Great Leaders: An Evidence-Based Approach

By Luthans, F.

Edited by Paul Ducham


Most of the discussion about the major historical contributions to the study of organizational behavior has indirect or direct implications for Leadership Style. For example, the Hawthorne studies were interpreted in terms of their implications for supervisory style. Also relevant is the classic work done by Douglas McGregor, in which Theory X represents the traditional authoritarian style of leadership and Theory Y represents an enlightened, humanistic style. The Iowa studies analyzed the impact of autocratic, democratic, and laissez-faire styles, and the studies conducted by the Michigan group found the employee-centered supervisor to be more effective than the productioncentered supervisor. The Ohio State studies identified consideration (a supportive type of style) and initiating structure (a directive type of style) as being the major functions of leadership. The trait and group theories have indirect implications for style, and the humanoriented, democratic, and task-directed styles play an important role in Fiedler’s classic contingency theory. The path-goal conceptualization also depends heavily on directive, supportive, participative, and achievement-oriented styles of leadership. 

     The same is true of the more modern charismatic, transformational, and Authentic Leadership theories. They have an inspirational style with vision, and they “do the right thing” for their people. Table 14.1 summarizes the charismatic leader style according to three major types of behavior, with illustrative actions. An example of such a style would be Paul O’Neill of Alcoa. He espoused a clear vision for his firm, anchored on quality, safety, and innovation. He made his vision compelling and central to the company, set high expectations for his management team and employees throughout the organization, and provided continuous support and energy for his vision through meetings, task forces, videotapes, and extensive personal contact. Another example of new leadership in action is Ricardo Semler, CEO of the innovative Brazilian firm Semco. He has no organization chart and allows his employees to choose who they want to work for: “We want people to follow their instincts and to choose as bosses people they respect—even if they don’t like them.”
       A rough approximation of the various styles derived from the studies and theories discussed so far can be incorporated into the continuum shown in Table 14.2. For ease of presentation, the styles listed may be substituted for the expressions “boss centered” and employee centered” used by Tannenbaum and Schmidt in their classic leadership continuum shown in Figure 14.1. The verbal descriptions and the relationship between authority and freedom found in Figure 14.1 give a rough representation of the characteristics of the various styles of leadership. Importantly, as shown in the contingency or contextual theories, both sides can be effective. An example would be the well-known leadership style of Jack Welch when he headed the successful run of G.E. Jack admitted he was more involved in the day-to-day operations of his corporation than would even be the traditional boss-centered leader. Although Welch was very successful, another admitted micromanager, the CEO of Rubicon Oil, recently revealed that his approach resulted in his employees not giving suggestions during meetings because they were afraid of getting “shot down.” Also, recent research indicates some effective leaders are perceived as caring and empathetic and others as intelligent and able to handle complex tasks.
       One thing is certain: leadership style can make a difference, both positively and negatively. For example, a survey found that senior executives view their companies’ leadership styles as pragmatic rather than conceptual, and conservative rather than risk taking. These same executives felt that to meet their current and future challenges, the styles should be the other way around. In contrast to the leaders in the classical bureaucracies, leaders of today’s organizations “must be more entrepreneurial; more accountable; more customer- , process- , and results-focused; biased toward action; empowering; communicative; technologically sophisticated; on fire about innovation and continuous improvement; strong in the use of guidance, suggestion, and influence; and sparing in the use of pure authority.” Obviously, other descriptive terms of effective leadership can be added to this comprehensive list, especially in times of an economic crisis or in times where a more quiet, antihero approach is more effective. For example, as an alternative to the stereotyped self-heralding heroic style, one observation asserts that effective leaders are “quiet” and low profile, act with “modesty and restraint” and act “patiently, carefully, and incrementally.” Although “speak softly and carry a big stick” is still recommended, abusive leadership is now recognized never to be appropriate. For example, one study of abusive leadership, characterized as a sustained display of hostile verbal and nonverbal behavior, excluding physical contact, indicates a series of potential long-term undesirable outcomes, including employees with lower job and life satisfaction, lower normative and affective commitment, conflicts between work and family, and psychological distress.
      As a summary observation about style, Bennis notes: “Never before has American business faced so many challenges, and never before have there been so many choices in how to face those challenges. We must look now at what it is going to take not just to regain global leadership, but simply to stay a player in the game.” The following sections examine the widely recognized, evidence-based leadership styles available to today’s managers to meet these challenges.

Figure 14.1

Table 14.1

Table 14.2



In addition to the Tannenbaum and Schmidt continuum shown in Figure 14.1, other historically important approaches to leadership styles include Hersey and Blanchard’s life-cycle (later termed the situational) approach to leadership. Following the original Ohio State studies, Hersey and Blanchard’s approach identifies two major styles:

1. Task style. The leader organizes and defines roles for members of the work group; the leader explains the tasks that group members are to do and when, where, and how they are to do them.

2. Relationship style. The leader has close, personal relationships with the members of the group, and there is open communication and psychological and emotional support.

