in-groups and out-groups may engender emotions of
anger and/or contempt.

The benefits for employees who develop high-quality leader–member relationships include preferential treatment,
increased job-related communication, ample access to supervisors, and increased performance-related feedback
(Harris et al., 2009). The disadvantages for those with low-quality leader–member relationships include limited
trust and support from supervisors and few benefits outside the employment contract (Harris et al., 2009). To
evaluate leader–member exchanges, researchers typically use a brief questionnaire that asks leaders and followers
to report on the effectiveness of their working relationships. The questionnaire assesses the degree to which
respondents express respect, trust, and obligation in their exchanges with others. At the end of this chapter, a
version of the LMX questionnaire is provided for you to take for the purpose of analyzing some of your own
leader–member relationships.



LMX theory works in two ways: It describes leadership, and it prescribes leadership. In both instances, the central
concept is the dyadic relationship that leaders form with each of their followers. Descriptively, LMX theory
suggests that it is important to recognize the existence of in-groups and out-groups within a group or an

The differences in how goals are accomplished by in-groups and out-groups are substantial. Working with an in-
group allows leaders to accomplish more work in a more effective manner than they can accomplish working
without one. In-group members are willing to do more than is required in their job description and look for
innovative ways to advance the group’s goals. In response to their extra effort and devotion, leaders give them
more responsibilities and more opportunities. Leaders also give in-group members more of their time and support.

Out-group members act quite differently than in-group members. Rather than trying to do extra 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 members fairly and according to the formal contract, but they do not give them
special attention. For their efforts, out-group members receive the standard benefits as defined in the job

Prescriptively, LMX theory suggests that leaders should create a special relationship with all followers, similar to
the relationships described as in-group relationships. Leaders should offer each follower the opportunity to take on
new roles and responsibilities. Furthermore, leaders should nurture high-quality exchanges with their followers.
Herman and Troth (2013) found that high-quality exchanges are described by followers as mentoring, respectful,
and based on good communication.

A longitudinal study examining episodes in which leaders and members exchanged resources found that when
more resources were given than taken, the other party, whether leader or follower, felt obligated to reciprocate
(Liao, Liu, Li, & Song, 2019). In other words, if a leader gives more to a follower, it creates a “contribution
surplus,” which results in that member’s subsequent reciprocation. Over time, these resource contribution
surpluses increased work engagement immediately following the exchange episode and the resource contribution
of the member in the next episode. Also, a member’s obligation to reciprocate is related to the importance a
member attaches to the leader–member relationship (Lee, Thomas, Martin, Guillaume, & Marstand, 2019).

In that regard, rather than focusing on differences between in-group and out-group members, the leadership
development model suggests that leaders should look for ways to build trust and respect with all of their followers,
thus making the entire work unit an in-group. Technology can lend a hand in that endeavor as N. Hill et al. (2014)
found that electronic communication mediates the LMX relationship and can have a positive impact, thus
broadening avenues for developing good communication and positive relationships across organizations—even
those where workers are dispersed and work primarily online. In addition, leaders should look beyond their own
work unit and create high-quality partnerships with people throughout the organization.

Whether descriptive or prescriptive, LMX theory works by focusing our attention on the unique relationships that
leaders can create with individual followers. When these relationships are of high quality, the goals of the leader,
the followers, and the organization are all advanced.



LMX theory makes several positive contributions to our understanding of the leadership process. First, it is a
strong descriptive theory. Intuitively, it makes sense to describe work units in terms of those who contribute more
and those who contribute less (or the bare minimum) to the organization. Anyone who has ever worked in an
organization has felt the presence of in-groups and out-groups. Despite the potential harm of out-groups, we all
know 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 has accurately described this situation. LMX theory
validates our experience of how people within organizations relate to each other and the leader. Some contribute
more and receive more; others contribute less and get less.

Second, LMX theory is unique in that it is the only leadership approach that makes the concept of the dyadic
relationship the centerpiece of the leadership process. Other approaches emphasize the characteristics of leaders,
followers, contexts, or a combination of these, but none of them addresses the specific relationships between the
leader and each follower. LMX theory underscores that effective leadership is contingent on effective leader–
member exchanges. This is underlined in the work of Gottfredson and Aguinis (2017), who conducted meta-
analytic studies on the centrality of LMX in understanding the relationship between leader behaviors and job
performance. Their results showed that LMX was a consistent explanation for why leadership behaviors affect
follower performance.

Third, LMX theory is noteworthy because it directs our attention to the importance of communication in
leadership. The high-quality exchanges advocated in LMX theory are inextricably bound to effective
communication. Communication is the vehicle through which leaders and followers create, nurture, and sustain
useful exchanges. Effective leadership occurs when the communication of leaders and followers is characterized
by mutual trust, respect, and commitment.

Fourth, LMX theory provides an important alert for leaders. It warns leaders to avoid letting 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 be fair and equal in how they approach each of their followers.

Fifth, LMX has proven to be a cross-cultural concept and has been studied in many cultures. Rockstuhl, Dulebohn,
Ang, and Shore (2012) examined the role of the national culture of 23 countries as a moderator of LMX and found
that national culture does not affect the relationship of LMX with followers’ task performance, organizational
commitment, and transformational leadership. While the study findings suggested that members’ responses to
LMX in Asian contexts may also be influenced by collective interests and role-based obligations, LMX appears to
be universal.

Finally, a large body of research substantiates how the practice of LMX theory is related to positive organizational
outcomes. In a review of this research, Graen and Uhl-Bien (1995) pointed out that leader–member exchange is
related to performance, organizational commitment, job climate, innovation, organizational citizenship behavior,
empowerment, procedural and distributive justice, career progress, and many other important organizational
variables. By linking the use of LMX theory to real outcomes, researchers have been able to validate the theory
and increase its practical value.



LMX theory also has some limitations. First, leader–member exchange in its initial formulation (VDL theory) runs
counter to the basic human value of fairness. Throughout our lives, beginning when we are very young, we are
taught to try to get along with everyone and to treat everyone equally. We have been taught that it is wrong to form
in-groups or cliques because they are harmful to those who cannot be a part of them. Because LMX theory divides
the work unit into two groups and one group receives special attention, it gives the appearance of discrimination
against the out-group.

Our culture is replete with examples of people of different genders, ages, cultures, and abilities who have
experienced discrimination. Although LMX theory was not designed to do so, it supports the development of
privileged groups in the organizations. In so doing, it appears unfair and discriminatory. Furthermore, as reported
by McClane (1991), the existence of in-groups and out-groups may have undesirable effects on the group as a
whole. The creation of in-groups and out-groups within a work group can cause members to engage in social
comparisons that invoke perceptions of injustice (Matta & Van Dyne, 2020). This influences emotions that affect
how team members interact with one another. For example, out-group members may engage in less organizational
citizenship and helping behaviors for others on their team if they feel there is injustice.

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 create inequalities. However, the theory does not elaborate on strategies for how
one gains access to 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 (distributive justice), decision-making rules (procedural justice), or
communication of issues within the organization (interactional justice) (Scandura, 1999). There is a need for
further research on how these types of fairness issues affect the development and maintenance of LMX

A second criticism of LMX theory is that the basic ideas of the theory are not fully developed. For example, the
theory does not fully explain how high-quality leader–member exchanges are created (Anand et al., 2011). In the
early studies, it was implied that they were formed when a leader found certain followers more compatible in
regard to personality, interpersonal skills, or job competencies, but these studies never described the relative
importance of these factors or how this process worked (Yukl, 1994). Research has suggested that leaders should
work to create high-quality exchanges with all followers, but the 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 work needs to be done to substantiate and clarify guidelines. For example, the model of leadership
development highlights the importance of role making, incremental influence, and type 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, and obligation in leader–follower relationships, but it does not describe the means
by which these factors are developed in relationships.

Some researchers challenge the idea that LMX is an exchange theory. Bernerth, Armenakis, Feild, Giles, and
Walker (2007) state that “the theoretical underpinning of [LMX] is not based on the conceptualization of social
exchange defined by Blau (1964), but rather a role-making model of negotiation between subordinates and
supervisors” (p. 983). Thus, LMX may be grounded better in role theory than exchange theory, but this needs

Based on an examination of 147 studies of leader–member exchange, Schriesheim, Castro, and Cogliser (1999)
concluded that improved theorization about leader–member exchange and its basic processes is needed. Similarly,
in a review of the research on relational leadership, Uhl-Bien, Maslyn, and Ospina (2012) point to the need for
further understanding of how high- and low-quality relationships develop in leader–member exchange. Although
many studies have been conducted on leader–member exchange, these studies have not resulted in a clear, refined
set of definitions, concepts, and propositions about the theory. While LMX researchers publish in the most
reputable journals, there is little agreement on how to define LMX (Gottfredson, Wright, & Heaphy, 2020).


A third criticism of the theory is that researchers have not adequately explained the contextual 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 examined the potential impact of other variables on LMX dyads. For example,
workplace norms and other organizational culture variables are likely to influence leader–member exchange. There
is a need to explore how the surrounding constellations of social networks influence specific LMX relationships
and the individuals in those relationships.

Finally, questions have been raised about the measurement of leader–member exchanges in LMX 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 with different versions of leader–member exchange scales and with different levels of
analysis, so the results are not always directly comparable. A recent review reported that the most commonly used
measure of LMX is the LMX-7 developed by Graen and his colleagues, which is used in 66% of empirical studies
of LMX. The second-most-common measure is the LMX-MDM (multidimensional measure) developed by Liden
and Maslyn (1998), which is used in 11% of studies (Gottfredson et al., 2020). The remainder is a variety of
different measures presented over the years, and there is not enough data to fully assess those. Even the content
validity and dimensionality of the LMX-7 and LMX-MDM scales have been questioned (Graen & Uhl-Bien, 1995;
Schriesheim et al., 2001).



Although LMX theory has not been packaged in a way to be used in standard management training and
development programs, it offers many insights that leaders could use to improve their own leadership behavior.
Foremost, LMX theory directs leaders to assess their leadership from a relationship perspective. This assessment
will sensitize leaders to how in-groups and out-groups develop within their own organization. In addition, LMX
theory suggests 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 an organization. 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 an organizational chart.

On a lower level, LMX theory could be used to explain how line managers in a manufacturing plant develop high-
quality relationships with workers to accomplish the production quotas of their work unit. The ideas presented in
LMX theory are applicable throughout organizations, not just at the highest levels.

In addition, the ideas of LMX theory can be used to explain how individuals create leadership networks throughout
an organization to help them accomplish work more effectively (Graen & Scandura, 1987). A person with a
network of high-quality partnerships can call on many people to help solve problems and advance the goals of the
organization. Sparrowe and Liden (2005) tested the LMX network approach and found that LMX networks
predicted the amount of influence the organization members enjoyed, and this was a function of how central their
leaders were in the network. When leaders are well connected in organizational networks, sharing ties in the LMX
network is beneficial to members.

LMX theory can also be applied in different types of organizations. It applies in volunteer settings as well as
traditional business, education, and government settings. Imagine a community leader who heads a volunteer
program that assists older adults. To run the program effectively, the leader depends on a few of the volunteers
who are more dependable and committed than the rest of the volunteers. This process of working closely with 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 to achieve a major change in the company’s policies and
procedures. The way the manager goes about this process is explicated in LMX theory.

In summary, LMX theory tells leaders to be aware of how they relate to their followers. It tells leaders to be
sensitive to whether some followers receive special attention and some followers do not. In addition, it tells leaders
to be fair to all followers and allow each of them to become as involved in the work of the unit as they want to be.
LMX theory tells leaders 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.



In the following section, three case studies (Cases 7.1, 7.2, and 7.3) are presented to clarify how LMX theory can
be applied to various group settings. The first case is about the creative director who oversees several account
teams at an advertising agency. The second is about a production manager at a mortgage company who works hard
to be fair with her large team of employees. The third case profiles leadership behind the creative work at Pixar
Animation Studios. After each case, there are questions that will help you analyze it, using the ideas from LMX


Case 7.1 His Team Gets the Best Assignments

Carly Peters directs the creative department of the advertising agency of Mills, Smith, & Peters. The agency has
about 100 employees, 20 of whom work for Carly in the creative department. Typically, the agency maintains 10
major accounts and a number of smaller accounts. It has a reputation for being one of the best advertising and
public relations agencies in the country.

In the creative department, there are four major account teams. Each is led by an associate creative director, who
reports directly to Carly. In addition, each team has a copywriter, an art director, and a production artist. These four
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 the
agency. Of all the teams, Jack’s team is the most creative and talented and the most willing to go the extra mile for
Carly. As a result, when Carly has to showcase accounts to upper management, she often uses the work of Jack’s
team. Jack and his team members are comfortable confiding in Carly and she in them. Carly is not afraid to
allocate extra resources to Jack’s team or to give them free rein on their accounts because they always come
through for her.

Terri’s team also performs well for the agency, but Terri is unhappy with how Carly treats her team. She thinks that
Carly is not fair because she favors Jack’s team. For example, Terri’s team was counseled out of pursuing an ad
campaign because the campaign was too risky, whereas Jack’s group was praised for developing a very
provocative campaign. Terri believes 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 repeatedly that
Carly favors the other teams. For example, whenever additional people are assigned to team projects, it is always
the other teams who get the best writers and art directors. Julie is mystified as to why Carly doesn’t notice her
team or try to help her team members with their work. She believes Carly undervalues her team because Julie
knows the quality of her team’s work is indisputable.

Although Sarah agrees with some of Terri’s and Julie’s observations about Carly, she does not feel any antagonism
about Carly’s leadership. Sarah has worked for the agency for nearly 10 years, and nothing seems to bother her.
Her account teams have never been earthshaking, but they have never been problematic either. Sarah views her
team members and their work more as a nuts-and-bolts operation in which the team is given an assignment and
carries it out. Being in Carly’s inner circle would entail putting in extra time in the evening or on weekends and
would create more headaches for Sarah. Therefore, Sarah is happy with her role as it is, and she has little interest
in trying to change the way the department works.


1. Based on the principles of LMX theory, what observations would you make about Carly’s leadership at Mills,
Smith, & Peters?

2. Are there an in-group and an 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 Fair

City Mortgage is a medium-sized mortgage company that employs about 25 people. Jenny Hernandez, who has
been 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 and
shipping personnel. Jenny is proud of the company and knows she has contributed substantially to its steady
growth and expansion.

The climate at City Mortgage is very positive. People like to come to work because the office environment is
comfortable. They respect each other at the company and show tolerance for those who are different from

Whereas at many mortgage companies it is common for resentments to build between people who earn different
incomes, this is not the case at City Mortgage.

Jenny’s leadership has been instrumental in shaping the success of City Mortgage. Her philosophy stresses
listening to employees and then determining how each employee can best contribute to the mission of the
company. She makes a point of helping individual employees explore their own talents, and challenges each one to
try new things.

At the annual holiday party, Jenny devised an interesting event that symbolizes her leadership style. She bought a
large piece of colorful glass and had it cut into 25 pieces and handed out one piece to each person. Then she asked
the employees to come forward one by one with the piece of glass and briefly state what they liked about City
Mortgage and how they 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 a
reminder of how individual employees contribute their 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 certain
people have the inside track, and she goes to great lengths to prevent this from happening. For example, she avoids
social lunches because she thinks they foster the perception of favoritism. Similarly, even though her best friend is
one of the loan originators, she is seldom seen talking with her, and if she is, it is always about business matters.

Jenny also applies her fairness principle to how information is shared in the office. She does not want anyone to
feel “out of the loop,” so she tries very hard to keep her employees informed on all the matters that could affect
them. Much of this she does through her open-door office policy. Jenny does not have a special group 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 the weekend.
At this point in her career, her only concern is that she could be burning out.


1. 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 Pixar: Creating Space for Success

Harvard management professor Linda Hill led a team of researchers on a decade-long study of exceptional leaders
of innovation. The team studied a select group of 16 men and women from a variety of industries around the
world, observing the leaders in action, on-site in their own environments, and interacting directly with them. What
the team discovered may seem counterintuitive to the way many people perceive that successful innovative
organizations operate; in her words, “Leading innovation is not about creating a vision, and inspiring others to
execute it” (L. Hill, 2014).

So how do highly successful companies that innovate again and again do it? Ed Catmull, CEO of Pixar Animation
Studios, exemplifies Professor Hill’s findings. Pixar, known for its highly innovative computer-generated imagery
(CGI) feature films like Toy Story, Ratatouille, The Incredibles, Finding Nemo, Cars, and Coco, to name just a few,
took 20 years to create its first full-length film, Toy Story, which was released in 1995. By the end of 2020, the
company had generated 23 feature films with an additional 4 more planned.

Noting that it takes approximately 250 people four to five years to make one of these animated films with story
lines that evolve as the making of the movie progresses, Professor Hill (2014) emphasizes that “innovation is not
about solo genius, it’s about collective genius.”

Innovation is the result of trial and error, subject to mistakes and even failures. The “heart of innovation is a
paradox. You have to unleash the talents and passions of many people and you have to harness them into a work
that is actually useful. Innovation is a journey. It’s a type of collaborative problem solving, usually among people
who have different expertise and different points of view” (L. Hill, 2014).

That Pixar employs this philosophy was evident in an article CEO Catmull wrote for Harvard Business Review.
“You get great creative people, you bet big on them, you give them enormous leeway and support, and you provide
them with an environment in which they can get honest feedback from everyone” (Catmull, 2008).

Providing support without undermining authority is encouraged at all levels of the organization, and there are
essentially two leaders for each production—a director and a producer. The executive management communicates
that operational decisions are left to the film’s leaders without second-guessing or micromanaging from the top.

Successful leaders at Pixar “must have a unifying vision—one that will give coherence to the thousands of ideas
that go into a movie—and they must be able to turn that vision into clear directives that the staff can implement.
They must set people up for success by giving them all the information they need to do the job right without telling
them how to do it. Each person on a film should be given creative ownership of even the smallest task” (Catmull,

For example, an animator drew an arched eyebrow on a character to show the character’s mischievous side, only to
have his animation cut because it was viewed as not representative of the character. Two weeks later, it was added
back by the director. “Because that animator was allowed to share what we referred to as his slice of genius, he
was able to help that director reconceive the character in a subtle but important way that really improved the
story,” said Professor Hill (2014).

Hill’s research team found that innovative organizations have three common capabilities: creative abrasion,
creative agility, and creative resolution.

Creative abrasion centers on the concept that a portfolio of ideas is percolated through a process of “debate and
discourse,” which amplifies differences rather than minimizes them. Unlike brainstorming, where people suspend
their judgment, creative abrasion results in heated but constructive arguments to develop a set of alternatives.
Through this process, people and organizations learn how to inquire, how to actively listen, and how to advocate
for their points of view.

Pixar’s “Creative Brain Trust” is an example of its approach to creative abrasion. The Creative Brain Trust consists
of several accomplished filmmakers, and if a film runs into problems during production, the director is encouraged
to solicit advice from this group. Because the Creative Brain Trust members can give “unvarnished expert


opinions” and the director has the freedom to ask for and consider the advice, the “problem-solving powers of this
group are immense and inspirational to watch” (Catmull, 2008).

Creative agility is the ability to test and refine the portfolio of ideas where participants learn through
experimenting irrespective of the outcome. “Experiments are usually about learning. When you get a negative
outcome, you’re still really learning something that you need to know” (L. Hill, 2014).

Pixar’s use of “dailies”—daily reviews giving feedback in a positive way—exemplifies creative agility. The team
members working on the film review each other’s work in progress, in its incomplete state, with the opportunity to
comment and provide feedback. The intention of these reviews is to circumvent the natural desire to develop a
project to a certain level of perfection before sharing it with the team.

Creative resolution involves injecting integrated decision making into the process to bring together opposing ideas
and “reconfigure them in new combinations to produce a solution that is new and useful” (L. Hill, 2014).

“Innovative organizations never go along to get along. They don’t compromise. They don’t let one group or one
individual dominate, even if it’s the boss, even if it’s the expert,” Professor Hill explained. “Instead, they have
developed a rather patient and more inclusive decision-making process that allows for both/and solutions to arise
and not simply either/or solutions” (L. Hill, 2014).

At Pixar, everyone must have the freedom to communicate with anyone, and it must be safe for everyone to offer
ideas. This means that managers learn “that they don’t always have to be the first to know about something going
on in their realm” and that “the most efficient way to deal with numerous problems is to trust people to work out
the difficulties directly with each other without having to check for permission” (Catmull, 2008).

To maximize opportunity for interactions among its employees, Pixar’s building has a large, central atrium housing
the cafeteria, all meeting rooms, bathrooms, and mailboxes. Everyone in the company has a plethora of reasons to
pass through this space several times a day, and “it’s hard to describe just how valuable the resulting chance
encounters are” (L. Hill, 2014).

“They understand that innovation takes a village. The leaders focus on building a sense of community and building
those three capabilities. How do they define leadership? They say leadership is about creating a world to which
people want to belong. What kind of world do people want to belong in at Pixar? A world where you’re living at
the frontier. What do they focus their time on? Not on creating a vision. Instead they spend their time thinking
about, ‘How do we design a studio that has the sensibility of a public square so that people will interact? Let’s put
in a policy that anyone, no matter what their level or role, is allowed to give notes to the director about how they
feel about a particular film. What can we do to make sure that all the disruptors, all the minority voices in this
organization, speak up and are heard? And, finally, let’s bestow credit in a very generous way’” (L. Hill, 2014).

To emphasize her point, she notes that the credits of a Pixar movie even include the names of babies born to team
members during production.


1. As noted in the chapter, the early research of LMX focused on the concepts of in-groups and out-groups.
a. How do you think this applies to Pixar’s approach to leading the large teams required for the making of

its feature films?
b. From what you have gleaned about Pixar, do you feel that team members have a strong sense of a

division between in-groups and out-groups? Why or why not?
c. Do you think that most members of Pixar’s teams feel they are part of the in-group?
d. Do you think the “creative abrasion” discussed in the case is something that is a product of an in-group

mentality? Why or why not?
e. What about those who might perceive themselves in the out-group—would creative abrasion be possible

or productive? Why or why not?


2. Later LMX studies focused on the leader–member exchanges. Given what you know about the work
environment, how would you rank the quality of the leader–member exchange at Pixar? Why?

3. Do you think the individual Pixar team members feel a sense of empowerment?
a. How might the idea of creative agility discussed in the case fit into a feeling of empowerment by

b. What about the idea of creative resolution?

4. In looking at the phases of leadership development discussed in the text, in what phase do you think a highly
innovative company, like Pixar, would fall? Why?

5. Does Pixar’s culture allow for the stages of affective processes in LMX development—role taking, role
making, and role routinization—to occur? Explain your answer.

—Barbara Russell, MBA, BSCS, BBA, Chemeketa Community College


Leadership Instrument

Researchers have used many different questionnaires to study LMX theory. All of them have been designed to
measure the quality of the working relationship between leaders and followers. We have chosen to include in this
chapter the LMX-7, a seven-item questionnaire that provides a reliable and valid measure of the quality of leader–
member exchanges (Graen & Uhl-Bien, 1995).

The LMX-7 is designed to measure three dimensions of leader–member relationships: respect, trust, and
obligation. It assesses the degree to which leaders and followers have mutual respect for each other’s capabilities,
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 Questionnaire

Purpose: The purpose of this questionnaire is to provide you with a fuller understanding of how LMX
theory works.

Instructions: This questionnaire contains items that ask you to describe your relationship with either your
leader or one of your followers. For each of the items, indicate the degree to which you think the item is
true for you by selecting one of the responses that appear below the item.

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

1. I know where I stand with my leader (follower) . . . [and] usually know how
satisfied my leader (follower) is with what I do.

1 2 3 4 5

2. My leader (follower) understands my job problems and needs. 1 2 3 4 5

3. My leader (follower) recognizes my potential. 1 2 3 4 5

4. Regardless of how much formal authority my leader (follower) has built into their
position, my leader (follower) will use their power to help me solve problems in
my work.

1 2 3 4 5


5. Again, regardless of the amount of formal authority my leader (follower) has, they
would “bail me out” at their expense.

1 2 3 4 5

6. I have enough confidence in my leader (follower) that I would defend and justify
their decision if they were not present to do so.

1 2 3 4 5

7. I have an extremely effective working relationship with my leader (follower). 1 2 3 4 5

By completing the LMX-7, you can gain a fuller understanding of how LMX theory works. The score you
obtain on the questionnaire reflects the quality of your leader–member relationships and indicates the
degree 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 would
complete the questionnaire multiple times, assessing the quality of the relationships you have with each of
your followers. In the follower role, you would complete the questionnaire based on the leaders to whom
you report.


Scoring Interpretation

Although the LMX-7 is most commonly used by researchers to explore theoretical questions, you can also
use it to analyze your own leadership style. You can interpret your LMX-7 scores using the following
guidelines: high = 25–35, moderate = 20–24, low = 7–19. Scores in 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-
Based Approach to Leadership: Development of Leader–Member Exchange (LMX) Theory of Leadership
Over 25 Years: Applying a Multi-Level, Multi-Domain Perspective,” pp. 219–247. Copyright (1995) with
permission 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-studied approach to leadership. LMX theory addresses
leadership as a process centered on the interactions between leaders and followers. It makes the leader–member
relationship the pivotal concept in the leadership process.

In the early studies of LMX theory, a leader’s relationship to the overall work unit was viewed 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, and those based on formal job descriptions were called the leader’s
out-group. According to LMX theory, followers become in-group members based on how well they get along with
the leader and whether they are willing to expand their role responsibilities. Followers who maintain only formal
hierarchical relationships with their leader are out-group members. Whereas in-group members receive extra
influence, opportunities, and rewards, out-group members receive standard job benefits.

Subsequent studies of LMX theory were directed toward how leader–member exchanges affect organizational
performance. Researchers found that high-quality exchanges between leaders and followers produced multiple
positive outcomes (e.g., less employee turnover, greater organizational commitment, and more promotions). In
general, researchers determined 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 development, which emphasizes that leaders should try to
develop high-quality exchanges with all of their followers. Leadership develops over time and includes a stranger
phase, an acquaintance phase, and a mature partnership phase. By taking on and fulfilling new role responsibilities,
followers move through these three phases to develop mature partnerships with their leaders. These partnerships,
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 more effectively.

More recently, LMX research has explored the role of emotions, or affective states, in the development of high-
quality relationships between leaders and members. The development of these relationships progresses through
three affective processes—role taking, role making, and role routinization—that reflect the growing emotional
interactions between leaders and members.

There are several positive features to LMX theory. First, LMX theory is a strong descriptive approach that explains
how leaders use some followers (in-group members) more than others (out-group members) to accomplish
organizational goals effectively. Second, LMX theory is unique in that, unlike other approaches, it makes the
leader–member relationship the focal point of the leadership process. Related to this focus, LMX theory is
noteworthy because 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 our followers. Another strength of
LMX theory is its universality and that its concepts are the same across different national cultures. Finally, 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 by suggesting 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 on the feelings, attitudes, and behavior of out-group members. Second, LMX theory
emphasizes the importance of leader–member exchanges but fails to explain the intricacies of how one goes about
creating high-quality exchanges. Although the model promotes building trust, respect, and commitment in
relationships, it does not fully explicate how this takes place. While many studies have been conducted on LMX,
they have not resulted in a clear, refined set of definitions, concepts, and propositions about the theory. In addition,
there is some debate about whether LMX is based on social exchange theory or whether it fits better in role theory.
Third, researchers have not adequately explained the contextual factors that influence LMX relationships. Finally,
there are questions about whether the measurement procedures used in LMX research are adequate to fully capture
the complexities of the leader–member exchange process.


Descriptions of Images and Figures
Back to Figure

In an in-group, the values on each of the bidirectional arrows, connecting the leader and followers F subscript A, F
subscript B, and F subscript C is plus 3. In an out-group, the values on each of the bidirectional arrows, connecting
the leader and followers F subscript X, F subscript Y, and F subscript Z is 0.

Back to Figure

A box is labeled, Pattern of shared emotion over time. Two intersecting ellipses are inside the box. One of the
ellipses is labeled leader emotion, the other ellipse is labeled member emotion, and the region of intersection is
labeled mutual emotional entrainment. An arrow from the region of intersection points out of the box to a box
labeled L M X relationship quality.






As one of the current and most popular approaches to leadership, the transformational leadership approach has
been the focus of much research since the 1980s. As its name implies, transformational leadership is a process that
changes and transforms people. It is concerned with emotions, values, ethics, standards, and long-term goals. It
includes assessing followers’ motives, satisfying their needs, and treating them as full human beings.
Transformational leadership involves an exceptional form of influence that moves followers to accomplish more
than what is usually expected of them. It is a process that often incorporates charismatic and visionary leadership.

Transformational leadership is part of the “New Leadership” paradigm (Bryman, 1992), which gives more
attention to the charismatic and affective elements of leadership. In a content analysis of articles published in The
Leadership Quarterly, Lowe and Gardner (2001) found that one third of the research was about transformational or
charismatic leadership. That interest has continued into the new millennium; in a follow-up review of leadership
research, Dinh et al. (2014) found that interest in transformational leadership was sustained from 2000 to 2012.
Similarly, Antonakis (2012) found that the number of papers and citations in the field has grown at an increasing
rate, not only in traditional areas like management and social psychology, but in other disciplines such as nursing,
education, and industrial engineering. Bass and Riggio (2006) suggested that transformational leadership’s
popularity might be due to its emphasis on intrinsic motivation and follower development, which fits the needs of
today’s work groups, who want to be inspired and empowered to succeed in times of uncertainty. Clearly, many
scholars are studying transformational leadership, and it occupies a central place in leadership research. However,
others (i.e., Andersen, 2015; Anderson, Baur, Griffith, & Buckley, 2017) have suggested that the interest in
transformational leadership may be exaggerated and that this approach to leading may be less significant as
millennials continue to flood into the workplace.

An encompassing approach, transformational leadership can be used to describe a wide range 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. Although the transformational leader plays a pivotal role in precipitating
change, followers and leaders are inextricably bound together in the transformation process. In fact,
transformational leadership focuses so heavily on the relationship between leader and follower that some
(Andersen, 2015) have suggested that this bias may limit explanations for transformational leadership on
organizational effectiveness.


Transformational Leadership Defined

The emergence of transformational leadership as an important approach to leadership began with 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 of leaders as people who tap the motives of followers in order to
better reach the goals of leaders and followers (p. 18). For Burns, leadership is quite different from power because
it is inseparable from followers’ needs.

Transformational Versus Transactional Leadership.

Burns distinguished between two types of leadership: transactional and transformational. Transactional leadership
refers to the bulk of leadership models, which focus on the exchanges that occur between leaders and their
followers. Politicians who win votes by promising “no new taxes” are demonstrating transactional leadership.
Similarly, managers who offer promotions to employees who surpass their goals are exhibiting transactional
leadership. In the classroom, teachers are being transactional when they give students a grade for work completed.
The exchange dimension of transactional leadership is very common and can be observed at many levels
throughout all types of organizations. While exchanges or transactions between leader and member are a natural
component of employment contracts, research suggests that employees do not necessarily perceive transactional
leaders as those most capable of creating trusting, mutually beneficial leader–member relationships (Notgrass,
2014). Instead, employees prefer managers to perform transformational leadership behaviors such as encouraging
creativity, recognizing accomplishments, building trust, and inspiring a collective vision (Notgrass, 2014).

In contrast to transactional leadership, transformational leadership is the process whereby a person engages with
others and creates a connection that raises the level of motivation and morality in both the leader and the follower.
This type of leader is attentive to the needs and motives of followers and tries to help followers reach their fullest
potential. Burns points to Mohandas Gandhi as a classic example of transformational leadership. Gandhi raised the
hopes and demands of millions of his people and, in the process, was changed himself.

Another good example of transformational leadership can be observed in the efforts of Swedish teenager Greta
Thunberg, who raised awareness around the world regarding global climate change. Thunberg began her activism
by sitting outside the Swedish parliament every school day, holding a sign reading Skolstrejk för klimatet (“School
strike for climate”). This inspired an international movement, and Thunberg spoke in public and to political leaders
and assemblies, where she criticized world leaders for their failure to sufficiently address the climate crisis.

In the organizational world, an example of transformational leadership would be a manager who attempts to
change a company’s corporate values to reflect a more humane standard of fairness and justice. In the process,
both the manager and the followers may emerge 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 to
enhance their self-efficacy, positive affect, and ability to consider multiple perspectives. Their findings suggest that
transformational leadership can result in positive psychological gains 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 when describing a leader such as Adolf Hitler, who was
transforming but in a negative way. To deal with this problem, Bass (1998) coined the term
pseudotransformational leadership. This term refers to leaders who are self-consumed, exploitive, and power
oriented, with warped moral values (Bass & Riggio, 2006). Pseudotransformational leadership is considered
personalized leadership, which focuses on the leader’s own interests rather than on the interests of others (Bass &
Steidlmeier, 1999). Authentic transformational leadership is socialized leadership, which is concerned with the
collective good. Socialized transformational 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 a preliminary model of
pseudotransformational leadership that reflected four components of transformational leadership discussed later in
this chapter: idealized influence, inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation, and individualized
consideration. This model helps to clarify the meaning of pseudotransformational leadership. It suggests that
pseudotransformational leadership is inspired leadership that is self-serving, is unwilling to encourage independent
thought in followers, and exhibits little general caring for others. Pseudotransformational leaders have strong
inspirational talent and appeal but are manipulative and dominant and direct followers toward the leader’s values.
This type of leadership is threatening to the welfare of followers because it ignores the common good.

To sort out the complexities related to the “moral uplifting” component of authentic transformational leadership,
Zhu, Avolio, Riggio, and Sosik (2011) proposed a theoretical model examining how authentic transformational
leadership influences the ethics of individual followers and groups. The authors hypothesize that authentic
transformational leadership positively affects followers’ moral identities and moral emotions (e.g., empathy and
guilt) and this, in turn, leads to moral decision making and moral action by the followers. Furthermore, the authors
theorize that authentic transformational leadership is positively associated with group ethical climate, decision
making, and moral action. In the future, research is needed to test the validity of the assumptions laid out in this


Transformational Leadership and Charisma

At about the same time Burns’s book was published, House (1976) published a theory of charismatic leadership.
Since its publication, charismatic leadership has received a great deal of attention by researchers (e.g., Conger,
1999; Hunt & Conger, 1999). It is often described in ways that make it similar to, if not synonymous with,
transformational leadership.

The word charisma was first used to describe a special gift that certain individuals possess that gives them the
capacity to do extraordinary things. Weber (1947) provided the most well-known definition of charisma as a
special personality characteristic that gives a person superhuman or exceptional powers and is reserved for a few,
is of divine origin, and results in the person being treated as a leader. Despite Weber’s emphasis on charisma as a
personality characteristic, he also recognized the important role played by followers in validating charisma in these
leaders (Bryman, 1992; House, 1976).

In his theory of charismatic leadership, House suggested that charismatic leaders act in unique 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 a strong desire to influence others, being self-confident, and
having a strong sense of one’s own moral values.

In addition to displaying certain personality characteristics, charismatic leaders demonstrate specific types of
behaviors. First, they are strong role models for the beliefs and values they want their followers to adopt. For
example, Gandhi advocated nonviolence and was an exemplary role model of civil disobedience. Second,
charismatic leaders appear competent to followers. Third, they articulate ideological goals that have moral
overtones. Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech is an example of this type of charismatic

Fourth, charismatic leaders communicate high expectations for followers, and they exhibit confidence in
followers’ abilities to meet these expectations. The impact of this behavior is to 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 of Charismatic Leadership



Behaviors Effects on FollowersPersonality

Behaviors Effects on Followers

Dominant Sets strong role model Trust in leader’s ideology

Desire to influence Shows competence Belief similarity between leader and

Self-confident Articulates goals Unquestioning acceptance

Strong moral values Communicates high

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 include affiliation, power, or esteem.
For example, former U.S. president John F. Kennedy appealed to the human values of the American people when
he stated, “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” Within the
organizational context, charismatic CEOs may motivate members of their organization by modeling and fostering
a transformational leadership climate (Boehm, Dwertmann, Bruch, & Shamir, 2015), which may result in increases
in employee identification with their organization and in overall organizational performance.

According to House’s charismatic theory, several effects are the direct result of charismatic leadership. They
include follower trust in the leader’s ideology, similarity between the followers’ beliefs and the leader’s beliefs,
unquestioning acceptance of the leader, expression of affection toward the leader, follower obedience,
identification with the leader, emotional involvement in the leader’s goals, heightened goals for followers, and
increased follower confidence in goal achievement. Consistent with Weber, House contends that these charismatic
effects are more likely to occur in contexts in which followers feel distress because in stressful situations followers
look to leaders to deliver them from their difficulties.

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 of the organization. Charismatic leaders forge this link by emphasizing the intrinsic
rewards of work and de-emphasizing the extrinsic rewards. The hope is that followers will view work as an
expression of themselves. Throughout the process, leaders express high expectations for followers and help them
gain a sense of confidence and self-efficacy.


In summary, charismatic leadership works because it ties followers and their self-concepts to the organizational


A Model of Transformational Leadership

In the mid-1980s, Bass (1985) provided a more expanded and refined version of transformational leadership that
was based on, but not fully consistent with, the prior works of Burns (1978) and House (1976). In his approach,
Bass extended Burns’s work by giving more attention to followers’ rather than leaders’ needs, by suggesting that
transformational leadership could apply to situations in which the outcomes were not positive, and by describing
transactional and transformational leadership as a single continuum (Figure 8.1) rather than mutually independent
continua (Yammarino, 1993). Bass gave more attention to the emotional elements and origins of charisma,
suggesting that charisma is a necessary but not sufficient condition for transformational leadership (Yammarino,

Figure 8.1 Leadership Continuum From Transformational to Laissez-Faire

Bass (1985, p. 20) argued that transformational leadership motivates followers to do more than expected by (a)
raising followers’ levels of consciousness about the importance and value 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 address higher-level needs. An elaboration of the dynamics of the transformation process is provided
in his model of transformational and transactional leadership (Bass, 1985, 1990; Bass & Avolio, 1993, 1994).
Additional clarification of the model is provided by Avolio in his book Full Leadership Development: Building the
Vital Forces in Organizations (1999).

As can be seen in Table 8.2, the model of transformational and transactional leadership incorporates seven
different factors. These factors are also illustrated in the Full Range of Leadership model, which is provided in
Figure 8.2 on page 192. A discussion of each of these seven factors will help to clarify Bass’s model. This
discussion will be divided into three parts: transformational factors (4), transactional factors (2), and the
nonleadership, nontransactional factor (1).

Table 8.2 Leadership Factors


Transformational Leadership Transactional Leadership Laissez-Faire LeadershipTransformational Leadership Transactional Leadership Laissez-Faire Leadership

Factor 1

Idealized influence


Factor 5

Contingent reward

Constructive transactions

Factor 7



Factor 2

Inspirational motivation

Factor 6

Management by exception

Active and passive

Corrective transactions

Factor 3

Intellectual stimulation

Factor 4

Individualized consideration

Transformational Leadership Factors

Transformational leadership is concerned with improving the performance of followers and developing followers
to their fullest potential (Avolio, 1999; Bass & Avolio, 1990a). People who 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 good rather than their own self-interests (Kuhnert, 1994). Individuals’ intentions to lead in
a transformational 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 of leadership (Antonakis, 2012).
Idealized influence describes leaders who act as strong role models for followers; followers identify with these
leaders and want very much to emulate them. These leaders usually have very high standards of moral and ethical
conduct and can be counted on to do the right thing. They are deeply respected by followers, who usually place a
great deal of trust in them. They provide followers with a vision and a sense of mission.



Figure 8.2 Full Range of Leadership Model

The idealized influence factor is measured on two components: an attributional component that refers to the
attributions of leaders made by followers based on perceptions they have of their leaders, and a behavioral
component that refers to followers’ observations of leader behavior.

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 charisma factor is Nelson Mandela, the first Black
president of South Africa. Mandela is viewed as a leader with high moral standards and a vision for South Africa
that resulted in monumental change in how the people of South Africa would be governed. His charismatic
qualities 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 leaders who communicate
high expectations to followers, inspiring them through motivation to become 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 more than they would in their own self-interest. Team spirit is enhanced by this type of leadership. An
example of this factor would be a sales manager who motivates members of the sales force to excel in their work
through encouraging words and pep talks that clearly communicate 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 be creative and innovative
and to challenge their own beliefs and values as well as those of the leader and the organization.

This type of leadership supports followers as they try new approaches and develop innovative ways of dealing with
organizational issues. It encourages followers to think things out on their own and engage in careful problem
solving. An example of this type of leadership is a plant manager who promotes workers’ individual efforts to
develop unique ways to solve problems that have caused slowdowns in production.

Individualized Consideration.

Factor 4 of transformational leadership is called individualized consideration. This factor is representative of
leaders who provide a supportive climate in which they listen carefully to the individual needs of followers.
Leaders act as coaches and advisers while trying to assist followers in becoming fully actualized. These leaders
may use delegation to help followers grow through personal challenges. An example of this type of leadership is a
manager who spends time treating each employee in a caring and unique way. To some employees, the leader may
give strong affiliation; to others, the leader may give specific directives with a high degree of structure.

