Posted: November 21st, 2022

Leadership Review 3

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A complete learning package

Introduction to Leadership: Concepts and Practice, 5th Edition provides readers with a clear, concise
overview of the complexities of practicing leadership and concrete strategies for becoming better

The chapter on EXPLORING DESTRUCTIVE LEADERSHIP helps students understand
characteristics of toxic leaders and susceptible followers, providing them with tactics and tools for
confronting bad leadership.

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Obama, Jasmine Crowe, and Elizabeth Holmes, whose characteristics, style, or experience
illustrate concepts discussed in the chapter.

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Fifth Edition

To Madison, Isla, Sullivan, and Edison


Concepts and Practice

Fifth Edition

Peter G. Northouse

Western Michigan University

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Washington DC



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This reprinted edition of Introduction to Leadership, Fifth Edition, has been
revised to align with SAGE’s updated bias-free language guidelines. In addition,
a new profile of Harriet Tubman supersedes the profile of George Washington

found in earlier versions of the text.

Printed in the United States of America

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Names: Northouse, Peter Guy, author.

Title: Introduction to leadership: concepts and practice / Peter G. Northouse.

Description: Fifth edition. | Thousand Oaks, California: SAGE, [2021] | Includes bibliographical
references and index.

Identifiers: LCCN 2019029354 | ISBN 9781544351599 (paperback; alk. paper) | ISBN
9781544351612 (epub) | ISBN 9781544351605 (pdf)

Subjects: LCSH: Leadership.

Classification: LCC HM1261 .N667 2021 | DDC 303.3/4—dc23

LC record available at

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About the Author
CHAPTER 1 • Understanding Leadership
CHAPTER 2 • Recognizing Your Traits
CHAPTER 3 • Understanding Leadership Styles
CHAPTER 4 • Attending to Tasks and Relationships
CHAPTER 5 • Developing Leadership Skills
CHAPTER 6 • Engaging Strengths
CHAPTER 7 • Creating a Vision
CHAPTER 8 • Establishing a Constructive Climate
CHAPTER 9 • Embracing Diversity and Inclusion
CHAPTER 10 • Listening to Out-Group Members
CHAPTER 11 • Managing Conflict
CHAPTER 12 • Addressing Ethics in Leadership
CHAPTER 13 • Overcoming Obstacles
CHAPTER 14 • Exploring Destructive Leadership

About the Author
CHAPTER 1 • Understanding Leadership

Leadership Explained

“Leadership Is a Trait”
“Leadership Is an Ability”
“Leadership Is a Skill”
“Leadership Is a Behavior”
“Leadership Is a Relationship”
“Leadership Is an Influence Process”
Leadership vs. Management

Global Leadership Attributes
The Dark Side of Leadership
Leadership Snapshot: Michelle Obama
Glossary Terms

➨ 1.1 Case Study—King of the Hill
➨ 1.2 Case Study—Charity: Water
➨ 1.3 Conceptualizing Leadership Questionnaire
➨ 1.4 Observational Exercise
➨ 1.5 Reflection and Action Worksheet

CHAPTER 2 • Recognizing Your Traits

Leadership Traits Explained


Leadership Snapshot: Nelson Mandela
Leadership Traits in Practice

Harriet Tubman (1820–1913)
Winston Churchill (1874–1965)
Mother Teresa (1910–1997)
Bill Gates (1955– )
Oprah Winfrey (1954– )
LeBron James (1984– )

Glossary Terms

➨ 2.1 Case Study—NorthTown Doulas
➨ 2.2 Case Study—The Three Bs
➨ 2.3 Leadership Traits Questionnaire
➨ 2.4 Observational Exercise
➨ 2.5 Reflection and Action Worksheet

CHAPTER 3 • Understanding Leadership Styles

Leadership Philosophy Explained

Theory X
Theory Y

Leadership Styles Explained
Authoritarian Leadership Style
Democratic Leadership Style
Laissez-Faire Leadership Style

Leadership Snapshot: Victoria Ransom
Leadership Styles in Practice
Glossary Terms

➨ 3.1 Case Study—Several Different Styles
➨ 3.2 Case Study—Leading the Robotics Team
➨ 3.3 Leadership Styles Questionnaire
➨ 3.4 Observational Exercise

➨ 3.5 Reflection and Action Worksheet

CHAPTER 4 • Attending to Tasks and Relationships
Task and Relationship Styles Explained

Task Style
Relationship Style

Leadership Snapshot: Ai-jen Poo
Task and Relationship Styles in Practice

Task Leadership
Relationship Leadership

Glossary Terms

➨ 4.1 Case Study—From Two to One
➨ 4.2 Case Study—Day and Night
➨ 4.3 Task and Relationship Questionnaire
➨ 4.4 Observational Exercise
➨ 4.5 Reflection and Action Worksheet

CHAPTER 5 • Developing Leadership Skills

Administrative Skills Explained

Administrative Skills in Practice
Interpersonal Skills Explained

Interpersonal Skills in Practice
Leadership Snapshot: Coquese Washington
Conceptual Skills Explained

Conceptual Skills in Practice
Glossary Terms

➨ 5.1 Case Study—Give Me Shelter
➨ 5.2 Case Study—Reviving an Ancient Art
➨ 5.3 Leadership Skills Questionnaire

➨ 5.4 Observational Exercise
➨ 5.5 Reflection and Action Worksheet

CHAPTER 6 • Engaging Strengths

Strengths-Based Leadership Explained

Historical Background
Identifying and Measuring Strengths

Strengths-Based Leadership in Practice
Discovering Your Strengths
Developing Your Strengths
Addressing Your Weaknesses

Leadership Snapshot: Steve Jobs
Recognizing and Engaging the Strengths of Others
Fostering a Positive Strengths-Based Environment

Glossary Terms

➨ 6.1 Case Study—Ready to Be CEO?
➨ 6.2 Case Study—The Strength to Stand Out
➨ 6.3 Leadership Strengths Questionnaire
➨ 6.4 Observational Exercise
➨ 6.5 Reflection and Action Worksheet

CHAPTER 7 • Creating a Vision

Vision Explained

A Picture
A Change

Leadership Snapshot: Rosalie Giffoniello
A Map
A Challenge

Vision in Practice
Articulating a Vision
Implementing a Vision

Glossary Terms

➨ 7.1 Case Study—A Clean Slate
➨ 7.2 Case Study—Kakenya Ntaiya
➨ 7.3 Leadership Vision Questionnaire
➨ 7.4 Observational Exercise
➨ 7.5 Reflection and Action Worksheet

CHAPTER 8 • Establishing a Constructive Climate

Constructive Climate Explained
Climate in Practice

Providing Structure
Clarifying Norms
Building Cohesiveness
Promoting Standards of Excellence

Leadership Snapshot: Nancy Dubuc
Glossary Terms

➨ 8.1 Case Study—A Tale of Two Classes
➨ 8.2 Case Study—Challenging Courtroom Culture
➨ 8.3 Organizational Climate Questionnaire
➨ 8.4 Observational Exercise
➨ 8.5 Reflection and Action Worksheet

CHAPTER 9 • Embracing Diversity and Inclusion

Diversity and Inclusion Explained

Inclusion Framework
Leadership Snapshot: Ursula Burns
Diversity and Inclusion in Practice

Model of Inclusive Practices

Leader Practices That Advance Diversity and Inclusion
Barriers to Embracing Diversity and Inclusion

Glossary Terms

➨ 9.1 Case Study—What’s in a Name?
➨ 9.2 Case Study—Mitch Landrieu: Symbolic
➨ 9.3 Cultural Diversity Awareness Questionnaire
➨ 9.4 Observational Exercise
➨ 9.5 Reflection and Action Worksheet

CHAPTER 10 • Listening to Out-Group Members

Out-Group Members Explained

How Out-Groups Form
The Impact of Out-Group Members

Out-Group Members in Practice
Strategy 1: Listen to Out-Group Members
Strategy 2: Show Empathy to Out-Group Members
Strategy 3: Recognize the Unique Contributions of Out-
Group Members
Strategy 4: Help Out-Group Members Feel Included
Strategy 5: Create a Special Relationship With Out-
Group Members

Leadership Snapshot: Abraham Lincoln
Glossary Terms

➨ 10.1 Case Study—Next Step
➨ 10.2 Case Study—Unhappy Campers
➨ 10.3 Building Community Questionnaire
➨ 10.4 Observational Exercise
➨ 10.5 Reflection and Action Worksheet


CHAPTER 11 • Managing Conflict
Conflict Explained

Communication and Conflict
Conflict on the Content Level

Leadership Snapshot: Humaira Bachal
Conflict on the Relational Level

Managing Conflict in Practice
Fisher and Ury Approach to Conflict
Communication Strategies for Conflict Resolution
Kilmann and Thomas Styles of Approaching Conflict

Glossary Terms

➨ 11.1 Case Study—Office Space
➨ 11.2 Case Study—High Water Mark
➨ 11.3 Conflict Style Questionnaire
➨ 11.4 Observational Exercise
➨ 11.5 Reflection and Action Worksheet

CHAPTER 12 • Addressing Ethics in Leadership

Leadership Ethics Explained
Leadership Ethics in Practice

1. The Character of the Leader
2. The Actions of the Leader
3. The Goals of the Leader
4. The Honesty of the Leader
5. The Power of the Leader
6. The Values of the Leader

Culture and Leadership Ethics
Glossary Terms

➨ 12.1 Case Study—The Write Choice
➨ 12.2 Case Study—In Good Company

➨ 12.3 Sample Items From the Ethical Leadership
Style Questionnaire
➨ 12.4 Observational Exercise
➨ 12.5 Reflection and Action Worksheet

CHAPTER 13 • Overcoming Obstacles

Obstacles Explained
Overcoming Obstacles in Practice

Obstacle 1: Unclear Goals
Obstacle 2: Unclear Directions
Obstacle 3: Low Motivation

Leadership Snapshot: Bill Courtney
Obstacle 4: Complex Tasks
Obstacle 5: Simple Tasks
Obstacle 6: Low Involvement
Obstacle 7: Lack of a Challenge

Glossary Terms

➨ 13.1 Case Study—Student Maid
➨ 13.2 Case Study—The Improbable Kodiak Bears
➨ 13.3 Path–Goal Styles Questionnaire
➨ 13.4 Observational Exercise
➨ 13.5 Reflection and Action Worksheet

CHAPTER 14 • Exploring Destructive Leadership

Destructive Leadership Explained

Toxic Triangle

Confronting Destructive Leadership in Practice

Leadership Snapshot: Elizabeth Holmes

Glossary Terms

➨ 14.1 Case Study—Dr. Chen Likes Power
➨ 14.2 Case Study—Breaking the Silence
➨ 14.3 Abusive Leadership Questionnaire
➨ 14.4 Observational Exercise
➨ 14.5 Reflection and Action Worksheet


Leadership is a highly valued commodity. Given the volatility in world affairs and
our national political climate, the public’s desire for constructive leadership is
higher than it has ever been. People continue to be fascinated by who leaders
are and what leaders do. They want to know what accounts for good leadership
and how to become good leaders. Despite this strong interest in leadership,
very few books clearly describe the complexities of practicing leadership. I have
written Introduction to Leadership: Concepts and Practice to fill this void.

Each chapter describes a fundamental principle of leadership and how it relates
in practice to becoming an effective leader. These fundamentals are illustrated
through examples, profiles of effective leaders, and case studies. The text
comprises 14 chapters: Chapter 1, “Understanding Leadership,” analyzes
how different definitions of leadership have an impact on the practice of
leadership. Chapter 2, “Recognizing Your Traits,” examines leadership traits
found to be important in social science research and explores the leadership
traits of a select group of historical and contemporary leaders. Chapter 3,
“Understanding Leadership Styles,” explores how a person’s view of people,
work, and human nature forms a personal philosophy of leadership and how
this relates to three commonly observed styles of leadership: authoritarian,
democratic, and laissez-faire. Chapter 4, “Attending to Tasks and
Relationships,” describes how leaders can integrate and optimize task and
relationship behaviors in their leadership role. Chapter 5, “Developing
Leadership Skills,” considers three types of leadership skills: administrative,
interpersonal, and conceptual. Chapter 6, “Engaging Strengths,” discusses
the emerging field of strengths-based leadership, looking at how several
assessment tools can help one to recognize their own strengths and those of
others and then put those strengths to work as an effective leader. Chapter 7,
“Creating a Vision,” explores the characteristics of a vision and how a vision is
expressed and implemented. Chapter 8, “Establishing a Constructive
Climate,” focuses on how important it is for leaders who are running groups or
organizations to provide structure, clarify norms, build cohesiveness, and
promote standards of excellence. Chapter 9, “Embracing Diversity and
Inclusion,” discusses the importance of inclusive leadership and best practices
for creating inclusive environments. Chapter 10, “Listening to Out-Group
Members,” explores the nature of out-groups, their impact, and ways leaders
should respond to out-group members. Chapter 11, “Managing Conflict,”
addresses the question of how we can manage conflict and produce positive
change. Chapter 12, “Addressing Ethics in Leadership,” explores six factors
that are related directly to ethical leadership: character, actions, goals, honesty,

power, and values. Chapter 13, “Overcoming Obstacles,” addresses seven
obstacles that followers may face and how a leader can help them to overcome
these. Finally, Chapter 14, “Exploring Destructive Leadership,” analyzes the
causes of toxic leadership and discusses practical ways to confront and nullify

This edition retains the chapters of the previous edition but has been expanded
and enhanced in several ways:

First, a new chapter on destructive leadership has been added. This
chapter examines the nature of destructive leadership using a framework
called the Toxic Triangle, which describes how destructive leadership
emerges from a complex set of interactions between the leader,
susceptible followers, and the environment. To combat destructive
leadership, the chapter provides practical guidelines that followers and
organizations can employ when toxic leaders seize power and act

Second, this edition includes 18 new case studies that illustrate the
chapter content and challenge the reader to use this information to solve
“real world” leadership challenges.

Third, it includes 5 new leadership snapshots on leaders, including
Michelle Obama, Jasmine Crowe, and Elizabeth Holmes, which use stories
of the successes and failures of leaders in a variety of fields to illustrate
chapter concepts.

Fourth, this edition includes a new questionnaire on abusive leadership
that helps students understand the dimensions of destructive leadership as
well as their own destructive leadership tendencies.

The May 2021 Update for Introduction to Leadership: Concepts and Practice,
Fifth Edition, contains the following changes:

The reprinted edition has been revised to align with SAGE’s updated bias-
free language guidelines.

A new profile of Harriet Tubman supersedes the profile of George
Washington in earlier versions of the text.

25 new Video Activities feature a diverse group of business and nonprofit

Replacement of multi-select questions throughout the assessments.

More than 80 new Knowledge Check questions.

More than 170 new Chapter Test questions.

Updated student assessment feedback at the end of all Knowledge
Checks and Chapter Tests.

Improvements to photo resolution and appearance.

An updated LMS cartridge reflecting the addition of the Harriet Tubman
profile and other bias-free language updates to the text.

Introduction to Leadership: Concepts and Practice is designed to help the
reader understand how to become a better leader. While the book is grounded
in leadership theory, it describes the basics of leadership in an understandable
and user-friendly way. Each chapter focuses on a fundamental aspect of
leadership, discusses how it can be applied in real leadership situations, and
provides a relevant profile of a leader.

Perhaps the most notable features of this book are the four applied activities
included in every chapter, which allow the reader to explore leadership
concepts and real-world applications:

Case studies illustrate the leadership concepts discussed in the chapter.
At the end of each case, thought-provoking questions help the reader
analyze the case using ideas presented in the chapter.

Self-assessment questionnaires help the reader determine their own
leadership style and preferences. Students may want to complete this

questionnaire before reading the chapter’s content. By completing the
questionnaire first, the reader will be more aware of how the chapter’s
content specifically applies to their leadership tendencies.

Observational exercises guide the reader in examining behaviors of
leaders from their own life experiences.

Reflection and action worksheets stimulate the reader to reflect on their
leadership style and identify actions to take to become more effective.

A practice-oriented book, Introduction to Leadership: Concepts and Practice is
written in a user-friendly style appropriate for introductory leadership courses
across disciplines. Specifically, it is well suited for programs in leadership
studies and leadership courses in schools of agriculture, allied health, business,
communication, education, engineering, management, military science, nursing,
political science, public administration, religion, and social work. In addition, this
book is appropriate for programs in continuing education, corporate training,
executive development, in-service training, and government training. It is also
useful for student extracurricular activities.


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delivers Introduction to Leadership: Concepts and Practice, Fifth Edition
textbook content in a learning experience carefully designed to ignite student
engagement and drive critical thinking. With evidence-based instructional
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empowered teaching, keeping the classroom where it belongs—in your hands.
Easy to access across mobile, desktop, and tablet devices, SAGE vantage
enables students to engage with the material you choose, learn by applying
knowledge, and soar with confidence by performing better in your course.

Highlights include:

eReading Experience. Makes it easy for students to study wherever they
are—students can take notes, highlight content, look up definitions, and

Pedagogical Scaffolding. Builds on core concepts, moving students from
basic understanding to mastery.

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multimedia tools, and chapter tests with focused feedback to assure
students know key concepts.

Time-Saving Flexibility. Feeds auto-graded assignments to your
gradebook, with real-time insight into student and class performance.

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Honest Value. Affordable access to easy-to-use, quality learning tools
students will appreciate.

Favorite SAGE vantage features:

3-step course setup is so fast you can complete it in minutes!

Control over assignments, content selection, due dates, and grading
empowers you to teach your way.

Quality content authored by the experts you trust.

eReading experience makes it easy to learn and study by presenting
content in easy-to-digest segments featuring note-taking, highlighting,
definition look-up, and more.

LMS integration provides single sign-on with streamlined grading
capabilities and course management tools.

Auto-graded assignments include:

formative knowledge checks for each major section of the text that
quickly reinforce what students have read and ensure they stay on

dynamic, hands-on multimedia activities that tie real world examples
and motivate students to read, prepare for class;

summative chapter tests that reinforce important themes; and

helpful hints and feedback (provided with all assignments) that offer
context and explain why an answer is correct or incorrect, allowing
students to study more effectively.

Compelling polling questions bring concepts to life and drive meaningful
comprehension and classroom discussion.

Short-answer questions provide application and reflection opportunities
connected to key concepts.

Instructor reports track student activity and provide analytics so you can
adapt instruction as needed.

A student dashboard offers easy access to grades, so students know
exactly where they stand in your course and where they might improve.

Honest value gives students access to quality content and learning tools
at a price they will appreciate.

This text includes an array of instructor teaching materials designed to save you
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or contact your SAGE representative at

This text includes access to select student learning resources. To learn more,
visit or contact your SAGE representative at

The test bank, built on Bloom’s taxonomy (with Bloom’s cognitive domain
and difficulty level noted for each question), is created specifically for this

Sample course syllabi provide suggested models for structuring your

Editable, chapter-specific PowerPoint¯ slides offer complete flexibility for
creating a multimedia presentation for the course, so you don’t have to
start from scratch but can customize to your exact needs.

Lecture Notes features chapter summaries and outlines, providing an
essential reference and teaching tool for lectures.

A set of all the graphics from the text, including all the maps, tables, and
figures in PowerPoint formats are provided for class presentations.

Chapter-specific questions help launch discussion by prompting students
to engage with the material and by reinforcing important content.

Class activities and web exercises provide lively and stimulating ideas
for use in and out of class reinforce active learning. The activities apply to
individual or group projects.

SAGE Premium Video

Introduction to Leadership offers premium video, available exclusively in the
SAGE vantage digital option, produced and curated specifically for this text, to
boost comprehension and bolster analysis.

SAGE Self-Assessments

Introduction to Leadership features interactive Leadership Self-Assessments,
available exclusively in the SAGE vantage digital option, to help students
strengthen their leadership abilities by providing them with personalized
feedback based on their responses to each questionnaire.

I would like to express my appreciation to many individuals who directly or
indirectly played a role in the development of this book. First, I would like to
thank the many people at SAGE Publishing, in particular my editor, Maggie
Stanley, who guided this revision from the beginning review phase through the
production phase. In addition, I would like to thank content development editor
Lauren Holmes, copy editor Melinda Masson, and production editor Tracy
Buyan. In their own unique ways, each of these people made valuable

contributions that enhanced the overall quality of the book. Collectively, they are
an extraordinary team that demonstrates the very highest standards of
excellence in all that they do.

I would like to thank Art Padilla for his helpful comments and suggestions on
the “Exploring Destructive Leadership” chapter, Isolde Anderson for her insights
and research assistance, and Barbara Russell for her contributions to the case
studies. I would also like to thank Lou Sabina of Stetson University for his work
on the ancillary materials.

Finally, I wish to thank Marie Lee for her thorough editing and commitment and
Laurel Northouse for her insights and extraordinary support. It takes a lot of
dedicated people to write a book, and I feel fortunate to have those people in
my life.

For their thoughtful and constructive feedback on this latest edition, I would like
to thank the following reviewers:

Katya Armistead, University of California, Santa Barbara

Cecily J. Ball, Bethune-Cookman University

Jamie L. H. Brown, Central Michigan University

Kimberly A. Carlson, Virginia Tech

Kelly L. Coke, Texas A&M University–Texarkana

Randy Danielsen, Nova Southeastern University

Sally Elizabeth Deck, University of Washington Tacoma

David DeMatthews, University of Texas at Austin

Susan Bramlett Epps, East Tennessee State University

Lorraine Godden, Queen’s University at Kingston

Michelle Hammond, Oakland University

Stephen J. Linenberger, Bellevue University

Andrew W. Mayer, University of New Haven

Joseph W. T. Pugh, Immaculata University

Wayne R. Sass, University of Southern California

Tracey Honeycutt Sigler, The Citadel, Military College of South Carolina

Yuying Tsong, California State University, Fullerton

For comprehensive reviews of past editions, I would like to thank the following

Maureen Baldwin, Saint Ambrose University

Jens Beyer, Hochschule Anhalt Standort Bernburg

Carl Blencke, University of Central Florida

Barry L. Boyd, Texas A&M University

Linda L. Brennan, Mercer University

Shannon Brown, Benedictine University

Lisa Burgoon, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Tom Butkiewicz, University of Redlands

Patricia Cane, Klamath Community College

Stephen C. Carlson, Piedmont College

Melissa K. Carsten, Winthrop University

Roger Clark, NWN Corporation

James R. “Chip” Coldren Jr., Governors State University

Barbara Collins, Cabrini College

Stacey A. Cook, College of Marin

Ronald J. Cugno, Nova Southeastern University

Dan Cunningham, McDaniel College

Greg Czyszczon, James Madison University

Douglas Davenport, Truman State University

Edward Desmarais, Salem State University

Marco Dowell, California State University, Dominguez Hills

Susan Bramlett Epps, East Tennessee State University

Tiffany Erk, Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana

Leon Fraser, Rutgers Business School

Jim Fullerton, Idaho State University

Jennifer Garcia, Saint Leo University

Don Green, Lincoln Christian University

Francesca Grippa, Northeastern University

D. Keith Gurley, University of Alabama at Birmingham

Sat Ananda Hayden, University of Southern Mississippi

Yael Hellman, Woodbury University

Vanessa Hill, University of Louisiana at Lafayette

Martha A. Hunt, NHTI—Concord’s Community College

Jean Gabriel Jolivet, Southwestern College

Sharon Kabes, Southwest Minnesota State University

Ruth Klein, Le Moyne College

Renee Kosiarek, North Central College

Robert Larison, Eastern Oregon University

Lorin Leone, Independence University

Karen A. Longman, Azusa Pacific University

Maureen Majury, Bellevue College

Douglas Micklich, Illinois State University

James L. Morrison, University of Delaware

Terry W. Mullins, University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Jane Murtaugh, College of DuPage

Joanne E. Nottingham, University of North Carolina Wilmington

Ramona Ortega-Liston, University of Akron

Ron Parlett, Nova Southeastern University

Bryan Patterson, Johnson C. Smith University, Northeastern University

Bruce Peterson, Sonoma State University

Deana Raffo, Middle Tennessee State University

Melody Rawlings, Northern Kentucky University

Bronte H. Reynolds, California State University, Northridge

Robert W. Robertson, Independence University

Louis Rubino, California State University, Northridge

Lou L. Sabina, Stetson University

Stephanie Schnurr, University of Warwick

Laurie A. Schreiner, Azusa Pacific University

Thomas Shields, University of Richmond

Pearl Sims, Peabody College of Vanderbilt University

Douglas Threet, Foothill College

Bruce Tucker, Santa Fe Community College

Mary Tucker, Ohio University

John Tummons, University of Missouri

Sameer Vaidya, Texas Wesleyan University

Natalie N. Walker, Seminole State College

Simone Wesner, Birkbeck, University of London

Paula White, Independence University

Cecilia Williams, Independence University

Amy Wilson, University at Buffalo

Laurie Woodard, University of South Florida

Critiques by these reviewers were invaluable in helping to focus my thinking
and writing during the revision process.

In the electronic edition of the book you have purchased, there are
several icons that reference links (videos, journal articles) to additional
content. Though the electronic edition links are not live, all content
referenced may be accessed at . This URL is referenced at
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Peter G. Northouse, PhD,
is Professor Emeritus of Communication in the School of Communication at Western Michigan
University. In addition to publications in professional journals, he is the author of Leadership:
Theory and Practice (8th ed.) and coauthor of Health Communication: Strategies for Health
Professionals (3rd ed.) and Leadership Case Studies in Education (2nd ed.). His scholarly and
curricular interests include models of leadership, leadership assessment, ethical leadership, and
leadership and group dynamics. Currently, he is a consultant and lecturer on trends in
leadership research, leadership development, and leadership education. He holds a doctorate
in speech communication from the University of Denver, and master’s and bachelor’s degrees
in communication education from Michigan State University.


This book is about what it takes to lead. Everyone, at some time in life, is asked to be a leader, whether
to lead a classroom discussion, coach a children’s soccer team, or direct a fund-raising campaign. Many
situations require leadership. Leadership, according to Rost (1991), is a mutual influence process,
involving both leaders and followers. But, in every leadership situation, expectations and demands are
placed upon one or more individuals to initiate and take responsibility for a decision, an event, or
another need. A leader may have a high profile (e.g., an elected public official) or a low profile (e.g., a
volunteer leader), but in every situation, leadership demands are placed on the individual who is the
leader. Being a leader is challenging, exciting, and rewarding, and carries with it many responsibilities.
This chapter discusses different ways of looking at leadership and their impacts on what it means to be
a leader.

At the outset, it is important to address a basic question: What is leadership? Scholars who study
leadership have struggled with this question for many decades and have written a great deal about the
nature of leadership (Antonakis, Cianciolo, & Sternberg, 2004; Bass, 1990; Conger & Riggio, 2007).
(See Box 1.1.) In leadership literature, more than 100 different definitions of leadership have been
identified (Rost, 1991). Despite these many definitions, a number of concepts are recognized by most
people as accurately reflecting what it is to be a leader.

Box 1.1:

The Evolution of Leadership

Leadership has long intrigued humankind and has been the topic of extensive literature for
centuries. The earliest writings include philosophies of leadership such as Machiavelli’s The
Prince (1531/2005) and biographies of great leaders. With the development of the social
sciences during the 20th century, inquiry into leadership became prolific. Studies on leadership
have emerged from every discipline “that has had some interest in the subject of leadership:
anthropology, business administration, educational administration, history, military science,
nursing administration, organizational behavior, philosophy, political science, public
administration, psychology, sociology, and theology” (Rost, 1991, p. 45).

As a result, there are many different leadership approaches and theories. While the words are
often used interchangeably, approaches and theories are different conceptually. An approach is
a general way of thinking about a phenomenon, not necessarily based on empirical research. A
theory usually includes a set of hypotheses, principles, or laws that explain a given
phenomenon. Theories are more refined and can provide a predictive framework in analyzing the
phenomenon. For example, the spiritual leadership approach is a conceptualization of leadership
that does not yet have a body of empirical research to validate it, while contingency leadership
theory has a refined set of propositions based on the results of multiple research studies.

Not unlike fashion, approaches to and theories of leadership have evolved, changed focus and
direction, and built upon one another during the past century. To understand this evolution, a
brief historical view can be helpful:

Trait Theories
The early trait approach focused on identifying the innate qualities and characteristics
possessed by widely revered social, political, and military leaders such as Mohandas Gandhi,
Abraham Lincoln, Moses, and Joan of Arc. Also called “Great Man” theories, these studies of
leadership traits were especially strong from 1900 to the early 1940s and enjoyed a renewed
emphasis beginning in the 1970s as researchers began to examine visionary and charismatic
leadership. In the 1980s, researchers linked leadership to the “Big Five” personality factors
while interest in emotional intelligence as a trait gained favor in the 1990s. (For a discussion of
emotional intelligence as a leadership skill, see Chapter 5, pages 101–113.)

Behavior Theories
In the late 1930s, leadership research began to focus on behavior—what leaders do and how
they act. Groundbreaking studies by researchers at The Ohio State University and the University
of Michigan in the 1940s and 1950s analyzed how leaders acted in small group situations. The
behavior approach hit its heyday in the early 1960s with Blake and Moulton’s (1964) work
exploring how managers use task and relationship behaviors in the organizational setting.

Situational Theories
The premise of these theories is that different situations demand different kinds of leadership.
Serious examination of the situational role in leadership began in the late 1960s by Hersey and
Blanchard (1969) and Reddin (1967). Situational approaches continued to be refined and
revised from the 1970s through the 1990s (Vecchio, 1987). One of these, path–goal theory,
examines how leaders use employee motivation to enhance performance and satisfaction.
Another approach, contingency theory, focuses on the match between the leader’s style and
specific situational variables.

Relational Theories
In the 1990s, researchers began examining the nature of relations between leaders and
followers. This research ultimately evolved into the leader–member exchange (LMX) theory.
LMX theory predicts that high-quality relations generate more positive leader outcomes than low-
quality relations. Research in the relational approach to leadership continues to generate
moderate interest today.

“New Leadership” Approaches
When these approaches began appearing in the mid-1980s—three decades ago—they were,
and continue to be, called “new leadership” approaches (Bryman, 1992). Beginning with the work
of Bass (1985, 1990), leadership studies generated visionary or charismatic leadership theories.
From these approaches developed transformational leadership theory, which describes
leadership as a process that changes people and organizations.

Emerging Leadership Approaches
A diverse range of approaches to leadership is emerging during the 21st century:

Adaptive leadership examines how leaders help people address problems, face
challenges, and adapt to change. Adaptive leadership stresses that the leaders don’t solve
the problems but, rather, encourage others to do the problem solving and adapt to change.

Authentic leadership is an approach that looks at the authenticity of leaders and their
leadership and is currently enjoying strong interest.

Spiritual leadership considers how leaders use values, a sense of “calling,” and
membership to motivate followers.

Servant leadership emphasizes the “caring principle” with leaders as “servants” who focus
on their followers’ needs in order to help these followers become more autonomous,
knowledgeable, and like servants themselves.

Gender-based studies, which have gained much momentum as women continue to
become more dominant in the workforce, especially on a global level, view how one’s
gender affects and differentiates one’s leadership.

Ethical leadership has been thought about for millennia in terms of a leader’s character,
duties, decision making, and decision outcomes. It has recently come to center stage out of
concern about dishonest or unethical behavior occurring within organizations and

Connective leadership, developed by Lipman-Blumen (2000), recognizes that there are
connections and interdependence between individuals and groups with diverse—and
potentially conflicting—backgrounds, talents, and agendas. Connective leaders identify the
mutual concerns and needs of diverse groups and help them to come together to develop
understanding of one another and work toward mutual goals using a productive,
collaborative approach.

The historical timeline in Figure 1.1 is not intended to represent these approaches as separate
and distinct eras, only to disappear from the picture when a new theory appears. Instead, many
of these theories and approaches occur concurrently, building upon one another. Even when a
certain approach’s period of popularity has waned, the theory continues to influence further study
and the development of new leadership approaches.


Figure 1.1 Development of Leadership Theories Through History

Source: Adapted from Antonakis, J., Cianciolo, A. T., & Sternberg, R. J. (Eds.). (2004). The nature of
leadership. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, p. 7.

“Leadership Is a Trait”
First, leadership is thought of as a trait. A trait is a distinguishing quality of an individual, and defining
leadership as a trait means that each individual brings to the table certain qualities that influence the
way they lead. Some leaders are confident, some are decisive, and still others are outgoing and
sociable. Saying that leadership is a trait places a great deal of emphasis on the leader and on the

leader’s special gifts. It follows the often-expressed belief that “leaders are born, not made”—that
leadership is innate rather than learned. Some argue that focusing on traits makes leadership an elitist
enterprise because it implies that only a few people with special talents will lead. Although there may be
some truth to this argument, it can also be argued that all of us are born with a wide array of unique
traits, many of which can have a positive impact on our leadership. It also may be possible to modify or
change some traits.

Through the years, researchers have identified a multitude of traits that are associated with leadership.
In Chapter 2, we will discuss some key leadership traits, and in Chapter 6, we will explain how
strengths-based leadership is a variation of trait leadership. Although there are many important
leadership traits, what is most important for leaders is having the required traits that a particular situation
demands. For example, a chaotic emergency room at a hospital requires a leader who is insightful and
decisive and can bring calm to the situation. Conversely, a high school classroom in which students are
bored demands a teacher who is inspiring and creative. Effective leadership results when the leader
engages the right traits in the right place at the right time.

“Leadership Is an Ability”
In addition to being thought of as a trait, leadership is conceptualized as an ability. A person who has
leadership ability is able to be a leader—that is, has the capacity to lead. While the term ability
frequently refers to a natural capacity, ability can be acquired. For example, some people are naturally
good at public speaking, while others rehearse to become comfortable speaking in public. Similarly,
some people have the natural physical ability to excel in a sport, while others develop their athletic
capacity through exercise and practice. In leadership, some people have the natural ability to lead, while
others develop their leadership abilities through hard work and practice.

An example of leadership as ability is the legendary University of California at Los Angeles basketball
coach John Wooden, whose teams won seven consecutive National Collegiate Athletic Association
titles. Described first as a teacher and then as a coach, Wooden implemented four laws of learning into
his coaching: explanation, demonstration, imitation, and repetition. His goal was to teach players how to
do the right thing instinctively under great pressure. Less visible or well known, but also an example of
leadership as ability, is the unheralded but highly effective restaurant manager who, through years of
experience and learning, is able to create a successful, award-winning restaurant. In both of these
examples, it is the individuals’ abilities that create outstanding leadership.

“Leadership Is a Skill”
Third, leadership is a skill. Conceptualized as a skill, leadership is a competency developed to
accomplish a task effectively. Skilled leaders are competent people who know the means and methods
for carrying out their responsibilities. For example, a skilled leader in a fund-raising campaign knows
every step and procedure in the fund-raising process and is able to use this knowledge to run an
effective campaign. In short, skilled leaders are competent—they know what they need to do, and they
know how to do it.

Describing leadership as a skill makes leadership available to everyone because skills are
competencies that people can learn or develop. Even without natural leadership ability, people can
improve their leadership with practice, instruction, and feedback from others. Viewed as a skill,
leadership can be studied and learned. If you are capable of learning from experience, you can acquire

“Leadership Is a Behavior”
Leadership is also a behavior. It is what leaders do when they are in a leadership role. The behavioral
dimension is concerned with how leaders act toward others in various situations. Unlike traits, abilities,

and skills, leadership behaviors are observable. When someone leads, we see that person’s leadership

Research on leadership has shown that leaders engage primarily in two kinds of general behaviors: task
behaviors and process behaviors. Task behaviors are used by leaders to get the job done (e.g., a
leader prepares an agenda for a meeting). Relationship (process) behaviors are used by leaders to
help people feel comfortable with other group members and at ease in the situations in which they find
themselves (e.g., a leader helps individuals in a group to feel included). Since leadership requires both
task and process behaviors, the challenge for leaders is to know the best way to combine them in their
efforts to reach a goal.

“Leadership Is a Relationship”
Another, and a somewhat unusual, way to think about leadership is as a relationship. From a relational
perspective, leadership is centered on the communication between leaders and followers rather than on
the unique qualities of the leader. Thought of as a relationship, leadership becomes a process of
collaboration that occurs between leaders and followers (Rost, 1991). A leader affects and is affected by
followers, and both leader and followers are affected in turn by the situation that surrounds them. This
approach emphasizes that leadership is not a linear one-way event, but rather an interactive event. In
traditional leadership, authority is often top down; in the interactive type of leadership, authority and
influence are shared. When leadership is defined in this manner, it becomes available to everyone. It is
not restricted to the formally designated leader in a group.

For example, a team marketing project may involve a designated team leader, but all the idea
generation, planning, problem solving, and decision making might be made jointly, with active input from
all members. When the final proposal is presented to the client, everyone’s contribution is reflected.

Thinking of leadership as a relationship suggests that leaders must include followers and their interests
in the process of leadership. A leader needs to be fully aware of the followers and the followers’
interests, ideas, positions, attitudes, and motivations. In addition, this approach has an ethical overtone
because it stresses the need for leaders to work with followers to achieve their mutual purposes.
Stressing mutuality lessens the possibility that leaders might act toward followers in ways that are forced
or unethical. It also increases the possibility that leaders and followers will work together toward a
common good (Rost, 1991).

The premise of working toward a common good is embodied in the work of Susan R. Komives and her
colleagues (Komives, Lucas, & McMahon, 2013; Komives, Wagner, & Associates, 2016), particularly in
the area of civic engagement. Komives et al.’s work is geared toward student leaders and how to
empower them to make a difference. She and her coauthors envision leadership as a relationship
among multiple partners, but with the additional goal of attempting to accomplish positive change in an
ethical manner.

According to Komives, Lucas, and McMahon (2013), civic engagement entails “the sense of personal
responsibility individuals should feel to uphold their obligations, as part of any community” (p. 24). This
can include watching out for older or vulnerable neighbors, creating a positive climate in the workplace,
cleaning up roadsides with a group of friends, confronting unjust treatment of others when you observe
it, and just generally contributing to the public good.

The concept of civic engagement is also at the heart of the Social Change Model of Leadership
Development developed in the mid-1990s (Astin, 1996; Bounous-Hammarth, 2001; HERI, 1996). The
model depicts leadership as a connective and collaborative process based on seven values, each of
which begins with the letter C (Table 1.1). The “seven Cs” are values that enable people to get to the
goal, to accomplish positive change. “Change means improving the status quo, creating a better world,
while demonstrating a comfort with transition and ambiguity during the process” (Komives et al., 2016, p.

Table 1.1 Seven Cs of Change Model

of Self

Consciousness of Self requires an awareness of personal beliefs, values, attitudes,
and emotions. Self-awareness, conscious mindfulness, introspection, and
continual personal reflection are foundational elements of the leadership process.

Congruence Congruence requires that one has identified personal values, beliefs, attitudes, and
emotions and acts consistently with those values, beliefs, attitudes, and emotions.
Congruent individuals are genuine, honest, and live their values.

Commitment Commitment requires an intrinsic passion, energy, and purposeful investment
toward action. Follow-through and willing involvement through Commitment lead to
positive social change.

Collaboration Collaboration multiplies a group’s effort through collective contributions,
capitalizing on the diversity and strengths of the relationships and interconnections
of individuals involved in the change process. Collaboration assumes that a group
is working toward a Common Purpose, with mutually beneficial goals, and serves
to generate creative solutions as a result of group diversity, requiring participants to
engage across difference and share authority, responsibility, and accountability for
the success.


Common Purpose necessitates and contributes to a high level of group trust
involving all participants in shared responsibility toward collective aims, values, and

With Civility

Within a diverse group, it is inevitable that differing viewpoints will exist. In order for
a group to work toward positive social change, open, critical, and civil discourse

can lead to new, creative solutions and is an integral component of the leadership
process. Multiple perspectives need to be understood and integrated, and they
bring value to a group.

Citizenship Citizenship occurs when one becomes responsibly connected to the
society/community in which one resides by actively working toward change to
benefit others through care, service, social responsibility, and community

Source: Komives, S. R., Wagner, W., & Associates (Eds.). (2016). Leadership for a better world: Understanding the social change model
of leadership (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, p. 21.

“Leadership Is an Influence Process”
A final way of thinking about leadership is as an influence process. This is the perspective that will be
emphasized in this book.

Leadership is a process whereby an individual influences a group of individuals to achieve a
common goal.

Defining leadership as an influence process means that it is not a trait or an ability that resides in the
leader, but rather an interactive event that occurs between the leader and the followers. Influence is
central to the process of leadership because leaders affect followers. Leaders direct their energies
toward influencing individuals to achieve something together. Stressing common goals gives leadership
an ethical dimension because it lessens the possibility that leaders might act toward followers in ways
that use coercion or are unethical.

The Urban Farming Guys (2019) in Kansas City took this approach when moving into and revitalizing a
run-down neighborhood in their city. They began with urban gardening, converting overgrown yards to
food production; started aquaponics in their limited space; invited neighbors into the process; then
started rehabbing houses, teaching gardening and construction skills to people, and creating
community. No single individual is responsible; it is a collective effort and is making a difference.

Leadership vs. Management
Finally, in explaining what leadership is, it is important to make a distinction between leadership and
management. Leadership and management are not the same. Management emerged out of the
industrialization of work in the early 20th century, and its purpose is to structure and coordinate various
functions within organizations (Northouse, 2019). In contrast, leadership has been studied for thousands
of years, across multiple contexts—politics, the military, religion, and more.

Frederick Taylor was a key figure in the development of management theory. At the turn of the 20th
century, Taylor pioneered the concept of the scientific management of labor. This involved measuring
every detail of a worker’s tasks to make work more efficient, consistent, and predictable. According to
Taylor, the responsibility of workers was to provide the labor, and the responsibilities of managers were
to design the “one best way” for each task to be done, and then train, monitor, and evaluate each
worker. This approach was applied to many U.S. industries in the first half of the 20th century and is still
in use today in assembly lines, fast-food restaurants, and other industries (Modaff, Butler, & DeWine,

Management theory was further developed by Chester Barnard, whose work in the areas of cooperation
and authority helps us understand how management and leadership can sometimes overlap. Barnard
(1938) conceptualized two types of authority: authority of position, and authority of leadership. Authority
of position is the power to direct the work of an individual, by someone in a higher position in an

organization’s structure. Authority of leadership is based not on position, but ascribed to those in the
organization who have the knowledge and ability needed for a task. Barnard argued that both types
were necessary for organizations to function well (Modaff et al., 2017).

Both leadership and management involve influence, but leadership is about seeking constructive
change, and management is about establishing order. For example, it is often said that “managers are
people who do things right, and leaders are people who do the right thing.” Since both leaders and
managers are engaged in influencing people toward goal accomplishment, our discussion in this book
will treat the roles of managers and leaders similarly and not emphasize the differences between them.

While there are many different approach to leadership throughout the world, the definition and concepts
of leadership outlined in this chapter are from an American perspective. If you were to travel to nations
across the world, you would no doubt encounter different views of leadership specific to those ethnic
and political cultures.

In 2004, Robert J. House led a group of 160 researchers in an ambitious study to increase our
understanding of the impact culture has on leadership effectiveness. The GLOBE (Global Leadership
and Organizational Behavior Effectiveness) studies drew on the input of 17,000 people in 62 countries in
determining how leadership varies across the world. Among the many findings generated by the GLOBE
studies was the identification of positive and negative leadership characteristics that are universally
accepted worldwide (see Table 1.2).

Table 1.2 Universal Leadership Attributes

Positive Leader Attributes




Builds confidence


Plans ahead








Win-win problem solver

Administratively skilled

Excellence oriented




Effective bargainer


Team builder

Negative Leader Attributes









Source: Adapted from House, R. J., Hanges, P. J., Javidan, M., Dorfman, P. W., & Gupta, V. (Eds.). (2004). Culture, leadership, and
organizations: The GLOBE study of 62 societies. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, pp. 677–678. Reprinted with permission.

Finally, it is important to note that the same characteristics and behaviors that distinguish leadership can
also be used by leaders in nonpositive ways (Conger, 1990). The dark side of leadership is the
destructive side of leadership where a leader uses their influence or power for personal ends. Lipman-
Blumen (2005) suggests that such leaders are “toxic,” where their leadership leaves their followers
worse off than they found them, often violating the basic human rights of others and playing to their
followers’ basest fears. While many cite Adolf Hitler as the prime example of the dark side of leadership,
there are many current examples in the world today, from the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, whose
leadership has led to violent civil war that has left hundreds of thousands dead, to religious extremist
groups, such as ISIS and al-Qaeda, who use their followers to engage in mass murder.

In Chapter 14, “Exploring Destructive Leadership,” we discuss the complexities that allow the dark side
of leadership to exist more fully, including examining how and why it occurs, the characteristics of
destructive leadership, and how to deal with it.

The meaning of leadership is complex and includes many dimensions. For some people, leadership is a
trait or an ability, for others it is a skill or a behavior, and for still others it is a relationship or a process. In
reality, leadership probably includes components of all of these dimensions. Each dimension explains a
facet of leadership.

In considering these various definitions of leadership and based on the results of your Conceptualizing
Leadership Questionnaire (pages 20–22), which dimension seems closest to how you think of
leadership? How would you define leadership? Answers to these questions are important because how
you think about leadership will strongly influence how you practice leadership.

There is a strong demand for effective leadership in society today. This demand exists at the local and
community levels, as well as at the national level, in this country and abroad. People feel the need for
leadership in all aspects of their lives. They want leaders in their personal lives, at school, in the work
setting, and even in their spiritual lives. Everywhere you turn, people are expressing a need for strong

When people ask for leadership in a particular situation, it is not always clear exactly what they want.
For the most part, however, they want effective leadership. Effective leadership is intended influence
that creates change for the greater good. Leadership uses positive means to achieve positive outcomes.

Furthermore, people want leaders who listen to and understand their needs and who can relate to their
circumstances. The challenge for each of us is to be prepared to lead when we are asked to do so.

Leadership Snapshot:

Michelle Obama, Former U.S. First Lady

Photo by Fotonoticias/WireImage

When Michelle Obama became the U.S. First Lady after her husband, Barack Obama, was
elected U.S. president in 2008, she began to embody the words she spoke earlier that year at
the Democratic National Convention: “We have an obligation to fight for the world as it should be”
(White House Historical Association, 2018).

Before she was Barack Obama’s wife, Michelle Robinson grew up on the South Side of Chicago,
the daughter of a pump operator for a Chicago water treatment plant and a stay-at-home mother.
In her neighborhood, the “feeling of failure” predominated (Obama, 2018, p. 44), but her parents
refused to buy in and continually emphasized hard work and education to her and her brother,
Craig. As a result, Robinson was driven in her studies, ultimately testing into one of Chicago’s
top public high schools. Even though she excelled at school, she was continuously plagued by
thoughts of “Am I good enough?” But when a high school counselor told Robinson she “wasn’t
Princeton material,” Robinson refused to believe her, applying and being accepted to the Ivy
League school.

Robinson ultimately earned a bachelor’s degree from Princeton University and went on to earn a
Juris Doctor degree from Harvard Law School. She returned to Chicago to work as a lawyer for a
large firm, but found her energies becoming more and more devoted to wanting to make a
difference for the people of Chicago and those in her neighborhood, especially youth. Even
though she took a 50% pay cut, she accepted a job working as an assistant to Chicago’s mayor,
Richard Daley, and as a liaison to several departments including Health and Human Services.
She left City Hall to become the founding executive director of the Chicago chapter of Public
Allies, an AmeriCorps program that prepares young people to work in nonprofits and public
service, a job where she “felt I was doing something immediately meaningful, directly impacting
the lives of others while also staying connected to both my city and my culture” (Obama, 2018, p.

Three years later, Michelle Obama took a job working at the University of Chicago to develop its
first community service program. Despite the fact that the university was located in Obama’s
former neighborhood, most South Side residents felt that it had its back turned to the
neighborhood. Obama was hired to lower those walls and get students more involved in the
neighborhood and residents with the university. During this time, Obama also became a mother
of two daughters, Malia and Sasha, having to balance the competing responsibilities of
motherhood and career. She worked part-time in her position for several years, but shortly after
Sasha was born, she began a new job at the University of Chicago Medical Center, as the
executive director of community affairs working to improve the university’s community outreach.
She brought along her three-month-old daughter to her interview for the job, which sent the
message that she was going to be both: a mother and a professional. She was promoted to vice
president of community and external affairs at the university, where among her accomplishments
was establishing a program connecting South Side residents with regular health care providers,
regardless of the residents’ ability to pay.

During this time, Obama’s husband, who had been involved in politics on the local and state
level, was elected to the U.S. Senate. Because she was invested in her career and her children
were settled, Obama opted not to uproot the family to move to Washington, DC, continuing to be
a full-time working mother with a spouse who was often away from home.

Just three years later, Barack Obama threw his hat into the ring to run for president of the United
States, and Michelle Obama was thrust into an additional new role—that of the wife of a
presidential candidate. She found herself on the campaign trail, speaking to crowds of people in
support of her husband’s candidacy. The public scrutiny on her was intense, but Obama was
determined “to be myself, to speak as myself” (Obama, 2018, p. 236). When Barack Obama won
the 2008 presidential election, Michelle Obama would assume yet another role: First Lady of the
United States.

While Obama made it clear from the start that her first priority was as “mom-in-chief” to her
daughters, her position as First Lady thrust her into the national spotlight and offered her an
opportunity to make an impact on a larger scale. As First Lady, Obama exhibited charisma,
compassion, and passion.

“A First Lady’s power is a curious thing—as soft and undefined as the role itself. . . . Tradition
called for me to provide a kind of gentle light, flattering the president with my devotion, flattering

the nation primarily by not challenging it. I was beginning to see though, that wielded carefully,
the light was more powerful than that,” she wrote. “I had influence in the form of being something
of a curiosity—a black First Lady, a professional woman, a mother of young kids. . . . With my
soft power I was finding I could be strong” (Obama, 2018, p. 372).

Initially, Obama used that “soft power” to promote efforts to support military families, help women
balance career and family, and end childhood obesity. She initiated the Let’s Move! program,
which brought together elected officials, business leaders, educators, parents, and faith leaders
to work to provide more nutritious food in schools, bring healthy and affordable food into
underserved communities, plant vegetable gardens across the United States, and provide new
opportunities for kids to be more active.

When her husband was elected to his second term as president, Obama directed her energies
toward education, on both a national and international level. She spearheaded the Reach Higher
Initiative to help U.S. students understand job opportunities and the education and skills they
need for those jobs. Telling them to “Never view your challenges as obstacles,” she encouraged
youth to continue their educations beyond high school at technical schools, colleges, and
universities (White House Historical Association, 2018). Worldwide, she championed the
education of girls and women, launching the Let Girls Learn initiative that funded education
projects tackling everything from leadership to poverty to combating the challenges girls
encounter in their communities.

Through all this, Obama was authentic, talking openly about her personal life, including her
experiences as a Black woman at an elite school and her fight against stereotypes to help
spread a message of encouragement to youth. On January 6, 2017, in her final speech as First
Lady, she took the opportunity to tell American youth to continue to fight for their futures:

I want our young people to know that they matter, that they belong. So don’t be afraid.
You hear me, young people? Don’t be afraid. Be focused. Be determined. Be hopeful.
Be empowered. Empower yourself with a good education. Then get out there and use
that education to build a country worthy of your boundless promise. Lead by example
with hope; never fear. (Obama, 2017)

Since leaving the White House, Michelle Obama has continued to be an enormously popular
public figure. Her autobiographical memoir, Becoming, was the best-selling book of 2018, and
was published in 33 languages. She has continued her promotion of education for girls,
launching the Girls Opportunity Alliance to support more than 1,500 grassroots organizations that
help empower girls worldwide through education.