       Taking a contingency approach to recognize situational variables, Hersey and Blanchard incorporated the maturity of the followers into their model. The level of maturity is defined by three criteria:

1. Degree of achievement motivation
2. Willingness to take on responsibility
3. Amount of education and/or experience
           Although they recognize that there may be other important situational variables, Hersey and Blanchard focus only on this maturity level of work group members in their model.
         The key for leadership effectiveness in this model is to match up the situation with the appropriate style. The following summarizes the four basic styles:

1. Telling style. This is a high-task, low-relationship style and is effective when followers are at a very low level of maturity.

2. Selling style. This is a high-task, high-relationship style and is effective when followers are on the low side of maturity.

3. Participating style. This is a low-task, high-relationship style and is effective when followers are on the high side of maturity.

4. Delegating style. This is a low-task, low-relationship style and is effective when followers are at a very high level of maturity.

Hersey and Blanchard’s approach includes a questionnaire instrument that presents 12 situations that generally depict the various levels of maturity of the group; respondents answer how they would handle each situation. These responses follow the four styles. How closely respondents match the situation with the appropriate style will determine their effectiveness score.
             Even though this situational leadership model has some practical implications for the management of change, the theoretical rationale is generally criticized as being “weak, because Hersey and Blanchard have neglected to provide a coherent, explicit rationale for the hypothesized relationships.” They also, by their own admission, highly oversimplify the situation by giving only surface recognition to follower maturity. Also, there is a noted absence of any empirical tests of the model. One review of all facets of the approach was particularly critical of the instrument that Hersey and Blanchard used to measure leader effectiveness, and an empirical test did not find support for the underlying assumptions or predictions. Overall, however, as is true of the other style approaches, this situational approach seems to be of some value in Training and Development work in that it can point out the need for flexibility and take into consideration the different variables affecting leaders. Yet, this popular approach lacks sufficient evidence to predict leader effectiveness.


Hersey and Blanchard’s life cycle represent a popular, but not evidence-based, approach to leadership style. These and other traditional models such as the well-known managerial grid styles (that also use the same two dimensions of task and relationships as found in the Hersey and Blanchard life cycle model) are now largely gone as prescriptions for effective leader styles. In their place are other leadership style approaches found in the popular press. For example, Jim Collins, the author of recent best-selling books, suggests that the key for companies transitioning from “good to great” is what he calls Level 5 leadership. Here is how he describes this style:

The essence of Level 5 leadership is having an ambition for the cause of the work—the outcome, the company, the organization—above the self. And, at the same time, having the ferocious, frightening, terrifying willfulness to act on that ambition.

Collins does have some empirically based investigations to support such leader styles as being effective. For example, Collins identified Level 5 leadership as a distinguishing factor in empirically derived great companies (outperforming the Standard & Poor’s 500 by at least three to one for 15 years). However, he does not claim to have basic research supporting a causal relationship. Yet, in the academic leadership field there has been considerable research on the modern theories. For example, recent studies have found that Transformational Leadership had a significant, but indirect, effect on performance and entrepreneurs who were perceived to be authentic leaders have associates with higher levels of job satisfaction, organizational commitment, and happiness. Noted leadership researchers House and Podsakoff have summarized the behaviors and approaches of great leaders that they drew from modern theories (e.g., charismatic and transformational) and basic research findings as follows:

1. Vision. Great leaders articulate an ideological vision that is congruent with the deeply held values of followers, a vision that describes a better future to which the followers have a moral right.

2. Passion and self-sacrifice. Great leaders display a passion for, and have a strong conviction of, the moral correctness of their vision. They engage in outstanding or extraordinary behavior and make extraordinary self-sacrifices in the interest of their vision and the mission.

3. Confidence, determination, and persistence. Great leaders display a high degree of faith in themselves and in the attainment of the vision they articulate. Theoretically, such leaders need to have a very high degree of self-confidence and moral conviction because their mission usually challenges the status quo and, therefore, is likely to offend those who have a stake in preserving the established order.

4. Image building. Great leaders are self-conscious about their own image. They recognize that they must be perceived by followers as competent, credible, and trustworthy.

5. Role modeling. Leader image building sets the stage for effective role modeling because followers identify with the values of Role Models who are perceived positively.

6. External representation. Great leaders act as the spokesperson for their organization and symbolically represent the organization to external constituencies.

7. Expectations of and confidence in followers. Great leaders communicate high performance expectations to their followers and strong confidence in their followers’ ability to meet such expectations.

8. Selective motive arousal. Great leaders selectively arouse those motives of followers that are of special relevance to the successful accomplishment of the vision and mission.

9. Frame alignment. To persuade followers to accept and implement change, great leaders engage in frame alignment. This refers to the linkage of individual and leader interpretive orientations such that some set of followers’ interests, values, and beliefs, as well as the leader’s activities, goals, and ideology, becomes congruent and complementary.

10. Inspirational communication. Great leaders often, but not always, communicate their messages in an inspirational manner using vivid stories, slogans, symbols, and ceremonies.

