Key Concepts in Leadership


Jonathan Gosling, Stephanie Jones & Ian Sutherland

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    Jonathan Gosling – to SJ, with thanks and admiration

    Stephanie Jones – to CCW, with love

    Ian Sutherland – to JK, with thanks and understanding

    Joost Dijkstra – to Margot, for a better understanding of her business life


    • 1 Summary of popular leadership theories over time xviii
    • 2 Leadership traits and skills xx
    • 3 Theory X and Theory Y manager beliefs xxi
    • 4 Directive and supportive behaviour xxiv
    • 5 Leader role in managing tasks, teams and individuals xxv
    • 6 Aspects of the following part of leading xxvii
    • 7 Elements of transactional and transformational leadership xxix
    • 8 Western vs Eastern leading styles 68

    About the Authors

    Jonathan Gosling is Professor for Leadership at the Centre for Leadership Studies, University of Exeter, UK. He teaches and consults world-wide, and his many articles and books have been influential in both the study and practice of leadership. He is currently attempting to radically improve the management pipeline by launching the One Planet MBA.

    Stephanie Jones, PhD, is Associate Professor of Organizational Behaviour at Maastricht School of Management, the Netherlands. She teaches leadership on the MSM MBA programme in Africa, China, Vietnam, Kazakhstan, Peru and many other locations. She is also a prolific author in the field, and is particularly interested in researching leadership in emerging markets – an area of the world where it would appear to be in great demand.

    Ian Sutherland, PhD, is an Assistant Professor and Director of PhD Studies at the IEDC-Bled School of Management, Slovenia. Originally from Newfoundland, Canada, he is a cultural sociologist whose research, publications and teaching focus on creative processes, cultural leadership, and the arts in leadership development and practice.

    Joost Dijkstra is CEO, World Trade Centre Aachen and a partner at NASH Consulting in Maastricht, The Netherlands, where his core activity is in creating value for mid-sized privately owned businesses. He is also a guest lecturer at Maastricht School of Management in Leadership, Change Management and Organizational Design. Before this, he was a General Manager of Intersport Netherlands and Director of International Marketing and Managing Director of the private-equity-owned packaging firm Ranpak.


    Parts of the chapter on leadership definitions and theories are based on an extract from J. Remme, S. Jones, B. van der Heijden and S. de Bono (2007) Leadership, Change and Responsibility. Oxford: Meyer & Meyer. This material is included here with permission from the publishers.

    Parts of the introduction to entries 1, 4 and 12 are based on an extract from S. de Bono, S. Jones and B. van der Heijden (2008) Managing Cultural Diversity. Oxford: Meyer & Meyer. This material is included here with permission from the publishers.

    Parts of entries 17, 19 and 25 are based on extracts from S. Jones (2010) Psychological Testing. Petersfield: Harriman House. This material is included here with permission from the publishers.

    Different versions of some material (on Quiet Leadership and Toxic Leadership) have appeared in Leadership Matters, a regular publication of the Centre for Leadership Studies, University of Exeter, UK.

    Parts of entries 3, 5, 8, 18, 22, 23, 27 and 31 include many references to S. Jones and J. Gosling (2005) Nelson's Way: leadership lessons from the great commander. London: Nicholas Brealey. Readers are referred to this book for further insights.

    Parts of entries 2, 7, 21, 26 and 29 include many references to J. Gosling and H. Minzberg (2003) ‘The Five Minds of the Manager’, Harvard Business Review, November. Readers are referred to this article for further insights.

    How to Use This Book

    This book is designed to help you, the reader, to identify and consider the range of leadership styles, approaches and situations you might use to describe yourself and others. It explores the potential strengths and weaknesses associated with each leadership mode or preference, presented in a uniquely didactic way. The evolution and development of the field of leadership styles is outlined in the detailed introduction which follows.

    Have you ever been accused of being authoritative, opportunistic or toxic as a leader? Is this bad? What does this really mean, and what are the implications? How about if you are praised for being purposive, ethical and reflective? Is this good? Again, what do these terms mean? To a certain extent these are explained by studying the history of leadership terms, but we need practical examples to help bring them to life.

    Imagine you are being recruited for a leadership role. You are asked to describe the kind of leader you think you are, and the strengths and weaknesses of your approach. You may be reflecting on this very issue as you prepare for a new job or promotion interview. Is your leadership approach helping or hindering your career? Or, you are reporting to your boss, trying to describe your colleagues and management team in an accurate and detailed way. You are asked what kind of leaders you need for the future, given changing situations and tasks. These leaders might be recruited from outside or developed from within, but a leadership ‘specification’ with a detailed list of competencies and preferences is needed. Meanwhile, after this meeting with the big boss, you are trying to explain to your team what kind of leader you report to, and his or her priorities. Or you might be advising a client. Or you are discussing the attributes of a new political leader with friends in a social setting.

    Whatever the scenario, you need words, definitions – a leadership vocabulary. So, you hunt through the index and the alphabetical listing of the entries in this book for ideas and inspiration, and check through the definitions and examples to either accept or reject the chosen terminology and descriptors, using the cross-referencing provided. Armed with more insights, you can feel more informed and confident.

    The entries in this book look at a variety of leadership constructs, each with a balance or continuum of alternatives inviting debate and comparison, but not judging any as intrinsically ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Each approach may be appropriate for different circumstances, jobs, tasks and organizational cultures. It's a question of ‘horses for courses’. These descriptions of leadership can be used to help clarify the situations when different approaches may be appropriate. None are totally negative or totally positive – they all have their uses.

    These leadership options can be expressed as extremes or sometimes as a continuum, and depend on personality, behaviour preferences, competencies and contexts. They can be intentional or involuntary, permanent or temporary.

    Each entry defines a leadership concept and explains the balances, debates and options involved, considering leadership as a range of action possibilities. The entries provide detailed practical examples of leaders exhibiting these behaviours, considering the impact and implications, with reflective conclusions. The reader can easily identify his or her own style and approach, especially with feedback from colleagues, and select leadership approaches to which he or she might aspire or avoid. The entries can also be used to identify the leadership characteristics of others, especially in terms of those desired or to be avoided.