“I’m an ordinary person who found herself on an extraordinary journey,” she wrote in Becoming.
“For every door that’s been opened to me, I’ve tried to open my door to others . . . There’s power
in allowing yourself to be known and heard, in owning your unique story, in using your authentic
voice. And there’s grace in being willing to know and hear others” (Obama, 2018, pp. 420–421).

All of us at some time in our lives will be asked to show leadership. When you are asked to be the
leader, it will be both demanding and rewarding. How you approach leadership is strongly influenced by
your definitions of and beliefs about leadership. Through the years, writers have defined leadership in a
multitude of ways. It is a complex, multidimensional process that is often conceptualized in a variety of
ways by different people. Some of the most common ways of looking at leadership are as a trait, as an
ability, as a skill, as a behavior, as a relationship, and as a process. The way you think about leadership
will influence the way you practice leadership.

Glossary Terms
ability 4

adaptive leadership 3

approach 2

authentic leadership 3

behavior approach 2

“Big Five” personality factors 2

connective leadership 3

contingency theory 2

dark side of leadership 9

emotional intelligence 2

ethical leadership 3

gender-based studies 3

“Great Man” theories 2

leader–member exchange (LMX) theory 3

leadership 6

path–goal theory 2

relational approach 3

relationship (process) behaviors 5

servant leadership 3

Seven Cs of Change Model 7

situational approach 2

skill 5

spiritual leadership 3

task behaviors 5

theory 2

trait 1

trait approach 2

transformational leadership theory 3


1.1 Case Study—King of the Hill

Denny Hill’s career as a high school swimming coach didn’t start out well. The seniors on his team quit
in the first season because he required them to come to all the workouts. The team only won three
meets the whole season. That was 40 years ago. Since that time, the high school chemistry teacher’s
success as a swimming coach has been extraordinary; his winnings include more than 900 boys’ and
girls’ dual meets and a phenomenal 31 state titles.

Denny is noted for creating a team effort out of what is usually considered an individual sport. He begins
every season with a team sleepover, followed by “Hell Week,” a two-week grueling regimen in which
team members swim at least 5 miles a workout and 10 miles a day. He acknowledges this is a bonding
experience for the swimmers, regardless of their skill, because they are “all in the same boat.”

Denny passes the mantle of leadership onto his team members. Seniors are expected to be mature
leaders who inform the freshmen of the team goals and expectations. Juniors are to be role models,
while sophomores serve as quiet leaders who are still learning but have a foundation in the team
culture. Even the freshmen members have a job: They are required to pay attention to the coaches and
other team members as they learn the team’s culture and what’s expected.

Denny holds a 20-minute team meeting each Monday where every member has the opportunity to
present a rose or a complaint to anyone on the team including the coaches. He is tough on swimmers
and makes them work, but when they need support, he is always there to put an arm around them.
Denny also uses humor, often making jokes that help take the edge off long, hard workouts.

And despite his teams’ successes, Denny isn’t about winning; he’s more about preparing to win—telling
his swimmers that by preparing to win, everything takes care of itself. When you do win, he says, you’ve
done it the right way.

1. What leadership traits account for Denny Hill’s success?
2. How would you describe Denny’s leadership abilities?
3. Leadership includes administrative skills, interpersonal skills, and conceptual skills. How does

Denny stack up on these skills?
4. How does Denny integrate task and relationship behaviors in his leadership?
5. From a relational perspective, how would you describe Denny’s leadership?
6. In what way does Denny’s coaching exemplify leadership as an influence process?

1.2 Case Study—Charity: Water
When Scott Harrison created the nonprofit Charity: Water in 2006, he wanted not only to bring clean
drinking water to millions around the world, but also to redefine philanthropy by converting thousands of
formerly skeptical “non-givers” to join and fund his cause.

Born in Philadelphia, Scott was the only child of an accountant and a journalist who were devoutly
religious. The Harrison family relocated to New Jersey for his father’s job—a move that proved
extremely detrimental to Scott’s mother’s health. Their new home had a carbon monoxide leak that
permanently damaged her immune system. While Scott was growing up, she essentially lived in
isolation, spending her time in a “clean room”—a tiled bathroom, scrubbed down with a special soap,
and a cot washed in baking soda. She wore a charcoal mask on her face to protect her from ingesting
toxins from the air. At a young age, Scott became a caregiver for her, which helped him to develop his
strong sense of compassion.

As a teen, however, Scott rebelled against his parents’ religious devotion and the restrictive life his
family led as a result of his mother’s illness. He fell in with a bad crowd in high school, barely
graduating. He joined a rock band and, after graduation, left for New York to pursue music and attend

New York University. It was there that Scott was introduced to the world of nightclub promoters. For the
next 10 years, he worked as a promoter for 40 different clubs. It was his job to attract the “beautiful
people”—the wealthy and powerful who would spend “$1,000 on a bottle of champagne or $500 on a
bottle of vodka,” easily paying $10,000 for a night of partying and the opportunity to be seen in the
hippest, most trendy places. In return, Scott received a percentage of the club’s sales, making $3,000 to
$5,000 on a good night (Clifford, 2018).

Scott became an influencer; one call from him and the beautiful people would follow him to the next
“hot” club. A few phone calls made by Scott to the right people could put a nightclub on the map. Scott
even received endorsements, being paid well just to be seen drinking a particular brand of alcohol.

By outside appearances, Scott had an enviable life, socializing with rich and powerful people, dating
models, driving a luxury car, and living in a lavish apartment. But it was taking its toll: He became
disillusioned with his hedonistic lifestyle, believing he was “polluting” himself with drugs, alcohol, and
pornography, and feeling disconnected from the spirituality and morality of his childhood (Fields, 2018).

Scott began seeking the “exact opposite” (Fields, 2018) of what he was doing, applying to work with
humanitarian efforts. With only his experience as a club promoter to offer, he received rejection after
rejection. Finally, Mercy Ships, a nonprofit hospital ship that delivers medical care to places where such
care is not available, responded. The organization was looking for a photojournalist to document its
efforts in Liberia. For this opportunity, Scott would pay Mercy Ships $500 per month. For him, this was
the perfect offer: the opposite of his current life, working in an impoverished country ravaged by civil war
with the requirement of paying for the pleasure of serving.

Scott’s first Mercy Ships tour was on a 525-foot hospital ship, equipped with 42 beds, a few operating
rooms, and an MRI machine. The ship traveled to Liberia, which had no operating hospitals and only
two surgeons in the entire country. The need there was tremendous and the suffering horrific. Scott
documented the work on the ship and every patient both before and after medical intervention. The
images and stories he documented were to be used to raise awareness and inspire Mercy Ships donors
to continue contributing to the organization’s work.

Scott realized that all the wealthy and powerful people who had followed him when he was a club
promoter could prove helpful in assisting Mercy Ships with its mission. He compiled a list of 15,000
potential donors who could make significant financial contributions to the Mercy Ships mission and
began blasting them with emails filled with images and stories of Mercy Ships patients. While he
received antagonism and dismissal from some recipients, he found many more were moved by the
stories and wanted to help. The storytelling and promoting skills he had developed to lure people to
nightclubs were also effective at rallying people in support of a good cause.

Scott’s second Mercy Ships tour provided opportunity for him to venture into the Liberian countryside
and the villages that were home to the organization’s patients. Scott was struck by the morbid conditions
of these villages and their water sources—either a swamp, a scummy pond, or a dirty brown viscous
river (often with animal feces in it). He learned that 50% of the country was drinking unsafe, dirty
contaminated water, which was contributing directly to many of the illnesses and suffering of Mercy
Ships patients. Scott had gone from witnessing wealthy club patrons buying $10 bottles of designer
water, which they didn’t open, to seeing people die from a lack of clean drinking water. The contrast was
not lost on him, and he had found a cause that deeply resonated with him.

Although he was truly committed, he had no money, was $30,000 in debt, and had no experience in
charity work or building an organization. Still, when he returned to New York, he jumped in, making 8–10
presentations a day to interest others in his mission of providing clean drinking water for the 1 billion
people in the world without it. His presentations met with little success in the way of donations but
provided Scott with a great insight. He discovered there was a profound distrust of and cynicism toward
charities. To be successful, Scott would have to “reimagine” the giving process, reaching the
disenchanted and giving them something in which to believe.

Scott created Charity: Water to do just that, establishing a four-pronged plan to reinvent the charity

The first element was to guarantee that 100% of donations would directly finance clean water projects.
He followed the model of multibillionaire Paul Tudor Jones of the Robin Hood Foundation, establishing
two separate accounts. All the funds from every public donation go directly into the first account to be
used exclusively to fund the water projects. The second account, called The Well, pays the salaries and
overhead of the organization and is funded by a small group of private donors dedicated specifically to
financing operating expenses.

The second prong was “proof.” Scott wanted donors to visibly see the impact of their contributions, and
technology provided the answer. Pictures of every Charity: Water project are posted on Google Earth
and Google Maps. The organization’s partners in foreign countries are trained to use GPS devices, take
photos, and upload and post the GPS coordinates and pictures for each project on the internet.

Third, Scott wanted to build a “beautiful” brand. He felt that most charities had a “poverty mentality”
around their marketing, with most still using direct mail to solicit donors. He believed direct mail would
be replaced by digital transactions and developed his business plan accordingly. Instead of using
stories, images, and language intended to illicit guilt like other charities did, Charity: Water tells stories
focused on hope, opportunity, and fun. Scott promotes the idea that giving should be an opportunity and
a blessing, not an obligation or a debt. Charity: Water offers a “grand invitation” to join the effort in
creating a world where every person has clean drinking water.

The last prong is to use local partners in the countries where Charity: Water has its projects. For the
work to be sustainable and culturally appropriate, it should be led by local people. Charity: Water’s role
is to “raise awareness, engage people in an issue that does not directly concern them, and then raise
the money to make it happen and then go out and vet and grow the capacity of the local organizations
to deploy that capital and lead their communities and their countries forward” (Fields, 2018). The locals
would be “the heroes,” receiving the money and using it to bring clean water to the community.

When Charity: Water began, it was at the start of a major world financial crisis, but still managed to raise
$1.7 million in its first year. Donations grew 490% in the first three years of operations, while net giving
in the United States dropped by 8% during the same period. Charity: Water now has raised more than
$300 million, with more than 1 million donors from more than 100 countries (Fields, 2018). Charity:
Water has provided more than 9 million people around the world with access to clean water, with 35,000
projects in 27 different countries (Charity: Water, 2019).

Scott wants the global water crisis solved in his lifetime. Citing that “the number of people without
access has dropped in the last 12 years from a billion people to 660 million,” Scott says that it is still not
enough. “1 out of 10 people without clean water is still astonishingly high in this day and age with the
technology we have” (Fields, 2018).

True to his vision, however, Scott, an influencer turned social entrepreneur disrupter, has radically
changed the charitable giving landscape, successfully shifting perspectives, tapping into people’s desire
to make a difference, and, through his commitment to complete transparency, raising the standards for
an entire industry.

Scott is most recently the author of the New York Times best-selling book, Thirst: A Story of
Redemption, Compassion, and a Mission to Bring Clean Water to the World. No surprise, 100% of the
net proceeds go to fund Charity: Water projects around the world. And true to his promise of “proof,” his
website notes that over 7,700 people now have clean water due to a matching funds campaign for book
preorders, and there is a special link for individual purchasers of the book to see for themselves how
their purchase is affecting lives (Charity: Water, 2019).


1. What leadership traits account for Scott Harrison’s success?
2. How would you describe Scott’s leadership abilities?
3. Leadership includes administrative skills, interpersonal skills, and conceptual skills. In what ways

does Scott exhibit these skills?
4. From a relational perspective, how would you describe Scott’s leadership?
5. Though Scott was a well-paid, successful club promoter with a long list of “followers,” would you

characterize that element of his career path as “leadership”? Why or why not?

1.3 Conceptualizing Leadership Questionnaire


1. To identify how you view leadership
2. To explore your perceptions of different aspects of leadership


1. Consider for a moment your own impressions of the word leadership. Based on your experiences
with leaders in your lifetime, what is leadership?

2. Using the scale below, indicate the extent to which you agree or disagree with the following
statements about leadership.

Statement Strongly
disagree Disagree Neutral Agree Strongly


1. When I think of leadership, I think of a
person with special personality traits.

1 2 3 4 5

2. Much like playing the piano or tennis,
leadership is a learned ability.

1 2 3 4 5

3. Leadership requires knowledge and know-

1 2 3 4 5

Statement Strongly
disagree Disagree Neutral Agree Strongly


4. Leadership is about what people do rather
than who they are.

1 2 3 4 5

5. Followers can influence the leadership
process as much as leaders.

1 2 3 4 5

6. Leadership is about the process of
influencing others.

1 2 3 4 5

7. Some people are born to be leaders. 1 2 3 4 5

8. Some people have the natural ability to be

1 2 3 4 5

9. The key to successful leadership is having
the right skills.

1 2 3 4 5

10. Leadership is best described by what
leaders do.

1 2 3 4 5

11. Leaders and followers share in the
leadership process.

1 2 3 4 5

12. Leadership is a series of actions directed
toward positive ends.

1 2 3 4 5

13. A person needs to have certain traits to be
an effective leader.

1 2 3 4 5

14. Everyone has the capacity to be a leader. 1 2 3 4 5

15. Effective leaders are competent in their

1 2 3 4 5

16. The essence of leadership is performing
tasks and dealing with people.

1 2 3 4 5

Statement Strongly
disagree Disagree Neutral Agree Strongly


17. Leadership is about the common purposes
of leaders and followers.

1 2 3 4 5

18. Leadership does not rely on the leader
alone but is a process involving the leader,
followers, and the situation.

1 2 3 4 5

19. People become great leaders because of
their traits.

1 2 3 4 5

20. People can develop the ability to lead. 1 2 3 4 5

21. Effective leaders have competence and

1 2 3 4 5

22. Leadership is about how leaders work with
people to accomplish goals.

1 2 3 4 5

23. Effective leadership is best explained by
the leader–follower relationship.

1 2 3 4 5

24. Leaders influence and are influenced by

1 2 3 4 5


1. Sum scores on items 1, 7, 13, and 19 (trait emphasis)
2. Sum scores on items 2, 8, 14, and 20 (ability emphasis)
3. Sum scores on items 3, 9, 15, and 21 (skill emphasis)
4. Sum scores on items 4, 10, 16, and 22 (behavior emphasis)
5. Sum scores on items 5, 11, 17, and 23 (relationship emphasis)
6. Sum scores on items 6, 12, 18, and 24 (process emphasis)

Total Scores

1. Trait emphasis: ___________________
2. Ability emphasis: _________________
3. Skill emphasis: ___________________
4. Behavior emphasis: _______________

5. Relationship emphasis: ___________
6. Process emphasis: ________________

Scoring Interpretation

The scores you received on this questionnaire provide information about how you define and view
leadership. The emphasis you give to the various dimensions of leadership has implications for how you
approach the leadership process. For example, if your highest score is for trait emphasis, it suggests
that you emphasize the role of the leader and the leader’s special gifts in the leadership process.
However, if your highest score is for relationship emphasis, it indicates that you think leadership is
centered on the communication between leaders and followers, rather than on the unique qualities of
the leader. By comparing your scores, you can gain an understanding of the aspects of leadership that
you find most important and least important. The way you think about leadership will influence how you
practice leadership.

1.4 Observational Exercise

Defining Leadership

1. To develop an understanding of the complexity of leadership
2. To become aware of the different ways people define leadership

1. In this exercise, select five people you know and interview them about leadership.
2. Ask each person to give you their definition of leadership, and to describe their personal beliefs

about effective leadership.
3. Record each person’s response on a separate sheet of paper.

Person #1 (name) __________________________________________

Person #2 (name) __________________________________________

Person #3 (name) __________________________________________

Person #4 (name) __________________________________________

Person #5 (name) __________________________________________

1. What differences did you observe in how these people define leadership?
2. What seems to be the most common definition of leadership?
3. In what ways did people describe leadership differently from the definitions in Chapter 1,

“Understanding Leadership”?
4. Of the people interviewed, whose definition comes closest to your own? Why?

1.5 Reflection and Action Worksheet

Understanding Leadership

1. Each of us has our own unique way of thinking about leadership. What leaders or people have

influenced you in your thinking about leadership? Discuss what leadership means to you and give
your definition of leadership.

2. What do the scores you received on the Conceptualizing Leadership Questionnaire suggest about
your perspective on leadership? Of the six dimensions on the questionnaire (trait, ability, skill,
behavior, relationship, and process), which one is the most similar to your own perspective? Which
one is least like your own perspective?

3. Do you think leadership is something everyone can learn to do, or do you think it is a natural ability
reserved for a few? Explain your answer.

1. Based on the interviews you conducted with others about leadership, how could you incorporate

others’ ideas about leadership into your own leadership?
2. Treating leadership as a relationship has ethical implications. How could adding the relationship

approach to your leadership make you a better leader? Discuss.
3. Think about your own leadership. Identify one trait, ability, skill, or behavior that you could develop

more fully to become a better leader.

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hierarchical leadership on campus: Case studies and best practices in higher education (pp. 34–39).
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Life Project [Podcast]. Retrieved from

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Journal, 23(5), 26–34.

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(Version III). Los Angeles: University of California.

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organizations: The GLOBE study of 62 societies. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

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want to make a difference (3rd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Wiley.

Komives, S. R., Wagner, W., & Associates. (Eds.). (2016). Leadership for a better world: Understanding
the social change model of leadership (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

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University Press.

Lipman-Blumen, J. (2005). The allure of toxic leaders. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

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Descriptions of Images and Figures
Back to Figure

A timeline of leadership theories and approaches from 1900 to 2020.

The timeline is presented as a Gantt chart to provide a visual representation of the length of time that
each leadership theory was active and less active and where the theories overlap in history.

A key below the chart includes 2 categories.

1. Blue: Active
2. White with Blue Lines: Less Active

The timeline flows chronologically through 6 leadership theories, starting with the earliest leadership
theories at the bottom of the chart to the most recent leadership theories at the top.

The data for the leadership theories are as follows. The dates provided are estimates as the exact data
points are not provided.

* Trait: Active, 1900 to 1947. Less Active, 1947 to 1981. Active, 1981 to 2011.

* Behavioral: Active, 1936 to 1963.

* Situational: Active, 1966 to 1999, Less Active 1999 to 2011.

* Relational: Active, 1990 to 2010.

* New Leadership: Active, 1985 to 2010.

* Emerging: Active, 2000 to 2009.


Why are some people leaders while others are not? What makes people become leaders? Do leaders
have certain traits? These questions have been of interest for many years. It seems that all of us want to
know what characteristics account for effective leadership. This chapter will address the traits that are
important to leadership.

Since the early 20th century, hundreds of research studies have been conducted on the traits of leaders.
These studies have produced an extensive list of ideal leadership traits (see Antonakis, Cianciolo, &
Sternberg, 2004; Bass, 1990). The list of important leadership traits is long and includes such traits as
diligence, trustworthiness, dependability, articulateness, sociability, open-mindedness, intelligence,
confidence, self-assurance, and conscientiousness. Because the list is so extensive, it is difficult to
identify specifically which traits are essential for leaders. In fact, nearly all of the traits are probably
related to effective leadership.

What traits are important when you are asked to be a leader? To answer this question, two areas will be
addressed in this chapter. First, a set of selected traits that appear by all accounts to be strongly related
to effective leadership in everyday life will be discussed. Second, the lives of several historical and
contemporary leaders will be examined with a discussion of the traits that play a role in their leadership.
Throughout this discussion, the unique ways that certain traits affect the leadership process in one way
or another will be emphasized.

From the beginning of the 20th century to the present day, researchers have focused a great deal of
attention on the unique characteristics of successful leaders. Thousands of studies have been
conducted to identify the traits of effective leaders. The results of these studies have produced a very
long list of important leadership traits; each of these traits contributes to the leadership process.

For example, research studies by several investigators found the following traits to be important:
achievement, persistence, insight, initiative, self-confidence, responsibility, cooperativeness, tolerance,
influence, sociability, drive, motivation, integrity, confidence, cognitive ability, task knowledge,
extroversion, conscientiousness, and openness (Judge, Bono, Ilies, & Gerhardt, 2002; Kirkpatrick &
Locke, 1991; Stogdill, 1974). On the international level, House, Hanges, Javidan, Dorfman, and Gupta
(2004), in a study of 17,000 managers in 62 different cultures, identified a list of 22 valued traits that
were universally endorsed as characteristics of outstanding leadership in these countries. The list, which
was outlined in Table 1.2 in Chapter 1, “Understanding Leadership,” includes such attributes as being
trustworthy, just, honest, encouraging, positive, dynamic, dependable, intelligent, decisive,
communicative, informed, and a team builder. As these findings indicate, research studies on leadership
traits have identified a wide array of important characteristics of leaders.

However, these research findings raise an important question: If there are so many important leadership
traits, which specific traits do people need to be successful leaders? While the answer to this question is
not crystal clear, the research points to six key traits: intelligence, confidence, charisma, determination,
sociability, and integrity. In the following section, we will discuss each of these traits in turn.

Intelligence is an important trait related to effective leadership. Intelligence includes having good
language skills, perceptual skills, and reasoning ability. This combination of assets makes people good

thinkers, and makes them better leaders.

While it is hard for a person to alter their IQ, there are certain ways for a person to improve intelligence
in general. Intelligent leaders are well informed. They are aware of what is going on around them and
understand the job that needs to be done. It is important for leaders to obtain information about what
their leadership role entails and learn as much as possible about their work environment. This
information will help leaders be more knowledgeable and insightful.

For example, a few years ago, a friend, Chris, was asked to be the coach of his daughter’s middle
school soccer team even though he had never played soccer and knew next to nothing about how the
game is played. Chris took the job and eventually was a great success, but not without a lot of effort. He
spent many hours learning about soccer. He read how-to books, instructor’s manuals, and coaching
books. In addition, Chris subscribed to several soccer magazines. He talked to other coaches and
learned everything he could about playing the game. By the time he had finished the first season, others
considered Chris to be a very competent coach. He was smart and learned how to be a successful

Regarding intelligence, few if any of us can expect to be another Albert Einstein. Most of us have
average intelligence and know that there are limits to what we can do. Nevertheless, becoming more
knowledgeable about our leadership positions gives us the information we need to become better

Being confident is another important trait of an effective leader. Confident people feel self-assured and
believe they can accomplish their goals. Rather than feeling uncertain, they feel strong and secure
about their positions. They do not second-guess themselves, but rather move forward on projects with a
clear vision. Confident leaders feel a sense of certainty and believe that they are doing the right thing.
Clearly, confidence is a trait that has to do with feeling positive about oneself and one’s ability to

If confidence is a central trait of successful leaders, how can you build your own confidence? First,
confidence comes from understanding what is required of you. For example, when first learning to drive
a car, a student is low in confidence because they do not know what to do. If an instructor explains the
driving process and demonstrates how to drive, the student can gain confidence because they now
have an understanding of how to drive. Awareness and understanding build confidence. Confidence can
also come from having a mentor to show the way and provide constructive feedback. This mentor may
be a boss, an experienced coworker, or a significant other from outside the organization. Because
mentors act as role models and sounding boards, they provide essential help to learn the dynamics of

Confidence also comes from practice. This is important to point out, because practice is something
everyone can do. Consider Michael Phelps, one of the most well-known athletes in the world today.
Phelps is a very gifted swimmer, with 23 Olympic gold medals and the record for winning the most
medals, 28, of any Olympic athlete in history. But Phelps also spends an enormous amount of time
practicing. His workout regimen includes swimming six hours a day, six days a week. His excellent
performance and confidence are a result of his practice, as well as his gifts.

In leadership, practice builds confidence because it provides assurance that an aspiring leader can do
what needs to be done. Taking on leadership roles, even minor ones on committees or through
volunteer activities, provides practice for being a leader. Building one leadership activity on another can
increase confidence for more demanding leadership roles. Those who accept opportunities to practice
their leadership will experience increased confidence in their leadership abilities.


Of all the traits related to effective leadership, charisma gets the most attention. Charisma refers to a
leader’s special magnetic charm and appeal, and can have a huge effect on the leadership process.
Charisma is a special personality characteristic that gives a leader the capacity to do extraordinary
things. In particular, it gives the leader exceptional powers of influence. A good example of a charismatic
leader is former president John F. Kennedy, who motivated the American people with his eloquent
oratorical style (visit to read one of his speeches). President
Kennedy was a gifted, charismatic leader who had an enormous impact on others.

At the same time, charisma can also be used by leaders in less positive ways. As we discuss in Chapter
14, “Exploring Destructive Leadership,” charisma enhances a leader’s ability to gain people’s devotion.
Incorporated with charisma are leaders’ strong rhetorical skills, vision, and energy, which destructive
leaders use to win others over and to exploit followers for their own ends. World history abounds with
examples of leaders, from Adolf Hitler to religious leader Jimmy Swaggart, who use their charisma in a
harmful way.

It is not unusual for many of us to feel challenged with regard to charisma because it is not a common
personality trait. A few select people are very charismatic, but most of us are not. Since charisma
appears in short supply, a question arises: What do leaders do if they are not naturally charismatic?

Based on the writings of leadership scholars, several behaviors characterize charismatic leadership
(Conger, 1999; House, 1976; Shamir, House, & Arthur, 1993). First, charismatic leaders serve as strong
role models for the values that they desire others to adopt. Mohandas Gandhi advocated nonviolence
and was an exemplary role model of civil disobedience; his charisma enabled him to influence others.
Second, charismatic leaders show competence in every aspect of leadership, so others trust their
decisions. Third, charismatic leaders articulate clear goals and strong values. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I
Have a Dream” speech is an example of this type of charismatic leadership. Fourth, charismatic leaders
communicate high expectations for followers and show confidence in their abilities to meet these
expectations. Finally, charismatic leaders are an inspiration to others. They can excite and motivate
others to become involved in real change, as demonstrated by Kennedy and King.

Determination is another trait that characterizes effective leaders. Determined leaders are very focused
and attentive to tasks. They know where they are going and how they intend to get there. Determination
is the decision to get the job done; it includes characteristics such as initiative, persistence, and drive.
People with determination are willing to assert themselves, they are proactive, and they have the
capacity to persevere in the face of obstacles. Being determined includes showing dominance at times,
especially in situations where others need direction.

We have all heard of determined people who have accomplished spectacular things—the person with
cancer who runs a standard 26.2-mile marathon, the blind person who climbs Mount Everest, or the
single mom with four kids who graduates from college. A good example of determined leadership is
Nelson Mandela, who is featured in the Leadership Snapshot in this chapter. Mandela’s goal was to end
apartheid in South Africa. Even though he was imprisoned for many years, he steadfastly held to his
principles. He was committed to reaching his goal, and he never wavered from his vision. Mandela was
focused and disciplined—a determined leader.

What distinguishes all of these leaders from other people is their determination to get the job done. Of
all the traits discussed in this chapter, determination is probably the one trait that is easily acquired by
those who lead. All it demands is perseverance. Staying focused on the task, clarifying the goals,
articulating the vision, and encouraging others to stay the course are characteristics of determined
leaders. Being determined takes discipline and the ability to endure, but having this trait will almost
certainly enhance a person’s leadership.


Another important trait for leaders is sociability. Sociability refers to a leader’s capacity to establish
pleasant social relationships. People want sociable leaders—leaders with whom they can get along.
Leaders who show sociability are friendly, outgoing, courteous, tactful, and diplomatic. They are
sensitive to others’ needs and show concern for others’ well-being. Sociable leaders have good
interpersonal skills and help to create cooperative relationships within their work environments.

Being sociable comes easier for some than for others. For example, it is easy for extroverted leaders to
talk to others and be outgoing, but it is harder for introverted leaders to do so. Similarly, some individuals
are naturally “people persons,” while others prefer to be alone. Although people vary in the degree to
which they are outgoing, it is possible to increase sociability. A sociable leader gets along with
coworkers and other people in the work setting. Being friendly, kind, and thoughtful, as well as talking
freely with others and giving them support, goes a long way to establish a leader’s sociability. Sociable
leaders bring positive energy to a group and make the work environment a more enjoyable place.

To illustrate, consider the following example. This scenario occurred in one of the best leadership
classes I have had in 40 years of teaching. In this class, there was a student named Anne Fox who was
a very sociable leader. Anne was very caring and was liked by everyone in the class. After the first week
of the semester, Anne could name everyone in class; when attendance was taken, she knew instantly
who was there and who was not. In class discussions, Anne always contributed good ideas, and her
remarks were sensitive of others’ points of view. Anne was positive about life, and her attitude was
contagious. By her presence, Anne created an atmosphere in which everyone felt unique but also
included. She was the glue that held us all together. Anne was not assigned to be the leader in the
class, but by the semester’s end she emerged as a leader. Her sociable nature enabled her to develop
strong relationships and become a leader in the class. By the end of the class, all of us were the
beneficiaries of her leadership.

Finally, and perhaps most important, effective leaders have integrity. Integrity characterizes leaders
who possess the qualities of honesty and trustworthiness. People who adhere to a strong set of
principles and take responsibility for their actions are exhibiting integrity. Leaders with integrity inspire
confidence in others because they can be trusted to do what they say they are going to do. They are
loyal, dependable, and transparent. Basically, integrity makes a leader believable and worthy of our

Leadership Snapshot:

Nelson Mandela, First Black President of South Africa

South Africa The Good News / CC BY 2.0

In 1990, when Nelson Mandela was released from prison after serving 27 long years, he was
determined not to be angry or vindictive, but instead to work to unite his country of South Africa,
which had been fractured by generations of apartheid.

The descendant of a tribal king, Mandela was born in 1918 in a small African village and grew up
in a country where whites ruled through subjugation and tyranny over Blacks and other racial
groups. Mandela attended Methodist missionary schools and put himself through law school,
eventually opening the first Black law partnership in 1942. His firm represented the African
National Congress, which was engaged in resisting South Africa’s apartheid policies, and during
the 1950s, he became a leader of the ANC. Influenced by Mohandas Gandhi, Mandela was
initially committed to nonviolent resistance but shifted to supporting violent tactics when the
government refused to change its apartheid policies. In 1964, Mandela received a life sentence
for plotting to overthrow the government by violence.

During the nearly three decades Mandela spent in prison, he became a symbolic figure for the
anti-apartheid movement. But during those years, Mandela spent time examining himself,
coming to see himself as others did: as an aggressive and militant revolutionary. He learned to
control his temper and strong will, instead using persuasion and emphasis to convince others.
He listened to others’ life stories, including those of the white guards, seeking to understand their
perspectives. He was steadfast in maintaining his dignity, carefully refusing to be subservient
while being respectful to the guards and others. As a result, he became a natural leader inside
the prison, while outside, his fame framed him as a symbolic martyr not only to Black Africans
but also to people across the globe. Free Mandela campaigns were building around the world,
with other countries and international corporations being pressured by stockholders and citizens
to “divest” in South Africa.

In 1990, South African president F. W. de Klerk, fearing civil war and economic collapse,
released Mandela, at the time 71, from prison. Mandela emerged as a moral leader who stood by
the principles of liberty and equal rights for all. He began speaking around the world, raising
financial support for the ANC while seeking to bring peace to his fractured country. In 1992, the
South African government instituted a new constitution and held a popular election with all
parties represented, including the ANC. The result? In 1994, Mandela was elected as the first

Black president of South Africa, effectively ending apartheid. For his role in negotiations to
abolish apartheid, Mandela received the Nobel Peace Prize, sharing it with de Klerk.

As president of South Africa from 1994 to 1999, Mandela’s mission was to transform a nation
from minority rule and apartheid to a multiracial democracy. On the first day of his presidency, he
set the tone with the predominantly white staff of the former president, telling them that those
who wanted to keep their jobs were welcome to stay, stating “Reconciliation starts here.” He
developed a multiracial staff and cabinet, using his friendly smiling style and tactic of listening to
all viewpoints carefully before making decisions to keep the staff focused on problems and
issues rather than on partisanship.

Mandela served his five-year term as president but, at 76 years old, chose not to seek another
term. In retirement, he continued to advocate for social causes, serving as a mediator in disputes
outside of South Africa, and to bring a message of peace and justice throughout the world.
Mandela died in 2013. While it is difficult to summarize all that he accomplished, Mandela’s
legacy is best described by former U.S. president Bill Clinton, who in 2003 wrote, “Under a
burden of oppression he saw through difference, discrimination and destruction to embrace our
common humanity.”

Dishonesty creates mistrust in others, and dishonest leaders are seen as undependable and unreliable.
Honesty helps people to have trust and faith in what leaders have to say and what they stand for.
Honesty also enhances a leader’s ability to influence others because they have confidence in and
believe in their leader.

Integrity demands being open with others and representing reality as fully and completely as possible.
However, this is not an easy task: There are times when telling the complete truth can be destructive or
counterproductive. The challenge for leaders is to strike a balance between being open and candid and
monitoring what is appropriate to disclose in a particular situation. While it is important for leaders to be
authentic, it is also essential for them to have integrity in their relationships with others.

Integrity undergirds all aspects of leadership. It is at the core of being a leader. Integrity is a central
aspect of a leader’s ability to influence. If people do not trust a leader, the leader’s influence potential is
weakened. In essence, integrity is the bedrock of who a leader is. When a leader’s integrity comes into
question, their potential to lead is lost.

Former president Bill Clinton (1993–2001) is a good example of how integrity is related to leadership. In
the late 1990s, he was brought before the U.S. Congress for misrepresenting under oath an affair he
had engaged in with a White House intern. For his actions, he was impeached by the U.S. House of
Representatives, but then was acquitted by the U.S. Senate. At one point during the long ordeal, the
president appeared on national television and, in what is now a famous speech, declared his innocence.
Because subsequent hearings provided information suggesting he might have lied during his television
speech, many Americans felt Clinton had violated his duty and responsibility as a person, leader, and
president. As a result, Clinton’s integrity was clearly challenged and the impact of his leadership
substantially weakened.

In conclusion, many traits are related to effective leadership. The six traits discussed here appear to be
particularly important in the leadership process. As will be revealed in subsequent chapters, leadership
is a very complex process. The traits discussed in this chapter are important but are only one dimension
of a multidimensional process.

Throughout history, there have been many great leaders. Each of them has led with unique talents and
in different circumstances. The following section analyzes the accomplishments and the traits of six
famous leaders. Although there are hundreds of equally distinguished leaders, these six are highlighted

because they represent different kinds of leadership at different points in history. All of these leaders are
recognized as being notable leaders: Each has had an impact on many people’s lives and accomplished
great things.

The leaders discussed as follows are Harriet Tubman, Winston Churchill, Mother Teresa, Bill Gates,
Oprah Winfrey, and LeBron James. As you read about each of them, think about their leadership traits.

Harriet Tubman (c. 1820–1913)

UniversalImagesGroup/Contributor via Getty Images

Harriet Tubman was an American activist who played a major role in the abolitionist movement in the
years leading up to the Civil War (1861–1865). She was born enslaved in Dorchester County, Maryland.
At the age of 12, she suffered a severe blow to the head while trying to assist a fellow enslaved person
who was being attacked. The wound she received caused intermittent blackouts for the rest of her life.
In 1849, Tubman escaped by way of the Underground Railroad from Maryland to Philadelphia in the free
state of Pennsylvania by traveling at night, using the North Star as her guide. After she gained her own
freedom, Tubman became a “conductor” for the Underground Railroad. She subsequently made 13
return trips to the South and rescued as many as 300 other enslaved people. Tubman was known as

“Moses” because she helped her people escape to freedom. During the Civil War, she became a spy
and soldier for the North (for the Union Army) and was the first woman in the armed services to carry out
a military operation: In 1863, she led the successful Combahee River Raid that freed more than 750
enslaved people. In her later years, she settled in Auburn, New York, where she established a home
dedicated to the care of older African Americans. When she died in 1913, Tubman was 93 years old.

Traits and Characteristics

Harriet Tubman was a tenacious leader (C. Clinton, 2004; Wills, 1994). She had a far-reaching impact
despite horrific treatment, a lack of formal education, and the seizures she experienced as a result of
her head injury. She fought courageously to end slavery with persistent resolve. Devoted to her cause,
she repeatedly risked her own life to bring freedom to others. She was determined, focused, strong, and
unpretentious. Her leadership combined the spiritual and the practical; she believed in divine guidance
but was pragmatic and methodical in her approach to tasks. Tubman was a remarkable leader and her
accomplishments extraordinary.

Winston Churchill (1874–1965)

Walter Stoneman/Stringer/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Winston Churchill was one of the greatest statesmen and orators of the 20th century. In addition, he was
a talented painter and prolific writer; he received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1953. Churchill served
in the military during World War I, became prime minister of Great Britain in May 1940, and remained in
that office through World War II, until 1945. It was at this time that his masterful leadership was most
visible. When the Germans threatened to invade Britain, Churchill stood strong. He made many famous
speeches that had far-reaching effects on the morale of the people of Great Britain and the Allied forces.
On the home front, he was a social reformer. He served a second term as prime minister from 1951 to
1955. He died at the age of 90 in 1965.

Traits and Characteristics

Winston Churchill’s leadership was remarkable because it emerged from a man who was average in
many respects and who faced challenges in his personal life. In his education, he did not stand out as
superior to others. On a societal level, he was a loner who had few friends. On a personal level, he
suffered from bouts of depression throughout his life. Despite these characteristics, Churchill emerged
as a leader because of his other unique gifts and how he used them (Hayward, 1997; Keegan, 2002;
Sandys & Littman, 2003). A voracious reader, Churchill was plain speaking, decisive, detail oriented,
and informed (Hayward, 1997). Furthermore, he was very ambitious, for himself, but also for his nation.
He evoked strong reactions among his followers. His political opponents characterized him as
pugnacious, egotistical, and dangerous while his supporters thought him charismatic, courageous, and
a genius (Addison, 2005). His most significant talent was his masterful use of language. In his oratory,
the normally plainspoken Churchill used words and imagery in powerful ways that touched the hearts of
many and set the moral climate of the war (Keegan, 2002). He had the ability to build hope and inspire
others to rise to the challenge. His stoicism and optimism were an inspiration to his people and all of the
Allied forces (Sandys & Littman, 2003).

Mother Teresa (1910–1997)

Bettmann/Contributor/Bettmann/Getty Images

A Roman Catholic nun considered a saint by many, Mother Teresa received the Nobel Peace Prize in
1979 for her work people living in poverty in Kolkata, India, and throughout the world. Born in
Macedonia, Mother Teresa came from a comfortable background. At the age of 18, she joined the
Catholic Sisters of Loreto order and worked for 17 years as a high school teacher in Kolkata. Her
awareness of poverty in Kolkata caused her to leave the convent in 1948 to devote herself to working
full-time with people experiencing poverty in the city. In 1950, Mother Teresa founded a new religious
order, the Missionaries of Charity, to care for people who did not have adequate access to housing,
health care, and other basic necessities.

Today, more than 1 million workers are affiliated with the Missionaries of Charity in more than 40
countries. The charity provides help to people who have been hurt by floods, epidemics, famines, and
war. The Missionaries of Charity also operate hospitals, schools, orphanages, youth centers, shelters,
and hospices. For her humanitarian work and efforts for peace, Mother Teresa has been recognized with
many awards, including the Pope John XXIII Peace Prize (1971), the Nehru Award (1972), the U.S.
Presidential Medal of Freedom (1985), and the Congressional Gold Medal (1994). Although she
struggled with deteriorating health in her later years, Mother Teresa remained actively involved in her
work to the very end. She died at the age of 87 in 1997. In September 2016, Pope Francis declared
Mother Teresa a saint, with the official name of Saint Teresa of Kolkata. In a statement announcing the
canonization, the Vatican called her a “metaphor for selfless devotion and holiness” (Lyman, 2016).

Traits and Characteristics

Mother Teresa was a simple woman of small stature who dressed in a plain blue and white sari, and
who never owned more than the people she served. Mirroring her appearance, her mission was simple
—to care for the poor. From her first year on the streets of Kolkata where she tended to one dying
person to her last years when thousands of people were cared for by the Missionaries of Charity, Mother
Teresa stayed focused on her goal. She was a true civil servant who was simultaneously determined
and fearless, and humble and spiritual. She often listened to the will of God. When criticized for her
stand on abortion and women’s role in the family, or her approaches to eliminating poverty, Mother
Teresa responded with a strong will; she never wavered in her deep-seated human values. Teaching by
example with few words, she was a role model for others. Clearly, Mother Teresa was a leader who
practiced what she preached (Gonzalez-Balado, 1997; Sebba, 1997; Spink, 1997; Vardey, 1995).

Bill Gates (1955– )

Yamaguchi Haruyoshi/Contributor/Corbis Historical/Getty Images

For many years, William (Bill) H. Gates III, cofounder and chair of Microsoft Corporation, the world’s
largest developer of software for personal computers, was the wealthiest person in the world with assets
estimated at more than $70 billion. A self-made man, Gates began his interest in computers at the age
of 13 when he and a friend developed their first computer software program. He later attended Harvard
University but left, without graduating, to focus on software development. He cofounded Microsoft in
1975. Under Gates’s leadership, Microsoft developed the well-known Microsoft Disk Operating System
(MS-DOS), Windows operating system, and Internet Explorer browser. Microsoft is one of the fastest-
growing and most profitable companies ever established. From the success of Microsoft, Gates and his
wife established the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2000 to reduce inequities and improve lives
around the world. This foundation promotes education, addresses global health issues (such as malaria,
HIV/AIDS, and tuberculosis), sponsors libraries, and supports housing and community initiatives in the
Pacific Northwest. Beginning in 2006, Gates transitioned away from his day-to-day operating role at
Microsoft to spend more time working with his foundation, but he remained the corporation’s chair. In
February 2014, however, Gates stepped down as the company’s board chairman in order to increase
his involvement in the company’s operations, serving in a new role of technology adviser and mentor to

the company’s new CEO Satya Nadella. Gates continues to tackle global challenges as cochair of the
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which has become the world’s largest private charitable foundation.

Traits and Characteristics

Bill Gates is both intelligent and visionary. When he cofounded Microsoft, he had a vision about how to
meet the technological needs of people in the future, and he hired friends to help him accomplish that
vision. Gates is also task oriented and diligent, often working 12 or more hours a day to promote his
interest in software product development. Furthermore, Gates is focused and aggressive. When
Microsoft was accused by the U.S. government of antitrust violations, Gates appeared before
congressional hearings and strongly defended his company. When asked about whether he has a “win
at all cost” mentality, he answered that you bring people together to work on products and make
products better, but there is never a finish line—there are always challenges ahead (Jager & Ortiz,
1997, pp. 151–152). In his personal style, Gates is simple, straightforward, unpretentious, and altruistic:
He has demonstrated a strong concern for people experiencing poverty.

Oprah Winfrey (1954– )

Frederick M. Brown/Stringer/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

An award-winning television talk show host, Oprah Winfrey is one of the most powerful and influential
people in the world. Born in rural Mississippi into a dysfunctional family, she was raised by her
grandmother until she was 6. Winfrey learned to read at a very early age and skipped two grades in
school. Her adolescent years were difficult: While living in Milwaukee with her mother, who worked two
jobs, Winfrey was molested by a family member. Despite these experiences, she was an honors student
in high school and received national accolades for her oratory ability. She received a full scholarship to
Tennessee State University, where she studied communication and worked at a local radio station.
Winfrey’s work in the media eventually led her to Chicago where she became host of the highly
acclaimed Oprah Winfrey Show. In 2007, Winfrey was the highest-paid entertainer in television, earning
an annual salary estimated at $260 million. She also is an actor, a producer, a book critic, and a
magazine publisher and, in 2011, left her successful television show to concentrate on her television
network, OWN. In 2013, Winfrey received the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of
Freedom. In 2018, Winfrey won the Golden Globe’s Cecil B. DeMille Award for her contributions to the
entertainment industry. Winfrey was the first Black woman to win this award.

Her total wealth is estimated at more than $3.1 billion. Winfrey is also a highly regarded philanthropist:
Her giving has focused on making a difference in the lives of people experiencing poverty, natural
disasters, and other hardships. Winfrey has paid special attention to the needs of people in Africa,
raising millions of dollars to help AIDS-affected children there and creating a leadership academy for
girls in a small town near Johannesburg, South Africa.

Traits and Characteristics

Oprah Winfrey’s remarkable journey from rural poverty to influential world leader can be explained by
several of her strengths (Harris & Watson, 2007; Illouz, 2003; McDonald, 2007). Foremost, Winfrey is an
excellent communicator. Since she was a little girl reciting Bible passages in church, she has been
comfortable in front of an audience. On television, she is able to talk to millions of people and have each
person feel as if she is talking directly to them. Winfrey is also intelligent and well read, with a strong
business sense. She is sincere, determined, and inspirational. Winfrey has a charismatic style of
leadership that enables her to connect with people. She is spontaneous and expressive, and has a
fearless ability to self-disclose. Because she has “been in the struggle” and survived, she is seen as a
role model. Winfrey has overcome many obstacles in her life and encourages others to overcome their
struggles as well. Her message is a message of hope.

LeBron James (1984– )

Everett Collection Inc/Alamy Stock Photo

LeBron James is a professional basketball player for the Los Angeles Lakers (NBA), whose
extraordinary athletic skills and accomplishments are recognized worldwide. When James was in high
school, his exceptional talent had already been recognized by NBA scouts, and he was selected as the
Cleveland Cavaliers’ first overall draft pick in 2003. James has been with three different teams during his
professional career (Cleveland Cavaliers, Miami Heat, and L.A. Lakers), setting numerous scoring
records and winning several Most Valuable Player awards. He has won two Olympic gold medals and
four NBA championships—two with one with Cleveland, and one with Los Angeles.

Because of his skill and subsequent fame, James has considerable influence among his fans, his
teammates, other professional athletes, and the wider public. In 2017, Time magazine identified him as
one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World. James has used his stature to speak out about NBA
rules he thinks should be changed, mistakes made by the Cavaliers’ front office, and racist comments
by NBA owners.

James has used his platform to champion racial equality and social justice. In 2020, James helped
establish More Than A Vote, a nonprofit organization led by prominent Black athletes that is devoted to
combating systemic, racist voter suppression through voter outreach and education.

Despite his superstar status, James is still true to his humble roots. He grew up in Akron, Ohio, under
challenging circumstances that motivated him to give back to underresourced communities. He has
supported numerous causes and community outreach programs, including Boys & Girls Clubs of
America, the Children’s Defense Fund, and a whole-house renovation for a needy family, where he
contributed his own labor, fitting it in around his training schedule with the Cavaliers (Curtis, 2016). In
2004, in just his second year as a pro basketball player, James established the LeBron James Family
Foundation to improve the lives of children and teens in Akron through educational and cocurricular
programs. In 2018, the LJFF opened the I PROMISE School, of which James said, “This school is so
important to me because our vision is to create a place for the kids in Akron who need it most—those
that could fall through the cracks if we don’t do something. We’ve learned over the years what works
and what motivates them, and now we can bring all of that together in one place, along with the right
resources and experts” (Evans, 2017).

Traits and Characteristics

LeBron James has many qualities that contribute to his effectiveness as a leader. He has physical
power and the ability to dominate other players on the basketball court. He has great confidence in his
basketball skills, which inspires teammates to perform at high levels as well. He is a consistent
performer, being selected to play in 16 NBA All-Star Games. He is ambitious and determined to win
championships. He has the endurance to play for many years to come, but even now is thinking about
the next phase of his life, and the legacy he will leave behind. He operates out of a strong set of
principles, such as giving back to his community. He has the emotional maturity and resilience to handle
criticism and learn from it. His charisma has earned him spots on many magazine covers, and
numerous invitations to host or be a guest on TV talk shows.

All of these individuals have exhibited exceptional leadership. While each of these leaders is unique,
together they share many common characteristics. All are visionary, strong willed, diligent, and
inspirational. As purpose-driven leaders, they are role models and symbols of hope. Reflecting on the
characteristics of these extraordinary leaders will provide you with a better understanding of the traits
that are important for effective leadership. Although you may not aspire to be another Bill Gates or
Mother Teresa, you can learn a great deal from these leaders in understanding how your own traits
affect your leadership.

This chapter describes the traits required of a leader. Social science research has provided insight into
leadership traits. Thousands of leadership studies have been performed to identify the traits of effective
leaders; the results of these studies point to a very long list of important leadership traits. From this list,
the traits that appear to be especially important for effective leadership are intelligence, confidence,
charisma, determination, sociability, and integrity.

From an examination of a select group of well-known historical and contemporary leaders including
Harriet Tubman, Winston Churchill, Mother Teresa, Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, and LeBron James, it is
clear that exemplary leaders exhibit many similar traits. In the main, these leaders were or are visionary,
strong willed, diligent, inspirational, purpose driven, and hopeful. These leadership figures provide
useful models for understanding the traits that are important and desirable for achieving effective

Because leadership is a complex process, there are no simple paths or guarantees to becoming a
successful leader. Each individual is unique, and each of us has our own distinct talents for leadership.

Those who are naturally strong in the six traits discussed in this chapter will be well equipped for
leadership. If you are not strong on all of these traits but are willing to work on them, you can still
become an effective leader.

Remember that many traits are related to effective leadership. By becoming aware of your own traits
and how to nourish them, you will be well on your way to becoming a successful leader.

Glossary Terms
charisma 28

confidence 28

determination 29

integrity 30

intelligence 27

sociability 29


2.1 Case Study—NorthTown Doulas

Kamiah N. didn’t like what she was seeing. The infant mortality rate of African American babies in her
community was nearly four times that of babies who were white and of other racial groups. She had
experienced this personally: When she was 19, her first child died four days after birth from conditions
that, had she known, could have been prevented during pregnancy.

Kamiah grew up in an impoverished, mostly African American neighborhood in a midsized city, known
as NorthTown. When she became pregnant, she relied on her friends or others in her neighborhood to
tell her what she needed to know. She didn’t consider going to a doctor; regular health care was not
readily accessible or affordable for the families in her neighborhood, most of whom were uninsured. In
addition, Kamiah had heard rumors that the pregnant women from their neighborhood who did visit
doctors were at risk of having their child taken away by Child Protective Services after birth because
“they always run a drug screen on you to see if you used drugs during pregnancy” or because you
neglected your and the baby’s health during pregnancy.

But when Kamiah became pregnant again, she was determined to find out what could be done to make
sure her second baby survived. She began researching infant mortality and discovered the leading
cause of infant mortality in her community was low birth weight and shortened gestation periods. Most
low-weight babies were born prematurely, and many that were full term were small because of the
youngness of the mother or because the mother did not gain enough weight during pregnancy. She also
discovered that many African American mothers are wary of hospitals and doctors. A 2018 National Vital
Statistics Report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that African American
mothers are 2.3 times more likely than white mothers to wait to begin prenatal care until their third
trimester of pregnancy or to not receive prenatal care at all (Osterman & Martin, 2018).