These 10 Leadership Behavior and approaches are not specific styles per se, but cumulatively they probably represent the best evidence-based list concerning the most effective style of today’s leaders/managers. Moreover, there is clear evidence that a leader’s style can make a difference. For example, studies have found that the leader’s style is the key to the formulation and implementation of strategy and even plays an important role in work group members’ creativity, team citizenship, emotion, and performance. Even humor and fun may play a role in leader effectiveness. There have been many anecdotal reports regarding the positive effects of humor at world-class companies such as Southwest Airlines, Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, and Sun Microsystems. For example, recognized leader Scott McNealy of high-tech Sun Microsystems wears a Java “decoder” ring that has the motto “Kick butt and have fun.” He also plays in an intramural squirt gun war with engineers. Recently retired founder Herb Kelleher of Southwest Airlines often showed up at meetings and on holidays in a variety of costumes, including the Easter Bunny, and arm wrestled an opponent in a trademark dispute in front of a big audience. Based on such an approach, one study of 115 Canadian financial managers and their 322 subordinates revealed a significant relationship between humor and individual performance as well as with work unit performance. The note of caution in the study, however, was that humor and fun only meshed with a more active and involved leader style. In other words, there is little doubt that the way (style) leaders influence work group members can make a difference in their own and their people’s performance.


Most recently, based on positive organizational behavior and psychological capital and the authentic leadership theory, we have conducted a growing number of studies that provide evidence-based guidelines and implications for an effective leadership style. Here is a summary of some of this research on a positive, authentic leadership style:

1. A 16-item measure of authentic leadership consisting of self-awareness, relational transparency, internationalized moral perspective, and balanced processing has been validated. Combined, these stylelike components of authentic leadership were able to predict work-related attitudes and behaviors beyond more traditional ethical and transformational styles. Importantly, this measured authentic leadership style was found to be related to effective performance.

2. A field experiment found that leaders’ authentic style consisting of both positivity (as measured by the psychological capital questionnaire or PCQ) and transparency significantly impacted followers’ perceived trust and evaluations of leader effectiveness. In other words, there is evidence that an effective authentic style would be very transparent (i.e., very open, honest, and trustworthy) and positive (i.e., exhibit high levels of psychological capital or PsyCap that involves confidence, hope, optimism, and resiliency).

3. In another field experiment utilizing high-tech engineers in a very large aerospace firm, a negative relationship was found between the problem complexity these engineers were facing and their level of psychological capital (PsyCap). In other words, the more complex the problem they were trying to solve, the lower their PsyCap (and vice versa). Importantly, another major finding was that leaders’ style exhibiting a high level of PsyCap (i.e., they were seen as very confident, hopeful, optimistic, and resilient) related both to their followers’ (the engineers) level of PsyCap and their followers’ performance on both the quality and quantity of solutions to real problems.

4. Although psychological capital and authentic leadership have a growing amount of research at the individual level of analysis, with the now recognized importance of groups and teams, a recent study examined the role that collective psychological capital and group trust may play in the relationship between authentic leadership and work groups’ in a large bank desired outcomes. The results indicated a significant relationship between these groups’ collective PsyCap and group trust with their performance and organizational citizenship behavior. Also, to refine the leadership process, the groups’ collective PsyCap and trust were found to mediate the relationship between authentic leadership style and their performance and citizenship behaviors. In other words, authentic leadership style, psychological capital and trust all seem to play a positive role in the performance and Desired Behaviors of groups as well as individuals.

        This emerging research on a positive, authentic leadership style provides an evidencebased approach for effective leadership in these challenging times facing organizations. Besides the work being done on developing psychological capital, Avolio and Luthans in their recent book provide specific guidelines such as the following in order for leaders to be authentic and effective:
1. You must make sure that every follower fully understands the main message that guides the future direction you have chosen to pursue.

2. You must be consistent with your principles, beliefs, and values.

3. You need to provide appropriate reinforcing recognition for the contributions made by each follower.

4. Build ownership in the mission you are pursuing.

5. Build PsyCap (confidence, hope, optimism, and resiliency) in yourself and others.

6. Explore the future with others and help each other bring it to the present.

     In recent years, in addition to the need for evidence-based styles of leadership, the importance of empirically derived roles and activities of leadership and the skills of effective leaders are also receiving attention. The rest of the chapter is concerned with this what (roles and activities) and how (skills) of effective leadership.


On the basis of his direct observational studies (as opposed to the questionnaire/interview studies so commonly used in leadership research), Mintzberg proposes the three types of managerial roles shown in Figure 14.2. The interpersonal roles arise directly from formal authority and refer to the relationship between the manager and others. By virtue of the formal position, the manager has a figurehead role as a symbol of the organization. Most of the time spent as a figurehead is on ceremonial duties such as greeting a touring class of students or taking an important customer to lunch. The second interpersonal role is specifically called the leader role. In this role the manager uses his or her influence to motivate and encourage subordinates to accomplish organizational objectives. In the third type of interpersonal role the manager undertakes a liaison role. This role recognizes that managers often spend more time interacting with others outside their unit (with peers in other units or those completely outside the organization) than they do working with their own leaders and subordinates. The e-world, electronic transmissions and interaction with others, has greatly accelerated this role.
       Besides the interpersonal roles flowing from formal authority, Figure 14.2 shows that managers also have important informational roles. Most observational studies find that managers spend a great deal of time giving and receiving information, again greatly expanded by the e-environment. As monitor, the manager is continually scanning the environment and probing subordinates, bosses, and outside contacts and the Internet for information; as disseminator, the manager distributes information to key internal people; and as spokesperson, the manager provides information to outsiders.
       In the decisional role, the manager acts upon the information. In the entrepreneurial role in Mintzberg’s scheme, the manager initiates the development of a project and assembles the necessary resources. Asdi sturbance handler, on the other hand, instead of being proactive like the entrepreneur, the manager is reactive to the problems and pressures of the situation. As disturbance handler, the manager has a crisis management type of role; for example, there is a cash flow problem, or a major subcontractor is threatening to pull out. As resource allocator, the manager decides who gets what in his or her department. Finally, as negotiator, the manager spends time at all levels in the give-and-take of negotiating with subordinates, bosses, and outsiders. For example, a finance manager may have to negotiate a bad debt settlement with a major customer, or a supervisor in a social services department may have to negotiate certain benefit payments that one of the counselors wants to give a client.
         These informal managerial roles suggested by Mintzberg get much closer to describing what managers/leaders really do than the formally described and prescribed functions. Mintzberg’s work has definitely shed some light on what leaders do, but as he stated in a retrospective commentary about the 10 roles: “We remain grossly ignorant about the fundamental content of the manager’s job and have barely addressed the major issues and dilemmas in its practice.” A follow-up analysis of Mintzberg’s various managerial roles concluded:

Leaders today do indeed have interpersonal and informational responsibilities, though it may be argued that the informational responsibilities have moved to a position of primacy. And leaders indeed retain decisional responsibilities, but those responsibilities increasingly are shared with various stakeholders and network partners. The nature of leadership, as defined by Mintzberg’s work, may be similar today, but the networked economy places new demands on leaders at all levels.

    To go beyond Mintzberg’s work, studies have used leadership roles such as vision setter, motivator, analyzer, and task master. These roles were then tested concerning their relationships to three dimensions of firm performance. The results were that leaders with high behavioral complexity—the ability to play multiple, competing roles—produce the best performance, particularly with respect to business performance (growth and innovation) and organizational effectiveness. Another study identified the roles of senior-level executives as mobilizer, ambassador, driver, auditor, and servant. The results indicated that higher-level executives are rated more favorably than are their subordinates in all five roles and that there were no differences in the ratings of executives in public versus private organizations.

Figure 14.2


Closely related to the study and identification of leader/manager roles are their day-to-day activities. Here is a recent description of managers’ activities that are not found in the textbooks or academic journals:

Jane, a senior vice president, and Mike, her CEO, have adjoining offices so The author (Luthans) andthey can communicate quickly, yet communication never seems to happen. “Whenever I go into Mike’s office, his phone lights up, my cell phone goes off, someone knocks on the door, he suddenly turns to his screen and writes an e-mail, or he tells me about a new issue he wants me to address,” Jane complains. “We’re working flat out just to stay afloat, and we’re not getting anything important accomplished. It’s driving me crazy.”

    The author (Luthans) and his colleagues conducted a comprehensive study to answer three major questions: (1) What do managers do? (2) What do successful managers do? and (3) What do effective managers do? Answers to these questions can provide insights and specific descriptions of the daily activities of successful (those promoted relatively rapidly in their organizations) and effective (those with satisfied and committed subordinates and high-performing units) managers or leaders.

What Do Managers Do?

The so-called Real Managers Study first used trained observers to freely observe and record for one varied hour per day over a two-week period the behaviors and activities of 44 managers from all levels and types of Midwest organizations. These included retail stores, hospitals, corporate headquarters, a railroad, government agencies, insurance companies, a newspaper office, financial institutions, and manufacturing plants. The voluminous data gathered from the free-observation logs were then reduced through the Delphi technique (a panel discussion with anonymous conclusions based on composite feedback from the group and several iterations) into 12 categories with observable behavioral descriptors, as shown in Table 14.3. These empirically derived behavioral descriptors were then conceptually collapsed into the four managerial activities shown in Figure 14.3. Briefly summarized, these activities are as follows:

1. Communication. This activity consists of exchanging routine information and processing paperwork. Its observed behaviors include answering procedural questions, receiving and disseminating requested information, conveying the results of meetings, giving or receiving routine information over the phone and e-mail, processing mail, reading reports, writing reports/memos/letters, routine financial reporting and bookkeeping, and general desk work.

2. Traditional management. This activity consists of planning, decision making, and controlling. Its observed behaviors include setting goals and objectives, defining tasks needed to accomplish goals, scheduling employees, assigning tasks, providing routine instructions, defining problems, handling day-to-day operational crises, deciding what to do, developing new procedures, inspecting work, walking around inspecting the work, monitoring performance data, and doing preventive maintenance.

3. Human resource management. This activity contains the most behavioral categories: motivating/reinforcing, disciplining/punishing, managing conflict, staffing, and training/ developing. Because it was not generally permitted to be observed, the disciplining/ punishing category was subsequently dropped from the analysis. The observed behaviors for this activity include allocating formal rewards, asking for input, conveying appreciation, giving credit where due, listening to suggestions, giving positive feedback, providing group support, resolving conflict between work group members, appealing to higher authorities or third parties to resolve a dispute, developing job descriptions, reviewing applications, interviewing applicants, filling in where needed, orienting employees, arranging for training, clarifying roles, coaching, mentoring, and walking work group members through a task.

