Being There Even When You Are Not: Volume 4

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Table of contents

(29 chapters)

A key distinction, mentioned by Dubin (1979, p. 227), is “leadership at a distance.” When Dubin was writing, there was little research on this topic. More recently, however, there has been an upsurge in leadership-at-a-distance work. We see a major review by Antonakis and Atwater (2002), following an earlier one by Napier and Ferris (1993), along with work by authors such as Shamir (1995) and Waldman and Yammarino (1999).

In this part we focus on the structures, systems, and processes that support and encourage the development of leaders in the organization. David Day introduces the theme, exploring the social architecture most conducive to the development of leadership throughout the organization and the role strategic leaders need to play to create such architecture. The next two chapters show how two large organizations have gone about changing their social architecture in order to develop both a broader and a more engaged leadership cadre. Ellen Van Velsor and Patricia O’Connor show how a large US service organization has started to change its social architecture by creatively combining empowerment, learning and performance orientations. Paul Broeckx and Robert Hooijberg show how Nestlé, the Swiss-based global fast-moving consumer goods company, has started to replace the most limiting aspects of the traditional hierarchy to more fully engage the full human capacity of its workforce.

It is proposed that the desirable goal of structuring the organization for leadership development has less to do with formal hierarchical structure than with the informal norms and networks that support organizational systems and processes. In this manner, strategic leaders need to think of themselves as social architects in helping to generate the kinds of normative conditions that facilitate leadership development. In particular, priority concerns for leadership development are issues such as what are the culture and climate for learning and development? and how healthy is the interpersonal context in which the shared work of the organization takes place?

This chapter describes an approach to leadership development that focuses on enhancing an organization's capacity for “connected leadership.” The framework is based on the idea that, in the face of complex challenges, three organizational-level leadership tasks must be accomplished: (1) direction must be set not once and for all, but in a way that is recurring and iterative; (2) alignment must be created among aspects of a work flow, among people and groups, and among organizational systems and processes; and (3) commitment must be generated and maintained throughout times of change. We describe four features of our approach and illustrate using examples from an organization in the midst of significant transformation.

In this chapter we discuss the “Nestlé on the Move” program. The program focuses especially on the areas of leadership and people development and finding ways to better align people with the organization, gain their insights, engage them cooperatively, and stimulate initiative.

Kimberly B. Boal examines what companies and strategic leaders can do to enhance knowledge acquisition, retention, and dissemination. In doing so, he explores how leaders create environments where people throughout the organization utilize both strong and weak network relationships in the pursuit of finding, exploiting, and protecting new knowledge and ideas. Kazuo Ichijo then hones in on how strategic leaders at electronics manufacturer Sharp Corporation developed processes, systems, and structures that allowed the company to build and exploit its knowledge of and competence in LCD technology.

First and second order learning lie at the center of an organization's ability to exploit its core competencies or explore for new opportunities. Strategic leadership lies at the center of this learning process. Strategic leaders enable organizations to learn by telling stories about what the organization is, what the organization does, and what the organization can become. They also enable competence carriers to come together to solve current and future problems by networking. These processes are explored.

Sharp Corporation, established in 1912, has always tried to identify unique niches that its competitors do not enter, while at the same time continuing to pursue innovation and knowledge creation in those niches. The liquid crystal display (LCD) business is a typical example of Sharp's strategy and innovation. Sharp developed the first successful LCD product – a pocket calculator with a small black and white LCD in 1973 – and since then the company has released a series of unique products with LCDs, including PDAs and camcorders. In 1998, in the face of increasing competition in the traditional cathode-ray tube (CRT) TV market, Katsuhiko Machida, the company's new president and strategic leader, announced his vision of upgrading all bulky CRT televisions sold in the domestic market to flat screen LCD sets by 2005. This vision was bold, since Sharp was the first producer of color CRT TVs and its business was still profitable at the time. However, Machida as strategic leader, predicted tough price competition in the CRT business in the future and began to mobilize Sharp's employees to gain and sustain competitive advantage in the new market.

As CEOs now communicate with a wide variety of stakeholders, it has become increasingly difficult to ensure that the intended meaning of their messages is received. Boas Shamir focuses on how leaders engage in the management of meanings in order to (1) justify their actions and the changes they introduce to the organization; (2) recruit followers and motivate members of the organization to support their actions; and (3) create shared perceptions and interpretations so that members’ actions are guided by a common definition of the situation. Heike Bruch, Boas Shamir, and Galit Eilam-Shamir show how the leader of a large Swiss-based company actively managed the views, interpretations and energy of more than 100,000 employees through weekly e-mail letters when the company faced grave financial difficulties. Gretchen Spreitzer, Mary Sue Coleman, and Daniel Gruber show how an incoming university president dealt with an ongoing lawsuit regarding the university's use of affirmative action in its admissions processes and worked with various stakeholders to firmly establish the university's identity.