Despite her apprehensions, Kamiah decided to go to a free clinic during her pregnancy. In doing so, she
learned firsthand why young women like her would not want to visit a doctor. She felt judged by the
clinic’s white medical professionals, and when she said she wanted to have her baby at home because
she couldn’t afford a hospital, the doctors said that wasn’t possible and that CPS could become involved
if she did.

When Kamiah attended a Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) conference on prenatal care,
she learned about something she had never heard about before—doulas. Doulas are trained
professionals who offer physical, emotional, and informational support to moms-to-be before, during,
and after birth. But the price tag for doula care was anywhere from $250 to $2,000, which meant a doula
was not an option for Kamiah or any of the low-income women in her neighborhood.

When she gave birth to her second child in the hospital, she says she remembers feeling “completely
alone” and wished she’d had someone there to advocate for her while she was doing the hard work of
giving birth. It was then that Kamiah decided not only to become a doula, but to become certified to train
others in her community to be doulas as well.

Kamiah applied for and was awarded an educational grant offered by her neighborhood’s community
association to pay for her training as a doula. When she completed the training, she immediately began
the certification process to become a doula trainer. At the same time, she met with the executive director
of the local YWCA for advice on how to pursue her dream of providing doula services for the women in
her neighborhood. The executive listened to Kamiah’s plan and, without hesitation, offered to mentor her
on how to set up a nonprofit organization and apply for grant funding, and how to identify and talk with
potential donors, elected officials, and others who could support Kamiah’s efforts.

A year later, Kamiah established NorthTown Doulas, a nonprofit that funds and supports doula training
for doulas of color with an emphasis on social justice. NorthTown Doulas trains doulas not only in the
birth experience, but also to serve as advocates for women. Because so many of their clients were likely
to be young Black mothers, the doulas were taught to “meet young black mothers exactly where they
are and not to dismiss them.”

“When you go into a hospital and you don’t feel supported because of your race, but you have an
advocate there who is culturally the same as you and can speak for you so you can do the work of
having a baby, it just makes all the difference,” Kamiah says.

After forming NorthTown Doulas, Kamiah faced two challenges. The first was getting the word out to
pregnant women that doula services were available. This required the women in her neighborhood first
to understand what a doula was and then to trust one to help them with their pregnancies and births.
From her own experience, Kamiah knew that the informal leaders in the neighborhood were the
grandmothers, and she reached out to these women, many of whom she’d known since she was young,
to help spread the word. She knew if the older women in the neighborhood trusted her, it would help
smooth the way with younger generations who needed her services.

Kamiah’s second challenge was funding. The organization needed funding sources in addition to grants.
Kamiah began talking to large groups, such as service clubs, women’s organizations, and church
groups, where the audiences were mostly white. Kamiah found that public speaking came naturally to
her. She was able to talk openly about her own pregnancy and birth experiences and those of other low-
income women of color, explaining their perceptions and their reality. Kamiah found that audiences
responded to her transparency with empathy and appreciation, perhaps because many of them were

Within two years of its founding, NorthTown Doulas was on solid financial footing, and Kamiah was
leading it as its executive director. She had trained 14 doulas who provide their free services to clients
who are low-income and of color. The doulas meet weekly with their pregnant clients, teaching them
about nutrition and prenatal care and listening to their concerns and fears. The doulas are well informed
on the social services available in the community and how to access these services for their clients,
especially when it comes to securing adequate nutrition. In cases where the mothers-to-be need
medical treatment, the doulas help the clients find doctors and midwives they will trust, often
transporting their clients to appointments and staying with them through their visits. After the women
have given birth, the doulas continue to provide them with assistance, teaching them how to care for
their infants and manage being a new parent, and monitoring them and the babies for any health

Since she became a doula, Kamiah has helped 10 young women give birth to healthy babies. As the
organization’s leader, she has less time now to be a doula, which she admits she misses, but knows that
through her organization and the doulas she’s trained, she still has a hand in the healthy births of many

1. How would you describe Kamiah’s leadership traits?
2. Of the six major traits described in the chapter (i.e., intelligence, confidence, charisma,

determination, sociability, and integrity), which traits are Kamiah’s strongest?
3. Of these traits, which do you think is naturally strong for Kamiah, and which did she learn?
4. What different traits did Kamiah exhibit in her ability to get others to support her, such as the

executive director of the YWCA? The grandmothers in the neighborhood? The groups where the
audiences were mostly white?

2.2 Case Study—The Three Bs
The three Bs are three recent college graduates at the precipice of their careers. Having each
completed their education from prestigious American universities, all three are destined to become
important and influential leaders. Following is a snapshot of the lives of each of these future leaders at
the time of their college graduation. As you read through each person’s biography, pay particular
attention to the traits and characteristics of these graduates, noticing which will serve them as they
mature into the leaders they become.


B1 grew up in a rural, Southern state and, at a young age, knew his path lay in politics. Influenced by
John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr., B1 would later admit, “Sometime in my sixteenth year, I
decided I wanted to be in public life as an elected official. I loved music and thought I could be very
good, but I knew I would never be John Coltrane or Stan Getz. I was interested in medicine and thought
I could be a fine doctor, but I knew I would never be Michael DeBakey. But I knew I could be great in
public service. I thought I could make it without family wealth, or connections, or establishment southern
positions on race and other issues.”1

B1 was born to a widowed mother and never knew his father. His early years were influenced greatly by
the two strong women in his life: his mother and his grandmother. His mother was fun loving and
vivacious, leaving her young son in his grandparents’ care while she studied nursing in a neighboring
state. His grandmother, by contrast, was a strong-willed disciplinarian, instilling in B1 a lifelong love of
reading. When B1 was 4, his mother married the man who would become his stepfather, a local car
dealer and an abusive alcoholic. B1 often intervened in the violent arguments that broke out in his home
and protected the secrets of his home life as the children of alcoholics often do. He was 15 when his
mother ended the marriage.

B1 attended Catholic schools and, later, a local public high school. The high school was segregated, a
dogma B1 had difficulty accepting. Charming, handsome, and intelligent, he was an active student
leader and musician, playing the saxophone and winning first chair in the state band. Highly interested
in politics, he participated in both Boys State and Boys Nation, which provided him the opportunity to
meet his idol, President Kennedy.

B1 was mentored by his high school principal, a woman known for her commitment to “produce leaders
who thought of personal success in terms of public service”2 and who recognized B1 as a “young man
of rare talent and ambition.”3 It was in the halls of his high school that B1 found his passion for law,
informing his Latin teacher of his intent to study law after a mock trial exercise for her class.

Following high school, B1 attended Georgetown University, which he financed through scholarships and
part-time jobs. He was a member of Phi Beta Kappa (the prestigious academic honor society), an
honorary band fraternity, and a service fraternity. B1 was elected class president twice and interned and
clerked for the senator from his home state.

Following his graduation with a degree in foreign service, B1 won a prestigious Rhodes Scholarship to
University College, Oxford, England, but left Oxford after a year to study law at Yale University.


B2 was the eldest child of a prestigious and wealthy family. His father and grandfather were prominent
U.S. political leaders, and his mother the daughter of a successful publisher. B2’s ancestry traced
directly to the American colonists.

The death of his 3-year-old sister when B2 was 7 devastated his family. Left an only child for a time, he
brought consolation to his mother through his humor, playfulness, and good cheer, a role he often relied
upon as he matured into adulthood.

After attending a prestigious prep school from seventh through ninth grade, B2 was accepted to Phillips
Academy, a highly selective boarding school in Andover, Massachusetts. It was the same school both
his father and grandfather had attended, but unlike his father, B2 was not an academic or athletic
standout. He was very active and social, however, playing baseball and serving as head cheerleader,
standing out among his classmates for his humor and antics.

B2 went on to Yale University, where he was admitted under the university’s “legacy” policies that gave
preferential treatment to children of alumni. Both B2’s father and grandfather were Yale graduates.

While at Yale, B2 was an active fraternity member (serving as president his senior year), cheerleader,
and member of the rugby team. He was also a member of Skull and Bones, an undergraduate secret
society of which his father had also been a member. The secretive Skull and Bones is known for its
prominent alumni and has often been the subject of conspiracy theories.

A self-proclaimed “average” student, B2 received a bachelor’s degree in history with a C grade point
average. Nevertheless, he was accepted by Harvard University’s prestigious MBA program after serving
a two-year commission in the Air National Guard. In the Air Guard, B2 was selected to serve as a pilot,
despite low pilot aptitude tests and irregular attendance to air training. He was honorably discharged
prior to attending Harvard.

Harvard classmates and professors remember B2 as having “a relaxed attitude and an unusual
confidence that stood out even in a class of some of America’s most confident.”4 Though an average
student, B2 was described as a “quick study—not a very deep thinker, but an efficient one . . . more of a
listener than a participant.”5 With a ready sense of humor, B2 stood out in team-based activities and
was often chosen to lead. B2 completed his MBA, calling it “a turning point” that taught him “the
principles of capital, how it is accumulated, risked, spent, managed.”6


B3’s parents met and married while attending college. B3 was born six months later to his Kenyan father
and white American mother. When B3 was 2 years old, his father (after receiving his graduate degree at
Harvard University) abandoned the family and returned to his home. B3 would see his father only once
more before his father’s sudden death when B3 was 21.

His mother subsequently remarried and moved B3 to Indonesia when he was 6. Though not religious,
his family sent B3 to a Catholic school as well as a public school in a predominantly Muslim country,
contributing to what the young biracial boy would later recall as “the multiplicity of cultures which fed
me.”7 B3 became fluent in Indonesian and was known as a schoolyard peacemaker, acting as a
mediator for his classmates’ conflicts. His third-grade teacher remembered him as a boy who liked to be
in charge and who wanted to be the best, though she admitted he would cede his place willingly if asked
to do so.

When he was 10, his mother, concerned for his education, sent him back to the United States to live
with his grandparents and attend Hawaii’s elite, private Punahou School. B3 was a good but not
outstanding student. Popular and athletic, he was a member of the varsity basketball team.

Despite the racial diversity of Hawaii, B3 struggled with his racial identity. Though he had loving role
models in his grandfather and stepfather and a multicultural upbringing, the young man had to resolve
his own identity as a biracial man in America. In the absence of a father who could have provided much-
needed guidance, B3 was left mostly on his own to figure things out for himself. “At some level I had to
raise myself . . . if I think about how I have been able to navigate some pretty tricky situations in my life,
it has to do with the fact that I had to learn to trust my own judgment; I had to learn to fight for what I

Perhaps sensing his teenage grandson’s struggle, B3’s grandfather connected him with Frank Marshall
Davis, a leading Black activist and writer. Davis introduced the young man, who was already an avid
reader, to the world of Black literature and activism.

After graduating from high school, B3 moved to Los Angeles to attend Occidental College, transferring
in his junior year to Columbia University in New York City. His college classmates described him as
endearing and likable with a proclivity toward multiracial social circles and an ability to move easily
between different groups. Deeply interested in political and international affairs, he graduated from
Columbia with a bachelor’s degree in political science.

Desiring to work as a community organizer, he applied unsuccessfully to several organizations.
Frustrated and laden with student debt, he accepted a position with a global business consulting
company. Appreciated for his intelligence and self-assurance, B3 was well liked by his supervisors and
colleagues. He was described as a bit reserved, as if he was simply biding his time until he could pursue
his true passions. The opportunity came when he was offered a job as an organizer for the New York
Public Interest Research Group, where he worked to mobilize college students on a variety of city issues
from rebuilding public transportation to increasing recycling efforts.

After two years, B3 was ready to leave New York and pursue causes that were important to him, and he
accepted a job as a community organizer in Chicago’s largely poor and Black South Side. His first
assignment was to organize the community’s low-income residents and pressure the city government to
improve conditions in the crumbling housing projects. His efforts met with some success, but he soon
came to the conclusion that to be truly effective he would need a law degree.

B3 attended Harvard Law School, excelling as a student and graduating magna cum laude. Reflecting
on his choice to go to Harvard, B3 explained, “One of the luxuries of going to Harvard Law School is it
means you can take risks in your life. You can try to do things to improve society and still land on your
feet. That’s what a Harvard education should buy—enough confidence and security to pursue your
dreams and give something back.”9

He was elected president of the prestigious Harvard Law Review, the first African American ever to do
so. A liberal, B3 won the election by persuading the journal’s primarily conservative staffers that he
would treat their views fairly, a promise he kept. Shortly after, when one of his professors approached
B3 with an opportunity to clerk for a Supreme Court justice, B3 politely declined, explaining his desire to
go back to Chicago to complete the work he had been doing and run for elected office.

His election to the Law Review garnered widespread media attention and resulted in a contract from a
major publisher to write a book on race relations for which he was able to use the proceeds to help pay
off his student loans.


Before the identities of these future leaders are revealed, complete Question 1.

1. Rank the strength of each person (on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 as high) for each leadership trait
listed. Use the “explanation” column to support your ranking.



























B1, B2, and B3 all became influential world leaders, serving as consecutive U.S presidents. You
may recognize them as President Bill Clinton (B1), President George W. Bush (B2), and President
Barack Obama (B3).

2. The chapter strongly implies that leadership is about traits—people become leaders because of
their traits. In light of what you know about these men and their presidencies, do you feel the traits
approach adequately captures the essence of their leadership? Does nurturance play an equal or
more important role? Why or why not?

3. Of all the traits exhibited by these three leaders, what one trait would you like to have for yourself?
Explain why.

1. Clinton, W. J. (2004). My life. New York, NY: Knopf.

2. Riley, R. L. (n.d.). Bill Clinton: Life before the presidency. Miller Center, University of Virginia.
Retrieved from

3. Ibid.

4. Solomon, J. (2000, June 18). Bush, Harvard Business School and the makings of a president. The
New York Times. Retrieved from

5. Ibid.

6. Ibid.

7. Nelson, M. (n.d.). Barack Obama: Life before the presidency. Miller Center, University of Virginia.
Retrieved from

8. Meacham, J. (2008, August 22). What Barack Obama learned from his father. Newsweek. Retrieved

9. The Editors of Life Magazine. (2008). The American journey of Barack Obama. New York, NY: Little,

2.3 Leadership Traits Questionnaire


1. To gain an understanding of how traits are used in leadership assessment
2. To obtain an assessment of your own leadership traits


1. Make five copies of this questionnaire. It should be completed by you and five people you know
(e.g., roommates, coworkers, relatives, friends).

2. Using the following scale, have each individual indicate the degree to which they agree or disagree
with each of the 14 statements regarding your leadership traits. Do not forget to complete this
exercise for yourself.

3. ______________________________ (your name) is

Statements Strongly
disagree Disagree Neutral Agree Strongly


1. Articulate: Communicates effectively
with others

1 2 3 4 5

2. Perceptive: Is discerning and insightful 1 2 3 4 5

3. Self-confident: Believes in oneself and
one’s ability

1 2 3 4 5

4. Self-assured: Is secure with self, free of

1 2 3 4 5

5. Persistent: Stays fixed on the goals,
despite interference

1 2 3 4 5

Statements Strongly
disagree Disagree Neutral Agree Strongly


6. Determined: Takes a firm stand, acts
with certainty

1 2 3 4 5

7. Trustworthy: Is authentic, inspires

1 2 3 4 5

8. Dependable: Is consistent and reliable 1 2 3 4 5

9. Friendly: Shows kindness and warmth 1 2 3 4 5

10. Outgoing: Talks freely, gets along well
with others

1 2 3 4 5

11. Conscientious: Is thorough, organized,
and careful

1 2 3 4 5

12. Diligent: Is industrious, hardworking 1 2 3 4 5

13. Sensitive: Shows tolerance, is tactful
and sympathetic

1 2 3 4 5

14. Empathic: Understands others,
identifies with others

1 2 3 4 5


1. Enter the responses for Raters 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 in the appropriate columns on the scoring sheet on
this page. An example of a completed chart is provided on pages 50–51.

2. For each of the 14 items, compute the average for the five raters and place that number in the
“average rating” column.

3. Place your own scores in the “self-rating” column.

Leadership Traits Questionnaire Chart

Rater 1 Rater 2 Rater 3 Rater 4 Rater 5 Average rating Self-rating

1. Articulate

2. Perceptive

3. Self-confident

4. Self-assured

5. Persistent

6. Determined

7. Trustworthy

8. Dependable

9. Friendly

Rater 1 Rater 2 Rater 3 Rater 4 Rater 5 Average rating Self-rating

10. Outgoing

11. Conscientious

12. Diligent

13. Sensitive

14. Empathic

Summary and interpretation:

Scoring Interpretation

The scores you received on this questionnaire provide information about how you see yourself and how
others see you as a leader. The chart allows you to see where your perceptions are the same as those
of others and where they differ. There are no “perfect” scores for this questionnaire. The purpose of the
instrument is to provide a way to assess your strengths and weaknesses and to evaluate areas where
your perceptions are similar to or different from those of others. While it is confirming when others see
you in the same way as you see yourself, it is also beneficial to know when they see you differently. This
assessment can help you understand your assets as well as areas in which you may seek to improve.

Example Leadership Traits Questionnaire Ratings

Rater 1 Rater 2 Rater 3 Rater 4 Rater 5 Average rating Self-rating Rater 1 Rater 2 Rater 3 Rater 4 Rater 5 Average rating Self-rating

1. Articulate 4 4 3 2 4 3.4 4

2. Perceptive 2 5 3 4 4 3.6 5

3. Self-confident 4 4 5 5 4 4.4 4

4. Self-assured 5 5 5 5 5 5 5

5. Persistent 4 4 3 3 3 3.4 3

6. Determined 4 4 4 4 4 4 4

7. Trustworthy 5 5 5 5 5 5 5

8. Dependable 4 5 4 5 4 4.4 4

9. Friendly 5 5 5 5 5 5 5

10. Outgoing 5 4 5 4 5 4.6 4

11. Conscientious 2 3 2 3 3 2.6 4

12. Diligent 3 3 3 3 3 3 4

13. Sensitive 4 4 5 5 5 4.6 3

14. Empathic 5 5 4 5 4 4.6 3

Summary and interpretation: The scorer’s self-ratings are higher than the average ratings of others on articulate, perceptive,
conscientious, and diligent. The scorer’s self-ratings are lower than the average ratings of others on self-confident, persistent,
dependable, outgoing, sensitive, and empathic. The scorer’s self-ratings on self-assured, determined, trustworthy, and friendly are the
same as the average ratings of others.

2.4 Observational Exercise

Leadership Traits

1. To gain an understanding of the role of traits in the leadership process
2. To examine the traits of selected historical and everyday leaders


1. Based on the descriptions of the historical leaders provided in the chapter, identify the three major
leadership traits for each of the leaders listed as follows.

2. Select and briefly describe two leaders in your own life (e.g., work supervisor, teacher, coach, music
director, business owner, community leader). Identify the three major leadership traits of each of
these leaders.

Historical leaders The leader’s three major traits

Harriet Tubman 1. ________________ 2. ________________ 3. ________________

Winston Churchill 1. ________________ 2. ________________ 3. ________________

Mother Teresa 1. ________________ 2. ________________ 3. ________________

Bill Gates 1. ________________ 2. ________________ 3. ________________

Oprah Winfrey 1. ________________ 2. ________________ 3. ________________

LeBron James 1. ________________ 2. ________________ 3. ________________

Everyday leaders

Leader 1

Brief description



Traits 1.________________ 2. ________________ 3. ________________

Leader 2

Brief description



Traits 1.________________ 2. ________________ 3. ________________


1. Based on the leaders you observed, which leadership traits appear to be most important?
2. What differences, if any, did you observe between the historical and everyday leaders’ traits?
3. Based on your observations, what one trait would you identify as the definitive leadership trait?
4. Overall, what traits do you think should be used in selecting our society’s leaders?

2.5 Reflection and Action Worksheet

Leadership Traits

1. Based on the scores you received on the Leadership Traits Questionnaire, what are your strongest

leadership traits? What are your weakest traits? Discuss.
2. In this chapter, we discussed six leadership figures. As you read about these leaders, which leaders

did you find most appealing? What was it about their leadership that you found remarkable?

3. As you reflect on your own leadership traits, do you think some of them are more “you” and
authentic than others? Have you always been the kind of leader you are today, or have your traits
changed over time? Are you a stronger leader today than you were five years ago? Discuss.

1. If you could model yourself after one or more of the historical leaders we discussed in this chapter,

whom would you model yourself after? Identify two of this leader’s traits that you could and should
incorporate into your own style of leadership.

2. Although changing leadership traits is not easy, which of your leadership traits would you like to
change? Specifically, what actions do you need to take to change your traits?

3. All of us have problematic traits that inhibit our leadership but are difficult to change. Which single
trait distracts from your leadership? Since you cannot easily change this trait, what actions can you
take to “work around” this trait? Discuss.

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What is your style of leadership? Are you an in-charge type of leader who closely monitors followers? Or
are you a laid-back type of leader who gives followers a lot of rein? Whether you are one or the other or
somewhere in between, it is important to recognize your personal style of leadership. This style affects
how others respond to you, how they respond to their work, and, in the end, how effective you are as a

In this chapter, we will discuss how a person’s view of people, work, and human nature forms a personal
philosophy and style of leadership. In addition, this chapter will examine how that philosophy is
demonstrated in three of the most commonly observed styles of personal leadership: the authoritarian,
democratic, and laissez-faire styles. We will discuss the nature of these styles and the implications each
has for effective leadership performance. The information in the chapter will be useful in helping you
determine and develop your own leadership style.

Each of us approaches leadership with a unique set of beliefs and attitudes about the nature of people
and the nature of work. This is the basis for our philosophy of leadership. For example, some think
people are basically good and will happily work if given the chance. Others think people are prone to be
a bit lazy and need to be nudged to complete their work. These beliefs about people and work have a
significant impact on an individual’s leadership style and probably come into play in every aspect of a
person’s leadership.

Do you think people like work, or do you think people find work unpleasant? This was one of the central
questions addressed by Douglas McGregor in his famous book The Human Side of Enterprise (1960).
McGregor believed that managers need to understand their core assumptions about human nature and
assess how these assumptions relate to their managerial practice.

In particular, McGregor was interested in how managers view the motivations of workers and their
attitudes toward work. He believed that understanding these motivations was central to knowing how to
become an effective manager. To explain the ways that managers approach workers, McGregor
proposed two general theories—Theory X and Theory Y. McGregor believed that by exploring the major
assumptions of each of these theories people could develop a better understanding of their own
viewpoints on human behavior and the relationship of these viewpoints to their leadership style. The
following is a description of both theories. As you read, ask yourself if the assumptions of the theory are
consistent or inconsistent with your own attitudes about leadership.

Theory X
Theory X is made up of three assumptions about human nature and human behavior (see Table 3.1).
Taken together, these assumptions represent a philosophy of leadership that many leaders exhibit to
one degree or another.

Assumption 1: The average person dislikes work and will avoid it if

This assumption argues that people do not like work; they view it as unpleasant, distasteful, or simply a
necessary evil. According to this assumption, if given the chance, people would choose not to work. An
example of this assumption is the worker who says, “I only go to work to be P-A-I-D. If I didn’t need to
pay my bills, I would never work.” People with this perspective would avoid work if they could.

Table 3.1 Assumptions of McGregor’s Theory X

McGregor’s Theory X

1. People dislike work.

2. People need to be directed and controlled.

3. People want security, not responsibility.

So what does it mean if a person’s personal leadership philosophy is similar to Theory X? It means
these leaders have a tendency to view workers as lazy and uninterested in work because they do not
value work. As a result, Theory X leaders tend to be directive and controlling. They supervise followers
closely and are quick to both praise and criticize them as they see fit. At times, these leaders remind
workers of their goal (e.g., to be P-A-I-D) or threaten them with punishment to persuade them to
accomplish tasks. As the person in charge, a Theory X leader sees their leadership role as instrumental
in getting the job done. Theory X leaders also believe it is their role to motivate followers because these
workers have little self-motivation. Because of this belief, these leaders take on the responsibility for
their followers’ actions. From the Theory X perspective, it is clear that followers have a need for

Assumption 2: People need to be directed and controlled.

This assumption is derived directly from the first assumption. Since people naturally do not like work,
management needs to set up a system of incentives and rewards regarding work that needs to be
accomplished because workers are often unwilling or unable to motivate themselves. This assumption
says that without external direction and incentives people would be unmotivated to work. An example of
this is the high school teacher who persuades students to hand in homework assignments by
threatening them with bad grades. The teacher forces students to perform because the teacher thinks
that the students are unwilling to do it or incapable of doing it without that force being applied. From the
perspective of Theory X, leaders play a significant role in encouraging others to accomplish their work.

Assumption 3: People want security, not responsibility.

The picture this assumption paints is of workers who want their leaders to take care of them, protect
them, and make them feel safe. Because it is too difficult to set their own goals, workers want
management to do it for them. This can only happen when managers establish the guidelines for
workers. An example of this assumption can be observed on a sorting line for an orchard, where the
employees only have to focus on completing the specific tasks set before them (e.g., picking out bad

fruit, filling boxes with fruit) and are not required to take initiative for decisions on their own. In general,
because of the pace and repetitiveness of the work, the sorters are not required to accept many
challenging responsibilities. Instead, they are told what to do, and how and when to do it.

Theory Y
Like Theory X, Theory Y is based on several specific assumptions about human nature and behavior
(see Table 3.2). Taken together, the assumptions of Theory Y present a distinctly different perspective
from the ideas set forth in Theory X. It is a perspective that can be observed to a degree in many
leaders today.

Table 3.2 Assumptions of McGregor’s Theory Y

McGregor’s Theory Y

1. People like work.

2. People are self-motivated.

3. People accept and seek responsibility.

Assumption 1: The average person does not inherently dislike work. Doing
work is as natural as play.

Rather than viewing work as a burden or bad, this assumption suggests people see work as satisfying
and not as a punishment. It is a natural activity for them. In fact, given the chance, people are happy to
work. An example of this can be seen in what former president Jimmy Carter has done in his retirement.
He has devoted much of his time and energy to constructing homes throughout the United States and
around the world with Habitat for Humanity. Certainly, the former president does not need to work: He
does so because work is natural for him. All his life, Carter has been used to making a contribution to
the well-being of others. Working with Habitat for Humanity is another opportunity for him to contribute.
Some people view work as a natural part of their lives.

Assumption 2: People will show responsibility and self-control toward
goals to which they are committed.

As opposed to Theory X, which suggests that people need to be supervised and controlled, Theory Y
suggests that people can and will make a conscious choice to work on their own.

People can be committed to the objectives of their work. Consider some examples from the sports
world. Successful athletes are often highly committed to their goals and usually do not need to be
controlled or supervised closely. Coaches design training plans for these athletes, but the athletes do
the work themselves. A successful long-distance runner does not need to be pushed to run 60 training

miles a week in preparation for a marathon because the runner is already motivated to run long
distances. Similarly, an Olympic swimmer does not need to be forced to do daily 3-mile pool workouts at
5:00 a.m. because the swimmer chooses to do this independently of any coach’s urging. These athletes
are self-directed because they are committed to their goals. This is the point of Theory Y. When people
can find commitment in their work, they will work without needing leaders to motivate or cajole them. Put
another way, when people have a passion for their work, they will do it even without outside direction.

Assumption 3: In the proper environment, the average person learns to
accept and seek responsibility.

While Theory X argues that people lack ambition, prefer to be directed, and want security, Theory Y
assumes that the average person is inherently resourceful and, if given the chance, will seek to take
responsibility. If given the chance, people have the capacity to engage in a wide range of goal-setting
and creative problem-solving activities. Theory Y argues that, given the opportunity, people will act
independently and be productive.

For example, two university students working in the main stacks section of the library were required to
complete a checklist whenever they worked to be sure that they correctly carried out various sorting and
shelving activities. The checklist was long, cumbersome, and repetitious, however. Frustrated by the
checklist, the students took it upon themselves to design an entirely new, streamlined checklist. The new
checklist for sorting and shelving was very clear and concise, and was playful in appearance. After
reviewing the checklist and giving it a short trial period, management at the library adopted the new
checklist and required that it be implemented throughout the entire library. In this example, library
management provided an environment where students felt comfortable suggesting a rather major
change in how their work was to be completed. In addition, management was willing to accept and
adopt a student-initiated work change. It is not unrealistic to imagine that these students will be more
confident initiating ideas or taking on new challenges in other work settings in the future.

So if a leader’s philosophy of leadership is similar to Theory Y, what does it mean? It means that the
leader views people as capable and interested in working. Even though Theory Y leaders may define
work requirements, they do not try to control workers. To these leaders, followers are not lazy; on the
contrary, they naturally want to work. In addition, these leaders do not think they need to try to motivate
followers or make them work since workers are capable of motivating themselves. Using coercion or
external reinforcement schemes is not a part of their leadership repertoire. Theory Y leaders are very
attuned to helping followers find their passion for what they want to do. These leaders know that when
followers are committed to their work, they are more motivated to do the job. Allowing followers to seek
and accept responsibilities on their own comes easily for Theory Y leaders. In short, Theory Y
leadership means supporting followers without the need to direct or control them.

In the late 1970s and 1980s, a new leadership theory tangentially related to Theory X and Theory Y was
developed by William Ouchi (1981). Ouchi contrasted the collectivistic culture of Japanese companies—
which had begun to dominate markets, especially in automobiles and electronics—with the individualism
stressed in American organizations and developed an approach that was a hybrid of the two called
Theory Z. A Theory Z organization is one that emphasizes common cultural values, beliefs, and
objectives among its members with a focus on communication, collaboration, and consensual decision
making. At the same time, some of the individualistic values of American organizations are also
incorporated. Theory Z organizations still maintain formal authority structures and an emphasis on
individual contributions and recognizing individual achievements. However, the individual decision
making of the leader that is found in both Theory X and Theory Y is not a characteristic of a Theory Z

In summary, all of us maintain certain basic beliefs and assumptions about human nature and work that
form our leadership philosophy. The next section discusses how that philosophy impacts your behaviors
as a leader, or your leadership style. Whether a person’s philosophy is similar to Theory X or similar to

Theory Y, it affects their style of leadership. The challenge is to understand the philosophical
underpinnings of your own leadership style.

What behaviors do you exhibit as a leader? Do you like to be in control and keep up on the activities of
your followers? Or do you believe in a more hands-off approach in leading others, letting them make
decisions on their own?

Whatever your behaviors are as a leader, they are indicative of your leadership style. Leadership style
is defined as the behaviors of leaders, focusing on what leaders do and how they act. This includes
leaders’ actions toward followers in a variety of contexts. As noted in the previous section, your
leadership style is driven by your personal leadership philosophy. In the following section, we discuss
the most commonly observed leadership styles associated with Theory X and Theory Y: authoritarian,
democratic, and laissez-faire. While none of these styles emerges directly from Theory X or Theory Y,
the authoritarian and democratic styles closely mirror the ideas set forth in these theories, respectively.

The primary work on styles of leadership was by Lewin, Lippitt, and White (1939), who analyzed the
impact of various leadership styles on small group behavior. Using groups of 10-year-old boys who met
after school to engage in hobby activities, the researchers analyzed what happened when their adult
leaders used one of three styles: authoritarian, democratic, or laissez-faire. The groups of boys
experienced each of the three styles of leadership for a six-week period.

The outcome of the study by Lewin and colleagues was a detailed description of the nature of the
leadership behaviors used for each of the three styles (White & Lippitt, 1968). They also described the
impact each of these three styles had on group members.

The following sections describe and elaborate on their findings and the implications of using each of
these leadership styles. Be aware that these styles are not distinct entities (e.g., like personality traits).
They overlap each other. That is, a leader can demonstrate more than one style in any given situation.
For example, a leader may be authoritarian about some issues and democratic about others, or a leader
may be authoritarian at some points during a project and democratic at others. As leaders, we may
display aspects of all of these styles.

Authoritarian Leadership Style
In many ways, the authoritarian leadership style is very similar to Theory X. For example,
authoritarian leaders perceive followers as needing direction. The authoritarian leader needs to control
followers and what they do. Authoritarian leaders emphasize that they are in charge, exerting influence
and control over group members. They determine tasks and procedures for group members but may
remain aloof from participating in group discussions. Authoritarian leaders do not encourage
communication among group members; instead, they prefer that communication be directed to them. In
evaluating others, authoritarian leaders give praise and criticism freely, but it is given based on their own
personal standards rather than based on objective criticism.

Recent research on authoritarian leadership distinguishes between autocratic leadership, where
authority and power are concentrated in the leader; authoritarian leadership, which uses a domineering
style that generally has negative outcomes (House, 1996); and authoritarian followership, which is the
psychological mindset of people who seek powerful leaders (Harms, Wood, Landay, Lester, &
Vogelsang Lester, 2018). There is also evidence that situational and personality factors can make
authoritarian leadership more likely, including uncertain or negative circumstances where strong
leadership is perceived to be a solution to problems, such as when a group is performing poorly, under
time pressure, or facing an external threat (Harms et al., 2018).

Some have argued that authoritarian leadership represents a rather pessimistic, negative, and
discouraging view of others. For example, an authoritarian leader might say something like “Because my
workers are lazy, I need to tell them what to do.” Or, “My job is to motivate the workers because they
tend to lose interest in their tasks.”

Others would argue that authoritarian leadership is a much-needed form of leadership—it serves a
positive purpose, particularly for people who seek security above responsibility. In many contexts,
authoritarian leadership is used to give direction, set goals, and structure work. For example, when
employees are just learning a new job, authoritarian leadership lets them know the rules and standards
for what they are supposed to do. Authoritarian leaders are very efficient and successful in motivating
others to accomplish work. In these contexts, authoritarian leadership is very useful.

What are the outcomes of authoritarian leadership? Authoritarian leadership has both pluses and
minuses. On the positive side, it is efficient and productive. Authoritarian leaders give direction and
clarity to people’s work and accomplish more in a shorter period. Furthermore, authoritarian leadership
is useful in establishing goals and work standards. On the negative side, it fosters dependence,
submissiveness, and a loss of individuality. The creativity and personal growth of followers may be
hindered. It is possible that, over time, followers will lose interest in what they are doing and become
dissatisfied with their work. If that occurs, authoritarian leadership can create discontent, hostility, and
even aggression.

In addition, authoritarian leadership can become abusive leadership, where these leaders use their
influence, power, and control for their personal interests or to coerce followers to engage in unethical or
immoral activities. For example, a coach who withholds playing time from athletes who openly disagree
with his play calls or a boss who requires salaried employees to work up to 20 hours of overtime each
week or “be replaced with someone who will” are both examples of the dark side of authoritarian
leadership. Historically, we have seen how authoritarian leaders such as Benito Mussolini and Adolf
Hitler took advantage of susceptible followers by projecting power, conviction, and control during
unstable political times and getting people to go along with their violent schemes.

While the negative aspects of authoritarian leadership appear to outweigh the positive, it is not difficult to
imagine contexts where authoritarian leadership would be the preferred style of leadership. For
example, in a busy hospital emergency room, it may be very appropriate for the leader in charge of
triaging patients to be authoritarian with various types of emergencies. The same could be true in other
contexts, such as the chaperone of a middle school canoe trip, who for the sake of student safety needs
to establish and enforce clear rules for conduct.

In the 2004 film Miracle, based on the 1980 U.S. men’s Olympic hockey team’s experience, coach Herb
Brooks uses an authoritarian style of leadership to prepare his college-age athletes to face the heavily
favored Soviet team. Brooks is aggressive and demanding, pushing his players to become more fit and
do extra workouts and benching them when they don’t give their best. At first, they don’t like Brooks or
his coaching method, but under his direction, the team develops confidence and a sense of unity that
enables the players to perform at their peak and win the gold medal.

Despite the negatives of authoritarian leadership, this form of leadership is common and necessary in
many situations.

Democratic Leadership Style
The democratic leadership style strongly resembles the assumptions of Theory Y. Democratic leaders
treat followers as fully capable of doing work on their own. Rather than controlling followers, democratic
leaders work with followers, trying hard to treat everyone fairly without putting themselves above
followers. In essence, they see themselves as guides rather than as directors. They give suggestions to
others, but never with any intention of changing them. Helping each follower reach personal goals is
important to a democratic leader. Democratic leaders do not use “top-down” communication; instead,
they speak on the same level as their followers. Making sure everyone is heard is a priority. They listen

to followers in supportive ways and assist them in becoming self-directed. In addition, they promote
communication between group members and in certain situations are careful to draw out the less-
articulate members of the group. Democratic leaders provide information, guidance, and suggestions,
but do so without giving orders and without applying pressure. In their evaluations of followers,
democratic leaders give objective praise and criticism.

The outcomes of democratic leadership are mostly positive. First, democratic leadership results in
greater group member satisfaction, commitment, and cohesiveness. Second, under democratic
leadership there is more friendliness, mutual praise, and group mindedness. Followers tend to get along
with each other and willingly participate in matters of the group, making more “we” statements and fewer
“I” statements. Third, democratic leadership results in stronger worker motivation and greater creativity.
People are motivated to pursue their own talents under the supportive structure of democratic
leadership. Finally, under a democratic leader group members participate more and are more committed
to group decisions. A democratic leadership style is effective for U.S. presidents who appoint highly
qualified individuals to their cabinet, each of whom has great responsibility for running their respective
government departments. While the president has the final responsibility for making decisions, in
cabinet meetings the members can share the newest information, debate policy, brainstorm different
scenarios, and make better recommendations together. Abraham Lincoln was a U.S. president known
for actively listening to his cabinet members and inviting different viewpoints. At the same time, however,
he exhibited autocratic leadership in some decision making while leading the country through the Civil

The downside of democratic leadership is that it takes more time and commitment from the leader. Work
is accomplished, but not as efficiently as if the leader were authoritarian. For example, running staff
meetings has sometimes been likened to “herding cats,” because people aren’t always controllable; they
have their own ideas and opinions and want to voice them, and consensus isn’t guaranteed.

Laissez-Faire Leadership Style
The laissez-faire leadership style is dissimilar to both Theory X and Theory Y. Laissez-faire leaders do
not try to control followers as Theory X leaders do, and they do not try to nurture and guide followers as
Theory Y leaders do. Laissez-faire stands alone as a style of leadership; some have labeled it
nonleadership. The laissez-faire leader is a nominal leader who engages in minimal influence. As the
French phrase implies, laissez-faire leadership means the leader takes a “hands-off, let it ride” attitude
toward followers. These leaders recognize followers but are very laid back and make no attempt to
influence their activities. Under laissez-faire leadership, followers have freedom to do pretty much what
they want to do whenever they want to do it. Laissez-faire leaders make no attempt to appraise or
regulate the progress of followers, which may be due to various reasons, including disinterest,
reluctance to take a stand, or limited positional authority. For example, an interim coach, church pastor,
or college president may be hired to occupy a short-term role until a full-time replacement is found. The
interim may not be expected or empowered to initiate changes or restructure the organization and
mainly functions as a stabilizing presence and a “placeholder” for the eventual organizational leader.

Given that laissez-faire leadership involves nominal influence, what are the effects of laissez-faire
leadership? Laissez-faire leadership tends to produce primarily negative outcomes. The major effect is
that very little is accomplished under a laissez-faire leader. Because people are directionless and at a
loss to know what to do, they tend to do nothing. In the earlier example, if an interim leader is in a
position too long and takes no action on important issues facing an organization, followers may get
frustrated. Without a sense of purpose and direction, group members have difficulty finding meaning in
their work; they become unmotivated and disheartened.

Giving complete freedom can also result in an atmosphere that most followers find chaotic. Followers
prefer some direction; left completely on their own, they become frustrated. As a result, productivity
goes down.

Sometimes, however, the lack of leadership from above can result in frustration that spurs followers to
act and create positive outcomes. An example of this would be the student survivors of the shootings at
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in 2018, who organized a protest
movement against gun violence: “March for Our Lives.” On their website, they issued the call that “[n]ow
is the time for the youth vote to stand up to the gun lobby when no one else will” (March for Our Lives,
2019a). The group’s mission statement explains, “As a nation, we continue to witness tragedy after
tragedy, yet our politicians remain complacent. The Parkland students, along with young leaders of all
backgrounds from across the country, refuse to accept this passivity and demand direct action to
combat this epidemic” (Book Report Network, 2019). The group has galvanized youth and others across
the country to work to facilitate change through efforts aimed at encouraging voter registration, calling
on local leaders around the country to commit to change, and advocating for gun violence prevention
through new policies (March for Our Lives, 2019b).

In addition, people who are self-starters, who excel at individualized tasks and don’t require ongoing
feedback, may prefer working under laissez-faire leaders. It gives them the freedom to be themselves.

For example, Angela is the president of a website development company who uses independent
contractors from across the globe. In certain respects, you could describe her leadership style as
laissez-faire. The programmers who develop the websites’ code are in Poland, the designer is in India,
the content writer is in the United Kingdom, and Angela is in the United States. When developing a site,
Angela maps out and communicates the basic framework for the website and then relies on all of the
individual contractors to determine the tasks they need to do for the site’s development. Because their
tasks can be dependent on another’s—for example, the designer needs the programmers to write the
code to make the page display graphics and images in a certain way—they do communicate with one
another, but because of time zone differences, this is mostly done by email. As their leader, Angela is
kept apprised of issues and developments through an electronic project management system they
share, but because all of the contractors are experts at what they do and trust the other team members
to do what they do best, she lets them problem-solve issues and concerns with one another and rarely
gets involved.

While there are a few situations where laissez-faire leadership is effective, in a majority of situations, it
proves to be unsuccessful and unproductive.

Leadership Snapshot:

Victoria Ransom, Chief Executive, Wildfire

© Bloomberg/Contributor/Bloomberg/Getty Images

“I don’t believe in hierarchy or creating hierarchy. I believe in earning respect.”

That comes from Victoria Ransom, cofounder of social media software company Wildfire
Interactive, which grew from an idea to a company with 400 employees and 21,000 clients. The
company, which Ransom cofounded with Alain Chuard in 2008, helps companies reach
customers over social networks, and was acquired in 2012 by Google for $350 million.

Wildfire’s success is largely due to the leadership style and philosophy of Ransom, who served
as the company’s chief executive. Ransom grew up in Scotts Ferry, a rural village in New
Zealand where her father was an asparagus farmer and her mother was an office manager for a
farming equipment company. Ransom worked in the fields, and it was there that she learned the
values of hard work, leading by example, and humility that she brought to Wildfire.

Wildfire was actually an afterthought, created to solve a problem that Ransom and Chuard had
encountered in running the first company they had formed, Access Trips. Access Trips was an
adventure travel company that took small groups of travelers, ages 20–45, to remote
destinations, and Ransom and Chuard were looking for a way to promote Access Trips online by
giving away a trip on Facebook. They discovered, however, that no software existed to do what
they wanted, so they developed their own software to design sweepstakes, contests, or other
promotions that could run on Facebook.

The software, and Wildfire, was profitable within a year. Clients soon ranged from two-person
catering businesses to Sony and Unilever (Coster, 2012).

The company grew very quickly, which put Ransom’s values-based culture to the test.

“I’ve learned as the company grows, you’re only as good as the leaders you have underneath
you,” she says. “You might think that because you’re projecting our values, then the rest of the
company is experiencing the values. . . . [D]irect supervisors become the most important
influence on people in the company. Therefore, a big part of leading becomes your ability to pick
and guide the right people” (Bryant, 2013).

In order to find those right people, it was critical that Wildfire spell out its values and company
culture to employees from the outset. To do so, Ransom and Chuard identified what they valued
in the people at Wildfire and then met with all the employees in small groups to get their
feedback on these values. What resulted was a list of values that the company instilled and

demonstrated: passion, team player, humility, and integrity. Also on the list were having the
courage to speak up and curiosity.

“We really encourage people to constantly question, to stay on top of what’s happening in our
industry, to learn what other people in the company are doing. The hope was to break down
these walls of ‘them versus us,’” Ransom says (Bryant, 2013).

Ransom says a final value they identified was to “do good, and do right by each other” (Bryant,

The values a company purports to have, however, are not so readily maintained. Values and
culture have to be universally embraced, or they will crumble.

“I think the best way to undermine a company’s values is to put people in leadership positions
who are not adhering to the values,” Ransom says, noting that others begin to lose faith in the
values “until you take action and move those people out, and then everyone gets faith in the
values again” (Bryant, 2013).

Ransom says one way the company showed its values was when it would let employees go who
didn’t live up to the values. Making these hard decisions about people, even if they were good
performers, showed employees that “yeah, this company actually puts its money where its mouth
is” (Bryant, 2013).

Each leader has a unique style of leadership. Some are very demanding and assertive while others are
more open and participative. Similarly, some leaders could be called micromanagers, while others could
be labeled nondirective leaders. Whatever the case, it is useful and instructive to characterize your
leadership regarding the degree to which you are authoritarian, democratic, or laissez-faire.

It is important to note that these styles of leadership are not distinct entities; it is best to think of them as
occurring along a continuum, from high leader influence to low leader influence (see Figure 3.1).
Leaders who exhibit higher amounts of influence are more authoritarian. Leaders who show a moderate
amount of influence are democratic. Those who exhibit little to no influence are laissez-faire. Although
we tend to exhibit primarily one style over the others, our personal leadership styles are not fixed and
may vary depending on the circumstances.


Figure 3.1 Styles of Leadership

Consider what your results of the Leadership Styles Questionnaire on pages 73–75 tell you about your
leadership style. What is your main style? Are you most comfortable with authoritarian, democratic, or
laissez-faire leadership? If you are the kind of leader who likes to structure work, likes to lay out the
ground rules for others, likes to closely supervise your followers, thinks it is your responsibility to make
sure followers do their work, wants to be “in charge” or to know what others are doing, and believes
strongly that rewarding and punishing followers is necessary, then you are authoritarian. If you are the

kind of leader who seldom gives orders or ultimatums to followers, instead trying to work with followers
and help them figure out how they want to approach a task or complete their work, then you are
primarily democratic. Helping each follower reach his or her own personal goals is important to a
democratic leader.

In some rare circumstances, you may find you are showing laissez-faire leadership. Although not a
preferred style, it is important to be aware when one is being laissez-faire. Laissez-faire leaders take a
very low profile to leadership. What followers accomplish is up to them. If you believe that your followers
will thrive on complete freedom, then the laissez-faire style may be the right style for you. However, in
most situations, laissez-faire leadership hinders success and productivity.

All of us have a philosophy of leadership that is based on our beliefs about human nature and work.
Some leaders have a philosophy that resembles Theory X: They view workers as unmotivated and
needing direction and control. Others have a philosophy similar to Theory Y: They approach workers as
self-motivated and capable of working independently without strong direct influence from a leader.

Our philosophy of leadership is played out in our style of leadership. There are three commonly
observed styles of leadership: authoritarian, democratic, and laissez-faire. Similar to Theory X,
authoritarian leaders perceive followers as needing direction, so they exert strong influence and control.
Resembling Theory Y, democratic leaders view followers as capable of self-direction, so they provide
counsel and support. Laissez-faire leaders leave followers to function on their own, providing nominal
influence and direction.

Effective leadership demands that we understand our philosophy of leadership and how it forms the
foundations for our style of leadership. This understanding is the first step to becoming a more informed
and competent leader.

Glossary Terms
authoritarian leadership style 62

democratic leadership style 63

laissez-faire leadership style 64

leadership style 61

philosophy of leadership 57

Theory X 58

Theory Y 59

Theory Z 61


3.1 Case Study—Several Different Styles

Vanessa Mills was recently hired to work at a branch of Lakeshore Bank as a personal banker. The
branch is very busy and has a large staff, including three on-site managers. As a new employee,

Vanessa is trying to figure out how to succeed as a personal banker while meeting the expectations of
her three very different managers.

Vanessa is paid a salary, but also receives a commission for activities including opening new accounts
and selling new services to customers such as credit cards, lines of credit, loans, and stock accounts.
Personal bankers are expected to open a certain number of accounts each month and build
relationships with customers by exploring their various banking needs and offering services to meet
those needs.

Marion Woods is one of the managers at Vanessa’s branch. She has worked for Lakeshore Bank for 10
years and prides herself on the success of the branch. Marion openly talks about employees’ progress
in terms of the number of accounts opened or relationships established, and then commends or scolds
people depending on their productivity. Marion stresses to Vanessa the importance of following
procedures and using the scripts that Marion provides to successfully convince customers to open new
accounts or accept new services with the bank.

As a new banker, Vanessa has not opened many accounts and feels very uncertain about her
competence. She is intimidated by Marion, believing that this manager is continually watching and
evaluating her. Several times Marion has publically criticized Vanessa, commenting on her shortcomings
as a personal banker. Vanessa tries hard to get her sales numbers up so she can keep Marion off her

Bruce Dexter, another manager at Vanessa’s branch, has been with Lakeshore Bank for 14 years.
Bruce started out as a teller and worked his way up to branch manager. As a manager, Bruce is
responsible for holding the bank staff’s Monday morning meetings. At these staff meetings, Bruce relays
the current numbers for new accounts as well as the target number for new accounts. He also lists the
number of new relationships the personal bankers have established. After the meetings, Bruce retreats
back into his office where he sits hidden behind his computer monitor. He rarely interacts with others.
Vanessa likes when Bruce retreats into his office because she does not have to worry about having her
performance scrutinized. However, sometimes when Vanessa is trying to help customers with a problem
that falls outside of her banking knowledge, she is stressed because Bruce does not provide her with
any managerial support.

The third manager at the branch is Heather Atwood. Heather just started at Lakeshore Bank within the
last year, but worked for nine years at another bank. Vanessa finds Heather to be very helpful. She often
pops in when Vanessa is with a customer to introduce herself and make sure everything is going well.
Heather also allows Vanessa to listen in when she calls disgruntled customers or customers with
complicated requests, so Vanessa can learn how to manage these types of interactions. Heather trusts
her staff and enjoys seeing them grow, encouraging them by organizing games to see who can open the
most accounts and offering helpful feedback when customer interactions do not go as planned. Vanessa
is grateful for the advice and support she receives from Heather, and looks up to her because she is
competent and kind.

Vanessa is coming up on her three-month review and is very nervous that she might get fired based on
her low sales record and the negative feedback she has received from Bruce and Marion regarding her
performance. Vanessa decides to talk to Heather about her upcoming review and what to expect.
Heather assures Vanessa that she is doing fine and shows promise even if her numbers have not
reached that of a seasoned banker. Still, Vanessa is concerned about Bruce and Marion. She has hardly
had more than two conversations with Bruce and feels intimidated by Marion who, she perceives,
manages by running around barking numbers at people.

1. Based on the assumptions of Theory X and Theory Y, how would you describe each manager’s

philosophy and style of leadership? In what way do the managers’ attitudes about Vanessa affect
their leadership?

2. In this type of customer service setting, which leadership style would be most effective for the bank
to meet its goals? From the bank’s perspective, which (if any) manager exhibits the most
appropriate leadership? Discuss.

3. What advice would you give to each of the managers to enhance their leadership skills within the

4. What do you think Vanessa can do to prepare herself for her three-month review?

3.2 Case Study—Leading the Robotics Team
Anders Dahlgren is the mentor for a high school robotics team that has spent the past three months
designing, building, and programming a robot for competition. The team is composed of 14 boys and
one girl, and the students range from freshmen to seniors. With the first competition in three weeks,
Anders needs to designate a team captain so the team can get used to working under a new leader.
During the competition, the team captain is often called on to make crucial team decisions.