    The criterion for inclusion of an entry was the existence of a distinct leadership approach with a clear opposite, both of which could be appropriate for a leadership situation. This dialectical approach adds value by going beyond claims that there is ‘one best way to lead’, recognizing instead the special mix that suits each situation.

    While describing a way of leading, each entry also implies different ways of dealing with people and objectives. It provides models for describing leadership as an aspect of organizational cultures as well as an accurate, defined terminology for leader recruitment and development. We help you to frame answers to questions such as: What kind of leadership is going on here? Does this fit the situation or could it be more appropriate? When reading the descriptors listed here, remember they are not mutually exclusive, and it may be helpful to apply several to your analysis of an individual leader, organization or project.

    The format for each entry includes a definition, an assessment of the value of the approach when applied to specific situations and an introduction to the ‘voices’, the practical examples of both sides of the particular leadership dialectic, with concluding remarks and suggestions for further reading.

    We have chosen to list the concepts in alphabetical order to avoid bias – one approach is not inherently better than another. We value personal authenticity, integrity and situational sensitivity in leadership above any leadership panacea.

    The ‘voices’ used in many of the examples (where not quoted from secondary sources) are based on the long and varied experiences of the four authors in teaching, training, consulting and leading, totalling over a hundred years combined – and their contacts and associates. The geographical spread of their experience includes North America, the United Kingdom, Europe, North Africa, Western Asia, South Asia and the Pacific Rim, and a variety of emerging markets.


    Before we start looking at the ‘Key Concepts’ below, we discuss the origins and definitions of leadership theories and philosophies, and suggest that leadership theory also needs to take into account leadership practice. This is where the leadership debates – or dilemmas as we have posed them in this volume – come in. And we think that these debates, dilemmas and questions will open the study of leadership to an appreciation of the countervailing forces that give rise to so much diversity in the practice and experience of leadership.

    As we will see in our entries discussing the key concepts of leadership, there is no one-dimensional view of leadership. We have approached the subject as a series of ongoing dialogues, continuing discussions, and sharing of impressions and insights – which we have tried to show here, with reflections by observers and practitioners. We have tried not to make judgements about ‘good’ or ‘bad’ practice, but have emphasized the diversity of styles, approaches and views found in everyday leadership scenarios in many different situations.

    How can we analyse and synthesize these wide-ranging leadership perspectives? We could look at them first in leadership motives, styles and attitudes: why an individual might want to be a leader in the first place. A leader may pride himself or herself on expert knowledge of a particular sector, field or discipline of leadership, different from being a generalist leader, able to lead in any context. And there's the leader who is always visible, out in front, clearly seen by all, rather than behind the scenes. There is also the leader who balances his or her job and private life, keeping the latter very private and enjoying both public and private identities, compared with being extremely focused and passionate. Other leaders encourage others to participate, compared with one who favours the more authoritative approach of taking the lead in a more singular way and making individual decisions. There are also the debates about being predominantly a leader or a manager – whatever those differences mean in a particular context; and being inspirational, or pedestrian and ordinary. For many, it is OK just to focus on trying to do the job of a leader now, rather than thinking about leadership legacies.

    How about analysing leadership in terms of the leader's mindsets? The way a leader thinks about and tackles the predicaments he or she faces include being reflective, thinking through why they might do their work in a certain way, and what they might do to keep on improving. But many operate in a knee-jerk way, doing what needs to be done and worrying about it later. Others analyse everything in detail, seeking explanations of structures and systems. Some operate in a much more unstructured way, focusing on maximizing the benefits of immediate opportunities. As business becomes more global, some leaders pride themselves on their worldly perspectives, seeking an understanding of the range of differences wherever they go. Other leaders look for commonalities and convergence. They see similar needs and demands by customers and business partners the world over.

    Many leaders build relationships with their staff members, collaborating and sharing, whereas others are more distant and aloof. Their mindset might be that ‘these people work for me – so I need to get value out of them!’ Many leaders focus on action and continual change; others are more comfortable with continuity and preserving the benefits accrued in an organization's history.

    Another, further way of considering leadership dilemmas is through reactions to conflict. What happens if a leader is highly competitive, or, by contrast, accommodating? How about compromising compared with more collaborative or co-operative behaviours? Leaders can also be high or low on taking a stance on avoiding – they will try to minimize stirring up trouble and also empower people, or they will get involved in everything.

    Further leadership options may be determined by leader personality and behaviour differences. A leader may place a higher priority on the importance of emotional quotient (EQ), or might be more disposed towards the expert knowledge and intelligence quotient (IQ) in himself or herself and others. Some leaders behave as Shapers, with associated preferences for being Coordinators, Monitor-Evaluators and Resource Investigators. By contrast, other leaders see the Implementer preference as their main determinant of behaviour, and might also be Specialists and Completer-Finishers. Other leaders – less typically – prefer to operate as Teamworkers, keeping everyone happy, or as Plants, supplying creative and innovative ideas. A leader might also exhibit an extrovert personality, but many are introverted by nature. These factors can have an impact on leadership choices.

    Leaders can also vary in the choices they make in terms of the approach to leadership development that they may have experienced – or the leader development strategies they are themselves implementing. Mentoring processes and being coached as a leader are popular among some – but many leaders believe that a more directive and getting-on-with-it, being-told-what-to-do style of leadership training can be just as effective. Some leaders are developed and nurtured by a single organization, which provides them with career building and training – others train themselves and take responsibility for their own development by switching jobs and gaining insights into leadership by a multiplicity of practical experience. Some leaders believe they can create and develop their own leadership brand, separate and independent from the brand of the organization where they work. Other leaders think their personal brand should reflect where they work now – but this can and will change as they change organizations, based on personal developmental experience.

    Leadership options are very often determined by leader experiences in specific management and leadership functions – such as the polar opposites of finance and marketing (saving or spending money), or through the human resources (HR) as opposed to production routes. This functional background tends to colour the leader's view of leadership and influence his or her style of operating, and can give the leader a limited view. So an obvious area for leader preference is broad-based or functional, silo-based approaches.