In essence, transformational leadership produces greater effects than transactional leadership (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 transformational leadership were
perceived to be more effective leaders with better work outcomes than those who exhibited only transactional
leadership. These findings were true for higher- and lower-level leaders, and for leaders in both public and private


Figure 8.3 The Additive Effect of Transformational Leadership

Transformational leadership has an additive effect; it moves followers to accomplish more than 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 when followers 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 and Heinitz (2007) found
that transformational leadership augmented the impact of transactional leadership on employees’ performance and
company profit. In addition, they found that transformational leadership and charismatic leadership were
overlapping but unique constructs, and that both were different from transactional leadership.

Similarly, Nemanich and Keller (2007) examined the impact of transformational leadership on 447 employees
from a large multinational firm who were going through a merger and being integrated into a new organization.
They found that transformational leadership behaviors such as idealized influence, inspirational motivation,


individualized consideration, and intellectual stimulation were positively related to acquisition acceptance, job
satisfaction, and performance.

Tims, Bakker, and Xanthopoulou (2011) examined the relationship between transformational leadership and work
engagement in 42 employees and their supervisors in two different organizations in the Netherlands. Findings
revealed that employees became more engaged in their work (i.e., vigor, dedication, and absorption) when their
supervisors were able to boost employees’ optimism through a transformational leadership style. These findings
underscore the important role played by personal characteristics (i.e., optimism) in the transformational-leadership-
performance process. Similarly, Hamstra, Van Yperen, Wisse, and Sassenberg (2014) found that transformational
leaders were more likely than transactional leaders to promote achievement of followers’ mastery goals. This
suggests that transformational leaders may be especially effective in environments where followers need to focus
on learning, development, and mastering job-related tasks rather than a more competitive or performance-based
work context. Transformational leaders can propel followers to even greater levels of success when they have a
high-quality relationship based on trust, loyalty, and mutual respect (Notgrass, 2014).

Transactional Leadership Factors

Transactional leadership differs from transformational leadership in that the transactional leader 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 and their followers’ agendas (Kuhnert, 1994). Transactional leaders
are influential because it is in the best interest of followers for them to do what the leader wants (Kuhnert & Lewis,

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 is exchanged for specified rewards. With this
kind of leadership, the leader tries to obtain agreement from followers on what must be done and what the payoffs
will be for the people doing it. An example of this type of constructive transaction is a parent who negotiates with
a child about how much time the child can spend playing video games after doing homework assignments.
Another example often occurs in the academic setting: A dean negotiates with a college professor about the
number and quality of published works the professor needs to have written in order to receive tenure and
promotion. Notgrass (2014) found that contingent rewards, or the leader’s use of clarifying or supporting
achievement behaviors, are most effective when followers feel that they have a high-quality relationship with their

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 watches followers closely for mistakes or rule violations and then takes
corrective action. An example of active management by exception can be illustrated in the leadership of a sales
supervisor who daily monitors how employees approach customers. The supervisor quickly corrects salespeople
who are slow to approach customers in the prescribed manner. A leader using the passive form intervenes only
after standards have not been met or problems have arisen. An example of passive management by exception is
illustrated in the leadership of a supervisor who gives employees poor performance evaluations without ever
talking with them about their prior work performance. In essence, both the active and passive management types
use more negative reinforcement patterns than the positive reinforcement pattern described in Factor 5 under
contingent reward.

Nonleadership Factor


In the model, the nonleadership factor diverges farther from transactional leadership and represents 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 of leadership. As the French phrase implies, the laissez-
faire leader takes a “hands-off, let-things-ride” (nontransactional) approach. This leader abdicates responsibility,
delays decisions, 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 plant supervisors, has no long-range plan for the firm, acts
detached, and makes little contact with employees. While laissez-faire leadership has traditionally been viewed
negatively, recent research (Yang, 2015) argues that laissez-faire leadership may not be the absence of leadership,
but instead may be a strategic behavioral choice by the leader to acknowledge and defer to followers’ abilities,
decrease their dependency, and increase their self-determination, self-competence, and autonomy. In this case, the
leader would be strategically performing laissez-faire leadership by empowering followers to lead.

Interestingly, research does indicate that leaders may be most effective when they combine transformational
leadership behaviors with elements of laissez-faire and transactional leadership (Antonakis & House, 2014). This
reiterates what most of the leadership theories in this book suggest: All approaches to leadership have strengths
and weaknesses, and because leading effectively means consistently surveying follower, task, and environmental
needs and pressures, oftentimes the best approach is a combination of leadership approaches.

Transformational Leadership Measurements

The popularity of transformational leadership has resulted in researchers developing a number of assessments to
measure its characteristics and efficacy. The Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire (MLQ) was one of the earliest
and most widely used assessments of transformational leadership. The MLQ was developed by Bass (1985), based
on a series of interviews he and his associates conducted with 70 senior executives in South Africa. These
executives were asked to recall leaders who had raised their awareness to broader goals, moved them to higher
motives, or inspired them to put others’ interests ahead of their own. The executives were then asked to describe
how these leaders behaved—what they did to effect change. From these descriptions and from numerous other
interviews with both junior and senior executives, Bass constructed the questions that make up the MLQ. The
questions measure followers’ perceptions of a leader’s behavior for each of the factors in the Full Range of
Leadership model (Figure 8.2).

Antonakis, Avolio, and Sivasubramaniam (2003) assessed the psychometric properties of the MLQ using a
business sample of more than 3,000 raters and found strong support for the validity of the MLQ. They found 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 the nonleadership factors on the
MLQ and identified several ways to use the questionnaire to generate more reliable and valid results. Since the
MLQ was first designed, it has gone through many revisions, and it continues 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 transformational leadership
relates to outcomes such as effectiveness, Bryman (1992) and Bass and Avolio (1994) have suggested that the
charisma and motivation factors on the MLQ are the most likely to be related to positive effects. Individualized
consideration, intellectual stimulation, and contingent reward are the next most important factors. Management by
exception in its passive form has been found to be somewhat related to outcomes, 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 in organizations.


Other Transformational Perspectives

In addition to Bass’s (1985, 1990; Bass & Avolio, 1994) work, two other lines of research have contributed in
unique ways to our understanding of the nature of transformational leadership. They are the research of Bennis and
Nanus (1985, 2007) and the work of Kouzes and Posner (2002, 2017a). These scholars used similar qualitative
research methods. They identified a number of middle- or senior-level leaders and conducted interviews with
them, using open-ended, semi-structured questionnaires. From this information, they constructed their models of

Bennis and Nanus

Bennis and Nanus (2007) asked 90 leaders basic questions such as “What are your strengths and weaknesses?”
“What past events most influenced your leadership approach?” and “What were the critical points in your career?”
From the answers leaders provided to these questions, Bennis and Nanus identified four common strategies used
by leaders in transforming organizations.

First, transforming leaders had a clear vision of the future state of their organizations. It was an image of an
attractive, realistic, and believable future (Bennis & Nanus, 2007, p. 89). The vision usually was simple,
understandable, beneficial, and energy creating. The compelling nature of the vision touched the experiences of
followers and pulled them into supporting the organization. When an organization has a clear vision, it is easier for
people within the organization to learn how they fit in with the overall direction of the organization and even the
society in general. It empowers them because they feel they are a significant dimension of a worthwhile enterprise
(pp. 90–91). Bennis and Nanus found that, to be successful, the vision had to grow out of the needs of the entire
organization and to be claimed by those within it. Although leaders play a large role in articulating the vision, the
emergence of the vision originates from both the leaders and the followers.

Second, transforming leaders were social architects for their organizations. This means they created a shape or
form for the shared meanings people maintained within their organizations. These leaders communicated a
direction that transformed their organization’s values and norms. In many cases, these leaders were able to
mobilize people to accept a new group identity or a new philosophy for their organizations.

A good example of a transforming leader with a clear vision and who is a social architect for his organization is
college football coach P. J. Fleck, who is highlighted in Case 6.3 on page 149. First as the coach at Western
Michigan University and then at the University of Minnesota, Coach Fleck created a culture for these programs
that emphasized athletes’ growth in four areas: academic, athletic, social, and spiritual. He was insistent that
players assume leadership roles and consistently model the desired culture of the team. Coach Fleck would often
repeat, “Bad teams, nobody leads. Average teams, coaches lead. Elite teams, players lead.”

The third strategy identified by Bennis and Nanus was that transforming leaders created trust in their organizations
by making their own positions clearly known and then standing by them. Trust has to do with being predictable or
reliable, even in situations that are uncertain. In organizations, leaders built trust by articulating a direction and
then consistently implementing the direction even though the vision 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 of integrity 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 rather than dwelled 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 of their organizations. They were able to fuse a sense of self with the work at hand. Bennis and
Nanus 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 the study were committed to learning and
relearning, so in their organizations there was consistent emphasis on education.


Bennis and Nanus (2007) proposed that transformational leaders “move organizations from current to future states,
create visions of potential opportunities for organizations, instill within employees [a] commitment to change and
instill new cultures and strategies in organizations that mobilize and focus energy and resources” (p. 19).

Kouzes and Posner

Kouzes and Posner (2002, 2017a) developed their model by interviewing leaders about leadership. They
interviewed more than 1,300 middle- and senior-level managers in private and public sector organizations and
asked them to describe their “personal best” experiences as leaders. Based on a content analysis of these
descriptions, Kouzes and Posner constructed a model of leadership.

The Kouzes and Posner model consists of five fundamental practices that enable leaders to get extraordinary
things accomplished: model the way, inspire a shared vision, challenge the process, enable others to act, and
encourage the heart. For each of the five practices of exemplary leadership, Kouzes and Posner also have identified
two commitments that serve as strategies for practicing exemplary leadership.

Model the Way.

To model the way, leaders need to be clear about their own values and philosophy. They need to find their own
voice and express it to others. Exemplary leaders set a personal example for others by their own behaviors. They
also follow through on their promises and commitments 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 able to visualize positive
outcomes in the future and communicate them to others. Leaders also listen to the dreams of others and show them
how their dreams can be realized. Through inspiring visions, leaders challenge others to transcend the status quo to
do something for others.

Challenge the Process.

Challenging the process means being willing to change the status quo and step into the unknown. It includes being
willing to innovate, grow, and improve. Exemplary leaders are like pioneers: They want to experiment and try new
things. They are willing to take risks to make 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 and promote collaboration.
Teamwork and cooperation are highly valued by these leaders. They listen closely to diverse points of view and
treat others with dignity and respect. They also allow 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 it
contributes to the greater community.

Interestingly, research indicates that women tend to display transformational leadership through 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 for people to want support
and recognition. Effective leaders are attentive to this need and are willing to give praise to workers for jobs well
done. They use authentic celebrations and rituals to show appreciation and encouragement to others. The outcome
of this kind of support is greater collective identity and community spirit.


A later study by Caza and Posner (2019) found that the characteristic of “grit,” or perseverance, was related to
some aspects of transformational leadership. High-grit leaders engaged in more frequent role modeling and
innovating behaviors, but less inspiring behavior.

Overall, the Kouzes and Posner model emphasizes behaviors and has a prescriptive quality: It recommends what
people need to do to become effective leaders. Kouzes and Posner (2002, p. 13) stressed that the five practices of
exemplary leadership are available to everyone and are not reserved for those with “special” ability. The model is
not about personality: It is about practice.

For this reason, Kouzes and Posner (2017b) fundamentally disagree with the trait approach to leadership, described
in Chapter 2, that views leadership as preordained or reserved for a special few leaders who are charismatic.

Leadership is not a gene. Neither is it a trait. There is just no hard evidence to suggest that leadership is
imprinted in the DNA of some people and not others. One of the competencies you have is the ability to
look ahead. The capacity to imagine the future is a fundamental defining characteristic of human beings,
separating Homo sapiens from other species. (p. 30)

To help leaders identify and measure the behaviors described in their model, Kouzes and Posner developed the
Leadership Practices Inventory (LPI). The LPI is a 360-degree leadership assessment tool that consists of 30
questions that assess individual leadership competencies. It has been widely used in leadership training and
development. A review of the measurement properties of the LPI, based on answers from 2.8 million respondents,
found the measure had good reliability and consistency across samples and populations and that the underlying
five-factor structure has been sustained across a variety of studies and settings. Finally, scores from the LPI are
positively related to employee engagement and perceptions of leader effectiveness (Posner, 2016).



The transformational approach to leadership is a broad-based perspective that encompasses many facets and
dimensions of the leadership process. In general, it describes how leaders can initiate, develop, and carry out
significant changes in organizations. Although not definitive, the steps followed by transformational leaders
usually take the following form.

Transformational leaders set out to empower followers and nurture them in change. They attempt to raise the
consciousness in individuals and to get them to transcend their own self-interests for the sake of others. For
example, Jung, Chow, and Wu (2003) studied upper-level leadership in 32 Taiwanese companies and found that
transformational leadership was directly related to organizational innovation. Transformational leadership created
a culture in which employees felt empowered and encouraged to freely discuss and try 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 express strong ideals.

They listen to followers and are tolerant of opposing viewpoints. A spirit of cooperation often develops between
these leaders and their followers. Followers want to emulate transformational leaders because they learn to trust
them and believe in the ideas for which they stand.

It is common for transformational leaders to create a vision. The vision emerges from the collective interests of
various individuals and units in an organization. The vision is a focal point for transformational leadership. It gives
the leader and the organization a conceptual map for where the organization is headed; it gives meaning and
clarifies the organization’s identity. Furthermore, the vision gives followers a sense of identity within the
organization and also a sense of self-efficacy (Shamir et al., 1993).

The transformational approach also requires that leaders become social architects. This means that they make clear
the emerging values and norms of the organization. They involve themselves in the culture of the organization and
help shape its meaning. People need to know their roles and understand how they contribute to the greater
purposes of the organization. Transformational leaders are out front in interpreting and shaping for organizations
the shared meanings that exist within them. As Mason et al. (2014) pointed out, 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 results in people feeling better about themselves and their contributions to the
greater common good.

Many of us have had transformational leaders in our lives. We tend to remember them as very special. They had an
impact on who we are and what we have become. Transformational leaders were the people who trusted us and
allowed us the space to experiment and grow. As described so poignantly in Box 8.1, transformational leaders are
leaders who raise us up to be better people.

Box 8.1

A Letter to Coach Z

The following letter was sent by a former student to his high school coach who was in the final stages of
dying of cancer. While a student, Jeff was the runner-up to the state singles tennis title and went on to play


No. 1 singles at a major university for four years where he was a two-time Mid-American Conference
champion. He gave permission to publish this letter.

Dear Coach Z,

I wanted to write you a letter to express my sincere gratitude for the role you have played in my personal
and professional development. I suspect you are aware of this fact, but my high school years were very
challenging for me socially. My small stature and size brought tremendous teasing and shaming that
profoundly affected my sense of self-esteem and self-worth. I found myself with very few friends and I
experienced a deep loneliness and a strong desire to “escape” times of social interaction such as the noon
hour. There was a strong culture of clique formation at our high school and I did not belong.

It was at these times that I would retreat to the safety of your office and the comfort of your friendship.
This truly meant the world to me and was critical to my survival. As a 40-year old now, it blows my mind
that you, then in your mid-50s, befriended me and cared for me. Even though your time was limited, you
were so gracious to frequently offer me your undivided attention. I am convinced that I could not have
become the person I am today without your influence in my life.

You have always believed in me and made me feel like I could do something exceptional. You always
encouraged me and pushed me to dig deeper, work harder, and give it my all. You trained me in the areas
of honesty, integrity, teamwork, and commitment. The lessons you’ve taught me have formed me and
stayed with me throughout my life. Your influence has led me to achieve things in life that few would have
thought possible.

It is my hope that this letter will honor you and that God will refresh and prosper you all the remaining
days of your life.

Gratefully Yours,


—Courtesy of Jeff Brink



In its present stage of development, the transformational approach has several strengths. First, transformational
leadership has been widely researched from many different perspectives, including a series of qualitative studies of
prominent leaders and CEOs in large, well-known organizations. It has also been the focal point for a large body of
leadership research since its introduction in the 1970s. For example, content analysis of all the articles published in
The Leadership Quarterly from 1990 to 2000 showed that 34% of the articles were about transformational or
charismatic leadership (Lowe & Gardner, 2001). In an updated review examining the period from 2000 to 2012,
39% of the articles published in 10 top-tier academic journals were about transformational or charismatic
leadership (Dinh et al., 2014). In addition, qualitative research on transformational leadership, which has appeared
in highly popular mass-market leadership books, has provided rich descriptions of the qualities and characteristics
of transformational leaders.

Second, transformational leadership has intuitive appeal. The transformational perspective describes how the
leader is out front advocating change for others; this concept is consistent with society’s popular notion of what
leadership means. People are attracted to transformational leadership because it makes sense to them. It is
appealing that a leader will provide a vision for the future. Transformational leaders are “movers and shakers” that
get an organization moving when change is needed by getting followers to face the future and achieve results
through their influence (Nicholls, 1988).

Third, transformational leadership treats leadership as a process that occurs between followers and leaders. One of
the components of transformational leadership is individualized consideration (Bass, 1985). Because this process
incorporates both the followers’ and the leader’s needs, leadership is not the sole responsibility of a leader but
rather emerges from the interplay between leaders and followers. The needs of others are central to the
transformational leader. As a result, followers gain a more prominent position in the leadership process because
their attributions are instrumental in the evolving transformational process (Bryman, 1992, p. 176).

Fourth, the transformational approach provides a broader view of leadership that augments other leadership
models. Many leadership models focus primarily on how leaders exchange rewards for achieved goals—the
transactional process. The transformational approach provides 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). Contingent rewards and transformational behaviors combine to explain employee job satisfaction (Puni,
Mohammed, & Asamoah, 2018). In other words, followers respond to both transactional and transformational
behaviors, which are encompassed in the Full Range of Leadership model (Figure 8.2) that provides a
comprehensive view of leadership.

Fifth, transformational leadership places a strong emphasis on followers’ needs, values, and morals. Burns (1978)
suggested that transformational leadership involves attempts by leaders to move people to higher standards of
moral responsibility. It includes motivating followers to transcend their own self-interests for the good of the team,
organization, or community (Howell & Avolio, 1993; Shamir et al., 1993). Transformational leadership is
fundamentally morally uplifting (Avolio, 1999). This emphasis sets the transformational approach apart from all
other approaches to leadership because it suggests that leadership has a moral dimension. Therefore, the coercive
uses of power by people such as Hitler, cult leader David Koresh, and Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte can be
disregarded as models of leadership.

Finally, there is substantial evidence that transformational leadership is an effective form of leadership (Yukl,
1999). In a critique of transformational and charismatic leadership, Yukl reported that in studies using the MLQ to
appraise leaders, transformational leadership was positively related to follower satisfaction, motivation, and
performance. Furthermore, in studies that used interviews and observations, transformational leadership was
shown to be effective in a variety of different situations. At the same time, transformational leadership has also
been demonstrated to contribute to the leader’s personal growth (Notgrass, 2014).



Transformational leadership has several weaknesses. One criticism is that it lacks conceptual clarity. Because it
covers such a wide range of activities and characteristics—creating a vision, motivating, being a change agent,
building trust, giving nurturance, and acting as a social architect, to name a few—it is difficult to define exactly the
parameters of transformational leadership. Knippenberg and Sitkin (2013) critically reviewed the transformational
leadership research and found the following weaknesses: lack of a clear conceptual definition, failure to outline a
well-defined causal model that accounts for the unique effects of theoretical dimensions, and the confounding of
the conceptualization and operationalization—a disconnect between the theory and how it is measured. For
example, research by Tracey and Hinkin (1998) has shown substantial overlap between each of the Four Is
(idealized influence, inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation, and individualized consideration),
suggesting that the dimensions are not clearly delimited.

Furthermore, the parameters of transformational leadership often overlap with similar conceptualizations of
leadership. Bryman (1992), for example, pointed out that transformational and charismatic leadership often are
treated synonymously, even though in some models of leadership (e.g., Bass, 1985) charisma is only one
component of transformational leadership. Others have questioned whether the four dimensions of
transformational leadership (i.e., the Four Is) are the reasons for transformational leadership or if they are simply
descriptions of transformational leadership (e.g., Andersen, 2015; Tourish, 2013). At present, researchers are not
sure if these dimensions predict transformational leadership or just help to explain the presence of transformational

In addition, Andersen (2015) suggested that transformational leadership was created to be used within social and
political contexts—not in corporations. However, many researchers have 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 transformational leadership. However, some studies have challenged the
validity of the MLQ. In some versions of the MLQ, the four factors of transformational leadership (the Four Is)
correlate highly with each other, which means they are not distinct factors (Tejeda, Scandura, & Pillai, 2001). In
addition, some of the transformational factors correlate with the transactional and laissez-faire factors, which
means they may not be unique to the transformational model (Tejeda et al., 2001). It has also been suggested that
transformational leadership could be better measured and understood through a narrative perspective (Andersen,
2015; Tengblad, 2012). Reviews of research on transformational leadership reveal that the factor structure does not
replicate across studies (Knippenberg & Sitkin, 2013).

A third criticism is that transformational leadership treats leadership as a personality trait or personal
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 problematic because it is difficult to teach people how to change their traits.
Even though many scholars, including Weber, House, and Bass, emphasized that transformational leadership is
concerned 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 is exacerbated because the word transformational
creates images of one person being the most active 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 qualities that transform others. These
images accentuate a trait characterization of transformational leadership.

Fourth, researchers have not established that transformational leaders are actually able to transform individuals and
organizations (Antonakis, 2012). There is evidence that indicates that transformational leadership is associated
with positive outcomes, such as organizational effectiveness; however, studies have not yet clearly established a
causal link between transformational leaders and changes in followers or organizations. However, there may be a
glimmer of hope in this regard as Arthur and Hardy (2014) were able to use an experimental design to evaluate the
effectiveness of a transformational leadership intervention in remediating poor performance in an organization.
This provides initial evidence that transformational leadership behaviors may result in some expected positive


A fifth criticism some have made is that transformational leadership is elitist and antidemocratic (Avolio, 1999;
Bass & Avolio, 1993). Transformational leaders often play a direct role in creating changes, establishing a vision,
and advocating new directions. This gives the strong impression that the leaders are acting independently of
followers or putting themselves above the followers’ needs. Although this criticism of elitism has been refuted by
Bass and Avolio (1993) and Avolio (1999), who contended that transformational leaders can be directive and
participative as well as democratic and authoritarian, the substance of the criticism raises valid questions about
transformational leadership. The transformational leadership approach has focused predominantly on leaders at the
top echelons of organizations. However, some research suggests that transformational leadership can occur at all
levels of the organization (Lovelace, Neely, Allen, & Hunter, 2019).

Related to this criticism, some have argued that transformational leadership suffers from a “heroic leadership” bias
(Yukl, 1999). Transformational leadership stresses that it is the leader 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 attention should
be directed toward how leaders can encourage followers to challenge the leader’s vision and share in the leadership

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 them to a new vision. But who is to determine
whether the new directions are good and more affirming? Who decides that a new vision is a better vision? If the
values to which leaders are moving their followers are not better, and if the set of human values is not more
redeeming, 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 a need to understand how transformational leaders affect
followers psychologically and how leaders respond to followers’ reactions. In fact, Burns (1978) argued that
understanding this area (i.e., charisma and follower worship) is one of the central problems in leadership studies
today (Bailey & Axelrod, 2001). The charismatic nature of transformational leadership presents significant risks
for organizations because it can be used for destructive purposes (Conger, 1999; Howell & Avolio, 1993). A meta-
analysis of psychopathic tendencies and transformational leadership showed that psychopathic people are
somewhat more likely to emerge as leaders, but they are viewed as less effective leaders. Further, this study found
that women are penalized for displaying psychopathic tendencies but that men may be rewarded for similar
behaviors (Landay, Harms, & Credé, 2019).

History is full of examples of charismatic individuals who used coercive power to lead people to evil ends. For this
reason, transformational leadership puts a burden on individuals and organizations to be aware of how they are
being influenced and in what directions they are being asked to go. Christie et al. (2011) warn that astute followers
need to be vigilant and pay careful attention to the vision of their leader, whether the vision is collective or self-
focused, whether the leader is tolerant or intolerant of opposing viewpoints, and whether or not the leader is caring
of followers. The potential for abuse of transformational leadership is mitigated when followers are aware and
engaged in how they are being led.

Another criticism of the transformational leadership approach is that it may not be viewed as effective in all
national cultures. Despite prior claims that transformational leadership is universal (Bass, 1997), this is not
supported by data. A meta-analysis of more than 57,000 employees in 34 countries found that the value of
transformational leadership behaviors may be limited in developed economies such as Western Europe and North
America, while transformational leadership is most effective in Africa, the Middle East, South America, and parts
of Southeast Asia (Credé, Jong, & Harms, 2019).

A final potential weakness of transformational leadership is the fact that it may not be well received by millennials
(Anderson et al., 2017). As millennials continue to replace baby boomers in the workforce, organizations are
recognizing that they are having to modify previous ways of doing things to meet millennials’ needs.
Transformational leadership is one such example. Drawing from the individualistic orientation of many
millennials, Anderson and colleagues predict that transformational leaders may be less effective because this
cohort may be less willing to collaborate with others to achieve common goals. Relatedly, today’s transformational
leaders communicate in a way to encourage followers to prioritize organizational 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 a greater 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 millennials expect frequent


promotions and value extrinsic rewards, two of the fundamental components of transformational leadership—
idealized influence and inspirational motivation—may be ineffective (Anderson et al., 2017).



Rather than being a model that tells leaders what to do, transformational leadership provides a broad set of
generalizations of what is typical of leaders who are transforming or who work in transforming contexts. Unlike
other leadership approaches, such as the situational approach (discussed in Chapter 5), transformational leadership
does not provide a clearly defined set of assumptions about how leaders should act in a particular situation to be
successful. Rather, it provides a general way of thinking about leadership that emphasizes ideals, inspiration,
innovations, and individual concerns. Transformational leadership requires that leaders be aware of how their own
behavior relates to the needs of their followers and the changing dynamics within their organizations.

Bass and Avolio (1990a) suggested that transformational leadership can be taught to people at all levels in an
organization and that it can positively affect a firm’s performance. It can be used in recruitment, selection and
promotion, and training and development. It can also be used in improving team development, decision-making
groups, quality initiatives, and reorganizations (Bass & Avolio, 1994).

Programs designed to develop transformational leadership usually require that leaders or their associates take the
MLQ (Bass & Avolio, 1990b) or a similar questionnaire to determine the leader’s particular strengths and
weaknesses in transformational leadership. These assessments help 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
in expressing their goals, that they need to spend more time nurturing followers, or that they need to be more
tolerant of opposing viewpoints. Such transformational leadership measures can be springboards to helping leaders
improve a whole series of their leadership attributes.

One particular aspect of transformational leadership that has been given special emphasis in training programs is
the process of building a vision. For example, it has become quite common for training programs to have leaders
write elaborate statements that describe their own five-year career plans and their perceptions of the future
directions for their organizations. Working with leaders on vision statements is one way to help them enhance their
transformational leadership behavior. Another important aspect of training is teaching leaders to exhibit greater
individual consideration and promote intellectual stimulation for their followers. Lowe et al. (1996) found that this
is particularly valuable for lower-level leaders in organizations.

The desire to provide effective training in how to be more successful in demonstrating transactional and
transformational leadership resulted in the development of a guide by Sosik and Jung (2010). This comprehensive,
evidence-based approach includes self-assessments, 360-degree feedback, and leadership development planning.
Their work serves as 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 of their behaviors, from
nontransactional to transactional to transformational. In the next section, we provide some actual leadership
examples to which the principles of transformational leadership can be applied.



In the following section, three brief case studies (Cases 8.1, 8.2, and 8.3) from very different contexts are provided.
Each case describes a situation in which transformational leadership is present to some degree. The first case looks
at the efforts of a new CEO to transform the traditional culture of aircraft equipment manufacturing company. The
second case comes from the perspective of a college professor and archaeologist who leads student groups on digs
in the Middle East. The final case profiles the Friendship Bench project that trains grandmothers to help tackle
depression in Zimbabwe. The questions at the end of each case point to some of the unique issues surrounding the
use of transformational leadership in ongoing organizations.


Case 8.1 The Vision Failed

High Tech Engineering (HTE) is a 50-year-old family-owned manufacturing company with 250 employees that
produces small parts for the aircraft industry. The president of HTE is Harold Barelli, who came to the company
from a smaller business with strong credentials as a leader in advanced aircraft technology. Before Barelli, the only
other president of HTE was the founder and owner of the company. The organizational structure at HTE was very
traditional, and it was supported by a very rich organizational culture.

As the new president, Barelli sincerely wanted to transform HTE. He wanted to prove that new technologies and
advanced management techniques could make HTE one of the best manufacturing companies in the country. To
that end, Barelli created a vision statement that was displayed throughout the company. The two-page statement,
which had a strong democratic tone, described the overall purposes, directions, and values of the company.

During the first three years of Barelli’s tenure as president, several major reorganizations took place at the
company. These were designed by Barelli and a select few of his senior managers. The intention of each
reorganization 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 instability among
the employees. Most of the changes were made from the top down, with little input from lower or middle
management. 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 in
which one manager had far too many workers to oversee. Rather than feeling comfortable in their various roles at
HTE, employees began to feel uncertain about their responsibilities and how they contributed to stated goals of the
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 Barelli had for the company was lost. The instability that employees
felt made it difficult for them to support the company’s vision. People at HTE complained that although mission
statements were displayed throughout the company, no one understood in which direction they were going.

To the employees at HTE, Barelli was an enigma. HTE was an American company that produced U.S. products,
but Barelli drove a foreign car. Barelli claimed to be democratic in his style of leadership, but he was arbitrary in
how he treated people. He acted in a nondirective style toward some people, and he showed arbitrary control
toward others. He wanted to be seen as a hands-on manager, but he delegated operational control of the company
to others while he focused on external customer relations and matters of the board of directors.

At times Barelli appeared to be insensitive to employees’ concerns. He wanted HTE to be an environment in which
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 Barelli either misunderstood or did not care about that history.

Four years after arriving at HTE, Barelli stepped down as president after his operations officer ran the company
into a large debt and cash-flow crisis. His dream of building HTE into a world-class manufacturing company was
never realized.


1. If you were consulting with the HTE board of directors soon after Barelli started making changes, what would
you advise them regarding Barelli’s leadership from a transformational perspective?

2. Did Barelli have a clear vision for HTE? Was he able to implement it?
3. How effective was Barelli as a change agent and social architect for HTE?
4. What would you advise Barelli to do differently if he had the chance to return as president of HTE?


Case 8.2 An Exploration in Leadership

Every year, Dr. Cook, a college professor, leads a group of 25 college students to the Middle East on an
archaeological dig that usually lasts about eight weeks. The participants, who come from big and small colleges
throughout the country, usually have little prior knowledge or background in what takes place during an
excavation. Dr. Cook enjoys leading these expeditions because he likes teaching students about archaeology and
because 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 or mentally
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, and others
are from large state universities. Each comes with a different agenda, different skills, and different work habits.
One person may be a good photographer, another a good artist, and another a good surveyor. It is my job to
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 things including
personal things, how our work was progressing, and what we needed to change. The students seemed to appreciate
the chance to talk at this meeting. Each of them described their special circumstances and hopes 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 that
needed to be done at this important historical site. In particular, I stressed two points: (a) that they shared the
responsibility 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 staff available
at all times as advisers and resource persons. In regard to the departure time issue, I told the participants that 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 to
become more involved in the work, there was less sickness, and there was more camaraderie. All assignments
were completed without constant prodding and in a spirit of mutual support. Each morning at 5:00 a.m. everyone
was ready to go.

I find that each year my groups are different. It’s almost as if each of them has a unique personality. Perhaps that is
why I find it so challenging. I try to listen to the students and use their particular strengths. It really is quite
amazing how these students can develop in eight weeks. They really become good at archaeology, and they
accomplish a great deal.

This coming year will again be different because of the 10 returning “veterans.”


1. 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 Grandmothers and Benches

The invitation of a park bench and the compassion of a grandmother are saving lives in Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe, an African nation of more than 16 million people, had only 12 psychiatrists available to meet the
mental health needs of the entire country. Dr. Dixon Chibanda is one of them (Chibanda, 2017c; Nuwer, 2018).

After losing a young patient he had treated for depression to suicide because she and her mother could not afford
the $15 bus fare to come to his office for treatment, Dr. Chibanda realized that the traditional delivery of mental
health care—offering services in a facility and waiting for patients to come to him—would not work in his country.
After much soul searching and consideration of the effectiveness of his role as a psychiatrist in Zimbabwe, Dr.
Chibanda had an epiphany.

Suicide is not unusual when it comes to mental health concerns. According to the World Health Organization
(WHO), suicide is the leading cause of death of those ages 15 to 29 worldwide. Globally, more than 300 million
people suffer from depression, according to the WHO. Depression is the world’s leading cause of disability and
contributes to 800,000 suicides per year, the majority of which occur in developing countries (Nuwer, 2018).

Depression, often the result of loneliness, abuse, conflict, and violence, is a treatable mental illness. But treatment
needs to be available and affordable, which are large concerns for a country like Zimbabwe with extremely limited

In 2006, Dr. Chibanda began leading a team of Zimbabwean researchers in testing new ways of addressing anxiety
and depression disorders and making treatment accessible to those who need it (Chibanda, 2017a). With no money
or facilities available, he accessed the most abundant and reliable resource he could think of: grandmothers. Thus,
the Friendship Bench approach was conceived.

The Friendship Bench involves the engagement and training of laypeople—grandmothers, to be precise—from
local communities, as well as the integration of digital technologies.

Why grandmothers? Grandmothers are often a trusted, cultural cornerstone in Zimbabwean communities. “It
suddenly dawned on me that actually, one of the most reliable resources we have in Africa are grandmothers. Yes,
grandmothers. And I thought, grandmothers are in every community. There are hundreds of them” (Chibanda,

In addition, Dr. Chibanda realized that grandmothers, unlike many younger workers, were more likely to stay in
place and not leave the communities to seek other opportunities. Furthermore, many grandmothers were already
doing community work, and association with this program would reinforce their role in the community.

“When we started, we didn’t know what the core competencies were . . . Later we discovered that our lay
therapists needed strong listening skills, an ability to convey empathy and an ability to reflect—all skills the
grandmothers had and could develop further” (WHO, 2018, p. 377).

Training these community counselors involved the application of basic cognitive therapy (often referred to as “talk
therapy”) concepts. The grandmothers were taught to adopt a nonjudgmental and practical approach, allowing the
clients to discuss their challenges and talk through possible solutions. Dr. Chibanda’s strategy was to “empower
them [the grandmothers] with the skills to provide behavior activation, [and] activity scheduling; and support them
using digital technology. You know, mobile phone technology. Pretty much everyone in Africa has a mobile phone
today” (Chibanda, 2017c).

The program launched in 2007, and Dr. Chibanda spent the first four years of the program working with 14
grandmothers and his colleague, Petra Mesu, to develop a “culturally appropriate and evidence-based intervention
they could deliver” (WHO, 2018, p. 377). Together, they developed a therapy focused on problem solving that
incorporated the native Shona language and familiar, local cultural concepts.


The first step of the program is screening, which is done at a health facility. Using a locally developed diagnosis
tool called the Shona Symptom Questionnaire, clients are evaluated as to whether they are suffering from mental
illness and what form of mental illness. If it is found that they are, then they are referred to the Friendship Bench
where they meet with one of the trained community counselors (the grandmothers). The Friendship Bench is a
literal wooden park bench, initially located in discreet areas around the health facility, where patient and
grandmother (counselor) can openly discuss a patient’s concerns in a comfortable setting. Due to the growing
acceptance of the program, these benches are now more publicly visible.

As part of their training, counselors are taught to use language and terms familiar to their clients such as kuvhura
pfungwa (“opening the mind”), kusimudzira (“uplifting”), and kusimbisa (“to strengthen”). Many of the clients
suffer with depression, which is commonly referred to as kufungisisa (“thinking too much”) in the Shona language.

“They provide six sessions of individual problem-solving therapy to each patient and refer those at risk of suicide
to their immediate supervisors. The first session takes an hour or more, during which the grandmother listens,
establishes a rapport with the client, and takes notes. Their notes are reviewed regularly by the team, together with
the grandmothers, particularly during debrief sessions. The sessions are recorded for their supervisors to monitor,”
said Dr. Chibanda. “Afterwards, the grandmother reflects on what the client said and decides what needs to be
done with the other grandmothers. Subsequent sessions with the client can be quite short, 20–30 minutes, because
the client has an understanding of what to focus on” (WHO, 2018, p. 377).

Technology plays an important role in the program. To store patient data, the team uses a secure platform
combined with cloud computing. “Each patient receives text messages between sessions to encourage their
problem-solving efforts. When a client does not turn up for a session on the bench, we call them and if there is no
response, the grandmother and a health professional visit the client’s home,” Dr. Chibanda said (WHO, 2018, p.

Dedicated to the success of the program, Dr. Chibanda ran the initial pilot in Mbare, using his own salary to pay
for supplies and space rental for the training. The program would eventually receive funding from the National
Healthcare Trust, Zimbabwe and other organizations.

Some of the grandmothers are paid, receiving an allowance from their city’s health department. During the clinical
trials, funding was available, but once those trials concluded, that funding dried up and Dr. Chibanda was
concerned the grandmothers might cease working. To his surprise, they did not. When he and his colleagues
looked into why, they found the grandmothers exhibited negative mental health conditions of their own, and the
team hypothesized that perhaps the work the grandmothers were doing helped them as well, enabling them to
expand their own well-being and resilience to adversity.

Dr. Chibanda’s own mother came up with the income-generating model for the grandmothers. “After finishing
sessions on the bench, the grandmothers sit in a circle and share the challenges they face with their colleagues,
while crocheting bags with recycled plastic to sell. Now, after completing therapy, the grandmothers give their
patients further support and show them how to make the bags. So, this is a forum for problem solving and income
generation” (WHO, 2018, p. 377).

The success of the program speaks for itself. In 2017, the program had been scaled into more than 70 communities,
with “hundreds of grandmothers” providing mental health services in those communities. More than 30,000 people
have received treatment on the Friendship Bench. “Our results—this was a clinical trial—in fact, this clinical trial
showed that grandmothers were more effective at treating depression than doctors” (Chibanda, 2017c).

“When we compared the Friendship Bench approach to standard care, plus information, education, and support on
common mental disorders, we found that after nine months the Friendship Bench patients had a significantly lower
risk of symptoms than the standard of care group,” Dr. Chibanda said (WHO, 2018, p. 377).

Not surprisingly, Chibanda sees the potential in expanding the program globally. Even in developed countries, the
availability of mental health professionals is rapidly declining, with waiting times to receive care increasing to
dangerous levels. “In the United Kingdom, thousands of people attempt suicide while waiting, sometimes for
months, on the National Health Service list to see a psychologist. Similarly, long waiting lists have been reported
in the United States” (Chibanda, 2017b).


Dr. Chibanda notes that today there are more than 600 million people worldwide who are above 65, with this
number expected to expand to 1.5 billion people by the year 2050. He envisions “a global network of
grandmothers in every city in the world who are trained in evidence-based talk therapy, supported through digital
platforms, networked. And they will make a difference in communities. They will reduce the treatment gap for
mental, neurological and substance-use disorders” (Chibanda, 2017c).

The realization of this vision has already begun. The program has expanded to rural areas in Zimbabwe and is
developing a component for adolescents. The Friendship Bench approach is being implemented in Malawi with
plans for it to be used in Zanzibar, United Republic of Tanzania. Its use is even being explored in the United
States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand (WHO, 2018, p. 377).


1. Based on the definition of transformational leadership in this chapter:
a. What aspects of the implementation of the Friendship Bench and the effectiveness of the grandmothers

do you see as related to the transformational leadership processes? Explain why.
b. Are there aspects of this process outlined in this case study that you would classify as transactional

leadership? Why?
2. Charisma and its relationship to transformational leadership was discussed at length and outlined in Table 8.1.

View Dr. Dixon Chibanda’s 2017 TED Talk at and respond to the

a. Do you perceive Dr. Chibanda to be a charismatic leader? Why or why not?
b. What about the grandmothers? What characteristics of charismatic leadership, if any, would you ascribe

to them? Explain your answer.
c. Bass suggested that “charisma is a necessary but not sufficient condition for transformational

leadership.” Based on the elements of this case study, would you agree or disagree? Why?
3. How do each of the leadership factors of idealized influence, intellectual stimulation, and individualized

consideration relate to this case?
4. Bennis and Nanus expanded on the transformational perspective by identifying four common strategies for

transformational leaders. Discuss how each of these relates to Dr. Chibanda and the grandmothers:
a. Clear vision
b. Social architect
c. Creation of trust
d. Creative deployment of self

5. Kouzes and Posner identified five fundamental practices of transformational leaders. Discuss how these apply
to this case:

a. Model the way
b. Inspire a shared vision
c. Challenge the process
d. Enable others to act
e. Encourage the heart

6. The chapter lists seven criticisms of the transformational leadership model. Select three of these and address
them with respect to this case.