The robotics team is divided into groups: Mechanical, whose members design and build the robot, and
Programming, whose members develop the computer code that tells the robot how to complete its
tasks. During competition, the team captain will have to work with both groups to tweak the robot’s
design and programming on the fly to improve the robot’s performance. It can be a high-pressure job for
any teenager, and with emotions and stress levels of other team members running on high, the captain
will not only need an understanding of both the mechanical and programming aspects, but must also be
able to keep 14 other personalities and egos working toward a common goal.

There are three members of the robotics team that Anders is considering for captain:

• Pria is a junior and the only girl on the team. This is her second year on the team, and she is in the
Programming group. Anders describes her as being very serious and a whiz at coding, and she has
offered some great design ideas. Pria is very organized—after the team’s first meeting of the year, she
developed a schedule with tasks and deadlines and wrote it on the large whiteboard in the workshop so
team members could follow it. Pria doesn’t have a lot of patience with teenage boy shenanigans and will
admonish her group members to “focus, please” whenever she thinks they’ve gotten off task, such as
when they start talking about YouTube videos or music. Pria is very rule-bound and will point out when
team members try to cut corners or haven’t adequately followed instructions or the schedule. Anders
has noticed that when the other programming group members have a problem or obstacle, they defer to
Pria for a solution. He suspects it’s partly because they respect her opinion and partly because they
know she’ll tell them how to fix it regardless. Once, though, when Pria was home sick, Anders overheard
several of the boys from both groups call Pria “bossy” and say she “stressed them out” with her
deadlines and rigidity.

• Justin, a senior, is also in his second year on the team. An upbeat, congenial kid, Justin is a member
of the Mechanical group. He isn’t much for planning, however; he has a tendency to pick up a power
tool and use it before he has actually thought out what he is going to do with it. The other Mechanical
group members call him “MacGyver” because he is great working with his hands and often comes up
with fixes to mechanical problems by just fiddling around with different pieces and parts for an hour or
so. The group members are also pretty forgiving when Justin makes a mistake because his sense of
humor keeps them all laughing and he always finds a way to fix it. Anders notices that the Mechanical
group is the most creative when Justin is at the helm, but that work sessions can devolve into chaos
pretty quickly if Anders doesn’t step in and set parameters and establish goals.

• Jerome, also a member of the Mechanical group, is quiet, respectful, and polite. He is a senior and
has been on the robotics team since his freshman year. He is a veteran of robotics competitions, and
what he has learned over the years has informed a lot of the team’s efforts this year. He is most happy
working on the computer-aided designs for the robot and helping those building it to understand and
follow the plans and schematics. When group members question elements of his design, however, he
will ask, “How do you think we should do it?” He listens to their ideas, and if the other group members
agree, they will implement an idea even when Jerome personally doesn’t think it’ll work. Jerome’s

method of allowing for trial and error often slows down progress; when the group realizes an idea won’t
work, the team members will have to take apart what was built and start over. Anders asked Jerome
why he isn’t more assertive in defending his plans, and Jerome answered, “That’s just not my style. How
do I know I have all the right answers? We are all supposed to be learning, right? And if I insist they do it
my way all the time, how will we learn anything?”


1. How would you describe the individual leadership styles of Pria, Justin, and Jerome?
2. Based on the assumptions of Theory X and Theory Y, how would you describe Pria, Justin, and

Jerome’s individual philosophies of leadership?
3. The robotics team will be asked to compete in a situation that sounds like it will be intense and

stressful. Do you think a democratic leader would be as effective as an authoritarian leader in this

3.3 Leadership Styles Questionnaire


1. To identify your style of leadership
2. To examine how your leadership style relates to other styles of leadership


1. For each of the following statements, circle the number that indicates the degree to which you
agree or disagree.

2. Give your immediate impressions. There are no right or wrong answers.

Statements Strongly
disagree Disagree Neutral Agree Strongly


1. Employees need to be supervised closely, or
they are not likely to do their work.

1 2 3 4 5

2. Employees want to be a part of the decision-
making process.

1 2 3 4 5

3. In complex situations, leaders should let
followers work problems out on their own.

1 2 3 4 5

Statements Strongly
disagree Disagree Neutral Agree Strongly


4. It is fair to say that most employees in the
general population are lazy.

1 2 3 4 5

5. Providing guidance without pressure is the
key to being a good leader.

1 2 3 4 5

6. Leadership requires staying out of the way of
followers as they do their work.

1 2 3 4 5

7. As a rule, employees must be given rewards
or punishments in order to motivate them to
achieve organizational objectives.

1 2 3 4 5

8. Most workers prefer supportive
communication from their leaders.

1 2 3 4 5

9. As a rule, leaders should allow followers to
appraise their own work.

1 2 3 4 5

10. Most employees feel insecure about their
work and need direction.

1 2 3 4 5

11. Leaders need to help followers accept
responsibility for completing their work.

1 2 3 4 5

12. Leaders should give followers complete
freedom to solve problems on their own.

1 2 3 4 5

13. The leader is the chief judge of the
achievements of the members of the group.

1 2 3 4 5

14. It is the leader’s job to help followers find
their “passion.”

1 2 3 4 5

15. In most situations, workers prefer little input
from the leader.

1 2 3 4 5

Statements Strongly
disagree Disagree Neutral Agree Strongly


16. Effective leaders give orders and clarify

1 2 3 4 5

17. People are basically competent and if given
a task will do a good job.

1 2 3 4 5

18. In general, it is best to leave followers

1 2 3 4 5


1. Sum the responses on items 1, 4, 7, 10, 13, and 16 (authoritarian leadership).
2. Sum the responses on items 2, 5, 8, 11, 14, and 17 (democratic leadership).
3. Sum the responses on items 3, 6, 9, 12, 15, and 18 (laissez-faire leadership).

Total Scores

Authoritarian Leadership ________

Democratic Leadership _________

Laissez-Faire Leadership ________

Scoring Interpretation

This questionnaire is designed to measure three common styles of leadership: authoritarian, democratic,
and laissez-faire. By comparing your scores, you can determine which styles are most dominant and
least dominant in your own style of leadership.

If your score is 26–30, you are in the very high range.

If your score is 21–25, you are in the high range.

If your score is 16–20, you are in the moderate range.

If your score is 11–15, you are in the low range.

If your score is 6–10, you are in the very low range.

3.4 Observational Exercise

Leadership Styles

1. To become aware of authoritarian, democratic, and laissez-faire styles of leadership
2. To compare and contrast these three styles

1. From all of the coaches, teachers, music directors, or managers you have had in the past 10 years,

select one who was authoritarian, one who was democratic, and one who was laissez-faire.

Authoritarian leader (name) ______________________________________________

Democratic leader (name) ________________________________________________

Laissez-faire leader (name) _______________________________________________

2. On another sheet of paper, briefly describe the unique characteristics of each of these leaders.


1. What differences did you observe in how each leader tried to influence you?
2. How did the leaders differ in their use of rewards and punishments?
3. What did you observe about how others reacted to each leader?
4. Under which leader were you most productive? Why?

3.5 Reflection and Action Worksheet

Leadership Styles

1. As you reflect on the assumptions of Theory X and Theory Y, how would you describe your own

philosophy of leadership?
2. Of the three styles of leadership (authoritarian, democratic, and laissez-faire), what style comes

easiest for you? Describe how people respond to you when you use this style.
3. One of the aspects of democratic leadership is to help followers take responsibility for themselves.

How do you assess your own ability to help others help themselves?

1. If you were to try to strengthen your philosophy of leadership, what kinds of changes would you

have to make in your assumptions about human nature and work?
2. As you look at your results on the Leadership Styles Questionnaire, what scores would you like to

change? What would you have to do to make those changes?
3. List three specific activities you could use to improve your leadership style.
4. If you make these changes, what impact will this have on others?

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Leadership Quarterly, 7, 323–352.

Lewin, K., Lippitt, R., & White, R. K. (1939). Patterns of aggressive behavior in experimentally created
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Cartwright & A. Zander (Eds.), Group dynamics (pp. 318–335). New York, NY: Harper & Row.

Descriptions of Images and Figures
Back to Figure

A single line is divided at 3 equal points, creating a range for Leader Influence. The left endpoint is
labeled High, the centerpoint is labeled Moderate and the right endpoint is labeled Low.

The Styles of Leadership are listed above the line as follows:

* High Leader Influence: Authoritarian Leadership.

* Moderate Leader Influence: Democratic Leadership.

* Low Leader Influence: Laissez-Faire Leadership.


Most people would agree that good doctors are experts at treating disease and, at the same time, care
about their patients. Similarly, good teachers are informed about the subject matter and, at the same
time, are sensitive to the personal lives of their students. In leadership, the same is true. Good leaders
understand the work that needs to be done and, at the same time, can relate to the people who help
them do the job.

When we look at what leaders do—that is, at their behaviors—we see that they do two major things: (1)
They attend to tasks, and (2) they attend to their relationships with people. The degree to which leaders
are successful is determined by how these two behaviors are exhibited. Situations may differ, but every
leadership situation needs a degree of both task and relationship behaviors.

Through the years, many articles and books have been written on how leaders behave (Blake &
McCanse, 1991; Kahn, 1956; Misumi, 1985; Stogdill, 1974). A review of these writings underscores the
topic of this chapter: The essence of leadership behavior has two dimensions—task behaviors and
relationship behaviors. Certain circumstances may call for strong task behavior, and other situations
may demand strong relationship behavior, but some degree of each is required in every situation.
Because these dimensions are inextricably tied together, it is the leader’s challenge to integrate and
optimize the task and relationship dimensions in his or her leadership role.

One way to explore our own task and relationship perspectives on leadership is to explore our personal
styles in these two areas. All of us have developed unique habits regarding work and play that have
been ingrained over many years, probably beginning as far back as elementary school. Rooted in the
past, these habits regarding work and play form a very real part of who we are as people and of how we
function. Many of these early habits stay with us over the years and influence our current styles.

In considering your personal style, it is helpful to describe in more detail your task-oriented and
relationship-oriented behaviors. What is your inclination toward tasks and relationships? Are you more
work oriented or people oriented in your personal life? Do you find more rewards in the process of
“getting things done” or in the process of relating to people? We all have personal styles that incorporate
some combination of work and play. Completing the Task and Relationship Questionnaire on pages 94–
96 can help you identify your personal style. Although these descriptions imply that individuals have
either one style or the other, it is important to remember that each of us exhibits both behaviors to some


Task Style
Task-oriented people are goal oriented. They want to achieve. Their work is meaningful, and they like
things such as to-do lists, calendars, and daily planners. Accomplishing things and doing things is the
raison d’être for this type of person. That is, these people’s reason for being comes from doing. Their in-
box is never empty. On vacations, they try to see and do as much as they possibly can. In all avenues of
their lives, they find meaning in doing.

In his book titled Work and Love: The Crucial Balance (1980), psychiatrist Jay Rohrlich showed how
work can help people organize, routinize, and structure their lives. Doing tasks gives people a sense of

control and self-mastery. Achievement sharpens our self-image and helps us define ourselves.
Reaching a goal, like running a race or completing a project, makes people feel good because it is a
positive expression of who they are.

Some clear examples of task-oriented people include those who use color codes in their daily planners,
who have sticky notes in every room of their house, or who, by 10:00 on Saturday morning, have
washed the car, done the laundry, and cleaned the apartment. Task-oriented people also are likely to
make a list for everything, from grocery shopping to the series of repetitions in their weight-lifting
workouts. Common to all of these people is their interest in achieving the goal and accomplishing the

Relationship Style
Relationship-oriented people differ from task-oriented people because they are not as goal directed. The
relationship-oriented person finds meaning in being rather than in doing. Instead of seeking out tasks,
relationship-oriented people want to connect with others. They like to celebrate relationships and the
pleasures relationships bring.

Furthermore, relationship-oriented people often have a strong orientation in the present. They find
meaning in the moment rather than in some future objective to be accomplished. In a group situation,
sensing and feeling the company of others is appealing to these people. They have been described by
some as “relationship junkies.” They are the people who are the last to turn off their cell phones as the
airplane takes off and the first to turn the phones back on when the airplane lands. Basically, they are
into connectedness.

In a work setting, the relationship-oriented person wants to connect or attach with others. For example,
the relationship-oriented person would not be afraid to interrupt someone who was working hard on a
task to talk about the weather, sports, or just about anything. When working out a problem, relationship-
oriented people like to talk to and be associated with others in addressing the problem. They receive
satisfaction from being connected to other people. They value the trust that develops in a group when
relationships are strong.

A task-oriented friend described a relationship-oriented person perfectly when he said, “He is the kind of
person who stands and talks to you, coffee mug in hand, when you’re supposed to be doing something
like mowing the lawn or covering the boat.” A relationship-oriented person doesn’t find meaning in
“doing,” but instead derives meaning from “relating” or “being.”

Leadership Snapshot:

Ai-jen Poo, Director, National Domestic Workers Alliance

Everett Collection Inc/Alamy Stock Photo

Ai-jen Poo is the director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA) and codirector of
Caring Across Generations. She came to this work after observing the challenges of caregiving
for her grandfather, who had suffered a stroke and was placed in a nursing home, sharing a
room with six ailing, older people. “The place smelled like mold and death,” she wrote in her
book, The Age of Dignity: Preparing for the Elder Boom in a Changing America (Poo, 2015, p. 2).
Her grandfather died three months later. After graduating from Columbia University in 1996, Poo
began organizing domestic workers.

As a thought leader and social innovator, Poo sees the future effects of demographic trends such
as a burgeoning elder population that will need care in the future. With the population of U.S.
residents over the age of 85 expected to double in the next 20 years, more caregiving will be
required. Poo sees how interconnected innovative family care solutions are with how we
structure our future workplaces, and how the government will resource and regulate elder care.

“Over and over again, at key turning points, we have invested in the infrastructure needed to
thrive as a nation and to lead the safe, productive, and fulfilling lives that as individual Americans

we expect to live,” Poo wrote. “And over and over again, these big ideas, and the momentum
behind them, not only transformed our lives but also transformed our economy. In fact, in many
cases, these investments were our economy, and most certainly saved our economy. An
infrastructure for care may seem different from an infrastructure for railroads, highways,
electricity, or the Internet. There are no trees to clear or wires to lay. Yet care is among the
fundamental building blocks of society. For any of us, thinking about our most basic needs, care
always comes first. There’s no need for the Internet, or even electricity, if there’s no way to feed,
bathe, or clothe yourself” (Poo, 2015, p. 143).

In her career, Poo demonstrates both relationship leadership and task leadership. To learn more
about the needs of domestic workers, “she spent countless hours in parks, buses, and other
gathering places for domestic workers, creating opportunities for these largely isolated women to
share their experiences, guiding mistreated workers to appropriate legal channels, articulating
the vital economic role of domestic workers, and developing with workers a framework of legal
standards for the industry” (MacArthur Foundation, 2019). By listening to and caring about their
experiences, Poo shows respect for domestic workers and acknowledges that their work has
inherent dignity.

“There are more than 2.5 million women in the United States who make it possible for us to do
what we do every day, knowing that our loved ones and homes are in good hands. They are the
nannies that take care of our children, the housekeepers that bring sanity and order to our
homes, and the home-care workers that care for our parents and support the independence of
our disabled family members,” said Poo (Fessler, 2018).

Poo also builds relationships with the domestic workers, learning from them what their needs
actually are, and connecting them with others in similar situations, to form a larger sense of
identity and community. As the director of the NDWA, Poo has built a culture of trust and
empowerment for women. Many of the organization’s staff work remotely, so twice per year they
hold a retreat for all employees where they plan together, laugh together, and share stories. “An
important part of the time together is connecting on a personal level, not because we need
everyone to be friends, but to know one another’s context: Why are you here? What’s your
story? Our personal journeys are an endless well of inspiration and resilience,” Poo explains
(Fessler, 2018).

Poo has built her activist work on this foundation of caring for others. Her task leadership is
expressed in several ways. First, she has envisioned ways to organize domestic workers into an
effective and unified voice for change. As the director of the NDWA, her core responsibility is to
help the organization to reach its goals of educating the public about how domestic labor should
be viewed and valued, raising the labor standards for all domestic workers, and training new
leaders for the labor movement. Poo does this by staying focused on the mission of the
organization, developing programs that support that mission, and hiring and equipping
employees to assist in this work: “NDWA centers the voice and leadership of women of color in
everything we do” (National Domestic Workers Alliance, 2016).

Second, Poo has organized workers to advocate for legislation that acknowledges and protects
domestic workers’ rights. In 2010, New York enacted the Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights, which
entitles workers to overtime pay, one day of rest per week, protection from discrimination, and
three days of paid leave per year—after a hard-fought seven-year legislative campaign led by
Poo and a dedicated group of workers and advocates. The bill also drew support from an unlikely
coalition of domestic workers, their employers, and other unions forged by Poo’s ability to
leverage common interests across diverse groups (MacArthur Foundation, 2019).

Poo received a “genius” grant from the MacArthur Foundation in 2014, and she was named one
of Time’s 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2012 and one of Fortune’s 50 Greatest
Leaders in 2015. While her task leadership has received the most recognition, the behavior Poo
most attributes to her success is listening. “The best ideas from our organization have come from
listening to our members,” she said. “And believe me—when you listen to women, especially to

those who have been the least visible in society, you will hear some of the most extraordinary
stories that represent the best of who we are as a nation. Listening is a practice; you don’t have
to be a natural listener to be a good listener, and it’s something we can, and should, all learn to
do” (Fessler, 2018).

In the previous section, you were asked to consider your personal style regarding tasks and
relationships. In this section, we are going to consider the task and relationship dimensions of your
leadership style.

Figure 4.1 illustrates dimensions of leadership along a task–relationship continuum. Task-oriented
leadership, which appears on the left end of the continuum, represents leadership that is focused
predominantly on procedures, activities, and goal accomplishments. Relationship-oriented leadership,
which appears on the right end of the continuum, represents leadership that is focused primarily on the
well-being of followers, how they relate to each other, and the atmosphere in which they work. Most
leadership falls midway between the two extremes of task- and relationship-oriented leadership. This
style of leadership is represented by the midrange area, a blend of the two types of leadership.


Figure 4.1 Task–Relationship Leadership Continuum

Men and women use both styles of leadership. However, they are not perceived the same way by
observers when they use these styles. Though the U.S. workplace has become more egalitarian in
recent years, social expectations still linger for female leaders to be more relational or communal than
task oriented (Eagly & Karau, 2002). In order to be seen as effective leaders, women face the double
standard of having to balance these two styles. Zheng, Surgevil, and Kark (2018) found that female
leaders balance these styles through seemingly contradictory pairs of traits that are directly linked to
relationship- and task-oriented behaviors: demanding (task) and caring (relational); authoritative (task)
and participative (relational); and distant (task) and approachable (relational). Female leaders will often
switch between the behaviors depending on the situation, including first using the relationship style to
build trust and then using authoritativeness to accomplish goals. In addition, female leaders seek to
reframe a relational orientation not as weakness but as a reflection of their confidence. By bringing
relationship and task behaviors into coexistence, women are able to advance their performance, rally
others toward common goals, align people’s interests, and build leader–follower relationships.

As discussed at the beginning of this chapter, good leaders understand the work that needs to be done,
as well as the need to understand the people who will do it. The process of “doing” leadership requires
that leaders attend to both tasks and relationships. The specific challenge for the leader is to decide
how much task orientation and how much relationship orientation is required in a given context or

Task Leadership
Task leadership behaviors facilitate goal accomplishment—they are behaviors that help group members
to achieve their objectives. Researchers have found that task leadership includes many behaviors.

These behaviors are frequently labeled in different ways, but are always about task accomplishment.
For example, some have labeled task leadership as initiating structure, which means the leader
organizes work, defines role responsibilities, and schedules work activities (Stogdill, 1974). Others have
labeled task leadership as production orientation, which means the leader stresses the production
and technical aspects of the job (Bowers & Seashore, 1966). From this perspective, the leader pays
attention to new product development, workload matters, and sales volume, to name a few aspects. A
third label for task leadership is concern for production (Blake & Mouton, 1964). It includes policy
decisions, new product development, workload, sales volume, or whatever the organization is seeking
to accomplish.

In short, task leadership occurs anytime the leader is doing something that assists the group in reaching
its goals. This can be something as simple as handing out an agenda for an upcoming meeting or as
complex as describing the multiple quality control standards of a product development process. Task
leadership includes many behaviors: Common to each is influencing people toward goal achievement.

As you would expect, people vary in their ability to show task-oriented leadership. There are those who
are very task oriented and those who are less task oriented. This is where a person’s personal style
comes into play. Those who are task oriented in their personal lives are naturally more task oriented in
their leadership. Conversely, those who are seldom task oriented in their personal lives will find it difficult
to be task oriented as a leader.

Whether a person is very task oriented or less task oriented, the important point to remember is that, as
a leader, they will always be required to exhibit some degree of task behavior. For certain individuals this
will be easy and for others it will present a challenge, but some task-oriented behavior is essential to
each person’s effective leadership performance.

Relationship Leadership
Relationship leadership behaviors help followers feel comfortable with themselves, with each other, and
with the situation in which they find themselves. For example, in the classroom, when a teacher requires
each student to know every other student’s name, the teacher is demonstrating relationship leadership.
The teacher is helping the students to feel comfortable with themselves, with other students, and with
their environment.

Researchers have described relationship leadership in several ways that help to clarify its meaning. It
has been labeled by some researchers as consideration behavior (Stogdill, 1974), which includes
building camaraderie, respect, trust, and regard between leaders and followers. Other researchers
describe relationship leadership as having an employee orientation (Bowers & Seashore, 1966), which
involves taking an interest in workers as human beings, valuing their uniqueness, and giving special
attention to their personal needs. Another line of research has simply defined relationship leadership as
concern for people (Blake & Mouton, 1964). Within an organization, concern for people includes
building trust, providing good working conditions, maintaining a fair salary structure, and promoting good
social relations.

Essentially, relationship leadership behavior is about three things: (1) treating followers with dignity and
respect, (2) building relationships and helping people get along, and (3) making the work setting a
pleasant place to be. Relationship leadership behavior is an integral part of effective leadership

In our fast-paced and very diverse society, the challenge for a leader is finding the time and energy to
listen to all followers and do what is required to build effective relationships with each of them. For those
who are highly relationship oriented in their personal lives, being relationship oriented in leadership will
come easily; for those who are highly task oriented, being relationship oriented in leadership will present
a greater challenge. Regardless of your personal style, every leadership situation demands a degree of
relationship leadership behavior.

As discussed earlier in this chapter, task and relationship leadership behaviors are inextricably tied
together, and a leader’s challenge is to integrate the two in an optimal way while effectively adapting to
followers’ needs. The U.S. Army has a saying: “Mission first, people always.” That means that the leader
must nurture interpersonal and team relationships at all times in order to ensure that followers will be
motivated to achieve their assigned goals or projects. Task leadership is also critically important in a
company or an organization with a large number of newly hired employees or at a charter school with a
cadre of new faculty members. It is also called for in an adult fitness class when the instructor is
introducing a new exercise. Or, consider the family members of a patient going home after a major heart
surgery who have to learn how to change dressings and give medications; they want the health
professionals to tell them exactly what to do and how to do it. In situations like these, the followers feel
uncertain about their roles and responsibilities, and they want a leader who clarifies their tasks and tells
them what is expected of them. In fact, in nearly every group or situation, there are some individuals
who want and need task direction from their leader, and in these circumstances, it is paramount that the
leader exhibit strong task-oriented leadership.

Box 4.1:

Student Perspectives on Task and Relationship Styles

The following examples are personal observations written by college students. These papers
illuminate the distinct differences task and relationship orientations can have in real-life

Taken to Task

I am definitely a task-oriented person. My mother has given me her love of lists, and my father
has instilled in me the value of finishing things once you start them. As a result, I am highly
organized in all aspects of my life. I have a color-coded planner with all of the activities I need to
do, and I enjoy crossing things off my lists. Some of my friends call me a workaholic, but I don’t
think that is accurate. There are just a lot of things I have to do.

My roommate Steph, however, is completely different from me. She will make verbal lists for her
day, but usually will not accomplish any of them [the items listed]. This drives me crazy when it
involves my life. For example, there were boxes all over the place until about a month after we
moved into our house. Steph would say every day that she was going to focus and get her room
organized that day, but she’d fail miserably most of the time. She is easily distracted and would
pass up the opportunity to get unpacked to go out with friends, get on Facebook, or look at
YouTube videos.

No matter how much Steph’s life stresses me out, I have learned from it. I’m all about having a
good time in the right setting, but I am coming to realize that I don’t need to be so planned and
scheduled. No matter how carefully you do plan, something will always go awry. I don’t know that
Steph is the one who has taught me that or if I’m just getting older, but I’m glad I’m learning that

—Jessica Lembke

Being Rather Than Doing

I am an extremely relationship-oriented person. While I know that accomplishing tasks is
important, I believe the quality of work people produce is directly related to how they feel about
themselves and their leader.

I had the privilege of working with fifth graders in an after-school program last year. There was a
range of issues we dealt with including academic, behavioral, and emotional problems, as well
as kids who did not have safe homes (i.e., no running water or electricity, physical and emotional
abuse, and drug addictions within the home). The “goal” of our program was to help these kids
become “proficient” students in the classroom.

The task-oriented leaders in administration emphasized improving students’ grades through
repetition of school work, flash cards, and quizzes. It was important for our students to improve
their grades because it was the only way statistically to gauge if our program was successful.
Given some of the personal trials these young people were dealing with, the last thing in my
“relationship-oriented” mind was working on their academics. These young people had so much
potential and wisdom that was stifled when they were asked to blindly follow academic
assignments. In addition, they did not know how to self-motivate, self-encourage, or get the work
done with so many of life’s obstacles in their way.

Instead of doing school work, which the majority of my students struggled with and hated, I
focused on building relationships with and between the students. We used discussion, role play,
dance parties, and leadership projects to build their self-confidence and emotional intelligence.
The students put together service projects to improve their school and community including
initiating a trash pickup and recycling initiative at the school and making cards for a nearby
nursing home. By the end of the year almost every one of my students had improved his or her
grades significantly. More important, at our daily “cheer-for-each-other” meetings, the students
would beam with pride for their own and others’ successes.

I guess my point in telling this story is that relationship-oriented leadership is more important to
me than task. I much prefer “being” than “doing.” I am not an organized, goal-oriented person. I
rarely make it out of my house without going back two or three times to grab something I forgot,
and my attention span is shorter than that of a fruit fly. However, I feel that my passion for
relationships and human connection is what motivates me.

—Elizabeth Mathews

A Blend of Both

The Style Approach categorizes leaders as being either task oriented or relationship oriented.
While I agree that there are these styles of leadership, I disagree that everyone can be placed
concretely into one or the other. The Ohio State study says it well by stating that there are “two
different continua.” When it comes to determining where I stand on each continuum, I’d have to
say I’m about even. Not surprisingly, my results of the Task and Relationship Questionnaire
reflect these thoughts: I scored a solid 41 in both task- and relationship-oriented styles; I’m
equally task and relationship oriented, with each of these styles becoming more prevalent in
certain situations.

While I truly enjoy being around other people, making sure everyone is happy and that we all
enjoy our time, I’m very focused and goal oriented. If I’m at the movies with my friends, I’m not
worrying about a to-do list; alternatively, if I’m working on a group project for school, I’m not as
concerned about making friends with the group members.

Completing tasks is very important to me. I have an agenda that I keep with me at all times,
partly because without it I would never remember anything, and partly because it provides
satisfaction and peace of mind. I make to-do lists for myself: groceries, household chores,

homework, and goals. I thrive when I’m busy, but not if I’m disorganized. For example, this
semester I’m taking 20 credits, applying to graduate schools, taking the GRE, and working at the
bookstore. For me it is comforting to have so many responsibilities. If I have downtime, I usually
waste it, and I hate that feeling.

I also feel, however, that I’m very relationship oriented. My task-oriented nature doesn’t really
affect how I interact with people. I like to make sure people are comfortable and confident in all
situations. While I pressure myself to get things done and adhere to a schedule, I’d never think of
pushing those pressures onto someone else. If I were the leader of a group that wasn’t getting
things done, I’d set an example, rather than tell someone what he or she should be doing.

For me, the idea of “two continua” really makes sense. Whether I am task or relationship focused
depends on the situation. While I certainly want to have fun with people, I’m a proponent of the
“time and place” attitude, in which people remember when it is appropriate to socialize and when
it is appropriate to get a job done.

—Sally Johnson

On the other hand, it is also true that many groups or situations will have individuals who want to be
affiliated with or connected to others more than they want direction. For example, in a factory, in a
classroom, or in a workplace, there are individuals who want the leader to befriend them and relate to
them on a personal level. The followers are willing to work, but they are primarily interested in being
recognized and feeling related to others. An example would be individuals who attend a cancer support
group. They like to receive information from the leader, but even more importantly, they want the leader
to relate to them. It is similar with individuals who attend a community-sponsored reading club. They
want to talk about the book, but they also want the leader to relate to them in a more familiar way.
Clearly, in these situations, the leader needs to connect with these followers by utilizing relationship-
oriented behaviors.

In addition to task and relationship behaviors, Yukl, Gordon, and Taber (2002) identified a third category
of leader behaviors relevant to effective leadership, which they labeled change behaviors. Based on an
analysis of a large number of earlier leadership measures, the researchers found that change behaviors
included visioning, intellectual stimulation, risk-taking, and external monitoring. This category of
behaviors has been less prominent in the leadership literature but still is a valuable way to characterize
what leaders do. Change behaviors are closely related to leadership skills and creating a vision, which
we discuss in Chapter 5, “Developing Leadership Skills,” and Chapter 7, “Creating a Vision,” of this

In society, the most effective leaders recognize and adapt to followers’ needs. Whether they are team
leaders, teachers, or managers, they appropriately demonstrate the right degrees of task and
relationship leadership. This is no small challenge because different followers and situations demand
different amounts of task and relationship leadership. When followers are unclear, confused, or lost, the
leader needs to show direction and exhibit task-oriented leadership. At the same time, a leader needs to
be able to see the need for affiliation and attachment in followers and be able to meet those needs,
without sacrificing task accomplishment.

In the end, the best leader is the leader who helps followers achieve the goal by attending to the task
and by attending to each follower as a person. We all know leaders who do this: They are the coaches
who force us to do drills until we are blue in the face to improve our physical performance, but who then
caringly listen to our personal problems. They are the managers who never let us slack off for even a
second, but who make work a fun place to be. The list goes on, but the bottom line is that the best
leaders get the job done and care about others in the process.


Good leaders are both task oriented and relationship oriented. Understanding your personal styles of
work and play can provide a better recognition of your leadership. Task-oriented people find meaning in
doing, while relationship-oriented people find meaning in being connected to others. Effective leadership
requires that leaders be both task oriented and relationship oriented.

Glossary Terms
concern for people 85

concern for production 84

consideration behavior 84

employee orientation 84

initiating structure 84

personal styles 79

production orientation 84

relationship-oriented leadership 83

task-oriented leadership 83


4.1 Case Study—From Two to One

Mark Schmidt runs Co-Ed Cleaners, a business that employs college students to clean offices and
schools during the night hours. Due to an economic downturn, Co-Ed Cleaners has lost customers, and
although Mark has trimmed everywhere he can think of, he has come to the conclusion that he has to
cut back further. This will require letting one of his two managers go and consolidating responsibilities
under the other manager’s leadership.

Dan Cali manages groups of students who clean school buildings. Dan is always on the go, visiting
cleaning teams at each school while they are working. His employees describe him as an efficient
taskmaster with checklists they are all required to follow and sign off on as they complete each job. Dan
initiates most ideas for changing processes based on efficiency. When something goes wrong on a job,
Dan insists he be alerted and brought in to solve it. “Dan is a very task-oriented guy,” says one of his
team members. “There is no one who works harder than he does or knows more about our jobs. This
guy gets more done in an hour than most guys do in a day. In the two years I’ve been here, I don’t think
I’ve ever seen him stop and take a break or even have a cup of coffee.” Dan’s efforts have helped Co-
Ed Cleaners be recognized as “The Best Professional Cleaning Service” for three years running.

Asher Roland is the manager of groups of students who clean small offices and businesses. Asher has
up to 10 teams working a night and relies on his employees to do their jobs and keep him apprised of
problems. He takes turns working alongside his teams to understand the challenges they may face,
getting to know each of his employees in the process. Once a month, he takes the teams to a restaurant
for a “Great Job Breakfast” where they talk about sports, the weather, politics, their relationships and
families, and, when they have time, work issues. One of his employees describes him this way: “Asher
is a really good guy. Never had a better boss. If I am having problems, I would go to Asher first. He
always advocates for us and listens when we have ideas or problems, but allows us to manage our own
jobs the way we think best. He trusts us to do the right things, and we trust him to be fair and honest
with us.”

Mark likes both Dan and Asher, and in their own way they are both good managers. Mark worries,
however, about how each manager’s individual style will affect his ability to take on the responsibilities
of the manager he replaces. He must let one go, but he doesn’t know which one.

1. Using ideas from the chapter, describe Dan’s and Asher’s styles of leadership.
2. How will Asher’s employees, who are used to being able to manage themselves in their own way,

respond to Dan’s task-oriented style?
3. How will Dan’s employees, who are used to being given clear direction and procedures, respond to

Asher’s more relationship-oriented style?
4. If you were an employee at Co-Ed Cleaners, would you want Mark to let Dan or Asher go? Explain

your choice.

4.2 Case Study—Day and Night
By day, Alice and Heather are the director and assistant director (respectfully) of a human resources
(HR) department for a large community college that has 30,000 students at multiple campuses and
educational centers. On nights and weekends, Alice and Heather jointly run a local nonprofit
organization called Operation D.O.G. (ODOG).

As a member of the executive team for the college, Alice has a leadership role that extends not just to
those who report directly to her but to the college overall. Constantly busy with different projects both at
work and at home (she owns a small acreage on the outskirts of town where she raises vegetables and
cares for geriatric horses), her days are filled with to-do lists. On the rare “girls’ weekend away,” she is
the one who makes up the itinerary, makes the hotel and restaurant reservations, and sees to it that
everyone is where she is supposed to be at the designated time. At the college, Alice is responsible for
the overall management and day-to-day operations of the HR team, ensuring deadlines are met,
projects are completed, and the team meets the needs of its diverse customer base. On an average
day, Alice and her team may perform a complex set of tasks, including negotiations, recruiting,
regulatory interpretations, compliance and reporting, salary and benefit plan administration, and
counseling and advising, as well as navigating personnel issues across the campuses. As a member of
the institution’s executive team, Alice also participates in strategic planning for the college and is heavily
involved with the Board of Education that governs the college. Acutely aware that the development of
her team is key to its success, Alice takes a personal interest in each employee, purposefully leading
her team members through coaching, empowerment, and trust building.

Heather, who in her 20s survived an aggressive form of cancer, has a strong proclivity for fostering
relationships. Her battle with cancer at such a young age heightened her sense of compassion and
helped shape her perspective on the importance of connection. While she has many task
responsibilities in her role as the assistant director, she, not surprisingly, describes her primary focus as
“maintaining the culture” for the team and the college as a whole. This involves developing connections
and having ongoing communication with internal and external customers. Heather also guides
managers across the college in developing their leadership, conflict resolution, and effective
communication skills. She does this through training and in one-on-one consultations with people and
modeling the leadership behavior she wants to instill in others.

Alice finds her position to require that she be much more authoritative and task oriented in order to keep
on top of all the responsibilities she has and people she must work with. Heather, on the other hand, is
the softer side of HR, finding that her relational skills and compassion come into play in most of her daily
interactions with other staff and the college community.

Alice and Heather also work closely together outside of the college on another enterprise: a fledgling
nonprofit called Operation D.O.G. ODOG works with dog owners and rescue organizations to provide
financial assistance and case management for dogs suffering from treatable medical conditions in order
to either keep them in or find them loving homes.

Alice and Heather share a deeply held belief that every dog deserves a chance at a healthy and happy
life. Traditionally, dogs with medical issues are less likely to be adopted from shelters. Often, low-income
individuals and families may be forced to euthanize or surrender their pets to a shelter when a pet has a
medical issue they cannot afford to treat. Dog rescue organizations take some of these animals, but
without outside financial support, they may be reluctant or unable to take on the financial burden.

Each case is considered on an individual basis, requiring that Heather and Alice, currently the only staff
of the organization, work directly with owners and their animals. Because they often learn intimate
details about people’s lives and financial states, both Heather and Alice have to develop relationships of
trust with the owners and their pets. At the same time, the pair meets with animal rescues and shelters,
veterinarians, and community members to build partnerships and secure treatment. Either Heather or
Alice will follow each dog through its medical treatment from beginning to end, assisting with the
coordination of care and financial arrangements.

Heather and Alice also oversee the business management functions of the nonprofit including fund-
raising, raising awareness through advertising and promotions, accounting and reporting, regulatory
compliance, negotiating, public speaking, and presenting. Currently, neither Alice nor Heather is paid for
her ODOG role; all funds raised go directly to the clients. Both women endeavor to grow the
organization and its sphere of influence. They envision serving additional counties and eventually
opening a shelter with a dedicated veterinarian clinic that would provide discounted services to low-
income individuals and families.


1. In their roles for the college, how would you categorize Alice’s and Heather’s task and relational
leadership behaviors? Using the format in the following grid, rate each woman’s predisposition
toward each behavior type (on a scale of 1–10, with 10 being high). In the explanation column,
support your rating with examples.

Behavior Type





Behavior Type





2. Looking at your rankings in question 1, do you feel the two women’s leadership styles complement
each other? Why or why not?

3. How would you rate the importance of task behaviors vs. relationship behaviors in their leadership
of Operation D.O.G.? Is one behavior more important in these roles than the other? Will Alice and
Heather be equally as effective in running the nonprofit as they appear to be at the college? Explain
your answer.

4.3 Task and Relationship Questionnaire


1. To identify how much you emphasize task and relationship behaviors in your life
2. To explore how your task behavior is related to your relationship behavior


For each of the following items, indicate on the scale the extent to which you engage in the described
behavior. Move through the items quickly. Do not try to categorize yourself in one area or another.

Statements Never Rarely Sometimes Often Always

1. Make a to-do list of the things that need to be

1 2 3 4 5

2. Try to make the work fun for others. 1 2 3 4 5

3. Urge others to concentrate on the work at hand. 1 2 3 4 5

4. Show concern for the personal well-being of

1 2 3 4 5

Statements Never Rarely Sometimes Often Always

5. Set timelines for when the job needs to be

1 2 3 4 5

6. Help group members get along. 1 2 3 4 5

7. Keep a checklist of what has been

1 2 3 4 5

8. Listen to the special needs of each group

1 2 3 4 5

9. Stress to others the rules and requirements for
the project.

1 2 3 4 5

10. Spend time exploring other people’s ideas for
the project.

1 2 3 4 5

11. Pay close attention to project deadlines. 1 2 3 4 5

12. Act friendly toward other group members. 1 2 3 4 5

13. Clarify each group member’s job

1 2 3 4 5

14. Express support for other group members’

1 2 3 4 5

15. Emphasize performance standards for the

1 2 3 4 5

16. Talk with other group members about their
personal concerns.

1 2 3 4 5

17. Keep other group members focused on goals. 1 2 3 4 5

Statements Never Rarely Sometimes Often Always

18. Emphasize everyone’s unique contributions to
the group.

1 2 3 4 5

19. Follow rules and regulations closely. 1 2 3 4 5

20. Express positive feelings toward others in the

1 2 3 4 5


1. Sum scores for the odd-numbered statements (task score).
2. Sum scores for the even-numbered statements (relationship score).

Total Scores

Task score: __________________________

Relationship score: __________________

Scoring Interpretation

This questionnaire is designed to measure your task-oriented and relationship-oriented leadership
behavior. By comparing your scores, you can determine which style is more dominant in your own style
of leadership. If your task score is higher than your relationship score, you tend to give more attention to
goal accomplishment and somewhat less attention to people-related matters. If your relationship score
is higher than your task score, your primary concern tends to be dealing with people, and your
secondary concern is directed more toward tasks. If your scores are very similar to each other, it
suggests that your leadership is balanced and includes an equal amount of both behaviors.

If your score is 40–50, you are in the high range.

If your score is 31–39, you are in the moderately high range.

If your score is 21–30, you are in the low range.

If your score is 10–20, you are in the very low range.

4.4 Observational Exercise

Task and Relationship

1. To understand how leadership includes both task and relationship behaviors
2. To contrast different leaders’ task and relationship behaviors

1. Over the next couple of days, observe the leadership styles of two different leaders (e.g., teacher,

athletic coach, choir director, restaurant manager, work supervisor).
2. Record your observations of the styles of each person.

Leader 1 (name)

Task behaviors Relationship behaviors









Leader 2 (name)

Task behaviors Relationship behaviors

Task behaviors Relationship behaviors










1. What differences did you observe between the two leaders?
2. What did you observe about the leader who was most task oriented?
3. What did you observe about the leader who was most relationship oriented?
4. How effective do you think you would be in each of these leadership positions?

4.5 Reflection and Action Worksheet

Task and Relationship

1. As you reflect on what has been discussed in this chapter and on your own leadership style, how

would you describe your own style in relation to task and relationship orientations? What are your
strengths and weaknesses?

2. What biases do you maintain regarding task style and relationship style? How do your biases affect
your leadership?

3. One of the most difficult challenges leaders face is to integrate their task and relationship behaviors.
Do you see this as a challenge in your own leadership? How do you integrate task and relationship

1. If you were to change in an effort to improve your leadership, what aspect of your style would you

change? Would you try to be more task oriented or more relationship oriented?
2. Identify three specific task or relationship changes you could carry out.
3. What barriers will you face as you try to make these changes?
4. Given that you believe this change will improve your overall leadership, what can you do (i.e., what

strategies can you use) to overcome the barriers you cited in Action Item 3?

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Rohrlich, J. B. (1980). Work and love: The crucial balance. New York, NY: Summit Books.

Stogdill, R. M. (1974). Handbook of leadership: A survey of theory and research. New York, NY: Free

Yukl, G., Gordon, A., & Taber, T. (2002). A hierarchical taxonomy of leadership behavior: Integrating a
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Descriptions of Images and Figures
Back to Figure

A horizontal bar labeled Emphasis with 2 arrows at each end.

The left of the timeline above the left arrow is labeled Task-oriented leadership. The center of the
timeline is labeled Midrange. The right of the timeline above the right arrow is labeled Relationship-
oriented leadership.


Whether it is playing the guitar, a video game, or the stock market, most of life’s activities require us to
have skills if we are to be successful. The same is true of leadership—skills are required. As discussed
in the first chapter, leadership skills refer to learned competencies that leaders are able to demonstrate
in performance (Katz, 1955). Leadership skills give people the capacity to influence others. They are a
critical component in successful leadership.

Even though skills play an essential role in the leadership process, they have received little attention by
researchers (Lord & Hall, 2005; T. Mumford, Campion, & Morgeson, 2007). Leadership traits rather than
leadership skills have been the focus of research for more than 100 years. However, in the past 20
years a shift has occurred, and leadership skills are now receiving far more attention by researchers and
practitioners alike (M. Mumford, Zaccaro, Connelly, & Marks, 2000; Yammarino, 2000).

Although there are many different leadership skills, they are often considered as groups of skills. In this
chapter, leadership skills are grouped into three categories: administrative skills, interpersonal skills, and
conceptual skills (see Figure 5.1). The next section describes each group of skills and explores the
unique ways they affect the leadership process.


Figure 5.1 Model of Primary Leadership Skills

While often devalued because they are not glamorous or exciting, administrative skills play a primary
role in effective leadership. Administrative skills help a leader to accomplish the mundane but critically
important aspects of showing leadership. Some would even argue that administrative skills are the most
fundamental of all the skills required of a leader.

What are administrative skills? Administrative skills refer to those competencies a leader needs to run
an organization in order to carry out the organization’s purposes and goals. These involve planning,
organizing work, assigning the right tasks to the right people, and coordinating work activities (Mann,

Administrative Skills in Practice
For purposes of our discussion, administrative skills are divided into three specific sets of skills: (1)
managing people, (2) managing resources, and (3) showing technical competence.

Managing People

Any leader of a for-profit or nonprofit organization, if asked what occupies the most time, will reply,
“Managing people.” Few leaders can do without the skill of being able to manage people. The phrase
management by walking around captures the essence of managing people. An effective leader connects
with people and understands the tasks to be done, the skills required to perform them, and the
environment in which people work. The best way to know this is to be involved rather than to be a
spectator. For a leader to deal effectively with people requires a host of abilities such as helping
employees to work as a team, motivating them to do their best, promoting satisfying relationships
among employees, and responding to their requests. The leader also needs to find time to deal with
urgent staff matters. Staff issues are a daily fact of life for any leader. Staff members come to the leader
for advice on what to do about a problem, and the leader needs to respond appropriately.

A leader must also pay attention to recruiting and retaining employees. In addition, leaders need to
communicate effectively with their own board of directors, as well as with any external constituencies
such as the public, stockholders, or other outside groups that have a stake in the organization.

Consider the leadership of Nate Parker, the director of an after-school recreation program serving 600
kids in a large metropolitan community. Nate’s program is funded by an $800,000 government grant. It
provides academic, fitness, and enrichment activities for underserved children and their families. Nate
has managers who assist him in running the after-school program in five different public schools. Nate’s
own responsibilities include setting up and running staff meetings, recruiting new staff, updating
contracts, writing press releases, working with staff, and establishing relationships with external
constituencies. Nate takes great pride in having created a new and strong relationship between the city
government and the school district in which he works. Until he came on board, the relationship between
the schools and city government was tense. By communicating effectively across groups, Nate was able
to bring the entire community together to serve the children. He is now researching the possibility of a
citywide system to support after-school programming.

Managing Resources

Although it is not obvious to others, a leader is often required to spend a significant amount of time
addressing resource issues. Resources, the lifeblood of an organization, can include people, money,
supplies, equipment, space, or anything else needed to operate an organization. Managing resources
requires a leader to be competent in both obtaining and allocating resources. Obtaining resources can
include a wide range of activities such as ordering equipment, finding work space, or locating funds for
special projects. For example, a middle school cross-country coach wanted to replace her team’s
outdated uniforms but had no funds to do so. In order to buy new uniforms, the coach negotiated with
the athletic director for additional funds. The coach also encouraged several parents in the booster club
to sponsor a few successful fund-raisers.

In addition to obtaining resources, a leader may be required to allocate resources for new staff or new
incentive programs, or to replace old equipment. While a leader may often engage staff members to

assist in managing resources, the ultimate responsibility of resource management rests on the leader.
As the sign on President Harry S. Truman’s desk read, “The buck stops here.”

Showing Technical Competence

Technical competence involves having specialized knowledge about the work we do or ask others to
do. In the case of an organization, it includes understanding the intricacies of how an organization
functions. A leader with technical competence has organizational know-how—they understand the
complex aspects of how the organization works. For example, a university president should be
knowledgeable about teaching, research, student recruitment, and student retention; a basketball coach
should be knowledgeable about the basics of dribbling, passing, shooting, and rebounding; and a sales
manager should have a thorough understanding of the product the salespeople are selling. In short, a
leader is more effective when they have the knowledge and technical competence about the activities
followers are asked to perform.

The importance of having technical competence can be seen in the example of an orchestra conductor.
The conductor’s job is to direct rehearsals and performances of the orchestra. To do this, the conductor
needs technical competence pertaining to rhythm, music composition, and all the many instruments and
how they are played. Technical competence gives the conductor the understanding required to direct the
many different musicians to perform together successfully.

Technical competence is sometimes referred to as “functional competence” because it means a person
is competent in a particular function or area. No one is required to be competent in all avenues of life.
So, too, a leader is not required to have technical competence in every situation. But technical
knowledge of the functions and activities across levels of an organization is important for a leader. For
example, Devonia oversees a large video game development team that includes writers, artists,
programmers, and testers. Devonia’s background is as a graphic artist, but she must know how each
aspect of game development contributes to the end product in order to be able to foresee and solve
problems for her team. She doesn’t need to be able to write the programming code, but she does need
to understand that skill enough to be able to help her coders work out problems.

In addition to administrative skills, effective leadership requires interpersonal skills (see Figure 5.1).
Interpersonal skills are people skills—those abilities that help a leader work effectively with followers,
peers, and superiors to accomplish the organization’s goals. While some people downplay the
importance of interpersonal skills or disparage them as “touchy-feely” and inconsequential, leadership
research has consistently pointed out the importance of interpersonal skills to effective leadership (Bass,
1990; Blake & McCanse, 1991; Katz, 1955).

Interpersonal Skills in Practice
Interpersonal skills are divided into three parts: (1) being socially perceptive, (2) showing emotional
intelligence, and (3) managing interpersonal conflicts.

Being Socially Perceptive

To successfully lead an organization toward change, a leader needs to be sensitive to how their own
ideas fit in with others’ ideas. Social perceptiveness includes having insight into and awareness of
what is important to others, how they are motivated, the problems they face, and how they react to
change. It involves understanding the unique needs, goals, and demands of different organizational
constituencies (Zaccaro, Gilbert, Thor, & Mumford, 1991). A leader with social perceptiveness has a

keen sense of how employees will respond to any proposed change in the organization. In a sense, you
could say a socially perceptive leader has a finger on the pulse of employees on any issue at any time.

Leadership is about change, and people in organizations often resist change because they like things to
stay the same. Novel ideas, different rules, or new ways of doing things are often seen as threatening
because they do not fit in with how people are used to things being done. A leader who is socially
perceptive can create change more effectively if they understand how the proposed change may affect
all the people involved.

One example that demonstrates the importance of social perceptiveness is illustrated in the events
surrounding the graduation ceremonies at the University of Michigan in the spring of 2008. The
university anticipated 5,000 students would graduate, with an expected audience of 30,000. In prior
years, the university traditionally held spring graduation ceremonies in the football stadium, which,
because of its size, is commonly known as “the Big House.” However, because the stadium was
undergoing major renovations, the university was forced to change the venue for graduation and
decided to hold the graduation at the outdoor stadium of nearby Eastern Michigan University. When the
university announced the change of location, the students, their families, and the university’s alumni
responded immediately and negatively. There was upheaval as they made their strong opinions known.

Clearly, the leadership at the university had not perceived the significance to seniors and their families of
where graduation ceremonies were to be held. It was tradition to graduate in the Big House, so
changing the venue was offensive to many. Phone calls came into the president’s office, and editorials
appeared in the press. Students did not want to graduate on the campus of another university. They
thought that they deserved to graduate on their own campus. Some students, parents, and alumni even
threatened to withhold future alumni support.

To correct the situation, the university again changed the venue. Instead of holding the graduation at
Eastern Michigan University, the university spent $1.8 million to set up a temporary outdoor stage in the
center of campus, surrounded by the University of Michigan’s classroom buildings and libraries. The
graduating students and their families were pleased that the ceremonies took place where their
memories and traditions were so strong. The university ultimately was successful because it adapted to
the deeply held beliefs of its students and their families. Clearly, if the university had been more socially
perceptive at the outset, the initial dissatisfaction and upheaval that arose could have been avoided.