    A final dichotomy in ways of leading analysed in this book looks at leadership practice, such as questioning if project management represents a unique approach to leadership. If leadership tasks are seen project by project, in what ways is this different from a more continuous and uninterrupted view of a leader in a more long-term situation? And the difference comparing ‘interim’ or ‘temp’ leaders on short-term, specialist contracts working in highly specific organizational situations, compared with permanent appointees. How different is the job of leading volunteers, from that of leading paid employees? Increasingly, leaders are under pressure to take into account ethical and corporate social responsibility (CSR) considerations – but they still need to be pragmatic and practical to run a business. The need to promote diversity in leadership is often discussed; the challenging task of managing and leading celebrities, prima donnas and big egos is another issue. Then there is the matter of what happens when the leadership environment is no longer healthy and becomes toxic. And many leaders are impacted by their national culture, especially the difference between East and West.

    These debates will continue, and new debates will emerge, whilst some old debates may no longer seem worth arguing about. Questions are likely to be based around leadership styles, attitudes, approaches; leader mindsets; leader responses to conflict; leader personality and behaviour preferences; the way that leaders have been developed; the functional roots of individual leaders; and the realities of leadership practice. New questions will emerge, based on other areas of leader involvement, especially in terms of follower reactions and situational demands. But as long as people and organizations see the need for leadership, the debates will carry on, and are unlikely to ever reach a final conclusion!

    As you will see, this book is based on a dialectical approach to key concepts to leadership. Throughout we present many exaggerated examples to illuminate these key concepts. In the end, leadership is still about context and situation – about finding the best means of leading in different times, places and within different organizational structures and populations. Above all, leaders need to operate out of sensitivity to these issues and to act in ways which navigate the dynamics of working with others. As a final key concept for leadership, leaders should remember that their work is ultimately about working with others to create environments where all can develop and achieve.

    Leadership Definition, Theory and Practice

    What is leadership? Who are leaders? What do leaders do? These are some of the most fundamental questions of Leadership Studies. Like all fundamental questions, they defy clear-cut answers. Each opens a universe of challenging, complex, dynamic debate and practice. Far from solving fundamental leadership questions, the study of leadership has compounded the complexity but in a way which provides increasingly sophisticated and sensitive ways of understanding leadership as part of situations of collective activity in group and organizational contexts. Before we turn to the dialectics of specific leadership styles it is useful to briefly review the historical trajectory of leadership studies to lay the foundation for entering the muddy waters of leadership practice.

    An early – and persistent – approach to viewing leadership has been to point to the achievements of great leaders, and to explain leadership as the effect of their actions and behaviours. This has become known as the ‘great man’ theory, because that's how history was taught for many years: a saga of the exploits of (mainly male and often military) leaders: Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Admiral Lord Nelson, George Washington. These are some of the classics, now joined by more peaceable figures such as Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela. But what is it about these people that makes them able to be ‘great’? Did they have leadership qualities that can be discovered or developed in other people? How about the task of developing leadership in women as well as men? In other words, is leadership an essential quality of the individual person, or are there also cultural and political forces that determine who does or does not get a chance to lead, or whose leadership gets noticed?

    So if we want to understand leadership in the real world, should we be looking more deeply at individual personalities, at group dynamics, or at social forces? In fact, leadership studies have progressed on all fronts. From ‘great man’ theories, we have moved to an exploration of leadership traits or characteristics, studied their behaviours and the situations in which they are more or less successful, and then contingency theories. The more recent development of transactional and transformational leadership theories reiterates a consistent theme: the special relationship that exists between groups and their leaders, and the peculiar impact of the leader.

    The earliest leadership theories tend to focus on the characteristics and behaviours of singular, successful leaders. Current leadership studies have come to focus on the role of followers and group processes, the contextual nature of leadership, and the relationships between leadership and management. Other contemporary theories look at leadership as a dynamic process involving many individuals rather than seeing leadership emanating solely from a single person, and include perspectives on ‘distributed leadership’, ‘quiet leadership’, ‘soft leadership’, ‘authentic leadership’, ‘aesthetic leadership’, ‘narcissistic leadership’, ‘spiritual leadership’ and ‘toxic leadership’. Modern leadership studies view leadership as a dynamic, subtle, nuanced process emerging from the actions of groups of people – leaders and followers alike – working together to achieve common goals, in group and inter-group relationships. Some also point to the contrast between ‘formal’ and ‘informal’ leadership, with its connotations of authority and participation (House and Baetz, 1979). (See the summary in Table 1).

    Table 1 Summary of popular leadership theories over time
    Great Man TheoriesBased on the belief that leaders are exceptional people, born with innate qualities, destined to lead. The use of the term ‘man’ was an unquestioned assumption until the late twentieth century, as leadership was primarily male and usually military. Few people bothered to look for examples of leadership outside these categories.
    Trait TheoriesTrait theories studied successful leaders and moments of leadership to identify traits or qualities which appeared essential to leadership practice. These included adjectives describing mostly positive human behaviours, from A for ambition to Z for zest for life. Maturity, confidence, breadth of interest, intelligence and honesty were qualities common across much of the trait theory research. Traits were seen as characteristics of the person. More recently, interest has shifted towards descriptions of what people can actually do, regardless of personality. Thus traits are often referred to as competencies.
    Behaviourist TheoriesThese theories, still regarded as currently useful, concentrate on what leaders actually do rather than on their qualities or characteristics. Different patterns of behaviour are observed and categorized as ‘styles of leadership’, which are then discussed by practicing managers in the field. Some of these ‘styles’ include charismatic leadership, servant leadership and quiet leadership.
    Situational LeadershipThis approach (also still widely popular) sees leadership behaviour as determined by the situation in which leadership is being exercised. Some situations may require an autocratic style; others may need a more participative approach. It also suggests that there may be differences in required leadership styles at different levels in the same organization, depending on follower readiness.
    Contingency TheoryThis is a refined version of the situational view, focusing on identifying the situational variables (contingencies) which best predict the most appropriate or effective leadership style to fit particular circumstances.
    Transactional TheoryThis approach emphasizes the importance of the relationship between leaders and followers, focusing on the mutual benefits derived from a form of ‘contract’ through which the leader delivers rewards or recognition in return for the commitment, loyalty and efforts of the followers.
    Transformational TheoryThe central concept here is of follower change, and the role of leadership in transforming the performance of his or her followers, through influences which impact on their growth and personal development. Transactional and transformational leaders are frequently contrasted but they are not mutually exclusive.
    Source: Remme et al., 2008

    Most of these theories (summarized in general terms above from several sources) take a rather individualistic perspective of the leader, although a school of thought gaining increasing recognition is that of ‘dispersed’ or ‘distributed’ leadership, sharing the leadership function throughout a team. This approach, with its foundations in sociology, psychology and politics rather than management science, views leadership as a process that is diffuse throughout an organization rather than located solely within a formally designated ‘leader’. The emphasis thus shifts from developing ‘leaders’ to developing ‘leaderful’ organizations with a collective responsibility for leadership. (See Bolden, 2011, for a comprehensive review.)