Most of the literature on strategic management portrays the strategic leader as a planner, decision formulator, and implementer of structure and processes. Theories of strategic management have not paid much attention to the essence of all leadership roles, namely the role of influencing others, and have not been much informed by leadership theories in this regard. In this chapter, I argue that the existing gap between the field of leadership and the field of strategic management can be bridged by paying closer attention to the fundamentally social and interpretative nature of the strategy formation and implementation, and in particular to the role of strategic leaders as managers of meanings. The chapter presents the idea of leadership as the management of meanings, applies this idea to the role of strategic leaders, offers a set of meanings to focus on when we consider strategic leaders as managers of meanings, discusses the link between meaning making and organizational performance, and attends to some potential dangers involved in viewing leaders as managers of meanings.

While there is growing recognition of the role of leaders as managers of meanings, leadership theories have so far focused primarily on the articulation of a positive vision, the framing of organizational issues as opportunities, and emphasizing potential gains and benefits for the organization and its members. However, these positive frames may not be equally valid under all circumstances and with respect to all issues. This chapter concentrates on exploring leadership as management of meanings in times of crisis and recovery, when leaders attempt to stop deterioration, turn the organization around, and lead it to recovery. We label this leadership approach prevention-oriented leadership. On the basis of an analysis of a series of weekly e-mail letters sent by the CEO of a large company to all organizational members over a period of 22 months we suggest that prevention-oriented leaders may use three related ways to manage meanings, namely (1) generating a clear picture of the negative challenge, (2) strengthening the organizational members’ self-efficacy and confidence in the organization's resources available for coping with the crisis, and (3) creating a sense of progress.

In this chapter, two academics from the Stephen M. Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan collaborate with the President of their university to present their experiences and ideas about positive strategic leadership. Positive strategic leadership is derived from the juxtaposition of ideas from the growing stream of research on positive organizational scholarship with what is already known from the literature on strategic leadership. The authors embed new views into current theoretical perspectives on strategic leadership to provide an integrative overview and use the president's experiences during the nationally followed Affirmative Action cases as a vehicle for illustrating five themes: (1) A lifetime of experiences shapes who you are, (2) issues commonly choose you before you choose them, (3) begin with a purpose in mind, (4) appreciate divergent views, and (5) be a beacon for the future. Additionally, the authors provide practitioners with some “takeaways” on positive strategic leadership.

Organizational structures, systems and processes can and do limit the discretionary decision-making space of all involved in organizational life. However, high up in organizations leaders have significant discretion in making decisions. Robert Kaiser and Robert Hogan explore the dark side of what might happen if strategic leaders use their discretionary freedom for personal rather than organizational benefit. Timo Santalainen and Ram Baliga present a real example of discretionary leadership gone bad in an NGO that looks quite healthy on the outside. They refer to the phenomenon of a financially successful company with a sick leader as the “healthy-sick organization.” We juxtapose this chapter with the one by Corey Billington and Michèle Barnett Berg to show how Duncan Covington at computer products, services, and solutions company IQ used his discretionary freedom for the good of the company. Covington inherited a sick organization and introduced key systems, structures, and processes to bring it back to health.

We review the literature to determine how discretion, defined as the freedom to make decisions, moderates the relationship between leader personality and organizational performance. Discretion increases with level in organizations so that top executives have the most discretion and the greatest opportunity to impact organizational performance. We describe how personality drives executive actions and decision making, which then impacts organizational performance; the more discretion a leader has, the more leeway there is for his or her personality to operate. Finally, using research and contemporary business examples, we illustrate the dynamics linking personality, discretionary freedom, and destructive leadership in and of organizations.

This chapter focuses on “healthy-sick” organizations. We define them as those organizations that appear to be healthy to the outside world but are sick at their core. We identify and discuss, in detail, singular attributes of healthy-sick organizations and their path to failure. As senior organizational leaders are responsible for creating and maintaining the set of interactions that creates the healthy-sick phenomenon, our elaboration will necessarily focus on these leader(s). We conclude with a set of recommendations to mitigate the probability of organizations falling into the healthy-sick trap.

After a decade of continuous success within IQ, a $79.9 billion technology company, Duncan Covington faced one of his greatest career challenges. He was tasked with turning around a procurement organization that was underperforming, had a vacancy rate of 45%, and a tarnished internal reputation. Just five years earlier this same organization had been considered an outstanding contributor to the company and had received numerous awards and accolades. He used leadership discretion to redesign the organization and created six new structures to motivate and lead his staff to success: (1) value creation; (2) improving workgroup productivity; (3) succession planning; (4) long-term value for employees; (5) fee-for-service; and (6) contributing to innovation. By using these structures Covington was able to transform and restore the organization to a high performing and a contributing division within the company.