Showing Emotional Intelligence

Another important skill for a leader is being able to show emotional intelligence. Although emotional
intelligence emerged as a concept less than 25 years ago, it has captivated the interests of many
scholars and practitioners of leadership (Bradberry, Greaves, & Lencioni, 2009; Caruso & Wolfe, 2004;
Goleman, 1995; Mayer & Salovey, 1995). Emotional intelligence is concerned with a person’s ability to
understand their own and others’ emotions, and then to apply this understanding to life’s tasks.
Specifically, emotional intelligence can be defined as the ability to perceive and express emotions, to
use emotions to facilitate thinking, to understand and reason with emotions, and to manage emotions
effectively within oneself and in relationships with others (Mayer, Salovey, & Caruso, 2000).

The underlying premise of research on emotional intelligence is that people who are sensitive to their
own emotions and the impact their emotions have on others will be more effective leaders. Since
showing emotional intelligence is positively related to effective leadership, what should a leader do to
enhance their emotional skills? Unlike personality traits, which remain fairly stable over time, emotional
intelligence is a skill that can be developed.

First, leaders need to work on becoming aware of their own emotions, taking their emotional pulse, and
identifying their feelings as they happen. Whether it is mad, glad, sad, or scared, a leader needs to
assess constantly how they are is feeling and what is causing those feelings. Each of these core
emotional states can range from low to high in intensity. For example, are you feeling content or thrilled?

Anxious or terrified? Paying attention to your emotional states and being precise in how you articulate
them can affect how you interact with others (Bradberry et al., 2009). For example, a supervisor high in
emotional intelligence would monitor their emotional state before delivering feedback to an employee
during a performance review in order to ensure the message “sent” was the message “received.” A
supervisor with less developed emotional intelligence, who might be in a tired or irritated mood, may
inadvertently convey a more negative message than intended regarding the objective criteria on which
the worker is being evaluated, and cause the worker unnecessary anxiety.

Leadership Snapshot:

Coquese Washington, Former Head Coach, Penn State Women’s

© Jeff Golden/Contributor/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images

It was apparent early on that Coquese Washington had skills that would take her places. She
grew up in Flint, Michigan, where she played seven musical instruments in high school, was an
All-State selection for basketball two years in a row, and was awarded a scholarship to attend
Notre Dame. She finished Notre Dame in three years, earning a bachelor’s degree in history.
After taking a year off to be a high school special education teacher in her hometown, she
returned to her alma mater to earn a juris doctorate from the Notre Dame Law School.

But where she ended up . . . well, not even she saw that coming.

Washington was a gifted basketball player, and although she excelled at the sport in high school
and it is what brought her to play at Notre Dame, she says her dream was always to practice law.

But after law school, she took a left turn, being recruited and chosen to play for the Portland
Power in the short-lived, women’s professional American Basketball League. A year later, she
joined the Women’s National Basketball Association, playing first for the New York Liberty and
then moving to Houston, helping the Comets win the WNBA title. She was traded to the Indiana
Fever and guided that team to its first ever playoff berth, becoming the first player in WNBA
history to lead three different teams to the postseason tournament.

Former teammate Rebecca Lobo describes Washington as “a smart teammate who liked to
learn. She could fit in with any crowd and had everyone’s respect because she could blend
without compromising who she was” (Haverbeck, 2007).

The WNBA season is in the summer, which allowed Washington to begin coaching at Notre
Dame as an assistant under her former coach Muffet McGraw in the off-season. “She did not
have any experience, but I thought she’d be great at it,” McGraw says. “I wanted to give her that
opportunity and just see if I could try to talk her into trying it out and she was just good at it. I
think she found her passion” (McKenna, 2013).

It was also during this time that Washington’s legal skills were called into action. She had been
working as an attorney for a New York law firm, so when the WNBA players decided to form a
union, she brought her litigation skills to the effort. She became the founding president of the
Women’s National Basketball Players Association and negotiated the players’ first collective
bargaining agreement. Lobo said that Washington was “a godsend” during the negotiations. “She
was level-headed and bright and also had her law degree” (Haverbeck, 2007).

It was in law school that she learned to research, analyze situations, and develop strategies, and
Washington admits she always thought she would return to work as a lawyer, but somewhere
along the way that changed.

“I thought ‘Man, I like coaching, you know. I like the relationships that I have with the players. I
like being in the gym,’” Washington said. “I loved basketball. I love being around basketball. I
never thought I would enjoy coaching as much as I have, but I really do enjoy it” (McKenna,

In 2007, Washington was tapped to be the head coach of Penn State’s women’s basketball
team. Her success there was steady; by the time she stepped down in 2019, she had led the
Lady Lions to four consecutive appearances at the National Collegiate Athletic Association
Division I Women’s Basketball Championships and captured three straight Big Ten Conference
regular-season championships from 2011 to 2014. Washington was a three-time Big Ten Coach
of the Year.

But the winning isn’t what kept Washington on the court. It was the opportunity to be a mentor
and leader to her players.

“Mentoring them and helping them learn to become powerful, dynamic women—that’s the thing I
love best of all.

“We use basketball as a vehicle, but I’m probably most proud of our kids’ ability to achieve. I’ve
learned over the years that that is a skill that’s developed, not something you’re born with.
Perseverance, persistence, belief—there are so many skills that have to be nurtured to become
an achiever” (Nilsen, 2009).

It’s a philosophy her players respond to. “I think the biggest thing that coach does is not only tell
us what to do, she does it herself,” says Penn State player Alex Bentley. “She has been through
the WNBA, she has been through coaching at the top institutions already. She knows the game
and I have been picking her brain ever since I was a freshman stepping on the court.

“She is the epitome of a great woman. We just see that and want to be like that, she is a role
model and a mentor. Us as women, we want to be like that one day” (McKenna, 2013).

After 11 years, Washington left Penn State, having amassed a record of 209 wins and 169 losses
and guided the team to four NCAA tournament appearances. She is now an assistant coach for
the women’s basketball team at the University of Oklahoma (Pigg, 2019).

Second, a leader should train to become aware of the emotions of others. A leader who knows how to
read others’ emotions is better equipped to respond appropriately to these people’s wants and needs.
Stated another way, a leader needs to have empathy for others. They should understand the feelings of
others as if those feelings were their own. For example, when taking on a new role as manager of a
team or department, the new leader would be wise to anticipate the varied emotions their direct reports
may be feeling, such as uncertainty about the new leader’s management style, disappointment that they
didn’t receive the promotion themselves, or hope that needed changes will finally take place. By taking
time to get to know the team and its needs before making changes, the manager can build trust among
their workers.

Interestingly, researchers found that people deliver bad news more slowly to others than they do good
news, partly to manage their own emotions but also out of a desire to protect the message receiver from
embarrassment or hurt. Message senders show empathy when they anticipate the possible responses
of the message receivers as they prepare to disclose the news, but it also helps the leader to better
manage the outcomes (Dibble & Levine, 2010).

Salovey and Mayer (1990) suggested that empathy is the critical component of emotional intelligence.
Empathy, and how to demonstrate it, is discussed further in Chapter 10, “Listening to Out-Group

Third, a leader needs to learn how to regulate their emotions and put them to good use. Whenever a
leader makes a substantial decision, the leader’s emotions are involved. Emotions in the workplace are
contagious. One person’s emotional state can trigger responses in another person’s emotional state.
Therefore, emotions need to be embraced and managed for the good of the group or organization.

The leader acts as the group’s emotional guide. When a leader is sensitive to others and manages their
own emotions appropriately, that leader increases the chances that the group’s decisions will be
effective. For example, in the film Braveheart, William Wallace tries to rally a ragged group of Scots to
fight against well-equipped English troops. The Scots want to run away because they are outmanned
and believe they can’t win. Rather than scolding them for cowardice, Wallace acknowledges their fear.
He agrees with their claim that running away is an option, and that if they fight they may die. But he also
tells them how he, a battle-tested hero, views them: as “Sons of Scotland.” They are fighting not just one
battle but for the epic cause of freedom. This inspires the men to follow Wallace into battle.

The key point here is that people with emotional intelligence understand emotions and incorporate these
in what they do as leaders. To summarize, a leader with emotional intelligence listens to their own
feelings and the feelings of others, and is adept at regulating these emotions in service of the common

Handling Conflict

A leader also needs to have skill in handling conflict. Conflict is inevitable. Conflict creates the need for
change and occurs as the result of change. Conflict can be defined as a struggle between two or more
individuals over perceived differences regarding substantive issues (e.g., the correct procedure to
follow) or over perceived differences regarding relational issues (e.g., the amount of control each
individual has within a relationship). When confronted with conflict, leaders and followers often feel
uncomfortable because of the strain, controversy, and stress that accompany conflict. Although conflict
is uncomfortable, it is not unhealthy, nor is it necessarily bad. If conflict is managed in effective and
productive ways, the result is a reduction of stress, an increase in creative problem solving, and a
strengthening of leader–follower and team-member relationships.

Because conflicts are usually very complex, and addressing them is never simple, Chapter 11,
“Managing Conflict,” provides a more thorough examination of the components of conflict and offers
several practical communication approaches that a leader can take to constructively resolve differences.

Whereas administrative skills are about organizing work, and interpersonal skills are about dealing
effectively with people, conceptual skills are about working with concepts and ideas. Conceptual skills
involve the thinking or cognitive aspects of leadership and are critical to such things as creating a vision
or strategic plan for an organization. A leader with conceptual skills is able to conceive and
communicate the ideas that shape an organization from its goals and mission to how to best solve

Conceptual Skills in Practice
Conceptual skills for leaders can be divided into three parts: (1) problem solving, (2) strategic planning,
and (3) creating vision.

Problem Solving

We all know people who are especially good at problem solving. When something goes wrong or needs
to be fixed, they are the first ones to jump in and address the problem. Problem solvers do not sit idly by
when there are problems. They are quick to ask, “What went wrong?” and they are ready to explore
possible answers to “How can it be fixed?” Problem-solving skills are essential for effective leadership.

What are problem-solving skills? Problem-solving skills refer to a leader’s cognitive ability to take
corrective action in a problem situation in order to meet desired objectives. The skills include identifying
the problem, generating alternative solutions, selecting the best solution from among the alternatives,
and implementing that solution (see Table 5.1). These skills do not function in a vacuum, but are carried
out in a particular setting or context.

Table 5.1 Steps in Problem Solving

1. Identify the problem

2. Generate alternative solutions

3. Select the best solution

4. Implement the solution

Step 1: Identify the problem.
The first step in the problem-solving process is to identify or recognize the problem. The importance of
this step cannot be understated. Seeing a problem and addressing it is at the core of successful
problem solving. All of us are confronted with many problems every day, but some of us fail to see those
problems or even to admit that they exist. Others may recognize that something is wrong but then do
nothing about it. People with problem-solving skills see problems and address them.

Some problems are simple and easy to define, while others are complex and demand a great deal of
scrutiny. Problems arise when there is a difference between what is expected and what actually
happens. Identifying the problem requires awareness of these differences. The questions we ask in this
phase of problem solving are “What is the problem?” “Are there multiple aspects to it?” and “What
caused it?” Identifying the exact nature of the problem precedes everything else in the problem-solving

Step 2: Generate alternative solutions.
After identifying the problem and its cause or causes, the next step in problem solving is to generate
alternative solutions where there is more than one possible resolution to the problem. Because
problems are often complex, there are usually many different ways of trying to correct them. During this
phase of problem solving, it is important to consider as many solutions as possible and not dismiss any
as unworthy. For example, consider a person with a major health concern (e.g., cancer or multiple
sclerosis). There are often many ways to treat the illness, but before choosing a course of treatment, it is
important to consult a health professional and explore all the treatment options. Every treatment has
different side effects and different probabilities for curing the illness. Before choosing an option, people
often want to be sure that they have fully considered all of the possible treatment options. The same is
true in problem solving. Before going forward, it is important to consider all the available options for
dealing with a problem.

Step 3: Select the best solution.
The next step in problem solving is to select the best solution to the problem. Solutions usually differ in
how well they address a particular problem, so the relative strengths and weaknesses of each solution
need to be addressed. Some solutions are straightforward and easy to enact, while others are complex
or difficult to manage. Similarly, some solutions are inexpensive while others are costly. Many criteria
can be used to judge the value of a particular solution as it applies to a given problem. Selecting the
best solution is the key to solving a problem effectively.

The importance of selecting the best solution can be illustrated in a hypothetical example of a couple
with marital difficulties. Having struggled in their marriage for more than two years, the couple decides
that they must do something to resolve the conflict in their relationship. Included in the list of what they
could do are attend marital counseling, receive individual psychiatric therapy, separate, date other
people even though they are married, and file for divorce. Each of these solutions would have a different
impact on what happens to the couple and their marital relationship. While not exhaustive, the list
highlights the importance in problem solving of selecting the best solution to a given problem. The
solutions we choose have a major impact on how we feel about the outcome of our problem solving.

Step 4: Implement the solution.
The final step in problem solving is implementing the solution. Having defined the problem and selected
a solution, it is time to put the solution into action. Implementing the solution involves shifting from
thinking about the problem to doing something about the problem. It is a challenging step: It is not
uncommon to meet with resistance from others when trying to do something new and different to solve a
problem. Implementing change requires communicating with others about the change, and adapting the
change to the wants and needs of those being affected by the change. Of course, there is always the
possibility that the chosen solution will fail to address the problem; it might even make the problem
worse. Nevertheless, there is no turning back at this phase. There is always a risk in implementing
change, but it is a risk that must be taken to complete the problem-solving process.

To clarify what is meant by problem-solving skills, consider the following example of John and Kristen
Smith and their troublesome dishwasher. The Smiths’ dishwasher was five years old, and the dishes
were no longer coming out clean and sparkling. Analyzing the situation, the Smiths determined that the
problem could be related to one of several possible causes: their use of liquid instead of powdered dish

detergent, a bad seal on the door of the dishwasher, ineffective water softener, misloading of the
dishwasher, or a defective water heater. Not knowing what the problem was, John thought they should
implement all five possible solutions at once. Kristen disagreed, and suggested they address one
possible solution at a time to determine the cause. The first solution they tried was to change the dish
detergent, but this did not fix the problem. Next, they changed the seal on the door of the dishwasher—
and this solved the problem. By addressing the problem carefully and systematically, the Smiths were
able to find the cause of the dishwasher malfunction and to save themselves a great deal of money.
Their problem-solving strategy was effective.

Strategic Planning

A second major kind of conceptual skill is strategic planning. Like problem solving, strategic planning
is mainly a cognitive activity. A leader needs to be able to think and consider ideas to develop effective
strategies for a group or an organization. Being strategic requires developing careful plans of action
based on the available resources and personnel to achieve a goal. It is similar to what generals do in
wartime: They make elaborate plans of how to defeat the enemy given their resources, personnel, and
the mission they need to accomplish. Similarly, athletic coaches take their knowledge of their players
and their abilities to create game plans for how to best compete with the opposing team. In short,
strategic planning is about designing a plan of action to achieve a desired goal.

In their analysis of research on strategic leadership, Boal and Hooijberg (2000) suggested that strategic
leaders need to have the ability to learn, the capacity to adapt, and managerial wisdom. The ability to
learn includes the capability to absorb new information and apply it toward new goals. It is a willingness
to experiment with new ideas and even to accept failures. The capacity to adapt is about being able to
respond quickly to changes in the environment. A leader needs to be open to and accepting of change.
When competitive conditions change, an effective leader will have the capacity to change. Having
managerial wisdom refers to possessing a deep understanding of the people with whom and the
environment in which a leader works. It is about having the good sense to make the right decisions at
the right time, and to do so with the best interests of everyone involved.

To illustrate the complexity of strategic planning, consider the following example of how NewDevices, a
startup medical supply company, used strategic thinking to promote itself. NewDevices developed a
surgical scanner to help surgical teams reduce errors during surgery. Although there were no such
scanners on the market at that time, two companies were developing a similar product. The potential
market for the product was enormous and included all the hospitals in the United States (almost 8,000
hospitals). Because it was clear that all hospitals would eventually need this scanner, NewDevices knew
it was going to be in a race to capture the market ahead of the other companies.

NewDevices was a small company with limited resources, so management was well aware of the
importance of strategic planning. Any single mistake could threaten the survival of the company.
Because everyone at NewDevices, including the sales staff, owned stock in the company, everyone was
strongly motivated to work to make the company succeed. Sales staff members were willing to share
effective sales approaches with each other because, rather than being in competition, they had a
common goal.

Every Monday morning, the management team met for three hours to discuss the goals and directions
for the company. Much time was spent on framing the argument for why hospitals needed the
NewDevices scanner more than its competitors’ scanners. To make this even more challenging, the
NewDevices scanner was more expensive than the competition, although it was also safer. NewDevices
chose to sell the product by stressing that it could save money in the long run for hospitals because it
was safer and would reduce the incidence of malpractice cases.

Managers also developed strategies about how to persuade hospitals to sign on to their product. They
contacted hospitals to inquire as to whom they should direct their pitch for the new product. Was it the
director of surgical nursing or some other hospital administrator? In addition, they analyzed how they

should allocate the company’s limited resources. Should they spend more money on enhancing their
website? Did they need a director of advertising? Should they hire more sales representatives? All of
these questions were the subject of much analysis and debate. NewDevices knew the stakes were very
high; if management slipped even once, the company would fail.

This example illustrates that strategic planning is a multifaceted process. By planning strategically,
however, leaders and their employees can increase the likelihood of reaching their goals and achieving
the aims of the organization.

Creating Vision

Similar to strategic planning, creating vision takes a special kind of cognitive and conceptual ability. It
requires the capacity to challenge people with compelling visions of the future. To create vision, a leader
needs to be able to set forth a picture of a future that is better than the present, and then move others
toward a new set of ideals and values that will lead to the future. A leader must be able to articulate the
vision and engage others in its pursuit. Furthermore, the leader needs to be able to implement the vision
and model the principles set forth in the vision. A leader with a vision has to “walk the walk,” and not just
“talk the talk.” Building vision is an important leadership skill and one that receives extensive discussion
in Chapter 7, “Creating a Vision.”

In recent years, the study of leadership skills has captured the attention of researchers and practitioners
alike. Skills are essential to being an effective leader. Unlike traits that are innate, leadership skills are
learned competencies. Everyone can learn to acquire leadership skills. In this chapter, we considered
three types of leadership skills: administrative skills, interpersonal skills, and conceptual skills.

Often thought of as unexciting, administrative skills play a primary role in effective leadership. These are
the skills a leader needs to run the organization and carry out its purposes. These are the skills needed
to plan and organize work. Specifically, administrative skills include managing people, managing
resources, and showing technical competence.

A second type of skills is interpersonal skills, or people skills. These are the competencies that a leader
needs to work effectively with followers, peers, and superiors to accomplish the organization’s goals.
Research has shown unequivocally that interpersonal skills are of fundamental importance to effective
leadership. Interpersonal skills can be divided into being socially perceptive, showing emotional
intelligence, and managing interpersonal conflict.

A leader also needs conceptual skills. Conceptual skills have to do with working with concepts and
ideas. These are cognitive skills that emphasize the thinking ability of a leader. Although these cover a
wide array of competencies, conceptual skills in this chapter are divided into problem solving, strategic
planning, and creating vision.

In summary, administrative, interpersonal, and conceptual skills play a major role in effective leadership.
Through practice and hard work, we can all become better leaders by improving our skills in each of
these areas.

Glossary Terms
administrative skills 101

conceptual skills 109

interpersonal skills 104

problem-solving skills 109

social perceptiveness 104

strategic planning 111

technical competence 103


5.1 Case Study—Give Me Shelter

Theodore Henderson was an unlikely candidate for the executive director’s job at The Ross Center, a
day shelter and organization that serves people who are hungry, lonely, or homeless 365 days a year.

Theo had grown up in a home with six siblings, and his parents barely made enough money to keep
their family clothed and fed. Theo’s father was very critical of him, always telling Theo he wasn’t smart
or strong and didn’t work hard enough. As a result, Theo was very driven, always trying to prove himself.
He would rarely ask for help or support from his parents, his teachers, or any other authority figure.

When Theo became a single dad at 17, his parents told him he had to move out. Theo worked odd jobs
to support himself and his very young son, and the pair spent more than one occasion living in a
homeless shelter. Through sheer determination, Theo was able to earn a GED and enrolled part-time in
community college.

It took him five years, but Theo graduated with an associate’s degree in education. After he graduated,
however, he became discouraged, knowing he needed a bachelor’s degree to become a teacher but he
couldn’t afford more college. A classmate told him about The Ross Center, a day shelter and
organization that was looking for someone to fill its new volunteer coordinator position. The Ross Center
served up to 300 people each day, providing them with breakfast and lunch, laundry and shower
facilities, and assistance in accessing social services, and its volunteer coordinator would not only
recruit and manage volunteers, but also train them. The classmate suggested that with Theo’s education
background, he might be a good fit.

When Theo interviewed for the job, the CEO asked him what he would do first as the volunteer
coordinator. He recalled his own time being homeless and said, “As these folks who come here go
about their day out on the streets, no one looks them in the eye or says hi to them. When they come
here, every volunteer and staff member should do just that. They have to believe that anybody that
walks through these doors is an important, lovable human being, and treat them that way.” He was

Theo thrived in the job. He had a lot of autonomy, developing and implementing his own plans and
procedures for volunteer recruitment and training. He especially liked sharing his own “street”
experiences with volunteers. The job required a lot of organization, matching volunteers with the needs
of the organization and making sure all positions were staffed, but Theo quickly built a successful
program and was well liked by volunteers and staff, many of whom admired his ability to get things

After a year, Linda (director of The Ross Center) told Theo to find and train his replacement because
she wanted him to become the operations manager and oversee the shelter’s day-to-day operations. At
first he balked and said, “I can’t do that. How am I going to run the facility and do human resource stuff?”
he asked. She responded, “You have been doing it. You got this.”

But Theo found the operations job very difficult. He did a lot of what he called “band-aiding”—doing
whatever needed to be done in various departments to keep the building going. As a result, Theo found

himself torn in many directions. When Linda found Theo on a ladder, tool in hand, trying to repair one of
the refrigerators’ compressors, she asked him, “Theo, is this the best use of your time? Isn’t there
someone else whose job this is?” At the same time, staff members complained because they felt like he
was too busy to hear their concerns and suggestions for improvements. In addition, Theo’s son was
having problems in school, and Theo would need to leave in the middle of the day to pick him up, which
he felt put him further behind at work. Despite all the hours and hard work, Theo thought he was failing.
He told Linda he needed to find a new job.

Recognizing Theo’s concerns, Linda thought maybe he was better suited for a different type of
supervisory position. So when the organization’s board of directors determined that it was time for The
Ross Center to expand and build a new facility, Linda told Theo she had a new job for him: She wanted
him to take a leave of absence from the operations job to oversee the effort to build a new facility. The
job would require leading groups of people—committees, contractors, fund-raisers, city leaders—to
design and build the best possible day shelter. There was no way for one single human being to do it all
and make all the decisions; Theo would have to engage in strategic planning and learn to lead others to
accomplish the goals.

Although grateful for the opportunity, Theo didn’t believe he was qualified or deserved it. “Theo, you
have to learn to lead people, not do their work for them,” Linda told him. “Being a leader isn’t about
doing, it’s about facilitating others to achieve objectives and goals. Your job will be to lead others in
making the decisions to create a building that meets all our needs.”

Theo rose to the challenge. He started by listening, meeting with staff, volunteers, and clients to engage
in brainstorming sessions to determine what amenities the shelter needed. He then established several
committees to oversee the budgeting, site selection, and fund-raising for the new building. Theo even
put together a team of regular clients and volunteers to assist in picking out everything from paint colors
to shower tile for the new building. It was through this team that Theo learned that the building needed
taller toilets for clients with mobility issues and shorter toilets to accommodate children for the family
bathrooms. “I didn’t know you could have a three-hour meeting about toilets, but we did,” he said,

When committee or team members developed conflicts or encountered obstacles, Theo resisted his
inclination to just go ahead and tell the committees what to do; instead, he let them work to find
resolution, and mediated when the groups couldn’t reach consensus. As the project progressed, Theo
did become a key decision maker as contractors, city planners, and vendors required answers that
would take too long to reach in a committee. Theo found it a delicate balancing act of being in charge
and letting others be in charge.

After the new building opened, Theo went back to being the facility’s operations director. Instead of
being nervous, Theo approached the job with new confidence. “I have always felt I needed to control
things,” he admits. “But in working on the new building, I had to learn to give up that control to lead
others. It was hard, but it wasn’t going to happen otherwise. I see it’s the same in the day-to-day
operations of the shelter.”

Two years later, Theo’s boss announced at a board meeting that she would be retiring. The board
suggested that it might take a year to do a search to find her replacement, but she shook her head. “You
have the perfect person already in place. He knows the organization inside and out, he’s committed to
the mission, and he has the respect of the staff, volunteers, and clients.”

When she told Theo that the board wanted him to apply to be the CEO, he was stunned, but this time he
didn’t argue. He nodded. “I’m ready,” he said.

1. Based on the Model of Primary Leadership Skills (Figure 5.1), how would you describe Theo’s

skills? In what skills is he strongest, and in what skills is he weakest?

2. Why do you think Theo was more successful in the role overseeing the new facility’s development
than he was as the operations director?

3. What skills did Theo exhibit that made Linda think he would be a good operations manager the first
time? What skills did he learn and develop that led her to think he would be a good CEO?

4. How do you think Theo’s emotional intelligence developed during his career?

5.2 Case Study—Reviving an Ancient Art
Nilda Callañaupa grew up in the Chinchero, a small, rural, and impoverished community nestled high in
the Andes of Peru between the famous ruins of Machu Picchu and the bustling trade center of Cusco.
As a young child, Nilda, a descendant of the Inca and a member of Peru’s indigenous Quechua people,
shepherded her family’s sheep in the highlands near her home, befriending an older shepherdess, Doña
Sebastiana. As the two watched over their flocks, Doña, who was an expert spinner and weaver, taught
young Nilda the ancient art of her ancestors. Learning to spin yarn at 5 years old and to weave patterns
when she was 6, Nilda quickly became an expert weaver, creating beautiful handiworks in the ancient
traditions of her people (Wyland, 2019).

The Inca had a rich tradition of textiles, establishing textiles centers throughout their vast empire. Known
for their beautiful, brightly colored intricate detail, these textiles often denoted wealth and status in the
community and were an integral part of the Inca’s social, political, and religious life. The adult female
weavers of the Chinchero gathered often to weave and spin together, sharing techniques and ideas.
Many, like Nilda’s grandmother, sold their textiles where they could to supplement their families’ meager
farm incomes. In the early 1970s, a small group of these women had become concerned that the young
people of their communities were disinterested in the weaving traditions of their people. The elder
female weavers realized that if they didn’t do something to preserve this native knowledge, an important
part of their culture would be lost forever.

Recognizing the importance of passing on these ancient traditions and reclaiming the disappearing
textile patterns of their culture, a small group formed a weaving collective where the women gathered to
study and learn the traditional ways of spinning, weaving, and natural dyeing, reviving the techniques of
using handspun yarn and natural fibers from the animals they raised (sheep, alpaca, and llama). The
collective hoped to market the women’s creations to the growing tourism industry in Peru, helping
support the weavers and provide them with an independent income.

Coming of age in this environment sparked a passion in Nilda, and she sought to glean as much about
spinning and weaving as she could from her own mother, her grandmothers, and other Chinchero
elders. Though still a girl, she became a leader in the collective, which met in the courtyard of her
family’s home. When a young couple from the United States moved to her village in the early 1970s, she
befriended them, becoming their weaving teacher. This couple, an anthropologist and an ethnobotanist,
learned the importance of weaving to the Quechua people and assisted the weaving collective and the
young Nilda in securing support to create a community cultural center focused on the spinning and
weaving tradition in Chinchero.

Nilda was considered a prodigy; by the time she was 14, she had traveled far from her small Peruvian
village, giving weaving demonstrations at the Smithsonian Institution and at the American Museum of
Natural History in the United States. She was one of the few girls in Chinchero to attend high school and
later the first woman of her community to attend university, weaving to help pay for her education. She
earned a master’s degree from the National University of San Antonio Abad in Cusco in 1986 and
subsequently obtained a grant to study historical textiles in Berkeley, California. Nilda traveled the world
teaching, demonstrating, and promoting her art and the products of her community.

Through the 1980s and ’90s, Nilda traveled abroad, increasing global awareness of the rich weaving
traditions of her culture by leading workshops and lecturing to groups and at institutions including
Harvard, Cornell, the University of Vermont, Brown University, and the Smithsonian Institution.

During Nilda’s absence, the cultural center she helped to found in Chinchero began to falter. In an effort
to preserve it, Nilda led the weavers in forming the Centro de Textiles Tradicionales del Cusco (CTTC) in
1996, a nonprofit dedicated to assisting the communities from the Cusco region to “revive textile
traditions and empower weavers, especially women” (CTTC, 2019). Through the many contacts Nilda
had made in her travels, she was able to secure significant international and foundational support for
this organization and worked with the weavers to revise their goals and set a path forward.

Under Nilda’s leadership, the CTTC began its work by partnering with several communities, working first
with the elders to educate the weavers in their communities on weaving designs, techniques, and
knowledge. CTTC built weaving centers in each community to provide a place where weavers could
gather to work, “free from the distractions of home life and sheltered from the rain” (CTTC, 2019). The
CTTC now partners with 10 weaving communities in the Cusco region. Each community’s weavers work
to revive historical unique ancestral designs and traditions, recovering ancient techniques and refining
processes for natural dyes. In order to more effectively market the weavers’ increasingly exceptional
products, the CTTC opened a store, an office, and a museum in the heart of the city of Cusco, the
former capital city of the Inca Empire and the tourism center of the region.

“The work of the Center is not just to preserve and to study Peruvian textiles, their symbolism and
significance, etc. Our goal also is to assist families to create a larger market for their textiles and a new
economy for their communities,” Nilda says (Van Buskirk & Van Buskirk, 2012b). The CTTC’s emphasis
on quality and ancient traditions has done just that. The resulting finely crafted and unique products of
the CTTC members are recognized worldwide and highly valued for their superior workmanship (Van
Buskirk & Van Buskirk, 2012b).

Nilda’s efforts have not only helped to revive an important cultural art form of the indigenous people of
Peru, but also provided the weavers and the families with a much-needed source of income in the
process. Weaving was long considered “women’s work” and not highly valued, leaving women
economically disadvantaged and reliant on male family members and the meager earnings of
agricultural life in the region. Many of these women are now the primary breadwinners for their families.
Empowered and proud, they hold important status in their communities and families.

“Through the sale of their textiles at a fair price, many of the weavers and their families have been able
to greatly improve their quality of life. They are able to invest their new income in their children and land.
More children are able to complete high school, and now many young people are even going to
university or institutes in the city of Cusco. Families can access better health services and improve their
homes or even buy more land,” says Nilda (Hallum, 2018).

The weavers have also attained a newfound pride in their traditions, their textiles, and themselves. After
centuries of not wearing their traditional clothing, today, the CTTC weavers are proud to use their
traditional clothing and their work to recover their traditions and the influence they have had on others
(Hallum, 2018).

Nilda, now married with two children, is an award-winning author of three books and continues to travel
the world not only sharing the beautiful work, traditions, and techniques of CTTC weavers but also
educating other international communities on how to re-create the success she spearheaded for her
own community high in the Andes.

“I guess you never know what is in your future, especially if you come from a small place,” she says.
“But it is relationships that make a difference. It doesn’t matter what languages we speak, the level of
education we have, the society in which we grew up, or the part of the world in which we live. We can do
surprising things if we share with each other” (Van Buskirk & Van Buskirk, 2012a).


1. Based on the Model of Primary Leadership Skills (Figure 5.1), how would you describe Nilda’s

2. Which skills do you feel contributed most strongly to Nilda’s success leading the CTTC?
3. In what ways do you think Nilda exhibited emotional intelligence?
4. What is your biggest takeaway from this story? What do you find most inspiring?

5.3 Leadership Skills Questionnaire


1. To identify your leadership skills
2. To provide a profile of your leadership skills showing your strengths and weaknesses


1. Place yourself in the role of a leader when responding to this questionnaire.
2. For each of the following statements, circle the number that indicates the degree to which you feel

the statement is true.

Statements Not





1. I am effective with the detailed aspects of
my work.

1 2 3 4 5

2. I usually know ahead of time how people
will respond to a new idea or proposal.

1 2 3 4 5

3. I am effective at problem solving. 1 2 3 4 5

Statements Not





4. Filling out forms and working with details
come easily for me.

1 2 3 4 5

5. Understanding the social fabric of the
organization is important to me.

1 2 3 4 5

6. When problems arise, I immediately
address them.

1 2 3 4 5

7. Managing people and resources is one of
my strengths.

1 2 3 4 5

8. I am able to sense the emotional
undercurrents in my group.

1 2 3 4 5

9. Seeing the big picture comes easily for me. 1 2 3 4 5

10. In my work, I enjoy responding to people’s
requests and concerns.

1 2 3 4 5

11. I use my emotional energy to motivate

1 2 3 4 5

12. Making strategic plans for my company
appeals to me.

1 2 3 4 5

13. Obtaining and allocating resources is a
challenging aspect of my job.

1 2 3 4 5

14. The key to successful conflict resolution is
respecting my opponent.

1 2 3 4 5

15. I enjoy discussing organizational values
and philosophy.

1 2 3 4 5

16. I am effective at obtaining resources to
support our programs.

1 2 3 4 5

Statements Not





17. I work hard to find consensus in conflict

1 2 3 4 5

18. I am flexible about making changes in our

1 2 3 4 5


1. Sum the responses on items 1, 4, 7, 10, 13, and 16 (administrative skill score).
2. Sum the responses on items 2, 5, 8, 11, 14, and 17 (interpersonal skill score).
3. Sum the responses on items 3, 6, 9, 12, 15, and 18 (conceptual skill score).

Total Scores

Administrative skill: ___________________________________

Interpersonal skill: _____________________________________

Conceptual skill: _______________________________________

Scoring Interpretation

The Leadership Skills Questionnaire is designed to measure three broad types of leadership skills:
administrative, interpersonal, and conceptual. By comparing your scores, you can determine where you
have leadership strengths and where you have leadership weaknesses.

If your score is 26–30, you are in the very high range.

If your score is 21–25, you are in the high range.

If your score is 16–20, you are in the moderate range.

If your score is 11–15, you are in the low range.

If your score is 6–10, you are in the very low range.

5.4 Observational Exercise

Leadership Skills

1. To develop an understanding of different types of leadership skills
2. To examine how leadership skills affect a leader’s performance

1. Your task in this exercise is to observe a leader and evaluate that person’s leadership skills. This

leader can be a supervisor, a manager, a coach, a teacher, a fraternity or sorority officer, or anyone
who has a position that involves leadership.

2. For each of the groups of skills listed as follows, write what you observed about this leader.

Name of leader: ________________

Administrative skills 1 2 3 4 5

Managing people

Managing resources

Showing technical competence













Very good

Very good

Very good


Interpersonal skills 1 2 3 4 5

Being socially perceptive

Showing emotional intelligence

Managing conflict













Very good

Very good

Very good


Conceptual skills 1 2 3 4 5

Problem solving

Strategic planning

Creating vision













Very good

Very good

Very good



1. Based on your observations, what were the leader’s strengths and weaknesses?
2. In what setting did this leadership example occur? Did the setting influence the kind of skills that the

leader used? Discuss.
3. If you were coaching this leader, what specific things would you tell this leader about how they

could improve leadership skills? Discuss.
4. In another situation, do you think this leader would exhibit the same strengths and weaknesses?


5.5 Reflection and Action Worksheet

Leadership Skills

1. Based on what you know about yourself and the scores you received on the Leadership Skills

Questionnaire in the three areas (administrative, interpersonal, and conceptual), how would you
describe your leadership skills? Which specific skills are your strongest, and which are your
weakest? What impact do you think your leadership skills could have on your role as a leader?

2. This chapter suggests that emotional intelligence is an interpersonal leadership skill. Discuss
whether you agree or disagree with this assumption. As you think about your own leadership, how
do your emotions help or hinder your role as a leader? Discuss.

3. This chapter divides leadership into three kinds of skills (administrative, interpersonal, and
conceptual). Do you think some of these skills are more important than others in some kinds of
situations? Do you think lower levels of leadership (e.g., supervisor) require the same skills as
upper levels of leadership (e.g., CEO)? Discuss.

1. One unique aspect of leadership skills is that they can be practiced. List and briefly describe three

things you could do to improve your administrative skills.
2. Leaders need to be socially perceptive. As you assess yourself in this area, identify two specific

actions that would help you become more perceptive of other people and their viewpoints. Discuss.
3. What kind of problem solver are you? Are you slow or quick to address problem situations? Overall,

what two things could you change about yourself to be a more effective problem solver?

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Descriptions of Images and Figures
Back to Figure

Chinchero, Peru: A Message from Nilda

The circular diagram is divided into 3 equal parts labeled Administrative, Interpersonal and Conceptual.
The center of the diagram is labeled core leadership skills.

Each of the 3 leadership skills are divided into 3 further sets of skills as follows:

1. Administrative: Managing People, Managing Resources, Showing Technical Competence.
2. Interpersonal: Being Socially Perceptive, Showing Emotional Intelligence, Managing Interpersonal

3. Conceptual: Creating Visions, Strategic Planning, Problem Solving.


Think of a time or circumstance when you were performing at the peak of your abilities. Now, step back
and try to explain why you were so effective in that situation. What was it about you or the way you
presented yourself that made you feel good? What did you do that worked so well? Why did others
respond to you the way they did? The answers to each of these questions are related to your strengths
—the central theme of this chapter.

Every one of us has identifiable leadership strengths, areas in which we excel or thrive. But we often fail
to recognize these strengths. As a result, many times our strengths are used ineffectively or not at all.
The same is true for the strengths of our coworkers and followers; sometimes their strengths are known,
but often they go untapped. The challenge we face as leaders is to identify our own strengths as well as
the strengths of others and then use these to make our organizations and followers more efficient,
productive, and satisfied.

Identifying individual strengths is a unique challenge because people often feel hesitant and inhibited
about acknowledging positive aspects of themselves. In the American culture, expressing positive self-
attributes is often seen as boastful or self-serving. In fact, focusing on self is disdained in many cultures,
while showing humility and being self-deprecating is seen as virtuous. In this chapter, you will be asked
to set aside your inhibitions about identifying your own strengths in an effort to better understand the
inextricable role these strengths play in leading and working with others.

Our goal in this chapter is to explore how understanding strengths can make one a better leader. First,
we will explain the concept by defining strengths and describing the historical background of strengths-
based leadership. We will examine how to identify strengths, followed by a description of different
measures that can be used to assess your strengths. The final section of the chapter will look at the
concept of strengths-based leadership in practice, including specific strategies that leaders can employ
to use strengths to become more effective leaders.

Before discussing the development and principles of strengths leadership, we need to clarify what is
meant by strengths. A strength is an attribute or quality of an individual that accounts for successful
performance. It is the characteristic, or series of characteristics, we demonstrate when our performance
is at its best.

Strengths researchers (Buckingham & Clifton, 2001; Rath, 2007) suggest that strengths are the ability to
consistently demonstrate exceptional work. Similarly, Linley (2008) defines strength as a preexisting
capacity that is authentic and energizing and enables peak performance.

A strength is an applied trait. As mentioned in Chapter 2, traits are characteristics of people that are
often inherited; in the case of strengths, these traits are being engaged at their highest level. For
example, sociability is considered a leadership trait, but for someone who is very good at establishing
and maintaining social relationships, someone we might call a “people person,” that trait is a strength.

A strength is also different from a skill. As discussed in Chapter 5, skills are learned competencies;
everyone can be taught skills. Strengths are expressions of a preexisting capacity and are unique to
each person. A skill can become a strength, however. For example, a person can learn time
management and organization, and with application and practice that allows them to become very good
at this skill, it can become a strength.

Simply put, strengths are positive features of ourselves that make us effective and help us flourish. For
example, Antonio was born with a talent for drawing and design. He worked as a construction laborer for
years while he attended a university to study architecture. As a result, when Antonio became an
architect, his experiences in building made his design skills stronger because he more fully understood
the concepts of actual construction. His clients often comment that one of his strengths is his
“construction-friendly” designs.

Historical Background
Studying leadership from the perspective of strengths is a new area of study, which came to the
forefront in the late 1990s as a result of two overlapping research developments. First, researchers at
Gallup initiated a massive study that included interviews of over 2 million people to describe what’s right
with people—that is, their talents and what they are good at—rather than what’s wrong with people
(Rath, 2007).

Second, academic research scholars began to question the exclusive focus in psychology on the
disease model of human problems and started to study mentally and physically healthy people and what
accounted for their well-being. From this work, a new field called positive psychology emerged
(Peterson & Seligman, 2003). Each of these two developments helped to explain the rising popularity of
strengths-based leadership.


Best known as a public opinion research organization that conducts political polling, Gallup also
conducts research in other areas of the social sciences. For nearly 40 years, the study of people’s
strengths has been a major research focus at Gallup. This work was spearheaded by the late Donald O.
Clifton, under whose leadership millions of people were interviewed regarding their performance and
human strengths. Based on these interview data, Gallup researchers designed and published the
StrengthsFinder profile, an online assessment of people’s talents and potential strengths. This profile
was subsequently titled the Clifton StrengthsFinder in honor of its chief designer and in 2007 became
StrengthsFinder 2.0. As of this writing, the profile is known as CliftonStrengths. Later in the chapter, we
will discuss more extensively CliftonStrengths and the specific talent-based strengths it measures.

CliftonStrengths is one of the most widely used self-assessment questionnaires in the world and has
been completed by more than 10 million people to date. This assessment has been adopted by many
universities and organizations to help individuals identify their strengths, become more engaged, and
improve their performance. While Gallup has not published a theory about strengths, the widely
accepted use of CliftonStrengths has elevated strengths as a key variable in discussions of factors that
account for effective leadership development and performance.

Positive Psychology

At the same time Gallup’s CliftonStrengths profile was growing in popularity, a major change was
occurring in the discipline of psychology. Researchers were challenging the discipline to expand its
focus on not only what is wrong with people and their weaknesses, but also what is right with people
and their positive attributes. This expanded focus, which was initiated by Martin Seligman in an address
to the American Psychological Association in 1998 (see Fowler, Seligman, & Kocher, 1999), soon
became the field of positive psychology. Since its inception a decade ago, positive psychology has
grown exponentially and developed into a credible and important area of psychological research.

Specifically, positive psychology can be defined as “the scientific study of what makes life most worth
living” (Peterson, 2009, p. xxiii). Rather than study the frailties and flaws of individuals (the disease
model), positive psychology focuses on individuals’ strengths and the factors that allow them to thrive

(Fredrickson, 2001; Seligman, 2002; Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000). It addresses people’s positive
experiences, such as their happiness and joy; people’s positive traits, such as their characteristics and
talents; and people’s positive institutions, such as families, schools, and businesses that influence them
(Cameron, Dutton, & Quinn, 2003).

Most prominently, positive psychology is devoted to the study of people’s positive characteristics—their
strengths. This makes it invaluable for understanding strengths-based leadership. Positive psychology
launched the analysis of people’s strengths into the mainstream of scientific research (Linley, 2008).
Concepts and theories from the field of positive psychology directly relate to learning how strengths-
based leadership works.

Identifying and Measuring Strengths
As indicated in the historical background, most of the research on strengths has been done by scholars
connected with Gallup and scholars studying positive psychology. This body of research has produced
multiple ways of identifying strengths and a wide-ranging list of individual strengths. This section
explores the way strengths have been identified by three major groups: (1) Gallup, (2) VIA Institute on
Character, and (3) Centre of Applied Positive Psychology in the United Kingdom. Although there is
much overlap in their work, each research group provides a unique perspective on identifying and
measuring individual strengths. Collectively, this research provides an extensive list of specific
strengths, a clear picture of how strengths can be measured, and an expansive view of how strengths
can be used to understand human behavior.

Gallup and the CliftonStrengths Profile

Gallup researchers interviewed an enormous number of executives, salespeople, teachers, doctors,
nurses, and other professionals about their strengths and what made them good at what they did. The
goal of the interviews was to identify the qualities of high-performing individuals. From interviews, Gallup
researchers extracted 34 patterns or themes that they thought did the best job at explaining excellent
performance (see Table 6.1). These 34 items are “the most common themes that emerged from the
study of human talent” (Buckingham & Clifton, 2001, p. 12). For the last decade, these themes have
been the benchmark for discussing strengths in the workplace.

Table 6.1 34 Talent Themes

Executing Influencing Relationship Building Strategic Thinking

Executing Influencing Relationship Building Strategic Thinking



































Source: Copyright © 2008 Gallup, Inc. All rights reserved. The content is used with permission; however, Gallup retains all rights of

It is important to point out that Gallup researchers identified themes of human talent, not strengths.
Talents are similar to personality traits—they are relatively stable, fixed characteristics that are not easily
changed. From talents, strengths emerge. The equation for developing a strength is talent times
investment (see Figure 6.1). Strengths are derived from having certain talents and then further
developing those talents by gaining additional knowledge, skills, and practice (Rath, 2007). For
example, you may have the talent for being able to communicate easily with others. If you were to invest
time in learning more about the intricacies of effective communication and practicing it with the help of
Toastmasters International, a club that helps individuals develop public speaking skills, you could
enhance your communication strength. Similarly, if you were born with talent as an initiator, you could
develop it further into one of your strengths by studying how to “think outside of the box” and then
practicing this thought process in your organization. To summarize, talents are not strengths, but they
provide the basis for developing strengths when they are coupled with knowledge, skills, and practice.


Figure 6.1 Strength Equation

Source: Copyright © 2007 Gallup, Inc. All rights reserved. The content is used with permission; however,
Gallup retains all rights of republication.

How are strengths measured from the Gallup perspective? Gallup’s CliftonStrengths is a 177-item
questionnaire that identifies “the areas where you have the greatest potential to develop strengths”
(Rath, 2007, p. 31). After taking this questionnaire, you receive a list of your five strongest talents. You
can build on these talents, furthering your personal growth and development. The questionnaire, which
takes about 30 minutes to complete, is available through an access code that appears in the back of
strengths books published by Gallup. It is also available on the organization’s website at How can leaders use strengths in their leadership? In the book

Strengths Based Leadership, Rath and Conchie (2008) explain how a leader’s scores on the
CliftonStrengths profile can be interpreted. To facilitate understanding, they developed a configuration
that depicts four domains of leadership strengths (see Table 6.2). The four domains are executing,
influencing, relationship building, and strategic thinking. These domains were derived from information
obtained during interviews with thousands of executive teams and from a factor analysis of the Gallup
talent data set. Taken together, the four domains represent the four kinds of strengths that help create
successful teams.

Table 6.2 Four Domains of Leadership Strengths



Relationship Building

Strategic Thinking

Source: Copyright © 2008 Gallup, Inc. All rights reserved. The content is used with permission; however, Gallup retains all rights of

Effective teams possess broad groupings of strengths and work best when all four domains of
leadership strengths are represented on their teams (Rath & Conchie, 2008). Effective teams are
generally well rounded, and they have different group members who fulfill different needs of the group.
Leaders bring unique strengths to teams, but leaders do not have to demonstrate strengths in all four
domains. Strong and cohesive teams bring into play everyone’s strengths to make the team effective.

For example, Maria Lopez, who has owned a successful bridal shop for 10 years, took the
CliftonStrengths profile and found her dominant strengths were in the strategic thinking domain. Maria is
known for her futuristic thinking and deliberate planning. She is outstanding at forecasting trends in
bridal wear and helping her team navigate the constantly changing bridal market. Maria hired Claudia,
whose dominant strengths are in relationship building. Claudia is the most positive person on the staff
and connects with everyone. It is Claudia who treats customers in the store like they are part of “the
family.” To run the store on a day-to-day basis, Maria brought on Kristen, who is a hard worker and uses
her strengths in executing to get the job done. She is highly disciplined and motivated to make the bridal
shop the best in the city. Lastly, Maria hired Brianna because of her strengths in the domain of
influencing. Brianna is always out in the community promoting the shop. She is seen as a credible
professional by other shop owners because she is self-assured and knowledgeable. In the store, people
like Brianna because she is not afraid to be in charge and give directions to others. In summary, Maria,
the store’s owner, is a leader with strengths in one domain, but has the wisdom to hire personnel who
have strengths in other domains. Collectively, the combined strengths of Maria and her team allow them
to have a very successful bridal shop.

VIA Institute on Character and Inventory of Strengths

At the same time the CliftonStrengths profile was gaining prominence, researchers at the VIA Institute
on Character, led by Martin Seligman and Christopher Peterson, were engaged in a project to develop a

framework for the field of positive psychology that defined and conceptualized character strengths. This
classification focused on what is best in people rather than their weaknesses and problems. To develop
the classification, they reviewed philosophical and spiritual literature in Confucianism, Buddhism,
Hinduism, Judeo-Christianity, Ancient Greece, and Islam to determine whether there were
commonalities that consistently emerged across cultures regarding virtues (Peterson & Park, 2009;
Peterson & Seligman, 2004). From the review, they identified six universal core virtues: wisdom,
courage, humanity, justice, temperance, and transcendence. These six virtues represent the basic
structure around which Seligman and Peterson developed the VIA Classification of Character Strengths
(see Table 6.3). The VIA Classification includes 24 strengths organized under these six basic virtues.

Table 6.3 VIA Classification of Character Strengths

Classification Strengths


Cognitive Strengths









Love of learning


Classification Strengths


Emotional Strengths










Interpersonal Strengths






Social intelligence


Civic Strengths








Strengths Over Excess










Strengths About Meaning






Appreciation of beauty and excellence





Source: Adapted from The 24 Character Strengths. (2020). Retrieved April 6, 2020, from

As illustrated in Table 6.3, the 24 character strengths identified in the VIA Classification are somewhat
different from the strengths identified in Gallup’s CliftonStrengths profile (see Table 6.1). For example,
“forgiveness” and “gratitude,” which are strengths in the VIA Classification, seem more encompassing
and virtue oriented than “arranger” and “relator,” which are strengths identified in the Gallup 34 Talent
Themes. Furthermore, the strengths outlined by the CliftonStrengths are more closely tied to the

workplace and helping individuals perform better, while VIA strengths are focused more directly on a
person’s character and how one can become more virtuous.

From the VIA perspective, character strengths are measured with the VIA Character Strengths Survey, a
questionnaire designed to create a profile of your character strengths. It takes about 30 minutes to
complete and is available free at After completing the questionnaire, you will
receive reports and feedback identifying your top five character strengths as well as a rank order of your
scores on all 24 character strengths.

Centre of Applied Positive Psychology and the Strengths Profile

Based on the principles of positive psychology, researchers at the Centre of Applied Positive
Psychology (CAPP) in the United Kingdom developed an approach to strengths that differs from the
approaches used in Gallup’s CliftonStrengths and the VIA Character Strengths Survey. Rather than
focusing exclusively on the identification of a specific number of strengths, CAPP researchers created a
more dynamic model of strengths that emphasizes the changing nature of strengths (see Figure 6.2).
They also examined different kinds of strengths and weaknesses. CAPP argued that strengths are more
fluid than personality traits and can emerge over a lifetime through the different situations we


Figure 6.2 Strengths Profile 4M Model

Source: Centre of Applied Positive Psychology (CAPP), Coventry, UK: CAPP Press.