    Below, we look at how theories of leadership have evolved, suggesting the development of different philosophies of leadership reflecting the thinking of different eras.

    The Trait Approach to Leadership

    As we have seen, the trait approach arose along with the ‘Great Man’ theory as a way of identifying the key characteristics of successful leaders. The aim is to isolate and identify crucial leadership traits, so that people with such traits could be recruited, selected and installed into leadership positions. This approach was common in the military and is still often used as a set of criteria to select candidates for commissions. The problem with the trait approach lies in the fact that there is no agreement about what these traits are – countless research projects have identified almost as many traits as studies undertaken. Although there has been no overall consistency in the results of the various trait studies, certain traits appear more frequently than others including: technical skill, friendliness, task motivation, application to task, group task supportiveness, social skills, emotional control, administrative skills, general charisma and intelligence. Of these, the most widely explored – and hardest to define and measure – has tended to be ‘charisma’. Table 2 lists the main leadership traits and skills identified by Stogdill in 1974.

    Table 2 Leadership traits and skills
    Adaptable to situationsClever (intelligent)
    Alert to social environmentConceptually skilled
    Ambitious/achievement orientedCreative
    AssertiveDiplomatic and tactful
    CooperativeFluent in speaking
    DecisiveKnowledgeable about group task
    DependableOrganized (administrative ability)
    Dominant (in influencing others)Persuasive
    Energetic (high activity level)Socially skilled
    Tolerant of stress
    Willing to assume responsibility
    Source: Stogdill, 1974
    The Behavioural School

    As can be imagined, the results of trait studies were inconclusive, subjective and ambiguous. Traits are hard to measure. How, for example, do we measure traits such as honesty, integrity, loyalty or diligence? Traits are also hard to define. How, for example, how do we define ‘self-confident’ or ‘socially skilled’ in any practical sense? Additionally, each trait has positive and negative potential. In one situation, a leader who is being dominant (in influencing others) may be effective in providing a clear direction and mobilizing a team. However, in another situation such a leader may be seen as arrogant and overbearing, resulting in refusals to follow. Another approach to the study of leadership and the identification of leaders had to be found.

    McGregor's Theory X and Theory Y Managers

    The behavioural theories concentrate on what leaders actually do rather than on elusive ‘inherent’ qualities. Different patterns of behaviour have been observed and categorized as ‘styles of leadership’. After the publication of Douglas McGregor's classic book The Human Side of Enterprise in 1960, attention shifted to this behavioural mode of theorizing. McGregor was a teacher, researcher and consultant whose work was considered to be on the cutting edge of management thinking at that time. He influenced many behavioural theories, emphasizing the impact of human relationships on output and performance.

    Although strictly speaking not a theory of leadership, the strategy of participative management proposed in The Human Side of Enterprise has had a tremendous impact on managers. The most publicized concept is McGregor's thesis that leadership strategies are influenced by a leader's assumptions about human nature and the attitude of workers to their work. As a result of his experience as a consultant, McGregor summarized two contrasting sets of assumptions made by managers in the workplace, shown in Table 3. It can be seen that a leader holding Theory X assumptions would tend towards an autocratic style, whereas one holding Theory Y assumptions would prefer a more participative style.

    Table 3 Theory X and Theory Y manager beliefs
    Theory X managers believe that:Theory Y managers believe that:
    • The average human being has an inherent dislike of work and will avoid it if possible• The expenditure of physical and mental effort in work is as natural as play or rest, and the average human being, under proper conditions, learns not only to accept but to seek responsibility
    • Because of this human characteristic, most people must be coerced, controlled, directed or threatened with punishment to get them to put forth adequate effort to achieve organizational objectives• People will exercise self-direction and self-control to achieve objectives to which they are committed
    • The capacity to exercise a high level of imagination, ingenuity and creativity in the solution of organizational problems is widely distributed in the population, and the intellectual potentialities of the average human being are only partially utilized under the conditions of modern industrial life• The average human being prefers to be directed, wishes to avoid responsibility, has relatively little ambition and wants security above all else
    Source: McGregor, 1960
    Blake and Mouton's Managerial Grid

    Another behavioural or style approach model from the same period is the Managerial Grid developed by Robert Blake and Jane Mouton in 1964. Their work focuses on the task (production) and employee (people) orientations of managers, as well as combinations between the two extremes. The Managerial Grid locates concern for production on the horizontal axis, and concern for people on the vertical axis, and plots five basic leadership styles (see below). In the centre is ‘Middle of the Road’, referring to an equal balance between the concern for people and the concern for production. Blake and Mouton's Managerial Grid is a useful way of conceptualizing management styles, classified according to a rating on these two key dimensions of a leader's behaviour. In effect these two dimensions extend and popularize the theoretical concepts of ‘initiating structure’ and ‘consideration’, which emerged from a series of studies conducted at Ohio State University from the 1940s. The five main styles of management/leadership identified by Blake and Mouton include:

    • Team Management: integrating concern both for production and for the needs of people, this is often a precarious state, much desired, seldom achieved absolutely, and probably not applicable for all situations.
    • Task Management: this is more concerned with the production or attainment of goals rather than in empowering people to deliver the required tasks. This case is particularly applicable in crisis situations, or where employees are low skilled and easily replaced.
    • Impoverished Management: where no attention is given to the task or to the people, the result is usually a lack of confidence and trust in the group and in its shared task, and the outcomes are chaotic fragmentation. But not every group at every moment needs a manager to care for the task or the people, so there are times when ‘less is more’.
    • Country Club Management: in this case, importance is given to people and not to task. The extreme form is rare, but characterizes some phases of social clubs and care-oriented organizations. People who come from a task-oriented background often find difficulty in communicating in such an environment.
    • Middle of the Road: this is common in many organizations, where attention often fluctuates between task and people, but is broadly balanced. It may depend on the leader's aptitude to read and comprehend the situation; or on the ability of different members of the team to fulfil complementary roles.

