Leadership Part II; by David S. Gjestland

(continued from Part I)

The Second Key Leadership Emergence

Defining a Response to the Situation

Understanding these four patterns of situational analysis is of utmost importance because it simply means that if people, first of all, interpret elements or conditions in their environment, then likewise any potential leader’s behavior will be governed by his/her perspective pertaining to the situation at hand. Defining a Response to a situation brings to light a fundamentally important new factor: it reveals how in fact GOALS come to be defined. From the foregoing, it is evident that the patterns of definition utilized by an emerging leader, or anyone else for that matter, will have a momentous bearing on the Goals that are proposed. That is why it is so urgent to thoroughly understand how this entire process takes place. In a similar vein, when GOALS are selected they invariably reflect three patterns: the past; the present; and the future; once again predicated on the emerging leader’s perspective.

Patterns of Goal Formation

Goal Perspectives and DecisionsThe very act of choosing a course of action inevitably throws it into a past, present or future time frame. Therefore, the failure to choose an appropriate time mode can have most debilitating consequences for all involved. (Bonner 1965, esp. Chpt. 6) All too frequently though, there is a tendency to ignore time. Typically, that leads to the selection and pursuit of aims which are not in the future. Such objectives have an inherent weakness: they neither inspire hope nor do they motivate people. Besides, they provide no guides to action, nor, measures for gauging success or achievement; undoubtedly they manifest the most serious shortcomings of past or present oriented GOAL setting.

Past Goal Perspectives

Typically, returning to the past is characteristic of conservative oriented people. Such a point of view presupposes eliminating innovations that may have occurred. Naturally, that tends to be a negative destructive process, which runs counter to the more hopeful and constructive aspirations of modern culture. In addition, being past oriented suggests an unwillingness to deal with evolving circumstances. In turn, that leads one into the unenviable position of reacting to situations. Notice—significantly! one is reacting instead of being Proactive (in H. Bonner’s terms) in order to shape or manage the situation to one’s own advantage. Moreover, it would be difficult if not impossible to ascertain when or if the past had been reached. In view of their negative and imprecise nature, past objectives provide little inspiration or hope. Rather, past viewpoints tend to promote discontent and aimlessness as clear-cut courses of action are not easily defined.

Present Orientations

Present perspectives have similar shortcomings. They too are inherently conservative in their outlook. They seek to retain existing circumstances hence they struggle to prevent change as their chief objective. But change is inexorable. Moreover, neither hope nor motivation can be derived, from present standpoints which are merely content with present conditions. Consequently since no action is prescribed, confusion misunderstandings and discontent rapidly ensues.

Future Goals (6)

Future aspirations on the other hand are altogether different. The selection of GOALS already implies the future. Moreover, future Goals provide the all important link between a definition of a situation and the spur to action which is the most essential, most demanding, second step that follows from defining the situation. First, Future Goals provide hope for a better future. Hope for a better future is always inspiring and thus a sure-fire way to attract followers. Goals also provide direction. In addition, future objectives greatly increase assurance and confidence, simply by virtue of specifying the courses of action to be taken. Notably too, GOALS release people from the trap of “Cultural” or “Habitual” responses to situations. Indeed, if a keen sense of time is maintained, future oriented objectives will practically invite innovative solutions, precisely because they seek to avoid present or past causes of problems. People thus, are provided with far more effective route-markers about the direction being taken, because future Goals must be consciously chosen, whereas “Culturally” or “Habitually” chosen courses of action are simply reflexive—reactive. They merely end up reaffirming the past—worse still, they reify and exacerbate prevailing problems and provide no solutions whatsoever to prevailing problems.