Leadership Instrument

The Transformational Leadership Inventory developed by Podsakoff, MacKenzie, Moorman, and Fetter (1990)
provides a measure of transactional and transformational leadership. The purpose of this questionnaire is to
determine which style of leadership you tend to use, transformational or transactional. If you have held leadership
positions in the past, you might have some idea which style you tend to use. Even if you have no leadership
experience, this self-assessment can provide a starting point for you to determine which style you are more likely
to use.

Transformational Leadership Inventory

Purpose: The purpose of this questionnaire is to determine which style of leadership you intend to use,
transformational or transactional.

Instructions: To respond to the following questions, consider a time when you have been a leader of a
group. Read each of the following statements and select the response that best describes your leadership
behavior as a member of this group.

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

1. I have a clear understanding of where my group is going. 1 2 3 4 5

2. I always give others positive feedback when they perform well. 1 2 3 4 5

3. I paint an interesting picture of the future for our group. 1 2 3 4 5

4. I give special recognition to group members when their work is very good. 1 2 3 4 5

5. I am always seeking new opportunities for the group. 1 2 3 4 5

6. I commend others when they do a better than average job. 1 2 3 4 5

7. I inspire others with my plans for the future. 1 2 3 4 5

8. I frequently acknowledge others’ good performance. 1 2 3 4 5


Scoring and Interpretation

Write the number you selected for each question in the blanks in the following box.

Transformational Leadership Transactional Leadership

1. ______ 2. ______

3. ______ 4. ______

5. ______ 6. ______

7. ______ 8. ______

Total: ______ Total: ______

Transformational Leadership (Identifying and Articulating a Vision): Identifying new
opportunities for a leader’s unit/division/company, and developing, articulating, and inspiring others
with a vision of the future.

Transactional Leadership (Contingent Reward): Promising or delivering rewards to followers,
contingent on their performance.

Your scores for each dimension (transformational or transactional) can range from 4 to 20. In general,
scores from 4 to 12 represent lower levels of your preference for the leadership style, and scores above 12
indicate higher levels of your preference for the leadership style.

Source: Adapted from Podsakoff, P. M., MacKenzie, S. B., Moorman, R. H., & Fetter, R. (1990). Transformational leader
behaviors and their effects on followers’ trust in leader, satisfaction, and organizational citizenship behaviors. The Leadership
Quarterly, 1(2), 107–142.



One of the most encompassing approaches to leadership—transformational leadership—is concerned with the
process of how certain leaders are able to inspire followers to accomplish great things. This approach stresses that
leaders need to understand and adapt to the needs and motives of followers. Transformational leaders are
recognized as change agents who are good role models, who can create and articulate a clear vision for an
organization, who empower followers to meet higher standards, who act in ways that make others 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, 2017a) are also representative of
transformational leadership. Qualitative studies provided additional perspectives on transformational leadership
and served as guides for practicing managers.

There are several positive features of the transformational approach, including that it is a popular model that has
received a lot of attention by researchers, it has strong intuitive appeal, it emphasizes the importance of followers
in the leadership process, it goes beyond traditional transactional models and broadens leadership to include the
growth of followers, and it places strong emphasis on morals and values. Transformational leadership has also
proven to be an effective form of leadership that is positively related to follower satisfaction, motivation, and

Balancing against the positive features of transformational leadership are several weaknesses. These include that
the approach lacks conceptual clarity and a well-defined causal model; it is based on the MLQ, which has been
challenged by some research; it creates a framework that implies that transformational leadership has a trait-like
quality; it is sometimes seen as elitist and undemocratic; it suffers from a “heroic leadership” bias; and it has the
potential to be used counterproductively in negative ways by leaders. Finally, transformational leadership may not
be viewed as an effective leadership approach in all national cultures and among millennials. Despite the
weaknesses, transformational leadership appears to be a valuable and widely used approach.


Descriptions of Images and Figures
Back to Figure



LF Laissez-Faire


MBE-P Management by Exception, Passive

MBE-A Management by Exception, Active

CR Contingent Reward

Transformational Four I’s

Idealized Influence

Inspirational Motivation

Intellectual Stimulation

Individualized Consideration

Back to Figure

Transformational leadership equals idealized influence plus inspirational motivation plus intellectual stimulation
plus individualized consideration. Transactional leadership equals contingent reward plus management by
exception. Transformational leadership and expected outcomes from transactional leadership lead to performance
beyond expectations.






Authentic leadership represents one of the newer areas of leadership research. It focuses on whether leadership is
genuine and “real.” As the title of this approach implies, authentic leadership is about the authenticity of leaders
and their leadership. Unlike many of the theories that we have discussed in this book, authentic leadership is still in
the formative phase of development. As a result, authentic leadership needs to be considered more tentatively: 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 authentic leadership. The
destruction on 9/11, corporate scandals at companies like WorldCom and Enron, deliberate misinformation and
claims of “fake news,” and civil unrest resulting from incidents of racial injustice have all created anxiety and
uncertainty. People feel apprehensive and insecure about what is going on around them, and as a result, they long
for bona fide leadership they can trust and for leaders who are honest and good. People’s demands for trustworthy
leadership make the study 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 not evidence based and so needed further clarification and testing. In attempts to more fully explore authentic
leadership, researchers set out to identify the parameters of authentic leadership 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 complex process that is difficult to
characterize. Among leadership scholars, there is no single accepted definition of authentic leadership. Instead,
there are multiple definitions, each written from a different viewpoint and with a different emphasis (Chan, 2005).

One of those viewpoints is the intrapersonal perspective, which focuses closely on the leader and 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 and Eilam (2005) suggest that authentic leaders exhibit genuine leadership,
lead from conviction, and are originals. This perspective emphasizes the life experiences of a leader and the
meaning one attaches to those experiences as being critical to the development of the authentic leader.

A second way of defining authentic leadership is as an interpersonal process. This perspective outlines authentic
leadership as relational, created by leaders and followers together (Eagly, 2005). It results not from the leader’s
efforts alone, but also from the response of followers. Authenticity emerges from the interactions between leaders
and followers. It is a reciprocal process because leaders affect followers and followers affect leaders.

Finally, authentic leadership can be defined from a developmental perspective, which is exemplified 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
discussed in the following section, views authentic leadership as something that can be nurtured in a leader, rather
than as a fixed trait. Authentic leadership develops in people over a lifetime and can be triggered by critical life
events, such as a severe illness or a new career.

Taking a developmental approach, Walumbwa et al. (2008) conceptualized authentic leadership as a pattern of
leader behavior that develops from, and is grounded in, the leader’s positive psychological qualities and strong
ethics. They suggest that authentic leadership is composed of four distinct but related components: self-awareness,
internalized moral perspective, balanced processing, and relational transparency (Avolio, Walumbwa, & Weber,
2009). Over a lifetime, authentic leaders learn and develop each of these four types of behavior.


Approaches to Authentic Leadership

Formulations about authentic leadership can be differentiated into two areas: (1) the practical approach, which
evolved from real-life examples as well as the training and development literature; and (2) the theoretical
approach, which is based on findings from social science research. Both approaches offer interesting insights about
the complex process of authentic leadership.

Practical Approach

Books and programs about authentic leadership are popular today; people are interested in the basics of this type of
leadership. Specifically, they want to know the “how to” steps to become an authentic leader. In this section, we
discuss Bill George’s (2003) authentic leadership 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, the essential qualities of authentic
leadership and how individuals can develop these qualities if they want to become authentic leaders.

Based on his experience as a corporate executive and through interviews with a diverse sample of 125 successful
leaders, George found that authentic leaders have a genuine desire to 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 strong sense of purpose, (2) they have strong values about the right thing to do, (3) they establish
trusting relationships with others, (4) they demonstrate self-discipline and act on their values, and (5) they are
sensitive and empathetic to the plight of others (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 related characteristics—passion, behavior,
connectedness, consistency, and compassion—that individuals need to develop to become authentic leaders.

In his interviews, George found that authentic leaders have a real sense of purpose. They know 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 are passionate individuals who have a deep-seated interest in what they are
doing and truly care about their work.

A good example of an authentic leader who exhibited passion about his goals was Terry Fox, a cancer survivor,
whose right leg was amputated above the knee after a malignant tumor was discovered. Using a customized leg
prosthesis, Terry attempted to run across Canada, 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 of
millions of people. He also accomplished his goals to increase cancer awareness and to raise money for cancer
research. Today, the Terry Fox Foundation is going strong and has raised more than $800 million (Canadian) for
cancer research ( Of the dimensions and characteristics in Figure 9.1, Terry Fox clearly
demonstrated purpose and passion in his leadership.


Figure 9.1 Authentic Leadership Characteristics

Source: From Authentic Leadership: Rediscovering the Secrets to Creating Lasting Value by Bill George, copyright ©
2003. Reproduced with permission of John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Authentic leaders understand their own values and behave toward others based on these values. Stated another
way, George suggests that authentic leaders know their “True North.” They have a clear idea of who they are,
where they are going, and what the right thing is to do. When tested in difficult situations, authentic leaders do not
compromise their 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 Nelson Mandela. Mandela was a
deeply moral man with a strong conscience. While fighting to abolish apartheid in South Africa, he was unyielding
in his pursuit of justice and equality for all. When he was in prison and was offered early release in exchange for
denouncing his viewpoint, he chose to remain incarcerated rather than compromise his position. Nelson Mandela
knew who he was at his core. He knew his values, and his leadership reflected those 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 with others. 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 want their leaders to be open with them.
In a sense, people are asking leaders to soften the boundary around their leadership role and to be more
transparent. People want to have a trusting relationship with their leaders. In exchange, people are willing to give
leaders greater loyalty and commitment.

As we discussed in Chapter 7 (leader–member exchange theory), effective leader–follower relationships are
marked by high-quality communication in which leaders and followers demonstrate 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 stereotypical leader–follower relationship. This results in strong leader–member relationships, greater
understanding, and higher productivity.

Self-discipline is another dimension of authentic leadership and is the quality that helps leaders to reach their goals.
Self-discipline gives leaders focus and determination. When leaders establish objectives and standards of


excellence, self-discipline helps them to reach these goals and to keep everyone accountable. Furthermore, self-
discipline gives authentic leaders 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 on their goals. They are
able to listen to their inner compass and can discipline themselves to move forward, even in challenging
circumstances. In stressful times, self-discipline allows authentic leaders to remain cool, calm, and consistent.
Because disciplined leaders are predictable 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 other people a sense of security.

Last, the George approach identifies compassion and heart as important aspects of authentic leadership.
Compassion refers to being sensitive to the plight of others, opening one’s self to others, and being willing to help
them. George (2003, p. 40) argued that as leaders develop compassion, they learn to be authentic. Leaders can
develop compassion by getting to know others’ life stories, doing community service projects, being involved with
other racial or ethnic groups, or traveling to developing countries (George, 2003). These activities increase the
leader’s sensitivity to other cultures, backgrounds, and living situations.

In summary, George’s authentic leadership approach highlights five important features of authentic leaders.
Collectively, these features provide a practical picture of what people need to do to become authentic in their
leadership. Authentic leadership is a lifelong developmental 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 is emerging in social science
literature (see Kumar, 2014; Leroy, Anseel, Gardner, & Sels, 2015; Peus, Wescher, Streicher, Braun, & Frey,
2012). In this section, we identify the basic components of authentic leadership and describe how these
components are related to one another.

Background to the Theoretical Approach.

Although people’s interest in “authenticity” is probably timeless, research on authentic leadership is rather recent.
Luthans and Avolio (2003) published one of the first articles on the topic, focusing on authentic leadership
development and positive organizational scholarship. Initial writing on authentic leadership gave rise to a
leadership summit at the University of Nebraska. This summit was sponsored by the Gallup Leadership Institute
and focused on the nature of authentic leadership and its development. From the summit, two sets of publications
emerged: (1) a special issue of The Leadership Quarterly in the summer of 2005, and (2) Monographs in
Leadership and Management, titled “Authentic Leadership Theory and Process: Origins, Effects and
Development,” also published in 2005.

Interest in authentic leadership increased following 9/11, a time in which there was a great deal 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 uncertainty and anxiety in people about leadership. Widespread unethical and
ineffective leadership necessitated the need for more humane, constructive leadership that served the common
good (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. There was a need to operationalize the meaning of authentic
leadership and create a theoretical framework to explain it. To develop a theory of authentic leadership, researchers
drew from the 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 the construct and identify its
characteristics. As we discussed earlier in the chapter, authentic leadership has been defined in multiple ways, with
each definition emphasizing a different aspect of the process. For this chapter, we have selected the definition set
forth by Walumbwa et al. (2008), who defined authentic leadership as


a pattern of leader behavior that draws upon and promotes both positive psychological 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 the phenomenon of authentic
leadership and how it works.

Different models have been developed to illustrate the process of authentic leadership. Gardner et al. (2005b)
created a model that frames authentic leadership around the developmental processes of leader and follower self-
awareness and self-regulation. Ilies, Morgeson, and Nahrgang (2005) constructed a multicomponent model that
discusses the impact of authenticity on leaders’ and followers’ happiness and well-being. In contrast, Luthans and
Avolio (2003) formulated a model that explains authentic leadership as a developmental process. In this chapter,
we will present a basic model of authentic leadership derived from the research literature that focuses on the core
components of authentic leadership. Our discussion will examine authentic leadership as 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 of content experts in the field to determine what
components constituted authentic leadership and to develop a valid measure of this construct. Their research
identified four components: self-awareness, internalized moral perspective, balanced processing, and relational
transparency (Figure 9.2). Together, these four components form the foundation for a theory of authentic

Self-awareness refers to the personal insights of the leader. It is not an end in itself but a process in which
individuals understand themselves, including their strengths and weaknesses, and the impact they have on others.
Self-awareness includes reflecting on your core values, identity, emotions, motives, and goals, and coming to grips
with who you really are at the deepest level. In addition, it includes being aware of and trusting your own feelings
(Kernis, 2003). A meta-analysis including 11 studies and more than 3,500 respondents found that emotional
intelligence is significantly and positively related to authentic leadership (Miao, Humphrey, & Qian, 2018).
Leaders with high emotional intelligence are more self-aware and able to benefit from reflection on their past
experiences to improve their authenticity.

When leaders know themselves and have a clear sense of who they are 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 more authentic. More recently, research has shown that self-knowledge and self-consistency also
have a positive impact on followers’ satisfaction with leaders, organizational commitment, and perceived team
effectiveness (Leroy et al., 2015; Peus et al., 2012).

Internalized moral perspective refers to a self-regulatory process whereby individuals use their internal moral
standards and values to guide their behavior rather than allow outside pressures to control them (e.g., group or
societal pressure). It is a self-regulatory process because people have control over the extent to which they allow
others to influence them. Others see leaders with an internalized moral perspective as authentic because their
actions are consistent with their expressed beliefs and morals.



Figure 9.2 Authentic Leadership

Sources: Adapted 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; and “‘Can You See the Real Me?’ A Self-Based Model of Authentic Leader and Follower Development,” by
W. L. Gardner, B. J. Avolio, F. Luthans, D. R. May, and F. O. Walumbwa, 2005, The Leadership Quarterly, 16, pp. 343

Balanced processing is also a self-regulatory behavior. Although not completely clear from its title, it refers to an
individual’s ability to analyze information objectively and explore other people’s opinions before making a
decision. It also means avoiding favoritism about certain issues and remaining unbiased. Balanced processing
includes soliciting viewpoints from those who disagree with you and fully considering their positions before taking
your own action. Leaders with balanced processing are seen as authentic because they are open about their own
perspectives but are also objective in considering others’ perspectives.

Relational transparency refers to being open and honest in presenting one’s true self to others. It is self-regulating
because individuals can control their transparency with others. Relational transparency occurs when individuals
share their core feelings, motives, and inclinations with others in an appropriate manner (Kernis, 2003). It includes
the individuals showing both positive and negative aspects of themselves to others. In short, relational
transparency is about communicating openly and being real in relationships with others.

Factors That Influence Authentic Leadership.

There are other factors such as positive psychological capacities, moral reasoning, and critical life events that
influence authentic leadership (Figure 9.2). Individuals perceive the critical events that occur in their lives
according to their capacities for confidence, hope, optimism, and resilience and for moral reasoning, which is
related to how they cultivate the qualities needed to be authentic leaders.

The four key positive psychological capacities that have an impact on authentic leadership—confidence, hope,
optimism, and resilience—have been drawn from the fields of positive psychology and positive organizational
behavior (Table 9.1; Luthans & Avolio, 2003). Positive attributes predispose or enhance a leader’s capacity to
develop the components of authentic leadership discussed in the previous section. Each of these attributes has a
trait-like and a state-like quality. They are believed to be malleable and can be enhanced with training.

Table 9.1 Related Positive Psychological Capacities


Confidence Optimism

Hope Resilience

Source: Luthans, F., & Avolio, B. J. (2003). Authentic leadership development. In K. S. Cameron, J. E. Dutton, & R. E. Quinn (Eds.), Positive
organizational scholarship (pp. 241–258). San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler.

Confidence refers to having self-efficacy—the belief that one has the ability to successfully accomplish a specified
task. Leaders who have confidence are more likely to be motivated to succeed, 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 goal planning (Luthans & Avolio, 2003). Authentic leaders with hope have goals they
know can be 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 and having favorable expectations about the
future. Leaders with optimism are positive about their capabilities and the outcomes they can achieve. They
approach life with a sense of abundance rather than scarcity (Covey, 1990). Resilience is the capacity to recover
from and adjust to adverse situations. It includes the ability to positively adapt to hardships and suffering. During
difficult times, resilient people are able to bounce back from challenging situations 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 is the 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 moral reasoning make it possible for the authentic leader to make decisions that
transcend individual differences and align individuals toward a common goal. They enable leaders to be selfless
and make judgments that serve the greater good of the group, organization, or community. Moral reasoning
capacity also enables authentic leaders to use this ability to promote justice and achieve what is right for a
community. An extended discussion of how moral reasoning develops is provided in Chapter 13.

Critical life events are major events that shape people’s lives, and therefore also shape individuals’ development as
authentic leaders (Figure 9.2). The events can be positive, like receiving an unexpected promotion, having a child,
or reading an important book; or they can be negative, like being diagnosed with cancer, getting a negative year-
end employment evaluation, or experiencing the death of a loved one. Critical life events act as catalysts for
change. Shamir and Eilam (2005) argued that authentic leadership rests heavily on the insights people attach to
their life experiences. Authentic leaders often express their genuine emotions and values through telling stories
about their pasts—particularly stories that are sensitive, negative, and even embarrassing (Lemoine, Hartnell, &
Leroy, 2019). When leaders tell their life stories, they gain greater self-knowledge, more clarity about who they
are, and a better understanding of their role. By understanding their own life experiences, leaders become more

Critical life events also stimulate growth in individuals and help them become stronger leaders (Luthans & Avolio,
2003). For example, Howard Schultz (founder and chairman emeritus of Starbucks) tells a story about when he
was little: His father, who was a delivery driver, fell and was hurt on the job but did not have health insurance or
workers’ compensation. Seeing the problems that resulted from his father’s difficulties, when Schultz built
Starbucks he provided comprehensive health insurance for employees who worked as few as 20 hours a week.
Schultz’s style of leadership was triggered by his childhood experience (“Howard Schultz,” 2008).


Authentic leadership is a unique approach to understanding leadership due to its focus on leaders’ self-concept and
their corresponding self-expression (Lemoine et al., 2019). As such, authentic leadership is consistent with the
movement of positive organizational behavior with its emphasis on an individual’s personal experiences, traits, and
development to enhance organizational performance (Yavuz, 2020).

As the theory of authentic leadership develops further, other antecedent factors that influence the process may be
identified. To date, however, it is positive psychological capacities, moral reasoning, and critical life events that
have been identified as factors that are influential in a person’s ability to become an authentic leader.



In this chapter, we have discussed authentic leadership from a practical and theoretical perspective. Both
perspectives describe authentic leadership as a process that develops in leaders over time; however, each
perspective provides a different description for how authentic leadership works.

The practical approach provides prescriptions for how to be authentic and how to develop authentic leadership. For
example, the George approach focuses on five characteristics leaders should develop to become authentic leaders.
More specifically, George (2003) advocates that leaders become more purposeful, value centered, relational, self-
disciplined, and compassionate. The essence of authentic leadership is being a leader who strongly demonstrates
these five qualities.

Rather than simple prescriptions, the theoretical approach describes what authentic leadership is and what accounts
for it. From this perspective, authentic leadership works because leaders demonstrate self-awareness, an
internalized moral perspective, balanced processing, and relational transparency. Leaders develop these attributes
through a lifelong process that is often influenced by critical life events. In addition, the literature suggests that
positive psychological capacities and moral reasoning have a significant impact on authentic leaders.

Authentic leadership is a complex process that emphasizes the development of qualities that help leaders to be
perceived as trustworthy and believable by their followers. The job of authentic leaders is to learn to develop these
qualities and apply them to the common good as they serve others.

Throughout this chapter, we have focused on the development of authentic leadership in the leader. Recent research
has focused on the effects of authentic leadership on followers, and the impact of followers on authentic leadership
development. Xu, Zhao, Li, and Lin (2017) and Semedo, Coelho, and Ribeiro (2016) not only found that authentic
leadership correlates directly to followers who thrive at work, but also found a positive relationship between
employee creativity and authentic leadership. Rego, Sousa, Marques, and Pina e Cunha (2014) found similar
results regarding creativity, and also found positive relationships between authentic leadership and employees’
hope. Stander, Beer, and Stander (2015) found that authentic leadership led significantly to optimism and trust, and
that those qualities led directly to stronger work engagement. Finally, research has shown that the four key positive
psychological attributes that have an impact on authentic leadership—confidence, hope, optimism, and resilience
—explain why authentic leaders may have followers who are more proactive. Authentic leadership is related to the
psychological state of followers and indirectly influences them to invest in their work, maintain passion for what
they do, and solve problems proactively (Hu et al., 2018).

Furthermore, Wang, Sui, Luthans, Wang, and Wu (2014) directly investigated, and positively correlated, the
impact of authentic leadership on follower performance. Azanza, Moriano, Molero, and Lévy Mangin (2015)
extended the findings of positive relationships between authentic leadership and work engagement to also include
employee satisfaction and intent to stay while Kumar (2014) studied the effects of authentic leadership on
followers’ psychological ownership of their organizations. Wei, Li, Zhang, and Liu (2018) report that authentic
leadership increases followers’ task performance and organizational citizenship behavior. This effect is enhanced
by followers’ views of the leader’s competence and their own work engagement.

Finally, Lyubovnikova, Legood, Turner, and Mamakouka (2017) found that authentic leadership was effective in
directing teams. Because authentic leaders encourage team members to reflect on team goals and strategies and
openly communicate about them, these followers often exhibit more flexibility and higher performance.



Authentic leadership has several 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 in people. Authentic
leadership helps to fill a void and provides an answer to people who are searching for good and sound leadership
in an uncertain world. When a leader is authentic, it gives followers a clear picture of who the leader is and how
the leader will act. It informs their understanding of the leader and whether or not they can depend on this person’s

Second, authentic leadership provides broad guidelines for individuals who want to become authentic leaders.
Both the practical and theoretical approaches clearly point to what leaders should do to become authentic leaders.
Social science literature emphasizes that to be authentic it is important for leaders to have self-awareness, an
internalized moral perspective, balanced processing, and relational transparency. Taken together, these approaches
provide a map for becoming an authentic leader.

Third, similar to transformational, inclusive, and servant leadership, authentic leadership has an explicit moral
dimension. Underlying both the practical and theoretical approaches is the idea that authenticity requires leaders to
do what is “right” and “good” for their followers and society. Authentic leaders understand their own values, place
followers’ needs above their own, and work with followers to align their interests to create a greater common
good. Steffens, Mols, Haslam, and Okimoto (2016) found that when a leader champions the collective good,
followers are more inspired, and the leader’s authenticity is enhanced.

Authentic leadership emphasizes that authentic values and behaviors can be developed in leaders 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 can learn to become more aware and transparent, or they can learn to be
more relational and other-directed. Leaders can also develop moral reasoning capacities. Furthermore, Luthans and
Avolio (2003) contended that leaders can learn to develop positive psychological capacities such as confidence,
hope, optimism, and resilience, and can use these to create a positive organizational climate. There are many ways
that leaders can learn to become authentic leaders over a lifetime.

Finally, authentic leadership can be measured using the Authentic Leadership Questionnaire (ALQ). The ALQ is a
validated, theory-based instrument comprising 16 items that measure four factors of authentic leadership (Avolio et
al., 2009; Walumbwa et al., 2008). Nearly a decade after its development, Avolio, Wernsing, and Gardner (2018)
reexamined the ALQ and concluded that the four-factor structure of the measure (self-awareness, internalized
moral perspective, balanced processing, and relational transparency) is supported using recently developed
statistical techniques. As research moves forward in refining authentic leadership theory, it is valuable to have an
established instrument of this construct that is based in theory and can be used to measure authentic leadership in
future research.



Despite increased research on authentic leadership, a number of questions still need to be addressed about the
theory. First, the concepts and ideas presented in George’s practical approach are not fully substantiated. While the
practical approach is interesting and offers insight on authentic leadership, it is not built on a broad empirical base,
nor has it been tested for validity. Because of its reliance on a leader’s personal experiences, the authentic
leadership approach can make it difficult to predict the course of action an authentic leader will take. Without
research support, the ideas set forth in the practical approach should be treated cautiously as explanations of the
authentic leadership process.

Second, the moral component of authentic leadership is not fully explained. Whereas authentic leadership implies
that leaders are motivated by higher-order end values such as justice and community, the way that these values
function to influence authentic leadership is not clear. Authentic leaders judge what is moral based on personal
experience and not societal norms. This raises a number of questions. 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 components of authentic leadership? In its present form, authentic leadership does not offer thorough
answers to these questions.

Third, researchers have questioned whether positive psychological capacities should be included as components of
authentic leadership. Although there is an interest in the social sciences to study positive human potential and the
best of the human condition (Cameron, Dutton, & Quinn, 2003), the rationale for including positive psychological
capacities as an inherent part of authentic leadership has not been clearly explained by researchers. In addition,
some have argued that the inclusion of positive leader capacities in authentic leadership broadens the construct of
authentic leadership too much and makes it difficult to measure (Cooper et al., 2005). In a review of the authentic
leadership theory and research, Alvesson and Einola (2019) concluded that the foundations of the theory are too
shaky for the theory to have inspired the popularity it has among scholars and that the promise offered by
consultants and inspirational talks are not well grounded in research evidence. It is fair to say that at this point in
the development of research on authentic leadership, the role of positive psychological capacities in authentic
leadership theory needs further clarification.

In addition, new research is required to determine if the millennial generation can be effectively led by authentic
leaders. This generation’s individualism, commitment to work–life balance, and subsequent preference for
extrinsic rewards have been identified by Anderson, Baur, Griffith, and Buckley (2017) as potential stumbling
points for effectively leading 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
relatively new area of research, it is not unexpected that there are few data on outcomes. 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 value of the theory. In addition, Hoch, Bommer, Dulebohn, and Wu (2018) questioned the degree to which
authentic leadership contributes to explaining differences in follower performance and work attitudes. They
conducted a meta-analysis and found that authentic leadership failed to explain significant incremental variance in
these outcomes over and above transformational leadership, leaving the authors to conclude that the authentic
leadership approach’s utility is low. 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. For example, in some
organizations, expressing what one really thinks might be risky and lead to being fired or marginalized by one’s
boss and/or coworkers (Alvesson & Einola, 2019).

Relatedly, it is also not clear in the research whether authentic leadership is sufficient to achieve organizational
goals. For example, can an authentic leader who is disorganized and lacking in technical competence be an
effective leader? Authenticity is important and valuable to good leadership, but how authenticity relates to
effective leadership is unknown. Sidani and Rowe (2018) reconceptualized authentic leadership as a process of
followers legitimizing a leader’s authenticity based on moral judgments. They provide the example of former U.S.
president Donald Trump, whose followers view him as having self-awareness and relational transparency (Mintz,
2015). These followers share Trump’s value system and believe that he is genuine, and while those with a different


value system may disagree, his influence lies in the followers who make his behavior legitimate. Clearly, future
research should be conducted to explore how follower perceptions of authentic leadership translate into the
attainment of organizational outcomes.



Because authentic leadership is still in the early phase of its development, there has been little research on
strategies that people can use to develop or enhance authentic leadership behaviors. While there are prescriptions
set forth in the practical approach, there is little evidence-based research on whether these prescriptions or how-to
strategies actually increase authentic leadership behavior.

In spite of the lack of intervention research, there are common themes from the authentic leadership literature that
may be applicable to organizational or practice settings. One theme common to all of the formulations of authentic
leadership is that people have the capacity 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 a process that can be developed over time.
This suggests that human resource departments may be able to foster authentic leadership behaviors in employees
who move into leadership positions.

Another theme that can be applied to organizations is the overriding goal of authentic leaders to try to do the
“right” thing, to be honest with themselves and others, and to work for the common good. Authentic leadership can
have a positive impact in organizations. For example, Cianci, Hannah, Roberts, and Tsakumis (2014) investigated
the impact of authentic leadership on followers’ morality. Based on the responses of 118 MBA students, they
found that authentic leaders significantly inhibited followers from making unethical choices in the face of
temptation. Authentic leadership appears to be a critical contextual factor that morally strengthens followers.
Cianci et al. suggest that the four components of authentic leadership (i.e., self-awareness, internalized moral
perspective, balanced processing, and relational transparency) should be developed in organizational leadership to
increase ethical organizational behavior.

Last, authentic leadership is shaped and reformed by critical life events that act as triggers to growth and greater
authenticity. Being sensitive to these events and using them as springboards to growth may be relevant to many
people who are interested in becoming leaders who are more authentic. Avolio and Wernsing (2008) describe the
importance of trigger events as a way to enhance self-awareness. Self-awareness means asking questions: When
am I showing my best? When am I being my true self? How can I improve? Such questions are asked as part of
training programs in authentic leadership that increase self-awareness. Reflecting on trigger events encourages
leaders to consider the meaning and implications of the event for their leadership style.



The following section provides three case studies (Cases 9.1, 9.2, and 9.3) of individuals who demonstrate
authentic leadership. The first case is about Sally Helgesen, author of The Female Advantage: Women’s Ways of
Leadership (1990). The second case is about Kassandra Gutierrez, a preschool teacher whose life story is
inextricably connected to her teaching. The final case profiles Dr. Brené Brown, a best-selling author and speaker
who has a large following around her study of difficult topics including shame, vulnerability, courage, and
empathy. At the end of each case study, questions are provided to help you analyze 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 housewife who
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, Helgesen spread her wings and moved to New York, inspired by
the classic film Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

Helgesen found work as a writer, first in advertising and then as an assistant to a columnist at the then-influential
Village Voice. She contributed freelance articles to magazines such as Harper’s, Glamour, Vogue, Fortune, and
Inside Sports. She also returned to school, completing a degree in classics at Hunter College and taking language
courses at the city graduate center in preparation for a PhD in comparative religion. She envisioned herself as a
college professor, but also enjoyed freelancing. She felt a strong dichotomy within her, part quiet scholar and part
footloose dreamer. The conflict bothered her, and she wondered how she would resolve it. Choosing to be a writer
—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, Helgesen saw an adventuresome black cat
running beside her. It reminded her of Holly Golightly’s cat in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, an emblem in the movie for
Holly’s dreamy temperament and rootlessness. It made her realize how much the freedom and independence
offered by her “temporary” career as a writer suited her temperament. Helgesen told the cat she was a writer—
she’d never been able 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, Helgesen became intrigued with the culture of Texas, and decided she wanted to write a
book on the role of independent oil producers in shaping the region. Doing so required a huge expenditure of time
and money, and for almost a year Helgesen lived out of the trunk of her car, staying with friends in remote regions
all over Texas. It was lonely and hard and exhilarating, but Helgesen was determined to see the project through.
When the book, Wildcatters (1981), was published, it achieved little recognition, but Helgesen felt an enormous
increase in confidence and commitment as a result of having finished the book. It strengthened her conviction that,
for better or worse, she was a writer.

Helgesen moved back to New York and continued to write articles and search around for another book. She also
began writing speeches for the CEO at a Fortune 500 company. She loved the work, and particularly enjoyed being
an observer of office politics, even though she did not perceive herself to be a part of them. Helgesen viewed her
role as being an “outsider looking in,” an observer of the culture. She sometimes felt like an actor in a play about
an office, but this detachment made her feel professional rather than fraudulent.

As a speechwriter, Helgesen spent a lot of time interviewing people in the companies she worked for. Doing so
made her realize that men and women often approach their work in fundamentally different ways. She also became
convinced that many of the skills and attitudes women brought to their work were increasingly appropriate for the
ways in which organizations were changing, and that women had certain advantages as a result. She also noticed
that the unique perspectives of women were seldom valued by CEOs or other organizational leaders, who could
have benefited if they had better understood and been more attentive to what women had to offer.

These observations inspired Helgesen to write another book. In 1988, she signed a contract with a major publisher
to write a book on what women had to contribute to organizations. Until then, almost everything written about
women at work focused on how they needed to change and adapt. Helgesen felt strongly that if women were
encouraged to emphasize the negative, they would miss a historic opportunity to help lead organizations in a time
of 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 Helgesen began traveling
the world delivering seminars and working with a variety of clients.

This acclaim and visibility was somewhat daunting to Helgesen. 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
an author rather than an expert, and the old questions about fraudulence that she had dealt with in her early years in


New York began to reassert themselves in a different form. Was she really being authentic? Could she take on the
mantle of leadership and all it entailed? In short, she wondered if she could be the leader that people seemed to

The path Helgesen took to answer these questions was simply to present herself for who she was. She was Sally
Helgesen, an outsider looking in, a skilled and imaginative observer of current issues. For Helgesen, the path to
leadership did not manifest itself in a step-by-step process. Helgesen’s leadership began with her own journey of
finding herself and accepting her personal authenticity. Through this self-awareness, she grew to trust her own
expertise as a writer with a keen eye for current trends in organizational life.

Helgesen continues to be an internationally recognized consultant and speaker on contemporary issues and has
published five books. She remains uncertain about whether she will finish her degree in comparative religion and
become a college professor, but always keeps in mind the career of I. F. Stone, an influential political writer in the
1950s and 1960s who went back to school and got an advanced degree in classics at the age of 75.


1. 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? Do all leaders
reach a point in their careers where embracing the leadership role is essential?


Case 9.2 Kassy’s Story

Kassandra Gutierrez is a preschool teacher at Living Stones Academy, a private faith-based (Christian) school in
Michigan serving a diverse student population in preschool through sixth grade. Forty-four percent are students of
color, while nearly 60 percent come from lower socioeconomic status households. Gutierrez recently shared her
story about being yourself with the school community:

As a child, it was a challenge for me to find a sense of community. I felt a lack of belonging growing up with my
peers because of the difference in my ethnic background, socioeconomic status, and family dynamics.

I am Mexican-American; my dad was born in Oaxaca, Mexico, one of nine children. He came to the United States
at 16 to find work to support his family after his father passed away.

My mom, who is white, was raised in Mentone, California, with a mom and step-dad, dad and step-mom, sister,
and two half-brothers; you could say I understand “complicated” when it comes to family dynamics.

Growing up as a biracial child, I felt empowered by the fact that I was able to embrace two different cultures.
Unfortunately, I felt others around me did not embrace this aspect of me. I often felt overwhelmed and torn
between my two identities.

My father’s family members would call me “gringa” and “weda” because I had a white mom who didn’t cook
mole or menudo, I didn’t speak Spanish to my parents, and there was a perception that I had money because I went
to a private Christian school.

There were many days I would walk onto that school’s campus and feel utterly alone among my peers. I was
appreciative of having the opportunity to go to a private school, but something didn’t feel right. There was a lack
of diversity and cultural awareness around me. I didn’t see myself represented in the textbooks or within the
school’s staff and student body. From kindergarten to 8th grade, I didn’t have a single teacher that was a person of
color. There were two other Mexican-Americans in my classes; but even then, I felt different from them because of
my lower socioeconomic status.

My dad started his own landscaping business and early in the morning he would pull up to school in his work truck
to drop me off. I felt embarrassed because my classmates would always tease me about his business. All they saw
was a Mexican man working a stereotypical job. But I saw a hardworking man who came to the U.S. for a better
life, learned English, and started his own business. When my mom would pick me up from school, my classmates
made comments and asked questions about her being white and me having dark skin. Sometimes we received
curious stares as to why we looked so different. It was exhausting having to explain my family dynamics so many

I was bullied quite often. I was called a lot of racial slurs on the playground and was excluded from playing games
because of my ethnic background. At home, when I would tell my mom about these experiences or ask questions,
she didn’t provide support and encouragement in embracing my two cultures or help as I tried to understand why I
felt so different from others.

Sadly, those same racial slurs I heard on the playground were being used by my mom towards my dad. My parents
had a toxic marriage and they would fight with each other daily. During these arguments, my mom would use
hateful and racially derogatory language towards my dad. That kind of hate was not easy to listen to or watch as a
child. Why my mother would express that hatred towards a part of who I am was very confusing to me. Also, my
father’s family would express their dislike about my mom being white. These conflicts between my parents and
their families, along with hearing racial slurs towards myself, led me to question my own identity and have
thoughts of how easy it would be if I were just white.

So, I grew up as the little Mexican girl who doubted herself everywhere she went. At school, she felt like an
outcast because she didn’t have white skin or light eyes like many of her teachers and classmates. At home, she
doubted herself among her family members who looked like her but had their own stereotypes for her.


Where did I belong? I felt voiceless against those who would tell me who I was or what I should be based on
stereotypes they held.

Providing Space for Others

When I look back on my experiences—as a child that was searching for belonging, it is essential for me now as an
educator to create an environment that is welcoming, safe, and a place to feel embraced. My classroom is a space
where families, children, and I can be vulnerable and transparent to build relationships. There have been children
in my class who have experienced hard challenges and trauma, whether it’s separation from their parents, conflicts
in their households, and insecurities within themselves.

Because of the challenges in my childhood, I can relate to and have conversations with my students. There have
been moments where I’ve embraced a child who was in tears because of the trauma they experienced. It reminds
me that there’s a reason for the challenges we may face and how God will use them to strengthen us and the
relationships we have with one another.

I had a student who was dealing with trauma at home. She was asked questions from other curious 5-year-olds
about why her skin was so dark. I could tell she felt insecure about the differences in her appearance from the other
children. To ensure a safe community in the classroom, I did not ignore the situation but made it a priority to
address it. Through the help of my colleagues, books about diversity, and honest conversations, I made sure to
remind her of how God created his daughter in His image. It was a time I could remind all my children the beauty
of how God created us to look, speak, and think differently, but all in his image.

Being Authentic and Promoting Authenticity

Belonging is not only essential to my class but in every classroom, preschool through 6th grade at school where I
teach. The environment our staff has created is radically inclusive. There is a deep commitment to teaching
students to embrace all cultural, economic, and racial diversities.

We welcome children will all kinds of needs, circumstances, and learning abilities. We are intentional with giving
every child, from preschool to 6th grade, a time to use their voice. Time from the academic curriculum is set aside
to provide a space for these children to share while teaching the importance of listening. We practice proactive
circles to check in on our students and talk about the praises in their lives with their peers and teachers. We also
encourage working through hardships they may have with one another through the practice of restorative circles.
Proactive and restorative circles have become a part of the daily routine to teach social skills and problem-solving
while building a positive classroom community.

Our staff is also intentional about building trustworthy relationships with their students and their colleagues. One
day, a student came to school with her hair down naturally after having her hair in braids the week before. She was
feeling insecure because her peers had noticed a difference and were asking questions. This student talked to her
teacher about her feelings towards her hair and how others were responding. Her teacher encouraged her through
her feelings but took it one step further to ensure that this student felt empowered. After talking with her student,
she asked a colleague, who is a person of color, to have a one-on-one conversation with the student because she
knew her colleague could relate.

Once the student was able to connect with the teacher, the student’s confidence increased—not only was she able
to connect with someone who looked like her, but she felt supported by not just one teacher, but two.

As a teacher here at this school, I no longer question my own belonging. I bring a feeling of belonging to work
with me every day and use it to help my students and colleagues feel the same.

—Reprinted with permission of Kassandra Gutierrez.



1. In the chapter, Bill George’s approach to authentic leadership suggests that truly authentic leaders exhibit
passion, strong values, connectedness, consistency, and compassion. In what way has Gutierrez shown these
qualities? Which characteristics are most representative of Gutierrez? Discuss.

2. The Model of Authentic Leadership (Figure 9.2) posits that critical life events shape an individual’s
development as an authentic leader. In what way do you think this has been true for Gutierrez?

3. When leaders tell their life stories, they gain greater self-knowledge and a clearer picture of who they are and
their role. Do you think telling her story has been helpful to Gutierrez and the school community? If you were
Gutierrez, would you have shared your story so openly? What are the implications for a leader when sharing
personal stories with the public? Discuss.