    Blake and Mouton propose that ‘Team Management’, showing a high level of concern for both employees and production, is the most effective type of leadership behaviour. This is confirmed by the Ohio State University Studies of Consideration and Initiating Structure – that a leader trusts, respects and values good relationships (participation) and – by contrast – makes sure that work gets done, including pushing followers to get their tasks accomplished (authority). These studies are amongst many that exemplify a behavioural approach (George and Jones, 2002: 393–4, quoting Fleishman and Harris, 1962).

    The Contingency or Situational School

    Whilst behavioural theories may point managers to develop particular leadership behaviours, they give little guidance as to what constitutes effective leadership in different situations. For practitioners it leaves open the question of what leadership practices will best suit specific contexts. Virtually all researchers conclude that no one leadership style is right for every leader under all circumstances. Instead, contingency-situational theories were developed to indicate that the style to be used is contingent upon such factors as the people, the place, the time, the task, the organization and other environmental variables. Some of the major theories contributing towards this school of thought are summarized below.

    Fiedler's Contingency Theory

    Fiedler's contingency theory (Fiedler, 1964) suggests that there is no single best way for managers to lead. Different situations require appropriate leadership styles, contingent on the factors that impinge on that situation. For instance, in a highly routine-based (mechanistic) environment where repetitive tasks are the norm and worker autonomy is minimal (such as a factory production line), a relatively directive leadership style may result in the best performance; however, a dynamic environment with skilled, creative staff (such as a software development firm) may require a more flexible, participative leadership.

    Fiedler looked at three factors that could define the conditions of a managerial task:

    • Leadermember relations: How well do the manager and the employees get along, and how much guidance do the employees need?
    • Task structure: Is the job highly structured, fairly unstructured, or somewhere in between?
    • Position power: How much authority does the manager possess?

    Managers can be rated as to whether they are relationship-oriented or task-oriented. Task-oriented managers tend to do better in situations that have good leader–member relationships, structured tasks, and either weak or strong (but not middling) position power. They also do well when the task is unstructured but their position power is strong. Positional power can also help them to overcome moderate to poor leader–member relations. In other words, task-oriented managers do well when they have clarity in at least one of the factors.

    Relationship-oriented managers do better in other situations, where the alignment of beliefs and trust cannot be taken for granted, the positional power of the leader is ambiguous and the task is less than perfectly structured. The environmental variables are combined in a weighted sum that is termed ‘favourable’ at one end and ‘unfavourable’ at the other. A task-oriented style is preferable at the clearly defined extremes of ‘favourable’ and ‘unfavourable’ environments, but relationship-orientation excels in the middle ground. Managers could attempt to adapt their own orientations, and to reshape the environmental variables to match their style.

    Another aspect of contingency theory is that the leader–member relations, task structure, and position power dictate a leader's situational control. Leader-member relations help to measure the amount of loyalty, dependability, and support that the leader receives from employees. It is a measure of how the manager perceives how he or she and the group of employees are getting along together. In a favourable relationship the manager has a high task structure and is able to reward and/or discipline employees without any problems. In an unfavourable relationship the task is usually unstructured and the leader possesses limited authority.

    Position power measures the amount of power or authority the manager perceives the organization has given him or her for the purpose of directing, rewarding, and disciplining subordinates. The position power of managers depends on reducing or increasing decision-making by employees.

    The task-motivated leader experiences satisfaction in task accomplishment, while the relationship-motivated leader seeks to build interpersonal relations and develop teams. Task-motivated leaders aim at measurable improvements in group performance, such as achieving a new sales record or outperforming a major competitor. Relationship-oriented leaders like to see greater customer satisfaction and a positive company image and atmosphere.

    The Hersey and Blanchard Model of Situational Leadership

    Building a very similar set of assumptions, the Hershey and Blanchard model suggests that the developmental levels of a leader's subordinates play the greatest role in determining which leadership styles (leader behaviours) are most appropriate. Their theory is based on the amount of direction (task behaviour) and socio-emotional support (relationship behaviour) a leader must provide given the situation and follower maturity.

    Task behaviour is the extent to which the leader engages in spelling out the duties and responsibilities to an individual or group. This behaviour includes telling people what to do, how to do it, when to do it, where to do it and who's to do it. In task behaviour the leader engages mostly in one-way communication and factual exchanges.

    Relationship behaviour is the extent to which the leader engages in two-way or multi-way communications. This includes listening, facilitating, and supporting activities. A key function of leadership is to provide socio-emotional support, to evince a sense of alignment and common purpose.

    Maturity is the willingness and ability of a person to take responsibility for directing his or her own behaviour. People tend to have varying degrees of maturity, depending on the specific task, function, or objective that a leader is attempting to accomplish through their efforts.

    Within the Hersey Blanchard model leader behaviours fall along two continua, as shown in Table 4.

    Table 4 Directive and supportive behaviour
    Directive behaviourSupportive behaviour
    • One-way communication• Two-way/multi-way communication
    • Followers’ roles are clearly• Listening, providing support and encouragement
    communicated• Facilitating interaction
    • There is a close supervision of individual performance• Involving followers in decision-making
    Source: Hersey and Blanchard, 1988

    For Hersey and Blanchard, the key situational variable when trying to determine the appropriate leadership style is the readiness or developmental level of the subordinate(s). As a result, four leadership styles have been described:

    • Directing: The leader provides clear instructions and specific direction. This style is best matched with a low follower readiness level.
    • Coaching: The leader encourages two-way communication and helps build confidence and motivation on the part of the employee, although the leader still has responsibility and controls decision-making. This style is best matched with a moderate follower readiness level.
    • Supporting: With this style, the leader and followers share decision-making and no longer need or expect the relationship to be directive. Participating style is best matched with a moderate follower readiness level.
    • Delegating: This style is appropriate for leaders whose followers are ready to accomplish a particular task and are both competent and motivated to take full responsibility. Delegating style is best matched with a high follower readiness level.