Particularly pertinent for leadership is that, future endeavors help to provide a point of coalescence, of unity—indeed a rallying point around which can be mustered a common effort for the attainment of the GOAL (S) that a leader might propose. Additionally, future oriented OBJECTIVES provide points of reference against which the rate of accomplishment can be ascertained. As has been illustrated, “Cultural” or “Habitual” etc. viewpoints characterizes the way situations are more commonly defined and hence generate little change or improvement Now, it must be remembered as Robert Stebbins so aptly demonstrated, defining a GOAL is merely Phase I in the situational definition process. Phase II, he added: …amounts to choosing a standard personal evaluation, plan of action and justification…In Phase II choice is guided by the immediate intentions of the actors…”

The Third Key to Leadership Emergence: Defining Resources

Thus a leader’s Plan of Action—the GOALS must somehow be put into operation. That in turn suggests a third key aspect of leadership. Somehow the Leader needs to select resources to be able implement his plan of action or GOALS. (Even the simple act of reaching for a light switch after entering a dark room requires a resource–the light switch to be put into operation.) Understandably too, any complicated plan of action would require a multifaceted variety of resources. Here then, in addition to the Situation and Time Frame the third key property of GOALS definition is suggested: their Means; that is some form of Resources must be selected.

The choice of Resources will inevitably be dictated by the nature of the GOAL(S) selected. Indeed, the Resources will be significantly circumscribed by the nature of the GOAL(S) selected. In addition, perhaps the most overlooked aspect of Resources is their dual nature. One part involves selecting and aggregating the resources necessary for attaining the GOAL(S). The second part requires picking-out methods for operationalizing and/or utilizing the resources in a manner best calculated to achieve the previously chosen ends. Resource mobilizing can be examined in terms of five broad categories: i.) People; ii.) Money; iii.) Materials; iv.) Time and v.) Space. The study here however, will only focus on the “people” aspect of resources as the other forms of resources are beyond the scope of present concerns.

The people Aspect of Resource Mobilization

It is evident from the foregoing that for any form of leadership to emerge, a potential leader must define the situation being confronted. Doing so, it must be remembered, is the starting point, the first step preceding any and all action/activity. The second step necessarily then, must be a definition of the means or resources for attaining those GOALS by the leader. The question is how is that to be done?

Building Solidarity

Once a potential leader has conducted a situational analysis and selected an appropriate GOAL it behooves the leader to be able to gather supporters if there is to be any hope of being a leader. Identifying supporters or prospective followers however, is a long way from wining them over enough so that they will follow the potential leader.

As early as 1945 Kurt Lewin and Paul Grabbe, explained that creating an “in group” was one of the most essential preconditions for getting people to accept an new “value system”—which of course is what a potential leader’s new GOALS would be. The reason as so many experiments have shown, is that what “exists as ‘reality’ for the individual is to a high degree determined by what is socially accepted as reality”. “’Reality, therefore is not absolute. It differs from group to group depending on the group to which the individual “belongs”. (See Sherif: 1947 also Sherif and Sherif 1964) For Leadership therefore, creating the sense of an “in group” of people is critical; it stems form the ‘consensual validation” of beliefs that groups provide by establishing what Festinger (1950) called “social reality” for the members. (Se also: Heider 1946 and 1958; Thibaut and Kelley 1959). (7)

Here then arises the third major key to leadership emergence—the ability to create and “in-group” or group or organizational culture. Building group “solidarity” evidently spawns an environment that is highly conducive to persuading potential followers to accept the new value system or GOALS being proposed by the emerging leader. As previously indicated the propensity for creating a new “group culture” or “group solidarity” is significantly enhanced by a “Proactive” definition of the situation and the proposed GOALS. Predicated on the success achieved in producing an “in group” or “group culture” peer pressure will gradually come to be exerted on potential group members to commit themselves to the Goals being propose by the emerging Leader. There are of course other methods of aggregating supporters notably through hiring them or through the use of other types of incentives. (See. Barnard 1938; also Clark and Wilson 1971: 274-296). These other incentive systems however, have rather limited utility and are not always effective. By contrast, a leader’s “in group” serves to “re-structure” situations by providing rules that act as guides to action for people showing them how to respond to situations.(8) Moreover, these “rules about behavior” not only tell people what is expected of them in certain circumstances; there is also little need to press the “rules” on people. Rather, enforcement comes about through “appeals to impersonal values” since compliance is not regarded as submission to someone else’s power. Indeed, compliance becomes “directly rewarding” to individual group members as the values become more and more widely held. Thus, “the need for the exercise of control becomes greatly reduced”. (Thibaut and Kelley, 1959:453).