4. Networking. This activity consists of Socializing/politicking and interacting with outsiders. The observed behaviors associated with this activity include non-work-related chitchat; informal joking around; discussing rumors, hearsay, and the grapevine; complaining, griping, and putting others down; politicking and gamesmanship; dealing with customers, suppliers, and vendors; attending external meetings; and doing/attending community service events.

   The preceding lists of activities empirically answer the question of what managers really do. The activities include some of the classic activities identified by pioneering theorists such as Henri Fayol (the traditional activities), as well as more recent views by modern leadership theorists such as Henry Mintzberg (the communication activities) and John Kotter (the networking activities). The activities are also similar to how leaders are generally described in articles in recent years of the Harvard Business Review, Business Week,Organizational Dynamics, and academic research. As a whole, however, especially with the inclusion of human resource management activities, this study of real managers’ activities is more comprehensive than previous studies of leader/manager activities.
       After the nature of managerial activities was determined through the free observation of the 44 managers, the next phase of the study was to determine the relative frequency of these activities. Data on another sample of 248 real managers (not the 44 used in the initial portion of this study but from similar organizations) were gathered. Trained participant observers filled out a checklist based on the managerial activities shown in Table 14.3 at a random time, once every hour, over a two-week period (80 observation periods). As shown in Figure 14.4, the managers were found to spend about a third of their time and effort in routine communication activities, a third in traditional management activities, a fifth in human resource activities, and a fifth in networking activities. This relative-frequency analysis—based on observational data of a large sample from a broad cross-section of organizations—provides a fairly confident answer to the question of what real managers do. The environmental changes since this Real Managers Study was conducted have undoubtedly had an impact on managerial work. However, although globalization has affected the scope and advanced information technology has affected the means and the speed of communication and other areas such as decision making, the identified activities themselves should remain relevant and valid. In fact, a more recent follow-up study specifically aimed at those in knowledge management/information technology found similar results. Also, firms such as IBM are using software packages to map social networks. They are trying to exploit networking activities in order to “find and nurture their organizations’ most in-theknow employees.”

What Do Successful Managers Do?
Important though it is to get an empirical answer to the basic question of what leaders/ managers do, of even greater interest is determining what successful and effective leaders/ managers do. Success was defined in terms of the speed of promotion within an organization. A success index on the sample in the study was calculated by dividing the managers’ levels in their respective organizations by their tenure (length of service) there. Thus, a manager at the fourth level of management who had been with the organization for five years would be rated more successful than a manager at the third level who had been at that level for 25 years. Obviously, there are some potential problems with such a measure of success, but for the large sample of managers, this was an objective and useful measure.
   To answer the question of what successful managers do, several types of analyses were conducted. In all these analyses, the importance of networking in real managers’ success was very apparent. Of the four major activities, only networking had a statistically significant relationship with success. Overall, it was clear that networking made the biggest relative contribution to manager success and, interestingly, human resource management activities made the least relative contribution.
     What does this mean? It means that in this study of real managers, using speed of promotion as the measure of success, it was found that successful managers spend relatively more time and effort socializing, politicking, and interacting with outsiders than did their less-successful counterparts. Perhaps equally important, the successful managers did not give relatively as much time or attention to the traditional management activities of planning, decision making, and controlling or to the human resource management activities of motivating/reinforcing, staffing, training/developing, and managing conflict. In other words, for the managers in this study, networking seems to be the key to success (as defined by rapid promotion). It should be noted that many managers aspire to success rather than being effective. One reason is that personal pride and mobility are at stake. Bedeian and Armenakis note what they call the “cesspool syndrome,” in which organizations in decline lose their best employees first, leaving behind the “dreck,” which then floats to the top. Consequently, although being successful as opposed to effective may seem less desirable to the organization, from an individual manager’s perspective, it may be part of an effective career strategy.

What Do Effective Managers Do?
Although the operational measure of success used in the study was empirical and direct, the definition and measurement of effectiveness offers little agreement on criteria or measures. To overcome as many of the obstacles and disagreements as possible, for a sample of the managers, the study used a combined effectiveness index that represented the two major— and generally agreed upon—criteria of both leadership theory/research and practice:

(1) getting the job done through high quantity and Quality Standards of performance, and
(2) getting the job done through people, requiring their satisfaction and commitment.
       In particular, a standardized organizational effectiveness questionnaire that measures the unit’s quality and quantity of performance, a standardized job satisfaction questionnaire, and a standardized organizational commitment questionnaire were used. This multiple-measures index was employed in the study to answer the most important question of what effective managers do. It was found that communication and human resource management activities made by far the largest relative contribution to the managers’ effectiveness and that the traditional management activities, and especially the networking activities, made by far the least relative contribution. In other words, if effectiveness is defined as the perceived quantity and quality of the performance of a manager’s unit and his or her work group members’ satisfaction and commitment, then the biggest relative contribution to leadership effectiveness comes from the human-oriented activities—communication and human resource management. Another intriguing finding from this part of the study, alluded to earlier, was that the least-relative contribution to the managers’ measured effectiveness came from the networking activity. This, of course, is in stark contrast to the results of the successful manager analysis. Networking activity had by far the strongest relative relationship to success, but the weakest to effectiveness. On the other hand, human resource management activities had a strong relationship to effectiveness (second only to human-oriented communication activities) but had the weakest relative relationship to success. In other words, the successful managers in this study did not perform the same activities as the effective managers (in fact, they did almost the opposite). These contrasting profiles may have significant implications (analyzed below) for understanding the performance problems facing today’s organizations.