4. As illustrated in Figure 9.2, authentic leaders use their internal moral perspective to guide their behavior and
are motivated by higher-order values such as justice and community. Describe Gutierrez’s moral perspective
and the impact it has on her behavior as a leader. How does her moral perspective impact how she is viewed
by others?


Case 9.3 The Arena of Authenticity

Note: This case study provides insights into Dr. Brené Brown’s personal history, her strengths, and the trajectory of
her career. You might find it informative to also view her Netflix special, The Call to Courage, or her videos on, which can provide additional insight into her leadership behavior.

It is not the critic who counts. It is not the man who sits and points out how the doer of deeds could have
done things better and how he falls and stumbles. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the
arena whose face is marred with dust and sweat and blood. . . . But when he’s in the arena, at best, he
wins, and at worst, he loses, but when he fails, when he loses, he does so daring greatly.

This passage, inspired by a speech by former U.S. president Theodore Roosevelt (Dalton, 2002) is one that Dr.
Brené Brown teaches, preaches, and lives by.

The author of five number-one New York Times best-selling books who has become a world-renowned thought
leader and sought-after speaker, Brown is more likely to bill herself as simply a “research professor.” She is, in
fact, a professor at the University of Houston with a $2 million endowed chair funded by the Huffington
Foundation, but also an entrepreneur, CEO, mother, and wife who has built a very large following around the study
of such difficult topics as shame, vulnerability, courage, and empathy.

Brown is a high-energy Harry Potter fan who prefers “shit kickers” (cowboy boots) or clogs and jeans to just about
any form of business attire and doesn’t hesitate to wear these even for her most visible engagements. She would be
the first to say that authenticity and courage do not happen without vulnerability. In her words, “vulnerability is not
a weakness . . . it is our most accurate measurement of courage—to be vulnerable, to let ourselves be seen, to be
honest” (Brown, 2012).

Brown’s research data, as well as her personal life experiences, clearly support what she says. The “man in the
arena” quote, a rallying cry in many of her books, came to her at a particularly low point. She had recently
delivered a TEDxHouston talk on the subject of vulnerability. Rather than deliver a comfortable academic talk
complete with academic terminology and data, she opted instead to share a very personal story of her own
challenges with vulnerability and an emotional breakdown she experienced when faced with the truth of her own
data. That truth—that vulnerability, a topic she despised and personally avoided—and the courage to be imperfect
were necessary ingredients to living what she coined as a “whole-hearted life.” They could not be separated.

She had chosen research as her livelihood because, in her words, “the definition of research is . . . to study
phenomena for the explicit reason to control and predict.” But her research results challenged this premise. What
she found was the way to live is with vulnerability and to stop controlling and predicting (Brown, 2010).

While the talk was well received, it left Brown feeling exposed and regretting sharing such a deeply personal and
revealing story. She found some solace in convincing herself that the talk would likely only be watched by perhaps
500 or so local people. Instead, it went viral. The Power of Vulnerability has become one of the most accessed
TED Talks with nearly 50 million views (TED, n.d.).

Instantly propelled into the public spotlight, her mortification was heightened by the anonymous ugly comments
made about her on social media, which led her to seek comfort in a jar of peanut butter, binge-watching Downton
Abbey, and not leaving her house for three days (Winfrey, 2013). Curious about the time period depicted in the
show, Brown did a little research and happened upon Teddy Roosevelt’s famous words. It became a turning point
for her.

“The fear of shame, the fear of criticism, was so great in my life up until that point—I mean, just paralyzing—that
I engineered smallness in my life. I did not take chances. I did not put myself out there. I mean, I just didn’t. It
wasn’t worth it to me to step into my power and play big, because I didn’t know if I could literally, physically
withstand the criticism” (Efros, Findlay, Mussman, & Restrepo, 2019).


Interestingly, Brown wasn’t a stranger to withstanding criticism and marching to the beat of her own drum. Her
career was shaped by choices to remain true to her own path.

A fifth-generation Texan, Cassandra Brené Brown was a plucky, curious young girl who grew to be tenacious and
outspoken with a quick and infectious wit. However, she spent most of her young adult life feeling like an outsider.
This sense of not belonging followed her throughout her school years. In high school, she was not selected for the
school’s drill team (the Bearkadettes) despite her years of dance lessons, knowing the try-out routine by heart, and
weighing six pounds under the required weight. She would later learn that, though she was considered a solid
dancer, she just wasn’t thought to be “Bearkadette material,” leaving her heart broken and ashamed (Brown, 2017).

But these formative years shaped her later success. “I owed my career to not belonging. First as a child, then as a
teenager. I found my primary coping mechanism for not belonging in studying people. I was a seeker of pattern
and connection. I knew if I could recognize patterns in people’s behaviors and connect those patterns to what
people were feeling and doing, I could find my way,” she said. “I used my pattern recognition skills to anticipate
what people wanted, what they thought, or what they were doing. I learned how to say the right thing or show up
the right way. I became an expert fitter-in, a chameleon” (Brown, 2017, p. 16).

After high school, Brown had unsettled years of rebellion, hitchhiking across Europe and working as a bartender
and waitress, gaining a variety of life experiences. She returned to college and, at 29, graduated at the top of her
class with a bachelor’s degree in social work and went on to graduate school. Through her studies, Brown found a
passion for social work and qualitative research. She became interested in and trained in a methodology known as
grounded theory, which starts with a topic rather than a theory and, through the process of collecting and analyzing
data based on discussions with the study participants, reveals patterns and theories. The grounded theory model fit
Brown’s gift for storytelling and her ability to connect patterns in her subjects through the listening and
observation skills she developed as coping mechanisms in her teens.

“I fell in love with the richness and depth of qualitative research,” she said. “Storytelling is my DNA, and I
couldn’t resist the idea of research as story-catching. Stories are data with a soul and no methodology honors that
more than grounded theory” (Brown, 2019b).

Unfortunately, the grounded theory model is a departure from traditional academic research, which tends to place
higher value on the cleaner, more measurable outcomes of quantitative research. Despite being discouraged by
other academics and counseled to not use the methodology for her doctoral dissertation, Brown pushed forward.
And like the research method she espouses, Brown allowed the stories emerging from the data to shape her
explorations, and she began to study the emotion of shame.

“I didn’t sign on to study shame—one of the most (if not the most) complex and multifaceted emotions that we
experience. A topic that not only took me six years to understand, but an emotion that is so powerful that the mere
mention of the word shame triggers discomfort and avoidance in people. I innocently started with an interest in
learning more about the anatomy of connection,” she says. “Because the research participants had the courage to
share their stories, experiences, and wisdom, I forged a path that defined my career and my life” (Brown, 2019b).

Those research participants, who often asked Brown to share her findings, inspired her to once again deviate from
a traditional academic trajectory by publishing her work in more mainstream publications and journals rather than
as peer-reviewed articles in academic journals. Soon her work became available for the masses and later became
best-selling books.

Brown brings herself totally to every speaking engagement, despite efforts to temper the subject matter of her talks
or her way of delivering them. She has been asked by some not to talk about uncomfortable things like shame and
vulnerability, even though those are her areas of expertise. Religious groups have requested she not cuss, and
business groups have asked she not use the word God in her talks. She has been asked to dress differently. But
Brown says the only way she can be effective is by being completely herself, knowing that you can’t impress on
others the importance of vulnerability, and how it relates to courage, if you don’t have the courage to be
authentically yourself.

Being able to maintain this authenticity isn’t an innate skill, Brown says, but requires using “shared language,
skills, tools, and daily practices that can support us through the rumble.” She defines “the rumble” as a discussion,


conversation, or meeting defined by a commitment to such things as being vulnerable, sticking with the messiness
of problem identification and problem solving, being fearless in “owning our parts,” and “listening with the same
passion with which we want to be heard” (Brown, 2019c).

“More than anything else, when someone says, ‘Let’s rumble,’ it cues me to show up with an open heart and mind
so we can serve the work and each other, not our egos” (Brown, 2019c).

The fearlessness of owning who you are and risking vulnerability to find the courage to bring yourself
authentically into your work, your family, and your community is what Brown is all about. In living by the ideals
she espouses to millions of followers, she has unwittingly achieved the true belonging that had eluded her. She
encapsulates her philosophy with a simple observation: “True belonging doesn’t require us to change who we are.
It requires us to be who we are” (Brown, 2017, p. 40).


1. Do you find Brené Brown to be an authentic leader? Why or why not?
2. This chapter discusses three different perspectives—intrapersonal, interpersonal, and developmental—used to

define authentic leadership. Discuss how these perspectives do or do not fit Brené Brown.
3. Discuss how each of the five dimensions of authentic leadership identified by George apply to Brené Brown:

a. Purpose
b. Values
c. Relationships
d. Self-discipline
e. Heart

4. Discuss how each of the components of the theoretical approach apply to Brené Brown:
a. Self-awareness
b. Internalized moral perspective
c. Balanced processing
d. Relational transparency

5. This approach describes four key positive psychological attributes that impact authentic leadership. Discuss
each in relationship to Brené Brown.

a. Confidence
b. Hope
c. Optimism
d. Resilience

6. Critical life events are a key component in the authentic leadership model (see Figure 9.2). What do you think
are the critical events that shaped Brené Brown and who she has become?

—Barbara Russell, MBA, BSCS, BBA, Chemeketa Community College


Leadership Instrument

The Authentic Leadership Questionnaire (ALQ) was created by Walumbwa and associates (2008) to explore and
validate the assumptions of authentic leadership. 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 and found it positively related to outcomes such as organizational citizenship, organizational
commitment, and satisfaction with supervisor and performance. To obtain this instrument, contact Mind Garden
Inc., in Menlo Park, California, or visit

In this section, we provide an authentic leadership self-assessment to help you determine your own level of
authentic leadership. This questionnaire will help you understand how authentic leadership is measured and
provide you with your own scores on items that characterize authentic leadership. The questionnaire includes 16
questions that assess the four major components of authentic leadership discussed earlier in this chapter: 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 authentic leadership on these
underlying dimensions of authentic leadership. This questionnaire is intended for practical applications to help you
understand the complexities of authentic leadership. It is not designed for research purposes.

Authentic Leadership Self-Assessment Questionnaire

Purpose: The purpose of this questionnaire is to assess facets of your authentic leadership.

Instructions: This questionnaire contains items about different dimensions of authentic leadership. There
are no right or wrong responses, so please answer honestly. Use the following scale when responding to
each statement by writing the number from the scale that you feel most accurately characterizes your
response 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



1. 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 Scores

Self-Awareness: ______

Internalized Moral Perspective: ______

Balanced Processing: ______

Relational Transparency: ______


Scoring Interpretation

This self-assessment questionnaire is designed to measure your authentic leadership by assessing four
components of the process: self-awareness, internalized moral perspective, balanced processing, and
relational transparency. 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. You can interpret your
authentic leadership scores using the following guideline: high = 16–20 and low = 15 and below. Scores in
the upper range indicate stronger authentic leadership, whereas scores in the lower range indicate weaker
authentic leadership.



As a result of leadership failures in the public and private sectors, authentic leadership is emerging in response to
societal demands for genuine, trustworthy, and good leadership. Authentic leadership describes leadership that is
transparent, morally grounded, and responsive to people’s needs and values. Even though research on authentic
leadership is still in the early 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 be conceptualized intrapersonally,
interpersonally, and developmentally. The intrapersonal perspective focuses on the leader and the leader’s
knowledge, self-regulation, and self-concept. The interpersonal perspective claims that authentic leadership is a
collective process, created by leaders and followers together. The developmental perspective emphasizes major
components of authentic leadership that develop over a lifetime and are triggered by major life events.

The practical approach to authentic leadership provides basic “how to” steps to become an authentic leader.
George’s (2003) approach identifies five basic dimensions of authentic leadership and the corresponding
behavioral characteristics individuals need to develop to become 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

In addition, researchers have found that authentic leadership is influenced by a leader’s positive psychological
capacities, moral reasoning, and critical life events.

Authentic leadership has several positive features. First, it provides an answer to people who are searching for
good and sound leadership in an uncertain world. Second, authentic leadership 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 is developed
by leaders over time rather than as a fixed trait. Last, authentic leadership can be measured with a theory-based

There are also negative features to authentic leadership. First, the ideas set forth in the practical approach need to
be treated cautiously because they have not been fully substantiated by research. Second, the moral component of
authentic leadership is not fully explained. For example, it does not describe how values such as justice and
community are related to authentic leadership. Third, the rationale for including positive psychological capacities
as an inherent part of a model of authentic leadership has not been fully explicated and remains as a shaky
foundation for use of the theory by consultants and inspirational speakers. Fourth, there is evidence emerging that
authentic leadership may be ineffective with the millennial generation. Finally, there is a lack of evidence
regarding the effectiveness of authentic leadership and how it is related to positive organizational outcomes.

In summary, authentic leadership is a new and exciting area of research that holds a great deal of promise. As more
research is conducted on authentic leadership, a clearer picture will emerge about the true nature of the process and
the assumptions and principles that it encompasses.


Descriptions of Images and Figures
Back to Figure

Positive psychological capacities and moral reasoning, along with critical life events, lead to self-awareness,
internalized moral perspective, balanced processing, and relational transparency, which are the attributes of
authentic leadership.






Servant leadership is a paradox—an approach to leadership that runs counter to common sense. 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 leadership seems contradictory and challenges our traditional beliefs about leadership, it is an approach
that offers a unique perspective.

Servant leadership, which originated in the writings of Greenleaf (1970, 1972, 1977), has been of interest to
leadership scholars for more than 40 years. Until recently, little empirical research on servant leadership has
appeared in established peer-reviewed journals. Most of the academic and nonacademic writing on the topic has
been prescriptive, focusing on how servant leadership should ideally be, rather than descriptive, focusing on what
servant leadership actually is in practice (van Dierendonck, 2011). However, in the past 10 years, multiple
publications have helped to clarify servant leadership and substantiate its basic assumptions.

Similar to earlier leadership theories discussed in this book (e.g., skills approach and behavioral approach), servant
leadership is an approach focusing on leadership from the point of view of leaders and their behaviors. Servant
leadership emphasizes that leaders be attentive to the concerns of their followers, empathize with them, and
nurture them. Servant leaders put followers first, empower them, and help them develop their full personal

In addition, like the authentic leadership approach, which is discussed in Chapter 9, and ethical leadership, which
is explored in Chapter 15, servant leadership is viewed as a “moral” form of leadership. Servant leaders are ethical
and lead in ways that serve the greater good of the organization, community, and society at large. What sets servant
leadership apart from other moral leadership approaches is its focus on serving these multiple stakeholders
(Lemoine, Hartnell, & Leroy, 2019).


Servant Leadership Defined

What is servant leadership? Scholars have addressed this approach from many different perspectives 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, to serve first. Then
conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. . . . The difference manifests itself in the care taken by the
servant—first to make sure that other people’s highest priority needs are being served. The best test . . .
is: do those served grow as persons; do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more
autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? And, what is the effect on the least privileged
in society; will they benefit, or, at least, will they not be further deprived? (p. 15)

Although complex, this definition sets forth the basic ideas of servant leadership that have been highlighted by
current scholars. Servant leaders place the good of followers over their own self-interests and emphasize follower
development (Hale & Fields, 2007). They demonstrate strong moral behavior toward followers (Graham, 1991;
Walumbwa, Hartnell, & Oke, 2010), the organization, and other stakeholders (Ehrhart, 2004). Practicing servant
leadership comes more naturally for some than for others, but everyone can learn to be a servant leader (Spears,
2010). Although servant leadership is sometimes treated by others as a trait, in our discussion servant leadership is
viewed as a set of behaviors.


Historical Basis of Servant Leadership

Robert K. Greenleaf coined the term servant leadership and is the author of the seminal works on the subject.
Greenleaf’s persona and writings have significantly influenced how servant leadership has developed on the
practical and theoretical level. He founded the Center for Applied Ethics in 1964, now the Greenleaf Center for
Servant Leadership, which provides a clearinghouse and focal point for research and writing on servant leadership.

Greenleaf worked for 40 years at AT&T and, after retiring, began exploring how institutions function and how they
could better serve society. He was intrigued by issues of power and authority and how individuals in organizations
could creatively support each other. Decidedly against coercive leadership, Greenleaf advocated using
communication to build consensus in groups.

Greenleaf credits his formulation of servant leadership to Hermann Hesse’s (1956) novel The Journey to the East.
It tells the story of a group of travelers on a mythical journey who are accompanied by a servant who does menial
chores for the travelers but also sustains them with his spirits and song. The servant’s presence has an
extraordinary impact on the group. When the servant becomes lost and disappears from the group, the travelers fall
into disarray and abandon the journey. Without the servant, they are unable to carry on. It was the servant who was
ultimately leading the group, emerging as a leader through his selfless care of the travelers.

In addition to serving, Greenleaf states that a servant leader has a social responsibility to be concerned about those
who are marginalized and those less privileged. If inequalities and social injustices exist, a servant leader tries to
remove them (Graham, 1991). In becoming a servant leader, a leader uses less institutional power and control
while shifting authority to those who are being led. Servant leadership values community because it provides a
face-to-face opportunity for individuals to experience interdependence, respect, trust, and individual growth
(Greenleaf, 1970).


Ten Characteristics of a Servant Leader

In an attempt to clarify servant leadership for practitioners, Spears (2002) identified 10 characteristics in
Greenleaf’s writings that are central to the development of servant leadership. Together, these characteristics
comprise the first model or conceptualization of servant leadership.

1. Listening. Communication between leaders and followers is an interactive process that includes sending and
receiving messages (i.e., talking and listening). Servant leaders communicate by listening first. They
recognize that listening is a learned discipline that involves hearing and being receptive to what others have to
say. Through listening, servant leaders acknowledge the viewpoint of followers and validate these

2. Empathy. Empathy is “standing in the shoes” of another person and attempting to see the world from that
person’s point of view. Empathetic servant leaders demonstrate that they truly understand what followers are
thinking and feeling. When a servant leader shows empathy, it is confirming and validating for the follower. It
makes the follower 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 personal problems. Greenleaf argues that the process of
healing is a two-way street—in helping followers become whole, servant leaders themselves are healed.

4. Awareness. For Greenleaf, awareness is a quality within servant leaders that makes them acutely attuned and
receptive to their physical, social, and political environments. It includes understanding oneself and the
impact one has on others. With awareness, servant leaders are able to step aside and view themselves and
their own perspectives in the greater context of the situation.

5. Persuasion. Persuasion is clear and persistent communication that convinces others to change. As opposed to
coercion, which utilizes positional authority to force compliance, persuasion creates change through the use
of gentle nonjudgmental argument. According to Spears (2002), Greenleaf’s emphasis on persuasion over
coercion is perhaps related to his denominational affiliation with the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers).

6. Conceptualization. Conceptualization refers to an individual’s ability to be a visionary for an organization,
providing a clear sense of its goals and direction. This characteristic goes beyond day-to-day operational
thinking to focus on the “big picture.” Conceptualization also equips servant leaders to respond to complex
organizational problems in creative ways, enabling them to deal with the intricacies of the organization in
relationship to its long-term goals.

7. Foresight. Foresight encompasses a servant leader’s ability to know the future. It is an ability 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 because he believes leaders should be held accountable for any failures to
anticipate what reasonably could be foreseen and to act on that understanding.

8. Stewardship. Stewardship is about taking responsibility for the leadership role entrusted to the leader. Servant
leaders accept the responsibility to carefully manage the people and organization they have been given to
lead. In addition, they hold the organization in trust for the greater good of society.

9. Commitment to the growth of people. Greenleaf’s conceptualization of servant leadership places a premium
on treating each follower as a unique person with intrinsic value that goes beyond the individual’s tangible
contributions to the organization. Servant leaders are committed to helping each person in the organization
grow personally and professionally. Commitment can take many forms, including providing followers with
opportunities for career development, helping them develop new work skills, taking a personal interest in
their ideas, and involving them in decision making (Spears, 2002).

10. Building community. Servant leadership fosters the development of community. A community is a collection
of individuals who have shared interests and pursuits and feel a sense of unity and relatedness. Community
allows followers to identify with something greater than themselves that they value. Servant leaders build
community to provide a place where people can feel safe and connected with others, but are still allowed to
express their own individuality.

These 10 characteristics of servant leadership represent Greenleaf’s seminal work on the servant as leader. They
provide a creative lens from which to view the complexities of servant leadership.


Building a Theory About Servant Leadership

For more than three decades after Greenleaf’s original writings, servant leadership remained a set of loosely
defined characteristics and normative principles. In this form it was widely accepted as a leadership approach,
rather than a theory, that has strong heuristic and practical value. Praise for servant leadership came from a wide
range of well-known leadership writers, including Bennis (2002), Blanchard and Hodges (2003), Covey (2002),
DePree (2002), Senge (2002), and Wheatley (2002). At the same time, servant leadership was adopted as a guiding
philosophy in many well-known organizations such as The Toro Company, Herman Miller, Synovus Financial
Corporation, ServiceMaster, Men’s Wearhouse, The Container Store, Southwest Airlines, and TDIndustries
(Spears, 2002). Although novel and paradoxical, the basic ideas and prescriptions of servant leadership resonated
with many as an ideal way to run an organization.

More recently, researchers have begun to examine the conceptual underpinnings of servant leadership in an effort
to build a theory about it. This has resulted in a wide array of models that describe servant leadership that
incorporate a multitude of variables. For example, Russell and Stone (2002) developed a practical model of servant
leadership that contained 20 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 constructs that characterize the virtues and shape
the behaviors of servant leaders.

Other conceptualizations of servant leadership have emerged from researchers’ efforts to develop and validate
instruments to measure the core dimensions of the servant leadership process. Table 10.1 provides a summary of
some of these studies, illustrating clearly the extensiveness of characteristics related to servant leadership. This
table demonstrates how servant leadership is treated as a trait phenomenon (e.g., courage, humility) in some
studies while other researchers regard it as a behavioral process (e.g., serving and developing others).

Table 10.1 also exhibits the lack of agreement among researchers on what specific characteristics define servant
leadership. While some of the studies include common characteristics, such as humility or empowerment, none of
the studies conceptualize servant leadership in exactly the same way. Most recently, Coetzer, Bussin, and
Geldenhuys (2017) analyzed the existing literature and created a framework that summarizes the functions of
servant leadership to make it more practical in organizations. They highlight 8 servant leadership characteristics
(authenticity, humility, integrity, listening, compassion, accountability, courage, and altruism) and 4 competencies,
10 measures, and 3 outcomes of servant leadership. Although scholars are not in agreement regarding the primary
attributes of 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

Laub (1999) Wong & Davey

Barbuto &
Wheeler (2006)

Dennis &
Bocarnea (2005)

Sendjaya, Sarros,
& Santora (2008)

van Dierend
& Nuijten (


Laub (1999) Wong & Davey

Barbuto &
Wheeler (2006)

Dennis &
Bocarnea (2005)

Sendjaya, Sarros,
& Santora (2008)

van Dierend
& Nuijten (




















Agapao love




Authentic self












Source: Adapted from “Servant Leadership: A Review and Synthesis,” by D. van Dierendonck, 2011, Journal of Management, 37(4), pp. 1228–1261.



This chapter presents a servant leadership model based on Liden, Wayne, Zhao, and Henderson (2008) and Liden,
Panaccio, Hu, and Meuser (2014) that has three main components: antecedent conditions, servant leader
behaviors, and outcomes (Figure 10.1). The model is intended to clarify the phenomenon of servant leadership and
provide a framework for understanding its complexities.


Figure 10.1 Model of Servant Leadership

Sources: 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: A review and syntheses.
Journal of Management, 37(4), 1228–1261.


Antecedent Conditions

As shown on the left side of Figure 10.1, three antecedent, or existing, conditions have an impact 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 do represent some factors likely to influence the leadership

Context and Culture.

Servant leadership does not occur in a vacuum but occurs within a given organizational context and a particular
culture. The nature of each of these affects the way servant leadership is carried out. For example, in health care
and nonprofit settings, the norm of caring is more prevalent, while for Wall Street corporations it is more common
to have competition as an operative norm. Because the norms differ, the ways servant leadership is performed may

Dimensions of culture (see Chapter 16, “Culture and Leadership”) will also influence servant leadership. For
example, in cultures where power distance is low (e.g., Nordic Europe) and power is shared equally among people
at all levels of society, servant leadership may 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 the
way servant leadership is able to be achieved.

Leader Attributes.

As in any leadership situation, the qualities and disposition of the leader influence the servant leadership process.
Individuals bring their own traits and ideas about leading to leadership 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 specific leader traits are important to servant leadership. Emotional
intelligence, or the leader’s ability to monitor the feelings, beliefs, and internal states of the self and followers, has
been identified as an important attribute for a leader implementing a servant leader ideology (Barbuto,
Gottfredson, & Searle, 2014; Beck, 2014; Chiniara & Bentein, 2016). An empirical study by Hunter and
colleagues (2013) concluded that “leaders scoring high in agreeableness and low 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 that having humility can make servant leaders more impactful regardless of their hierarchical
position in an organization.

Follower Receptivity.

The receptivity of followers is a factor that appears to influence the impact of servant leadership on outcomes such
as personal and organizational job performance. Follower receptivity 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 servant leaders. They equate servant leadership with micromanagement, and report that they do not want their
leader to get to know them or try to help, develop, or guide them (Liden et al., 2008). Similarly, empirical studies
have shown that when servant leadership was matched with followers who desired it, this type of leadership had a
positive impact on performance 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 desire of followers for it. It appears that, for some followers,


servant leadership has a positive impact and, for others, servant leadership is not effective. A recent experiment
found that servant leadership benefits followers who have higher levels of self-interest. Followers who are inclined
to care only about themselves were more likely to improve their helping behaviors after exposure to a manager
who supports helping behaviors (Wu, Liden, Liao, & Wayne, 2020).


Servant Leader Behaviors

The middle component of Figure 10.1 identifies seven servant leader behaviors that are the core 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 from their research provide evidence for the soundness of viewing
servant leadership as a multidimensional process. Collectively, these behaviors are the central focus of servant
leadership. 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 think through multifaceted problems, to know if
something is going wrong, and to address problems creatively in accordance with the overall goals of the

For example, Kate Simpson, a senior nursing supervisor in the emergency room of a large hospital, uses
conceptualizing to lead her department. She fully understands the mission of the hospital and, at the same time,
knows how to effectively manage staff on a day-to-day basis. Her staff members say Simpson has a sixth sense
about what is best for people. She is known for her wisdom in dealing with difficult patients and helping staff
diagnose complex medical problems. Her abilities, competency, and value as a servant leader earned her the
hospital’s Caregiver of the Year Award.

Emotional Healing.

Emotional healing involves being sensitive to the personal concerns and well-being of others. It includes
recognizing others’ problems and being willing to take the time to address them. Servant leaders who exhibit
emotional healing make themselves available to others, stand by them, and provide them with support.

Emotional healing is apparent in the work of Father John, a much sought-after hospice priest on Chicago’s South
Side. Father John has a unique approach to hospice patients: He doesn’t encourage, give advice, or read Scripture.
Instead he simply listens to them. “When you face death, the only important thing in life is relationships,” he said.
“I practice the art of standing by. I think it is more important to come just to be there than to do anything else.”

Putting Followers First.

Putting others first is the sine qua non of servant leadership—the defining characteristic. It means 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. It may mean leaders break from their own tasks to assist
followers with theirs.

Dr. Autumn Klein, a widely published health education professor at a major research university, is responsible for
several ongoing large interdisciplinary public health studies. Although she is the principal investigator on these
studies, when multiauthored articles are submitted 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 their annual
performance reviews. She puts the success of her colleagues ahead of her own interests.

Helping Followers Grow and Succeed.


This behavior refers to knowing followers’ professional or personal goals and helping them to accomplish those
aspirations. Servant leaders make followers’ career development a priority, 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 school orchestra teacher who
consistently receives praise from parents for his outstanding work with students. Mr. Kim is a skilled violinist with
high musical standards, but he does not let that get in the way of helping each student, from the most highly
accomplished to the least capable. Students like Mr. Kim because he listens to them and treats them as adults. He
gives feedback without being judgmental. Many of his former students have gone on to become music majors.
They often visit Mr. Kim to let him know how important he was to them. Yon Kim is a servant leader who helps
students grow through his teaching and guidance.

Behaving Ethically.

Behaving ethically is doing the right thing in the right way. It is holding to strong ethical standards, including
being open, honest, and fair with followers. Servant leaders do not compromise their ethical principles in order to
achieve success.

An example of ethical behavior is how CEO Elizabeth Angliss responded when one of her employees brought her
a copy of a leaked document from their company’s chief competitor, outlining its plans to go after some of
Angliss’s largest customers. Although she knew the document undoubtedly had valuable information, she shredded
it instead of reading it. She then called the rival CEO and told him she had received the document and wanted him
to be aware that he might have a security issue within his company. “I didn’t know if what I received was real or
not,” she explains. “But it didn’t matter. If it was the real 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 on their own, and be self-
sufficient. It is a way for leaders to share power with followers by allowing them to have control. Empowerment
builds followers’ confidence in their own capacities to think and act on their own because they are given the
freedom to handle difficult situations in the way they feel is best.

For example, a college professor teaching a large lecture class empowers two teaching assistants assigned to him
by letting them set their own office hours, independently grade student papers, and practice teaching by giving one
of the weekly class lectures. They become confident in their teaching abilities and bring new ideas to the professor
to try in the classroom.

Creating Value for the Community.

Servant leaders create value for the community by consciously and intentionally giving back to the community.
They are involved in local activities and encourage followers to also volunteer for community service. Creating
value for the community is one way for leaders to link the purposes and goals of an organization with the broader
purposes of the community.

An example of creating value for the community can be seen in the leadership of Mercedes Urbanez, principal of
Alger High School. Alger is an alternative high school in a midsize community with three other high schools.
Urbanez’s care and concern for students at Alger is remarkable. Ten percent of Alger’s students have children, so
the school provides on-site day care. Fifteen percent of the students are on probation, and Alger is often their last
stop before dropping out and becoming further entangled with the criminal justice system. While the other schools


in town foster competition and push Advanced Placement courses, Alger focuses on removing the barriers that
keep its students from excelling and offers courses that provide what its students need, including multimedia skills,
reading remediation, and parenting.

Under Urbanez, Alger High School is a model alternative school appreciated at every level in the community.
Students, who have failed in other schools, find they have a safe place to go where they are accepted and adults try
to help them solve their problems. Law enforcement supports the school’s efforts to help these students get back
into the mainstream of society and away from crime. The other high schools in the community know that Alger
provides services they find difficult to provide. Urbanez serves those who are marginalized in the community, and
the whole community reaps the benefits.

Different 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 to understand servant leadership and how it is established in an organization. For
example, Winston and Fields (2015) developed and validated a scale that identifies 10 leader behaviors that are
essential to developing servant leadership in an organization.



Although servant leadership focuses primarily on leader behaviors, it is also important to examine the potential
outcomes of servant leadership. The outcomes of servant leadership are follower performance and growth,
organizational performance, and societal impact (see Figure 10.1). As Greenleaf highlighted in his original work
(1970), the central goal of servant leadership is to create healthy organizations that nurture individual growth,
strengthen organizational performance, and, in the end, produce a positive impact on society.

Follower Performance and Growth.

In the model of servant leadership, most of the servant leader behaviors focus directly on recognizing followers’
contributions and helping them realize their human potential. The expected outcome for followers is greater self-
actualization. That is, followers will realize their full capabilities when leaders nurture them, help them with their
personal goals, and give them control.

Another outcome of servant leadership, suggested by Meuser et al. (2011), is that it will have a favorable impact
on followers’ in-role performance—the way followers do their assigned work. When servant leaders were matched
with followers who were open to this type of leadership, the results were positive. Followers became more
effective at accomplishing their jobs and fulfilling their job descriptions. For example, Bauer, Perrot, Liden, and
Erdogan (2019) found that when servant leaders helped new employees “learn the ropes” in a new job, those
employees’ proactivity increased.

Another example is a study of servant leadership in a sales setting in Spain that found sales managers’ servant
leadership was directly related to salespeople’s performance within the organization and indirectly related to
salespeople’s identification with the organization. In addition, it enhanced the salespeople’s adaptability and
proactivity by positively affecting their self-efficacy and intrinsic motivation (Bande, Fernández-Ferrín, Varela-
Neira, & Otero-Neira, 2016; Otero-Neira et al., 2016). Hunter et al. (2013) found that servant leadership fosters a
positive service climate, induces followers to help coworkers and sell products, and reduces turnover and
disengagement behaviors. In addition, Chiniara and Bentein (2016) found that when servant leaders attended to
followers’ needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness, it had a positive impact on followers’ task
performance and organizational citizenship behavior.

Finally, another expected result of servant leadership is that followers themselves may become servant leaders.
Greenleaf’s conceptualization of servant leadership hypothesizes that when followers receive care and
empowerment from ethical leaders, they, in turn, will likely begin treating others in this way. Servant leadership
would produce a ripple effect in 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 to disengage.

Organizational Performance.

Initial research has shown that, in addition to positively affecting followers and their performance, servant
leadership has an influence on organizational performance. Several studies have found a positive relationship
between servant leadership and organizational citizenship behaviors, which are follower behaviors that go beyond
the basic requirements 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 shared confidence among team members that they could
be effective as a work group. Furthermore, their results showed that servant leadership contributed positively to
team potency by enhancing group process 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, but not 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 ways that servant leadership is related to organizational

Societal Impact.

Another outcome expected of servant leadership is that it is likely to have a positive impact on society. Although
societal impact is not commonly measured in studies of servant leadership, several examples of servant
leadership’s impact are highly visible. One example we are all familiar with is the work of Mother Teresa, whose
years of service for those who are hungry, homeless, and rejected resulted in the creation of a new religious order,
the Missionaries of Charity. This order now has more than 1 million workers in over 40 countries that operate
hospitals, schools, and hospices for people living in poverty. Mother Teresa’s servant leadership has had an
extraordinary impact on society throughout the world.

In the business world, an example of the societal impact of servant leadership can be observed at Southwest
Airlines (see Case 10.2). Leaders at Southwest instituted an “others first” organizational philosophy in the
management of the company, which starts with how it treats its employees. This philosophy is adhered to by those
employees who themselves become servant leaders in regards to the airline’s customers. Because the company
thrives, it impacts society by providing jobs in the communities it serves and, to a lesser extent, by providing the
customers who rely on it with transportation.

In his conceptualization of servant leadership, Greenleaf did not frame the process as one that was intended to
directly change society. Rather, he visualized leaders who become servants first and listen to others and help them
grow. As a result, their organizations are healthier, ultimately benefiting society. In this way, the long-term
outcomes of putting others 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: antecedent conditions, servant leader
behaviors, and outcomes. The central focus of the model is the seven 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 by context
and culture, the leader’s attributes, and the followers’ receptivity to this kind of leadership. When individuals
engage in servant leadership, it is likely to improve outcomes at the individual, organizational, and societal levels.



The servant leadership approach works differently than many of the prior theories we have discussed in this book.
For example, it is unlike the trait approach (Chapter 2), which emphasizes 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 in various situations. Instead, servant leadership focuses on the behaviors leaders should exhibit to put
followers first and to support followers’ personal development. It is concerned 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 when leaders commit themselves
to putting their followers first, being honest with them, and treating them fairly. Servant leaders make it a priority
to listen to their followers and develop strong long-term relationships with them. This allows leaders to understand
the abilities, needs, and goals of followers, which, in turn, allows these followers to achieve their full 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 and deep-seated interest in
helping others. In addition, for successful servant leadership to occur, it is important that followers are open and
receptive to servant leaders who want to empower them and help them grow.

It should be noted that in much of the writing on servant leadership there is an underlying philosophical position,
originally set forth by Greenleaf (1970), that leaders should be altruistic and humanistic. Rather than using their
power to dominate others, leaders should make every attempt to share their power and enable others to grow and
become autonomous. Leadership framed from this perspective downplays competition in the organization 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 to developing an organization that cares for the
community. Organizations that adopt a servant leadership culture are committed to helping those in need who
operate outside of the organization. Servant leadership extends to serving those who are marginalized in society
(Graham, 1991). Case 10.1 in this chapter provides a striking example of how one servant leader’s work led to
positive outcomes for many throughout the world.



In its current stage of development, research on servant leadership has made several positive contributions to the
field of leadership. First, while there are other leadership approaches such as transformational and authentic
leadership that include an ethical dimension, servant leadership is unique in the way it makes altruism the central
component of the leadership process. Servant leadership argues unabashedly that leaders should put followers first,
share control with followers, and embrace their growth. It is the only leadership approach that frames the
leadership process around the principle of caring for others.

In comparing servant leadership to transformational leadership, a meta-analysis found servant leadership was
better at predicting employee performance and attitudes, showing promise as a stand-alone theory that can help
leadership researchers and practitioners better explain employee performance and attitudes than other recent
approaches (Hoch, Bommer, Dulebohn, & Wu, 2018). Servant leadership is recognized as a viable approach that
makes a unique contribution to our understanding of the leadership process.

Third, servant leadership provides a counterintuitive and provocative approach to the use of influence, or power, in
leadership. Nearly all other theories of leadership treat influence as a positive factor in the leadership process, but
servant leadership does just the opposite. It argues that leaders should not dominate, direct, or control; rather,
leaders should share control and influence. To give up control rather than seek control is the goal of servant
leadership. Servant leadership is an influence process that does not incorporate influence in a traditional way. This
difference has resulted in servant leadership being conceptually and empirically distinct from other leadership
approaches, which are leader-centric rather than follower-centric.

Another key distinction in servant leadership research is the consideration of multiple stakeholders, including
followers, organizations, customers, communities, and societies, and the outcomes that result. Most notably,
followers are recognized as being served by the actions and decisions of leaders. Outcomes such as work–family
balance have been linked to servant leadership (Wang, Kwan, & Zhou, 2017). Also, servant leaders create more
awareness of spirituality at work (Williams, Randolph-Seng, Hayek, Haden, & Atinc, 2017). Studies have included
customer service behaviors, such as putting the customer first, and customer-helping behaviors as outcome
variables as well (Chen, Zhu, & Zhou, 2015). Stakeholders also extend beyond the organization’s followers and
customers to the broader community (Lemoine et al., 2019).

Fifth, rather than imply that servant leadership is a panacea, research on servant leadership has shown there are
conditions under which servant leadership is not a preferred kind of leadership. Findings indicate that servant
leadership may not be effective in contexts where followers are not open to being guided, supported, and
empowered. Followers’ readiness to receive servant leadership moderates the potential usefulness of leading from
this approach (Liden et al., 2008). In addition, Sousa and van Dierendonck (2017) found that servant leadership
may be more effective for those at higher ranks in the organization. When expressed by executive- and board-level
leaders, the combination of humility and action predicts engagement. However, for managers at lower ranks, a
focus on the actions relating to operations results in more engagement.

Finally, there are multiple ways to assess servant leadership. A review of servant leadership research identified 16
different measures of servant leadership (Eva, Robin, Sendjaya, van Dierendonck, & Liden, 2019). The measure
we have selected to highlight at the end of this chapter—the Servant Leadership Questionnaire (SLQ)—was
developed and validated by Liden et al. (2008). It is comprised of 28 items that identify 7 distinct dimensions of
servant leadership. Studies show that the SLQ is unique and measures aspects of leadership that are different from
those measured by the transformational and leader–member exchange theories (Liden et al., 2008; Schaubroeck,
Lam, & Peng, 2011). While the SLQ has proved to be a suitable instrument for use in research on servant
leadership, Liden and his colleagues have also validated a short 7-item measure of servant leadership (Liden et al.,



In addition to the positive features of servant leadership, this approach has several limitations. First, the
paradoxical nature of the title “servant leadership” creates semantic noise that diminishes the potential value of the
approach. Because the name appears contradictory, servant leadership is prone to be perceived as fanciful or
whimsical. In addition, being a servant leader implies following, and following is viewed as the opposite of
leading. Although servant leadership incorporates influence, the mechanism of how influence functions as a part of
servant leadership is not fully explicated in the approach.

Second, it is not clear how servant leadership leads to organizational change. For example, Newman, Schwarz,
Cooper, and Sendjaya (2017) found that servant leadership was positively related to psychological empowerment,
but it did not result in followers engaging in extra-role performance (organizational citizenship) above and beyond
that accounted for by leader–member exchange (LMX). Similar findings were found for work engagement; LMX
explained the influence of servant leadership (Bao, Li, & Zhao, 2018). Therefore, an explanatory mechanism for
the relationship between servant leadership and outcomes may be the quality of the working relationship between
leaders and followers. Followers view their servant leaders positively and respond with higher performance if they
have a good relationship with those leaders.

Third, there is debate among servant leadership scholars regarding the core dimensions of the process. As
illustrated in Table 10.1, servant leadership is hypothesized to include a multitude of abilities, traits, and behaviors.
To date, researchers have been unable to reach consensus on a common definition or theoretical framework for
servant leadership (van Dierendonck, 2011). Some conceptualizations of servant leadership included outcomes
such as organizational citizenship behavior and even antecedents such as personality traits. Some authors defined
servant leadership in terms of examples such as self-sacrifice. This resulted in definitions that were confusing to
both scholars and leaders (Eva et al., 2019). Despite 20 years of research on servant leadership, questions remain
regarding the robustness of its theoretical formulations.