There are thus several reasons why building solidarity—“that is building a culture” for supporters is essential for leadership to succeed. First, by virtue of defining a clear-cut path to action for the “in-group” the leader generates a potent vehicle for attracting supporters to himself. Notably, being part of an “in-group” or “group culture” serves to differentiate between a leader’s supporters and non-supporters. Third, compared to other incentive systems (e.g. as described by Barnard 1938) peer pressure exerted by group members provides a far more potent stimulus for motivating people to willingly perform tasks and responsibilities to achieve goals set out by the leader. As has been noted too, an “in-group’” or “group culture” apparently acts as a powerful control mechanism, because compliance is found to be inherently rewarding to each member. Thus, the objective of “building solidarity” must be regarded as of over-riding importance in being able to lead. In view of these considerations, it can now be understood why creating an “in-group” or “group culture” is of utmost importance for leadership emergence. It is absolutely essential for legitimizing leadership itself, and any Goals the leader might seek to accomplish. Without adequate legitimization of the leader and the leader’s GOALS, it would be virtually impossible to mobilize sufficient support for implementing the desired objectives. Inadequate legitimization of leadership may thus be one of the chief causes for the failure of leadership in any situation.

The Fourth Key to Leadership Emergence: Implementation of GOALS

Having first identified objectives and then, mobilized Resources namely, by generating an “in group” or “group culture” the fourth key to leadership must be taken: coordinating and implementing the activities of the followers through a systematic and orderly procedure for the division of labor. The reason as Luther Gulick (1937) so succinctly put it is: “because men differ in nature, capacity and skill and gain greatly in dexterity by specialization (See also Barnard 1971; and Thompson 1971).

The logical vehicle for doing so requires some form of organizational structure. A convenient guideline for GOAL implementation is provided through the Structural/Functional Model of organization proposed by Robert Weiss (1956). He suggested that if organizations were regarded as “social forms” that had both structural and functional properties these two features could then be grouped into the following four categories: a.) Offices; b.) Functional Activities; c.) Organizational Goals; d.) Structure. One difficulty with Weiss’ model is the tendency to obscure the probable sequence of development. Accordingly, it may be more appropriate if the four elements we rearranged in the following order: Organizational Goals; Offices; Functional Activities and Structure.

Leaders GOALS

The nature and patterns of Goal formation have already been discussed at length. Once Goals have been formulated and an “in group” or “group culture” mobilized it becomes necessary to assign the members of these groups to various tasks, namely: “Offices” in order to perform the “Functional Activities” through an orderly “Structure” designed to accomplish the GOALS.

In the final analysis the ability of someone to be able to articulate some form of Goals for coping with issues in a situation, then being able to recruit people to an “in group” or to build a “group culture” that seeks to deal with the situation means that the rudiments of an organization has been created. Once an organization originates to implement Goals the foundation is laid for awesome exercise of power. Many variables remain that may hinder or advance the implementation of the goals, such as the skill of the members of the groups, available monetary resources and the like. In the final analysis, a lot depends on the skill of the leader in mobilizing followers to join the “group culture” for implementing his goals.

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Foot notes:

(06) It is recognized that Future Goals is a redundant term but employed nevertheless to demonstrate the importance of time frame of reference.

(07) Although it is recognized that these are old—even ancient studies they are nevertheless very valuable for the insights they provide for understanding how an “in group” comes to be formed. The most significant feature here is that “in group” is merely another term for what is currently the most popular jargon for describing an “in group” namely: Organizational Culture

(08) Although Stanley Milgram’s study was roundly criticized for using humans in his experiment, the results he reported may help to explain the considerable predilection people have towards accepting an emerging leader’s exhortations to join the “in group”. Milgram showed that over 60% of people almost blindly followed orders from someone in “authority”. Alternatively, the study implied all too many people are only too happy to have someone else chose for them what they should do next. If that is the case, then that has enormous implications for potential leaders. Indeed it may be a critical factor, in a leader’s ability to attract followers.