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we offer three theories of leadership on this page other material

management briefings and technical education

independent advice on tools and methods

trait theories ... to be a leader, you have to have the right characteristics.
style theories ... to be a leader, you have to adopt the right style.
contingency ... different styles of leadership (and types of leader) are appropriate for different situations.


Blog - Leadership and Change

Leadership and Control (pdf)

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Leadership Characteristics

veryard projects > leadership > traits

According to trait theories of leadership, leaders are selected for their leadership qualities. We expect our leaders to display the right traits.  They are supposed to be taller, more handsome, more intelligent, blah blah.  Short leaders (such as Napoleon) are expected to have some other exceptional characteristics, to compensate for their lack of height.
Intelligence Problem-Solving Ability, Understanding, Decisiveness
Character Drive, Initiative, Confidence
Physique Health, Height, Handsome
Social Category Statistics indicate that gender, social class and ethnic origins can affect a person's chances of becoming a leader.  In the past, there were many leadership positions that were only accessible to men who had attended the right school or university. Nowadays, the advantages of belonging to the right social category have been considerably diminished, but we are not yet in a fully egalitarian and meritocratic society.

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Styles of Leadership

veryard projects > leadership > styles

Leadership styles vary along a spectrum, with explicit direction at one end and facilitating delegation at the other end.
dictatorship / coercion 


democracy / persuasion

Here are some further style classifications and spectra, proposed by various authors.
People-Oriented, Task-Oriented
Autocratic (Exploitative / Benevolent), Participative, Democratic
Tells, Sells, Consults, Joins
Country Club, Team, Middle-of-the-Road, Impoverished, Authority / Compliance
Telling, Selling, Participating, Delegating
Artist, Craftsman, Technocrat

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Contingency Theory of Leadership

veryard projects > leadership > contingency

Style Depends on Circumstance
Gauge Situation Favourableness
Leader-Member Relations Good / Poor
Task Structure Structured / Unstructured
Position Power and Authority High / Low
Very Favourable Task-Oriented
Moderately Favourable Person-Oriented
Very Unfavourable Task-Oriented
Thus different points on the style spectrum are appropriate for different situations. Management writers including Fiedler, Tannenbaum and Handy have identified various factors as relevant.  The diagram represents a combination of these factors.

Fred Fielder, ‘Engineer the job to fit the manager’ Harvard Business Review 5, 1965

Robert Tannenbaum & Warren Schmidt, ‘How to choose a leadership pattern’ Harvard Business Review 2, 1958

Charles Handy, Understanding Organizations (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1976) pp 96 ff

Implications for action

Enterprise design should be based on an assessment of the complexity of a given task, together with an assessment of the urgency of a given requirement for change.
Design tasks to fit the abilities of the team. Each team should have some simple and some complex tasks. Design organizations and systems with a mix of leadership styles, so that the organization culture is not fixed at either end.
Moving towards the participative end of the spectrum is valuable for several reasons. It improves the quality of working life for the team, which is in turn likely to have a good effect on the quality and productivity of their work. It also reduces supervision costs and increases bottom-up organizational learning. However, if the organizational culture is fixed at the participative end of the leadership spectrum, this may make it more difficult in future to impose top-down change.
The implementation of complex systems is usually a highly complex task, and requires the knowledge and skills of the ‘followers’ as well as the ‘leaders’. However, radical change is often prompted by organizational crisis. In such circumstances, there may be little opportunity for extensive discussion and participation. 
Avoid simply dividing people into ‘leaders’ and ‘followers’. Consider multiple leadership patterns (distribution of authority), where not all leadership roles reside in one person/agent. (For example, one person may have technical authority, in the sense of being deferred to for technical decisions, without having direct control over investment.)
If people are able to acquire leadership positions gradually, rather than all at once, this increases opportunities for personal growth, to both individual and collective advantage.
more Three Notions of Contingency

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Leadership Quotes

veryard projects > leadership > quotes

[General Sir John Hackett, The Profession of Arms (Sidgwick & Jackson, 1983)
“It is said that there was once a young platoon officer who was believed by his commanding officer to be inclined to run away in battles. This belief was shared by the men in the platoon, not without reason. But the men liked this young officer and wished him no harm. They therefore backed him up stoutly on the battlefield so that he should feel less inclined to run away. The commanding officer was uneasy about this platoon officer and as soon as possible replaced him with another young officer about whose braveness there was no possible question. When the platoon went into action the new platoon commander was as brave as expected. But now the men ran away.” [p 215]
“A man caught on the rebound from failure can be a wonderful investment … An opportunity to reestablish himself in his own esteem, when he has forfeited it, is something for which a man will give you a great deal in return.” [pp 220-221]
“ ‘This is unlike you’ can be far more effective and much less damaging to your relationship than ‘There you go again, you useless so-and-so’.” [p 221]

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Books on Leadership

veryard projects > leadership > books

Book Comment Information
Garry Wills. Certain Trumpets: The Nature of Leadership

Simon & Schuster 1994
ISBN 0-671-65702-X

Brilliant book, partly drawing on his excellent biographies of several American presidents - but going much wider. In this book, he picks role models of leadership from 16 different fields, and analyses their success. In each field, he also picks an antitype - someone who had nearly the same attributes, but lacked the qualities of leadership in some important way.  Controversial, provocative, inspiring.
Leader Antitype
Franklin Roosevelt
Eleanor Roosevelt
George Washington
King David
Adlai Stevenson
Nancy Reagan
Oliver Cromwell
buy a copy - uk
buy a copy - us
Lionel Stapley, It's an emotional game.  Learning about leadership from the experience of football. 

Karnac 2002
ISBN 185575990X

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Leadership Links

veryard projects > leadership > links

Leader-to-Leader Institute
Leading in Trying Times (Essays at Michigan Business School)
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