Fourth, a large segment of the writing on servant leadership has a prescriptive overtone that implies that good
leaders “put others first.” While advocating an altruistic approach to leadership is commendable, it has a utopian
ring because it conflicts with individual autonomy and other principles of leadership such as directing, concern for
production, goal setting, and creating a vision (Gergen, 2006). Furthermore, along with the “value-push”
prescriptive quality, there is a moralistic nature that surrounds servant leadership. For example, some literature
characterizes servant leaders as courageous heroes who work for the common good (Gandolfi & Stone, 2018).
This premise, that leadership is about serving a higher purpose, is not always seen by researchers as one of the
central features of servant leadership.

Finally, it is unclear why “conceptualizing” is included as one of the servant leadership behaviors in the model of
servant leadership (see Figure 10.1). Is conceptualizing actually a behavior, or is it a cognitive ability? Is it a skill?
Furthermore, what is the rationale for identifying conceptualizing as a determinant of servant leadership? Being
able to conceptualize is undoubtedly an important cognitive capacity in all kinds of leadership, but why is it a
defining characteristic of servant leadership? In the revised 7-item SLQ developed by Liden et al. (2015), only one
item to measure conceptual skills was retained. The authors note that the item for conceptualization was changed
by adding the word work-related to more closely relate it to conceptual skills rather than an emotional or personal
item. But no explanation was offered for why this apparent skill is included in the servant leadership concept. A
clearer explanation for its central role in servant leadership needs to be addressed in future research.



Servant leadership can be applied at all levels of management and in all types of organizations. Within a
philosophical framework of caring for others, servant leadership sets forth a list of behaviors that individuals can
engage in if they want to be servant leaders. Most of the prescribed behaviors of servant leadership are not
esoteric; they are easily understood and 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 used extensively in a variety of organizations for more
than 30 years. Many organizations in the Fortune 500 (e.g., Starbucks, AT&T, Southwest Airlines, and Vanguard
Group) employ ideas from servant leadership. Training in servant leadership typically involves self-assessment
exercises, educational sessions, and goal setting. The content of servant leadership is straightforward and
accessible to followers at every level within the organization.

Liden et al. (2008) suggest that organizations that want to build a culture of servant leadership should be careful to
select people who are interested in and capable of building long-term relationships with followers. Furthermore,
because “behaving ethically” is positively related to job performance, organizations should focus on selecting
people who have high integrity and strong ethics. In addition, organizations should develop training programs that
spend time helping leaders develop their emotional intelligence, ethical decision making, and skills for
empowering others. Behaviors such as these will help leaders nurture followers to their full potential.

Servant leadership is taught at many colleges and universities around the world and is the focus of numerous
independent coaches, trainers, and consultants. In the United States, Gonzaga University and Regent University
are recognized as prominent leaders in this area because of the academic attention they have given to servant
leadership. Overall, the most recognized and comprehensive center for training in servant leadership is the
Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership (

In summary, servant leadership provides a philosophy and set of behaviors that individuals in the organizational
setting can learn and develop. The following section features cases illustrating how servant leadership has been
manifested in different ways.



This section provides three case studies (Cases 10.1, 10.2, and 10.3) that illustrate different facets of servant
leadership. The first case is about Dr. Paul Farmer and his efforts to stop disease in Haiti and other parts of the
world. The second case is about the leaders of Southwest Airlines who created a servant leadership culture that
permeates the company. The third case discusses the culture and leadership of Italian energy corporation Snam. At
the end of each case, several questions are provided to help analyze the case from the perspective of servant


Case 10.1 Global Health Care

“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 an
anthropologist or a doctor. So he went to Haiti. As a student, Paul had become obsessed with the island nation after
meeting many Haitians at local migrant camps. Paul was used to the grittier side of life; he had grown up in a
family of eight that lived in a converted school bus and later on a houseboat moored in a bayou. But what he
observed at the migrant camps and learned from his discussions with Haitian immigrants made his childhood seem

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 lives of the Haitian people and the deplorable conditions so many of them endured and
determined to use his time there to learn everything he could about illness and disease afflicting people living in
poverty. Before long, Paul realized that he had found his life’s purpose: He’d be a doctor to people living in
poverty, 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 he
conducted a health census in the village of Cange. During that time he conceived of a plan to fight disease in Haiti
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 administer medicines,
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 In
Health (PIH). At first it wasn’t much of an organization—no staff, a small advisory board, and three committed
volunteers. But its work was impressive: PIH began building schools and clinics in and around Cange. Soon PIH
established a training program for health outreach workers and organized a mobile unit to screen residents of area
villages for preventable diseases.

In 1990, Paul finished his medical studies and became a fellow in infectious diseases at Brigham and Women’s
Hospital in Boston. He was able to remain in Haiti for most of each year, returning to Boston to work at Brigham
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 the
disease in Haiti, the World Health Organization appointed Paul and PIH staffer Jim Yong Kim to spearhead pilot
treatment programs for multiple-drug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB). Paul’s attention was now diverted to the
slums of Peru and Russia where cases of MDR-TB were on the rise. In Peru, Paul and PIH encountered barriers in
treating MDR-TB that had nothing to do with the disease. They ran headlong into governmental resistance and had
to battle to obtain expensive medications. Paul learned to gently navigate governmental obstacles, while the Bill &
Melinda Gates Foundation stepped in with a $44.7 million grant to help fund the program.

In 2005, PIH turned its attention to another part of the world: Africa, the epicenter of the global AIDS pandemic.
Beginning its efforts in Rwanda, where few people had been tested or were receiving treatment, PIH tested 30,000
people in eight months and enrolled nearly 700 in drug therapy to treat the disease. Soon, the organization
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, Paul
observed the needs of low-income communities in Boston. The Prevention and Access to Care and Treatment
(PACT) project was created to offer drug therapy for HIV and diabetes for residents living in poverty of the
Roxbury and Dorchester neighborhoods. PIH has since sent PACT project teams across the United States to
provide support to other community health programs.


By 2020, PIH had grown to 18,000 employees working in health centers and hospitals in throughout the world,
including the Dominican Republic, Peru, Mexico, Rwanda, Lesotho, Malawi, the Navajo Nation (U.S.), and
Russia. Each year the organization increases the number of facilities and personnel that provide health care to
those most in need around the world. Paul continues to travel around the world, monitoring programs and raising
funds for PIH in addition to leading the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical


1. 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 10.2 Servant Leadership Takes Flight

A young mother traveling with a toddler on a long cross-country flight approached the flight attendant looking
rather frantic. Because of weather and an hour-and-a-half wait on the runway to take off, the plane would arrive at
its destination several hours late. The plane had made an intermediate stop in Denver to pick up passengers but not
long enough for travelers to disembark. The mother told the attendant that with the delays and the long flight, her
child had already eaten all the food she brought and if she didn’t feed him soon he was bound to have a 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 meals as
well. Anyone who has traveled in a plane with screaming children knows that this flight attendant not only took
care of some hungry children and frantic parents, but also indirectly saw to the comfort of a planeload of other

This story doesn’t surprise anyone familiar with Southwest Airlines. The airline’s mission statement is posted
every 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, beginning with how it treats employees. Colleen Barrett, the
president emeritus of Southwest Airlines, said the company’s cofounder and her mentor, Herb Kelleher, was
adamant that “a happy and motivated workforce will essentially extend that goodwill to Southwest’s customers”
([email protected], 2008). If the airline took care of its employees, the employees would take care of the
customers, 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 doing things
differently. Described as “an egalitarian spirit,” he employed a collaborative approach to management that
involved 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 of
his philosophy. A woman with little money from rural Vermont who got the opportunity of a lifetime to work for
Herb when he was still just a lawyer, she rose from his aide to become vice president of administration, then
executive vice president of customers, and then president and chief operating officer in 2001 (which she stepped
down from in 2008). She had no formal training in aviation, but that didn’t matter. Herb “always treated me as a
complete equal to him,” she said.

It was Colleen who instituted the Golden Rule as the company motto and developed a model that focuses on
employee satisfaction and issues first, followed by the needs of the passengers. The company hired employees for
their touchy-feely attitudes and trained them for skill. Southwest Airlines developed a culture that celebrated and
encouraged 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 make
money while other airlines’ profits are crashing. Colleen said 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, a number
that grows every year.


1. What type of servant leader behaviors did Herb Kelleher exhibit in starting the airline? What about Colleen

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.


Case 10.3 Energy to Inspire the World

Marco Alverà has found the secret ingredient in making a business be best. Fairness.

Marco is the CEO of Snam, an independent energy company based in Italy whose largest shareholder is a holding
company controlled by the Italian state. Historically, Italy had been dependent on its neighbors to the north to
supply the country with natural gas. Snam’s mission has been to reverse the flow of natural gas, and it has
succeeded. By “reducing bottlenecks” and “harmonizing prices in the European market,” Snam has made Italy a
natural gas hub in Europe and is now Europe’s second-largest network operator in terms of extension of pipeline,
providing gas to countries like Russia, Algeria, Libya, Norway, Holland, Austria, France, and the United Kingdom
(Elliott, 2018).

Marco came to the energy industry from big banking—Goldman Sachs, to be specific—where competition created
by big bonuses and large salaries was used to motivate people and cull the high performers from the low. He
quickly realized that this motivational tool kit was effectively useless at Snam, which offered fixed salaries and
lifelong jobs. How, then, to inspire 3,000 employees to strive for excellence and motivate them to bring their best
to work every day?

To Marco’s surprise, he found areas of unmitigated excellence in the company. Snam was beating its competition
in tough and highly competitive business sectors like trading, project management, and exploration. “Our
exploration team was finding more oil and gas than any other company in the world. It was a phenomenon,” he
said (Alverà, 2017). At first, Marco attributed this to luck, but when it continued to happen, he dug a little deeper
to figure out why. The secret? Fairness.

Marco notes that unfairness is the “root cause of polarization” and “makes people defensive and disengaged” at
work. Unfairness causes us pain. Fairness, on the other hand, brings us satisfaction. Behavioral research has shown
that people sense fairness (or unfairness) even before they begin to analyze a situation and reach logical
conclusions (Ronen, 2018).

Marco said Snam employees worked for a company where they didn’t have to worry about short-term results or
about being penalized for making mistakes. They knew they would be rewarded for their overall performance and
not on individual success. “They knew they were valued for what they were trying to do, not the outcome. They
were valued as human beings. They were part of a community. Whatever happened, the company would stand by
them . . . These guys could be true to their purpose, which was finding oil and gas. They didn’t have to worry
about company politics or greed or fear. They could be good risk-takers . . . and they were excellent team workers.
They could trust their colleagues. They didn’t need to look behind their backs” (Alverà, 2017).

For example, Marco shared the story of his friend and employee who drilled seven dry wells at the cost of $1
billion to the company. Marco was worried for him, but his friend didn’t seem to be concerned, and on the eighth
drill he successfully found gas.

Giving employees the latitude to do what they did best was key. Having freedom to do what they feel is right is a
motivator “in a way that no bonus can buy” that works at every level of the company, he said. For example, an
employee asked Marco for the budget to build a cheese factory next to Snam’s plant in a village in Ecuador.

“It didn’t make any sense: no one ever built a cheese factory. But this is what the village wanted, because the milk
they had would spoil before they could sell it, so that’s what they needed. And so we built it” (Alverà, 2017).

This kind of culture comes from what Marco calls a “company psychoanalysis,” a top-down analysis of every
aspect of the company. “We went back to something that Aristotle said: ‘A human being with a purpose is much
more motivated’ and that purpose is in the intersection of what someone is really good at doing, what his talents
are and what the world needs. So we went through a long journey, a lot of introspective work, and we really came
up with what our strengths were and what we think the world needs” (Alverà, 2017).

Marco and his team took a hard look at how decisions were made and how company resources were allocated.
They scrutinized the existing processes, systems, and rules. From those analyses they removed anything that


wasn’t clear, wasn’t rational, or limited the flow of information within the company. Company culture and how
people were motivated were given the same type of evaluation.

To allow this to happen, Marco said he had to take himself “out of the equation” and “that means being aware of
my own biases . . . to actively promote a culture of diversity of opinions and diversity of character” (UniBocconi,

Marco, who has degrees in philosophy and economics from the London School of Economics, found his
philosophy background particularly useful. “It teaches you about having different opinions of the same topic . . .
And I find that very helpful in negotiating and managing people to be able to look at different perspectives”
(Alverà, 2017).

This process resulted in the company defining its purpose as “Energy to Inspire the World.” “The purpose is on
top, the purpose said, ‘What you are for, why you exist,’” he said. “But it’s not enough just to have a purpose.
Then you need to have the mission, the vision, the strategy, the values, the competencies, so that it’s an entire
framework” (Alverà, 2017).

Marco said the definition of ideal fairness is “when you can fold down your antenna in your search for unfairness.”
He admits the last element of fairness is the hardest, because it is not something that is easily analyzed and requires
something altogether different from the norm in the business world. “It’s about what people’s emotions are, what
their needs are, what’s going on in their private lives, what society needs” (Alverà, 2017).

This requires judgment and risk, he said.

“And if we turn on our hearts, that’s the key to getting the real best out of people, because they can smell it if you
care, and only when you really care will they leave their fears behind and bring their true selves to work” (Alverà,


1. The text suggests that for servant leadership to be effective, three antecedent (or existing) conditions must
exist—context and culture, leader attributes, and follower receptivity. Discuss how each of these antecedents
plays a role at Snam.

2. The servant leadership model identifies seven leader behaviors core to the servant leadership process. How do
each of these relate to Marco Alverà and Snam? Which of these behaviors are most relevant to Marco’s
leadership success?

3. Servant leadership is unique in that it considers multiple stakeholders. Who are the stakeholders in this case?
How do Marco Alverà and Snam exhibit consideration to these stakeholders?

4. The text identifies the potential outcomes of servant leadership as follower performance and growth,
organizational performance, and societal impact. How is each of these outcomes evident in the approach
Marco Alverà and Snam take toward leadership? Provide examples from the case to support your answers.

5. According to Greenleaf, the servant leader has a social responsibility to be concerned about those who are
marginalized and those less privileged. If inequalities and social injustices exist, a servant leader tries to
remove them.

a. How would you apply this statement to Marco Alverà and his role as a servant leader?
b. Do you view Marco Alverà as a servant leader? Why or why not?

—Barbara Russell, MBA, BSCS, BBA, Chemeketa Community College


Leadership Instrument

Many questionnaires have been used to measure servant leadership (see Table 10.1). Because of its relevance to
the content, the Servant Leadership Questionnaire (SLQ) by Liden et al. (2008) was chosen for inclusion in this
chapter. It is a 28-item scale that measures 7 major dimensions of servant leadership: conceptualizing, emotional
healing, putting followers first, helping followers grow and succeed, behaving ethically, empowering, and creating
value for the community. Using exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis, Liden et al. established the multiple
dimensions of this scale and described how it is uniquely different 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 used in this section.

By completing the SLQ you will gain an understanding of how servant leadership is measured and explore where
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 Questionnaire

Purpose: The purpose of this questionnaire is to examine the servant leadership behaviors you exhibit.

Instructions: Have a friend, colleague, or classmate read each item carefully and use the following 7-point
scale to indicate the extent to which they agree or disagree with the following statements as they pertain to
your leadership. In these statements, “the leader” is referring to you in a leadership capacity.

Key: 1 = Strongly disagree 2 = Disagree 3 = Disagree somewhat 4 = Undecided 5 = Agree
somewhat 6 = Agree 7 = Strongly agree


1. Others would seek help from the leader if they had a personal problem. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

2. The leader emphasizes the importance of giving back to the community. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

3. The leader can tell if something work-related is going wrong. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

4. The leader gives others the responsibility to make important decisions
about their own jobs.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

5. The leader makes others’ career development a priority. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

6. The leader cares more about others’ success than their own. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7


7. The leader holds high ethical standards. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

8. The leader cares about others’ personal well-being. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

9. The leader is always interested in helping people in the community. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

10. The leader is able to think through complex problems. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

11. The leader encourages others to handle important work decisions on their

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

12. The leader is interested in making sure others reach their career goals. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

13. The leader puts others’ best interests above their own. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

14. The leader is always honest. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

15. The leader takes time to talk to others on a personal level. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

16. The leader is involved in community activities. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

17. The leader has a thorough understanding of the organization and its goals. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

18. The leader gives others the freedom to handle difficult situations in the way
they feel(s) is best.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

19. The leader provides others with work experiences that enable them to
develop new skills.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

20. The leader sacrifices their own interests to meet others’ needs. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

21. The leader would not compromise ethical principles in order to meet

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

22. The leader can recognize when others are feeling down without asking

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

23. The leader encourages others to volunteer in the community. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7


24. The leader 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 do not need to
consult the leader.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

26. The leader wants to know about others’ career goals. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

27. The leader does what they can to make others’ jobs easier. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

28. The leader values honesty more than profits. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

Source: Adapted from The Leadership Quarterly, 19, by R. C. Liden, S. J. Wayne, H. Zhao, and D. Henderson, “Servant Leadership:
Development of a Multidimensional Measure and Multi-Level Assessment,” pp. 161–177, Copyright (2008).



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 Interpretation

The scores you received on the SLQ indicate the degree to which you exhibit the seven behaviors
characteristic of a servant leader. You can use the results to assess areas in which you have strong servant
leadership behaviors and areas in which you may strive to improve. Based on the responses of the person
who filled out this questionnaire on your leadership, the following scores for each category can be broken
down as follows:

High range: A score between 23 and 28 means others believe you strongly exhibit this servant
leadership behavior.

Moderate range: A score between 14 and 22 means others believe you tend to exhibit this behavior in
an average way.

Low range: A score between 4 and 13 means others believe you exhibit this leadership behavior
below the average or expected degree.



Originating in the seminal work of Greenleaf (1970), servant leadership is a paradoxical approach to leadership
that challenges our traditional beliefs about leadership and influence. Servant leadership emphasizes that leaders
should be attentive to the needs of followers, 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 over the leaders’ self-
interests. They build strong relationships with others, are empathic and ethical, and lead in ways that serve the
greater good of followers, the organization, the community, and society at large.

Based on an idea from Hermann Hesse’s (1956) novel The Journey to the East, Greenleaf argued that the selfless
servant in a group has an extraordinary impact on the other members. Servant leaders attend fully to the needs of
followers, are concerned with those with less privilege, and aim to remove inequalities and social injustices.
Because servant leaders shift authority to those who are being led, they exercise less institutional power and

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 the growth of people, and building community. Additional efforts by social
science researchers to develop and validate measures of servant leadership have resulted in an extensive list of
other servant leadership attributes (Coetzer et al., 2017; Winston & Fields, 2015).

Liden et al. (2014) created a promising model of servant leadership that has three main components: antecedent
conditions, servant leader behaviors, and outcomes. Antecedent conditions that are likely to impact servant leaders
include context and culture, leader attributes, and follower receptivity. Central to the servant leader process are the
seven servant leader behaviors: conceptualizing, emotional healing, putting followers first, helping followers grow
and succeed, behaving ethically, empowering, and creating value for the community. The outcomes of servant
leadership are follower performance and growth, organizational performance, and societal impact.

Research on servant leadership has several strengths. First, it is unique because it makes altruism the main
component of the leadership process. Second, it can be used to explain employee performance. Third, servant
leadership provides a counterintuitive and provocative approach to the use of influence wherein leaders give up
control rather than seek control. Fourth, rather than a panacea, research has shown that there 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 (Servant Leadership Questionnaire) that identifies seven distinct dimensions of the

The servant leadership approach also has limitations. First, the paradoxical nature of the title “servant leadership”
creates semantic noise that diminishes the potential value of the approach. Second, no consensus exists on a
common theoretical framework for servant leadership. Third, servant leadership has a utopian ring that conflicts
with traditional approaches to leadership. Last, it is not clear why “conceptualizing” is a defining characteristic of
servant leadership.

Despite the limitations, servant leadership continues to be an engaging approach to leadership that holds much
promise. As more research is done to test the substance and assumptions of servant leadership, a better
understanding of the complexities of the process will emerge.


Descriptions of Images and Figures
Back to Figure

Antecedent conditions:

Context and culture

Leader attributes

Follower receptivity

Servant leader behaviors:


Emotional Healing

Putting Followers First

Helping Followers Grow and Succeed

Behaving Ethically


Creating Value for the Community


Follower Performance and Growth

Organization Performance

Societal Impact

Antecedent behaviors affect servant leader behaviors, which influence outcomes.






As the name of the approach implies, adaptive leadership is about how leaders encourage people to adapt—to face
and deal with problems, challenges, and changes. Adaptive leadership focuses on the adaptations required of
people in response to changing environments. Simply stated, adaptive leaders prepare and encourage people to
deal with change. Unlike the trait approach (Chapter 2) and authentic leadership (Chapter 9), which focus
predominantly on the characteristics of the leader, adaptive leadership stresses the behaviors of the leader in
relation to the work of followers in the situations in which they find themselves.

Since Heifetz first published Leadership Without Easy Answers (1994), the seminal book on adaptive leadership,
this approach has occupied a unique place in the leadership literature. Adaptive leadership has been used
effectively to explain how leaders encourage productive change across multiple levels, including self,
organizational, community, and societal. However, most of the writing about adaptive leadership has been
prescriptive and based on anecdotal and observational data rather than data derived from rigorous scientific
inquiry. Scholars and practitioners have recognized the merits of the approach, but the theoretical underpinnings of
adaptive leadership remain in the formative stages.

Development of the adaptive leadership framework emerged largely from the work of Heifetz 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 than seeing the leader as a savior who solves problems for people, they conceptualized the
leader as one who plays the role of assisting people who need to confront tough problems (e.g., sexism in the
workplace or pandemic-induced restrictions and social distancing requirements). An adaptive leader challenges
others to face difficult situations, providing them with the space or opportunity they need to learn new ways of
dealing with the inevitable changes in beliefs, attitudes, perceptions, and behaviors that 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 actually more follower centered.
It focuses primarily on how leaders help others do the work they need to do, to adapt to the challenges they face.
Generally, adaptive leadership is concerned with how people change and adjust to new circumstances. In this
chapter, we emphasize the process leaders use to encourage others to grapple with difficult problems.

In the leadership literature, Heifetz and his colleagues suggest that “adaptive leadership is the 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, this definition suggests that leadership is concerned with the behaviors
of leaders. Adaptive leaders engage in activities that mobilize, motivate, organize, orient, and focus the attention of
others (Heifetz, 1994). In addition, adaptive leadership is about helping others to explore and change their values.
The goal of adaptive leadership is to encourage people to change and to learn new behaviors so that they may
effectively meet their challenges and grow in the process. In short, adaptive leadership is the behavior of and the
actions undertaken by 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 examples of situations in which
adaptive leadership would be an ideal form of leadership.

Conceptually, the process of adaptive leadership incorporates four different biases: systems, biological, service
orientation, and psychotherapeutic (Heifetz, 1994). Taken together, these biases help explain and characterize the
nature of adaptive leadership:

Systems Bias.

The adaptive leadership approach assumes that many problems people face are actually embedded in complicated
interactive systems (see Uhl-Bien, Marion, & McKelvey, 2007). Problems are viewed as complex and
multifaceted, dynamic in that they can evolve and change, and connected to others in a web of relationships.

Biological Bias.

Adaptive leadership recognizes that people develop and evolve as a result of having to adapt to both their internal
cues/state and external environments. The ability to adapt allows people to thrive in new circumstances.

Service Orientation Bias.

Similar to physicians, adaptive leaders use their expertise or authority to serve people by diagnosing their problems
and helping them find solutions.

Psychotherapeutic Bias.

The way clients address issues in psychotherapy is similar to how people accomplish adaptive work. Adaptive
leaders understand that people need a supportive environment and adapt more successfully when they face difficult
problems directly, learn to distinguish between fantasy and reality, resolve internal conflicts, and learn new
attitudes and behaviors.

Table 11.1 Adaptive Leadership in Practice


Adaptive leaders mobilize, motivate, organize, orient, and focus the attention of others to address and resolve
changes that are central in their lives. These are some examples of cases where adaptive leadership would be

Student Organization

You are the president of Women in Business, a student organization at a large public university whose mission
is to prepare women for successful careers in business. Some members have expressed that issues affecting
transwomen should be discussed and explored; other group members are not interested in adding this to the
focus of the group. As the president, you must guide the group to reach a resolution.

Company Merger

A midsize, family-owned paper company merges with another similar paper company. The merger creates
tensions between the employees regarding job titles and duties, different wage schedules, overtime, and
vacation pay. The new owners must bring these two groups of employees together to have the company
function successfully.

Merit Pay


In an established engineering company, a small group of young, high-achieving engineers wants to change the
way merit pay is given by removing seniority and years of service as part of the criteria. Long-time employees
are resisting the change. The management must find a way to address this issue without alienating either

Health and Safety

You are mayor of a moderate-sized city that is home to a large prison where over 600 inmates have tested
positive for COVID-19. The number of new cases in the city is rising sharply. Sheltering in place and wearing
masks has been found to be the only way to curtail and control the virus’s spread, but a large majority of city
residents think the problem is the prison’s and refuse to obey your recent orders to close all businesses in the

Source: 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 and Multi-Level Assessment,” pp. 161–177, Copyright (2008), with permission from Elsevier.

In addition to the way Heifetz and his colleagues defined adaptive leadership, it has been conceptualized as an
element or subset of complexity leadership theory, a framework designed to explain leadership for organizations of
the 21st century that concentrate on knowledge or information as a core commodity, rather than the production of
goods as was prevalent in the industrial era (Uhl-Bien et al., 2007). Complexity leadership theory (which includes
administrative, adaptive, and enabling leadership) focuses on strategies and behaviors that encourage learning,
creativity, and adaptation in complex organizational systems. Within this framework, adaptive leadership is
described as a complex process that emerges to produce adaptive change in a social system. It originates in
struggles or tensions among people over conflicting needs, ideas, and preferences. It is not conceptualized as a
person or a specific act, but rather is defined as leadership that seeks to emerge from a system, 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 repeated leading–following interactions that evolve as group needs change, enabling
groups to adapt and remain viable in dynamic contexts.

Adaptive leadership is a unique kind of leadership that focuses on the dynamics of mobilizing people to address
change. In the next section, we describe the various components of adaptive leadership and discuss how each
component contributes to the overall process of adaptive leadership.



Figure 11.1 offers a visual representation of the major components of adaptive leadership and how they fit
together, including situational challenges, leader behaviors, and adaptive work. Heuristically, this model provides a
basis for clarifying the process of adaptive leadership as well as generating empirical research to validate and
refine the concepts and principles described by the model.


Situational Challenges

As illustrated on the left side of Figure 11.1, this practice of leadership requires that leaders address three kinds of
situational challenges: those that are primarily technical in nature, those that have both a technical and adaptive
dimension, and those that are primarily adaptive in nature. While addressing technical challenges is important,
adaptive leadership is concerned with helping people address adaptive challenges.

Technical Challenges

Technical challenges are problems in the workplace, community, or self that are clearly defined, with known
solutions that can be implemented through existing organizational procedures. They are problems that can be
solved by experts or by those who have what Heifetz calls a “repertoire” of skills or procedures based on current
know-how. For technical challenges, people look to the leader for a solution, and they accept the leader’s authority
to resolve the problem. For example, if employees at a tax accounting firm are frustrated about a newly adopted
tax software program, the manager at the firm can assess the software issues, identify the weaknesses and
problems with the software, contact the company that provided the software, and have the programs modified in
accordance with the accountants’ needs at the tax firm. In this example, the problem is identifiable, it has an
achievable solution, and the manager at the tax firm has the authority to address the problem through the accepted
structures and procedures of the organization. The employees accept that authority and look to the manager to
solve the technical problem.


Figure 11.1 Model of Adaptive Leadership

Technical and Adaptive Challenges

Some challenges have both a technical and adaptive dimension. In this case, the challenges are clearly defined but
do not have distinct straightforward solutions within the existing organizational system. The responsibility of
tackling this type of challenge is shared between the leader and the people. The leader may act as a resource for
others and provide support, but the people need to do the work—they need to learn to change and adapt. For
example, if an urban hospital with a traditional approach to care (i.e., providers are 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 its hierarchical authority, could provide in-service training on how to involve patients
in their own care. New rules could be designed to preserve patients’ personal routines, give them access 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 change and learn how to implement it. Making the hospital a model
of patient-centered care would require 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, or problems that are not clear-cut or easy to
identify. They cannot be solved solely by the leader’s authority or expertise, or through the normal ways of doing
things in the organization. Adaptive challenges require that leaders encourage others to define challenging
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
involves the problems and concerns a family confronts when placing a parent in hospice care. In a hospice, there is
a great 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 give support and informal feedback about the
dying process, the patient and families have to come to grips with how they want to approach the patient’s final
days. What does the impending loss mean? How can they prepare for it? How will they cope with the loss going
forward? In this context, those in the health care system act as leaders and mobilize the patient and family
members to address the many questions and concerns that surround the death of the family member. How these
hospice nurses, social workers, and staff communicate, demonstrate empathy, offer support, and so on is important
in this process of helping families to confront the complexities and concerns of the impending loss.


Leader Behaviors

As shown in the middle of Figure 11.1, six leader behaviors, or activities, play a pivotal role in the process of
adaptive leadership. Based on the work of Heifetz and his colleagues (Heifetz, 1994; Heifetz & Laurie, 1997),
these behaviors are general prescriptions for leaders when helping others confront difficult challenges and the
inevitable changes that accompany them. Although there is a general order as to which leader behavior comes first
in the adaptive leadership process, many of these behaviors overlap with each other and should be demonstrated by
leaders at the same time. Taken together, these leader behaviors suggest a kind of recipe for being an adaptive

1. Get on the Balcony.

A prerequisite for the other adaptive leader behaviors, “getting on the balcony” is a metaphor for stepping out of
the fray and finding perspective in the midst of a challenging situation. It is an allusion to a dance floor and that
one needs to be above the dancing to understand what’s going on below. Being on the balcony enables the leader to
see the big picture—what is really happening. On the balcony, the leader is momentarily away from the noise,
activity, and chaos of a situation, and able to gain a clearer view of reality. This behavior allows the leader to
identify value and power conflicts among people, ways they may 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, forming a group of unofficial advisers for alternative discussions about organizational issues, or simply
attending meetings as an observer. In this model, the adaptive leader is urged to step away from the conflict in
order to see it fully, but never to dissociate entirely from the conflict. Effective leaders are able to move back and
forth as participants and observers between the struggles of their people and the intentions of the organization or

To understand what it means to stand on the balcony, imagine yourself as the principal of an elementary school.
From the balcony, you see all the pieces that go into educating your students: federal and state requirements,
teachers and staff, budgets, teacher evaluations, parents, and discipline, not to mention the children themselves.
From above, you can see how 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.

As another example, imagine you are a chief union negotiator who, in the midst of difficult labor talks, steps away
from the table for a moment to separate yourself from the emotion and intensity of the talks and reflect on their
goals. Once you feel you again have a grasp of the issues at hand, you can dive directly back into negotiations.

In both of these examples, the leader takes time to see the big picture as an observer but also stays engaged as a
participant with the challenges people are confronting.

2. Identify the Adaptive Challenge.

In addition to getting on the balcony and observing the dynamics of the complex situations people face, leaders
must analyze and diagnose these challenges. Central to this process is differentiating between technical and
adaptive challenges. Failures in leadership often occur because leaders fail to diagnose challenges correctly. The
adaptive leadership process suggests that leaders are most effective using adaptive leadership behaviors for
adaptive challenges and technical leadership behaviors for technical challenges. Approaching challenges with the
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, product sales quotas, facility expansion, or raising
the minimum wage are all problems that leaders can use their authority to resolve. However, it is essential that
leaders also know when their 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 take an adaptive approach.
Determining if the challenge is an adaptive one requires the leader to determine 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, if challenges are adaptive, they require that people learn new ways of coping. Take the
manufacturing environment discussed earlier: If another company buys that manufacturing facility and the new
owners implement production procedures and standards that the facility’s workers are unfamiliar with, these
changes will create adaptive challenges for the workers. Identifying adaptive challenges means leaders need to
focus their attention on problems they cannot solve themselves and that demand collaboration between the leader
and followers. For adaptive challenges, leaders make themselves available to support others as they do the work
they need to do.

To more easily identify complex adaptive challenges and also distinguish them from technical challenges, there are
four archetypes or basic patterns in need of adaptive change to 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 that aren’t in reality supported by its actions. For example, a company that
promotes itself as a family-friendly place to work but does not have a flexible work policy, an extended maternity
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 each other, this archetype is in play. For example, a health and fitness center wants to grow and
expand its services but at the same time sees the best way to reduce costs is by trimming the number 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; it occurs when there are radical ideas, unpopular issues, or conflicting perspectives that people
don’t dare address because of their sensitive or controversial nature. Speaking out about these is seen as “risky.”
Consider an organization with a well-liked, established owner who is perceived by the employees as “over the hill”
and not in touch with the current business climate, but no one is willing to discuss the matter. It is easier to suffer
the consequences of dated leadership than confront and risk angering the owner.

Archetype 4: Work Avoidance. This archetype represents a situation where people avoid addressing difficult issues
by staying 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 not participating in organizational planning because of
serious concerns about institutional racism within the company. It is easier to continue to do the same things and
avoid the concerns of the disgruntled employee. Another example is an ad agency that has a graphic designer who
is not able to produce the quality of creative work needed, so, rather than address the problem directly, the agency
assigns that designer menial jobs that are essentially busywork. It then hires a second graphic designer to do the
more creative work despite the cost and the fact that the agency doesn’t have enough work to justify two designers.

These four archetypes are representative of some of the common challenges that require adaptive change.
Although they do not describe every possible type of adaptive change, they are useful as frames of reference when
trying to identify adaptive challenges in a particular organizational 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, and values the same. In fact, it is quite natural for individuals
to be more comfortable when things are predictable and their way of doing things stays the same. But adaptive
challenges create the need to change, and the process of change creates uncertainty and distress for people. Feeling
a certain level of distress during change is inevitable and even useful for most, 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 become overwhelmed by the need for the change itself. The adaptive leader needs to monitor the


stress people are experiencing and keep it within a productive range, or regulate it. The model suggests three ways
that leaders can maintain productive levels of stress.

Create a Holding Environment. This refers to establishing an atmosphere in which people can feel safe tackling
difficult problems, but not so safe that they can avoid the problem. The idea of a holding environment has its roots
in the field of psychotherapy where the counselor creates a therapeutic setting and uses effective communication
and empathy to provide a sense of safety and protection for the client (Heifetz & Linsky, 2002; Modell, 1976;
Winnicott, 1965). You can think of a holding environment in terms of children learning to swim—the instructor is
within a watchful distance, but allows the children to do the hard work of overcoming their fears and learning to
kick, breathe, and stroke in sync. A holding environment is a structural, procedural, or virtual space formed by
cohesive relationships 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 that allow groups to function with safety. As
illustrated in Figure 11.1, the holding environment represents the space where the work of adaptive leadership gets
played out. Within the holding 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 to facilitate decision
making (Heifetz, 1994, p. 113).

Creating a holding environment also allows a leader to regulate the pressures people face when confronting
adaptive challenges. Heifetz often describes it as analogous to a pressure cooker, because initially a leader turns up
the heat on the issues. This gets dialogue started and also allows some of the pressures from the issues to escape. If
too much tension concerning issues is expressed, the holding environment can become too intense and ineffective
for addressing problems. However, without the leader’s initial catalyst, little dialogue will transpire.

Similar to labor negotiations in organizations, the holding environment is the place where all parties gather to
begin talking to each other, define issues, and clarify competing interests 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 holding environment provides the place where new contractual relationships can be agreed upon
and enacted.

Provide Direction, Protection, Orientation, Conflict Management, and Productive Norms. This refers to specific
ways leaders can help people manage the uncertainty and distress that accompany adaptive work. They are
prescribed behaviors for adaptive leaders.

Providing direction involves identifying the adaptive challenges that others face and then framing these so
they can be addressed. In difficult situations, it is not uncommon for people to be unclear or confused about
their goals. Sometimes the goal is unknown, sometimes it is obscure, and at other times it is entangled with
competing goals. By providing direction, the leader helps people feel a sense of clarity, 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 for people. It includes
monitoring whether the change is too much or too fast for people. Furthermore, it requires monitoring
external pressures people are experiencing and keeping these within a range they can tolerate.

Orientation is the responsibility a leader has to orient people to new roles and responsibilities that may
accompany adaptive change. When a change requires adopting new values and acting in accordance with
those values, people may need to adopt entirely new roles within the organization. Orientation is the process
of helping 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 and presents an opportunity for people to learn and
grow. Although conflict can be uncomfortable, it is not necessarily unhealthy, nor is it necessarily bad. The
question is not “How can people avoid conflict and eliminate change?” but rather “How can people manage
conflict and produce positive change?”

Establishing productive norms is a responsibility of the adaptive leader. Norms are the rules of behavior that
are established and shared by group members but are not easily changed. When norms are constructive, they


have a positive influence on the progress of the group. However, when norms are unproductive and
debilitating, they can impede the group. A leader should pay close attention to norms and challenge those that
need to be changed and reinforce those that maximize the group’s effectiveness and ability to adapt to change.

Collectively, these five prescribed behaviors provide a general blueprint for how adaptive leaders can mitigate the
frustrations people feel during adaptive change. While not inclusive, they highlight some of the many important
ways leaders can help people during the change process.

Regulating Personal Distress. This is another way leaders can maintain a productive level of stress during
adaptive change. As we discussed previously, change and growth within an organization do not occur without
uncertainty and stress. Because stress is inherent in change, adaptive leaders need to withstand the pressures from
those who want to avoid change and keep things the same. While moderate amounts of tension are normal and
necessary during change, too much or too little tension is unproductive. Leaders need to keep people focused on
the hard work they need to do and the tension that accompanies that, 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 own ideas, opinions, and
processes are well thought out. They must be strong and steady because people look to them and depend on them
for support in situations that can be very trying and painful. Adaptive leaders need to be role models and exhibit
confidence and the emotional capacity to handle conflict. This is not a stress-free role. Adaptive leaders need to be
willing to experience the frustrations and pain that people feel during change but not to the 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 a therapist who runs a
support group for high school students with substance use disorders. In her role as a group facilitator, the therapist
faces many challenges. She has to listen to students’ stories and the challenges they face as they try to stay clean.
She also has to push people to be honest about their successes and failures regarding drug use. She cannot 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 to show nurturance and support, but not enable destructive behavior.
The pain and frustration people in treatment for addiction feel is tremendous, and the therapist has to be in touch
with this pain without losing her role as a therapist. Hearing stories of recovery and failed recovery can be
heartbreaking, while hearing success stories can be uplifting. Throughout all of this, the therapist needs to monitor
herself closely and control her own anxieties regarding recovery. Group members look to the therapist for direction
and support. They want the therapist to be strong, confident, and empathic. Regulating her own stress is essential
in order to make herself fully available to students who are recovering from substance abuse disorders.

4. Maintain Disciplined Attention.

The fourth leader behavior prescribed by the adaptive leadership process is to maintain disciplined attention. This
means that the leader needs to encourage people to focus on the tough work they need to do. This does not come
easily; people naturally do not want to confront change, particularly when it is related to changing their beliefs,
values, or behaviors. It is common for all of us to resist change and strive for a sense of balance and equilibrium in
our day-to-day experiences. People do not like things “out of sync,” so when their sense of balance is disrupted by
the need to change, it is natural for them to engage in avoidance behavior. This leader behavior is about helping
people address change and not avoid it.

Avoidance behaviors can take many forms. People can ignore the problem, blame the problem on the authority,
blame coworkers for the problem, attack those who want to address the problem, pretend the problem does not
exist, or work hard in areas unrelated to the 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. Adaptive leaders 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. If some issues create deep divisions between people, the leader
should provide a vessel of safety where competing sides can address the issues without feeling as if the
organization will explode. If there is an “elephant in the room”—an issue that no one wants to address but 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 disciplined attention to the work at hand.