One of the key questions leaders at the top face is how to get their vision for the organization implemented throughout the whole organization. Especially in large, geographically dispersed companies with diverse products and markets, such implementation requires careful consideration and attention as well as considerable local interpretation and adaptation. The challenge of cascading the vision down in a meaningful way while maintaining its intent is the focus of this chapter and the following two specific cases.

We explore how leaders get real commitment for their visions. We propose that leaders need to pay significant attention to and get broad involvement in three stages of the vision creation and dissemination process. First, they need involvement in the creation of the vision and buy-in from the senior levels. Second, when cascading the vision further down the organization, they need to allow for real discussion and input. Third, leaders need to seriously track and assess the impact of the vision implementation.

In 2001, Carlsberg became the fourth largest brewer in the world – but that world was increasingly competitive. This chapter explores how Carlsberg's top management team translated its vision into a few critical priorities, their must-win battles – and then cascaded these throughout the organization to create the alignment, energy, and motivation to realize its goals. At the core, its approach was creating not only shared priorities intellectually, but also a strong culture of cooperation. Five key factors underpin Carlsberg's significant improvements in market position and financial returns: (1) walking the talk, (2) communicating constantly on many levels, (3) maintaining a solid grip on reality, (4) embedding the agenda in the core processes of the organization, and (5) the personal commitment and ownership of the CEO.

We follow Dr. Luc Verburgh through his first two years as CEO of Wellant College. He arrived there in the middle of a major strategic change and his mandate was to implement a change away from a traditional learning model to a new one. His first task was to define, with the executive team, the college's overall vision and strategy. Once that was accomplished, he turned his attention to the task of cascading both the vision and the strategy down throughout the organization and quickly implementing them. He achieved this by focusing on four areas: (1) making sure that the right people were on the team; (2) changing Wellant College's organizational structures and processes to promote communication and to manage performance; (3) communicating clearly and transparently throughout the entire process to all of the stakeholders about the changes taking place and the evolution of the strategy, seeking their views when appropriate; and (4) gradually changing from a top-down approach to one that had clearer guidelines and regulations, as well as allowing, even encouraging, more local ownership.

This part aims to push thinking on strategic leadership one step further. In all of the previous parts we follow quite a hierarchical model, in which leaders at the top outline the vision, the strategy, and the key implementation tools. Here, Russ Marion and Mary Uhl-Bien challenge the validity of this view of strategic leadership. They argue that strategic leadership is about interacting effectively within a complex interplay of environmental and organizational forces to enable fit environments and adaptive organizations. For them this means that strategic leaders need to pay significant attention to the interdependence between their organizations and both competitors and other relevant organizations in the niches in which they operate. It also means that they need to develop adaptive leadership capacity far down in the organization and show a willingness to follow those leaders at the lower levels. Marion and Uhl-Bien then argue both that strategic leaders have a more interdependent view of organizations and that they have a greater willingness to act as followers than we see in any of the leadership and/or strategy literature. As this approach to strategic leadership is quite new, we do not have application chapters here.

The current strategic leadership literature tends to advocate a leader-centric (upper-echelon) approach to strategy, one in which the leader positions the organization competitively within an environment. Based on complexity theory, we argue that strategic leadership in a fast-paced environment works to organize both the environment and the organization in ways that enhance the firm's adaptability, innovativeness, and fitness. We propose a two-pronged strategy: Foster cooperative relationships with the organization's environment, and enable adaptive organizations that are “partners” in the strategic leadership function.

A key question with which many senior executives struggle concerns the development of future generations of leaders throughout their organizations. Because these senior leaders realize that they cannot personally groom these next generations of leaders, they have started to explore what conditions will make the leaders of the future “emerge.” They face the challenge of creating conditions that simultaneously provide opportunities for people to demonstrate their leadership potential and that keep the current business running well. Day, in Chapter 2 of Part 1 of the book, proposed the social architecture most conducive to such leader development. His social architecture has three main pillars: low power distance, psychological safety, and a learning orientation. The two application chapters in this part of the book presented two ways of building such a social architecture for leader development.

John Antonakis (PhD, Walden University) is professor of Organizational Behavior at the Faculty of Management and Economics of the University of Lausanne, Switzerland. His research is centered on individual-difference antecedents of effective leadership, the measurement of leadership, and the links between context and leadership as applied to neocharismatic and transformational leadership models, and the development of leadership.

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Monographs in Leadership and Management
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Emerald Publishing Limited
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