From CAPP’s perspective, strengths were conceptualized as “the things that we are good at and that
give us energy when we are using them” (Linley & Dovey, 2012, p. 4). The three central elements of this
definition became the criteria in CAPP’s questionnaire (Strengths Profile) for assessing strengths: (1)
performance—how good we are at doing something; (2) energy—how much vitality we get out of it; and
(3) use—how often we are able to do it. Therefore, the Strengths Profile assesses 60 strengths in
relation to three dimensions of energy, performance, and use. Based on an individual’s combined scores
across these dimensions, CAPP provides feedback that specifies the individual’s realized strengths,
unrealized strengths, learned behaviors, and weaknesses. It takes about 20 minutes to complete the
Strengths Profile, which is available for a fee at

The CAPP strengths perspective is represented in the Strengths Profile 4M Model (see Figure 6.2). It is
divided into quadrants labeled realized strengths, unrealized strengths, learned behaviors, and
weaknesses. As you can see in Figure 6.2, each quadrant lists attributes based on the dimensions of
performance, energy generation, and use. Each quadrant characterizes different individual attributes
and how they can be put into use.

Realized Strengths.
Realized strengths are personal attributes that represent our strongest assets. We are energized when
we use them because they help us perform well. For example, one of Rachel’s strengths is narrator. She
is a wonderful storyteller and uses these stories to convey her message and express her values. The
model suggests that people should make every effort to maximize the use of these realized strengths,
when it is appropriate to do so.

Unrealized Strengths.
Unrealized strengths are personal attributes that are less visible. We feel good when we tap into
unrealized strengths because they support our efforts and help us achieve our goals. One of Javier’s
unrealized strengths is creativity. He is good at coming up with new ideas and concepts, but more often
than not he just goes with the flow and does not express his creativity. The model challenges individuals
to become more aware of these strengths and to use them more frequently—thus to marshal them as a

Learned Behaviors.
Learned behaviors represent those ingrained things we have learned throughout our life experience.
Although valuable, they do not excite or inspire us. For example, one of Sunil’s learned behaviors is
driver. As the eldest of five, he was driven to graduate from college. Highly self-motivated, Sunil
constantly pushes himself to succeed in everything he does, often to the detriment of his own health.
Many times Sunil doesn’t recognize when his goals are unrealistic, and not succeeding in these leads to
feelings of self-doubt and worthlessness. The model suggests limiting, or moderating, the use of these
behaviors because they are draining and do not energize us.

Weaknesses are our limiting attributes. They often drain our energy and result in poor performance.
One of Kaylee’s weaknesses is unconditionality. She finds it hard to genuinely accept people for who
they are, without being judgmental about them and expecting them to change to meet her ideals. As a
leader, she is constantly frustrated by others because they don’t meet her standards in a number of
areas. The model suggests that effective people try to minimize their weaknesses so as to make them
irrelevant or of less concern.

Unlike the previous approaches to strengths, the CAPP model is prescriptive and pragmatic. The
Strengths Profile suggests ways people can be more effective by increasing their strengths and
minimizing their weaknesses. The model recommends that individuals use their realized strengths when
possible, but also intentionally look for ways to increase use of their unrealized strengths. Stated
another way, we should capitalize on our strengths but also seek out ways to express our unrealized
strengths. In addition, the model recommends that we try to moderate our use of learned behaviors and
minimize our use of our weaknesses. We are energized by our strengths (the top two quadrants), and
we lose energy when we express our weaknesses and learned behavior (the bottom two quadrants).

A good example of using the CAPP model is Tamaria, who has recently taken on the role of project
manager for a team that is developing a new website for her company. Tamaria’s realized strength is her
focus on details and organization; her weakness is that she isn’t as technically skilled as some of the
members of her team. As a child, Tamaria struggled in school, and one of her coping mechanisms was

to ask a lot of questions so that she thoroughly understood assignments. That has become a learned
behavior she still employs. Finally, one of Tamaria’s unrealized strengths is her ability to problem-solve
and mediate in conflict.

In order for her team to succeed, Tamaria will need to maximize the use of her realized strengths of
organization and attention to detail in outlining the tasks and deadlines for the project. To deal with her
weakness in technical skills, she will need to minimize her involvement in the technical development of
the website, relying on other team members’ technical skills. By employing her learned behavior of
asking her team members a lot of questions about what they are doing and why, Tamaria will slow down
the team’s progress and frustrate team members who may feel she’s micromanaging them. In this case,
she will need to moderate her inquisitiveness, identifying the questions that she really needs answered
or finding a way to research the questions on her own. Finally, working within a team can result in
disparate opinions and ideas, and Tamaria will need to marshal her unrealized strength in the mediation
and problem solving so the team works smoothly together and meets deadlines while creating a
dynamic website.

To summarize, researchers have developed three unique assessment tools to identify strengths: (1)
CliftonStrengths, (2) VIA Character Strengths Survey, and (3) Strengths Profile (see Table 6.4). Each of
these assessments provides a unique approach to strengths, and together they help to define and
clarify the meaning of strengths. All of the questionnaires are accessible online, and they are worthwhile
self-assessment tools for identifying and exploring your personal strengths.

Table 6.4 Approaches to Identifying Strengths

Approach Purpose Number of

Strengths of Competence

Gallup CliftonStrengths

To identify traits/strengths of peak performers 24

Strengths of Character

VIA Character Strengths

To identify virtuous/moral character strengths 36

Strengths Fully Realized

CAPP Strengths Profile

To identify strengths and weaknesses to improve


How are strengths used in leadership? Although there are no established leadership theories on how to
practice leadership from a strengths perspective, many useful applications can be made from strengths
research in everyday leadership situations. In this section, we discuss several specific ways to
incorporate strengths in your personal and work settings. The steps include (1) discovering your
strengths, (2) developing your strengths, (3) addressing your weaknesses, (4) recognizing and engaging
the strengths of others, and (5) fostering a positive strengths-based environment around you. Following
these steps will not be a panacea for becoming a perfect strengths-based leader, but it will most
certainly help you, as a leader, to maximize the use of your strengths as well as those of others.

Discovering Your Strengths
As discussed earlier in this chapter, strengths emerge from our basic personality traits. We all have
unique personality traits, and therefore we all have unique strengths. No one is without strengths. As
suggested by psychologist Howard Gardner (1997), extraordinary individuals are “distinguished less by
their impressive ‘raw power’ than by their ability to identify their strengths and then exploit them” (p. 15).
MacKie (2016) suggests that our leadership capability is enhanced when we are able to discover our
fully utilized strengths, underutilized strengths, and weaknesses. The challenge we face is identifying
our strengths and then employing them effectively in our leadership and personal lives.

Discovering your strengths requires you to concentrate on your positive attributes and those times when
you feel inspirited. To do so, you need to pay attention to your successes rather than focusing on your
weaknesses or failures. For example, when are you at the top of your game? What is it about you or
your interactions with others that contributes to that feeling? What accounts for your best performance?
When things are going really well for you, what attributes are behind this success? Answering these
questions will help you discover your strengths. They are the first and most important step in practicing
strengths-based leadership.

There are several ways you can discover your strengths. First, you can complete one or more of the
strengths questionnaires (e.g., CliftonStrengths, VIA Character Strengths Survey, and Strengths Profile)
that are available online. Each questionnaire gives a unique snapshot of your greatest strengths.
Second, you can fill out the Leadership Strengths Questionnaire that appears in this chapter. This
questionnaire will provide you with specific feedback regarding your relative strengths in the areas of
implementation, innovation, encouragement, analysis, and mediation. Third, you can complete the
Reflected Best Self Exercise (RBSE) (Quinn, Dutton, & Spreitzer, 2003), which can be found at The RBSE can assist you in identifying unrecognized
and unexplored areas of strengths (Roberts et al., 2005). Fourth, you can complete the Reflection and
Action Worksheet on page 157 to discover your strengths. This exercise allows people you know to tell
you what they see as your strengths when you are performing at your best. It is a powerful exercise you
can use to become more aware of your strengths, and it may help you learn about some you have not
recognized. Fifth, you can engage in a self-assessment of what you believe to be your strongest
attributes. Intuitively, we all have a sense of what we do well, but taking the time to intentionally
contemplate and consider our own strengths leads us to become more fully aware of our strengths.

This myriad of methods for discovering strengths will allow you to painlessly develop a definitive list of
your major strengths. This process is not only enlightening but also a vital first step in developing
strengths-based leadership.

Developing Your Strengths
Once you have discovered your strengths, what do you do with that knowledge? How do you make use
of this information to be a stronger leader? Developing one’s strengths is a multifaceted process that
involves several steps. First, you must acknowledge your strengths and be prepared to reveal them to
others. As we discussed at the beginning of this chapter, it is often difficult to share our strengths with

Reflected Best Self Exercise™

others because we may feel inhibited about openly and verbally acknowledging positive aspects of
ourselves. But expressing our strengths is essential to making others aware of our leadership.

Telling others about our strengths is important because it lets them know how we can be most useful
when working or collaborating together, clarifying the unique contributions we can make to others and
their work. In essence, disclosing strengths declares “this is what I bring to the table, this is what I am
best at, this is what I can do for you,” and that allows others to know what they can expect from us. For
example, when Tanya lets others know that her strongest quality is that she is an achiever, others learn
that Tanya is not likely to allow mediocrity in their work. She is going to be demanding and push others
toward excellence. Similarly, when Damian tells his staff that his strength is listening, his staff learns that
Damian will have an open door and be willing to hear their problems or concerns. Putting our strengths
out in the open makes us more transparent to others, and this helps others predict how we are going to
act and how they might want to act toward us.

People use a variety of ways to reveal their strengths. Some people post their top five strengths on
Facebook or LinkedIn, add them to their email signature, or list them on their résumé as a way of
making their strengths more visible to others. Several unique examples of how some people share their
strengths are illustrated in Figure 6.3. Disclosing our strengths to others does not need to be a daunting
or embarrassing task, but can be done in a fairly simple, straightforward manner.


Figure 6.3 Examples of Ways to Express Strengths

In addition to revealing your strengths, practice working consistently with others based on your
strengths. For example, if your strength is being an innovator, find ways to be creative in your
leadership. For example, do not hesitate to engage in activities like brainstorming or creating a vision for
your group or organization. Similarly, if your strength is that you are deliberative, place yourself in a
position where your strength in providing structure and order to a project can be put to use. Add your
well-thought-out perspective by being vigilant and practical when people around you are coming up with
ideas that have never been tested. The point is that you should lead from your strengths; your strengths
represent the best you have to offer in influencing others. As Anderson (2004) from Gallup has
suggested, “The best of the best invent ways of developing and applying strengths in areas where they
want to improve, achieve, and become more effective” (p. 7).

A good example of practicing strengths is Warren Buffett, one of the wealthiest people in the world.
Buffett is known for his patience, practicality, and trustfulness, and he used these strengths to make
Berkshire Hathaway, a multinational conglomerate, successful (Buckingham & Clifton, 2001). His
patience led him to adopt the now famous “20-year perspective” on investing only in companies that he
believed would be successful for the long term. His practicality explains how he selected specific
companies whose services and products he understood (e.g., American Express). Finally, Buffett’s
trustfulness allowed him to select senior managers who were reputable and dependable to run his
company. Clearly, Buffett recognized his strengths and carved out a role for himself that allowed him to
practice these strengths every day (Buckingham & Clifton, 2001).

Addressing Your Weaknesses

Leaders must not only recognize and capitalize on their strengths, but also be able to identify their
weaknesses and address them (MacKie, 2016). Harvard leadership professor John P. Kotter states,
“Great leadership doesn’t mean running away from reality . . . sharing difficulties can inspire people to
take action that will make the situation better” (Blagg & Young, 2001).

While some of the models discussed here advocate minimizing your weaknesses, understanding them
can allow you to work to improve them and to recognize situations where your weaknesses can be a
liability to your leadership. For example, Lisa owns a small business developing e-commerce websites
for companies that sell products online. Her strengths are her structural and process-oriented thinking
and technical expertise. She is adept at anticipating and managing the many small details for creating a
website that is secure and provides a good user experience. However, Lisa can’t describe what she
does in normal “layperson” terms for clients. In her proposals and presentations, she tends to lose
clients with her use of technical language and minutiae of detail. In Lisa’s case, it isn’t enough that she
minimize her weakness—she can’t not talk to clients because that’s how she generates new business.
She must find a way to communicate better with her clients.

Leadership Snapshot:

Steve Jobs, Founder, Apple Inc.

By Matthew Yohe, CC BY-SA 3.0,

While Steve Jobs was undoubtedly brilliant, he didn’t possess the technical abilities to be a
computer genius. In fact, Jobs didn’t know how to write computer code or program a computer.

But he succeeded—twice—in building one of the most successful and profitable computer
companies in the world.

Jobs had many notable strengths, including his creativity, team building, strategic vision, and
influencing. He had intuitive vision, imagining products and applications of which no one else
dared to dream. When he created Apple in 1976 with partner Steve Wozniak, he sought to create
an attractive, simple, inexpensive computer marketed as the first home computer. Jobs
micromanaged every detail of the computer’s creation from its unique operating software to the
color of its casing.

Jobs was an influencer, using his indomitable will and charisma to convince himself and others of
almost anything. He believed rules were meant to be broken, and in 1984, Apple did just that,
introducing a truly revolutionary product, the Macintosh. It used graphics, icons, a mouse, and
the point-and-click technology that is still standard. It was innovative and influential.

But Jobs wasn’t perfect. He could be confrontational, and this quality eventually resulted in him
being booted out of his own company by Apple’s board of directors.

Jobs moved on, using his visionary skills and passion for perfection to create NeXT Computer,
recognized as a great product that never caught on with consumers.

Undaunted, Jobs branched out into movie animation by acquiring Pixar Animation Studios,
bringing his vision, passion, and influencing skills to a new industry. Under his leadership, Pixar
revolutionized movie animation and made Jobs a multibillionaire.

His old company, Apple, hadn’t done so well. A decade after Jobs exited, Apple was nearly
bankrupt. It decided to buy NeXT Computer and the services of Jobs as a consultant. But he
would soon take over as CEO. His first move was to employ another of his strengths—focus. He
took the two-dozen products Apple was producing—printers, computers, and software—and
winnowed them down to only laptop and desktop computers for the professional and home

Jobs didn’t stop there. Over the next 14 years, he dreamt up the iPod, the iPad, and the iPhone.
By combining creativity, technology, and feats of engineering, Apple produced new devices that
consumers hadn’t even thought of or knew they needed. Jobs insisted these devices be intuitive
and simple to use and oversaw every detail of design from creating specialized glass for the
screens to the width of their metal casings.

In the end, Jobs’s vision revolutionized seven industries: personal computers, animated movies,
music, telephones, tablet computing, digital publishing, and retail stores. When he returned to
Apple in 1997, he personally created the company’s new ad campaign—“Think Different”—which
was as much a statement of his own strengths as a leader as it was a mission statement for

After losing out on several possible projects, Lisa listened to the feedback of the clients when they said
that what she was proposing was “too complicated.” Lisa brought in a marketing professional, Julie, to
help her develop and pitch proposals to clients. Julie understands enough of the technical parts of Lisa’s
work to be able to put it in easier-to-understand terms for potential clients. Julie is very strong in
communication and social interactions, and Lisa is finding that by observing and working with Julie, she
is learning to communicate more effectively with clients.

While making the most of our strengths is important for leaders, recognizing our weaknesses is also
important in effective leadership. In the case of Lisa, she had to address her communication problems;
there was no way around it. Working to improve on your weaknesses or using them as opportunities for
others to contribute their strengths will improve your leadership.

Recognizing and Engaging the Strengths of Others
In addition to employing their own strengths, leaders need to recognize and engage the strengths of
their followers. They need to determine what followers are good at doing and help them to do it.
Educators who study group dynamics and the roles individuals play in effective groups often say “people
do what they do best.” What they mean by this is that individuals often become engaged and contribute
positively to groups when they are allowed to do what they are good at and feel comfortable doing.
People feel comfortable in groups when they can contribute to the group from their strengths.

A good example of this is the Mary Kay cosmetic company. Mary Kay Ash was a skilled motivator and
trainer, who founded her business with five products and a dream to inspire women to transform their
lives by empowering women and putting them in control of their own futures (Mary Kay, n.d.). She
established the company as a multilevel marketing enterprise specializing in direct sales, where each
saleswoman could determine her own sales goals and commitment level. Saleswomen recruited and
trained other saleswomen and supported one another in their work. Ash imparted to her salespeople
that she imagined everyone wearing a sign that said, “Make me feel important,” and made it part of
everything she did. Ash connected a community of women who found confidence through
encouragement; as a result, Mary Kay is now the sixth-largest network marketing company in the world,
with more than $3.25 billion in wholesale volume in 2018 (DSN Staff, 2018).

How do leaders know what people are good at? Sometimes people are very up front and freely express
their strengths. Mia, for example, often says when she joins a new work project, “I’m a good note taker,
so you can plan on me to be the record keeper for our meetings.” Similarly, Josh often says on the first
day of a roofing project, “I am pretty fast with the nail gun, so you might want me on the roof nailing
shingles.” Clearly, sometimes followers openly inform leaders of their strengths. When this occurs, it is
important for leaders to acknowledge the strengths of these individuals if possible and assign them to
roles in the work setting that capitalize on these strengths.

While recognizing strengths sounds simple, it is not uncommon for leaders to overlook followers’
strengths. Oftentimes, the strengths of followers are not evident to leaders or even to the followers
themselves. This becomes a challenging situation, because leaders need to ascertain followers’
strengths from what they observe rather than what followers explicitly express to them. Cordelia was a
struggling graduate student who was just plodding along, uncertain about her direction and goals. When
she received an A++ on a challenging reaction paper, she became excited and was surprised to learn
that her strength was creativity, particularly in writing. Cordelia and her instructor both became aware of
her strengths in writing by the work she did on her assignment. Juan is good with solving computer
glitches in the office, suggesting his strengths lie in the area of technology. When he was assisting a
staff member who was having a problem downloading a file from the web, he found that he liked the
challenge of solving these problems. Or consider Ashley, who is a good worker, always present, and
never oppositional. She is a wonderful team member whose strengths are consistency, kindness, and
being fun-loving. She fosters the esprit de corps in the athletic center where she works. In each of these
examples, an effective leader tries to identify the followers’ strengths and then incorporate them into
building a more productive team.

However, it is important to note that others’ strengths may not always be directly recognizable. Followers
may have strengths that are not observable because their situations don’t allow for many facets of their
overall abilities to emerge. Therefore, it is important to find opportunities outside followers’ normal realm
of duties or activities that will allow their strengths to emerge. For example, Jeff works on an assembly
line at a golf cart manufacturer attaching seats to the chassis of golf carts. The position is very repetitive
and structured, and Jeff, like the other assembly line employees, spends most of his workday at his
station with limited interaction with other workers. However, with the blessing of his supervisor, Jeff
recently organized a softball team made up of other plant workers to play in a local league. Jeff has
recruited team members, arranged all the practices, communicated practice and game schedules to the
team, organized the purchase of team uniforms, and promoted the team’s games in the plant through
flyers and the company newsletter. As a result, many individuals who work with Jeff have observed his

strengths in organization, inclusion, and communication, which would not be observable through his
day-to-day work on the assembly line.

As discussed earlier in this chapter, high-performing teams and work groups possess strengths in four
domains: executing, influencing, relationship building, and strategic thinking (see Table 6.2). When
leaders become aware of their followers’ strengths as well as their own, they can use this information to
design work groups that have individuals with strengths representing each of the domains. Knowing
followers’ unique strengths allows leaders to make work assignments that maximize each individual’s
contribution to the collective goals of the group (Rath & Conchie, 2008). If a leader is strong on
executing and knows how to make new ideas come to fruition, but is not as strong in building
relationships, the leader should identify followers with strengths in that area. Or if a leader has strengths
in connecting with people and taking command, the leader can identify others who are strong in
executing and strategic thinking. Knowledge of followers’ strengths is a valuable tool to help leaders to
build effective groups.

Fostering a Positive Strengths-Based Environment
A final way to practice strengths-based leadership is to create and promote a positive work environment
in which people’s strengths play an integral role. Multiple studies by researchers in positive
organizational scholarship indicate that companies and organizations that create positive work
environments have a positive physiological impact on employees and, in turn, this has an advantageous
impact on their performance (Cameron, 2012; Dutton & Ragins, 2007). Similarly, research suggests that
when employees have the opportunity to engage their strengths, they are more productive and more
loyal, and their companies experience less turnover (Clifton & Harter, 2003). In short, people feel better
and work better when the climate in which they work is positive.

In his book Positive Leadership, Cameron (2012) argues that leaders who want to create a positive work
environment should attend to four areas: climate, relationships, communication, and meaning. To create
a positive climate, leaders should foster among their employees virtues such as compassion,
forgiveness, and gratitude. When these qualities are present, people feel encouraged and are more
productive. Leaders can also promote celebrating people’s strengths. Doing so helps people feel valued
as individuals and respected for their contribution to the organization. To build positive relationships,
leaders need to highlight individuals’ positive images and strengths rather than their negative images
and weaknesses. Acknowledging and building on people’s strengths encourages others to do the same,
and this results in the development of an environment where positive relationships flourish. To develop
positive communication, leaders must be supportive, make more positive than negative statements, and
be less negatively evaluative of others. Positive communication helps people feel connected and
encourages them to capitalize on their strengths. Finally, leaders can foster positive meaning in their
organizations by emphasizing the connection between employees’ values and the long-term impact of
their work. Employees who find meaning in their work and see it as valuable are more engaged and

Fostering a positive strengths-based organizational environment is embraced by a multitude of
organizations. For example, more than 500 colleges and universities have integrated dimensions of a
strengths-based perspective into their student learning, faculty, and culture, including Azusa Pacific
University, Baylor University, San Jose State University, Texas A&M University, Texas Tech University,
University of Arkansas, and University of Minnesota. Among the many companies that have adopted
strengths as a systematic program are Fortune 500 companies Best Buy, Chick-fil-A, Cisco, Coca-Cola,
Facebook, Hilton, Microsoft, and Pfizer.

Strengths-based leadership has been given much attention in recent years because researchers believe
it can have a significant impact on the way leaders choose to lead and on the performance of followers.
In this chapter, we explored people’s strengths and how leaders can make use of these strengths to

become more effective leaders. Although we all have strengths, they often go unrecognized and
unused. Understanding strengths can make one a better leader.

A strength is defined as an attribute or quality of an individual that accounts for successful performance.
In simple terms, a strength is what we do when we are performing at our best. Strengths often begin
with our inborn talents and can be further developed through knowledge, skills, and practice. The
equation for developing a strength is talent times investment (Rath, 2007).

Strengths-based leadership has come to the forefront in recent years as a result of two research
developments. First, spearheaded by Donald O. Clifton, Gallup interviewed millions of people about
their strengths and what made them good at what they did. From interviews, Gallup extracted 34 themes
that best explained excellent performance. Second, academic scholars created a new field called
positive psychology that focused less on the disease model and more on the study of healthy people
and what accounted for their well-being. Prominent in this new field is the study of people’s positive
characteristics—their strengths. Taken together, research at Gallup and in positive psychology explains
the rising popularity of strengths-based leadership.

People’s strengths have been measured in different ways. The benchmark is Gallup’s CliftonStrengths,
which is a 177-item questionnaire that identifies an individual’s five strongest talents across four
domains (i.e., executing, influencing, relationship building, and strategic thinking). Strengths can also be
measured using the VIA Character Strengths Survey, which provides an individual’s top five character
strengths as well as a rank order of their scores on 24 virtue-derived character strengths. A third
measure, CAPP’s Strengths Profile, assesses 60 strengths in relationship to an individual’s energy,
performance, and use, and provides feedback on an individual’s realized strengths, unrealized
strengths, learned behaviors, and weaknesses.

Although there are no established theories about the practice of strengths-based leadership, there are
several straightforward ways for individuals to incorporate strengths into their leadership. First, leaders
need to discover their own strengths. They can do this through completing questionnaires and other
self-assessment activities. The goal is to develop a definitive list of one’s strengths. Second, leaders
need to be prepared to acknowledge their strengths and reveal them to others. Although we may feel
inhibited about disclosing our strengths to others, it is essential for making others aware of our
capabilities. We need to make ourselves transparent to others and lead from our strengths. Third,
leaders must make a concerted effort to recognize and engage the strengths of others. Because “people
do what they do best,” leaders have an obligation to help uncover others’ strengths and then integrate
these strengths into building more productive teams. Finally, leaders can practice strengths-based
leadership by fostering work environments in which people’s strengths play an integral role. Leaders can
do this by creating for their followers a positive climate, positive relationships, positive communication,
and positive meaning (Cameron, 2012). Research shows that people feel better and work better when
the climate in which they work is positive.

To summarize, strengths-based leadership is a new area of research that offers a unique approach to
becoming a more effective leader. Not a panacea, strengths concepts provide an innovative and
valuable perspective to add to our leadership toolbox.

Glossary Terms
Gallup 128

learned behaviors 135

positive psychology 129

realized strengths 135

strengths 127

themes of human talent 130

unrealized strengths 135

weaknesses 135


6.1 Case Study—Ready to Be CEO?

Christine Jorgens was shocked when the board of Begin the Future Foundation, the nonprofit
organization she worked for, asked her to apply for the position of CEO of the organization. For 40
years, Begin the Future Foundation had provided programs in a nine-county region to help children
living in poverty in urban and rural areas succeed in school and life, and the CEO’s job was a big one.

Christine had never aspired to be a CEO. She had grown up on a small farm in a rural area, one of
seven children in a family that struggled financially. In high school, she worked at a local restaurant, first
as a dishwasher and then as a waitress, continuing to work there while she attended college studying
social work.

In her senior year of college, she landed an internship at Begin the Future Foundation overseeing an
after-school program for middle school students. Christine ended up working for Begin the Future
Foundation for 12 more years, with many of her colleagues joking that she was “the intern who never
left.” Friendly and approachable, she eagerly took on whatever work the organization had for her to do.
She worked as a receptionist, became a grant writer, helped out in public relations and marketing, and
then was given a position developing and initiating new programs and working with donors to fund those

She thrived at program development, finding ways to implement community resources that were often
overlooked. Her program, Study Buddies, paired up volunteer tutors from a local college with children to
meet three times a week for a half-hour of tutoring followed by a half-hour of recreation and games.
Christine also initiated Girl Power, a program allowing middle school girls to spend an afternoon each
week shadowing a local female professional or businesswoman who worked in a career that they were
interested in pursuing.

Christine’s enthusiasm was contagious, especially with donors. Her programs were all successfully
funded, and potential donors often approached Christine with ideas they had for new initiatives that they
were willing to fund.

But despite all her successes, Christine wasn’t sure she was CEO material. She saw herself as a local
girl who had lucked into some great opportunities. The board had been clear about what credentials a
new CEO must have: strategic thinking, experience running a nonprofit organization, ability to work with
people on all levels of society from the poorest to the richest, ability to manage people, and a
commitment to the organization’s mission of helping kids escape poverty. Christine didn’t have direct
experience overseeing a nonprofit and felt she needed more experience in the day-to-day management
of the organization.

At the suggestion of the board members, she took a strengths assessment and learned her strengths
were in strategic planning, relationship building, creativity, compassion, and influencing. In addition, the
board members pointed out that she had a deep knowledge and commitment to the organization and
the children they served. Despite Christine’s hesitancy, the board was convinced Christine was the right


1. Strengths are considered inborn traits that can be enhanced with experience. What experiences in
Christine’s background helped her develop her strengths?

2. Of the strengths identified by the assessment, which were directly observable in Christine’s work?
Were there any that were not?

3. Christine admitted having some weaknesses, especially in day-to-day management of the
organization. Which of her strengths could she put into use to help her deal with that, and how?

4. What strengths should Christine seek from others that would complement her own and fill some

6.2 Case Study—The Strength to Stand Out
Sociologist Dr. Brené Brown is a highly recognized thought leader, acclaimed best-selling author,
teacher, researcher, and sought-after speaker who has built a small empire and a very large following
around the study of such difficult topics as shame, vulnerability, courage, and empathy.

A Texan who prefers “shit kickers” (cowboy boots), jeans, and clogs to business attire, Brené is a
professor of sociology at the University of Houston. She has authored five number-one New York Times
best-selling books. Her TED Talk, “The Power of Vulnerability,” is one of the top five most-accessed TED
Talks ever with more than 39 million views. In 2019, she hosted her first Netflix special, Brené Brown:
The Call to Courage (Brown, 2019a).

Though Brené is more likely to bill herself as simply a “research professor,” she is also an entrepreneur,
CEO, mother, and wife. She founded The Daring Way, a training and certification program for helping
professionals who want to facilitate her work on vulnerability, courage, shame, and empathy in their

Brené’s path to where she is today began when she was a child. Cassandra Brené Brown’s family
moved several times—from Houston to New Orleans to Houston to Washington, DC, and back to
Houston. Fitting in and feeling a sense of belonging was not easy for her. After moving to New Orleans,
Brown’s parents changed neighborhoods and enrolled her in a Catholic school despite their own
Episcopal faith. Later, when Brené was a teenager, her family returned to Houston, and she was once
again the new kid in school. Her efforts to fit in fell short, and that feeling of belonging remained elusive.
Deepening Brené’s feelings of separateness was the disintegration of her parents’ marriage during her
high school years, shaking the only real sense of belonging she had.

Despite this, Brené was a plucky, curious young girl who grew to be tenacious and outspoken.
Reflecting back, she credits these formative years in helping shape her later success.

“I owed my career to not belonging. First as a child, then as a teenager. I found my primary coping
mechanism for not belonging in studying people. I was a seeker of pattern and connection. I knew if I
could recognize patterns in people’s behaviors and connect those patterns to what people were feeling
and doing, I could find my way,” she said. “I used my pattern recognition skills to anticipate what people
wanted, what they thought, or what they were doing. I learned how to say the right thing or show up the
right way. I became an expert fitter-in, a chameleon” (Brown, 2017, p. 16).

The years after high school were unsettled years of rebellion for Brené; she hitchhiked across Europe,
bartended, and waitressed—gaining a variety of life experiences and admittedly engaging in an array of
self-destructive behaviors. After having dropped out of college earlier, she graduated at 29 at the top of
her class with a bachelor’s degree in social work from the University of Texas at Austin and immediately
entered graduate school at the University of Houston where she completed both a master’s and doctoral

Through her studies, Brené found a passion for social work and discovered the concept of qualitative
research. She became interested in and trained in a methodology known as grounded theory, which
starts with a topic (rather than a theory) from which, through the process of collecting and analyzing data
based on discussions with the study participants, patterns and theories emerge. The grounded theory

model fit Brené’s gift for storytelling and her ability to connect patterns in her subjects through the
listening and observation skills she developed as coping mechanisms in her teens. “I fell in love with the
richness and depth of qualitative research,” she said. “Storytelling is my DNA, and I couldn’t resist the
idea of research as story-catching. Stories are data with a soul and no methodology honors that more
than grounded theory” (Brown, 2019b).

Unfortunately, the grounded theory model is a departure from traditional academic research, which
tends to place higher value on the cleaner, more measurable outcomes of quantitative research. Despite
being discouraged by other academics and counseled to not use the methodology for her doctoral
dissertation, Brené pushed forward. And like the research method she espouses, Brené allowed the
stories emerging from the data to shape her explorations, and she began to study the emotion of

“I didn’t sign on to study shame—one of the most (if not the most) complex and multifaceted emotions
that we experience. A topic that not only took me six years to understand, but an emotion that is so
powerful that the mere mention of the word ‘shame’ triggers discomfort and avoidance in people,” she
said. “I innocently started with an interest in learning more about the anatomy of connection . . .
Because the research participants had the courage to share their stories, experiences, and wisdom, I
forged a path that defined my career and my life” (Brown, 2019b).

As with her choice of research methodology, Brené was discouraged from studying shame as a topic.
But she prevailed, trusting her instincts and the path the data opened to her. Her research would soon
extend to other, equally difficult emotions: vulnerability, courage, and belonging. She was willing to study
areas that were often difficult to define, very personal, and sometimes painful, not only for her study
subjects, but often for herself.

After getting a PhD, Brené accepted a professorship with the University of Houston, teaching and
continuing her research. She was often asked by her shame study participants to share her findings. In
academia, research findings are usually released as peer-reviewed articles in academic journals. Brené
wanted to make her work more widely available and decided to publish it in a more mainstream format.
Knowing it would be difficult to balance this ambition with her academic career, she tendered her
resignation to the university. When the dean of her department was unwilling to accept Brené’s
resignation, she then proposed working part-time—which also was rejected as there was no precedent
at the university for that type of arrangement. Brené stood firm, ultimately winning the blessing of the
dean, the provost, and the university’s president. She borrowed money to self-publish her first book,
Women and Shame: Reaching Out, Speaking Truths and Building Connection, in 2004. The book sold
well enough that it attracted a well-known publisher who republished it, launching Brené’s career as an

Brené sums up her journey in her 2017 book Braving the Wilderness: “Was living lockstep really how I
wanted to spend my life? No. When I was told I couldn’t do a qualitative dissertation, I did it anyway.
When they tried to convince me not to study shame, I did it anyway. When they told me I couldn’t be a
professor and write books that people might actually want to read, I did it anyway” (Brown, 2017, p. 18).

Brené’s publishing success created speaking opportunities where her engaging, self-reflective
personality and willingness to share her own stories in a brutally (yet warmly) honest way make her
highly relatable to others. With her Texas-style no-nonsense wit, she weaves humor and lightness with
topics most people find uncomfortable. She is a sought-after speaker, trainer, and facilitator to the tune
of $100,000 per engagement. Her work translates to many different fields and encompasses a wide
swath of clients including C-suite executives, educators, engineers, mental health professionals, and
parents. Time magazine even called Brené “one of the leading brainiacs on feelings,” adding that “what
Brown offers that others don’t is a nerd’s capacity for qualitative data and grounded theory coupled with
enough warmth and humor that she moves people rather than merely training them” (Luscombe, 2018).

As her success has grown, Brené has maintained the down-to-earth authenticity of a woman who knows
who she is and presents herself exactly as she is—cuss words and all. She believes strongly in her work
and has the willingness and courage to practice it in everyday living, even when it is uncomfortable and

requires her to look closely at her own behaviors and responses. Brené has also bumped up against
many who challenge her and attempt to corral her into “fitting in” with their ideals of who she should be
and what she should discuss. She has been asked by event leaders to dress differently or pare back her
discussions to suit the perspective of their audience. She’s had business groups ask her not to bring up
“faith” and religious groups concerned that she might use cuss words and offend the audience. She
opts, instead, to remain true to who she is.

“I can’t go on that stage and talk about authenticity and courage when I don’t feel authentic or brave. I
physically can’t do it,” she said. “I’m not here so my business-self can talk to their business-selves. I’m
here to talk from my heart to their hearts. This is who I am” (Brown, 2017, p. 24).


Brené Brown has achieved considerable success and a loyal following by playing to her own strengths.
See Brené in action and acquaint yourself further with her by viewing her two TED Talks:

The Power of Vulnerability (

Listening to Shame (

1. Based on the case study narrative and what you learned about Brené and her work from the
TED Talk videos:

a. Based on the strengths listed in Table 6.1, select five strengths that you think are
descriptive of Brené Brown. Explain your answer.

b. Based on your answer to the previous question, which of the four domains of leadership
strengths found in Table 6.2 (executing, influencing, relationship building, or strategic
thinking) do you think best apply to Brené? Which domain do you believe is her strongest?

2. Based on the case study narrative and what you learned about Brené and her work from the
TED Talk videos:

a. Which of the VIA character strengths (Table 6.3) would you attribute to Brené Brown?

b. On a scale from 1 (low) to 5 (high), how would you rate Brené in each classification of the
VIA (Table 6.3)? Explain your ratings.

3. In applying the CAPP perspective, strengths are defined as “the things that we are good at and
that give us energy when we are using them.” Based on the definitions for the CAPP

a. Identify and list Brené Brown’s “realized strengths.”

b. What would you consider to be Brené’s “unrealized strengths”?

c. Can you identify any “learned behaviors” as defined by this model?

d. Can you identify any “weaknesses” as defined by this model?

6.3 Leadership Strengths Questionnaire


1. To develop an understanding of your leadership strengths
2. To rank your strengths in selected areas of performance


1. Please answer the following statements in terms of whether the statement describes what you are

2. For each of the statements, circle the number that indicates the degree to which you feel the
statement is like you.

Statements Very Much
Unlike Me

Me Neutral Like



Statements Very Much
Unlike Me

Me Neutral Like



1. I am an energetic participant when working
with others.

1 2 3 4 5

2. Brainstorming is one of my strengths. 1 2 3 4 5

3. I am good at encouraging coworkers when
they feel frustrated about their work.

1 2 3 4 5

4. I want to know “why” we are doing what we are

1 2 3 4 5

5. I look for common ground in opposing opinions
of others.

1 2 3 4 5

6. I enjoy implementing the details of projects. 1 2 3 4 5

7. I like to explore creative approaches to

1 2 3 4 5

8. I go out of my way to help others feel good
about their accomplishments.

1 2 3 4 5

9. Examining complex problems or issues is one
of my strengths.

1 2 3 4 5

10. I am a mediator in conflict situations. 1 2 3 4 5

11. I stick with the task until the work is

1 2 3 4 5

12. I can initiate change, if it is needed, when
working with others.

1 2 3 4 5

13. I show concern for the personal well-being of

1 2 3 4 5

Statements Very Much
Unlike Me

Me Neutral Like



14. I like to consider various options for doing

1 2 3 4 5

15. I am effective communicating with people
who are inflexible.

1 2 3 4 5

16. I try to follow through with ideas so that the
work gets done.

1 2 3 4 5

17. I enjoy creating a vision for a work-related

1 2 3 4 5

18. I am the “glue” that helps hold the group

1 2 3 4 5

19. I like exploring the details of a problem before
trying to solve it.

1 2 3 4 5

20. I can draw the best out of people with diverse

1 2 3 4 5

21. I like making to-do lists so that the work gets

1 2 3 4 5

22. I can “think outside of the box.” 1 2 3 4 5

23. Encouraging others comes easily for me. 1 2 3 4 5

24. I like thinking things through before engaging
in work projects.

1 2 3 4 5

25. I am good at finding common ground when a
conflict is present.

1 2 3 4 5

26. I enjoy scheduling and coordinating activities
so the work is completed.

1 2 3 4 5

Statements Very Much
Unlike Me

Me Neutral Like



27. I am good at developing new ideas for others
to consider.

1 2 3 4 5

28. I am good at encouraging others to
participate on projects.

1 2 3 4 5

29. I like to explore problems from many different

1 2 3 4 5

30. I am effective at helping coworkers reach

1 2 3 4 5


1. Sum the responses on items 1, 6, 11, 16, 21, and 26 (implementer score).
2. Sum the responses on items 2, 7, 12, 17, 22, and 27 (innovator score).
3. Sum the responses on items 3, 8, 13, 18, 23, and 28 (encourager score).
4. Sum the responses on items 4, 9, 14, 19, 24, and 29 (analyzer score).
5. Sum the responses on items 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, and 30 (mediator score).

Total Scores:

_____________ __________ ___________ _________ ___________

Implementer Innovator Encourager Analyzer Mediator

Scoring Interpretation

The Leadership Strengths Questionnaire is designed to measure your strengths in the areas of
implementation, innovation, encouragement, analysis, and mediation. By assessing the rank order of
your scores, you can determine the areas in which you have the greatest strengths and the areas in
which you are weaker. A high score in a certain area indicates where you are strong; a low score shows
where you are weak. As discussed in this chapter, every person has multiple strengths. In addition to
the strengths revealed by the Leadership Strengths Questionnaire, you may wish to complete other
strengths assessments to obtain a more complete picture of all of your strengths.

If your score is 26–30, you are in the very high range.

If your score is 21–25, you are in the high range.

If your score is 16–20, you are in the moderate range.

If your score is 11–15, you are in the low range.

If your score is 6–10, you are in the very low range.

6.4 Observational Exercise


1. To learn to recognize people’s strengths
2. To gain an understanding of the role of strengths in the leadership process

1. In this exercise, your task is to observe a leader in action. The leader can be a teacher, a

supervisor, a coach, a manager, or anyone who has a position that involves leadership.
2. Based on your observations of the leader in action, identify areas in which the leader has strengths

and areas in which the followers have strengths.


1. Based on the virtue-based strengths listed in Table 6.3, identify two strengths you observed the
leader exhibit. How did these strengths affect their followers?

2. Discuss what strengths group members appeared to exhibit and how these strengths may
complement or distract from the leader’s leadership.

3. Do you think the followers in this situation would feel comfortable expressing their own strengths to
others? Discuss.

4. If you were coaching the leader in this situation, what specific things could they do to create a
positive environment where the expression of people’s strengths was welcomed?

6.5 Reflection and Action Worksheet


1. For this exercise, you are being asked to interview several people you know about your strengths.


First, identify three people (e.g., friends, coworkers, colleagues, family members) from whom
you feel comfortable asking for feedback about yourself.

Second, ask each of these individuals to do the following:

a. Think of a time or situation when they saw you at your best

b. Tell a brief story about what you were doing

c. Describe why they thought you were performing well in this situation

d. Based on this story, describe what unique benefits you offered others in this situation

Third, from the answers the individuals gave, identify two or three recurring themes. These
themes represent your strengths.

2. What is your reaction to what others (in Step 1) have identified as your strengths? Are the strengths
others identified about you consistent with your own perceptions of your strengths? In what way are
they consistent with your scores on the Leadership Strengths Questionnaire?

3. This chapter suggests that it is important for leaders to reveal their strengths to others. As a leader,
how do you feel about disclosing your strengths to others? How do you react when others express
their strengths to you?

1. Based on the questionnaire in this chapter and your own insights, create a business card for

yourself that lists your five signature strengths.
2. Of the four domains of leadership strengths (see Table 6.2), which are your strongest? Describe

how you could solicit support from followers to complement these areas of strength.
3. Imagine you are the leader of a classroom group required to do a semester-long service learning

project. Identify and discuss specific things you could do to create a positive climate, positive
relationships, positive communication, and positive meaning.

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Descriptions of Images and Figures
Back to Figure

The Strengths Equation is as follows:

Talent, a natural way of thinking, feeling and behaving, times, Investment, time spent practicing,
developing your skills, and building your knowledge base, equals, Strength, the ability to consistently
provide near-perfect performance.

Back to Figure

A central circle is divided into quarters and labeled Unrealized Strengths, Realized Strengths, Learned
Behaviors and Weaknesses.

Each of the strengths and weaknesses has a box that includes a definition and a 4, M Model

The information provided in each box is as follows:

* Unrealized Strengths: Perform well, energizing, lower use, 4, M: Marshal.

* Realized Strengths: Perform well, energizing, higher use, 4, M: Maximizer.

* Learned Behaviors: Perform well, de-energizing, variable use, 4, M: Moderate.

* Weaknesses: Perform poorly, de-energizing, variable use, 4, M: Minimizer.

Back to Figure

The diagram is divided into 2 parts. On the left, is Jane Doe, P, h, D, Consultant. On the right, is John
Smith, C, P, A, Consultant.

Their strengths are as follows:

* Jane Doe: Organized, Empathetic, Problem Solver, Discussion Leader, Achiever.

* John Smith: Adaptability, Positivity, Activator, Maximizer, Arranger.


An effective leader creates compelling visions that guide people’s behavior. In the context of leadership,
a vision is a mental model of an ideal future state. It offers a picture of what could be. Visions imply
change and can challenge people to reach a higher standard of excellence. At the same time, a vision is
like a guiding philosophy that provides people with meaning and purpose. It is important here to
distinguish between vision and mission, terms that are sometimes used interchangeably. A vision is a
mental model of an ideal future state; it can be generated by an individual leader or crafted by a team
working together. A mission is how to get there. It is what people do in order to achieve the vision. For
example, a company’s mission statement may describe what it is currently doing—improving customer
satisfaction, developing new products, increasing its use of renewable energy sources—in order to
become a global leader in a particular industry (which is its vision).

A leader’s challenge is to develop a long-term vision that organizational members can share, of the
future they seek to create together. Peter Senge (1990) suggests that leaders sometimes carry with
them “entrenched mental models” that limit their ability to see new possibilities in their environments.
These could be assumptions about the nature of people, organizational politics, attitudes toward risk-
taking, or any number of fixed ideas. For organizations to grow and flourish, leaders need to be able to
change and to learn from their followers, their experiences, and the external environment.

In developing a vision, a leader is able to visualize positive outcomes in the future and communicate
these to others. Ideally, the leader and the members of a group or an organization share the vision.
Although this picture of a possible future may not always be crystal clear, the vision itself plays a major
role in how the leader influences others and how others react to his or her leadership.

For the past 25 years, vision has been a major topic in writings on leadership. Vision plays a prominent
role in training and development literature. For example, Covey (1991) suggested that vision is one of
seven habits of highly effective people. He argued that effective people “begin with the end in mind” (p.
42); that they have a deep understanding of their goals, values, and mission in life; and that this
understanding is the basis for everything they do. Kouzes and Posner (2003), whose Leadership
Practices Inventory is a widely used leadership assessment instrument, identified vision as one of the
five practices of exemplary leadership. Clearly, vision has been an important aspect of leadership
training and development in recent years.

Vision also plays a central role in many of the common theories of leadership (Zaccaro & Banks, 2001).
For example, in transformational leadership theory, vision is identified as one of the four major factors
that account for extraordinary leadership performance (Bass & Avolio, 1994). In charismatic leadership
theories, vision is highlighted as a key to organizational change (Conger & Kanungo, 1998; House,
1977). Charismatic leaders create change by linking their vision and its values to the self-concept of
followers. For example, through her charisma, Mother Teresa linked her vision of serving poor and
disenfranchised people to her followers’ beliefs in personal commitment and self-sacrifice. Some
theories are actually titled visionary leadership theories (see Nanus, 1992; Sashkin, 1988, 2004)
because vision is their defining characteristic of leadership.

To better understand the role of vision in effective leadership, this chapter will address the following
questions: What are the characteristics of a vision? How is a vision articulated? and How is a vision
implemented? In our discussion of these questions, we will focus on how you can develop a workable
vision for whatever context you find yourself in as a leader.


Given that it is essential for a leader to have a vision, how are visions formed? What are the main
characteristics of a vision? Research on visionary leadership suggests that visions have five
characteristics: a picture, a change, values, a map, and a challenge (Nanus, 1992; Zaccaro & Banks,

A Picture
A vision creates a picture of a future that is better than the status quo. It is an idea about the future
that requires an act of faith by followers. Visions paint an ideal image of where a group or an
organization should be going. It may be an image of a situation that is more exciting, more affirming, or
more inspiring. As a rule, these mental images are of a time and place where people are working
productively to achieve a common goal. Although it is easier for followers to comprehend a detailed
vision, a leader’s vision is not always fully developed. Sometimes a leader’s vision provides only a
general direction to followers or gives limited guidance to them. At other times, a leader may have only a
bare-bones notion of where they are is leading others; the final picture may not emerge for a number of
years. Nevertheless, when a leader is able to paint a picture of the future that is attractive and inspiring,
it can have significant impact on their ability to lead others effectively. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a
Dream” speech, given during the March on Washington in 1963, is the epitome of an ideal future worth
striving for: “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its
creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’”

A Change
Another characteristic of a vision is that it represents a change in the status quo, and moves an
organization or a system toward something more positive in the future. A vision points the way to new
ways of doing things that are better than how things were done in the past. It takes the best features of
a prior system and strengthens them in the pursuit of a new goal.

Changes can occur in many forms: rules, procedures, goals, values, or rituals, to name a few. Because
visions imply change, it is not uncommon for a leader to experience resistance to the articulated vision.
Some leaders are even accused of “stirring the pot” when promoting visionary changes. Usually, though,
visions are compelling and inspire others to set aside old ways of doing things and to become part of the
positive changes suggested by a leader’s vision.

A third characteristic of a vision is that it is about values, or the ideas, beliefs, and modes of action that
people find worthwhile or desirable. To advocate change within a group or an organization requires an
understanding of one’s own values, the values of others, and the values of the organization. Visions are
about changes in those values. For example, if a leader creates a vision that emphasizes that everyone
in the company is important, the dominant value being expressed is human dignity. Similarly, if a leader
develops a vision that suggests that everyone in the company is equal, the dominant value being
expressed is fairness and justice. Visions are grounded in values. They advocate a positive change and
movement toward some new set of ideals. In so doing, they must address values.

Leadership Snapshot:

Rosalie Giffoniello, Cofounder, Empower the Children

© Rosalie Giffoniello

When New Jersey schoolteacher Rosalie Giffoniello decided to travel to India in the summer of
1999, she had no idea that one trip would propel her into a life dedicated to educating children
living in poverty in India.

In India, Giffoniello volunteered for a summer at Daya Dan, Mother Teresa’s orphanage for
children with disabilities in Kolkata. Using her special education background, she taught some
children to feed themselves and walk for the first time. It was then that she made a life-changing
decision. “When I went home, I took early retirement from my job, gave away my possessions
and returned to Kolkata for good,” Giffoniello says (O’Neil, 2004).

She returned to Daya Dan and spent two years working with the Missionaries of Charity to
implement programs in language and teaching the children to feed, dress, and bathe

The next year, she and a friend, Janet Grosshandler, cofounded Empower the Children (ETC), a
Jackson, New Jersey–based nonprofit, to raise funds for Daya Dan. At first Giffoniello’s work and
ETC’s funds were channeled toward a number of efforts including an orphanage for boys,

preschools for children born in low-income areas, a home for young adults with mental
disabilities, and a tutorial center for teenage girls.

However, when Giffoniello observed that the children with disabilities in the Kolkata orphanages
were fed each day and clothed while children living on the street often went without food and the
most basic necessities, she decided to broaden ETC’s and her own efforts to address the city’s
poorest and most vulnerable citizens (Empower the Children, 2004).

She began working with Reena Das, a local woman who was educating homeless street children
during her lunch hour on the steps of a nearby office building. Das provided her students with a
healthy snack and introduction to the Bengali and English alphabets (Weir, 2012).

In January 2006, under the auspices of ETC, Giffoniello and Das opened their first school in a
single-room slum building, which they named Preyrona, the Bengali word for inspiration. Four
years later, they moved the school to a two-story building and incorporated vocational education
including sewing instruction for teenage girls and neighborhood women.

Two years after Preyrona 1 opened, they opened a second school, Preyrona 2, in a one-room
building with a leaky roof and no windows. For the 90 students who attended it, however, it was
better than no school at all (Weir, 2012).

Within three years, they opened a third school, this time in a clean three-story building they were
able to buy. Housed in this multistoried building, Preyrona 3 opened its doors in January 2009
and provides three separate educational programs for 60 children while also providing vocational
programs for older students and their mothers.

Giffoniello teaches at the Preyrona schools, where she has instilled her teaching methodology of
self-empowerment and love. In a nation where educators still discipline with a switch, her
philosophy was a challenge for some teachers.

“I tell them ‘If you love the children, then they’ll work for you. They’ll want to please you and
make you proud. It’s our responsibility to give them the right kind of attention,’” Giffoniello
explains. “Happy children become smart children. That’s why we give the children only love”
(Weir, 2012).