An example of disciplined attention can be seen in how the director of a nursing home responds to the members of
a family who are struggling with their decision to move their 80-year-old mother into nursing care. The mother has
early signs of dementia, but has successfully lived alone since her husband died 10 years earlier. She prides herself
on being able to cook, drive, and live independently. But her forgetfulness and physical problems are worrisome to
her two adult children who are very concerned about their mother’s health and safety. The children know their
mother could benefit from nursing care, but they just cannot 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 is so much better than those people at the care facility. She won’t survive in a new environment. She just
won’t be herself if she’s not at their own home. We have the resources; we just don’t need to put her in there yet.”
The director of the nursing home frequently hears the arguments expressed by the children, and his challenge is
help them make the decision—a decision they are afraid of making and avoiding. He consistently gives a listening
ear and sets up multiple appointments for the children to visit the care facility as well as meetings for the children
to talk to staff members and other families who have parents at the facility. Throughout all of these sessions, the
director emphasizes the importance of the children communicating their concerns. He lets them know that it is
normal to not want to take a parent out of their own home, and to want to think of a parent as independent and
whole. He lets them know that everyone has trouble accepting the failing health of a parent, and as difficult as this
decision is, going into the nursing care facility 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 the adaptive
challenges the children face, and he makes a point of “standing by” and giving guidance and support. The director
helps the children stay focused on the changes they need 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 feel secure in what they are
doing; they also want to actively participate in problem solving. Too much leadership and authority can be
debilitating to an organization, decrease people’s confidence to solve problems on their own, and suppress their
creative capacities. Overly directive leadership can result in people being dependent on their leaders and inhibit
them from doing adaptive work. Even though it makes people feel comfortable and secure to have leaders tell them
what to do, leaders need to learn ways to curtail their influence and shift problem solving back to the people

Leaders need to be aware of and monitor the impact they have on others. Giving work back to the people requires
leaders to be attentive to when they should drop back and let the people do the work that they need to do. This can
be a fine line; leaders have to provide direction, but they also have to say, “This is your work—how do you think
you want to handle it?” For adaptive leaders, giving work back to the people means empowering people to decide
what to do in circumstances where they feel uncertain, expressing belief in their ability to solve their own
problems, and encouraging them to think for themselves rather than doing that thinking for them.

Summerhill, the famous boarding school on the east coast of England, provides a good example of giving the work
back to the people taking center stage. Summerhill is a self-governing, democratic school where adults and
students have equal status. Summerhill’s philosophy stresses that students have the freedom to take their own path
in life and develop their own interests so long as it does not harm others. Classes are optional for students who
have the freedom to choose what they do with their time. The schedules and rules of the school are established in
weekly group meetings at which all participants have 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
themselves make those decisions within a supportive environment. It is an unusual model of education and not
without its problems, but it clearly demonstrates recognition of the need for students, and not their teachers, to
identify and define their goals and take responsibility for meeting those goals.


6. Protect Leadership Voices From Below.

This final leader behavior means that adaptive leaders have to be careful to listen and be open to the ideas of
people who may be at the fringe, marginalized, or even deviant within the 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 the ideas of low-status individuals, who often may express themselves ineffectively, is
also challenging because it is disruptive to the “normal” way of doing things. Too often, leaders find it convenient
to ignore the dissident, nonconforming voices in an effort to maintain things as they are and keep things moving.
Adaptive leaders should try to resist the tendency to minimize or shut down minority voices for the sake of the
majority. To give voice to others requires that a leader relinquish some control, giving other individual members
more control. This is why it is a challenging process.

Protecting voices from below puts low-status individuals on equal footing with other members of the group. It
means the leader and the other people of the group give credence to the out-group members’ ideas and actions.
When out-group members have a voice, they know their interests are being recognized and that they can have an
impact on the leader and 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 fully engaged in the adaptive work
of the group, and they can feel like full members in the planning and decision making of the group.

Consider a college social work class in which students are required to do a service-learning project. For this
project, one group chose to build a wheelchair ramp for an older woman in the community. In the initial stages of
the project, morale in the group was down because one group member (Alissa) chose not to participate. Alissa said
she was not comfortable using hand tools, and she chose not to do manual labor. The other team members, who
had been doing a lot of planning for the project, wanted to proceed without her help. As a result, Alissa felt
rejected and began to criticize the purpose of the project and the personalities of the other team members. At that
point, one of the group’s leaders decided to start listening to Alissa’s concerns and learned that while Alissa could
not work with her hands, she had two other talents: She was good with music, and she made wonderful 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 group member’s and the older woman’s favorite music while they
worked on the ramp. In addition, Alissa made sandwiches and provided drinks that accommodated each of the
group members’ unique dietary interests. By the last day, Alissa felt so included by the group, and was praised for
providing great food, that she joined in the manual labor and began raking up trash around the ramp site. Although
Alissa’s talents didn’t tie in directly with constructing a ramp, she still contributed to building a successful team.
Everybody was included and useful in a community-building project that could have turned sour if the leader 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), adaptive work is the process
toward which adaptive leaders direct their work. It is the focus and intended goal of adaptive leadership. Adaptive
work develops from the communication processes 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 confront
possible changes in their roles, priorities, and values.

The model illustrates that the holding environment is the place where adaptive work is conducted. It is a real or
virtual space where people can address the adaptive challenges that confront them. Because the holding
environment plays a critical role in the adaptive process, 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 important to 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 adaptive leadership, leaders do not use their authority to control others; rather, leaders
interact with people to help them do adaptive work. Followers is used in the model simply to distinguish the
specific individuals who are doing adaptive work.

An example of adaptive work can be seen at a fitness center where a fitness instructor is running a class for a
group of individuals who have had heart problems and struggle with being overweight. The goal of the instructor is
to provide a safe place where people can challenge themselves to do mundane training exercises that will help
them to lose weight and reduce their risk for health problems. Because the people must change their lifestyles to
live more healthfully, they must engage in adaptive work with the support of the fitness instructor. Another
example where adaptive work can be observed is in a public elementary school where the principal is asking the
teachers to adopt new Common Core standards but the teachers, who have a proven record of success using their
own student-centered curriculum, are resisting. To help the teachers with the intended change, the principal sets up
a series of 10 open faculty meetings where teachers are invited to freely discuss their concerns about the new
policies. The meetings provide a holding environment where the teachers can confront their deeply held positions
regarding the usefulness and efficacy of standardized testing and what it will mean for them to have to shift to
Common Core standards. The principal’s role is to communicate in ways that support the teachers in their adaptive
work, and help shift values, beliefs, and perceptions to allow them to work effectively under the new system.



Adaptive leadership is a complex process comprising multiple dimensions, including situational challenges, leader
behaviors, and adaptive work. The overriding focus of the process is to engage individuals in doing adaptive work.
This unique emphasis on mobilizing individuals (followers) to confront adaptive challenges makes adaptive
leadership very different from other traditional leadership approaches that focus on leader traits (Chapter 2), skills
(Chapter 3), behaviors (Chapter 4), and authenticity (Chapter 9). Adaptive leadership centers on the adaptations
required of people in response to changing environments, and how leaders can support them during these changes.

As illustrated in Figure 11.2, the process of adaptive leadership works like this: First, the leader takes time to step
back from a challenging situation to understand the complexities of the situation and obtain a fuller picture of the
interpersonal dynamics occurring among the participants. Second, in any situation or context where people are
experiencing change, the leader makes an initial assessment to determine if the change creates challenges that are
technical or adaptive in nature. If the challenges are technical, the leader addresses the problems with authority and
expertise or through the rules and procedures of the organization. If the challenges are adaptive, the leader engages
in several specific leader behaviors to move the adaptive process forward.


Figure 11.2 The Adaptive Leadership Process

While the recipe for adaptive leadership comprises many leader behaviors and activities, there is no particular
order to the prescribed behaviors. Adaptive leadership incorporates many of these behaviors simultaneously, and
interdependently, with some of them being more important at the beginning of a particular process and others at
the end. Some important adaptive leader behaviors are regulating distress, creating a holding environment,
providing direction, keeping people focused on important issues, empowering people, and giving voice to those
who feel unrecognized or marginalized.

An example illustrating how the adaptive leadership process works can be seen in one university’s handling of
issues of freedom of speech on campus. Within the course of two years, the university had three separate incidents
related to freedom of speech: college football players kneeling in protest to police violence toward people of color;
an English Department lecturer harassing an undergraduate member of Turning Point USA, an organization that is
considered to be politically conservative and far right; and an undergraduate student displaying White nationalist

The university’s leaders approached these freedom of speech issues as adaptive challenges. First, they took the
time to step back from each challenging situation to understand the complexities and obtain a fuller picture of the
interpersonal dynamics occurring among the students and stakeholders involved (i.e., faculty, students, regents,
parents, and political figures).


Second, the leaders made an initial assessment to determine if the challenges were technical or adaptive in nature.
“Freedom of speech controversies are considered adaptive challenges because they tend to be unclear, require
people to consider their values and beliefs, and [require people to] face resistance” (Sunderman, Headrick, &
McCain, in press).

To confront each issue, the administration incorporated adaptive behaviors. The university’s administration
demonstrated the behavior of getting on the balcony by hosting forums with faculty and students to discuss their
thoughts and feelings regarding freedom of speech issues. The forums allowed university leaders to regulate
distress by creating a space for people on campus to process their emotions and fears.

Following the forums, the university conducted a system-wide survey regarding free speech and campus climate
with the Gallup organization to gain perspective and better understand the challenges. After identifying the root
issues, administrators decided to pursue a national search for a vice chancellor of diversity and inclusion.

These efforts to give the work back to the people allowed university leaders to empower and educate students,
staff, and faculty to lead conversations and change. As universities make decisions in hopes of promoting civil
discourse and positive campus culture, it becomes important to consider students’ perspectives, which are often
left out of conversations about free speech (Shapiro, 2018).

Complex campus issues that create disagreement and tension will undoubtedly continue to occur within colleges
and universities and their surrounding communities. Adaptive leaders can aid institutions of higher education in
doing the difficult and important work of taking perspective, empowering others on their campuses to bring
change, and protecting campus voices (Sunderman et al., in press).

Finally, another example of adaptive leadership in action is in the work of Ramalingam, Wild, and Ferrari (2020),
who describe the role of adaptive leadership in response to the coronavirus pandemic of 2019–2020. The outbreak
created a worldwide need for adaptive leadership. Leaders at the federal, state, and local levels had to respond
quickly to circumstances that changed every day. Decisions had to be made based on available data, which weren’t
always consistent, and information from many different spheres, including health care, natural resource
management, military planning, international development, and humanitarian efforts. The collective ability to
identify which interventions—or combination of interventions—might work best and why, as well as to understand
the impacts of these interventions, was a major leadership challenge.

Overall, it is safe to say that adaptive leadership works because leaders are willing to engage in 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, in contrast to many other
leadership theories, adaptive leadership takes a process approach to the study of leadership. Consistent with the
process definition of leadership discussed in Chapter 1, adaptive leadership underscores that leadership is not a
trait or characteristic of the leader, but rather a complex transactional event that occurs between leaders and
followers in different situations. The process perspective highlights that leaders and followers mutually affect each
other, making leadership an interactive activity that is not restricted to only a formally designated leader. This
approach emphasizes that the phenomenon of leadership is a complex interactive process comprising multiple
dimensions and activities. An adaptive leader addresses problems by engaging followers who are close to the
problem in a system. These followers know the system because they exist within it every day and know what may
or may not work. Follower participation is an important component of adaptive leadership as the approach
recognizes that the leader does not have all the answers. The leader’s role is one of facilitation rather than
direction, and followers put processes in place to implement solutions (Nelson & Squires, 2017).

Second, adaptive leadership stands out because it is follower centered. Adaptive leaders mobilize people to engage
in adaptive work. The adaptive approach to leadership is other directed, stressing follower involvement and
follower growth. A primary obligation of adaptive leaders is to provide interventions to enable progress and
regulate stress, and to create holding environments where others can learn, grow, and work on the changes that are
needed. This approach encapsulates leadership as those behaviors and actions leaders need 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 with conflicting values that
emerge in changing organizational environments and social contexts. Change and learning are inherent in
organizational life, and adaptive leadership focuses specifically on helping followers to confront change and
examine the emergence of new values that may accompany change. No other leadership approach holds as a
central purpose to help followers confront their personal values and adjust these as needed in order for change and
adaptation to occur.

From the perspective of Uhl-Bien and Arena (2018) and their work on complexity theory, the requirement for
adaptive leadership often emerges from the tension between an organization’s need to innovate and its need to
produce. Innovative leaders propose new ideas that challenge the status quo and strain the current operating
system. Resistance to change often occurs when followers realize that implementing these new ideas diverges from
the current mission of the organization. It is this organizational resistance that adaptive leadership can address.

Another strength of adaptive leadership is that it provides a prescriptive approach to leadership that is useful and
practical. In their writings, Heifetz and his colleagues identify many things leaders can do to facilitate adaptive
leadership. The leader behaviors in Figure 11.1 are prescriptions for what an adaptive leader should do. For
example, “get on the balcony,” “regulate distress,” and “give the work back to the people” are all prescriptive
behaviors leaders can use to mobilize followers to do the work they need to do to adapt or change. In a general
sense, even the model is prescriptive. It suggests that followers should learn to adapt and leaders should set up a
context where this is most likely to occur. In short, adaptive leadership provides a recipe for what leaders and
followers should do to facilitate adaptive change. It describes the kind of work (i.e., technical or adaptive) that
followers should address and then the behaviors leaders should employ to help them accomplish this work.

Adaptive leadership’s prescriptive nature is of value as organizations are faced with increasing levels of disruptive
change that challenge organizational structures, and they must develop an adaptive response to address these
challenges. Because adaptive leadership is not a “top-down” approach, new order emerges when networks of
people, technology, information, and resources combine to solve problems (Uhl-Bien & Arena, 2017). With its
emphasis on collaboration, adaptive leadership is especially applicable to complex organizational problems
(Nelson & Squires, 2017).

Finally, adaptive leadership makes a unique contribution to the field of leadership studies by identifying the
concept of a holding environment as an integral part of the leadership process. Few leadership theories discuss how
leaders are responsible for creating a safe environment for followers to address difficult issues. The holding


environment can be physical, virtual, or relational, but most important, it is an atmosphere where people feel safe
tackling difficult issues. It is a place where leaders get a dialogue started, but do not let it become too heated or
explosive. Although abstract, the concept of a holding environment can be easily visualized and is useful for
anyone wanting to demonstrate adaptive leadership.



In addition to its strengths, adaptive leadership has several weaknesses. First, very little empirical research has
been conducted to test the claims of adaptive leadership theory even though the conceptual framework for this
approach was set forth more than 20 years ago in Heifetz’s Leadership Without Easy Answers (1994). Originally
intended as a practical framework for theory building, adaptive leadership is based on ideas and assumptions, but
not 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, preliminary research that aims to
provide an evidentiary basis for the basic assumptions and theoretical tenets of the model has begun to emerge (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).
Regarding measurement of adaptive leadership, some preliminary work on adaptive performance has been done
that addresses solving problems creatively; dealing with uncertain or unpredictable work situations; learning new
tasks, technologies, and procedures; and handling work stress (Marques-Quinteiro, Ramos-Villagrasa, Passos, &
Curral, 2015).

Second, conceptualization of the process of adaptive leadership needs further refinement. Adaptive leadership was
designed intentionally as a practical approach to leadership and is composed of a series of prescriptions for leaders
to help people engage in adaptive work. However, the major factors in the adaptive process and the way these
factors relate to one another to facilitate adaptive work are not clearly delineated. Figure 11.1 provides a “first
attempt” at modeling the phenomenon of adaptive leadership, but much more needs to be done to clarify the
essential factors in the model, the empirical relationships among these factors, and the process through which these
factors lead to adaptive change within groups and organizations.

Third, adaptive leadership can be criticized for being too wide-ranging and abstract. For example, the approach
suggests that leaders should “identify your loyalties,” “mobilize the system,” “name the default,” “hold steady,”
“act politically,” “anchor yourself,” and many more behaviors that were not discussed in this chapter. Interpreting
these prescriptions and their relationship to being an adaptive leader can be overwhelming because of the breadth
and wide-ranging nature of these prescriptions. In addition, the recommended leader behaviors such as “give the
work back to the people” often lack specificity and conceptual clarity. Without clear conceptualizations of
recommended behaviors, it is difficult to know how to analyze these in research or implement them in practice. As
a result, leaders may infer their own conceptualizations of these prescriptions, which may vary widely from what
Heifetz and his colleagues intended.

Fourth, adaptive leadership can be uncomfortable for followers since it encourages conflict. Although the concept
of a “holding environment” is central in the theory where it is safe to voice concerns and explore solutions, it is not
clear how to keep the environment safe. Those who question the leadership may be penalized for their views. The
theory needs to address how to guard against manipulation by an autocratic leader (Nelson & Squires, 2017).

Finally, from a theoretical perspective, the adaptive leadership framework hints at but does not directly explain
how adaptive leadership incorporates a moral dimension. Adaptive leadership focuses on how people evolve and
grow through change. It implies that the evolution 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 mobilizing people to do
adaptive work but does not elaborate or explain how doing adaptive work leads to socially useful outcomes. The
model acknowledges the importance of promoting values such as equality, justice, and community, but the link
between adaptive work and achieving those social values is not clear.



How can adaptive leadership be applied to real-life situations? There are several ways. On an individual level,
adaptive leadership provides a conceptual framework made up of a unique 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 holding environment). Individuals can easily integrate these constructs into their own practice of
leadership. Furthermore, it is an approach to leadership that people can apply in a wide variety of settings,
including family, school, work, community, and society.

Figure 11.3 Adaptive Leadership Framework Developed by Heifetz and Linsky

Sources: Adapted from “Finding Your Way Through EOL Challenges in the ICU Using Adaptive 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 Care Nursing, 29, pp. 329–336; and “Adaptive Leadership and the Practice of
Medicine: A Complexity-Based Approach to Reframing the Doctor-Patient Relationship,” by M. Thygeson, L.
Morrissey, and V. Ulstad, 2010, Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice, 16, pp. 1009–1015.

On the organizational level, adaptive leadership can be used as a model to explain and address a variety of
challenges that are ever present during change and growth. Consultants have applied adaptive leadership at all
levels in many different kinds of organizations. In particular, 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 the research has been
conducted is health care. For example, one group of researchers suggests that adaptive leadership can improve the
practice of medicine (Thygeson, Morrissey, & Ulstad, 2010). They contend that health professionals who practice
from an adaptive leadership perspective would view patients as complex adaptive systems who face both technical
and adaptive challenges (Figure 11.3). 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 overarching framework to guide the
curriculum they developed for a family medicine residency program. They argue that if physicians practice the
behaviors promoted in adaptive leadership (e.g., get on the balcony, identify adaptive challenges, or regulate
distress), they can acquire the process skills that are necessary to implement and sustain true patient-centered care
and healing relationships. Furthermore, to assist patients who are suffering, they contend that physicians need
more than technical problem-solving competencies. Physicians also need adaptive skills that will enable them to
help patients process and learn to 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 help patients and family
members confront health care challenges. Using the adaptive leadership framework, Adams, Bailey, Anderson, and
Thygeson (2013) identified nurse and physician behaviors that can facilitate the transition from curative to
palliative care by helping family members do the adaptive work of letting go. Similarly, Adams, Bailey, Anderson,
and Galanos (2013) found adaptive leadership principles were useful in helping family members of patients in
hospital intensive care units come to terms with loss and change, and make decisions consistent with the patient’s

In summary, there are many applications for adaptive leadership, on both the personal and organizational level, as
well as in the research environment. While further research needs to be done to support the tenets of adaptive


leadership, it is clearly a leadership approach that can be utilized in many settings.



This section provides three case studies (Cases 11.1, 11.2, and 11.3) from very different contexts where adaptive
leadership is present to a degree. The first case describes the challenges faced by two editors of a high school
newspaper who wanted to write about lessening the stigma of mental illness. The second case is about how two co-
captains tried to change the culture of their college Ultimate Frisbee team. The third case describes how the
leadership of a financially struggling small college dealt with the possibility of having to close. At the end of each
case, questions are provided to help you explore dimensions of adaptive leadership and how it can be utilized.


Case 11.1 Silence, Stigma, and Mental Illness

Madeline Halpert and Eva Rosenfeld had three things in common: They were on the high school newspaper staff,
they both suffered from depression, and until they shared their experiences with each other, both felt the isolation
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 who experienced these
challenges and, in a concerted effort to support others and lessen the stigma of mental illness, decided to write an
in-depth feature on the topic for their student newspaper. Recent cases of school shootings had brought mental
illness 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. The
purpose of Eva and Madeline’s feature was to open the dialogue and end the stigma. They interviewed a number of
teens from schools in the surrounding area who agreed to use their real names and share their personal stories
about mental illness, including depression, eating disorders, and homelessness. The student editors even obtained
waivers from the subjects’ parents giving them permission to use the stories. However, their stories never made it
to print.

While they were putting the story together, their school’s principal called them into her office and told them about
a former college football player from the area who struggled with depression and would be willing to be
interviewed. The editors declined, not wanting to replace the deeply personal articles about their peers with one
from someone removed from the students. The principal then told them she wouldn’t support printing the stories.
She objected to the use of students’ real names, saying she feared potential personal repercussions such as bullying
or further mental health problems that publishing such an article could have for those students. District officials
stood by the principal’s decision to halt printing of the piece, saying it was the right one to protect the students
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 adults
who advocated for mental health awareness were the ones standing in the way of it,” they wrote. “By telling us
that students could not talk openly about their struggles, they reinforced the very stigma we were trying to

Instead, the two editors penned an op-ed piece, “Depressed, but Not Ashamed,” which was published in the New
York Times. The article discussed their dismay with having the articles halted by school administrators, an act 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 against
stigma. Unfortunately, we’ve learned this won’t be easy. It seems that those who are charged with advocating for
our 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 their
piece, with more than 200 comments after the initial publication. Many of those comments said the article
resonated with readers and gave them the courage to talk to someone about their struggles with mental illness 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 were
negative comments. There were positive comments. But the most important thing is that it’s so amazing to see
people discussing this and finally opening up about it.”



1. How do you define the problem the editors were trying to address? Was this a technical or an adaptive

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 Bacchus

Dominic Santana is a serious Ultimate player. He became involved in the sport—which is a bit like soccer, only
with a flying disc—in middle school and played competitively in high school. When he went to college at a small
liberal arts school in the Pacific Northwest, he was excited to find the school had an Ultimate team. His excitement
quickly turned to dismay when he found the team members were more interested in partying than playing.

Dominic remembers this about his first year on the team: “The team really had this sort of fraternity culture in that
there was light hazing, drinking was a priority, and tournaments were about parties, not competition. The team
threw a lot of parties and had this reputation for exclusivity.” Even the team’s name, Bacchus (the Roman god of
wine and drunkenness), reflected this culture.

Dominic found a like-minded soul in his teammate Harrison, and together they sought to turn the team into a
program that operated on a more competitive level. The two were chosen as co-captains and began to share their
deeper knowledge of the sport with the team. They also communicated their aspirations for success. This flew in
the face of some team members who were there for the parties. As one player put it, “Either you were down with it
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 also
knew that they couldn’t be captains, coach the team, and be players at the same time. They began taking a number
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 players
skills 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 really
need 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 dinner
they asked each player to anonymously submit in writing what he thought of the team and what he wanted to see
the team be. “There were no rules—just say what you need to say,” says a player. Each submission was read aloud
and 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 a
player. “We came out of that meeting more together, more bonded as a team. We hashed out a lot of issues, and
came to the realization that we were looking for the same goals. The process helped filter out those that weren’t as
committed 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 to
obtain a berth at the national collegiate competition. But the team had a number of inexperienced players, which
sometimes caused stress, frustration, and friction. The captains continued to have multiple meetings to talk about
concerns, discussed the team’s goals before and after each practice, and organized social events (with a minimum
of drinking) where team members engaged in activities together other than playing Ultimate. More experienced
players began mentoring the newer players to help improve their skills. Even Harrison, who was an exceptional
offensive player, put himself on the defensive line to help improve those players’ skills. While it wasn’t optimum
for 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 national
competition. After the team completed its last game at nationals, Dominic and Harrison gathered the team
members together in a circle. “We accomplished something more than being here today,” Dominic said. “We’ve
become a family with goals, and with respect for one another and for our game. And that’s a better victory than
any other.”



1. What changes were Dominic 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) give the
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 was successful?
Why or why not?


Case 11.3 Agonizing Options for Marlboro College

To close or not to close? This is the question confronting many small colleges in the United States.

A number of factors have created these dire circumstances. First, student enrollment in higher education across the
United States has declined due to a strong economy (Nadworny & Larkin, 2019). Second, states are no longer
funding higher education to help subsidize costs, so institutions are more reliant on the tuition dollars of enrolled
students. As a result, tuition at private colleges increased by more than 29% from 2008 to 2018 (Hess, 2019).
Third, the coronavirus pandemic in 2019–2020 resulted in increased online education offerings, making students
second-guess the need for a residential, small-college experience. Finally, the number of high school graduates has
plateaued, making the landscape for interested college applicants highly competitive.

These factors have resulted in sizeable drops in enrollment at many schools. Low enrollment means less revenue,
and that decline has forced colleges to make difficult decisions, like choosing to cut staff and faculty to make up
for budget deficits (Harlow, 2019) or simply making the choice to close their doors (Jaschik, 2019).

Marlboro College, a small liberal arts college in rural Vermont, recently faced the decision of whether or not it
should continue to operate as an institution of higher education. Marlboro served a specific type of student—those
who wanted to create their own academic plan, to graduate having written the equivalent of a master’s thesis, and
to have intentional interaction with faculty (ratio 7:1) (Zahneis, 2019). Was Marlboro’s philosophy academic
utopia or sadly doomed to fail? To the students who found Marlboro, it was an academic dream, but with the
myriad of factors impacting its enrollment, staying open was becoming a harder reality.

Marlboro president Kevin F. F. Quigley wanted to explore options rather than simply closing. He cared deeply
about Marlboro and did not want it to fail. To that end, he initiated a Strategic Options Task Force, comprised of
the board chair, the president, four trustees, two faculty members, and one student, to review the options for
Marlboro (Marlboro College, 2019). Among the questions the team investigated included these: Could the campus
still operate, but as a branch campus of another institution? Would there be a way to ensure current students didn’t
have a break in their academic journey? How would a campus closure impact the small town (also called
Marlboro) in which the college resides? What would happen to the history and values of the school? How would
students, faculty, and alumni handle a change that would most certainly impact the identification they had with the

As the school entered the 2019–2020 academic year, it became clear that Marlboro, at best, could only remain
open for a few more years (Audette, 2019b). In collaboration with the task force, President Quigley put out a call
to other institutions to see if they wanted to partner with the college, ultimately talking to 10 (Audette, 2019a).

The task force narrowed the options, landing on the University of Bridgeport, the only partnership that would
allow Marlboro to maintain its rural campus. Marlboro signed a letter of intent with Bridgeport, a vocationally
oriented institution that focuses on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics and enrolls 5,000 students
annually, in late July. But it was not to be. Negotiations between Marlboro and Bridgeport broke off in September
2019 (Zahneis, 2019).

Surprisingly, in November 2019, a new deal was reached. Marlboro and Emerson College in Boston announced
that there would be a partnership between the two institutions (Zahneis, 2019). The agreement would wind down
operations at Marlboro College at the end of the 2020 school year, with the opportunity for all remaining students
to transfer to Emerson College in Boston to finish their studies with their current tuition packages. Emerson agreed
to hire all Marlboro’s tenure and tenure-track faculty and accept any current Marlboro student, honoring
Marlboro’s current tuition rate if the students did not change majors. All other positions at Marlboro would cease
to exist at the end of the academic year. In this process, Emerson received a transfer of assets from Marlboro,
including a $30 million endowment and $10 million in buildings. Emerson College indicated that the Marlboro
campus would close, and that it had no interest in having a campus in Marlboro (Audette, 2019a).

Many were surprised by the announcement. President Quigley said negotiations with Emerson had been
intentionally kept under wraps. “Since the collapse of the talks with Bridgeport in the middle of September, my
community has really been on pins and needles, waiting for the shoe to drop,” he said. “We changed how we


talked about it on campus and who was involved in the process, so we had a tighter circle of people involved.
There were really no updates to the community” (Zahneis, 2019).

The move created a mix of feelings among Marlboro’s students and alumni. A previous Marlboro faculty member
felt the situation was mishandled, saying, “All of this has taken place through secret negotiations. Nobody knew
what was happening” (Zahneis, 2019). This sentiment was also expressed by the residents of the town of
Marlboro, many of whom were employed by the college.

As soon as word became more public, one alumnus attempted to buy the institution with plans to have it run by
alumni sharing (Zahneis, 2019). Through Facebook, a large following of alumni pledged to quit their jobs, take
pay cuts, and help to rebuild their alma mater. They felt as though campus leadership did not think about all the
alternatives to the campus closure. But, the agreement with Emerson was binding, and the university needed to
move forward with the plan.

Many faculty and alumni were disheartened by the course of action, and to help ease fears, Marlboro students and
faculty made a number of visits to Emerson (Marlboro College Board of Trustees, 2019) to ensure that the
Emerson experience would fit with the Marlboro philosophy. Current students have expressed a sense of unity over
the situation. One shared, “I’m pretty optimistic about the merger. We recognize that it’s the best of a bad
situation” (Zahneis, 2019).

At the same time, however, there was considerable concern by residents as to what would happen to the college’s
campus located in a prominent part of the town. To address that, Marlboro College established the Marlboro
Campus Working Group, comprised of Marlboro alumni, trustees, staff, faculty, students, and a representative from
the town of Marlboro, to seek proposals “for endeavors that would benefit the community and make productive
use of the Marlboro campus” (Audette, 2020).


1. What were the competing commitments Marlboro’s president was trying to navigate?
2. Would you describe the work of Marlboro’s president as adaptive leadership? Why or why not?
3. Which of the following leader behaviors did the president utilize: (1) get on the balcony, (2) identify adaptive

challenges, (3) regulate distress, (4) maintain disciplined attention, (5) give the work back to the people, (6)
protect leadership voices from below? Provide an example of each.

4. Do you think there is a different course of action the college should take to resolve this challenge? Why or
why not?

5. If you were the president of Marlboro College, how could you have created a holding environment for the
students, faculty, and townspeople of Marlboro?

6. Adaptive leadership is about helping followers address value struggles. Who in the case is struggling, and
what is their struggle?

—Jenny Steiner, PhD, University of Minnesota


Leadership Instrument

To assist you in understanding the process of adaptive leadership and what your own style might be, the Adaptive
Leadership Questionnaire is included in this section. This questionnaire provides 360-degree, or multirater,
feedback about your leadership. The Adaptive Leadership Questionnaire comprises 30 items that assess the six
dimensions of adaptive leadership discussed earlier in this chapter: get on the balcony, identify the adaptive
challenge, regulate distress, maintain disciplined attention, give the work back to the people, and protect
leadership voices from below. The results you obtain on this questionnaire will provide you information on how
others view you and how you view yourself on these six dimensions of adaptive leadership.

Adaptive leadership is a complex process, and taking this questionnaire will help you understand the theory of
adaptive leadership as well as your own style of adaptive leadership.

Adaptive Leadership Questionnaire

Purpose: The purpose of this questionnaire is to identify your adaptive leadership strengths and

Instructions: This questionnaire contains items that assess different dimensions of adaptive leadership and
will be completed by someone who knows you (coworkers, friends, members of a group you belong to).

1. Have 1 individual fill out the assessment regarding your leadership
2. Have the individual indicate the degree to which they agree with each of the 30 statements below

regarding your leadership by selecting the number from the scale that they believe most accurately
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 at stepping back
and assessing the dynamics of the people involved.

1 2 3 4 5

2. When events trigger strong emotional responses among employees, this leader
uses their authority as a leader to resolve the problem.

1 2 3 4 5

3. When people feel uncertain about organizational change, they trust that 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 they are
trying to avoid.

1 2 3 4 5

5. When employees are struggling with a decision, this leader tells them what they 1 2 3 4 5


think they should do.

6. During times of difficult change, this leader welcomes the thoughts of group
members with low status.

1 2 3 4 5

7. In difficult situations, this leader sometimes loses sight of the “big picture.” 1 2 3 4 5

8. When people are struggling with value questions, this leader reminds them to
follow the organization’s policies.

1 2 3 4 5

9. When people begin to be disturbed by unresolved conflicts, this leader
encourages them to address the issues.

1 2 3 4 5

10. During organizational change, this leader challenges people to concentrate on the
“hot” topics.

1 2 3 4 5

11. When employees look to this leader for answers, they encourage them to think for

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, they have difficulty listening to what
the person is really saying.

1 2 3 4 5

14. When others are struggling with intense conflicts, this leader steps in to resolve
the differences.

1 2 3 4 5

15. This leader has the emotional capacity to comfort others as they work through
intense issues.

1 2 3 4 5

16. When people try to avoid controversial organizational issues, this leader brings
these conflicts into the open.

1 2 3 4 5

17. This leader encourages their employees to take initiative in defining and solving

1 2 3 4 5

18. This leader is open to people who bring up unusual ideas that seem to hinder the
progress of the group.

1 2 3 4 5

19. In challenging situations, this leader likes to observe the parties involved 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 challenging problems. 1 2 3 4 5

22. This leader thinks it is reasonable to let people avoid confronting difficult issues. 1 2 3 4 5

23. When people look to this leader to solve problems, they enjoy providing

1 2 3 4 5

24. This leader has an open ear for people who don’t seem to fit in with the rest of the

1 2 3 4 5

25. In a difficult situation, this leader will step out of the dispute to gain perspective
on it.

1 2 3 4 5

26. This leader thrives on helping people find new ways of coping with
organizational 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 avoid issues
that are troublesome.

1 2 3 4 5

29. When people are uncertain about what to do, this leader empowers them to decide
for themselves.

1 2 3 4 5

30. To restore equilibrium in the organization, this leader tries to neutralize comments
of out-group members.

1 2 3 4 5



Get on the Balcony—This score represents the degree to which you are able to step back and see the
complexities 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, 4 to
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 adaptive
challenges and do not respond to these challenges with technical leadership.

To arrive at this score:

Sum items 20 and 26 and the reversed (R) score values for 2, 8, and 14 (i.e., change 1 to 5, 2 to 4, 4 to
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 which
others 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 face
challenging 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 for
themselves 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 and
accepting 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 to 2,
and 5 to 1, with 3 remaining unchanged).

____ 6 ____ 12 ____ 18 ____ 24 ____ 30(R) ____ Total (Protect Leadership Voices From Below)


Scoring Interpretation

High range: A score between 21 and 25 means others find you are strongly inclined to exhibit this
adaptive leadership behavior.

Moderately high range: A score between 16 and 20 means others find you moderately exhibit this
adaptive leadership behavior.

Moderate low range: A score between 11 and 15 means others find you at times exhibit this adaptive
leadership behavior.

Low range: A score between 5 and 10 means others find you are seldom inclined to exhibit this
adaptive leadership 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 the people, and protect leadership voices from below. By completing the questionnaire yourself
and comparing your scores on each of these components, you can determine which are your stronger and
which are your weaker components in each category. There are no “perfect” scores for this questionnaire.
While it is confirming when others see you in the same way as you see yourself, it is also beneficial to
know when they see you differently. This assessment can help you understand those dimensions of your
adaptive leadership that are strong and dimensions of your adaptive leadership you may seek to improve.



Adaptive leadership is about helping people change and adjust to new situations. Originally formulated by Heifetz
(1994), adaptive leadership conceptualizes the leader not as one who solves problems for people, but rather as one
who encourages others to do the problem solving. Adaptive leadership occupies a unique place in the leadership
literature. While the merits of the approach are well recognized, the theoretical conceptualizations of adaptive
leadership remain in the formative stages.

While the name of this approach, adaptive leadership, makes one think it is concerned with how leaders adapt, it is
actually more about the adaptations of followers. Adaptive leadership is defined as “the practice of mobilizing
people to tackle tough challenges and thrive” (Heifetz et al., 2009, p. 14). Consistent with complexity theory,
adaptive leadership is about leader behaviors that encourage learning, creativity, and adaptation by followers in
complex situations.

This chapter offers a model of the major components of adaptive leadership and how they fit together, including
situational challenges, leader behaviors, and adaptive work (Figure 11.1). Leaders confront three kinds of
situational challenges (technical, technical and adaptive, and adaptive); adaptive leadership is concerned with
helping people address adaptive challenges. The six leader behaviors that play a major role in the process are (1)
get on the balcony, (2) identify adaptive challenges, (3) regulate distress, (4) maintain disciplined attention, (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 the focus and goal of adaptive leadership. Central to adaptive
work is awareness of the need for creating a holding environment, and skill in creating holding environments when
needed. A holding environment is a space created and maintained by adaptive leaders where people can feel secure
as they confront and resolve difficult life challenges.

Adaptive leadership has several strengths. First, adaptive leadership takes a unique approach that emphasizes that
leadership is a complex interactive process comprising multiple dimensions and activities. Second, unlike most
other leadership theories, adaptive leadership clearly describes leadership as actions the leaders undertake to afford
followers the best opportunity to do adaptive work. Third, adaptive leadership is unique in describing how leaders
can help people confront and adjust their values in order to adapt and thrive. Fourth, adaptive leadership provides a
useful and practical set of prescriptions for leaders and followers to facilitate adaptive change. Last, adaptive
leadership highlights the important role a holding environment plays in the leadership process.

The adaptive leadership process also has certain weaknesses. Foremost, there is very little empirical research to
support the claims and tenets of adaptive leadership. Second, the conceptualizations of the process of adaptive
leadership need further refinement. The major factors and how they fit together are not clearly delineated. Third,
interpreting the prescriptions of adaptive leadership can become overwhelming because of the breadth and wide-
ranging nature of these prescriptions. In addition, the abstract nature of the recommended leadership behaviors
makes these behaviors difficult to analyze in research or implement in practice. Fourth, adaptive leadership does
not explain how leaders can guarantee safe holding environments for followers who have to deal with the conflict
inherent in the adaptive process. Finally, on a theoretical level, adaptive leadership acknowledges the moral
dimension of leadership and the importance of change for the common good, but does not show how doing
adaptive work leads to such socially useful outcomes.

Overall, adaptive leadership offers a unique prescriptive approach to leadership that is applicable in many
situations. Going forward, more research is needed to clarify the conceptualizations of adaptive leadership and
validate the assumptions and propositions regarding how it works.


Descriptions of Images and Figures
Back to Figure

Situational challenges:

Technical challenges

Technical and adaptive challenges

Adaptive challenges

Technical and adaptive challenges and adaptive challenges are highlighted.

Leader behaviors:

Get on the Balcony.

Identify the Adaptive Challenge.

Regulate Distress.

Maintain Disciplined Attention.

Give the Work Back to the People.

Protect Leadership Voices From Below.

Adaptive Work:

Holding environment

Leader-follower interaction

Situational challenges affect leader behaviors, which influence adaptive work.

Back to Figure

The six steps in the adaptive leadership process for a challenging situation or context are as follows:

Leader steps back from challenging situation to understand complexities.

Leader assesses if challenge is technical or adaptive in nature.

If technical, the leader addresses the challenge with authority.

If adaptive, the leader engages in specific behaviors to move the process forward.

Leader uses adaptive behaviors to help followers address the challenge.

Followers engage in a safe environment to work on changing behaviors and managing solutions to the



Donna Chrobot-Mason
Quinetta Roberson



Although the term inclusive leadership is relatively new, scholars have been advising leaders for quite some time
to be prepared to address the challenges of a more diverse workforce (Roberson, Ryan, & Ragins, 2017). A now
famous report from 1987 titled Workforce 2000 predicted that for organizations to remain competitive in the future,
they must find ways to integrate and support women and people of color in the workplace (Johnston & Packer,
1987). Cox and Blake (1991) further reinforced the value of diversity in organizations, arguing that diversity can
create a competitive advantage if managed effectively such that all employees are contributing to the best of their
abilities and at their highest potential.

In the years following the Workforce 2000 report, numerous scholarly and practitioner publications touted the need
for effective diversity management (see Dass & Parker, 1999; Ivancevich & Gilbert, 2000; Kalev, Kelly, &
Dobbin, 2006; Yang & Konrad, 2011). Diversity management incorporates programs and practices designed to “(a)
improve interaction among diverse people; and (b) make this diversity a source of innovation and increased
effectiveness rather than miscommunication, conflict, or obstacles to employees’ performance, satisfaction, and
advancement” (Hays-Thomas, 2017, p. 5). The concept and practice of diversity management has quickly evolved,
and today researchers and practitioners emphasize inclusion and inclusive leadership as central elements of
successful diversity management.

Initially, approaches to diversity management within research and practice included formalized human resource
practices focused on improving opportunities for historically marginalized groups or organizational initiatives to
promote and value all types of differences among employees (Linnehan & Konrad, 1999). While many
organizations primarily approached diversity in terms of increasing the number of members of underrepresented
groups within their workforces and maintaining legal compliance consistent with equal employment opportunity
legislation (Thomas & Ely, 1996), more systemic approaches focused on leveraging the benefits of diverse
knowledge, perspectives, and skills to facilitate organizational learning and growth were developed (Ely &
Thomas, 2001). Such approaches were shown to require environments in which all employees feel valued, able to
fully utilize their perspectives and talents, and that they have an opportunity to commit and contribute to
organizational objectives (Davidson & Ferdman, 2002; Ely & Thomas, 2001). As such, they highlighted inclusion
as critical to valuing and leveraging diversity in organizations (Mor Barak & Cherin, 1998).

Since the beginning of the millennium, the concept of inclusion has emerged as a key psychological construct for
realizing the benefits that diversity can bring to the workplace. Ferdman (2014) contends that a focus on inclusion
not only promotes the reduction of negative and problematic processes grounded in discrimination and oppression,
but also fosters a positive vision of what might replace these undesired behaviors, policies, and systems. Despite
this shift toward clarifying a vision of what the workplace should be like in order to fully engage a diverse
workforce, scholarly contributions to the inclusion literature have largely progressed without a clear theoretical
foundation and have primarily focused on construct definition. Additionally, strategies for creating more inclusive
organizations, including the importance and role of leaders, have been largely missing from the literature.