Implications across Cultures and for Entrepreneurs and Knowledge Managers
The Real Managers Study is obviously bound by the definitions that were used, and, of course, one could question the generalizability of the findings and conclusions to all managers. As far as generalizability across cultures goes, a replication of this study that observed Russian managers in a large textile factory found very similar results. This study provides evidence that the activities identified for the successful and effective U.S. managers may hold across cultures.
   Besides holding across cultures, a follow-up study of the activities of U.S. entrepreneurs (those who started and sustained their own business for at least seven years) using the same methodology found basically the same results as the Real Managers Study. The same is true of the previously mentioned latest follow-up study on knowledge managers. It was found that today’s knowledge managers (defined in this study as both explicit knowledge managers, directly concerned with the generation, codification, and transfer of knowledge, and tacit knowledge managers, focused on providing necessary interaction between knowledge workers or experts) spend about the same amount of time on the traditional and networking activities as those in the Real Managers study. However, even though the activities and their frequency of occurrence seem to hold both across cultures and for entrepreneurs as well as knowledge managers, more evidence is needed to draw any definitive conclusions about generalizability.
       In the global arena, there are always confounding cultural variables. For example, there may be what has been called a “dark side” to leadership, which seems to be in evidence in many post-Communist countries. This negative side of leadership includes power bases derived from the Communist era, which demanded loyalty at any cost. This form of leadership created an increasing escalation of commitment to various courses of action (e.g., the Russian armed conflicts with Chechnya) and takes advantage of a halo effect derived from leaders and a sense of nationalism (“Mother Russia” combined with the continued popularity of the Stalin legacy). Under this “dark” approach, opposition is quickly removed. Follower characteristics can also contribute to this dark side; they view change with suspicion and worry that unsuccessful attempts at free enterprise are indicative of weak and ineffective leadership. As a recent analysis noted, “The continued survival of Transactional Leadership has led to a resistance to organizational change that continues to hamper many Russian firms as they attempt to make the transition to a market economy.”
       One analysis argues that the Russian economy must be rebuilt through a transformation in the leadership. Centralized decision making must be curtailed, a culture of Empowerment should be created, autocratic leader practices must be reduced, trust must be developed, accountability training needs to be introduced, and follower responses of learned helplessness must be eliminated and replaced with an entrepreneurial spirit. These needed changes in leadership called for “minishock therapy” for the entire Russian culture and economy. However, at the national level, when Vladimir Putin became president, these needed economic reforms took a backseat to his appeal to national pride and the previous glory of “Mother Russia.” As a recent detailed analysis of his now completed formal presidency concluded:

Vladimir Putin changed the mood in Russia. Experts and opinion polls confirm that selfconfidence has returned to the country and its population. After the chaotic Yeltsin years, the Russians welcomed Putin’s nationalistic rhetoric, his strong stand when dealing with foreign partners, his nostalgia for the old Soviet Union, and his determination to bring Russia back to greatness.

Only time will tell what role Putin will play in Russian leadership now and in the future, but at the organizational level, challenges still remain. At both the national and organizational levels, knowing what leaders do, which was the purpose of the Real Managers Study, must be supplemented with why they are doing it.

Implications of the Real Managers Study
Despite some limitations, there seem to be a number of implications from the Real Managers Study for the application of leadership in today’s organizations. Probably the major implication stems from the significant difference between the activities of successful and effective managers. The most obvious implication from this finding is that more attention may need to be given to formal Reward Systems so that effective managers are promoted. Organizations need to tie formal rewards (especially promotions) to performance in order to move ahead and meet the challenges that lie ahead. This can be accomplished most pragmatically in the short run by performance-based appraisal and reward systems and in the long run by developing cultural values that support and reward effective performance, not just successful socializing and politicking. An important goal to meet the challenges of the years ahead might be as simple as making effective managers successful.
    Besides the implications for performance-based appraisal and reward systems and Organizational culture, much can be learned from the effective managers in the study. In particular, it is important to note the relative importance that they gave to the humanoriented activities of communication and human resource management. The effective managers’ day-to-day activities revolved around their people—keeping them informed, answering questions, getting and giving information, processing information, giving feedback and recognition, resolving conflicts, and providing training and development. In other words, these effective managers provide some evidence-based answers to how to meet the challenges that lie ahead. Human-oriented leadership skills may be of considerable value in meeting the challenges of global competition, of information technology and knowledge management.

Table 14.3

Figure 14.3

Fifure 14.4


The research on leader traits continues, but in recent years increasing attention is being given to identifying leader skills. There are many lists of such skills in the practitioner-oriented literature. For example, one such list of suggested leadership skills critical to success in the global economy includes the following:

1. Cultural flexibility. In international assignments this skill refers to cultural awareness and sensitivity. In domestic organizations the same skill could be said to be critical for success in light of increasing diversity. Leaders must have the skills not only to manage but also to recognize and celebrate the value of diversity in their organizations.

