The study of leadership has been a very important part of the behavioral sciences for well over a century. There are over 20,000 books, articles or presentations on this topic. Yet, there is still tremendous debate in the current literature as to the nature of the concept we currently call leadership. Leadership is not an easy subject to explain. It means different things to different people which has created great confusion and ambiguity around its true meaning. Bennis (1959) surveyed the existing leadership literature and arrived at the following conclusion:
“Always, it seems, the concept of leadership eludes us or turns up in another form to taunt us again with its slipperiness and complexity. So we have invented an endless proliferation of terms to deal with it …and still the concept is not sufficiently defined.”
In another review of the literature, Stogdill (1974) drew a similar conclusion when he reported that “there are almost as many definitions of leadership as there are persons who have attempted to define the concept.”
Ideas about leadership produce a continuum that is anchored at several points. At one end, some have described leadership as an innate quality that manifests itself in certain leadership traits, and without these traits, one cannot be an effective leader. Thus, insinuates the “leaders are born, not made” notion. You may have heard of the “Great Man” theory of leadership.
In the middle, there are those who would suggest that leadership does not reside in a given individual, but arises out of the interaction between leader, subordinate, and their situational demands.
At the opposite end, there are some who would suggest that conceptually “leadership” is a redundant construct that does not offer any new description of behavior that is not already accounted for by another theoretical framework. However, given there will always be a lead position that others must follow, leadership is in itself an absolute concept that must be analyzed.
Other views suggest that leadership is an attribution, that resides in the mind of an individual trying to explain organizational outcomes. People who are perceived as the most forefront and vocal in an organization are often called leaders, whether they have succeeded in leader worthy accomplishments or not. Leadership then, according to attributional processes, is a function of being in the right place at the right time.
Therefore, the concept of leadership is important and must be discussed. A common understanding of what it is and what it is not should be established. It is our view that leadership is an important behavioral skill that can be developed through training. Additionally, excellent leadership qualities will influence the behavior of individuals and organizations in predictable and beneficial ways.
Read more in your Manual – Pages 1-25
Individual As A Psychological System
We begin our study of leadership by focusing on the organizational member as an individual psychological system. How can we understand why some officers behave the way they do? How can we explain why officers react differently from one another in some situations, yet behave similarly in other circumstances? How can we understand these individual differences?
To answer these and other similar questions, we need to learn about individual differences in behavior by examining the individual as a psychological system. The emphasis here is on some of the key cognitive processes that are involved in the manner in which people “construct” their lives.
These constructive processes determine the lens through which people view their world and how they process information about others. Some of these processes include categorization, schema formation, and attributions of behavior.
In sum, these processes deal with the notion of person perception —- how we come to perceive, understand, and behave towards those around us.
It is these perceptions that drive the types of exchange relationships that we develop with our subordinates, superiors, and peers. Since these exchange relationships have a direct impact on the performance of our soldiers and the accomplishment of organizational goals, we as leaders must understand how these relationships are established and how to best influence them.
Read more in your Manual – Pages 32-39
Cognition And Attribution Theory
People are a psychological system characterized by the throughput processes of attention, perception, and cognition.
These processes are instrumental in helping determine who we are, — one aspect of which we often refer to as personality (and we all have one of those). So, what is important to understand is these three processes combine and interact with our environments over time to help “construct” the person currently reading this assignment. It is this constructive process that produces the tremendous variety in individual behavior.
The specific processes involved include the notions of categorization, schema formation, and the causal analysis of behavior, based on these categories and schemas, referred to as attribution. These processes will be described in terms of how they apply in a leadership (social) context ……. generally referred to as person perception.
Read more in your Manual – Pages 39-48
Leader-Member Exchange Theory
The Leader-Member Exchange Theory (LMX), formerly called the Vertical Dyad Linkage Theory by George Graen and his colleagues, helps describe this relationship building process. This theory posits that leaders tend to have a trusted group of subordinates labeled the “in-group;” the remaining subordinates are supervised through formal authority and are referred to as the “out-group”.