What has become clearer over time is that the demand and need for inclusive leadership has come at a moment
when leaders’ plates are already full. Today’s leaders are finding themselves responsible for guiding others in an
increasingly global and complex marketplace, fulfilling the role of boundary spanner, linking and creating
direction, alignment, and commitment across individuals, teams, and networks (Ernst & Chrobot-Mason, 2010). In
addition, leaders are tasked with driving the transfer of knowledge and resources across organizations to enhance
collaboration and support innovation (Corsaro, Ramos, Henneberg, & Naudé, 2012). As technological advances
have made work less bound by geography and time and characterized by more diverse customers, suppliers, and
employees, leaders play a critical role in facilitating coordination and learning across groups, organizations, and
cultures (Arnett & Wittmann, 2014; Carter et al., 2020; Miles, Snow, Fjeldstad, Miles, & Lettl, 2010). Given the
complexities and challenges that global markets, geographic dispersion, rapid advances in technology, the
influence of social media, the rapid pace of change, and diversity bring, more is expected of leaders than ever

In today’s multifaceted and multicultural organizational environment, leaders must be able to identify or create
opportunities for growth and competitiveness. As such, they must be able to create environments in which


differences are valued and can be incorporated into the main work of an organization to enhance strategies,
processes, and overall effectiveness (Ernst & Chrobot-Mason, 2010; Ferdman, 2014; Thomas & Ely, 1996). While
organizational policies and human resource practices may help create an infrastructure to foster this type of
environment, leaders are the primary drivers of organizational culture. Accordingly, leaders who can create a sense
of inclusion among followers and leverage the benefits of diversity are needed in organizations.

This chapter explores the nature of inclusive leadership, beginning by defining inclusion by drawing on both the
diversity and the leadership literature. It will then examine an inclusive leadership model that describes the
antecedent conditions, behaviors, and outcomes of inclusive leadership, followed by a discussion of how inclusive
leadership works, its strengths and criticisms, and how it can be developed. Finally, case studies and a leadership
instrument will provide an opportunity to evaluate inclusive leadership practices in a variety of contexts.


Inclusion Defined

To understand the role inclusion plays in diversity management, it makes sense to first explore what is meant by
inclusion. More than a half-century ago, Schutz (1958) posited that inclusion (along with control and affection) is a
basic human need that people experience in their interpersonal relationships. Schutz argued that people express
their need to be included by how they communicate with others. He contends that people experience less anxiety if
their need to be “in the group” matches the degree to which they want others to “include them.” This suggests that
it is beneficial for leaders to open their arms to include all followers, but not to the extent that the individual
differences of others get smothered or lost in the process.

In the leadership literature, some researchers view inclusive leadership as a particular form of relational
leadership, which focuses on the relationship between a leader and follower as the unit of analysis. From this
perspective, inclusiveness is enacted and socially constructed through leader–follower interactions (Uhl-Bien,
2006). In effect, inclusive leadership is driven by the two-way influence process between leader and follower
(Hollander, 2009). Rather than leaders directing followers, inclusive approaches establish norms of active
consultation and participation, which drive shared decision making within a team or organization.

Despite its participative qualities, however, inclusive leadership differs from participative leadership (defined in
Chapter 6, “Path–Goal Theory”) in that it is applicable to situations in which members’ statuses vary according to
the degree to which they are considered insiders and incorporate behaviors to include those whose perspectives
and opinions might otherwise be ignored. By inviting and appreciating the contributions of all individuals, an
inclusive leadership approach helps people feel they are genuinely valued members of a team or organization
(Tyler & Lind, 1992). Accordingly, inclusive leadership is fundamental to relational leadership, as it focuses on
interpersonal relationships and drives followers’ perceptions that leaders are fair, accountable, and attentive to their

Given research that shows that individuals from a variety of social and cultural groups are often excluded from
networks of information and opportunity in organizations (Ibarra, 1993; Pettigrew & Martin, 1989), inclusion has
also been used to describe worker participation and empowerment. For example, Mor Barak and Cherin (1998)
define inclusion as the extent to which individuals can access information and resources, are involved in groups,
and have the ability to influence decision-making processes. Rather than emphasizing difference as an
organizational commodity, inclusion is focused on the degree to which individuals feel they are a part of critical
organizational processes (Roberson, 2006). While it encapsulates diversity in its various forms, including
characteristics that are both observable and unobservable within a social system, and recognizes such diversity as a
means for achieving collective goals, inclusion requires that all individuals feel able to fully and meaningfully
contribute to shared goals regardless of group memberships and to do so without assimilating to established norms
or relinquishing any part of their identity (Ferdman, 2014).

Brewer (1991) links inclusion to optimal distinctiveness theory. According to this theory, individuals strive to
balance their basic human need to be part of larger social groups with their need to maintain a distinctive self-
concept. People want to belong, feel accepted, and be connected to others, but not to the extent that they lose their
sense of self as unique individuals. Inclusion means feeling like you are a full member of the group, but at the
same time maintaining your own sense of self.

Following the theoretical tenets of optimal distinctiveness theory (Brewer, 1991), Shore and colleagues (2011)
define inclusion as “the degree to which an employee perceives that he or she is an esteemed member of the work
group through experiencing treatment that satisfies his or her needs for belongingness and uniqueness” (p. 1265).
Further, they put forth an inclusion framework proposing that groups that allow members to feel like insiders while
retaining their sense of uniqueness generate feelings of inclusion while providing opportunities for improved group
outcomes. This framework, depicted in Table 12.1, illustrates how varying levels of belongingness (i.e., the desire
to be included) interact with uniqueness (i.e., the desire to maintain one’s own identity) and result in four
outcomes: exclusion, differentiation, assimilation, and inclusion.

Table 12.1 Inclusion: Combination of Uniqueness and Belongingness


Low Belongingness High Belongingness



Individuals are not treated as organizational
insiders with unique value in the group, but there
are other members or groups who are insiders.


Individuals are treated as insiders in the
group when they conform to
organizational/dominant culture norms
and downplay uniqueness.



Individuals are not treated as organizational
insiders in the group, but their unique
characteristics are seen as valuable and required for
group/organization success.


Individuals are treated as insiders and
allowed/encouraged to retain uniqueness
within the group.

Source: Shore, L. M., Randel, A. E., Chung, B. G., Dean, M. A., Holcombe Ehrhard, K., & Singh, G. (2011). Inclusion and diversity in work groups:
A review and model for future research. Journal of Management, 37(4), 1266.

The upper left quadrant of Table 12.1 is Exclusion, which is characterized by low levels of both belongingness and
uniqueness. Individuals in this quadrant feel excluded in their group or organization; they do not feel a part of the
environment, and they do not feel valued. Exclusion occurs when organizations fail to see and value the unique
qualities of individual members and fail to accept them as organizational insiders. An example might be a young
female vice president of a bank whose ideas are discounted by her male counterparts and who is seldom invited to
corporate planning meetings. In effect, exclusion represents a complete failure to deal with matters of diversity.

The Differentiation quadrant (lower left), characterized by low belongingness but high uniqueness levels,
describes individuals who feel unique and respected but who also feel left out and not a part of the in-group.
Differentiation occurs when organizations accept and value the unique qualities of members who are different but
do not treat these individuals as full members of the organization. For example, this might occur when a customer
service center hires several Spanish-speaking representatives because the center is working with more Spanish-
speaking customers. Yet, those representatives are not asked for their input on organizational issues, such as the


scripting they use for complaint calls or process improvements. In terms of diversity, differentiation goes halfway
—it recognizes differences among individuals, but does not fully accept them.

The Assimilation quadrant (upper right), characterized by high belongingness but low uniqueness levels,
represents people who feel they are insiders and in the organizational in-group but whose unique characteristics are
not really valued by the organization. An example of assimilation could be a Jewish college student who is
accepted and involved in various student groups but is criticized for missing meetings scheduled on Jewish
religious holidays. In effect, this student’s religious background is not acknowledged by the other students, who
expect the Jewish student to ignore that background and adopt dominant group norms. In terms of diversity,
assimilation represents an attempt by organizations to open their arms and bring everyone in; however, the same
organizations can be faulted for failing to acknowledge the uniqueness of their members—they accept different
individuals, but do not fully value the unique perspectives and experiences they bring.

Finally, the Inclusion quadrant (lower right), characterized by high levels of both belongingness and uniqueness,
describes individuals who feel they belong and are valued for their unique beliefs, attitudes, values, and
background. This quadrant represents the optimal way to address diversity. It means, in short, accepting others and
at the same time valuing them for who they are without requiring them to give up valued identities or cultural
features (Ferdman, 1992). For example, inclusion occurs when a professor is informed that because a student who
is hearing-impaired will be taking an online course next semester, the closed captioning and automatic transcript
features on the teaching platform must be enabled. The professor makes these accommodations but also changes
the syllabus to require all students to offer their comments and questions using the chat features. In doing so, the
professor recognizes the student’s disability and incorporates such differences into the norms for class participation
so that all students can fully engage and interact in course discussions.

Conceptualizing inclusion as seen in Table 12.1 is useful for understanding ways to address inclusion because it
illustrates an integration of two factors: (1) an individual’s connectedness (i.e., belonging) to others and (2) a
person’s individuality (i.e., uniqueness). These factors combine to create a dynamic system that is prescribed by
the values, policies, and practices of an organization and enacted by people at all levels, including supervisors and
coworkers (Ferdman & Davidson, 2002). Still, because a leader’s values, processes, and decisions influence
member experiences within groups and organizations, research shows that leaders are essential to facilitating
inclusion (Ferdman, 2014). As such, inclusive leaders are critical for creating and maintaining environments in
which employees feel valued and are capable of fully utilizing their perspectives and talents to contribute to
organizational objectives (Davidson & Ferdman, 2002; Ely & Thomas, 2001).

Despite being a relatively new construct in leadership studies, the literature provides strong rationale to suggest
that inclusive leadership has three goals: (1) to create a shared identity among group or organizational members
such that everyone feels a sense of belonging, (2) to reduce status differences and ensure that each individual is
treated with respect and concern, and (3) to facilitate the participation and involvement of all so that everyone has
equal voice and input in making important decisions.



In contrast to many of the leadership approaches covered in this book (e.g., leader–member exchange theory,
transformational leadership, or servant leadership), inclusive leadership has not been extensively researched, nor
has the research on inclusive leadership been clearly organized around a common theme or framework. This
section presents a “working” theoretical model of inclusive leadership, outlining the factors that influence
inclusive leader behaviors and the outcomes of such behaviors.

As illustrated in Figure 12.1, the process of inclusive leadership consists of three major components: antecedent
conditions, behaviors, and outcomes. Each component has multiple subcomponents, which collectively capture
and explain inclusive leadership.


Figure 12.1 Model of Inclusive Leadership


Antecedent Conditions

The first component in the Model of Inclusive Leadership (Figure 12.1) is antecedent conditions, which are
preceding factors that affect the development of and use of inclusive behaviors by leaders. As suggested by prior
research, such factors may be characteristics of the leader, group cognitions, or organizational policies and

Leader Characteristics

Randel et al. (2018) propose that a leader’s pro-diversity beliefs—the degree to which a leader sees diversity in
groups as beneficial and is able to recognize each person’s differences as strengths—are influential to the leader’s
propensity to engage in inclusive leadership. For example, a CEO for a nonprofit that coordinates after-school
programs for marginalized youth not only sees the value in having representatives of those marginalized
communities on the organization’s board of directors, but also recruits members with business, health care, and
educational backgrounds to serve on the board but who aren’t from the marginalized communities. The CEO
believes differing perspectives can inform all members of the board and the organization, allowing for better
decision making in regard to effective programming for youth.

Randel et al. (2018) also suggest that a leader’s cognitive complexity, or the capability for seeing and analyzing
situations in different ways, enhances a leader’s ability to recognize member differences as strengths as well as
ways to incorporate them into work processes. For example, some leaders may see only one specific way to
complete a task and perceive other approaches to be “wrong.” In contrast, a leader with greater cognitive
complexity is capable of seeing multiple “right” ways of approaching a task and encourages diverse approaches
and ways of thinking.

Finally, leader personality factors, such as agreeableness and openness to experience, have also been shown to
influence individuals’ diversity orientation and, subsequently, their contextual performance as leaders (see Strauss
& Connerley, 2003). While there are many individual differences that may influence a leader’s style and behavior,
those related to a leader’s capacity for valuing individual identities and contributions within a group while
simultaneously emphasizing the group’s identity and goals will increase the likelihood that a leader will engage in
inclusive leadership.

Group Diversity Cognitions

Research also suggests that diversity cognitions within the group may influence inclusive leadership. Individuals’
beliefs in the value of diversity as well as their multicultural beliefs can positively influence their propensity to
make use of diversity within groups and to enhance engagement of underrepresented groups (see van Knippenberg,
Homan, & van Ginkel, 2013). For example, groups with positive diversity cognitions hold a collective view that
differences in perspectives, experiences, values, and ways of working can enhance the overall performance of their

At the same time, psychological climates, or the perceptions of an organization’s values and human resource
policies and practices such as its climate for diversity (Kossek & Zonia, 1993) or climate for inclusion (Nishii,
2013), may also drive inclusive leadership. For instance, although an organization may have an explicit statement
on its website stating that diversity is a corporate value, organizational members may perceive the climate quite
differently such that there is a mismatch between stated and enacted values. However, when the organization not
only has a policy against harassment but also enforces a zero-tolerance approach to harassment and terminates
violators of such a policy, members perceive a strong positive diversity climate. Studies highlight the effects of
such perceptions on behavioral intentions concerning diversity as well as behaviors to enhance the success of
organizational diversity initiatives (see van Knippenberg et al., 2013). Although there may be other diversity-
related beliefs and attitudes that influence leader behavior, those that support a leader’s ability to recognize and


incorporate diversity into a group or organization’s work will enhance the leader’s propensity for inclusive

Organizational Policies and Practices

A third antecedent condition, an organization’s policies and practices, may also motivate inclusive leadership.
Specifically, research suggests that certain groups of practices may facilitate the participation of all employees and
leverage the effects of diversity in organizations. Roberson (2006) found diversity among all stakeholder groups,
fair treatment initiatives, collaborative work arrangements, and conflict resolution processes to be supportive of
inclusive organizational environments. Similarly, Nishii (2013) highlights the importance of fairly implemented
employment practices and diversity-specific practices to eliminate bias as critical to establishing positive climates
for diversity and inclusion. One example of this is ensuring that job applicants are interviewed by multiple
interviewers and all applicants are asked the same set of questions that pertain directly to job duties. Standardizing
task-based questions asked during an interview and using multiple interviewers are two hiring practices that help
to eliminate bias during the interview process (Levashina, Hartwell, Morgeson, & Campion, 2014). While other
policies and practices may capture the extent to which diversity is considered to be an important resource that
should be utilized to enhance an organization’s functioning, those that facilitate leaders’ capacity for valuing and
integrating diverse perspectives and approaches into organizations will be more likely to facilitate inclusive


Inclusive Leadership Behaviors

A second component of the Model of Inclusive Leadership (Figure 12.1) addresses specific behaviors by leaders
that can facilitate inclusive leadership. Foundational research on inclusive leadership behaviors was developed by
Edmondson (1996, 2003) and based on qualitative insights taken from the study of health care teams. Using data
from operating room and intensive care unit teams, researchers explored leader approaches to creating
psychologically safe environments, or cultures with a shared belief that members are safe to engage in
interpersonal risk-taking and will not be subjected to negative repercussions, such as embarrassment or rejection,
for speaking up within those teams (Edmondson, 1999). The findings showed that nurse managers and surgeon
team leaders who acknowledged and proactively invited others’ input, regardless of those individuals’ professional
roles or status relationships, helped team members to feel greater psychological safety (Edmondson, 1996, 2003).

Based on this evidence, Nembhard and Edmondson (2006) put forth the concept of leader inclusiveness, which
represents behaviors engaged in by leaders to include opinions and contributions of those who might be otherwise
excluded from certain deliberations and decisions. While considered to be related to participative decision making
and effective facilitation of group processes, inclusive leadership is particularly relevant in situations characterized
by status or power differences, which constrain the ability of some group members to express themselves and feel
their contributions are valued. Therefore, inclusive leaders are characterized by behaviors that encourage divergent
viewpoints and genuinely appreciate the views and contributions of all followers regardless of status or power.

Edmonson (2004) proposed additional inclusive leader behaviors for encouraging individuals to be themselves in
their organizational environments and feel comfortable raising divergent viewpoints. First, she speculated that
leaders who are available and accessible both physically and psychologically to followers may help to create a
climate of approachability, which reduces barriers to voice and input. Second, she reasoned that because leaders
model appropriate behavior within teams, inviting input from others and sharing decision-making responsibilities
may help to create a climate of trust and learning.

Diversity researchers view inclusive leadership as behaviors that create the psychological experience of feeling
included within a team or organization. Randel et al. (2018) describe a set of behaviors that facilitate individuals’
perceptions of belonging to a group and of being valued for their uniqueness that can result in positive group
outcomes. For example, inclusive leadership behaviors to ensure the fair treatment of all group members, make
everyone feel comfortable and supported, and share decision making are considered to facilitate perceptions of
belongingness. At the same time, leader behaviors to solicit different perspectives and approaches and fully
incorporate members’ knowledge, skills, and abilities into the group’s work help to facilitate feelings of



As depicted in the Model of Inclusive Leadership (Figure 12.1), there are a number of positive organizational
outcomes that result from the facilitation and implementation of inclusive leadership. Research suggests that leader
inclusiveness makes others—particularly low-status individuals—feel supported and valued as members of a team
(Nembhard & Edmondson, 2006). As such, psychological safety and work engagement tend to be higher in teams
with inclusive leaders (Choi, Tran, & Park, 2015; Nembhard & Edmondson, 2006). Inclusive leadership is also
positively related to employee well-being, including positive emotional states and quality relationships with others
(Choi, Tran, & Kang, 2017).

Inclusive leadership has also been shown to have direct effects on follower creativity and innovative work
behavior (Choi et al., 2017; Choi et al., 2015; Javed, Naqvi, Khan, Arjoon, & Tayyeb, 2017; Qi, Liu, Wei, & Hu,
2019). Leader openness to, and respect for, new ideas and feedback facilitates a supportive climate in which
followers feel comfortable to offer alternative perspectives and to experiment. Subsequently, followers are more
strongly motivated to engage in innovative activities. Similarly, leader inclusiveness has been shown to interact
with psychological diversity climates, or individual perceptions of the degree to which an organization promotes
and maintains a diversity-friendly environment, to positively influence followers’ behavior (Randel, Dean,
Ehrhart, Chung, & Shore, 2016). Leader inclusiveness within the context of a positive diversity climate was found
to be related to follower helping behaviors directed at both the leader and other group members.

Feelings of psychological safety resulting from leader inclusiveness have been linked to followers learning from
errors and failures (Hirak, Peng, Carmeli, & Schaubroeck, 2012; Ye, Wang, & Li, 2018). Inclusive behaviors help
to create a safe work environment in which followers feel comfortable experimenting, examining the results of
their actions, and developing improved work processes and approaches (Ye et al., 2018). Consequently, inclusive
leadership has also been shown to positively impact unit performance (Hirak et al., 2012; Mitchell et al., 2015).

Overall, the Model of Inclusive Leadership (Figure 12.1) highlights factors that influence relevant behaviors and
the resultant outcomes of such behavior. Based on extant research, it identifies leader, group, and organizational
characteristics that may influence specific inclusive leadership behaviors. It also depicts the effects of these
behaviors on a variety of follower outcomes, including positive emotional states, behaviors that enhance group
functioning, and both individual and team performance.



Although inclusive leadership theory and research derive from the leadership and diversity literatures, a few
common elements have emerged from these literature streams that together illustrate how this approach to
leadership works.

First, inclusive leadership incorporates a sense of shared identity among group members. According to leadership
research, information regarding an individual’s value to the group is communicated by the leader (Tyler & Lind,
1992), who is seen as a representative or prototype group member that establishes behaviors that group members
should adopt. Accordingly, leader behaviors that invite and appreciate others’ contributions help all members feel
like they are part of the in-group, thereby facilitating a common identity within the group. Similarly, the diversity
literature highlights the importance of satisfying individuals’ belongingness needs in order for them to feel treated
like insiders within groups and for leaders to act in an inclusive manner.

Inclusive leadership within the leadership and diversity literatures also incorporates behaviors to reduce status
differences within groups. From a leadership perspective, inclusiveness involves behaviors to solicit and integrate
viewpoints and opinions from those whose input into decision-making processes may not typically be valued.
Further, it involves being approachable and reachable to all members of the group, which helps to reduce potential
barriers to interaction and information exchange, particularly among those who might typically be considered
outsiders. As such, inclusive leaders attempt to eradicate cliques and other status boundaries within the team. This
reduction of status distinction is also an important component of inclusive leadership from a diversity management
perspective. Inclusiveness encompasses actions to ensure equity and justice within the group, which reduces the
likelihood of bias or differences in treatment based on a member’s value to the team.

Existing theory and research also underscore the importance of follower participation and involvement in decision
processes. Leadership researchers posit leader inclusiveness to be a relational approach that operates according to
norms of input and shared decision making, even when members’ contributions may be divergent from those of
the leader or others on the team. Likewise, diversity researchers emphasize the importance of group members each
having a sense of uniqueness, such that their distinct characteristics and contributions are considered to be valuable
to the group’s success. Yet, rather than simply acknowledging members’ individuality, leader inclusiveness takes
action to ensure that decision-making power is distributed across group members and members have a say in how
the group’s work is done.



In this chapter, we have outlined a working model of inclusive leadership drawing from literature in the areas of
diversity, diversity management, inclusion, and inclusive leadership. The literature summarized in the present
chapter has three strengths.

First, inclusive leadership emphasizes the involvement and engagement of everyone in the group. While certain
group members may be more likely to perceive and experience exclusion (e.g., members of historically
marginalized groups), the aim of inclusive leadership is to create an organizational environment in which everyone
feels a sense of belonging while also feeling valued for their unique attributes.

Second, inclusive leadership is consistent with and enhances other relational leadership theories such as leader–
member exchange and transformational leadership. Each of these theories places value on developing positive
relationships with followers, recognizing each follower’s unique strengths and interests, and fostering a positive
and affirming organizational environment. Although the specific behaviors and expected outcomes of these
relational leadership theories are different, valuing and developing relationships with followers are fundamentally
at the core of all three.

Finally, inclusive leadership is a shared responsibility of everyone in the group. This is a strength for two reasons.
First, it is consistent with emerging paradigms that define leadership as a socially constructed and shared
phenomena. Second, it means that no single person is solely responsible for creating an inclusive environment; all
organizational members play an important role in doing so. In other words, everyone both creates and benefits
from inclusive leadership.



Despite an existing body of literature that provides insight into the core elements of inclusive leadership, there are
several limitations to such insight. First, while researchers have attempted to conceptualize inclusive leadership, it
has to some degree been used as an all-encompassing construct for any approach to leadership that incorporates
behaviors to form quality-based interpersonal relationships with followers and to show appreciation and support
for their efforts (Javed et al., 2017). As a result, findings regarding antecedents and outcomes of transformational,
charismatic, participative, servant, ethical, and other forms of leadership have been confounded with those of
inclusive leadership. Similarly, given its conceptual focus on high-quality relationships between leader and
follower, inclusive leadership has also been used interchangeably with leader–member exchange (Nishii & Mayer,

Second, there are also challenges associated with the measurement of inclusive leadership. For example, some
researchers have used measures for assessing leader inclusiveness that ask employees to provide such ratings for
their direct manager, supervisor, or other organizational authority responsible for directing others’ efforts (see
Carmeli, Reiter-Palmon, & Ziv, 2010; Nembhard & Edmondson, 2006). The problem with this approach to
measuring inclusive leadership is that it may not adequately capture variability in member experiences of
inclusiveness or differences in the quality of relationships between the leader and individual members of the team.
In other words, using this approach, leaders may be considered inclusive yet only rate highly on inclusive
leadership measures for some members of their group. Thus, it is important to develop more nuanced and
multifaceted ways to measure inclusive leadership than currently exist to capture the experiences and perceptions
of everyone in the group.

Lastly, although prior research has identified core components of inclusive leadership, few studies to date have
attempted to reconcile these components across the leadership and diversity literatures. We have attempted to do so
in providing the Model of Inclusive Leadership (Figure 12.1), yet more research is needed to empirically examine
the relationships between the antecedent conditions, leadership behaviors, and outcomes outlined in the model.
Perhaps the greatest need is to determine the relative importance of key leadership behaviors in creating an
inclusive environment. For example, some researchers emphasize the extent to which a leader invites and
appreciates others as contributing members to the work product (see Nembhard & Edmondson, 2006) while others
focus on a leader’s invitation and openness, availability, and accessibility (see Carmeli et al., 2010). Still others
emphasize actions to create a sense of belonging and uniqueness (see Randel et al., 2018). Though all of these
leadership behaviors may play an important role in fostering inclusion, additional research is needed to link
specific behaviors to outcomes.



Because inclusive leadership is defined as a set of behaviors, it follows that inclusive leadership can be both
learned and developed. However, there is limited insight into the specific skills and competencies that must be
learned as well as the most effective strategies for developing into an inclusive leader. Booysen (2014) provides a
helpful comparison of the differences between more traditional approaches to leadership and an inclusive approach
to leadership. Her work highlights the fact that developing inclusive leaders requires a shift in the use of power
deriving from position and control to a more distributed approach characterized by high levels of empowerment of
followers. Rather than a conventional “direct, tell, and sell” approach to decision making, inclusive leaders elicit
and facilitate dialogue. They view themselves as part of the collective and focus on fostering perceptions of “we
and all” rather than a more traditional view of leadership as a formal position that considers “me, us, and them”
and strives to achieve uniformity. Further, inclusive leaders strive to both pursue and value differences of
followers, including capabilities, viewpoints, and opinions (Booysen, 2014). Learning to be a more inclusive
leader requires a change in mindset, a shift in values, and the adoption of a new style of interacting with others.

The process of inclusive leadership development can be illustrated using the assessment-challenge-support (ACS)
model (Van Velsor, McCauley, & Ruderman, 2010) developed by scholars at the Center for Creative Leadership
based on decades of data collection to determine how leaders grow and develop leadership skills. The ACS model
describes the three critical elements of leadership development—assessment, challenge, and support. Although the
ACS model is based on research conducted on leader development experiences (Van Velsor et al., 2010), to our
knowledge it has not yet been applied specifically to inclusive leadership. Thus, in the sections that follow, we
consider each element of the ACS model in relation to inclusive leadership development and provide examples of



The first step in leadership development work, assessment, involves an evaluation of strengths and opportunities
for development as it relates to creating an inclusive organizational environment. This should involve
understanding and reflection on one’s identity, ethnocentrism, biases, stereotypes, prejudice, and privilege
(Chrobot-Mason, Ruderman, & Nishii, 2013; Northouse, 2018, pp. 201–205; Wasserman, 2014). For instance,
leaders should consider their memberships in dominant or majority groups as well as the nondominant, minority,
or stigmatized groups to which they belong, as such reflection may provide insight into experiences of exclusion.
Similarly, the identification of sources of advantage or circumstances in which leaders have benefited from their
identity or group memberships may provide perspective on entitlement and privilege that exists in their
organizations, and what needs to be done to create more inclusive environments in which all followers have access
to key resources and opportunities for involvement and success.

One example of this type of identity work is illustrated by Ferdman and Morgan Roberts (2014). They present an
activity in which participants list their multiple social identities (ethnicity, education, life experiences, birth order,
nationality, professional affiliation, etc.). Participants then reflect on the impact of these identities by addressing
questions such as “How/why are these identities important to you?” and “How do they or can they make a
difference for you and others at your organization?”

Another useful activity for assessment is to complete a privilege worksheet. One such worksheet, the White
Privilege Checklist, based on work by Peggy McIntosh (1988; available at, focuses on white privilege and asks respondents to agree or
disagree with a series of statements. For example, statements on the worksheet include “I can arrange to be in the
company of people of my race most of the time” and “I am never asked to speak for all of the people of my racial

Some scholars and practitioners suggest that it is only by acknowledging and recognizing the biases, stereotypes,
and privilege they have as a result of their upbringing, past experiences, media influence, societal values, and any
number of other sources that people can mitigate the impact of such mindsets and enhance their interactions with
others (Nkomo & Ariss, 2014; Offermann et al., 2014). Accordingly, many organizations offer diversity training
sessions, workshops, and seminars to help leaders uncover their implicit biases and understand how such biases
influence decision making (Church, Rotolo, Shull, & Tuller, 2014).

Other strategies for assessing leaders’ mindsets related to diversity and inclusion are tools that measure personal
attitudes and beliefs, such as the popular Implicit Association Test
(; Greenwald, McGhee, & Schwartz, 1998), or organizational
support for diversity and practices that integrate diverse followers into the organizational environment (see Mor
Barak, Cherin, & Berkman, 1998). Regardless of the tool, uncovering one’s thoughts and assumptions about others
and the value of their contributions to work processes and output can help leaders to better understand how and
why they make decisions and take actions to do so more inclusively.



While self-awareness of one’s diversity-related attitudes and beliefs is important to becoming an inclusive leader, it
is equally as important to understand one’s level of behavioral skill. Thus, the next step in developing an inclusive
leadership style and skill set is to identify one’s gaps and developmental needs across various diversity and
inclusion competency areas and then formulate an action plan to facilitate skill building. Consistent with the ACS
model (Van Velsor et al., 2010), this behavioral feedback process illuminates challenges for leaders to overcome
and enhances motivation to develop and strengthen skills needed to create inclusive organizational environments.

For example, as inclusive leadership involves strong communication skills, a leader should develop the capacity
for listening to diverse viewpoints, diagnosing the core issues of a problem between individuals and groups, and
serving as a boundary spanner or liaison to facilitate cross-group interactions. Accordingly, a leader may attempt to
practice these skills during team meetings, such as seeking followers’ opinions or inviting debate on a specific
topic. Alternatively, if after determining that all team members’ voices are not being heard in brainstorming
sessions, a leader may try a nominal group technique, which encourages contributions from everyone and
prioritizes ideas with input from the entire group (

In general, breaking with conventional leadership strategies will help leaders adapt their current approaches to
create more diverse organizational environments and develop new capacities for inclusiveness. Seeking out such
challenges often forces leaders outside their comfort zone; yet this is exactly what must happen for them to
become more confident and capable of fostering inclusion.



Because challenges push leaders to go beyond what they have been comfortable with in the past and try new
approaches, they need support to successfully deal with such challenges. For inclusive leaders, this means having
an infrastructure and relationships that help to reinforce behaviors learned, as suggested by the ACS model (Van
Velsor et al., 2010). For example, colleagues, mentors, and significant others often serve as sounding boards for
leaders, offering affirmations and feedback as leaders struggle through the challenges of being more inclusive and
adopting new behaviors to lead inclusively. The organization itself may also play a significant role in offering
support to leaders attempting to create a more inclusive environment by providing accountability structures,
diversity councils or advisory boards, a diversity and inclusion mission statement and strategies, and zero-
tolerance policies toward discrimination, which can all positively impact the climate for diversity (Roberson, King,
& Hebl, 2020). Support may also come in the form of coaching and mentoring, which are often included as
components of many leadership development programs to help leaders develop personal accountability for creating
and promoting diverse and inclusive workplaces.



The following case studies (Cases 12.1, 12.2, and 12.3) offer an opportunity to apply inclusive leadership concepts
introduced in the chapter as well as inclusive behaviors identified in the Inclusive Leadership Reflection
Instrument on page 346. The first case involves a situation where group members stereotype another member
based on race, whereas the second case examines group members who seem to hold back from participating in
group discussions. The final case is derived from an interview with the vice president for equity, inclusion, and
community impact at the University of Cincinnati, Dr. Bleuzette Marshall, who found inclusive leadership critical
in helping the institution to navigate a very difficult and traumatic time.

In addition to answering the discussion questions listed at the end of each case, determine the key issue presented
in each case, the underlying causes of that issue, and possible solutions. Using this analysis, consider how you
would address the identified issue as an inclusive leader and the actions you might take to create a more inclusive
environment going forward.


Case 12.1 Difficult Decision

Sondra is the leader of a nonprofit organization with about 40 full- and part-time employees. She is proud of her
organization and its very dedicated staff. Sondra has been with the organization for 10 years, having worked her
way up through the ranks into the director role, a position she finds equally challenging and rewarding. She
describes her leadership style as highly collaborative and empowering. Furthermore, Sondra views herself as a
leader who values diversity and does all that she can to create an environment in which everyone feels comfortable
and supported.

Antonio is a Hispanic male employee who has been with the organization just eight months but shows promise as a
highly dedicated employee and future leader. However, he has missed the last three days of work, which seems to
have caused some speculation among his coworkers about why he has been absent. While walking past a cubicle in
the office building, Sondra overhears two of her direct reports (both white) talking about Antonio. One employee,
Terry, says, “I heard that Antonio was undocumented, which wouldn’t surprise me.” The second employee, Pat,
responds, saying, “Maybe he’s been deported. Or maybe he just left town for fear that he would be deported.”
Surprised by what she overhears, Sondra decides to just keep walking by, as it seems no one noticed her.

However, when she returns to her desk, she lets out a sigh and looks out her window. She feels conflicted about
what she should do. On the one hand, she considers doing nothing because Terry and Pat were only speaking to
one another. On the other hand, she is concerned that other colleagues may be speculating about Antonio’s absence
as well and jumping to false conclusions since Sondra knows that Antonio has not been deported but instead is
battling an illness. She decides to take a walk to try and clear her head so that she can decide what to do, if


1. Why do you think Sondra is conflicted in this situation?
2. Do you believe Sondra has a responsibility, as an inclusive leader, to do something? Why or why not?
3. What inclusive leadership behaviors from the Model of Inclusive Leadership (Figure 12.1) could Sondra use

to deal with this situation?
4. Why do you think Terry and Pat jumped to the conclusion that Antonio had been deported? What is your

opinion about them discussing this with one another?
5. What do you think Sondra should do, if anything?


Case 12.2 The Extraversion Advantage

Quinn is a midlevel manager who does his best to create an inclusive team environment. He leads a group of seven
employees who are diverse along a variety of dimensions. Quinn feels that he does his best to create opportunities
for everyone to speak up during their weekly team meetings. He frequently asks for input on issues and decisions
and takes the first 5–10 minutes each week to ask his team members to share updates about their personal lives to
build trust and comfort among his team members.

Recently, however, Quinn has started to become concerned that two team members are not sharing much during
meetings. These team members, Brett and Alex, both come prepared and offer input whenever they are asked
directly. In addition, Brett has been leading a project and has been sharing updates on project goals each week very
effectively. Still, Quinn has noticed that Brett and Alex are often quiet during the times when the rest of the team
engages in a discussion in which team members have very different opinions. Indeed, sometimes these discussions
can get a bit heated when people feel passionate about something. Truth be told, Quinn is proud of this and feels
like this is an indication that the team is deeply engaged in their work. The conversations are never disrespectful in
Quinn’s opinion, just naturally healthy task-related conflict that keeps the team energized.

Quinn decides to ask another team member, Shawn, who seems to have no trouble jumping into the conversations
for thoughts on what could be done to better engage Brett and Alex in these debates. Shawn tells Quinn that some
members of the team are just “quiet by nature” and could benefit from learning how to be more assertive during
meetings. To help them do so, Shawn recommends enrolling Brett and Alex in a public-speaking or other type of
communication skills training course.


1. What do you think is the underlying issue within this team?
2. Based on the leader behaviors identified in the Model of Inclusive Leadership (Figure 12.1), what should

Quinn do to make team meetings more inclusive for everyone?
3. Since inclusion is the responsibility of everyone, not just the leader’s, what can other team members do to

help create a more inclusive team environment?
4. This particular case involves only male coworkers. In what ways might your answers change if Quinn were

Lynn (a woman) or if Brett and Alex were women reporting to a male supervisor?


Case 12.3 Inclusive Leadership During a Crisis

On July 19, 2015, in Cincinnati, Ohio, Samuel DuBose, an unarmed Black man, was fatally shot by Ray Tensing, a
University of Cincinnati police officer, during a traffic stop for a missing front license plate and a suspended
driver’s license. In response to the shooting, protestors took to the streets to demonstrate their anger, frustration,
and pain. Protests were held both on campus and off campus and included students, faculty, staff, and community
members. A student-led movement emerged called the Irate 8, which derived its name from the fact that only 8%
of the University of Cincinnati student body was composed of Black students.

In a short period of time, support grew across the university and the broader community for the student-led activist
movement. The students demanded to meet with university senior leaders and gave them a list of 10 demands. As
vice president for equity, inclusion, and community impact at the University of Cincinnati, Dr. Bleuzette Marshall
found herself at the center of this very difficult and traumatic time in the university’s history.

Dr. Marshall describes her role during this time as one of healer and reconciler. “I worked with people so that they
could express themselves about how they were thinking and feeling about the institution. It wasn’t just about this
particular incident. People were inflamed by the shooting, but other past experiences and practices fueled the anger
they were feeling. And I took it,” she said. “I did my best to respond to questions about what the university was
doing or not doing, I stood outside among the demonstrators and listened, I worked with our president and vice
presidents to consider what changes we could and could not make. I responded to the demands our students made
to the university and communicated with them about our progress. It required a lot of time, patience, and listening
to both what was said and not said—being able to read others’ emotions was equally important” (Dr. Bleuzette
Marshall, personal communication, July 1, 2020).

Multiple groups presented demands to Dr. Marshall’s office, and one of the things she stressed was the need to be
real and authentic in communicating with these various constituents. She met with leaders across the university
including colleagues from the provost’s, finance, human resources, investments, and admissions offices, as well as
the campus police department. She met with various groups about the demands made by student and community
activists to determine what the university’s current practices were and what kinds of change were possible. She
explained that it was important to not just take the list of demands and disappear, but to offer to involve those
making the demands in the change process. She describes how the university practiced inclusive leadership by
inviting others to engage in finding solutions.

To address the list of demands from the Irate 8 and practice inclusion, Dr. Marshall invited University of
Cincinnati students to develop and offer recommendations for change to the university’s administration. “We
created committees of students to have them involved in working on the responses to these demands. For example,
to recruit more Black students to the university, our students came up with the idea to partner with Cincinnati
Public Schools to create an ambassador program. The goal was to have high school students serve as ambassadors
in partnership with university students to educate neighboring high school students about the University of
Cincinnati’s application and admissions process and to get them excited about college from fellow students. I’ll
always remember their excitement going through the process of meeting with members of our admissions team,
putting a proposal together, submitting the proposal to university administration, and then securing funding to run
the program” (Dr. Bleuzette Marshall, personal communication, July 1, 2020).

In talking about lessons learned as a result of her experiences following the DuBose shooting, Dr. Marshall noted
how important it is for leaders to be humble and always be open to learning. “I learned that when assuming a
leadership role there is always going to be some type of challenge that I call the ‘welcome to leadership moment,’
because it comes unexpectedly and it is not at all clear what you should do. It’s nothing that you could have ever
planned for. The right answer is not written in any manual that you can simply look up to figure out how to
navigate this challenge. Instead, you have to rely on your own sensibilities, your own strategic and creative
thinking, and evolving skill set to be able to navigate” (Dr. Bleuzette Marshall, personal communication, July 1,

She shared another “welcome to leadership” moment involving a student group that staged a demonstration outside
her office protesting the university’s handling of sexual assault on campus. The group informed local media who


were also present to film the group marching to the administration building with their mouths taped. Group
members then proceeded to sit on the floor in a circle outside of Dr. Marshall’s office.

“The first thing I did was take a deep breath when I heard the students were outside. I came out of my office and
told them that I was ready to talk to them whenever they were ready to speak with me. They texted me to say they
would be ready in 15 minutes. So I set my watch for 15 minutes, walked out, and immediately sat down in their
circle to listen to their concerns and personal stories. Some concerns I could address right then and there, but some
I could not, so I encouraged the students to schedule some time with me to deal with the lingering issues, which
they did, and we worked together to implement changes” (Dr. Bleuzette Marshall, personal communication, July 1,

In her role as the vice president of equity, inclusion, and community impact at a large urban university with nearly
50,000 students and over 15,000 employees, Dr. Marshall says she continues to learn and grow her inclusive
leadership skill set. She describes her leadership style as participatory, because she invites people who are
important to the process and encourages them to stay involved. She is also boundary spanning in the sense that she
works across campus to infuse inclusive practices in any and all areas of the university. Another example of how
Dr. Marshall practices inclusive leadership is that she begins a meeting by asking everyone in the meeting to share
something with the group such as a movie or book they recently enjoyed, or a favorite quote. The topic is not
important; what is important is allowing everyone in the room to speak and share because the goal is to create a
foundation in which everyone in the room has exercised their voice. She finds this simple practice can make a big
difference as it tends to open up subsequent conversation and makes it easier for people to feel comfortable
speaking up later in the meeting.