2. Communication skills. Effective leaders must be able to communicate—in written form, orally, and nonverbally.

3. HRD skills. Because human resources are so much a part of leadership effectiveness, leaders must have human resource development (HRD) skills of developing a learning climate, designing and conducting training programs, transmitting information and experience, assessing results, providing career counseling, creating organizational change, and adapting learning materials.

4. Creativity. Problem solving, innovation, and creativity provide the competitive advantage in today’s global marketplace. Leaders must possess the skills to not only be creative themselves but also provide a climate that encourages creativity and assists their people to be creative.

5. Self-management of learning. This skill refers to the need for continuous learning of new knowledge and skills. In this time of dramatic change and global competitiveness, leaders must undergo continuous change themselves. They must be self-learners.

     This list is up-to-date and is as good as any other; however, as an academic analysis recently noted: “The prevailing conceptualizations of skills required for successful managerial performance hinders our understanding of the phenomenon.” To get around this problem, Whetten and Cameron provide a more empirical derivation of effective leadership skills. On the basis of an interview study of more than 400 highly effective managers, the 10 skills most often identified were the following:

1. Verbal communication (including listening)
2. Managing time and stress
3. Managing individual decisions
4. Recognizing, defining, and solving problems
5. Motivating and influencing others
6. Delegating
7. Setting goals and articulating a vision
8. Self-awareness
9. Team building
10. Managing conflict

    Follow-up studies and related research have found skills similar to the 10 listed. Through statistical techniques, the results of the various research studies were combined into the following four categories of effective leadership skills:

1. Participative and human relations (for example, supportive communication and team building)

2. Competitiveness and control (for example, assertiveness, power, and influence)

3. Innovativeness and entrepreneurship (for example, creative problem solving)

4. Maintaining order and rationality (for example, managing time and rational decision making)

Commenting on these various leadership skills identified through research, Whetten and Cameron note three characteristics:

1. The skills are behavioral. They are not traits or, importantly, styles. They consist of an identifiable set of actions that leaders perform and that result in certain outcomes.

2. The skills, in several cases, seem contradictory or paradoxical. For example, they are neither all soft- nor all hard-driving, oriented neither toward teamwork and interpersonal relations exclusively nor toward individualism and entrepreneurship exclusively.

3. The skills are interrelated and overlapping. Effective leaders do not perform one skill or one set of skills independent of others. In other words, effective leaders are multiskilled.

    On the basis of this background, Whetten and Cameron then develop models for both personal and interpersonal leadership skills. Figures 14.5 and 14.6 show these models. As shown, the personal skills of developing self-awareness, managing stress, and solving problems creatively overlap with one another, and so do the interpersonal skills of communicating supportively, gaining power and influence, motivating others, and managing conflict. These models not only can be used to summarize what skills were found to be important in effective leaders but also can serve as guidelines for needed skill development in the future.
     Besides the skills discussed so far that take a personal and interpersonal perspective, “career streams” should be recognized at the organization level. Among the keys from an organizational point of view are finding the right fit among the individual, the position, and the company’s needs. Also, firms developing leaders and seeking to retain them should be aware of what is called the “Pied Piper effect,” where job hopping by an effective leader can lead to defections and attrition among the subordinates who were under the departed leader. Leadership skills and career development program programs may need to be extended to include Recruitment, training, and even postcorporate career components (i.e., what to pursue after one’s corporate career comes to an end). Leadership skills and career development have become more critical than ever.

Figure 14.5

Figure 14.6


One consistent need that has emerged in recent years is a foreboding lack of leadership talent under development. As an example, one survey indicates that the number of 35- to 44- year-old executives will fall by 15 percent in the near future, creating a major reduction in the leadership talent pool, and a recent comprehensive Conference Board survey found only about one-third rated their company’s leadership, or ability to meet business needs or respond to sudden changes, as “excellent” or “good.” One answer offered is to create options that extend the careers of current leaders while developing a means to attract and train those to replace them. However, as witnessed during the Clinton administration by the tragic plane crash in the Balkans that killed Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown and 16 corporate executives, there are always unexpected events that many companies are not prepared to handle. In the case of the fallen executives, most of the organizations that they represented were not able to fill the void and floundered for several years.
   Besides just gaining experience by being at the right place at the right time as depicted in the accompanying OB in Action, organizational behavior and human resource experts are now being asked to identify methods to train and develop leaders to help meet recent challenges. Zand suggests that the three primary areas to be developed are knowledge, trust, and power, which he refers to as the “leadership triad.” There is research support for the importance of these and some other developable characteristics of effective leadership that are discussed throughout the chapter. However, there is also much dissatisfaction with leadership development programs. As Avolio and Hannah recently noted, “We find it rather curious that organizations in the United States recently spent approximately $12 billion on leadership development with little, if any, evidence to support the efficacy of these interventions.”
     On the need for an evidence-based approach, leadership development seems to be a case where there is a particularly noticeable gap between research and practice. As one summary of the current status of leadership development concluded, “With so much emphasis on the need for leadership, and the war for talent, the continuing disconnect between professional researchers and corporate practitioners is disappointing.” Like the rest of this text, the discussion of leadership development takes an evidenced-based perspective.
         A recent panel of leadership experts agreed that leadership can be taught and learned. For example, in answering this question, Jay Conger, well-known leadership researcher and author, noted:

Work experiences, bosses, special projects, role models, education all play a role in leadership development. Using an analogy with sports, . . . not everyone can become an outstanding player despite coaching, yet most will benefit and improve their “game.” A few will go on to become stars or outstanding leaders given coaching, extensive experiences, and personal drive.