    To determine the appropriate leadership style to use in a given situation, the leader must first determine the maturity level of the followers in relation to the complexity of the specific task that the leader is attempting to accomplish through the effort of followers. As the level of follower maturity increases (or as the leader moves into a more senior role and is working with more experienced reports), it should be possible to shift from task-oriented leadership towards being more relationship-oriented coaching and supportive. Where the so-called followers are more self-directed and less reliant on the leader for direction, much more can be delegated. Thus in this model, the maturity of workers relative to the work they are asked to do is the deciding factor, rather than the traits or characteristics of the leader. However, in reality these styles are as much a part of the culture and embedded in operating processes and organizational structures. Changing a culture is not easy to do and leadership is a big part of it.

    Adair's Action-Centred Leadership Model

    The Adair model (1973) states that the action-centred leader accomplishes tasks through teams, and through relationships with fellow managers and staff. An action-centred leader must:

    • direct the job to be done (task structuring);
    • support and review the individual people doing it;
    • coordinate and foster the work team as a whole.

    Adair presents a simplification of the variability of human interaction, but it can help us in thinking about what constitutes an effective leader in relation to the job to be done. The effective leader/manager carries out the functions and exhibits the behaviours related to these three aspects. Situational and contingent elements call for different responses by the leader. The three elements may be more or less important as the situation varies. The challenge for the leader is to manage all the activities mentioned in Table 5.

    Table 5 Leader role in managing tasks, teams and individuals
    Task• define the task
    • make the plan
    • allocate work and resources
    • control quality and rate of work
    • adjust the plan
    Team• maintain discipline
    • build team spirit
    • encourage, motivate, give a sense of purpose
    • appoint sub-leaders
    • ensure communication within group
    • develop the group
    Individual• attend to personal problems
    • praise individuals
    • give status
    • recognize and use individual abilities
    • develop the individual
    Source: Adair, 1973
    Leaders and Followers

    The models discussed so far in this brief introductory review of leadership theories and their philosophical underpinnings have focused on the leader as standing out from the crowd, being somehow different and ‘leading’ others. Even within contingency models such as Fiedler's, attention to followers is from the viewpoint of the leader, and the leader's perception of the nature of his or her relationship with followers. The discussion now moves to recognizing the importance of the leaders’ relationships with the followers and the interdependency of roles. This shift takes the obvious, yet remarkable, step of recognizing that leadership requires followership. You can't have one without the other. This shows an evolution in thinking from the hero or solo leader (emanating from the ‘great man’ concept) to a leader as part of a team, group or wider collection of people. Not the leader always out in front, but the leader who has the capacity to follow as well as lead; not only the master, but also the servant. The leader who symbolizes the way a group would like to see itself – its ‘social identity’ – and is a representation of the its implicit norms and values. (Haslam et al., 2011). This includes the leader who, through symbolic acts and imagined prowess, can defend followers against anxiety, even if he or she is not actually responsible for much else (Bion, 1963; French and Simpson, 2010).

    Does this mean that some leaders are always just a function of the undeclared hopes and anxieties of their followers? Does inspiration boil down to this? Only to an extent: leaders must be seen as ‘relevant’ to the needs of their followers, and where these needs are for emotional reassurance, much of the energy and hope vested in them is likely to include unconscious dynamics of this sort. The same process underpins more sober groups, in less extreme circumstances. Social Identity Theory suggests that leaders are always those who typify the salient features of collective identity. That is, any collective sense of ‘us’ has some specific characteristics by which we define who is ‘one of us’. We will select leaders on the basis of who most typifies this ‘us-ness’. But that is not enough: leaders have to show us something of our future possibilities – in the words of the main proponents of this theory, Alex Haslam, Stephen Reicher and Michael Platow (2011), leaders should be ‘entrepreneurs of identity’. Through them we discover what we might become, what new achievements might come to define ‘us’. This is inspirational, and a real contribution of leaders to followers.

    Servant Leadership

    The notion of ‘Servant Leadership’, developed by Greenleaf and Spears (1977), emphasizes the leaders’ duty to serve a higher purpose, and thus to lead on behalf of the followers, pointing out that leadership can arise out of a desire to serve rather than a desire to lead. As Greenleaf explains, the leader-first and the servant-first are two extreme types, with a wider range of motivations between these extremes; many people find they become more motivated by a desire to serve as they become more experienced.

    Ideally, servant leaders place the emphasis on ensuring the highest priority needs of followers are being met, and see this service as exemplifying service to a higher purpose or goal beyond personal gain or advantage. As such, servant leadership is popular with mission-oriented organizations, such as religious, environmental and human rights groups, where task-related performance is important, but only in the context of a shared and supra-personal purpose.

    High on the priority list of servant leaders are the health, well-being and growth of followers, because they are seen as partners in a mission, not merely as instruments to task achievement. Servant leaders tend to consider how their decisions and actions will impact the lives of those they lead; more holistically, they place their leadership practice in the context of an impact on the world at large. Such leaders favour collaboration and empowerment, mutual respect and trust, careful listening, a future vision, and perhaps above all, the ethical exercise of power and authority.

    As Greenleaf has described, servant leadership is more a philosophy of leadership than a set of specific traits, behaviours or outcomes. Servant leaders serve first and lead second because leadership is necessary to achieve the goals of service. For this reason servant leaders often do not hold typical ‘official’ leadership positions, at least not in title.

    What is most critical for leadership studies from the work of Greenleaf is the emphasis on purpose, and how this changes the focus from the traits and behaviours of the solo, individual leader to the dynamic relationships between leaders and followers in relation to that purpose. This is all part of a recognition within leadership studies that followership is essential to leadership. Followership is a vital constituent of good leadership – not simply a dependent position on the organization chart.