For aspiring inclusive leaders, Dr. Marshall recommends they first and foremost become good at self-reflection.
She says it is important to spend time understanding who you are as a person, what you appreciate about other
people, what your shortcomings are, what you are doing to try to be a better person, how you do or do not connect
with others, and what your hot buttons are and how to manage them. She also suggests that inclusive leaders must
make a concerted effort to expand their circle of friends so they can be exposed to different ideas, opinions, and
perspectives. Surrounding yourself with people who hold different opinions than you enhances your cognitive
complexity and allows the opportunity to know yourself better by understanding how your upbringing and
experiences differ from others. Finally, she encourages those attempting to be more inclusive to remember not to
fight fire with fire, but instead fight fire with water. She has learned that during heated and difficult situations she
continually reminds herself that in some way, shape, or form, those expressing their anger are frustrated and
hurting, and they are coming to her and the university for relief.

“The only way I can really help is to know the full extent of what’s going on—so if it means you need to fuss, then
fuss; if it means you need to cuss, then cuss to get it out so that we can fully dissect what’s going on. Only then can
we determine what changes can be made” (Dr. Bleuzette Marshall, personal communication, July 1, 2020).


1. What inclusive leadership behaviors as identified in the Model of Inclusive Leadership (Figure 12.1) does Dr.
Marshall exhibit in her role?

2. In what ways do you practice these inclusive leadership behaviors in your interactions with others? In what
ways could you practice these behaviors in the future?

3. Active listening is an important theme in this case. Dr. Marshall mentions the importance of listening and
learning from others multiple times. Why is it often difficult for us to really listen and understand others?

4. What one thing can you do moving forward to enhance your active listening skills?


Leadership Instrument

To measure inclusive leadership, researchers have primarily utilized the Inclusive Leadership Scale developed by
Carmeli et al. (2010). This 9-item scale assesses leaders on the dimensions of availability, accessibility, and
openness. More recently, Chung and colleagues (2020) developed a 10-item scale, structured around the
dimensions of belonging and uniqueness, to assess perceptions of individuals’ experiences within their immediate
work environment that help them to feel included.

This section includes a self-assessment instrument to help you reflect on your own inclusive leadership. It is based
on the most recent research as well as best practices from organizations engaged in diversity and inclusion efforts.
The instrument provides a list of inclusive leadership behaviors in which you may (or may not) be engaging.
Because inclusiveness may feel different in different situations, the instrument also highlights inclusive leadership
behaviors in a variety of settings, including one-on-one meetings, team meetings, and mentoring sessions. Based
on this assessment, leaders can learn more about inclusive behaviors that can be incorporated into their daily
activities and interactions as well as recognize areas for future development.

Inclusive Leadership Reflection Instrument

Purpose: The purpose of this questionnaire is to reflect on your inclusive behaviors and challenge yourself
to exhibit inclusive behaviors in your daily interactions.

Instructions: The following instrument is a checklist designed to encourage you to reflect on the inclusive
behaviors you exhibit in a variety of settings: meeting one-on-one with individuals, facilitating a team
meeting, participating in a team meeting, and mentoring someone less experienced. In each case, you are
encouraged to place a check mark in the Yes column or No column.


Types of

Inclusive Leadership Behaviors Yes No

One-on-One I begin our interaction by showing interest in the other person (e.g.,
asking questions, sharing something personal, and inviting the other
person to share as well).

I make eye contact with the person.

I face the individual I am speaking with.


Types of

Inclusive Leadership Behaviors Yes No

I put away all distractions such as my cell phone.

I eliminate physical or technological barriers between us, such as sitting
behind my desk and/or keeping my camera off.

I ask open-ended questions to learn about the other person.

I regularly designate time for people to come and talk to me.

I treat each and every person with respect and dignity.

I recognize and reward employees/people according to their individual

Teams (as

I identify unique skill sets of team members.

I use the full range of talents on my team to achieve work objectives.

I ask everyone on the team for input and through different means (in
person, via email, pulse checks, etc.).

I ask everyone on the team what and how they want to contribute.

I configure project teams to include people who do not regularly interact
with one another.

I provide different members of the team with leadership opportunities.

I seek feedback from others and make changes based on that feedback.

Teams (as

I prepare an agenda and send it out ahead of a meeting so that people can
prepare and better participate.

I utilize a process in which everyone gives feedback and input at times
(e.g., nominal group technique, round-robin discussion, online real-time
data collection tools).


Types of

Inclusive Leadership Behaviors Yes No

When possible, I ask team members to provide updates rather than being
the only one to speak.

I adapt physical arrangements such as seating and/or technology that
allows people to interact with one another.

When someone new joins the team or when a team is forming, I ask for
everyone’s preferred names, pronunciations, and pronouns.

I encourage conflicting views and/or dissension within team discussions.

I create “airtime” limits so that outspoken people do not dominate the

Teams (as

We rotate roles in team meetings each time (time keeper, note-taker,
action item capturer, etc.).

If a colleague is interrupted by someone, I will say that I would like to
hear the colleague finish the thought, prompting the group to go back to
let that person finish speaking.

I come prepared to share my thoughts and ideas.

If a colleague has been silent during the meeting, I will encourage the
colleague to share by saying something like “I would love to hear what
you are thinking about this issue.”

Mentor/Protégé I ask my protégé about preferred work style and communication cadence.

I discuss and develop a list of expectations with my protégé such that we
are both able to clarify expectations of one another early in the

Rather than assume I know what is best, I start meetings with my protégé
by asking how our time together can be most useful for the protégé.




1. There are 30 items contained in the Inclusive Leadership Reflection Instrument. First, count up the
total number of check marks you placed in the No column.

Total Score ______________

2. Next, count up the number of check marks you placed in the No column for the various types of

One-on-one = 9 total ______________

Teams (as leader) = 7 total ______________

Teams (as facilitator) = 7 total ______________

Teams (as participant) = 4 total ______________

Mentor/Protégé = 3 total ______________


Scoring Interpretation

Upon completion of this instrument, you will have identified inclusive leader behaviors you should
continue to display as well as those you will want to consider using and developing in the future. To
interpret your scores, we suggest you consider the following:

1. Examine the total number of check marks you placed in the No column.

A score of 0–9 indicates that you exemplify many behaviors of inclusive leaders. You may be
able to thus serve as a role model to others and foster inclusive leadership in members of your
team and in your colleagues at work.

A score of 10–19 suggests that you are working to become an inclusive leader. You are likely
motivated to foster an inclusive organizational environment but have a somewhat limited number
of tactics and strategies that you have utilized in the past. You may need to try out some
additional inclusive leader behaviors and seek feedback from others to determine if what you are
doing equates to others feeling more included in the organization.

A score of 20–30 indicates that you either previously were not aware of the value of inclusive
leadership or were not motivated to adapt a more inclusive approach to leadership. Hopefully,
after reading this chapter, you better understand how and why inclusive leadership may create
benefits for your team and the organization as a whole. Additionally, we hope that you are now
motivated to try out various inclusive leadership behaviors described in the checklist and seek
feedback from others to determine if what you are doing equates to others feeling more included
in the organization.

2. Examine the number of check marks you placed in the No column for the various types of
interactions. Circle the types of interactions with the most No check marks as follows. That is a good
place to identify where and how you can make changes and challenge yourself to step outside of your
comfort zone to become a more inclusive leader.


Teams (as leader)

Teams (as facilitator)

Teams (as participant)




The concept of inclusion has emerged as a key psychological construct for realizing the benefits that diversity can
bring to the workplace. In today’s multifaceted and multicultural business environment, leaders must be able to
identify or create opportunities for growth and competitiveness. As such, they must be able to create environments
in which differences are valued and can be incorporated into the main work of an organization to enhance
strategies, processes, and overall effectiveness.

Inclusion requires the consideration of belongingness (i.e., the desire to be included) and the extent to which it
interacts with uniqueness (i.e., the desire to maintain one’s own identity). An inclusive organization is one in
which members’ perceptions of both belongingness and uniqueness are high. In this type of organization,
individuals feel they belong and are valued for their unique beliefs, attitudes, values, and background. Inclusive
leaders play a key role in creating such an organization as a result of their behavior toward others.

The Model of Inclusive Leadership (Figure 12.1) offered in this chapter highlights factors that influence relevant
inclusive leader behaviors and the resultant outcomes of such behavior. It clarifies the importance of the leader,
group, and organizational characteristics that influence the degree to which inclusive leadership behaviors are
encouraged and practiced in the organization. It also depicts the effects of inclusive leadership behaviors on a
variety of follower outcomes, including positive emotional states, behaviors that enhance group functioning, and
both individual and team performance.

Based on inclusive leadership theory and research derived from the leadership and diversity literatures, common
elements have emerged to illustrate how this approach to leadership works. First, inclusive leadership incorporates
a sense of shared identity among group members. Second, inclusive leadership incorporates behaviors to reduce
status differences within groups. Third, inclusive leaders foster employee participation and involvement in
decision processes.

Existing research on inclusive leadership has several strengths. The first is that inclusive leadership emphasizes the
involvement and engagement of everyone in the group. A second strength is inclusive leadership’s focus on the
relational aspects of leadership such as identifying the strengths and interests of each follower and fostering
positive relationships with each follower. A third strength of inclusive leadership is that it frames inclusivity as a
shared responsibility between leaders and followers and one that does not fall solely on the shoulders of an
individual leader.

One criticism of inclusive leadership is that research on inclusive leadership has been confounded with other
leadership theories and sets of behaviors. Another criticism is that current methods of measuring inclusive
leadership do so in an aggregate fashion such that individual differences in perceptions of inclusion may be lost.
Thus, more nuanced and complex measurement strategies are needed in future research. Finally, existing research
has not been able to clearly determine links between specific inclusive behaviors and outcomes. In other words,
future research is needed to test the Model of Inclusive Leadership presented in Figure 12.1.

Because inclusive leadership is defined as a set of behaviors, it follows that inclusive leadership can be both
learned and developed. Learning to be a more inclusive leader requires a change in mindset, a shift in values, and
the adoption of a new style of interacting with others. Leaders who wish to develop a more inclusive style of
leading should identify strengths and weaknesses through feedback and assessment tools, identify new and
challenging experiences to strengthen their inclusive leadership skills, and seek support from others to stay
motivated and positive in the face of change.

As the workforce is projected to become increasingly diverse and organizations continue to operate in fiercely
competitive environments, inclusive leadership may be viewed as a strategy to ensure that the potential benefits of
a diverse workforce are realized. That is, inclusive leaders play a critical role in creating environments in which
different ideas, perspectives, experiences, and values are leveraged to foster greater creativity and innovation as
well as more effective problem solving. A key takeaway from this chapter is that practicing inclusive leadership
requires both a mindset and everyday behaviors to foster inclusion. An inclusive mindset means constantly being
vigilant to recognize bias, discrimination, stereotyping, and exclusion in the words and actions of both oneself and
others. Practicing inclusive behaviors means engaging in both proactive and reactive tactics to ensure that


everyone feels like they are part of the group, that all members are treated with respect and fairness, and that
everyone feels that they can participate fully.


Descriptions of Images and Figures
Back to Figure

Antecedent conditions:

Leader characteristics:

pro-diversity beliefs

cognitive complexity


Group diversity cognitions:


climate for inclusion

Organizational policies and practices


Encourages divergent viewpoints

Appreciates all views and contributions

Is available and accessible

Invites input from others and shares decision making

Ensures justice and equity

Shows support

Incorporates members’ knowledge, skills, and abilities


Psychological safety

Work engagement


Creativity and innovation

Helping behavior


Learning from errors/failures

Work unit performance

Antecedent conditions influence behaviors, which affect outcomes.






You cannot have leaders without followers. In the previous chapter, “Inclusive Leadership” (Chapter 12), we
focused on inclusive leadership and how leaders can ensure that followers feel a part of the group. In this chapter,
we shift the focus to followers and the central role followers play in the leadership process. The process of leading
requires the process of following. Leaders and followers together create the leadership relationship, and without an
understanding of the process 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 negative connotations. One reason is that
people do not find followership as compelling as leadership. Leaders, rather than followers, have always taken
center stage. For example, in school, children are taught early that it is better to be a leader than a follower. In
athletics and 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 their followership activities. Clearly, it is
leadership skills that are applauded by society, not followership skills. It is just simply more intriguing to talk
about how leaders use power than to talk about how followers respond to power.

While the interest in examining the active role of followers was first approached in the 1930s by Follett (1949),
groundwork on follower research wasn’t established until several decades 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 studies have been published on followership. Traditionally, leadership research has focused on
leaders’ traits, roles, and behaviors because leaders are viewed as the causal agents for organizational change. At
the same time, the impact of followers on organizational outcomes has not been generally addressed. Researchers
often conceptualize leadership as a leader-centric process, emphasizing the role of the leader rather than the role of
the follower. Furthermore, little research has conceptualized leadership as a shared process involving the
interdependence between leaders and followers in a shared relationship. Even though followers share in the overall
leadership process, the nature of their role has not been scrutinized. In effect, followership has rarely been studied
as a central variable in the leadership process.

There are indications that this is beginning to change. In a 2017 New York Times article, Susan Cain (author of
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking [2012]) decries the glorification of leadership
skills in college admissions and curricula and argues that the world needs more followers. It needs team players,
people called to service, and individuals committed to something outside of themselves. Followership is also
receiving more attention now because of three major works devoted exclusively to the process of following: The
Art of Followership: How Great Followers Create Great Leaders and Organizations by Riggio, Chaleff, and
Lipman-Blumen (2008), Followership: How Followers Are Creating Change and Changing Leaders by Kellerman
(2008); and Followership: What Is It and Why Do People Follow? by Lapierre and Carsten (2014). Collectively,
these books have put the spotlight on followership and helped to establish it as a legitimate and significant area of

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 by followers. 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,
and Uhl-Bien (2014). Last, we explore types of ineffective followership that contribute to destructive leadership.


Followership Defined

It is challenging to define followership because the term conjures up different meanings for people, and the idea of
being a follower is positive for some and negative for others. For example, followership is seen as valuable in
military situations when soldiers follow orders from a platoon leader to complete a mission, or when passengers
boarding a plane follow the boarding agent’s instructions. In contrast, however, followership is thought of
negatively in such situations as when people follow a cult leader such as David Koresh of the Branch Davidians, or
when members of a college fraternity take it upon themselves to conduct life-threatening hazing rituals with new
members. Clearly, followership can be positive or negative, and it plays out differently in different settings.

What is followership? Followership is a process whereby an individual or individuals accept the influence of
others to accomplish a common goal. Followership involves a power differential between the follower and the
leader. Typically, followers comply with the directions and wishes of leaders—they defer to leaders’ power.

Followership also has an ethical dimension. Like leadership, followership is not amoral; that is, it is not a process
that is morally neutral. Followership carries with it a responsibility to consider the morality of one’s actions and
the rightness or wrongness of the outcomes of what 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 to
followership and to what followers do because the character and behavior of followers has an impact on leaders
and 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 behaviors they exhibit while
occupying a formal or informal position within a hierarchical system. For example, in a staff planning meeting,
some people are very helpful to the group because they 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 its outcomes. Emphasis in the role-based approach is on the roles and styles of followers and how their
behaviors affect the leader and organizational outcomes.

The relational-based approach to followership is quite different from the role-based approach. To understand the
relational-based approach it is helpful to understand social constructivism. Social constructivism is a sociological
theory that argues that people create meaning about their reality as they interact with each other. For example, a
fitness instructor and an individual in an exercise class negotiate with each other about the kind of influence 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 follower in a given situation. The meaning of
followership emerges from the communication between 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’s
attempt to influence and the other person’s response to these influence attempts. Leadership occurs within the
interpersonal context of people exerting influence and responding to those influence attempts. In the relational-
based approach, followership is tied to interpersonal behaviors rather than to specific roles (Carsten, Uhl-Bien,
West, Patera, & McGregor, 2010; DeRue & Ashford, 2010; Fairhurst & Uhl-Bien, 2012; Uhl-Bien et al., 2014).

Table 13.1 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


Zaleznik (1965) Kelley (1992) Chaleff (1995) Kellerman (2008)



Source: 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 of much of the existing
followership research. As there are many types of leaders, so, too, are there many types of followers (Table 13.1).
Grouping followers’ roles into distinguishable categories to create an accurate classification system, or typology,
of follower behaviors has been undertaken by several researchers. A typology enhances our understanding of the
broader area of followership by breaking it down into smaller pieces. In this case, these pieces 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 help leaders understand
followers and also to help followers understand and become leaders. In an article published in the Harvard
Business Review, Zaleznik created a matrix that displayed followers’ behaviors along two axes: dominance–
submission and activity–passivity (Figure 13.1). The vertical axis represents a range of followers from those who
want to control their leaders (i.e., be dominant) to those who want to be controlled by their leaders (i.e., be
submissive). The horizontal axis represents a range of followers from those who want to initiate and be involved to
those who sit back and withdraw. Based on the two axes, the model identifies four types of followers: withdrawn
(submissive/passive), masochistic (submissive/active), compulsive (highly dominant/passive), and impulsive
(highly dominant/active). Because Zaleznik was trained in psychoanalytic theory, these follower types are based
on psychological concepts. Zaleznik was interested in explaining the communication breakdowns between
authority figures and subordinates, in particular the dynamics of subordinacy conflicts. The follower types
illustrated in Figure 13.1 exist as a result of followers’ responses to inner tensions regarding authority. These
tensions may be unconscious but can often come to the surface and influence the communication in leader–
follower relationships.


Figure 13.1 Zaleznik Follower Typology

Source: Zaleznik, A. (1965). The dynamics of subordinacy, Harvard Business Review, May-Jun.

The Kelley Typology


Kelley’s (1992) typology (Figure 13.2) is currently the most recognized followership typology. Kelley believes
followers are enormously valuable to organizations and that the power of followers often goes unrecognized. He
stresses the importance of studying followers in the leadership process and gave impetus to the development of the
field of followership. While Zaleznik (1965) focused on the personal aspects of followers, Kelley emphasizes the
motivations of followers and follower behaviors. In his efforts to give followership equal billing to leadership,
Kelley examined those aspects of followers that account for exemplary followership.

Kelley sorted followers’ styles on two axes: independent critical thinking–dependent uncritical thinking and active
–passive. These dimensions resulted in five follower role types:

passive followers (sometimes pejoratively called “sheep”), who look to the leader for direction and

conformist followers, who are “yes people”—always on the leader’s side but still looking to the leader for
direction and guidance,

alienated followers, who think for themselves and exhibit a lot of negative energy,

pragmatist followers, who are “fence-sitters” who support the status quo but do not get on board until others
do, and

exemplary followers (sometimes called “star” followers), who are active and positive and offer independent
constructive criticism.


Figure 13.2 Kelley Follower Typology

Source: Based on excerpts from Kelley, Robert. E. (1992). The Power of Followership: How to Create Leaders People
Want to Follow and Followers Who Lead Themselves. New York: Doubleday.

Based on his observations, Kelley (1988, 2008) asserts that effective followers share the same indispensible
qualities: (1) They self-manage and think for themselves, exercise control and independence, and work without
supervision; (2) they show strong commitment to organizational goals (i.e., something outside themselves) as well
as their own personal goals; (3) they build their competence and master job skills; and (4) they are credible,
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 of followers in the
leadership process (Table 13.1). He developed his typology as a result of a defining moment in his formative years
when he became aware of the horrors of the World War 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, a
purveyor 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 act to keep leaders from abusing their power?

Figure 13.3 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 Great Followers Create Great Leaders and Organizations (p. 71), 2008.
Permission conveyed through Copyright Clearance Center, Inc. Republished with permission of John Wiley & Sons.

Rather than serving leaders, Chaleff argues that followers serve a common purpose along with leaders (Figure
13.3) and that both leaders and followers work to achieve common outcomes. Chaleff states that followers need to
take a more proactive role that brings it into parity with the leader’s role. He sought to make followers more
responsible, to change their own internal estimates of their abilities to influence others, and to help followers feel a
greater sense of agency.

To achieve equal influence with leaders, Chaleff emphasizes that followers need to be courageous. His approach is
a prescriptive one; that is, it advocates how followers ought to behave. According to Chaleff, 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 the 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 right thing when facing the
multiplicity of challenges that leaders place upon them.

Chaleff created a follower typology (Figure 13.4), which is constructed using two characteristics of courageous
followership: the courage to support the leader (vertical axis) and the courage to challenge the leader’s behavior
and policies (horizontal axis). This typology differentiates four styles of followership:



Figure 13.4 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 Great Followers Create Great Leaders and Organizations (p. 71), 2008;
permission conveyed through Copyright Clearance Center, Inc. Republished with permission of John Wiley & Sons.

1. Resource (lower left quadrant), which exhibits low support and low challenge. This describes those followers
who do just enough to get by.

2. Individualist (lower right quadrant), which demonstrates low support and high challenge. Often marginalized
by others, individualists speak up and let the leader know where they stand.

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. Followers who exhibit this
style take responsibility for themselves and for the leader and fully support the leader but are always willing
to challenge the leader when necessary.

The Kellerman Typology

Kellerman’s (2008) typology of followers was developed from her experience as a political scientist and her
observations about followers in different historical contexts. Kellerman argues that the importance of leaders tends
to be overestimated because they generally have more power, authority, and influence, while the importance of
followers is underestimated. From her perspective, followers are subordinates who are “unleaders,” by which she
means they have little power, no position of authority, and no special influence.

Figure 13.5 Kellerman Follower Typology

Source: From Followership: How Followers Are Creating Change and Changing Leaders, 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 13.5), which describes followers on one end as being detached and doing nothing for
the leader or the group’s goals and followers on the opposite end as being very dedicated and deeply involved with
the leader and the group’s goals. As shown in the figure, Kellerman’s typology identifies five levels of follower
engagement and behaviors:

1. Isolates are completely unengaged. They are detached and do not care about their leaders. Isolates who do
nothing actually strengthen the influence potential of a leader. For example, when an individual feels
alienated from the political system and never votes, elected officials end up having more power and freedom
to exert their will.

2. Bystanders are observers who do not participate. They are aware of the leader’s intentions and actions but
deliberately choose to not become involved. In a group situation, a bystander is one who listens to the
discussion but, when it is time to make a decision, disengages and declares neutrality.

3. 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 their leader
regarding the fairness of their company’s new overtime policy.

4. Activists feel strongly about the leader and the leader’s policies and are determined to act on their own beliefs.
They are change agents. For example, in 2020 after the death of George Floyd, an African American man, at
the hands of a white Minneapolis, Minnesota, police officer, antiracism activists took to the streets in protest
to demand change in police practices. Their protests inspired similar protests across the United States and

5. Diehards are engaged to the extreme. They are deeply committed to supporting the leader or opposing the
leader. Diehards are totally dedicated to their cause, even willing to risk their lives for it. In a small-group
setting, diehards are followers who are all-consumed with their own position within the group to the point of
forcing the group members to do what they want them to do or forcing the group process to implode. For
example, there have been U.S. representatives willing to force the government into economic calamity by
refusing to vote to raise the country’s debt ceiling in order to force their will on a particular issue, such as
increased 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 about followers? What
insights or conclusions are suggested by the typologies?

First, these typologies provide a starting point for research. The first step in building theory is to define the
phenomenon under observation, and these typologies are that first step to identifying key followership variables.
Second, these typologies highlight the multitude of different ways followers have been characterized, from
alienated or masochistic to activist or individualist. Third, while the typologies do not differentiate a definitive list
of follower types, there are some commonalities among them. Generally, the major followership types are active–
engaged, independent–assertive, submissive–compliant, and supportive–conforming—or, as suggested by Carsten
et al. (2014), passive followers, antiauthoritarian followers, and proactive followers.

Fourth, the typologies are important because they label individuals engaged in the leadership process. This labeling
brings followers to the forefront and gives them more credence for their role in the leadership process. These
descriptions can also assist leaders in effectively communicating with followers. By knowing that a follower
adheres to a certain type of behavior, the leaders can adapt their style to optimally relate to the role the follower is

Collectively, the typologies of followership provide a beginning point for theory building about followership.
Building on these typologies, the next section discusses some of the first attempts to create a theory of



What is the phenomenon of followership? Is there a theory that explains it? Uhl-Bien and her colleagues (2014) set
out to answer those questions by systematically analyzing the existing followership literature and introducing a
broad theory of followership. They state that followership comprises “characteristics, behaviors and processes of
individuals acting in relation to leaders” (p. 96). In addition, they describe followership as a relationally based
process that includes how followers and leaders interact to construct leadership and its outcomes (Uhl-Bien et al.,
2014, p. 99).

Based on these definitions, Uhl-Bien et al. proposed a formal theory of followership. They first identified four
constructs (i.e., components or attributes) and variables that comprise the process of followership as shown in
Table 13.2.

Table 13.2 Theoretical Constructs and Variables of Followership






and Leadership



Follower Traits Leader Power Followership

Individual Follower

Follower Motivation Perceptions and

Leadership Behaviors Individual Leader

Follower Perceptions and

Leader Affect

Relationship Outcomes

Leadership Process


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.

Followership characteristics refer to the attributes of followers, such as the follower’s traits (e.g., confidence),
motivations, and the way an individual perceives what it means to be a follower.

Leadership characteristics refer to the attributes of the leader, such as the leader’s power and/or willingness to
empower others, the leader’s perceptions of followers, and the leader’s affect (i.e., the leader’s positive or negative
feelings toward followers). Followership behaviors are the behaviors of individuals who are in the follower role—
that is, the extent to which they obey, defer, or resist the leader. Leadership behaviors are the behaviors of the
individuals in the leadership role, such as how the leader influences followers to respond. Finally, followership
outcomes are the results that occur based on the followership process. The outcomes can influence the individual
follower, the leader, the relationship between the leader and the follower, and the leadership process. For example,
how a leader reacts to a follower, whether a follower receives positive or negative reinforcement from a leader, and
whether a follower advances the organizational goals all contribute to followership outcomes.

To explain the possible relationships between the variables and constructs identified in Table 13.2, the authors
proposed two theoretical frameworks: reversing the lens (Figure 13.6) and the leadership co-created process
(Figure 13.7).


Reversing the Lens

Reversing the lens is an approach to followership that addresses followers in a manner opposite of the way they
have been studied in most prior leadership research. Rather than focusing on how followers are affected by leaders,
it focuses on how followers affect leaders and organizational outcomes. Reversing the lens emphasizes that
followers can be change agents. As illustrated in Figure 13.6, this approach addresses (1) the impact of followers’
characteristics on followers’ behavior, (2) the impact of followers’ behavior on leaders’ perceptions and behavior
and the impact of the leaders’ perceptions and behavior on followers’ behaviors, and (3) the impact of both
followers’ behavior and leaders’ perceptions and behavior on followership outcomes.

Figure 13.6 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 reversing the lens might work is the research a team is doing on employees and
followership in a small, nonprofit organization. In this situation, researchers might be interested in how followers’
personality traits (e.g., introversion–extraversion, dogmatism) relate to how they act at work—that is, their style
and work behavior. Researchers might also examine how employees’ behavior affects their supervisors’ leadership
behavior or how the follower–leader relationship affects organizational outcomes. These are just a sample of the
research questions that could be addressed. However, notice that the overriding purpose and theme of the study is
the impact of followers on the followership process.


The Leadership Co-Created Process

A second theoretical approach, the leadership co-created process, is shown in Figure 13.7. The name of this
approach is almost a misnomer because it implies that it is about leadership rather than followership. However,
that is not the case. The leadership co-created process conceptualizes followership as a give-and-take process
where one individual’s following behaviors interact with another individual’s leading behaviors to create
leadership and its resulting outcomes. This approach does not frame followership as role-based or as a lower rung
on a hierarchical ladder; rather, it highlights how leadership is co-created through the combined act of leading and

Figure 13.7 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 with permission of Oxford University Press.

Leading behaviors are influence attempts—that is, using power to have an impact on another. Following behaviors,
on the other hand, involve granting power to another, complying, or challenging. Figure 13.7 illustrates that (1)
followers and leaders have a mutual 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 13.7. Terry Smith is a seasoned high school football coach who paints houses in the summer
to supplement his income. One summer, Coach Smith 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 finding
innovative ways to accomplish their painting jobs more efficiently.

When the summer was over and football practice resumed, however, Coach Smith and Jason ran into problems. At
practice, Jason called Coach Smith by his first name, joking with 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 was concerned that other team members would also start calling him by his first name and he would
lose their respect of him as the coach. Jason, on the other hand, felt good about his relationship with Coach Smith
and the influence he had with him. He did not want to lose this, which would happen if he was forced to resume
calling him Coach Smith, like the rest of the players.

To resolve their issues, Coach Smith and Jason discussed how they would address one another in a series of
interactions and decided it was best for Jason to call Smith “Coach Smith” during the academic year to facilitate a
positive working relationship between the coach and all of the team members.

In this example, the leadership co-created process can be seen in the different leading and following moves Smith
and Jason made. For example, when Coach Smith asked Jason to join him to paint, he was asserting friendly
influence which Jason accepted by agreeing to work with Smith. When Jason suggested more efficient methods of


painting, Smith accepted the influence attempt and deferred to Jason’s ideas. By calling each other by their first
names while working together, both Jason and Smith assumed that leadership was being shared.

But, when football practice started in the fall and Jason continued to call Smith by his first name instead of “Coach
Smith,” it was apparent that for Coach Smith to retain his influence with the other players, Jason and Smith 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 football practices
because all players received what they perceived as equal treatment. In this situation, researchers studying
followership would focus on the way Smith’s and Jason’s leading and following behaviors resulted in leadership
that in turn resulted in effective or ineffective 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 her colleagues (2014) are initial attempts to create a
theory of followership. The frameworks provide a way to conceptualize followership that is useful to researchers
in generating further studies to explore the intricacies of followership such as the work we discuss in the next


New Perspectives on Followership

The research on followership is continuing to evolve and has resulted in a growing interest in the role followers
have in organizations. Work by Carsten et al. (2014) not only helps organizations understand followers but also
presents positive aspects of being a follower and suggests several practical perspectives on followership.

Perspective 1: Followers Get the Job Done

In the past, there has been what Meindl (1995) called a “romance of leadership,” which emphasized the importance
of leaders and leadership to the functioning of groups and organizations. There has been less recognition of the
importance of followers to getting the job done. When viewed from a less leader-centric perspective, leadership
can be seen as something that occurs among followers as a result of how they interpret leadership. This places less
emphasis on the personality of the leader and more on followers’ reactions to the leader. It shifts attention away
from leaders as the causal agents of organizational change and 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 the work. They are central to the life of the organization. Going forward, more attention needs to be given to the
personalities, cognitive abilities, interpersonal skills, and problem-solving abilities of followers (Carsten et al.,

Perspective 2: Followers Work in the Best Interest of the Organization’s Mission

Although not true of all followers, proactive followers are committed to achieving the goals of the group or
organization to which they belong. Rather than being passive and blindly obedient to the wishes of the leader,
these followers report asserting themselves in ways that are in alignment with the goals of the organization. They
put the organization’s goals ahead of the leader’s goals. The advantage of proactive followers is that they guard
against leaders who act in self-serving or unethical ways. For example, if the president of the United States asked a
cabinet member to do something that would personally benefit only the president, the cabinet member might
refuse, arguing that what they were asked to do was not in the best interests of the country, which they ultimately
serve. Followers act as a check and balance on a leader’s power, protecting the organization against abuse of this
power. Proactive followers 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 challenge the 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 is unaware, 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 in sync with the overall mission of the organization.

In his work on a conceptual framework of “authentic followership,” de Zilwa (2014) focuses on the relational
interactions between leaders and followers and how authentic followership impacts leadership processes. De Zilwa
argues that followership is proactive—followers make a conscious decision to follow a leader. This challenges the
conventional view that a leader’s influence is a one-way process. In being authentic, followers are assertive and
offer independent, critical thought. Rather than blindly following a leader, authentic followers develop capacities
for cooperation as they focus on organizational effectiveness. They are self-aware and know when to place the
needs of others above their own, making the leader more effective.

To illustrate this point, consider what happened between Amy Malley, an upper-level college student, and her
professor, Dr. Orville. After Dr. Orville posted the final grades for a 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 certain I did very well on the
exam and my grade for the course should be an A, but your posting indicates 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 and challenged Dr. Orville because she was confident that her
exam grade was incorrect. After much discussion, Dr. Orville offered to let Amy see her exam and the scoring key.
To his surprise, her answers were correct, but he had marked them wrong. Upon looking further into 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. Orville immediately changed Amy’s grade and recalculated the grades for the rest
of the class. In this example, Amy’s challenging of Dr. Orville’s leadership resulted in positive outcomes for 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 the leader. To advance an
organization’s mission, it is valuable for leaders when followers validate and affirm the leaders’ intentions.
Consider what happens in a small-group setting when an individual member attempts to make a point or advance
an idea. If someone in the group supports the individual, the group member’s idea is heard and gains traction in the
group, as does the group member. However, if individual members do not receive support from other group
members, they tend to feel disconfirmed and question their role in the group.

For a leader, having a follower who supports you is like having a lieutenant. The lieutenant affirms the leader’s
ideas to others and in so doing gives the leader’s ideas validity. This support strengthens a leader’s position in the
group and helps advance the leader’s goals (Yelsma, 1999). We all need lieutenants, but leaders especially need
lieutenants. Support from others is essential to advancing ideas with others. An example of how not having this
support can affect outcomes can be seen in the leadership of Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer during the
COVID-19 crisis, when she gave a mandate to close down businesses in the entire state to slow the spread of the
virus but could not muster enough support from the state legislature to keep the measure solidly in place. In this
case, not having the support of others in a group was detrimental to the leader.

Perspective 5: Followers Learn From Leaders

A serendipitous outcome of being a follower is that in the process of following you learn about leading.
Followership gives individuals the opportunity to view leadership from a position unencumbered from the burdens
and responsibilities of being the leader. Followers get to observe what does or does not work for a leader; they can
learn which leadership approaches or methods are effective or ineffective and apply this learning if they become

Consider the training that individuals undergo to become teachers. In most education programs, becoming certified
as a teacher requires students to do “student teaching” or “supervised teaching,” spending a semester working with
a certified teacher in a classroom where actual teaching and learning are taking place. The student gets a chance to
observe what teachers do and what teaching requires without the full responsibility of being in charge of the
students and the educational outcomes. These student teachers have the opportunity to explore their own
competencies and hone their teaching skills. From a followership perspective, the student is playing the follower
role but in the process learns the leader 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 and help them accomplish organizational goals.
But there is another side to followership in which followers can play unproductive, and even harmful, roles.

Some research suggests there is actually a “dark side” to followership. Schyns, Wisse, and Sanders (2019) found
that followers who exhibit the “dark triad” of traits—narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy—are likely
to have negative effects on fellow organization members and the organization as a whole. The authors identified
“red flag” behaviors of dark triad followers such as taking credit for others’ work, self-promotion, becoming
aggressive after feedback, controlling others, manipulation, and bullying. When both leaders and followers have
dark triad traits, the outcomes for the other group members and the organization may be even more negative.

Another way followers can have a debilitating impact is through their facilitation of toxic leadership. For example,
when followers are passive or submissive, their inaction can contribute to unfettered leadership and unintentionally
support toxic leaders. Furthermore, followers can create contexts that are unhealthy and make it possible for
leaders who are not interested in the common good to thrive. When followers act in ways that contribute to the
power of destructive leaders and their goals, it can have a debilitating impact on not just the group or organization
they serve, but the followers as well.

In The Allure of Toxic Leaders (2005), Jean Lipman-Blumen explored toxic leadership from the perspective of
followership. Toxic, or harmful, leaders are leaders who have dysfunctional personal characteristics and engage in
numerous destructive behaviors. Yet, people follow them. There are many examples of such leaders in world
history, among them Adolf Hitler, whose leadership led to the extermination of 6 million Jews in Europe; former
Serbian and Yugoslavian president Slobodan Milošević, who ordered the genocide of thousands of Albanians and
forced deportation of nearly a million, and Enron’s Jeffrey Skilling and Kenneth Lay, whose conspiracy and fraud
cost nearly 20,000 people their jobs and future retirement earnings.

Lipman-Blumen seeks to answer this question: Why do people follow bad leaders? She identifies a series of
psychological factors on the part of followers that contribute to harmful leadership and explains why followers can
be compliant even with highly destructive leaders. She also examines how some followers become “henchmen”
for toxic leaders, helping and supporting the toxic leader in enacting a 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 an understanding of why some followership is
negative and has counterproductive outcomes.

Among the psychological factors of followers that can foster destructive leadership identified by Lipman-Blumen
are our need for reassuring authority figures; our need for security and certainty; our need to feel chosen or special;
our need for membership in the human community; our fear of ostracism, isolation, and social death; and our fear
of powerlessness to challenge a bad leader (Table 13.3).

1. Our Need for Reassuring Authority Figures

As far back as psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud’s research in the early 1900s, much has been written about how
people deal with authority. When we are very young, we depend on our parents to guide and protect us; but as we
mature, we learn to be our own compass/authority/person and make decisions without being dependent on others.
However, even as adults, some people still have a high need for authority figures. They want their leaders to
provide guidance and protection like their parents used to. This need can open the door for leaders who use
followers for their own ends. When followers’ needs for a reassuring authority figure are extremely strong, it
makes them vulnerable to following abusive and destructive leaders. For example, a middle school student who
plays an instrument may practice considerably more than is necessary just to obtain assurance from the teacher that
they are good and worthwhile. In this example, the teacher could take advantage of this student’s need for
validation by having the student do more than is commonly required.


2. Our Need for Security and Certainty

The freedom many people experience when achieving adulthood can bring uncertainty and disruption to their
lives. Psychologists who study people’s belief systems have found that people have a need for consistency—to
keep their beliefs and attitudes balanced. Our drive for 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 to find relief. It is in contexts like these that followers are susceptible to the lure of unethical leaders who
have power. For example, think about migrant workers who come from Mexico to the United States to work on a
large produce farm. The farmer they work for has promised good wages and a place to live. But upon arriving at
the farm, the workers find they are required to work in the fields for up to 15 hours a day, seven days a week, and
the housing provided is substandard. In addition, the farmer charges the workers a high rent for 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 the meager income they make and they know that if they complain, the
farmer will report them to immigration authorities and they will be deported. The fragile security of working for
the farmer outweighs the uncertainty of living in poverty in Mexico.

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 “chosen ones” 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 some to do battle with
others. Being part of the chosen and feeling that they are “right” gives a sense of security to followers, but it does
so at the expense of appreciating the humanity of “the others.”

Consider, for example, those who adhere to a white supremacist ideology based on the belief that white people are
“chosen” and superior to all other races and should have control over people of those other races. White
supremacists oppose people of color and those members of non-Christian religions who they believe threaten the
“purity” of the white race. Followers of white supremacy’s belief in being somehow special reinforces their
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 interpersonal needs is to know whether
they belong to the group. Are we “in” or “out”? Are we included with others and acknowledged as a member of
the community or not?

When groups and organizations function positively, it is healthy for all group members, not detrimental. Group
members feel accepted, comfortable, valued, and inspirited. But people’s need to be members of the group can be
exploited by destructive leaders who take advantage of individuals who are highly dependent on the group for their
own personal meaning and purpose. Highly dependent followers may be willing to give up their individuality,
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 on college 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 the group. Followers can become vulnerable to bad leadership when they are unable
to moderate 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, the individual typically learns and
begins to practice the norms of the group. Surrounded by the group, followers become comfortable with the
group’s values, mission, and beliefs. In addition, followers begin to like being a group member and doing what
group members do and 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 it difficult for individuals
to break out of the group or dissent if the group’s mission or values run 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 act against 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 the group.

For example, imagine being in a group of friends, and several members of your group have started to make fun of
a young man in your class who is on the autism spectrum and often acts awkwardly in social situations. You
dislike how they treat this young man and consider their behavior to be bullying. Do you speak up and tell them to
stop, knowing that you might be ostracized by the rest of the group? Or do you “keep quiet” and maintain your
relationships with your friends? Being an ethical follower carries with it the burden of acting out your individual
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 helpless to change them. Once
a part of a group, followers often feel pressure to conform to the norms of the group. They find that it is not easy to
challenge the leader or go against the leader’s plans for the group. Even when a leader acts inappropriately or treats
others in harmful 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 it scary to challenge authority
figures. To speak truth to power is a brave act, and followers often feel powerless to express themselves in the face
of authority. Although being an accepted follower in a group carries with it many benefits, it does not always
promote personal agency. After all, who would support you if you challenged the leader? For example, imagine
what it would be like to be a gay employee in an organization whose leadership is openly prejudiced against
individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. Would you be likely to express disapproval of
the leadership and its policies?

Table 13.3 Psychological Factors and Dysfunctional Leadership

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 with permission.

The six psychological needs of followers outlined by Lipman-Blumen are essential to understanding the role of
followers in fostering destructive leadership. When followers attempt to fulfill these needs, it can create contexts
where unethical and destructive leaders are allowed to thrive.



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, it does provide several “takeaways” that have valuable implications for
practicing followership.

First, simply discussing followership forces us to elevate its importance and the value of followers. For many
years, th