ETC’s work has attracted many volunteers from different countries and walks of life, who do
everything from working on-site in Kolkata, to helping develop curriculum, to raising money in
their home countries.

Giffoniello returns to the United States for six months each year, speaking around the country
and raising money for ETC. Now more than a decade old, the organization donates funds for
teachers’ salaries, clothing and hot meals for children, and supplies, and sponsors cultural
drama, dance, and art programs in more than a dozen different institutions, including some in the
United States, Mexico, and Kenya.

The following example illustrates the centrality of values in visionary leadership. Chris Jones was a new
football coach at a high school in a small rural community in the Midwest. When Jones started coaching,
there were barely enough players to fill the roster. His vision was to have a strong football program that
students liked and that instilled pride in the parents and school community. He valued good physical
conditioning, self-discipline, skills in all aspects of the game, esprit de corps, and an element of fun
throughout the process. In essence, he wanted a top-notch, high-quality football program.

Over a period of five years, the number of players coming out for football grew from 15 to 95. Parents
wanted their kids to go out for football because Jones was such a good coach. Players said they liked
the team because Coach Jones treated them as individuals. He was very fair with everyone. He was
tough about discipline but also liked to have fun. Practices were always a challenge but seldom dull or

monotonous. Because of his program, parents formed their own booster club to support team dinners
and other special team activities.

Although Coach Jones’s teams did not always win, his players learned lessons in football that were
meaningful and long lasting. Coach Jones was an effective coach whose vision promoted individual
growth, competence, camaraderie, and community. He had a vision about developing a program around
these strong values, and he was able to bring his vision to fruition.

A Map
A vision provides a map—a laid-out path to follow—that gives direction so followers know when they are
on track and when they have slipped off course. People often feel a sense of certainty and calmness in
knowing they are on the right course, and a vision provides this assurance. It is also comforting for
people to know they have a map to direct them toward their short- and long-term goals. One person who
does this effectively is Stephen Ritz, an educator and innovator who founded Green Bronx Machine
(n.d.), an urban food-growing initiative with the slogan “We grow vegetables . . . and students.” Ritz’s
program helps at-risk students stay in school and succeed in life by giving them practical skills to
overcome obstacles such as poverty and food insecurity. In the program’s indoor teaching farm,
students learn how to set up a grow light system, create energy from bicycles, start seedlings, grow the
plants, and harvest them. In its kitchen, chefs teach children how to prepare these homegrown
vegetables so they can feed themselves.

At the same time, visions provide a guiding philosophy for people that gives them meaning and purpose.
When people know the overarching goals, principles, and values of an organization, it is easier for them
to establish an identity and know where they fit within the organization. Furthermore, seeing the larger
purpose allows people to appreciate the value of their contributions to the organization and to something
larger than their own interests. The value of a vision is that it shows others the meaningfulness of their

A Challenge
A final characteristic of a vision is that it challenges people to transcend the status quo to do something
to benefit others. Visions challenge people to commit themselves to worthwhile causes. In his inaugural
address in 1961, President John F. Kennedy challenged the American people by saying, “Ask not what
your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.” This challenge was inspiring
because it asked people to move beyond self-interest to work for the greater good of the country.
Kennedy’s vision for America had a huge impact on the country.

An example of an organization that has a vision with a clear challenge component is the Leukemia and
Lymphoma Society’s Team In Training program. The primary goal of this program is to raise funds for
cancer research, public education, and patient aid programs. As a part of Team In Training, participants
who sign up to run or walk a marathon (26.2 miles) are asked to raise money for cancer research in
return for the personalized coaching and fitness training they receive from Team In Training staff. Since
its inception in the late 1980s, the program has raised more than $600 million for cancer research. A
recent participant said of Team In Training, “I was inspired to find something I could do both to push
myself a little harder and to accomplish something meaningful in the process.” When people are
challenged to do something good for others, they often become inspired and committed to the task.
Whether it is to improve their own group, organization, or community, people like to be challenged to
help others.

To summarize, a vision has five main characteristics. First, it is a mental picture or image of a future that
is better than the status quo. Second, it represents a change and points to new ways of doing things.
Third, it is grounded in values. Fourth, it is a map that gives direction and provides meaning and
purpose. Finally, it is a challenge to change things for the better.

It is one thing for a leader to have a vision for an organization. But making that vision a reality requires
communication and action. In this section, we explore how a leader can articulate a vision to others and
what specific actions a leader can take to make the vision clear, understandable, and a reality.

Articulating a Vision
Although it is very important for a leader to have a vision, it is equally important for a leader to be able to
articulate—explain and describe—the vision to others. Although some are better than others at this,
there are certain ways all leaders can improve the way they communicate their visions.

First, a leader must communicate the vision by adapting the vision to their audience. Psychologists tell
us that most people have a drive for consistency and when confronted with the need to change will do
so only if the required change is not too different from their present state (Festinger, 1957). A leader
needs to articulate the vision to fit within others’ latitude of acceptance by adapting the vision to the
audience (Conger & Kanungo, 1987). If the vision is too demanding and advocates too big a change, it
will be rejected. If it is articulated in light of the status quo and does not demand too great a change, it
will be accepted.

A leader also needs to highlight the values of the vision by emphasizing how the vision presents ideals
worth pursuing. Presenting the values of the vision helps individuals and group members find their own
work worthwhile. It also allows group members to identify with something larger than themselves, and to
become connected to a larger community (Shamir, House, & Arthur, 1993).

Articulating a vision also requires choosing the right language. A leader should use words and symbols
that are motivating and inspiring (Sashkin, 2004; Zaccaro & Banks, 2001). Words that describe a vision
need to be affirming, uplifting, and hopeful, and describe the vision in a way that underscores its worth.
The inaugural speech by President John F. Kennedy (see is an
example of how a leader used inspiring language to articulate his vision.

Symbols are often adopted by leaders in an effort to articulate a vision and bring group cohesion. A
good illustration of this is how, in 1997, the University of Michigan football team and coaching staff
chose to use Jon Krakauer’s book Into Thin Air and “conquering Mount Everest” as a metaphor for what
they wanted to accomplish. Krakauer provided a firsthand account of a team’s challenging journey up
Mount Everest that was successful, although five climbers lost their lives in the process. One of the
Michigan coaches said, “It’s amazing how many similarities there are between playing football and
climbing a mountain. . . . The higher you get on a mountain, the tougher it gets. The longer you play
during the season, the harder it gets to keep playing the way you want to play.” Throughout the season,
the coaches frequently emphasized that achieving great feats required tremendous discipline,
perseverance, strength, and teamwork. In the locker room, real climbing hooks and pitons were hung
above the door to remind everyone who exited that the mission was to “conquer the mountain”—that is,
to win the title. The imagery of mountain climbing in this example was a brilliant way to articulate the
vision the coaches had for that season. This imagery proved to be well chosen: The team won the 1997
National Collegiate Athletic Association championship.

Visions also need to be described to others using inclusive language that links people to the vision and
makes them part of the process. Words such as we and our are inclusive and better to use than words
such as they and them. The goal of this type of language is to enlist participation of others and build
community around a common goal. Inclusive language helps bring this about.

In general, to articulate a vision clearly requires that a leader adapt the content to the audience,
emphasize the vision’s intrinsic value, select words and symbols that are uplifting, and use language
that is inclusive. If a leader is able to do these things, they will increase the chances that the vision will
be embraced and the goal achieved.

Implementing a Vision
In addition to creating and articulating a vision, a leader needs to implement the vision. Perhaps the real
test of a leader’s abilities occurs in the implementation phase of a vision. Implementing a vision requires
a great deal of effort by a leader over an extended period. Although some leaders can “talk the talk,”
leaders who implement the vision “walk the walk.” Most important, in implementing a vision the leader
must model to others the attitudes, values, and behaviors set forth in the vision. The leader is a living
example of the ideals articulated in the vision. For example, if the vision is to promote a deeply
humanistic organization, the leader needs to demonstrate qualities such as empathy and caring in every
action. Similarly, if the vision is to promote community values, the leader needs to show interest in
others and in the common good of the broader community. When a leader is seen acting out the vision,
they build credibility with others. This credibility inspires people to express the same kind of values.

Implementing a vision also requires a leader to set high performance expectations for others. Setting
challenging goals motivates people to accomplish a mission. An example of setting high expectations
and worthwhile goals is illustrated in the story of the Marathon of Hope (see Box 7.1). Terry Fox was a
cancer survivor and amputee who attempted to run across Canada to raise awareness and money for
cancer research. Fox had a vision and established an extremely challenging goal for himself and others.
He was courageous and determined. Unfortunately, he died before completing his journey, but his vision
lives on. Today, the Terry Fox Foundation continues to thrive.

Box 7.1:

Marathon of Hope


Photograph by Ian Muttoo, CC BY-SA

Terry Fox was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and raised in Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, a
community near Vancouver on Canada’s west coast. An active teenager involved in many sports,
Fox was only 18 years old when he was diagnosed with osteogenic sarcoma (bone cancer). In
order to stop the spread of the cancer, doctors amputated his right leg 15 centimeters (6 inches)
above the knee in 1977.

While in the hospital, Fox was so overcome by the suffering of other cancer patients—many of
them young children—that he decided to run across Canada to raise money for cancer research.
He called his journey the Marathon of Hope.

After 18 months and running more than 5,000 kilometers (3,107 miles) to prepare, Fox started
his run in St. John’s, Newfoundland, on April 12, 1980, with little fanfare. Although it was difficult
to garner attention in the beginning, enthusiasm soon grew, and the money collected along his
route began to mount. He ran 42 kilometers (26 miles) a day through Canada’s Atlantic

Terry Fox Statue, Ottawa

provinces, through Quebec, and through part of Ontario. It was a journey that Canadians never

On September 1, 1980, after 143 days and 5,373 kilometers (3,339 miles), Fox was forced to
stop running outside Thunder Bay, Ontario, because cancer had appeared in his lungs. An entire
nation was saddened when he passed away on June 28, 1981, at the age of 22.

The heroic Canadian was gone, but his legacy was just beginning. To date, more than $800
million has been raised worldwide for cancer research in his name through annual Terry Fox
Runs, held in more than 9,000 communities throughout Canada (Terry Fox Foundation, 2019).

The process of carrying out a vision does not happen rapidly but takes continuous effort. It is a step-by-
step process, and not one that occurs all at once. For this reason, it is imperative for a leader’s eyes to
stay on the goal. By doing so, the leader encourages and supports others in the day-to-day efforts to
reach the larger goal. A leader alone cannot implement a vision. The leader must work with others and
empower them in the implementation process. It is essential that leaders share the work and collaborate
with others to accomplish the goal.

A competent leader will have a compelling vision that challenges people to work toward a higher
standard of excellence. A vision is a mental model of an ideal future state. It provides a picture of a
future that is better than the present, is grounded in values, and advocates change toward some new
set of ideals. Visions function as a map to give people direction. Visions also challenge people to
commit themselves to a greater common good.

First, an effective leader clearly articulates the vision to others. This requires the leader to adapt the
vision to the attitudes and values of the audience. Second, the leader highlights the intrinsic values of
the vision, emphasizing how the vision presents ideals worth pursuing. Third, a competent leader uses
language that is motivating and uplifting to articulate the vision. Finally, the leader uses inclusive
language that enlists participation from others and builds community.

A challenge for a leader is to carry out the difficult processes of implementing a vision. To implement a
vision, the leader needs to be a living model of the ideals and values articulated in the vision. In
addition, they must set high performance expectations for others, and encourage and empower others
to reach their goals.

Glossary Terms
challenge 165

change 163

map 165

picture 162

status quo 162

vision 161


7.1 Case Study—A Clean Slate

Nick Gibbons was described by his classmates at Columbia University’s prestigious School of
Journalism as a “hard-core newshound with ink running in his blood.” After working as a beat reporter
for 10 years, Nick became city editor of a newspaper in a midsized Midwest town of about 100,000,
overseeing a large staff of local reporters and writers.

So when the president of the large media group that owned his newspaper asked Nick to come to its
headquarters for a meeting, he was excited . . . until he heard what was said. The company was going
to stop printing daily newspapers, instead publishing digital editions. Nick’s newspaper would only be
printed three days a week; the other days, the news would be delivered in an electronic edition. As a
result, 75% of the newspaper’s workforce would lose their jobs. As the president witnessed Nick’s shock
and dismay, he said, “Nick, we think you are the only editor at your newspaper that can make this

On the three-hour drive home, Nick realized that change at the newspaper was inevitable. Newspapers
had been losing subscribers and revenue for a decade as readers turned to the internet to get their
news. Digital versions of newspapers were cheaper to produce and deliver. Although he did not like the
idea of going digital, Nick knew in his heart that he still believed strongly in the importance of reporting
the news and informing the community, no matter the format.

To succeed in taking the newspaper to a digital format, Nick was going to have to change an entrenched
culture and belief system about newspapers, not only within his staff but among the public as well. To do
this, he had to start from the ground up, creating something entirely new. This would require bringing
aboard people who were energized about the future and not mourning the past.

His plan employed a three-prong approach. First, he informed the entire newspaper staff that they would
lose their current jobs in three months and they would have to reapply for new jobs within the
newspaper. The first required qualification was a willingness to “forge the future for local journalism and
make a contribution to this movement.” If you can’t let go of the past, he told his coworkers, then you
can’t move forward. In the end, almost 80% of the new positions were filled by former staffers whom
Nick believed to be the “best and brightest” people the newspaper had.

Second, Nick moved the company’s offices out of the building they had been in for 120 years to a
smaller, very public space on the first floor of a downtown building. The offices were located on a corner
completely sided by windows, the inner workings of the newspaper on display to passersby. Nick
wanted the newspaper’s operations to be very visible so that it didn’t seem like they had just

Nick’s third approach was what he called a “high forgiveness factor.” What they were creating was new
and untried, and he knew there would be plenty of missteps along the way. He stressed to his new
staffers that he expected not perfection, just dedication and determination. For example, one misstep
was the elimination of the newspaper’s exhaustive list of local events, which resulted in a huge
community outcry. To correct this, staffers determined they could satisfy the community’s frustrations by
creating a dedicated website for a local events calendar with event organizers submitting the information
electronically. A staff member would oversee college interns in editing the submissions and updating the

When the newspaper announced its change to a digital format, the reaction was harsh: Readers
canceled subscriptions, and advertisers dropped away like flies. It’s been four years since the change,
and the newspaper is slowly gaining back readers and experiencing more visits to its website. The sales
staff is starting to be successful teaching advertisers how to create digital ads that can reach the right
audiences by using behavioral targeting and social media.


1. What is Nick Gibbons’s vision in this case study? How is it similar to or different from the vision of
the owners of the paper? Discuss the unique challenges a leader faces when required to implement
a vision of their superiors.

2. Why do you think Nick wanted to open the workings of the paper up to the public? How is this
related to his vision?

3. Visions usually require changing people’s values. What desired changes in values are highlighted
by this case study?

4. How well did Nick articulate his vision for the paper? If you were in his shoes, how would you
articulate your vision in this case?

5. Do you think the newspaper will thrive under Nick’s leadership? Why?

7.2 Case Study—Kakenya Ntaiya
At 5, Kakenya Ntaiya’s future was decided. The little Maasai girl was betrothed to be married when she
reached puberty. Early marriage and a family were believed to be the only way to secure a girl’s future,
and parents in her village married their daughters off young in exchange for highly valued cows. Girls
were married once they completed “the ceremony,” a much-celebrated event in a Maasai girl’s life. The
ceremonial procedure that would mark the end of her childhood was never openly discussed. The
procedure known in the Western world as female genital mutilation (FGM) is a dangerous and extremely
painful cutting done without anesthetic and often in unsanitary conditions.

Until she was 12, Kakenya lived much like any other little Maasai girl, up early and working on the farm,
constantly in training to be a mother and wife. From the time she was old enough to walk, she was
taught to sweep the house, gather wood, fetch water from the river, and cook for her family.

Only after her chores were completed could Kakenya attend school. She did so at the urging of her
mother, who had been denied an education and had a difficult life. Her mother worked hard running the
family’s farm, growing food and tending the animals so the family could eat. Because women were not
allowed to own property, everything belonged to her husband and Kakenya’s father, a policeman who
worked in a nearby city and returned home only once a year to sell the livestock and the products his
wife raised, using the money to drink with his friends.

Kakenya dreamed of becoming a teacher, but knew once “the ceremony” was completed, she would be
married, and that dream would vanish. As she neared the end of the eighth grade, she approached her
father with a proposal: She would go through the ceremony only if he would postpone her marriage and
allow her to return to school. If he didn’t, she would run away, thereby shaming her father with the
lifelong stigma of “being the father of that girl who didn’t go through the ceremony” (Ntaiya, 2012).

Kakenya’s father acquiesced to her terms, and she endured the painful procedure. Thanks to her
mother’s foresight to procure a nurse, Kakenya healed quickly and returned to high school three weeks
later with a more fierce resolve to become a teacher. She applied to several colleges abroad and was
offered a scholarship to attend Randolph-Macon Woman’s College in Lynchburg, Virginia. However, she
needed money for the airfare and had a new obstacle—her father had suffered a stroke and could not
speak for her. In her community, all the men her father’s age were also considered her father, and thus,
without her own father’s blessing, she had to persuade them. This was no easy task, as the general
consensus was that this was an opportunity “wasted on a girl” (Gleissner, 2017).

Kakenya hatched a plan. She knew that if the chief in her village said “yes,” the others would follow.
Employing the traditional Maasai belief “that someone who comes to you before the sunrise will bring to
you good news and you must not tell them ‘no,’” she visited the chief very early in the morning with her
request. Promising to come back and use her education to help her village, she pled her case. The chief
consented but directed her to also enlist the support of 15 more men in the village. So early each
morning she visited each one, until she gained the support of her entire village, who pooled their
resources to purchase the plane fare she needed. She was the first girl to leave the village to go to
college (National Geographic, n.d.).

College opened her world and her awareness. “I learned that the ceremony that I went through when I
was 13 years old . . . was called female genital mutilation. I learned that it was against the law in Kenya.
I learned that I did not have to trade part of my body to get an education. I learned that my mom had a
right to own property. I learned that she did not have to be abused because she is a woman. Those
things made me angry. I wanted to do something” (Ntaiya, 2012).

Kakenya earned a degree in international relations and political science and became the first youth
adviser to the United Nations Population Fund, traveling the world as an advocate for girls’ education
and youth. Encouraged by her work and seeking ways to create policies and programs that would truly
“empower children,” Kakenya pursued and earned her PhD in education from the University of

Haunted by her trips home to her Kenyan village where the practices of FGM and child marriage
continued, she reiterated her promise to come back to help and asked what the villagers needed most.
“As I spoke to the women, they told me, ‘We really need a school for girls.’ . . . And the reason they
wanted the school for girls is because when a girl is raped when she’s walking to school, the mother is
blamed for that. If she got pregnant before she got married, the mother is blamed for that, and she’s
punished. She’s beaten. They said, ‘We want to put our girls in a safe place’” (Ntaiya, 2012).

After some cajoling, the village elders agreed to donate the land for a girls’ school, and Kakenya quickly
established one. She placed two conditions on admittance to the school: First, the parents had to agree
that the girl would not go through FGM. Many opposed the requirement. In response, the school worked
to educate the parents on how FGM affected a girl’s life to gain their support. Second, the girls would
not marry until they at least finished high school.

Kakenya had hoped to enroll 10 girls. When the school opened, 100 came. Unable to accommodate
everyone, the school enrolled 30 girls, including some who had been abused or orphaned and were
from traditional families who never before had sent a girl to school. And while these students were
determined, they had no energy. They were hungry and weary from chores at home and the long walk to
the school. Kakenya secured food for her students, but recognized what was really needed: a boarding
school. Her students were still highly vulnerable to assault, rape, and kidnapping on their way to and
from school. To truly succeed, the girls needed to feel safe, and to be rested and well nourished.

“I came to realize once again, as I did when I needed help to go to university, that while I could dream or
have a dream, I could not make it come true all by myself. So I went back to the elders who helped me
more than a decade ago. I needed their support once again if I was going to be successful. I formed a
community board with religious leaders, parents and some teachers from other schools. I needed allies
in the government and in the community to help advance my goal. I needed especially the support of the
chief to help me enforce the no-FGM policy in my school. At first he was resistant, but I persisted—and
now he’s our greatest ally” (Ntaiya, 2018).

Not surprisingly, Kakenya still met with resistance to her school not only from those who clung to
traditional ways but also from some Western educators who opposed her direct approach to sexual
education for the girls.

To combat such resistance, she focused on the positives. She was buoyed by the knowledge that their
daughters’ attendance at the school had led to a shift in attitude by many traditional men. She shares
the story of Linet and her father, Momposhi, as an example: “Momposhi did not believe in the education
of girls. In fact, he himself never went to school. But Linet’s mother believed in Linet and brought her to
enroll in my school, and I knew she belonged with us. I just had to find a way to get Momposhi to believe
in Linet, too. So I used the pretense of revealing Linet’s grade to get Momposhi to come. He came, and
he started noticing his daughter being promising as a student. With each visit, he built a strong
relationship with his daughter—noticing not just her grades but also accepting her as someone with full
potential. So when Linet was accepted in one of the top national high schools after eighth grade,
Momposhi was bursting with pride and went around the village telling everyone how smart his daughter
was. Can you imagine? He brought Linet to the new school himself. It was the first time either of them

had ever been to Nairobi. Today Linet is studying at university in Australia—and Momposhi is our
greatest advocate in the community” (Ntaiya, 2018).

In 2008, she founded Kakenya’s Dream (n.d.), an organization with a mission to educate girls, end
“harmful traditional practices,” and “uplift her community.” Kakenya’s Dream is a holistic three-prong
organization that includes not only the Centers for Excellence boarding schools, but also the Network for
Excellence, an alumnae program providing mentoring, scholarships, tutoring, career advice, and
assistance with university applications.

The third prong is the Health and Leadership Training segment, which delivers life skills education to
both boys and girls from rural communities through weekend and weeklong camps. This important
aspect of the organization was inspired by Kakenya’s understanding that true change requires educating
boys, as well, to think differently about women. She partnered with the “I’m Worth Defending”
organization to create an inclusive curriculum based on gender equality, health, and human rights. As of
2018, over 10,000 boys and girls had participated (Kakenya’s Dream, n.d.).

“Our program thrives because the community owns it. The community supports it. They are part of it,”
Kakenya says. “That includes the chief, who—at first, he didn’t know what to do with a woman who is
trying to build a school. To some of the men, it was like, a woman has never built a school—to them . . .
this is a woman’s project.

“And to turn that to now them being so proud of what we have—I think the biggest thing that I learned
early on is the importance of those gatekeepers, the custodians of the culture. . . . So I will call the
meeting, and they will come . . . And they will turn the conversation to being, ‘this is their idea,’ and that
going forward they will be singing my message. Then it’s their message. So they own it, and they run
with it. And to me, I’m happy with that” (Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, 2018).


1. The chapter states “charismatic leaders create change by linking their vision and its values to the
self-concept of followers.” How did Kakenya Ntaiya accomplish this?

2. How would you describe Kakenya’s vision?
a. According to the text, a vision has five characteristics: a picture, a change, values, a map, and

a challenge. How are each of these elements expressed in Kakenya’s vision?
b. Discuss the evolution of Kakenya’s vision over the course of her life—from the vision she had

for herself as a young girl to its more global expression today. Discuss the specific elements of
this vision and how they have evolved and scaled over the years.

3. Given the cultural challenges, articulating her vision was a critical component to Kakenya’s
success. Using the four elements of articulation described in this chapter, what are the challenges
Kakenya faced, and how did she address them through articulation?

4. What roles did building credibility, setting high performance standards that motivated others to
accomplish the vision, and empowering others play in Kakenya’s vision?

7.3 Leadership Vision Questionnaire

1. To assess your ability to create a vision for a group or an organization
2. To help you understand how visions are formed


1. Think for a moment of a work, school, social, religious, musical, or athletic organization of which
you are a member. Now, think what you would do if you were the leader and you had to create a
vision for the group or organization. Keep this vision in mind as you complete the exercise.

2. Using the following scale, circle the number that indicates the degree to which you agree or
disagree with each statement.

Statements Strongly
disagree Disagree Neutral Agree Strongly


1. I have a mental picture of what would make
our group better.

1 2 3 4 5

2. I can imagine several changes that would
improve our group.

1 2 3 4 5

3. I have a vision for what would make our
organization stronger.

1 2 3 4 5

4. I know how we could change the status quo
to make things better.

1 2 3 4 5

Statements Strongly
disagree Disagree Neutral Agree Strongly


5. It is clear to me what steps we need to take
to improve our organization.

1 2 3 4 5

6. I have a clear picture of what needs to be
done in our organization to achieve a higher
standard of excellence.

1 2 3 4 5

7. I have a clear picture in my mind of what this
organization should look like in the future.

1 2 3 4 5

8. It is clear to me what core values, if
emphasized, would improve our organization.

1 2 3 4 5

9. I can identify challenging goals that should
be emphasized in my group.

1 2 3 4 5

10. I can imagine several things that would
inspire my group to perform better.

1 2 3 4 5


Sum the numbers you circled on the questionnaire (visioning ability skill).

Total Score

Visioning ability skill: _________________________

Scoring Interpretation

The Leadership Vision Questionnaire is designed to measure your ability to create a vision as a leader.

If your score is 41–50, you are in the very high range.

If your score is 31–40, you are in the high range.

If your score is 21–30, you are in the moderate range.

If your score is 10–20, you are in the low range.

7.4 Observational Exercise

Leadership Vision

1. To understand the way visions are constructed by leaders in ongoing groups and organizations
2. To identify strategies that leaders employ to articulate and implement their visions

1. For this exercise, select two people in leadership positions to interview. They can be leaders in

formal or informal positions at work, at school, or in society. The only criterion is that the leaders
influence others toward a goal.

2. Conduct a 30-minute interview with each leader, by phone or in person. Ask the leaders to describe
the visions they have for their organizations. In addition, ask, “How do you articulate and implement
your visions?”

Leader 1 (name):

Vision content Vision articulation Vision implementation

Leader 2 (name):

Vision content Vision articulation Vision implementation

1. What differences and similarities did you observe between the two leaders’ visions?
2. Did the leaders advocate specific values? If yes, what values?
3. Did the leaders use any unique symbols to promote their visions? If yes, what symbols?
4. In what ways did the leaders’ behaviors model their visions to others?

7.5 Reflection and Action Worksheet

Leadership Vision

1. Stephen Covey (1991) contended that effective leaders “begin with the end in mind” (p. 42). These

leaders have a deep understanding of their own goals and mission in life. How would you describe
your own values and purpose in life? In what way is your leadership influenced by these values?

2. Creating a vision usually involves trying to change others by persuading them to accept different
values and different ways of doing things. Are you comfortable influencing people in this way?

3. As we discussed in this chapter, effective visions can be articulated with strong symbols. How do
you view yourself as being able to do this? Are you effective at generating language and symbols
that can enhance a vision and help make it successful?

1. Based on your score on the Leadership Vision Questionnaire, how do you assess your ability to

create a vision for a group? Identify specific ways you could improve your abilities to create and
carry out visions with others.

2. Good leaders act out the vision. Describe what ideals and values you act out or could act out as a

3. Take a few moments to think about and describe a group or an organization to which you belong
presently or belonged in the past. Write a brief statement describing the vision you would utilize if
you were the leader of this group or organization.

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Descriptions of Images and Figures
Back to image

A bronze statue, created by John Hooper in 1983, depicts Terry Fox in mid-stride with his prosthetic leg
behind him. He wears a short sleeve t-shirt, running shorts and shoes. His left leg is muscular and
powerful compared to his thin and mechanical right leg. His brow is strained and his mouth is slightly


As discussed in earlier chapters, a leader needs to attend to tasks and to people. A leader also has to
have a vision that they can express and implement. Equally important, a leader must be able to
establish a constructive climate for the people in a group or an organization.

Climate refers to the atmosphere of a team or an organization. It is defined as people’s shared
perceptions of the way things are in an organization (Reichers & Schneider, 1990). This includes
people’s general thoughts and feelings about the activities, procedures, and assumptions of a group,
which may fluctuate. For example: “This is a laid-back place. People aren’t rushing around; they’re
willing to stop and answer questions if you need help with a project.” Or: “This seems like an unfriendly
place. People aren’t making eye contact with each other and rarely smile. You hardly hear any
conversations taking place.” A positive climate is shaped by the degree to which people feel they are
supported, appreciated, and encouraged for their roles in the organization. A constructive climate is just
that: an atmosphere that promotes group members’ satisfaction and achieving their personal best.

Related to climate is an organization’s culture, which is created by the beliefs, values, and traditions that
are widespread in the organization (Schein, 2010). An organization’s culture develops over longer
periods from the many interactions that occur within the group or organization. A culture is reinforced by
organizational members who have developed patterns of working together over time to cope with
challenges and coordinate their efforts that work well for them. These values and assumptions are then
taught to newcomers as “the way things are done around here.”

When a leader creates a constructive climate, they help group members perform at their highest levels
of excellence (Larson & LaFasto, 1989). In order to create a constructive climate, a leader needs to
consider four factors: providing structure, clarifying norms, building cohesiveness, and promoting
standards of excellence.


Providing Structure
Because working in groups can be chaotic and challenging, it is helpful when a leader provides a sense
of structure for group members. Providing structure is much like giving group members an architectural
blueprint for their work. The drawing gives form and meaning to the purposes of the group’s activities.
Instilling structure into the organization provides people with a sense of security, direction, and stability.
It helps them to understand where they fit in and what goals they need to accomplish. For example, it
would be frightening to be in a group climbing Mount Everest if team members did not know their roles
and follow a clear plan for the ascent. Working in a group without structure is more difficult for everyone

How does a leader give structure to a group? First, a leader needs to communicate to the group the
group’s goals. When a leader gives a clear picture of assignments and responsibilities, group members
gain a better sense of direction. For example, soldiers in the military are given orders to carry out a
specific mission. The mission describes the assignment toward which they are working, and it provides

organization to the rest of their activities. Another example is a group meeting where the leader provides
an agenda.

In most college classrooms on the first day of class, professors hand out and discuss syllabi. Going over
the syllabus is important to students because it provides information about the structure of the class.
The syllabus also gives details about the professor, the course objectives, reading and writing
assignments, tests, attendance requirements, and exam schedules. Some professors even include a
calendar of lecture topics for each week to help students prepare more effectively. The syllabus sets the
tone for the class by giving a structure for what will be accomplished. Students usually leave the first
class feeling confident about what the class is going to be like and what will be required of them.

A leader also provides structure by identifying the unique ways that each individual member can
contribute to the group. The leader helps followers understand their roles within the group and how to be
productive group members. Effective groups use the talents of each individual and, as a result,
accomplish a great deal. This is known as synergy, when the group outcome is greater than the sum of
the individual contributions. The challenge for a leader is to find how each individual group member can
contribute to the group’s mission, and to encourage the group to recognize these contributions. For
example, some people are good at generating ideas, while others are skilled at building consensus.
Additionally, some people are good at setting agendas, and others are adept at making sure the proper
supplies are available at meetings. Each person has a distinctive talent and can make a unique
contribution. Effective leaders know how to discover these talents to benefit the entire group. (See
Chapter 6, “Engaging Strengths,” for an extended discussion of how leaders can help followers
capitalize on their strengths.)

Clarifying Norms
In addition to structuring the group, a leader needs to clarify group norms. Norms are the rules of
behavior that are established and shared by group members. Social psychologists have argued for
years that norms play a major role in the performance and effectiveness of groups (Cartwright & Zander,
1968; Harris & Sherblom, 2007; Napier & Gershenfeld, 2004). Norms are like a road map for navigating
how we are supposed to behave in a group. They tell us what is appropriate or inappropriate, what is
right or wrong, and what is allowed or not allowed (Schein, 1969). Norms do not emerge on their own—
they are the outcome of people interacting with each other and with the leader. For example, in a
daylong training seminar, the participants and seminar leader might mutually decide that they will turn off
their cell phones and not leave early. Or staff members in an insurance agency might determine that a
“business casual” dress code is appropriate during the week and jeans are OK on Fridays. Norms
emerge as a result of how leaders treat followers and how followers treat each other.

The reason norms are important is because they have such a strong impact on how the group functions
and whether the group is successful or not. For example, a classroom setting with an established norm
that students do not raise their hands or offer comments to the discussion can be very boring. A weekly
staff meeting where people are allowed to constantly whisper with the person next to them will create an
atmosphere that lacks cohesiveness and most likely be very unproductive. On the positive side, when a
norm of helping others with their work develops in a small business setting, it can be very helpful and
inspiring. Leaders need to be aware that norms always exist, and even when they are subtle or not
verbally expressed, they do impact the productivity of the group.

A leader can have a significant impact on establishing group norms as well as recognizing norms and
working to make them constructive. When a leader brings about constructive norms, it can have a
positive effect on the entire group. The following example illustrates how a leader positively influences
group norms. Home from college for the summer, Matt Smith was asked to take over as coach of his
little brother’s baseball team because the previous coach was leaving. Before taking over coaching the
team, Matt observed several practices and became aware of the norms operating on the team. Among
other things, he observed that team members frequently arrived 15 to 30 minutes late for practice, they
often came without their baseball shoes or gloves, and they goofed off a lot during drills. Overall, Matt

observed that the players did not seem to care about the team or have much pride in what they were
doing. Matt knew that coaching this team was going to be a real challenge.

After Matt had coached for a few weeks, the team’s norms gradually changed. Matt continually stressed
the need to start practice on time, encouraged the players to “bring their stuff” to practice, and
complimented the players when they worked hard during drills. By the end of the summer, they were a
different team. The players grew to enjoy the practice sessions, worked hard, and performed well. Most
important, they thought their baseball team was “the greatest.”

In this situation, the norms the players were operating under with the old coach interfered with the team
and its goals. Under Matt’s leadership, the players developed new norms that enabled them to function

Norms are an important component of group functioning. They develop early in a group and are
sometimes difficult to change. A leader should pay close attention to norm development and try to shape
norms that will maximize group effectiveness.

Building Cohesiveness
The third way a leader establishes a constructive climate is to build cohesiveness. Cohesiveness is
often considered an elusive but essential component of highly functioning groups. Cohesiveness is
described as a sense of “we-ness,” the cement that holds a group together, or the esprit de corps that
exists within a group. Cohesiveness allows group members to express their personal viewpoints, give
and receive feedback, accept opinions different from their own, and feel comfortable doing meaningful
work (Corey & Corey, 2006). When a group is cohesive, the members feel a special connection with
each other and with the group as a whole. Members appreciate the group, and in turn are appreciated
by the group. Group members identify with the group and its goals and find satisfaction in being
accepted members of the group.

Cohesiveness has been associated with a number of positive outcomes for groups (see Figure 8.1)
(Cartwright, 1968; Shaw, 1976). First, high cohesiveness is frequently associated with increased
participation and better interaction among members. People tend to talk more readily and listen more
carefully in cohesive groups. They also are more likely to express their own opinion and be open to
listening to the opinions of others.


Figure 8.1 Positive Outcomes of Cohesive Groups

Sources: Cartwright, 1968; Shaw, 1976.

Second, in highly cohesive groups, membership tends to be more consistent. Members develop positive
feelings toward one another and are more willing to attend group meetings. For example, in an
Alcoholics Anonymous group that is cohesive, members often express strong support for each other,
and attendance at meetings is very consistent.

Third, highly cohesive groups are able to exert a strong influence on group members. Members conform
more closely to group norms and engage in more goal-directed behavior for the group. On a highly
successful cross-country track team, all the members support each other and push one another to do
their personal best.

Fourth, member satisfaction is high in cohesive groups; members tend to feel more secure and find
enjoyment participating in the group. Think of the best class you have ever been in as a student. It was
probably very cohesive, and you probably enjoyed it so much that you were sorry when the semester

Finally, members of a cohesive group usually are more productive than members of a group that is less
cohesive. Members of groups with greater cohesion can direct their energies toward group goals without
spending a lot of time working out interpersonal issues and conflicts. For example, when a project team
is cohesive, there are no social loafers. Everyone is together in pursuit of the team goals.

As described by Daniel Brown in his book, The Boys in the Boat, the University of Washington rowing
team is a good example of how a group of disparate individuals built a cohesive climate and
experienced success because of it. Rowing is a sport in which every member of the nine-person team
must be in perfect synergy with their teammates as they oar in and move across the water. The sons of
loggers, shipyard workers, and farmers, the UW team defeated wealthy rivals first from eastern and
British universities and finally the German crew rowing for Adolf Hitler in the 1936 Olympic Games in
Berlin, Germany. Pivotal to their success was that each member of the team had a role and adapted to
those roles in sync with one another. “All were merged into one smoothly working machine; they were, in
fact, a poem of motion, a symphony of swinging blades” (Brown, 2013, p. 249).

In addition, the team members shared a common goal, which led them to abandon their own self-
interest in pursuit of the unified goal of winning. But ultimately it was the trust they had in each other that
made them a victorious team.

While cohesive groups are what many organizations strive for, there is a caution about cohesiveness.
First, when group members become extremely close, they can develop a closed mindset called
groupthink, which values unanimity over critical appraisal of alternate ideas or viewpoints. Group
members may be afraid to “rock the boat” and question a group decision, and instead go along with an
idea that may not turn out well in the long run. It is always helpful in a group to have one or two
members pay attention to the tendency to become closed off to outside input and ideas.

Given the positive outcomes of cohesiveness, how can a leader help groups become cohesive? Group
cohesiveness does not develop instantaneously, but is created gradually over time. A leader can assist
a group in building cohesiveness by incorporating the following actions in their leadership:

Help groups to create a climate of trust

Invite group members to become active participants

Encourage passive or withdrawn members to become involved

Be willing to listen and accept group members for who they are

Help group members to achieve their individual goals

Promote the free expression of divergent viewpoints in a safe environment

Allow group members to share the leadership responsibilities

Foster and promote member-to-member interaction instead of only leader-to-follower interaction
(Corey & Corey, 2006)

When a leader is able to do some of the things described on this list, it increases the chance that the
group will build a sense of cohesiveness.

Consider the following example of a service learning group of five students who had a goal of raising
money for Special Olympics by sponsoring a rock concert. The group included John, a student who was
hard of hearing, and who felt alienated and excluded from college life; Emily, an energetic student with
high hopes of earning an A in the class; Bill, an older student with very definite opinions; Abby, a free
spirit with a strong interest in rock bands; and Dane, a talented student who resented having to work
with others on a group project.

During its initial meetings, the group was very disjointed and had low group cohesion. The two people in
the group with musical talent (Emily and Abby) thought they would have to do all of the work to put on
the concert to raise $200. John never spoke, and Bill and Dane had attitudes that put them on the
sidelines. During these early meetings, the group members were unenthusiastic and had negative
feelings about each other. However, after the professor for the class encouraged Emily to reach out to
John and try to include him in the group, a gradual change started to take place, and the group began
moving in a more positive direction. Emily found it difficult to communicate with John because he could
only hear if people spoke directly into a special handheld microphone. Emily spent an hour or so with
John outside the group and soon established a meaningful association with him. At the same time, Bill,
who initially was certain that John could not contribute to the group, started to change his mind when he
saw how well Emily and John were getting along. Since Emily was talking to John through the
microphone, Bill thought he should try it, too.

Because Abby knew people in three local bands, she put her energies into finding a good band to play
for their concert. When John, who was an engineering student, came up with the idea of making posters
and handing out flyers to advertise the concert, the energies in the group became focused. Within two
weeks of John’s offer, the group had completed a massive promotion throughout the community. The
rekindled energies of John, Bill, and Dane were put to good use, and the group far exceeded its
previous expectations.

By the end of the project, the group had raised $450 for Special Olympics, and walked away as friends.
John claimed that this group project was one of the most meaningful experiences in his college
education. Dane wanted to take credit for knowing the most people who came to the concert. Bill was
ecstatic that the group had far exceeded his expectations. Abby was pleased to have hired the band
and that the concert was a great hit, and Emily was proud of her leadership and the success of the

The service learning group in the above example was a group with low cohesion when it started, but
was highly cohesive by the end of the project. Cohesiveness was created because group members
developed trust, and withdrawn and passive members were encouraged to participate and become
involved. Group members learned to listen to and respect one another’s opinions, and to accept each
other as unique people. From this example, the lesson for leaders is to help their group to build
cohesiveness. When they do, the results can far exceed expectations.

Promoting Standards of Excellence
Finally, a leader establishes a constructive climate by promoting standards of excellence. In a classic
study, Larson and LaFasto (1989) analyzed the characteristics of 75 highly successful teams. Included
in their study were famous teams such as the DeBakey-Cooley cardiac surgery team, the Challenger
disaster investigation team, the 1966 Notre Dame championship football team, and the McDonald’s
Chicken McNuggets team. In their analysis, researchers found that standards of excellence were a
crucial factor associated with team success.

What are standards of excellence? These standards are the expressed and implied expectations for
performance that exist within a group or an organization. Standards of excellence include six factors that
are essential for members to function effectively:

1. What group members need to know and what skills they need to acquire
2. How much initiative and effort they need to demonstrate
3. How group members are expected to treat one another
4. The extent to which deadlines are significant
5. What goals they [group members] need to achieve
6. What the consequences are if they achieve or fail to achieve these goals (Larson & LaFasto, 1989,

p. 95)

In essence, standards of excellence refer to the established benchmarks of desired performance for a
group. A good example of standards of excellence can be seen in the slogan (see Figure 8.2) of The
Upjohn Company, a pharmaceutical manufacturing firm in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Founded in 1885,
Upjohn was known for revolutionizing the drug industry through its invention of the “friable pill,” which
can crumble under the pressure of a person’s thumb. In addition to this innovation, over the years
Upjohn made many other drug discoveries, and grew to become one of the largest pharmaceutical
companies in the world. For many years, the internal slogan promoted throughout the company was
“Keep the quality up.”

Figure 8.2 Standard of Excellence Slogan

Sources: Used as Courtesy of the WMU Archives and Regional History Collections.

“Keep the quality up” captures the essence of what standards of excellence are all about. This slogan is
clear, direct, and forceful. It puts responsibility on employees to work toward maintaining quality—a
standard of excellence. The slogan strongly suggests that employees should work consistently toward
these standards over time. In addition, “Keep the quality up” stresses a positive expectation that has
value for both employees and the company; quality is the valued benchmark of the company’s desired
performance for its employees.

Based on studies of more than 600 team leaders and 6,000 team members, LaFasto and Larson (2001)
identified several specific ways that a leader can influence performance and promote standards of
excellence. To influence performance, the authors contend that a leader must stress the “three Rs”: (1)
Require results, (2) Review results, and (3) Reward results.

1. Require results. A leader needs to articulate clear, concrete expectations for team members.
Working together, a leader and team members should establish mutual goals and identify specific
objectives for achieving the results associated with those goals. Without clear expectations, team
members flounder and are uncertain about what is required of them. They are unsure what results
they are expected to achieve. Requiring results is the critical first step in managing performance
(LaFasto & Larson, 2001).

For example, students in a research course were expected to form a group with four or five of their
classmates and work together to complete a “utilization project” by the end of the course. Although the
professor had a clear idea of what she wanted students to accomplish, students had no idea what a
utilization project was or how to go about developing it. After a number of students expressed frustration
at the lack of clear guidelines, the professor explained that a utilization project involved taking findings
from a research study and applying them to a real-world situation. She developed evaluation criteria for

the project that outlined what students were supposed to do, the level of depth required for the project,
and the key elements of the project that needed to be reported in the evaluation paper. With these
explicit instructions, students’ anxiety about the utilization project decreased, and they were able to work
more effectively in their groups.

In this example, the professor initially required results that were unclear. When she clarified her
expectations, the students were able to produce the results. Giving clear objectives and instructions is
the first step to high-quality performance.

Leadership Snapshot:

Nancy Dubuc, CEO, Vice Media

By Tapsboy – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

After graduating from Boston University, Nancy Dubuc spent two decades working at various
television and media companies, including WGBH-TV in Boston and NBC’s publicity department.
She then joined the History channel as the director of historical programming, eventually working
her way up the ranks at the parent company, A&E. Under her leadership, A&E enjoyed great
success by targeting new demographics through shows like Duck Dynasty, Pawn Stars, and Ice
Road Truckers (Battan, 2019). At A&E, Dubuc was known as “a hard-driving, entrepreneurial
woman” (Rose, 2012). Those who work for her are drawn to her, “often commenting not only on
her instincts but also on her ability to make the job fun” (Rose, 2012). This combination of
administrative and interpersonal skills, along with years of experience, positioned her well for her
next career move.

When Dubuc was offered the CEO position at Vice Media in 2018, she and her husband debated
long and hard. Dubuc had other options to choose from, but the challenge of leading a young,
high-energy, global media giant was compelling (Battan, 2019). Founded in 1994, Vice Media is
a Canadian digital media and broadcasting company with 14 channels that produces news,
magazines, records, cable TV programs, advertising, and films. Web traffic for one month shows
that Vice Media had 68.5 million viewers, coming in fourth after CNN Digital, Vox Media, and
New York Times Media (Jarvey, 2018). Known for “edgy” programming including sex and drugs,
Vice Media had a reputation for being youth-oriented and “cool.” Dubuc took the helm in April
2018. On her first day as CEO, Dubuc sent out an email to all employees, introducing herself and
praising Vice’s track record of producing “fearless” content (Battan, 2019).

Dubuc inherited a challenging situation. First, over its 25 years, the media company expanded
quickly from a print magazine founded in Montreal to a $6 billion company with 3,000 employees
in 39 offices around the world. Vice had grown explosively, with units devoted to cable TV, film,
news, music, and branded content but without a lot of structure (Jarvey, 2018). At the same time,
the company had a reputation as having a “toxic bro culture” that was tolerant of sexual

Dubuc spent her first months on the job listening to staff, learning from them, and assuring them
there would soon be a plan in place to address the company’s problems, such as a disjointed
structure and slowing revenue. In the fall of 2018, she instituted a hiring freeze, hoping the
workforce would shrink naturally through attrition. In February 2019, she announced plans to lay
off 10% of the company’s employees, eliminating about 250 jobs across all departments. Dubuc
is also restructuring the business and “de-emphasizing focus on Vice’s web properties and is
looking to bulk up efforts in film, TV production and branded content centered on its millennial-
skewing audience and counter-cultural ethos” (Spangler, 2019).

Just as challenging for Dubuc is turning around an organizational culture rife with sexual
harassment and gender inequality. A 2017 New York Times investigation found four settlements
involving allegations of sexual harassment or defamation against Vice employees, including its
(then) current president. “In addition, more than two dozen other women, most in their 20s and
early 30s, said they had experienced or witnessed sexual misconduct at the company—
unwanted kisses, groping, lewd remarks and propositions for sex” (Steel, 2017). The Times
noted that the allegations were made against not older men who came of age before workplace
harassment was made illegal, but men in their 20s, 30s, and 40s who grew up in a time of
greater gender equality. Journalist Kayla Ruble, who worked at Vice from 2014 to 2016, said,
“The misogyny might look different than you would have expected it to in the 1950s, but it was
still there . . . This is a wakeup call” (Steel, 2017).

Vice took some steps to address these problems even before Dubuc took on the top leadership
role. A Diversity and Inclusion advisory board that includes feminist Gloria Steinem and Time’s
Up lawyer Roberta Kaplan had already been meeting with staff members to discuss the work
climate at Vice and recommended changes such as providing better paid leave to new parents

and setting up affinity groups for people of color and new parents. The company also hired a new
head of human resources and terminated three employees for behavior “inconsistent with its
values.” The company additionally stated its commitment to reaching gender pay parity by the
end of 2018 (Jarvey, 2018). However, the most important change was hiring Dubuc. According to
Kaplan, “Nancy has a huge, symbolic role at a company in which there had been a sense that it
was a male-dominated, macho place, particularly among the old guard” (Jarvey, 2018).

Besides her symbolic presence, Dubuc has taken several steps to change the climate at Vice.
She is providing structure, clarifying norms, building cohesiveness, and promoting standards of
excellence. As the CEO, she sets the tone for the entire organization and has stated repeatedly
that sexual harassment will not be tolerated. This shows public support for the new policies that
are in place, and for the head of human resources, who is tasked with enforcing them. One
female employee reported, “All the guys are leaving, which is what I like best. She came in and
she cleaned house” (Battan, 2019). Dubuc also made her presence known in the main office.
When she took over the former CEO’s space, she had the blinds removed to bring more visibility,
literally and symbolically, to the room. “The first couple of weeks people would come in the office
and then leave and shut the door. And I would get up and I’d open the door. And then people
would shut the door, and I would open it,” she says (Jarvey, 2018).

Her listening tour to offices in Los Angeles, Toronto, and London helped her see what kind of
company she had inherited and how desperately the workforce needed a hands-on leader. In her
introductory email to Vice employees, she assured them, “The seemingly mind-numbing
‘corporate’ nuts-and-bolts things that send some people’s eyes rolling? I love that stuff and place
a lot of significance on it” (Battan, 2019). She is working to build trust internally by being
physically present in the office more often, hosting regular meetings to hear employee feedback,
and being quick to praise her workers and credit them for the company’s rise to success.
Ultimately, Dubuc is seeking to balance the need for a climate change within Vice with the desire
to retain Vice’s edgy external reputation: “We can’t un-vice Vice” (Battan, 2019).

2. Review results. In addition to requiring results, a leader needs to review results. According to
LaFasto and Larson (2001), a leader does this by giving constructive feedback and resolving
performance issues.

Giving constructive feedback is a must for a leader if they are is going to help group members maintain
standards of excellence (see Table 8.1). Constructive feedback is honest and direct communication
about a group member’s performance. It is not mean-spirited or paternalistic, nor is it overly nice or
patronizing. Constructive feedback helps group members know if they are doing the right things, in the
right way, at the right speed. Although it is not easy to do, giving constructive feedback is a skill that
everyone can learn. When done correctly, constructive feedback allows group members to look at
themselves honestly and know what they need to maintain or improve (LaFasto & Larson, 2001).

Table 8.1 Tips for Giving Constructive Feedback

People benefit greatly from feedback that is delivered in a nonconfrontational, constructive manner.
Unfortunately, not many of us have the innate skill for delivering feedback this way. There are,
however, some simple communication methods that can improve your ability to provide constructive

1. Address behaviors.

Use facts to describe the behavior that is problematic, rather than focusing on personal traits. For
example, a leader might say, “Jane, I have noticed that you have been late for the past three
mornings. Can you explain why?” rather than “Why aren’t you able to arrive on time?”

2. Describe specifically what you have observed.

Observations are what you have seen occur; an interpretation is your analysis or opinion of what
has occurred. By telling the person what you have seen and not what you think of what you have
seen, you provide observations that are more factual and less judgmental. For example, a leader
might say, “Dan, I noticed and highlighted several factual and grammatical errors in the report you
submitted,” rather than “Dan, all these mistakes make me wonder if you were doing this report at the
last minute.”

3. Use “I” language.

Employing “I” statements rather than “you” statements will help reduce the defensiveness of the
person you are addressing. For example, if you say, “Joe, because our cubicles are so close
together I have a hard time concentrating when you play music on your computer,” rather than “It is
really inconsiderate of you to play music when other people are trying to work,” you are more likely
to elicit the change you would like.