Research has shown that these group memberships tend to develop fairly quickly and remain stable after they have formed. However, training interventions that make supervisors aware of their tendency to assign subordinates to one of these groups and then focus on the skills needed to move out-group members to the in-group have been effective at increasing the size of the in-group that then increases organizational performance.
A leader dealing with an in-group subordinate will treat that individual differently than an out-group subordinate. It is intuitive that a company commander will not treat each of her platoon leaders in exactly the same way. Leader-Member Exchange Theory posits that there are six common indicators of an in-group dyadic relationship.
The first is a high degree of communication of information. The leader can use information as a source of expert power and therefore communicate selected information to in-group members only. An example of this selected information might be an early warning of an upcoming inspection. The only information presented to out-group members would be that which was required by the formal authority relationship with the leader such as changes to the training plan or already decided upon personnel actions.
The second indicator is influence in decisions. Normative models on decision making prescribe under what conditions a leader should include subordinates in the decision making process. What the LMX literature has shown, however, is whereas a leader will discuss key decisions with in-group members and ask for their input, out-group members are rarely included in the decision making process. Therefore, a company commander may ask his in-group lieutenants if they think he should volunteer the company for a deployment to Korea; he might not, however, solicit the input of his out-group members.
The third is priority of task assignment. In-group members tend to be assigned valued tasks such as career enhancing, high visibility assignments; out-group members tend to be assigned less attractive tasks. A platoon leader would be more inclined to give her in-group squad leader the responsibility of escorting a General officer around a training site if that was thought to be a valued task.
The fourth indicator is job latitude. Whereas out-group members may be required to gain leader approval at short intervals, in-group members are usually granted much more freedom on assigned tasks. A leader who provides job latitude to an in-group subordinate may just provide the subordinate with a final goal and then allow the subordinate to accomplish the goal in any manner they might desire. The out-group subordinate, however, might be given a final goal but told to report back to the leader frequently to report on the accomplishment of sub-goals associated with the final goal or even be given step-by-step instructions on how to accomplish a particular task.
Support is the next indicator and is the degree to which a leader stands behind the activities of others. A leader would be much more likely to “fall on the sword” for an in-group member as opposed to an out-group member. An example of support is a platoon leader who praises an in-group squad leader for their creative plan on conducting an assault even though they were beaten by the OPFOR. A result of this support might be that an in-group subordinate would be much more likely to tackle a difficult mission since they would know that their leader would come to their side if they failed at the mission.
Finally, attention is the amount of mentor-type activities (e.g., career advice, assistance in obtaining desirable jobs) that the leader provides to the subordinate. In-group members tend to have a mentor-protégé relationship with the leader as opposed to out-group members that rests on the formal authority structure of the organization.
Take a moment to think back to squads or teams to which you have been a member; can you identify them in- and out-group of that particular leader?
Read more in your Manual – Pages 244-245
Goal Setting And Adult Development Personality
A goal is simply a desired end state.
Regardless of the nature of individual achievements, successful people tend to have one thing in common. Their lives are goal-oriented. The runner who trains for a long-distance marathon, the student who creates an achievement-oriented, goal-filled schedule to complete her thesis project, the leader who prepares a calendar in preparation of the next year’s gunnery, all use goal setting as a method for achieving an end.
Goal setting is the process of developing, negotiating, and forming the targets or objectives that an employee is responsible for accomplishing. Goals provide leaders the necessary roadmarkers to guide our assessment of our subordinates, as well as roadmarkers that may be used to guide our subordinates’ behavior.
Edwin Locke, a respected goal setting researcher, and his colleagues define a goal as “what an individual is trying to accomplish: it is the object or the aim of an action.” In Lewis Carrol’s classic, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the smiling Cheshire cat advised the bewildered Alice, ” If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.”
Goal- oriented leaders find the right road toward achieving their goals because they know where they are going. In addition to knowing the “right road to take,” it is critical that the goal-oriented leader ensures that her subordinates are committed to the chosen goals as well.
The study of performance goals and goal based reward plans has been active for years. At the turn of the twentieth century, Frederick Taylor established within a scientific framework how much work of a specified quality an individual should be assigned to complete each day. He then developed a proposal designed to give bonuses to individuals based on the previously determined output standards.