Behavioral genetics research using twins (identical twins have the same genetic endowment and thus differences between them can be attributed to development) indicates that about 30 percent of both male and female leader emergence can be attributed to heritability. Thus the vast majority of one’s leadership is open to experience, learning, and development. In other words, the research evidence on whether leaders are born versus made greatly favors that they are made, developed. Management/leadership education is certainly based on the preponderance of the role of development since about two-thirds of the 50 top-ranked business schools offer leadership courses and almost half have established executive leadership development programs.
       Besides business school education programs, there are a number of in-house leadership development programs, and numerous techniques are being utilized. One method suggested is to develop an acceleration pool, in which key leadership competencies, the understanding of job challenges, and organizational knowledge bases are enhanced. The acceleration pool utilizes information gained in assessment center to identify potential new leaders along with the strengths and weaknesses individual candidates possess. From there it is possible to speed up the process by which they are trained to move into leadership positions.

   There does seem to be merit in identifying key individual differences that are predictive of success. For example, a study of male cadets in a military college indicated that physical fitness, prior influence experiences, and great self-esteem were predictive of effectiveness in later leadership roles. One study revealed that attitudes toward leadership and experience were related to leader emergence at a rate that was much stronger than the traditionally assumed prerequisite of masculine gender role characteristics and another found that parental style and control were related to emergent Charismatic Leadership. These studies are representative of the continuing body of research that will assist in leader training and development in the coming years.
    Others believe an entire new development system should be used. Believing that most traditional leadership programs fail because they start with competencies and focus on individuals, one group of Trainers recommends a different approach. Instead of individuals, the goal is to deliver leadership development by beginning with business results and working back to abilities. In other words, it is more valuable to clarify the business purpose and desired outcomes first, and then move leader trainees toward methods of achieving these outcomes. What this and other new approaches indicate is that many companies are trying to make leader development programs more effective. One survey indicated that only 35 percent of the companies surveyed were satisfied with their investments in leadership development programs, leaving a great deal of room for improvement

OB in Action: Health Care Insurance Leader

Unlike many chief executives who decided early in life what they wanted to be when they grew up, Larry C. Glasscock didn’t have a clue. And when he was digging holes for a fence company to put himself through college, the idea that he would someday be a corporate titan and earn a titanic salary seemed pretty farfetched. At that point, he couldn’t even imagine scraping together enough cash to buy the one thing he coveted, a Corvette. “I never had a notion that I would be a CEO,” he says. “All I knew was I wanted to provide well for my family.”
        Glasscock, 57, who followed one of Corporate America’s more winding career paths to the executive suite, eventually got the Corvette. Now, as chief executive officer of WellPoint Inc., the $45 billion-a-year health-care company that runs Blue Cross Blue Shield Assn. plans in 13 states, he certainly has no trouble providing for his family.
          Glasscock’s story is typical in one way: He managed to meet the right people and knew enough to follow their career advice. He was born in tiny Cullman, Ala., and was raised in a Cleveland suburb where his father had found a job in a battery factory. His mother was a waitress who later owned a small restaurant. The eldest of seven, Glasscock grew up in a two-bedroom house; his dad carved out extra rooms in the attic. “‘Modest’ would probably be a generous word,” he says of family finances. In high school, Glasscock worked at a Ball Corp. factory, making rubber seals for containers. Of his later experience installing fences, he says: “I got paid by the foot. You learn about incentives early that way.”

       Genial and self-effacing, Glasscock also had a talent for networking. After he earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Cleveland State University in 1970, one of the owners of the fence company introduced him to officials at the bank that became Ameritrust and is now part of KeyCorp. Glasscock started out in human resources and worked there four years before being promoted. During that time, a manager saw some potential and began pushing him: As an eager 24-year-old, Glasscock made presentations to the board. “He just never quit learning,” recalls John H. Rogers, his first mentor.
     Glasscock stayed at the bank for two decades, living comfortably, usually at home for dinner with his wife, Lee, whom he met in high school, and daughter and son. In 1987, Glasscock was recruited to serve on the board of a Blue Cross Blue Shield licensee in southern Ohio, an experience that piqued his interest in health care.
       After a few detours, Glasscock was hired to revive a troubled Blue Cross Blue Shield operation in Washington, D.C., merging it in 1998 with a Maryland affiliate of the Blue network. He was then asked to return to the Midwest to help lead Anthem. Running a health insurer, he says, is much like running a bank: “They are customer- oriented businesses. The computer systems are extremely important. And the distribution systems—while different—have lots of similarities.”
        Even though Glasscock took the better-known WellPoint name after the deal, he isn’t moving the company out of Indiana. He runs it from offices near Monument Circle in Indianapolis. No battling heavy traffic to get in at 6:30 a.m., and he hopes he’ll soon be home for dinner more often.