    The Following Part of Leading

    Katzenbach and Smith, authors of The Wisdom of Teams (1994), talk of the ‘following part of leading’, and suggest that the critical behaviours of leaders include these characteristics, shown in Table 6.

    Table 6 Aspects of the following part of leading
    Transformational and Transactional Leadership

    James MacGregor Burns (1978) was the first to put forward the concept of ‘transformational leadership’, a relationship of mutual help and support that develops followers into leaders. Burns suggested that transformational leadership occurred when one or more people work together in such a way that the leaders and followers help to increase each others’ motivation. Bass (1998; Bass and Riggio, 2006), however, deals with the transformational style of executive leadership that incorporates social change. For Bass ‘transformational leaders’ may:

    • expand a follower's portfolio of needs;
    • transform a follower's self-interest;
    • increase the confidence of followers;
    • elevate followers’ expectations;
    • heighten the value of the leader's intended outcomes for the follower;
    • encourage behavioural change;
    • motivate others to higher levels of personal achievement.

    The styles may be contrasted as shown in Table 7.

    Table 7 Elements of transactional and transformational leadership
    Transactional leadershipTransformational leadership
    • builds on the employee's need to get a job done and make a living• builds on an employee's need for meaning and personal development
    • is preoccupied with power and position, politics and perks• is preoccupied with purposes and values, morals, and ethics
    • is mired in daily affairs• transcends daily affairs
    • is short-term and hard-data orientated• is orientated towards long-term goals without compromising human values and principles
    • focuses on tactical issues• focuses more on missions and strategies
    • relies on human relations to lubricate human interactions• releases human potential – identifying and developing new talent
    • follows and fulfils role expectations by striving to work effectively within current systems• designs and redesigns jobs to make them meaningful and challenging
    • supports structures and systems that reinforce the bottom line, maximize efficiency and guarantee short-term profits• aligns internal structures and systems to reinforce overarching values and goals
    Source: Bass, 1985

    Clearly, both kinds of leadership are to be found in our organizations, and in the normal run of things one may not want a transformational leader all the time. Transactional leadership has remained the model for many people and organizations, but arguably the pace and complexity of modern society create a greater demand for transformational leadership.

    Dispersed or Distributed Leadership

    When considering the contributions made by a whole group, and people throughout an organization, it becomes clear that many are involved in leading and supporting the leadership of others. The question ‘how is leadership distributed?’ has given rise to a broad theoretical field known as ‘dispersed’ or ‘distributed’ leadership. Largely developed within the field of educational leadership (see Gronn, 2002, 2008; Spillane, 2006; Leithwood et al., 2009; Bolden, 2011), the essential idea is that leadership may be taken up by people other than the person at the top of the hierarchy. People who may be ‘followers’ in some instances are leaders in others, and indeed the proper functioning of most organizations depends on this: a teacher must be a leader in her classroom, a team member amongst colleagues, and a follower in relation to the Principal. So hierarchical leaders must recognize both when they need to be actively leading and when they need to authorize others in their leadership roles. There are personal structural aspects to this: firstly, there is the recognition that certain individuals may be better suited to take the lead in certain situations, and the official leader must be ready for this happen. Second, there are the organizational structures that locate power and influence in some roles – such as those controlling budgets or taking an entrepreneurial initiative – that inherently require leadership to be distributed to those roles.

    The distribution of leadership underscores the importance of social relations in the leadership contract and the need for a leader to be accepted by others willing to become their followers. Sometimes likened to ‘informal’ or ‘emergent’ leadership, the dispersed/distributed leadership approach suggests a less rigid model of leadership, where the leader's role is dissociated from the organizational hierarchy. Ideally, it implies that individuals at all levels in the organization and in all roles (not simply those with an overt management dimension) can exert leadership influence over their colleagues and thus influence the overall leadership of the organization.

    Heifetz (1994) distinguishes between the exercise of ‘leadership’ and the exercise of ‘authority’ – thus dissociating leadership from formal organizational power roles – whilst Raelin (2011) talks of developing ‘leaderful’ organizations through concurrent, collective and compassionate leadership. The key to this is a distinction between the notions of ‘leader’ and ‘leadership’. ‘Leadership’ is regarded as a process of sense-making and direction-giving within a group and the ‘leader’ can only be identified on the basis of an individual relationship with followers. Thus, the leader can be seen as emergent rather than predefined, and that role of the leader can only be understood through examining the relationships within the group (rather than by focusing on his/her personal characteristics or traits).

    The origins of such approaches have their foundations in sociology and organizational behaviour more than the traditional management literature, and draw on concepts such as structure and agency, organizational culture and climate, to highlight the contextual and situational influences on how leadership is actually enacted, and what people believe about it. It is a more collective concept, and argues for a move from an analysis and development of individual leader qualities to an identification of what constitutes an effective (or more appropriate) leadership process within an organization. This suggests a move in focus from the individuals to the relationships and culture within an organization.

    The ‘Seven Leadership Action Logic Roles’

    Many leadership theories examine an individual's philosophy of leadership, personality, or leadership style, but not necessarily how he or she might act, especially in order to progress his or her career. Rooke and Torbert (2005) have a new approach in an article where they define ‘action logic’ as the way in which a leader decides what to do when there is an attack on their power base. Very few leaders operate on the basis of the two most effective action logics, and most are confined to the less effective styles. According to these authors, in large part, leadership can be learned. They profile seven leader types, based on extensive qualitative research on attitudes to leadership:

    • The Opportunist: these leaders see the world in terms of its potential to give them personal gain. People and resources are to be exploited. These leaders may have a place in emergency or tough sales situations, but that might be all. Opportunists constitute 5 per cent of the leaders studied by the authors.
    • The Diplomat: these people are driven by a need to satisfy higher-level managers while avoiding conflict. They follow group norms and rarely ‘rock the boat’. They have a role in holding a group together and constitute 12 per cent of the leaders, mostly at junior levels, profiled in Rooke and Torbert's research.
    • The Expert: experts believe they influence control through their knowledge. They largely see collaboration as a waste of time as they ‘know’ the correct answer. They are good as individual contributors and make up the largest proportion of leaders – 38 per cent of those analysed by the authors.
    • The Achiever – these leaders focus on creating a positive work environment and also on the deliverables. They tend not to think outside the box, but function well in managerial roles. They make up 30 per cent of all the leaders profiled in this study.
    • The Individualist: these people tend to ignore rules with a view to getting things done. They recognize and work on tensions between principles and their actions, or between organizational values and the implementation of those values. They work well in venture capital and consulting roles and constitute 10 per cent of the leaders profiled by Rooke and Torbert.
    • The Strategist: strategists are different from individualists in so far that they recognize organizational constraints which they are prepared to discuss and transform. They have the ability and desire to focus on personal relationships, organizational relationships, and national and international developments. They are characterized by their need for inquiry, vigilance and an ability to focus on the short and long term. Effective as transformational leaders, they make up only 4 per cent of the random group of leaders analysed.
    • The Alchemist: these people differ from strategists in their ability to renew or re-invent themselves and their organizations in historically significant ways. Typically charismatic, they live by high moral standards. They are good at leading society-wide transformations and make up only 1 per cent of the leaders looked at in this study.

    The authors argue that leaders can, and do, transform themselves, and to a certain extent these types can be taught, so you do see transitions from one leader type to another. One of the largest bottlenecks within organizations, however, is from the leadership role of Expert to that of Achiever. Because people such as engineers, lawyers and other professionals can often demonstrate Expert characteristics, the transition to Achiever can be difficult, but it is possible and can be positive for an organization.

    The authors propose that the most effective teams are those with a Strategist culture, though strategist leaders constituted only 4 per cent of the sample, where people see challenges as opportunities for business growth and learning. Few organizations operate this way. Most operate with an Achiever culture focused on goal achievement. The rarest but most transformational kinds of leaders are Strategists and Alchemists. The latter can transcend a narrow role in business to take on more truly a national role, becoming a cult figure.

    This brief introduction to a subjectively selected series of leadership theories and perspectives is intended to serve as a background and framework to the ‘Key Concepts of Leadership’ entries discussed in more detail below. These theories underpin and help to explain the origins of these ongoing leadership debates and perspectives.

  • Conclusion

    in this book we have presented ‘concepts of leadership’ as a series of dichotomies: is leadership like this, or like that (and should it be one or the other)? These dichotomies are constructs – artificially created intellectual structures on which to hang the evidence, which is leadership as observed in practice. Each construct gives a specific shape to our enquiry – a construct that stretches between EQ and IQ will show up different aspects of leadership from one that compares East and West. We have selected 33 constructs that we believe expose as much as possible of leadership. Some of our constructs are designed to provide better descriptions of leadership – what to look for and how to understand it. Some aim to guide a more normative approach – what leadership should be like. Some express commonly held prejudices, and we hope our discussions and examples provoke a greater nuance and tolerance of differences.

    Overall our aim has been to inform talk and study about leadership by bringing to the surface the key concepts that are mobilized in leadership studies – concepts such as authority, transformation, intelligence, trust and so forth. These are abstractions, and we have chosen to show how they are used in the 33 constructed dichotomies that (we suggest) characterize leadership studies. Readers who would like to pursue abstract concepts through the text will find many listed in the Index, with references to the pages and entries in which they are applied.

    There is one big dichotomy we have not included in our 33 topics: are leaders born or made? Our answer has to be, as with all the preceding topics, both – and it depends what you want to do with this question. People who become leaders were born, like anyone else, with some physical and emotional characteristics inherited from relatives, and like anyone else they have been through experiences that shaped them. This is not so interesting; more the point – why are you asking? What do you hope to gain, in terms of understanding, by framing the question like this? Is it because you want to argue that anyone can learn how to lead? Or that you would like to express your admiration for someone who always takes charge of the situation? As we have shown, the most fruitful approach to apparently simple ‘either–or’ questions (born or made) is to look for ways in which both might be true. Then, the even more interesting stage is to follow the trails that are exposed by posing this question. To the extent that leaders are ‘made’, how are they made, by which processes and at what costs? In this book we have tried to establish a rhythm alternating between concept and example, asking, ‘What does this look like in practice?’ So, to stick with the born-or-made theme, let's think of some leaders who have been made, people put into situations in which they have had to lead, and as we tell their story, let's work out which theories and models are useful – perhaps theories of learning, teamwork, psychological types, and so forth. In this way the construct of ‘born-or-made’ becomes clear: an architecture consisting of concepts, models, theories, examples and perspectives.

    The 33 constructs in this book are set up as dichotomies, two options in tension, as if one must be torn between them. None are outright contradictions – if one extreme is true, the other must be false. Most are juxtapositions, in which one proposition is put alongside another, not as a direct opposite, rather because they throw light on each other. For example, Goal-oriented Leadership and Opportunistic Leadership juxtaposes concepts that are not really opposites to each other (a goal-oriented person can be opportunistic, and an opportunist can focus on goals); but the point is that by constructing our enquiry in these terms we are able to discover something about the relationships between the two, and to understand varieties of leadership practice (and theories) in terms of the assumptions they make about opportunism and goal-orientation. An analogy for the way we have used juxtaposition is that we have laid the concepts out like a railway track, side by side, held together and also held apart, not destined to blend into one, but useful precisely because they are laid out like this. And proceeding along one rail means one is also proceeding along the other. So to pick up the same example, as we looked more deeply at goal-orientation, we also came to appreciate the nuances about opportunism. This structure has been important for the book, setting it apart from traditional encyclopaedias that seek to find definitions of concepts like these in abstraction from each other.

    In some of our topics the concepts are more loosely contrasted; that is, there is no inherent or necessary opposition, but by examining them together each is brought into clearer focus – like switching perspective between foreground and background, as a means to bring greater and clarity and depth to each. Leading volunteers and leading employees, for example, involves no fundamentally different issues, techniques or dilemmas. But by contrasting them we are able to expose questions of motivation and authority that are pertinent to both, but which might have remained hidden if we hadn't asked, ‘What is the difference between leading volunteers and paid employees?’

    So in conclusion we hope that this book provides keys to understanding concepts of leadership – where these concepts come from, how they are constructed, their uses and misuses. We believe that having these keys to concepts, readers will be better able to appreciate what we are calling the ‘key concepts in leadership studies’.


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