Taylor’s scientific method, in which jobs were broken down into the smallest possible component thus making individual jobs very specific with simple actions, was the forerunner of today’s widely used management technique, Management By Objectives (MBO). In the business world, employee’s are often provided pay incentives based on performance (e.g., merit pay.)
The basic premise of goal setting is the act of setting the goal, which is often seen as the cause of high performance. Within goal setting theory, one can assume that a person’s conscious intentions (goals) are the primary determinants of task-related motivation, since goals direct our thought and actions. Some goals may not lead to high performance. Why? Based on our earlier discussions, a particular goal may conflict with other goals a person may have, or be perceived as inappropriate for a given situation. For leaders, the key is to ensure commitment to established goals.
How and why does goal setting work? Goal setting theory, according to Edwin Locke’s model, has four specific motivation mechanisms:
- Goals direct attention. People have limited attentional resources. We can only attend to a limited amount of stimuli, and that affects how we allocate cognitive resources and behavioral effort. Goals help us direct our attentional efforts. Additionally, people are generally more focused and attentive to goals that have personal meaning for them.
- Goals regulate effort. Generally, the level of effort that you or your subordinates will expend on a project or task is proportionate to the difficulty of the goal.
- Goals increase persistence. Persistence represents the effort expended on a task over an extended period of time. It takes effort to run 100 meters; it takes persistence to run a 26-mile marathon. Persistent people tend to see obstacles as challenges to be overcome rather than reasons to fail.
- Goals foster strategies and action plans. Goals assist people by encouraging them to develop strategies and action plans that enable them to achieve their goals.
Read more in your Manual – Pages 388-389
Equity Theory Of Motivation
COL Mike Malone in his book, Small Unit Leadership: A Commonsense Approach, states the “fundamental building block of unit performance is the performance of the individual soldier.” This performance is rooted in some form of motivation, either in terms of basic needs, or in terms of some high form of aspiration such as self-actualization, or as the Army would suggest, trying to “Be All You Can Be.” So, since leadership is focused on getting others to perform in a manner consistent with organizational goals, it is imperative that leaders understand human motivation — the key to effective performance.
Most individuals believe life “owes them a fair shake.” This belief that there should be an equitable distribution of rewards is deeply embedded in our culture and our social system. Most individuals believe they should get out of an endeavor what they put into it. This expectation of fairness is often a powerful force within individuals. Indeed, the perception of inequity often motivates behavior as we seek ways to restore equity in a situation. Chosen resolution strategies become of interest to organizational leaders when they work against organizational goals and objectives. Fiquire below outlines Adams’ Equity Theory.
Equity theory assumes that perceptions of fairness are based on social comparison. Individuals compare their inputs and outcomes to those of another individual. The theory then suggests how individuals resolve their perception of inequity, and further what organizational leaders might do to ensure that resolution strategies support rather than work against organizational goals and objectives.
Read more in your Manual – Pages 59-61
Expectancy Theory Of Motivation
This brief supplemental reading presents an illustrative list of leader actions available to the organizational leader to increase a subordinate’s expectancy, instrumentality, and/or valence.
- To increase expectancy (Can I achieve the desired level of task performance?)
- Clarify the relationship between individual behavior and performance outcomes. Show the subordinate what specific behavior will lead to the desired performance outcome.
- Lower the performance outcome/standard, if consistent with organizational goals.
- Conduct additional training for the subordinate.
- Alter the subordinate’s perception of his/her capabilities, (i.e., build the subordinate’s self-confidence).
- Restructure the work environment (resource availability, etc.)
- To increase instrumentality (What is the probability that rewards will be received as a result of the performance?)
- Ensure that a well-defined performance outcome to reward outcome relationship is established, effectively communicated, and understood by all. Make the reward contingent on the desired performance outcome.
- Ensure that equitable rewards are available, contingent on performance, and consistently administered in a timely manner.
- To increase valence (How highly do I value the reward outcomes?):
- Determine what reward outcomes are valued (via surveys, direct observations, direct inquiries, need theories, etc.) and provide those outcomes.
- Clarify individual perceptions concerning the value of reaching a particular performance outcome. The individual may be overlooking some critical reward outcomes that are associated with the performance outcome in question.
Read more in your Manual – Pages 61-67
Path Goal Theory
The process of influencing others to accomplish organizational goals is often very complex. An early attempt at understanding the effect of a leader’s style in a given situation was Situational Leadership Theory. Situational Leadership Theory is a simple description of a leadership process that prescribes leader actions that match the subordinates’ development level based on their competence and commitment. However, this simplicity limited its usefulness when it came to analyzing leadership situations. While knowing the commitment and competence of subordinates helps leaders determine appropriate actions, there are other important factors in a leadership situation that are not addressed by situational leadership.
Instrumental and Directive Leadership are the same type leader behavior. Determining which of the four leader behaviors in Path-Goal theory is most effective for any given situation is another asset the leader has to influence human behavior to accomplish organizational goals. Path-Goal theory suggests a variety of situational variables that the leader must consider when determining appropriate behaviors. We will address only two of these variables. The first variable is the characteristic of the work environment. The second variable is the ability of the subordinate.
When the leader considers characteristics of the work environment he or she is looking at the structure of the task. Tasks are either structured or unstructured.
Structured tasks are those tasks having established procedures and guidelines that dictate exactly how the task should be accomplished.
Unstructured tasks, on the other hand, are ones that are not routine or repetitive, nor are they governed by strict guidelines or rules. Unstructured tasks may vary from situation to situation and be solved any number of ways.
When considering characteristics of the subordinate, the leader looks at the perceived ability of the subordinate. According to the theory, perceived ability is either high or low. High perceived ability subordinates usually demonstrate high skill competence and confidence in their abilities. Low perceived ability, on the other hand, exists when soldiers do not believe that they possess the necessary skills to demonstrate proficiency in their work performance or they show a lack of confidence in their abilities.
Path-Goal theory is based on expectancy theory. The theory suggests that by correctly matching leader behaviors to the situation, as measured by the structure of the task and the abilities of the subordinate, the leader can increase motivation. The correct leader behaviors ensure that expectancy, instrumentality, and valence are sufficiently high to motivate soldiers to accomplish organizational goals. But, how do the four leader behaviors affect motivation? To understand the effect of the leader’s behaviors on the components of expectancy theory, each situation will be explained separately.
When faced with an unstructured task, subordinates’ expectancy to accomplish the organizational goals may decrease. The leader can increase subordinates’ expectancy through the use of three behaviors: Instrumental (a directive), participative, or achievement oriented (or directive).
When faced with a structured task the leader can expect a decrease in valence. The task is routine, monotonous and provides little reward for a subordinate. Through the use of supportive leader behavior, the leader can positively affect valence and expectancy. The leader attempts to make the task more enjoyable by making the soldier more comfortable or combining the routine task with an enjoyable task. By making the task more enjoyable, the leader not only increases valence, but increases the subordinates’ expectancy to endure the monotony long enough to accomplish the goal.
High perceived ability subordinates usually have high expectancy. Their decrease in motivation may be caused by low valence. Task mastery may no longer provide a challenge or satisfaction for these subordinates. The leader can increase valence for these subordinates by involving them in the decision-making process. Allowing them to have input into decisions increases their status in the organization and increases their responsibilities. This may challenge them and increase their sense of satisfaction. In this situation, motivation is increased through participative leader behaviors.
Low perceived ability subordinates usually have low expectancy to accomplish organizational goals. Instrumental or achievement-oriented leader behaviors are most effective in this situation. The leader’s behaviors help the subordinate identify the behaviors necessary for goal accomplishment. Instrumental behavior dictates the exact behaviors required and are most effective for a subordinate with deficient skills (competence). Achievement-oriented behaviors may be more appropriate in increasing expectancy for soldiers with low confidence.
In organizations, however, the leader rarely finds characteristics of the task and subordinates as separate conditions of the situation. Usually these conditions are combined. The following chart depicts the correct leader behaviors for combinations of situational variables. The leader’s job is to identify components of the situation and match the appropriate leader behaviors to increase subordinate motivation.
Read more in your Manual – Page 236