4. Give the feedback in calm, unemotional language.

Avoid “need to” phrases (e.g., “You need to improve this . . .”) or using a tone that implies anger,
frustration, or disappointment. Rather than saying, “If you’d just learn the software, you’d do a better
job,” a leader should say, “I am sure you will be much faster now that you understand how to use
this software.”

5. Check to ensure clear communication has occurred.

Solicit feedback from the other person to ensure they understand what you have been trying to
communicate to them. For example, a leader might say, “Ann, do you know the procedure for
ordering the supplies? Can you go over it to be sure I covered everything?” rather than “Ann, you
got all that, didn’t you?”

Consider the following example of two restaurant managers (A and B) and their waitstaff. Manager A
was known for being very blunt and sometimes even mean. Although he wanted the best for the
restaurant, his performance reviews were always disasters. Manager A was brutally honest; he did not
know how to be diplomatic. If a server was slow or inefficient, he let the person know it in no uncertain
terms. In fact, staff members often thought Manager A was attacking them. Although Manager A wanted
people to perform well, he did not know how to make that behavior happen. As he frequently told his
employees, “Around this place, I don’t sugarcoat anything. If your performance is poor, you’re going to
hear about it!”

In contrast, Manager B was very careful in how she treated the waitstaff. Manager B cared about staff,
and it showed in how she did performance reviews. If waitstaff did something wrong, Manager B would
always comment on it, but never in a mean way. When giving praise or criticism, the feedback was
always objective and never extreme; the feedback never attacked the person. Manager B consistently
evaluated her staff, but always in a way that made them feel better about themselves and that made
them want to try harder.

Managers A and B were very different in how they gave feedback to their staff. Manager A’s feedback
was destructive and debilitating, while Manager B’s feedback was constructive and helped to improve
performance. As a result, the waitstaff liked working for Manager B and disliked working for Manager A.
Staff performed better when Manager B was in charge and worse when Manager A was in charge.

Resolving performance issues is the second part of reviewing results. LaFasto and Larson (2001) found
that, more than anything else, the distinguishing characteristic of effective leaders was their willingness
to confront and resolve inadequate performance by team members. Clearly, individuals in groups want
their leaders to keep other group members “on track.” If some group members are slacking off, or not
doing their part, the leader needs to address the situation.

Working in groups is a collective effort—everyone must be involved. Group members are
interdependent, and all members share the responsibility of trying to achieve group goals. When some
members do not pull their own weight, it affects everyone in the group. This is why a leader must

address the inadequate performance of any group members. If the leader fails to do so, contributing
group members will feel angry and slighted, as if their work does not really matter.

Confronting inadequate performance by group members is a challenging and emotionally charged
process that requires much of leaders (LaFasto & Larson, 2001). It is not easy, but it is a necessary part
of leadership. An effective leader is proactive and confronts problems when they occur. In problem
situations, a leader has to communicate with low-performing group members and explain how their
behaviors hinder the group from meeting its goals. The leader also has to explain what needs to be
done differently. After the changes have been clearly identified, the leader needs to monitor the
behaviors of the low-performing group members. If the group members make satisfactory changes, they
can remain in the group. If a group member refuses to change, the leader needs to counsel them about
leaving the group. When a leader addresses behavioral problems in a timely fashion, it is beneficial both
to the person with the performance problem and to the entire group.

It is important to recognize here that the feedback process can involve power differences and potential
bias between the giver and receiver. In professional settings such as law, medicine, and business, this
power difference has been shown to disproportionately affect women and people of color being
evaluated (Casad & Bryant, 2016; Dayal, O’Connor, Qadri, & Arora, 2017; Williams, Multhaup, Li, &
Korn, 2018). In a study funded by the American Bar Association, female attorneys (white and of color)
and male attorneys of color reported that they have to go “above and beyond” to get the same
recognition and respect as their colleagues (Williams et al., 2018). When the skills of 359 emergency
medical residents were directly observed and evaluated by senior physicians, researchers found that
while male and female residents began training with similar skills and knowledge bases, female
residents were consistently evaluated lower than their male colleagues as they progressed through the
same residency programs (Dayal et al., 2017). This uniform trend suggests implicit bias in the evaluation
process. In the technology sector, a comparison of 248 performance reviews of male and female
employees showed that while both men and women were given constructive suggestions, the women’s
reviews were more likely to include critical feedback, and only the women were advised to be less
assertive (Snyder, 2014). When evaluations of women and people of color include suggestions that their
behavior is somehow “counter-normative,” their receptivity to that feedback is diminished (Casad &
Bryant, 2016; Williams et al., 2018). Thus, it is important for leaders to be aware of potential bias when
giving feedback, and to ensure equal standards for all, so that they don’t promote workplace

3. Reward results. Finally, an effective leader rewards group members for achieving results
(LaFasto & Larson, 2001). Many of the behaviors required to be an effective leader are abstract
(such as establishing norms) and challenging (such as building group cohesion). However, that is
not the case when it comes to rewarding results. Rewarding results is a very practical,
straightforward process. It is something that every leader can do.

In their well-known consulting work on leadership effectiveness, Kouzes and Posner (2002) claimed that
rewarding results is one of the five major practices of exemplary leaders. They argued that a leader
needs to recognize the contributions of group members and express appreciation for individual
excellence. This includes paying attention to group members, offering them encouragement, and giving
them personalized appreciation. These expressions can be dramatic, such as a dinner celebration, or
simple, such as a short email of praise. When a leader recognizes group members and gives
encouragement, members feel valued, and there is a greater sense of group identity and community

A good example of how to effectively reward performance can be seen in how the leader of a nonprofit
organization rewarded one of its members, Christopher Wolf. Christopher was an active member of the
board who willingly shared his insights and expertise for 15 consecutive years. To show appreciation for
his work, the board president had T-shirts made that characterized Christopher’s contributions. On the
front of the shirt was a caricature of a wolf in sheep’s clothing symbolizing Christopher’s many positive
contributions to the board. On the back of the shirt were the words “The Wolf Pack” and a list of the

names of each of the other board members. Both Christopher and each member of the board were
given a shirt, which was a big hit with everyone. Although the shirts were simple and inexpensive, they
were a unique way of positively recognizing Christopher and all his fellow board members.

Establishing a constructive climate is a subtle but essential aspect of effective leadership that plays a
major role in whether groups or organizations function effectively. Establishing a constructive climate is
similar to creating a positive climate for workers in a company. It requires that a leader provide structure,
clarify norms, build cohesiveness, and promote standards of excellence.

A leader provides structure by establishing concrete goals, giving explicit assignments, and making
responsibilities clear. Helping each group member feel included and know that he or she contributes to
the overall goals of the group also provides structure.

A leader plays a significant role in helping to develop positive group norms. Effective groups establish
positive norms that allow them to work productively. When norms for a group are negative or
unproductive, the leader needs to help group members to change and develop new norms. By assisting
groups in establishing positive norms, a leader facilitates the group in maximizing its performance.

Building cohesiveness is the third facet of establishing a constructive climate. Cohesiveness is a special
quality of high-functioning groups that feel a strong sense of connectedness and esprit de corps.
Associated with many positive outcomes, cohesiveness is established by a leader who assists group
members in trusting each other, listening to and respecting one another’s opinions, and accepting each
other as unique people.

Finally, to establish a constructive climate, a leader promotes standards of excellence. Highly effective
teams have strong standards of excellence—they have established benchmarks for desired
performance. Standards of excellence are best achieved when the leader requires results, reviews
results, and rewards results.

To summarize, establishing a constructive climate is a complex process that involves a great deal of
work by a leader. A leader who sets a positive tone will find payoffs in remarkable group performance.

Glossary Terms
cohesiveness 185

groupthink 186

mission 183

norms 184

standards of excellence 187

structure 183

synergy 183


8.1 Case Study—A Tale of Two Classes

Ebony Ellis has two communication classes back-to-back in the same room, but they couldn’t be more

The first, a class on interpersonal communication, is taught by Steve Gardner, an older professor who
has taught at the university for 20 years. The first day of class, he verbally explained the rules for class
conduct, which were also distributed in a printed handout—cell phones off, no texting, and, unless a
student needs to use one for taking notes, laptops closed. Class starts on time and ends on time, and
students should try not to leave early.

Ebony’s second class, an organizational communication course taught by Marissa Morgan, a younger
professor in her 40s, has different rules. There aren’t any. This professor doesn’t care if the students use
their laptops during class. Texting and talking are unrestrained. Professor Morgan announced on the
first day that all students are responsible for their own learning in the class, and she trusts them to know
how they learn best. When students walk in late or leave early, she always says hello or goodbye to

Ebony likes her interpersonal communication class a lot. Professor Gardner’s manner has succeeded in
getting the class of 75 students to engage with him and listen to one another. Personal disclosures by
students and the professor alike are frequent, and there is often much humor and laughter. Even though
it is a large class, most people know each other’s names, as does Professor Gardner. Many of the
students do things with each other outside of class. In this course, students write a reflection paper
every other week, and they have a midterm and final exams.

The atmosphere in the organizational communication class is strikingly different to Ebony. It is
spontaneous and uncontrolled. Sometimes professor Morgan lectures, but most of the time she just
comes to class and invites students to discuss whatever they want to talk about. Students do not know
each other’s names and seldom connect with each other outside of class. Professor Morgan also
assigns papers, but they are short, personal observation papers that aren’t given grades but are marked
as turned in or not. Students’ final grades for the class are dependent on a presentation each student
must give on an interpersonal communication topic of his or her choice.

Ebony thinks the two differing styles of the professors would make a great topic for her organizational
communication class presentation. To get more information, she interviews both instructors to learn why
their classroom management styles are so different.

Professor Gardner describes his teaching philosophy this way: “I want students to think that this class is
unique and the subject is important and has value. I know all students by name, and I allow them to call
me by my first name or my title. I really want them to be on board with the direction the train is going
from the start. I try to build a community by getting the students to listen to one another. The fun and
spirit of the class comes from the camaraderie they establish. In order to listen to one another, however,
they have to be fully present. To be fully present, they have to be paying full attention. Texting and open
laptops suggest to me that the students are disassociated and disconnected from the group. The
attention is on self, rather than the community.”

Professor Morgan says her goal is to be sure to cover the required course content and still enjoy the
teaching experience. “I give the students just enough freedom in class that they will either sink or swim.
This freedom allows me to present my ideas, and then they are free to discuss them as they wish. I think
today’s students are so multifaceted that they can find their own way to learn, even if it involves texting
or using their laptops during class. Many times a student will bring up something valuable that he or she
has found while surfing the internet during class that really adds to our discussions. As I see it, my role
as a professor is to present the material to be learned, while the students are responsible for how much
of it they can absorb.”

Ebony also interviewed two students, like herself, who are enrolled in both classes. Ian said he is very
pleased with Professor Gardner’s class because he knows what is expected of him and what the norms
for class behavior are, noting, “He’s the only prof at the U who knows my name.” Professor Gardner’s
grading structure is similar to that of most other classes Ian has had, and he likes that there are several

graded assignments that allow him to know how he is doing through the course of the semester. As for
Professor Morgan’s class, he thinks it is “OK” but finds it distracting when people are texting in class. Ian
is also stressed about his grade being dependent on one big assignment.

Professor Gardner’s class is also BreeAnn’s favorite. She says that Professor Morgan’s class feels “a
little wild,” the discussions are not controlled by the professor so the class does not stay on topic, and
you learn very little. While Professor Morgan writes thoughtful comments on each of the students’
papers, it is unclear how the papers are related to her lectures and more importantly the student’s final
grade. BreeAnn finds the final presentation assignment to be an interesting challenge but irrelevant to
the class and her major.

“They are both good,” Ian says, “just very, very different.”

1. In establishing a constructive climate for his or her class, what kind of structure has each professor

put in place?
2. How would you describe the group norms for each class?
3. What actions has each professor taken to establish cohesiveness in his or her class?
4. What standards of excellence has each professor established for his or her course?
5. Which class atmosphere would you do best in? Why?

8.2 Case Study—Challenging Courtroom Culture
After serving in the less demanding position as a traffic court judge, Judge Victoria Pratt was assigned
to the city of Newark, New Jersey’s Part Two criminal court. Part Two is a court that handles low-level,
nonviolent offenses. It was an undesirable assignment for a judge due to the large volume and difficulty
of the cases and to significant frustration as the same defendants returned time after time. It was not just
the cases that made the assignment disagreeable, but also the morale and mindset of the court
employees. Judge Pratt (2016) explains: “[T]he attitudes there were terrible. And the reason that the
attitudes were terrible was because everyone who was sent there [to work at the court] understood they
were being sent there as punishment. The [police] officers who were facing disciplinary actions . . . the
public defender and prosecutor felt like they were doing a 30-day jail sentence on their rotation.”

At the same time Judge Pratt took on this challenging assignment, the city of Newark was initiating a
pilot program in the Part Two criminal court aimed at changing the system. This pilot program, Newark
Community Solutions, was modeled after the successful Red Hook Community Justice Center in
southwestern Brooklyn, New York, created by the Center for Court Innovation (CCI), a nonprofit justice
reform organization, and Judge Alex Calabrese. The Red Hook approach provides “rapid sanctions
aimed at stopping the cycle of people going in and out of jail: community service, social services such as
anger management and conflict resolution, or longer-term drug treatment” (Rosenberg, 2015).
Successful completion of the program meant avoiding jail time. Defendants were required to return to
court frequently to discuss their progress and/or submit to mandatory urine tests. But if drug tests were
failed or appointments missed, the resulting jail sentences would be considerably longer than the terms
the defendants would initially have been given.

Judge Pratt visited Red Hook and was struck not only by what Judge Calabrese did, but how he did it.
He engaged directly with the defendants, sitting eye level with them instead of above, talking in plain,
understandable language and congratulating them on even the smallest victories. He asked them about
their intentions for the future and what they felt was best for them. Judge Calabrese was implementing
the concept of “procedural justice” based on the concept that “an offender is more likely to do what the
authorities tell him and refrain from committing further crimes if he feels that he is treated with respect
and fairness—regardless of the judge’s ruling” (Rosenberg, 2015). To that end, the four tenets of
procedural justice are neutrality (defendants trust that the process is impartial), respect (defendants
must be treated with respect), understanding (defendants clearly understand what is going on, the

consequences of the process, and what is expected of them), and voice (defendants have an
opportunity to speak).

Judge Pratt had never witnessed those types of interactions in a courtroom. Energized, she embraced
this new partnership and the resulting program, known as Newark Community Solutions, as an
opportunity to change the culture of her newly assigned court.

An important aspect of Newark Community Solutions was to develop community trust and buy-in
through the creation of “community courts.” Hearings were held to solicit input from members of the
community regarding how they felt justice should function. The responses focused not on punishment
but on helping defendants lead productive lives through such things as jobs and treatment for drug
addiction. The people didn’t view the defendants as just criminals; they were members of the
community, the kids who once played in the neighborhood parks. A community advisory board was
created to maintain a dialogue and feedback between the community and the judiciary.

Because the program was new, services such as psychological screening, counseling, and therapy
groups that were a cornerstone of the Red Hook program were not yet in place at Newark Community
Solutions. Undeterred, Judge Pratt did what she could on her own, implementing the concepts of
procedural justice and emulating the way Judge Calabrese interacted with defendants.

She led by example, training the court staff, attorneys, and police officers how to engage with court
participants. She spoke to the defendants in her court with respect, explaining in simple language (in
English and in Spanish) the charges against them, the consequences of those charges, and what was
expected of them. She would require defendants to do nontraditional tasks, such as assigning
defendants to write an essay about themselves, but with a twist—they were required to return to court
and read it aloud. She believed the essays were a valuable way to give the defendants voice, to help
her better understand them, and to provide a means for them to contemplate and respond to her deeper
questions. Requiring the essays be read aloud encouraged them to take the assignment more seriously.

She shares the example of a man who came before her who had been addicted to drugs for 20 years.
She assigned him to write a letter to his son. When he read the letter aloud in court, it began, “My dear
son who’s sitting in heaven, you were taken away far too soon at 16 years old and I haven’t been able to
get right since.” Realizing they were “looking at more than a junkie,” the court saw instead a man who
was numbing his deep grief with drugs and was now in a better position to more appropriately address
the real problem (Fields, 2019).

It wasn’t long before the results of her actions began to pay off. Shortly after her takeover of Part Two,
an older man came before Judge Pratt on heroin charges. Judge Pratt asked him how long he had been
addicted. When he told her he had been addicted for 30 years, she began to quiz him on a personal
level. “I wanted to get to the human side and not just the old, dried-up, drug-addict side,” she said,
recalling the exchange.

She asked if he had a family. Yes, a son who was 32.

“Then you haven’t been a father to your son for most of his life,” Pratt stated pragmatically. The man
started to cry. Under the old system, Pratt would have had to give him jail time; instead, she told him to
come back in two weeks and secured a drug treatment program for him. Two weeks later, he showed up
just as she had directed. “You showed me more love than I have for myself,” she recalled him saying.
“So I came back, to get some help” (Rosenberg, 2015).

Judge Pratt faced obstacles in changing her court. The success of the program required a significant
shift in the entire court’s thinking and ability to see the big picture. Her peers, judges, and lawyers were
skeptical of the value of the program, admonishing Judge Pratt that she was “a judge and not a social
worker” (Pratt, 2016). Changing the embedded culture of the court took time, but eventually she
surrounded herself with people who recognized the value of the new approach.

For the court’s prosecutor, Herbert Washington, it was a harder sell. “Some of my colleagues don’t think
that what we’re doing is real prosecutorial work,” Washington said. “But I am comfortable. Justice is not
the same as help. Justice means giving the appropriate punishment for the crime. The prosecutor in
Part Two has to have a different mindset: it’s looking for a way to help the person up out of the situation”
(Rosenberg, 2015).

In an interview with podcaster Jonathan Fields (2019), Judge Pratt summarized the changes: “It’s an
entirely different environment—it’s more about how we can solve the deeper problem, not just getting a
conviction or getting somebody off. . . . Traditionally, prosecutors measured success by number of
convictions, but now they also have to view it from the perspective of preventing that person from
coming back through the court again, of making an offer the judge will accept.”

Judge Pratt says she advises prosecutors and defense counsel of the kinds of information they need to
consider and provide to her when making their pleas, such as if a defendant has a high school degree
or is homeless, or what their family circumstances are. As she points out, fining a person who is
homeless “is pointless”—it only sets the person up for jail time when they have no money to begin with
and thus will not be able to pay the fine (Fields, 2019).

The program also provides the defendants with tools to look at the bigger picture. Judge Pratt often
assigned men coming through her court to read an op-ed column by Charles Blow about why Black men
are disappearing from society. Overwhelmingly, the defendants would recognize themselves and their
experiences in the article. Realizing they needed a place where they could give voice to their stories, the
“Fire Next Time” group was formed. Led by a young African American professor, the group created a
safe space for the men, often from disparate sects and gangs, to share their experiences and receive
support from one another in their decision-making processes. The group’s members would often stay
after the designated meeting time, sitting outside the room to continue their conversations.

The program isn’t just for defendants; it also works with crime victims. The center provides victim
support networks and social services for all community members, who can just walk in and request
them. But Judge Pratt stresses that the cycle will not end if the objective is not defendants’ restoration
and rehabilitation.

“I do this for the victim, this is exactly why I do this work. Because once this person gets out, once they
come to court and they have been severely punished by the court for what they do, they have to go
back into the same community and live with the victim” (Fields, 2019).

Crediting the program with facilitating “safer neighborhoods, reduced incarcerations, and improved
neighborhood perceptions of justice,” New Jersey Rep. Donald Payne Jr. recognized Newark
Community Solutions in a speech to the U.S House of Representatives in March 2018. Citing the
program as a model for cities throughout the country, he noted the program demonstrates that “by
investing in the community we can build a foundation for sensible and thoughtful criminal justice reform”
(Payne, 2018).


1. A positive environment is shaped by the degree to which people feel they are supported,
appreciated, and encouraged for their roles. Discuss how Judge Pratt has or has not created this
type of environment in her courtroom.

2. Providing structure is important to developing a constructive climate. This book lists the following
three ways a leader provides structure; for each one, describe how it is applied in Judge Pratt’s

a. Establish concrete goals
b. Give explicit assignments
c. Make responsibilities clear

3. As discussed in this chapter, “norms emerge as a result of how leaders treat followers and how
followers treat each other. . . .When a leader brings about constructive norms, it can have a positive
effect on the entire group.” Describe how Judge Pratt used this concept to change the culture in her
courtroom, both with the court staff and with the defendants who appeared before her.

4. Cohesiveness, described as a sense of “we-ness,” may seem an odd fit with a criminal courtroom.
Reviewing the description of cohesiveness in the text, describe how that concept contributes to the
constructive climate of Judge Pratt’s courtroom.

a. The text lists the following leadership actions for building cohesiveness. Which of these do you
think Judge Pratt found most useful, and how did she apply them?

i. Create a climate of trust
ii. Invite group members to become active participants
iii. Encourage passive or withdrawn members to become involved
iv. Be willing to listen and accept group members for who they are
v. Help group members to achieve their individual goals
vi. Promote free expression of divergent viewpoints in a safe environment
vii. Allow group members to share leadership responsibilities
viii. Foster and promote member-to-member interaction instead of only leader-to-follower

b. Table 8.1 provides a list of positive outcomes for cohesive groups. Identify and explain which of

these apply to this case.
5. How did Judge Pratt apply the six essential factors of promoting standards of excellence to the

cultural shift in the Part Two criminal court?

8.3 Organizational Climate Questionnaire


1. To develop an understanding of how your leadership affects others
2. To help you understand your strengths and weaknesses in establishing the climate for a group or

an organization


1. For each of the following statements, indicate the frequency with which you engage in the behavior

2. Give your immediate impressions. There are no right or wrong answers.

When I am the leader . . . Never Seldom Sometimes Often Always

1. I give clear assignments to group members. 1 2 3 4 5

2. I emphasize starting and ending group
meetings on time.

1 2 3 4 5

3. I encourage group members to appreciate the
value of the overall group.

1 2 3 4 5

When I am the leader . . . Never Seldom Sometimes Often Always

4. I encourage group members to work to the
best of their abilities.

1 2 3 4 5

5. I make the goals of the group clear to

1 2 3 4 5

6. I model group norms for group members. 1 2 3 4 5

7. I encourage group members to listen to and
respect each other.

1 2 3 4 5

8. I make a point of recognizing people when
they do a good job.

1 2 3 4 5

9. I emphasize the overall purpose of the group
assignment to group members.

1 2 3 4 5

10. I demonstrate effective communication to
group members.

1 2 3 4 5

11. I encourage group members to respect each
other’s differences.

1 2 3 4 5

12. I promote standards of excellence. 1 2 3 4 5

13. I help group members understand their
purpose for being in the group.

1 2 3 4 5

14. I encourage group members to agree on the
rules for the group.

1 2 3 4 5

15. I encourage group members to accept each
other as unique individuals.

1 2 3 4 5

16. I give group members honest feedback about
their work.

1 2 3 4 5

When I am the leader . . . Never Seldom Sometimes Often Always

17. I help group members understand their roles
in the group.

1 2 3 4 5

18. I expect group members to listen when
another group member is talking.

1 2 3 4 5

19. I help group members build camaraderie with
each other.

1 2 3 4 5

20. I show group members who are not
performing well how to improve the quality of their

1 2 3 4 5


1. Sum the responses on items 1, 5, 9, 13, and 17 (providing structure).
2. Sum the responses on items 2, 6, 10, 14, and 18 (clarifying norms).
3. Sum the responses on items 3, 7, 11, 15, and 19 (building cohesiveness).
4. Sum the responses on items 4, 8, 12, 16, and 20 (promoting standards of excellence).

Total Scores

Providing structure: ____________

Clarifying norms: ____________

Building cohesiveness: ____________

Promoting standards of excellence: _________

Scoring Interpretation

This questionnaire is designed to measure four factors related to establishing a constructive climate:
providing structure, clarifying norms, building cohesiveness, and promoting standards of excellence. By
comparing your scores, you can determine your strengths and weaknesses in establishing a
constructive climate as a leader.

If your score is 20–25, you are in the high range.

If your score is 15–19, you are in the high moderate range.

If your score is 10–14, you are in the low moderate range.

If your score is 5–9, you are in the low range.

8.4 Observational Exercise

Establishing a Constructive Climate

1. To develop an understanding of how leaders establish a constructive climate for a group or an

2. To identify how specific factors contribute to effective group performance

1. For this exercise, you will observe a leader running a meeting, a practice, a class, or some other

group-related activity.
2. Attend a full session of the group and record your observations below.

a. Name of the leader:
b. Name of the group:
c. Observations about the structure (organization) of the group:
d. Observations about the group’s norms:
e. Observations about the cohesiveness of the group:
f. Observations about the group’s standards of excellence:


1. In what ways did the leader make the goals of the group clear to group members?
2. How did the leader utilize the unique talents of different group members?
3. What were some of the positive and negative norms of this group? How did the leader reinforce

these norms?
4. How would you evaluate, on a scale from 1 (low) to 5 (high), the cohesiveness of this group? In

what ways did the leader promote or fail to promote the esprit de corps in the group?
5. A key factor in promoting standards of excellence is rewarding results. How did the leader reward

group members for achieving results?

8.5 Reflection and Action Worksheet

Establishing a Constructive Climate

1. Based on the scores you received on the Organizational Climate Questionnaire, what are your

strengths and weaknesses regarding establishing a constructive climate for a group or an
organization? Discuss.

a. Strengths:
b. Weaknesses:

2. How did you react to the example in this chapter (p. 187) of the service learning group that
developed cohesiveness? In what way do you think cohesiveness plays an important role in
groups? Have you ever experienced cohesiveness in a group yourself? Discuss.

3. In this chapter, group rules and norms are stressed as being very important to effective teams. Do
you agree with this? Explain your answer. Briefly comment on your own desire and ability to adapt
to the rules of a group.

4. An important aspect of establishing a constructive climate is giving recognition to others. Is
rewarding or praising others something that would come easily for you as a leader? Discuss.

1. Imagine that you have been chosen to lead a group project for your class and are preparing for the

first meeting. Based on what you have read in this chapter, identify five important actions you could
take to help establish a constructive climate for the group.

2. This chapter argues that establishing a constructive climate demands that the leader be a role
model for how group members should act. What three values are important to you in a group? How
would you demonstrate these values to group members?

3. High-performing teams have strong standards of excellence. Discuss your level of comfort with
encouraging others to “keep the quality up.” What leadership behaviors could you strengthen to
encourage others to work to the best of their ability?

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Descriptions of Images and Figures
Back to Figure

Ten positive outcomes surround the central icon, each connected to the image by an arrow.

The positive outcomes are as follows:

1. Increased participation from members.
2. Better interaction among members.
3. Group membership is more consistent.
4. Members are more willing to attend group meetings.
5. Members develop positive feelings toward one another.
6. Members influence each other.
7. Members conform more closely to group norms.
8. Group behavior is more goal directed.
9. Member satisfaction is high.

10. Members are more productive.


Leadership requires skill, a clear vision, and a strong commitment to establishing a constructive
organizational climate. It also requires that leaders understand diversity and inclusion, and the essential
role these play in organizational outcomes. While many of the leadership concepts discussed in this text
so far (e.g., task behavior, goal setting, and strengths) involve rather straightforward leadership efforts,
addressing diversity and inclusion is a multilayered process that requires a wider range of leadership
practices. Although the terms diversity and inclusion seem to represent distinctly different concepts, they
are actually interrelated processes, and while not usually discussed as core leadership concepts,
diversity and inclusion play a seminal role in effective leadership.

In this chapter, we explore how embracing diversity and inclusion can make you a more effective leader.
First, we define diversity and inclusion and discuss common usages for these terms. Next, we provide a
brief history of how these concepts have become more important in society over time. Additionally, we
provide a framework to conceptualize inclusion and a model of inclusive practices. Last, we discuss
communication practices to improve inclusion and the barriers that can be encountered when trying to
embrace diversity and inclusion.


Diversity and inclusion are general terms that represent complex processes. A closer look at each of the
terms will help explain why they are closely related and why leaders need to be aware of both concepts
when addressing diversity within their group or organization.

In the most general sense, diversity is about variety or difference. Diversity matters because we live in
an increasingly globalized world that has become widely interconnected (Hunt, Layton, & Prince, 2015).
Researchers have defined diversity in a multitude of ways (Mor Barak, 2014). For example, diversity is
often used to refer to the mixture of racial identities, genders, or religions represented in a group of
people. Harrison and Sin (2006) define diversity as “the collective amount of differences among
members within a social unit” (p. 196). Ferdman (2014), a diversity scholar, suggests that diversity is the
representation of multiple groups of individuals with different identities and cultures within a group or an
organization. Similarly, Herring and Henderson (2015) suggest that diversity refers to policies and
practices that are designed to include people who are different in some way from the traditional group
members. From this perspective, diversity means creating an organizational culture that embraces the
values and skills of all of its members. Herring and Henderson contend that diversity is about more than
valuing differences between groups; it includes addressing issues of parity, equity, and inequality. We
will say more about equity later in this chapter.

According to a study by Deloitte and the Billie Jean King Leadership Initiative (Dishman, 2015), of 3,700
individuals from a variety of backgrounds, Millennials (born 1980–2000) define diversity differently than
Boomers (born 1946–1964) and Gen-Xers (born 1965–1979). Millennials look at diversity as the mixing
of different backgrounds and perspectives within a group. Boomers and Gen-Xers, on the other hand,
see diversity as a process of fairness and protection for all group members, regardless of gender, race,

religion, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. Millennials are more likely than non-Millennials to focus on the
unique experiences of individuals, teamwork, and collaboration rather than issues of justness. The Pew
Research Center (2018) reports that Gen-Zers (born after 2000) are the most racially and ethnically
diverse group yet in the United States; almost 48% come from communities of color. Gen-Zers are
expected to have a more inclusive perspective on diversity in the workplace because they have been
exposed to different racial groups and cultures at a younger age.

In this chapter, we define diversity as the amount of difference among members of a group or an
organization. As set forth by Loden (1996), the core dimensions of diversity include age, gender, race,
mental and physical abilities, ethnicity, and sexual orientation (see Table 9.1). These are elsewhere
referred to as social identities—the parts of our self-concept that come from our group memberships
(Tajfel & Turner, 1986). Secondary dimensions include geographic location, military and work
experience, family status, income, religion, education, first language, organizational role and level, and
communication and work style. The primary dimensions of diversity are more powerful and less
changeable, while the secondary dimensions can change, are less visible, and are less influential in
how they impact our lives.

Table 9.1 Dimensions of Diversity

Primary Dimensions Secondary Dimensions

Age Geographic Location

Gender Military and Work Experience

Race Family Status

Mental and Physical Abilities Income

Ethnicity Religion

Sexual Orientation Education

Primary Dimensions Secondary Dimensions

First Language

Organizational Role and Level

Communication and Work Style

Source: Based on Loden (1996).

Inclusion is the process of incorporating differing individuals into a group or an organization. It is
creating an environment where people who are different feel they are part of the whole. For example,
inclusion is represented by making accommodations so that a student with disabilities can feel involved
and accepted in regular school classes. Similarly, inclusion is about the majority incorporating the
opinions of the minority and giving voice to the people who are seldom heard. Booysen (2014) suggests
that when inclusion exists in a workplace, “all people from diverse backgrounds will feel valued,
respected, and recognized” and “no one will feel that he or she . . . does not have a place in the
organization; no one will ask: ‘What about me?’” (p. 299). Furthermore, Ferdman (2014) suggests that
people experience inclusion not only when they feel they are treated well individually but also when
groups of people who share their identity are respected and valued.

The underpinnings of inclusion are described in the work of Schutz (1958), who posited that inclusion
(along with control and affection) is a basic human need that people experience in their interpersonal
relationships. It is our need to belong, feel accepted, and be connected to others, but not to the extent
that we lose a sense of ourselves as unique individuals. Inclusion means feeling like you are a full
member of the group but at the same time maintaining your own identity. It requires a balance between
belonging and uniqueness (Shore et al., 2011).

Schutz (1958) argued that we express our need to be included by how we communicate with others and
we experience less anxiety if our need to be “in the group” matches the degree to which we want others
to “include us.” This suggests that leaders should open their arms to include others, but not so much
that the individual differences of others get smothered or lost.

One additional consideration in this process is equity, recognizing the historic inequalities that have
kept some groups, particularly racial minorities, from having the same access to programs, financial
resources, and jobs as others have. Equity recognizes that not all individuals start from the same place.
Equity is not the same as equality, which aims to ensure that all people receive equal resources; equal
access to education, health care, and jobs; and equal treatment from the very beginning (Streitmatter,
1994). An equality perspective doesn’t recognize the discrimination and systemic inequalities that have
created the social disparities in our society.

In the arts, for example, equity embodies the values, policies, and practices that ensure that all people—
especially those underrepresented based on race/ethnicity, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender,
gender identity, socioeconomic status, geography, citizenship status, or religion—are represented in the
development of arts policy; accessible, thriving venues for expression; and support of artists, which
includes the fair distribution of programmatic, financial, and informational resources (Americans for the
Arts, n.d.).

In short, diversity focuses on recognizing differences, inclusion is concerned with embracing those
differences, and equity aims to provide equal access to resources for historically disadvantaged people.
As Myers (2012) aptly suggests, diversity is about “being invited to the party,” and inclusion is about
“being asked to dance” (p. 13). To continue the same metaphor, equity ensures everyone has the
opportunity to take dance lessons. Leaders often recognize the value of diversity but struggle with
creating supportive, inclusive environments. It is one thing to have a diverse group or organization, but
another to make sure each individual is included in the group or organization in a positive manner, and
equipped to contribute fully. Later in the chapter, we provide an inclusion framework to help leaders
understand how to approach diversity in different settings.

Approaches to Diversity
To better understand the complexity of diversity, it is useful to briefly describe how diversity has been
addressed in the past, and then to discuss how these descriptions influence the meaning of diversity
today. Addressing issues of diversity is not unique; it has been a central challenge for leaders of every

In the United States, diversity was at the foundation of the country’s democratic system. The United
States was originally formed by people seeking to escape religious persecution elsewhere. This ideal of
seeking freedom drove to the country many groups of immigrants, all of whom had different values,
traditions, and religions. As the country evolved, diversity also came to mean addressing the needs of
people who are marginalized in the United States, including African Americans whose ancestors
originally came to the country as slaves as well as Native Americans who were already living there.
Even today, the diversity of the country continues to shift and change as waves of newcomers enter the
United States and continue to alter its social landscape (Healey & Stepnick, 2017). Building a
democratic nation is only possible by acknowledging and addressing issues of diversity.

While a lot has been written on multiculturalism, intergroup relations, and diversity in society, much of
the information we present in this chapter comes from diversity and inclusion research as it has
occurred in the realm of the workplace. While this research may be workplace specific, it is salient to
leaders of any organization. This is especially true of the research on the historical development of
workplace diversity in the United States as it reflects how perspectives on diversity evolved in wider
society. Harvey (2015) suggests that the approach to diversity in the workplace has changed and
evolved over three periods: the early years of diversity (1960s and 1970s), the era of valuing diversity
(1980s and 1990s), and diversity management and inclusion in the 21st century (2000 to present) (see
Table 9.2).

Table 9.2 Changing Perspectives on Diversity

Time Period Perspective Metaphor Emphasis

Time Period Perspective Metaphor Emphasis

1960s and

Government Addresses Inequalities Melting Pot Assimilation

1980s and

Advantages of Accepting Differences

Salad Differentiation

2000 to

Different Opinions and Insights Valued Smorgasbord Inclusion (Integration)

Sources: Adapted from Harvey, C. P. (2015). Understanding workplace diversity: Where have we been and where are we going? In C.
P. Harvey & M. J. Allard (Eds.), Understanding and managing diversity: Readings, cases, and exercises (pp. 1–7). Boston, MA:
Pearson; Thomas, D. A., & Ely, R. J. (1996, September–October). Making differences matter: A new paradigm for managing diversity.
Harvard Business Review.

Early years—1960s and 1970s.

This was the period of the civil rights movement in the United States. During this time, African American
activists fought to end discrimination and to secure their legal rights as spelled out in the U.S.
Constitution. It was also a time when the federal government passed a series of landmark equal
employment opportunity laws: (1) the Equal Pay Act (1963), which stated that women and men must
receive equal pay for equal work; (2) the Civil Rights Act (1964), which prohibited discrimination in
employment based on race, sex, national origin, religion, and color; (3) the Executive Orders (1961–
1965), which required organizations that accepted federal funds to submit affirmative action plans that
demonstrated their progress in hiring and promoting groups of people who had been discriminated
against previously; and (4) the Age Discrimination Act (1975), which protected workers over 40 years of
age from being discriminated against at work because of their age.

During these early years, the focus of diversity was on “righting the wrongs” experienced by people who
were perceived as different because of their race or gender (Harvey, 2015) and who were also the
targets of discrimination and exclusion. It was also a time when the government began forcing
organizations to confront inequities between individuals and groups in the workplace. Thomas and Ely
(1996) contend that these early years were focused on discrimination and fairness. Because of
prejudice, certain demographic groups were not treated the same as other groups. To comply with
federal mandates, it was important for organizations to ensure that all people were treated equally and
that no one was given an unfair advantage over another person.

It was common during the early years to think of diversity using the term melting pot, a metaphor for a
blending of many into one, or a heterogeneous society becoming homogeneous. Sociologically, diversity
was thought of as an assimilation process where those from different cultures were expected to adapt to
and, in many cases, adopt the customs of the majority group (Blaine, 2013). Assimilation focused on
the process of making people from diverse cultures come together to create one American culture.
Healey and Stepnick (2017) point out that while assimilation is often thought of as a gradual and fair
blending of diverse cultures, in fact it requires different cultures to blend in with the predominant English
language and British cultural style. Although assimilation helps to bring diverse individuals together, it
requires that those in the minority culture give up many, if not most, of their own values and traditions in
order to adopt the dominant culture.

Era of valuing diversity—1980s and 1990s.

This period was marked by a new approach to diversity that emphasized the acceptance and
celebration of differences (Thomas & Ely, 1996). The approach to diversity at this time broadened
beyond an emphasis on race and gender to include many dimensions (sexual orientation, age, physical
and mental abilities, etc. [see Table 9.1]). In addition to stressing fairness and equality, organizations
recognized that society was becoming more multicultural and that supporting diversity in the workforce
could have competitive advantages. Research focused on how diversity in the workplace was related to
positive outcomes for an organization, such as reduced turnover, better creative thinking, enhanced
problem solving, and improved decision making. Organizations found that diversity was not just about
fairness; it made economic sense (Thomas & Ely, 1996).

Rather than a melting pot, the metaphor for diversity during this time was more of a salad composed of
different ingredients, made by mixing different individuals or cultures and their unique characteristics into
one. A multicultural approach acknowledges and accepts differences. The emphasis was on the
individual unique contributions that each person or culture brings to an organization, rather than
blending (“melting”) differences into a single whole (Harvey, 2015). Furthermore, diversity during this
period emphasized pluralism, the recognition that people of different cultures did not need to sacrifice
their own traditions and values to become a part of one society. Pluralism means that people of all racial
groups, classes, religions, and backgrounds can coexist in one society without giving up their identities,
customs, or traditions. A pluralistic society appreciates and celebrates differences.

Diversity management and inclusion in the 21st century—2000 to present.

Diversity during this period continues to be a major concern for organizations and society in general.
Inequities between individuals and groups in regard to differences in race, gender, ethnicity, sexual
orientation, and other dimensions remain unresolved. The laws of the 1960s and 1970s still occupy an
important role in trying to achieve diversity in the workplace. At the same time, multiculturalism is more
widely accepted and celebrated today.

What is new in the last 20 years regarding diversity is an emphasis on creating inclusive organizations.
Harvey (2015) points out that people today are recognizing that both organizations and individuals can
benefit from diversity. Furthermore, she points out that diversity today is broader in scope and harder to
manage because of a changing composition of workers, the need to acknowledge multiple social
identities, and the challenge of trying to establish and maintain an inclusive organizational culture. The
new way of approaching diversity acknowledges differences among people and values those
differences, integrating them into the organization. People feel they are all on the same team because of
their differences, not despite their differences (Thomas & Ely, 1996).

As opposed to being like a melting pot that blends many into one or a salad that mixes differences
together, diversity today could be thought of as a smorgasbord that celebrates the unique qualities of a
variety of different dishes. Diversity from this perspective means that people’s unique qualities are
accepted and enjoyed, and that people do not need to downplay their own unique characteristics for the
benefit of others. It also means that people do not need to deny their own cultural identities to be a part
of the larger group or organization. Diversity means that an organization is composed of many unique
elements and, when taken together, these elements make the organization unique.

Diversity has a positive impact on organizational outcomes. Komives and associates found that “diverse
groups can be more productive, make higher quality and more creative decisions, are better at adapting
to changing conditions, and are less prone to groupthink than are groups with homogeneous
membership” (Komives, Wagner, & Associates, 2016, p. 118; see also Johnson & Johnson, 2009).

To that point, a McKinsey study of hundreds of international organizations found that those with a more
diverse leadership team experienced better financial performance. “The companies in the top quartile of
gender diversity were 15 percent more likely to have financial returns that were above their national
industry median. Companies in the top quartile of racial/ethnic diversity were 35 percent more likely to
have financial returns above their national industry median” (Hunt et al., 2015, p. 1). This relationship is

a correlation, not a causal link. But the research shows “that more diverse companies are better able to
win top talent, and improve their customer orientation, employee satisfaction, and decision making,
leading to a virtuous cycle of increasing returns” (Hunt et al., 2015, p. 1).

While our perspectives on diversity have changed over the last 50 years, society’s need to address
matters of diversity has remained constant. The current approach to diversity places the inclusion
process at center stage as the pathway to addressing concerns about diversity. Inclusion means
allowing people with different cultural characteristics to have a voice and feel integrated and connected
with others (Ferdman, 2014). In the next section, we describe a framework for understanding the
inclusion process.

Social psychologist Marilynn Brewer (1991) argued that individuals have two opposing needs in regard
to being a part of a group. First, they have a desire to assimilate and be included; second, they have a
need to differentiate themselves from the group. Similar to Schutz’s (1958) early work on inclusion,
people seek an optimal balance between inclusion and differentiation.

To better understand how people balance these needs, Shore and colleagues (2011) developed an
inclusion framework. The framework, depicted in Table 9.3, illustrates how varying levels of
belongingness (i.e., the desire to be included) interact with uniqueness (i.e., the desire to maintain one’s
own identity) and result in the four quadrants shown.

Table 9.3 Inclusion Framework

Low Belongingness High Belongingness

Low Value


Individual is not treated as an organizational
insider with unique value in the work group,
but there are other employees or groups who
are insiders.


Individual is treated as an insider in
the work group when they conform to
organizational/dominant culture norms
and downplays uniqueness.

Low Belongingness High Belongingness

High Value


Individual is not treated as an organizational
insider in the work group, but their unique
characteristics are seen as valuable and
required for group/organization success.


Individual is treated as an insider and
also allowed/encouraged to retain
uniqueness within the work group.

Source: Shore, L. M., Randel, A. E., Chung, B. G., Dean, M. A., Holcombe Ehrhard, K., & Singh, G. (2011). Inclusion and diversity in
work groups: A review and model for future research. Journal of Management, 37(4), 1266.

The Exclusion quadrant (top left) represents individuals in a group or an organization who feel left out
and excluded; they do not feel a part of things, and they do not feel valued. Exclusion occurs when
organizations fail to see and value the unique qualities of diverse employees and fail to accept them as
organizational insiders. An example might be a female vice president of a bank whose ideas are
discounted by her male counterparts and who is seldom invited to corporate planning meetings. In
effect, exclusion represents a complete failure to deal with matters of diversity.

The Differentiation quadrant (lower left) describes individuals who feel unique and respected but who
also feel left out and not a part of the in-group. Differentiation occurs when organizations accept and
value the unique qualities of members who are different but then fail to let these individuals become full
members of the organization. For example, this might occur when a customer service center hires
several Spanish-speaking representatives because the center is working with more Spanish-speaking
customers. But those representatives are not asked for their input on organizational issues such as the
scripting they use for complaint calls. In terms of diversity, differentiation goes halfway—it recognizes
different individuals, but does not fully accept them.

The Assimilation quadrant (top right) represents people who feel they are insiders and in the
organizational in-group but whose unique characteristics are not really valued by the organization. An
example of assimilation could be a Native American college student who is 100% involved and accepted
in the classroom but whose unique heritage is not acknowledged by the other students, who expect him
to give up that heritage to blend into the dominant group. In terms of diversity, assimilation represents an
attempt by organizations to open their arms and bring everyone in; however, the same organizations
can be faulted for failing to acknowledge the uniqueness of their members—they accept different
individuals, but do not fully value them.

The Inclusion quadrant (lower right) describes individuals who feel they belong and are valued for their
unique beliefs, attitudes, values, and background. This quadrant represents the optimal way to address
diversity. It means, in short, accepting others and at the same time valuing them for who they are
without requiring them to give up valued identities or cultural features (Ferdman, 1992). For example,
inclusion occurs when students at a small rural high school welcome three new students who are Syrian
refugees who have come to live with families in the area. The students establish an “international club”
in which they learn Arabic from the new students while helping the Syrian students with their English
and discuss one another’s culture. The social sciences teacher incorporated a research project on Syria
for all his students based on a presentation that one of the Syrian students gave about his experiences.
Another of the Syrian students is a gifted singer and is in the choir, and the choir teacher asked her to
pick out a song from her native country that the choir is learning to sing for its winter program. Most
important of all, students at the school feel accepted, engaged, and comfortable. The camaraderie they
have has produced a new sense of community.

Leadership Snapshot:

Ursula Burns, CEO, Xerox Corporation

WENN Rights Ltd./Alamy Stock Photo

When Xerox named Ursula Burns its CEO in 2009, it became the first Fortune 500 company to
have a successive female CEO. Burns’s ascendency to the top position at the $22 billion
company is evidence of the diversity and inclusion efforts that began at Xerox more than 40
years before.

In 1964, as race riots were occurring near Xerox’s Rochester, New York, headquarters, the
company’s founder, Joe Wilson, met with Black leaders and learned that one of the reasons
people were rioting was because they didn’t have access to jobs. Xerox pledged to change that,
sending out a company-wide directive, condemning racial discrimination, mandating racial-
minority recruitment, and holding managers responsible for the success of the minorities they

hired (“Xerox a Success,” 1991). In addition, Xerox funded and provided consulting to a minority-
owned and -operated plant in Rochester’s Black community, which made parts for Xerox, to
provide jobs for the community’s unemployed (Friedman & Deinard, 1990).

Xerox’s program was about more than recruitment; it was about a company-wide commitment to
diversity and inclusion on all levels from the manufacturing floor to the executive offices. By
1974, Xerox had increased its racial-ethnic minority workforce from 3% to 14.6% (Friedman &
Deinard, 1990).

It wasn’t as simple as hiring more Black employees, however. Despite the company-wide
mandate, Black employees at Xerox still experienced unequal treatment, especially when it came
to promotions. In addition, Black employees weren’t part of the informal networks that white
employees enjoyed where they shared support, information, and mentoring, which often inhibited
the Black employees’ knowledge of job openings and promotion opportunities. Because of this,
Black Xerox workers in various company locations began meeting together at one another’s
homes as informal support groups. These Black caucuses not only advocated and fought for
equal treatment for Black employees within the company, but they also created what would
become a hallmark of the company’s Managing for Diversity program: minority caucus groups.

Caucus groups engage in self-advocacy, informing management on issues that keep minority
group members from progressing within the company. The company now has seven caucus
groups to meet the needs of employees who are Black, Hispanic, Asian, women, Black women,
LGBTQ, and veterans.

By 1991, the company’s efforts had succeeded in increasing the racial-ethnic minority ranks of
Xerox’s U.S. workforce to 25.7%. Among its senior executives, 17% were from underrepresented
groups. But even though the program had been effective, there was more to be done. Only 8.5%
of the company’s senior executives were women, and more people of color and women were
employed in lower- and middle-level jobs than upper-level jobs. Burns, who is African American
and was recruited by Xerox in 1980 as part of its summer minority internship program, said that
back then the diversity efforts “didn’t extend to gender.

“We looked up one day, and all the African American men were doing better . . . they were
leaders of the company. But there were very few women of any race. So we said, ‘Oh my God,’
then we have to do something about women,” says Burns. “What we’ve learned during that time
is this idea of inclusion can’t be inclusion of one group. Because as soon as you focus on one
group only, then you actually exclude the other groups” (Solman, 2014).

It was through a woman’s caucus group that Xerox management learned one obstacle in the way
of women obtaining and retaining top positions in its manufacturing divisions was the rigid hours
of shift schedules. These schedules made it difficult for women who were also primary caregivers
to their children to work in manufacturing. Executives learned that “women weren’t dumb in
manufacturing, [but] they need more flexibility” than the company allowed them, says Burns
(Solman, 2014).

Burns stepped down from her role as CEO in 2017. When she left, Xerox had 140,000
employees and conducted business in more than 180 countries. In the United States, people of
color make up 31% of the company’s workforce. Among company officials and managers, 19%
are people of color. Women make up nearly 37% of the company’s executives and senior
management (Xerox, 2017).

Xerox rose to dominance as a maker of copy machines, but watched that market shrivel with
competition from digital imaging. As a result, Xerox dramatically changed its business model. It is
now in the business of client services and has become more globally oriented. In doing so, the
company found that its suppliers, customers, and partners came from diverse cultures,
backgrounds, and experiences. In order to be able to connect with them, Xerox had to connect
with the diverse employees within its own ranks.

Xerox officials contend that its diversity has allowed the company to successfully shift to new
markets because it is able to approach issues and challenges from different perspectives. “Xerox
found out a while ago that including more of the resources of the world to attack problems or
address opportunities is better than including fewer,” says Burns.

“The entire approach here is not to have diversity just because we think it’s a nice thing to do. It’s
a good business result. The way to stay in front, if you are a tech company, is to engage as much
difference and as much breadth as you can in thinking and approach and background and
language and culture” (Solman, 2014).

The inclusion framework presented in Table 9.3 is useful for understanding ways to address diversity
because it illustrates inclusion as an integration of two factors: (1) an individual’s connectedness (i.e.,
belonging) to others and (2) a person’s individuality (i.e., uniqueness). In addition, the inclusion
framework is helpful because it underscores that differentiation focuses primarily on people’s differences
and assimilation focuses primarily on people’s connectedness to the whole.


Model of Inclusive Practices
Since inclusion is essential for integrating everyone into a group or an organization, the next question is,
how does the inclusion process work in practice?

To understand this process, Ferdman (2014) suggests treating inclusion as a multilevel process
centered on each individual’s experience of inclusion. Simply put, inclusion exists when individuals
experience it. This occurs as a result of inclusion practices on many levels, including interpersonal,
group, leader, organizational, and societal (see Figure 9.1). Ferdman’s framework illustrates how
inclusion at one level is related to the way inclusion is practiced at other levels.


Figure 9.1 Systems of Inclusion: A Multilevel Analytic Framework

Source: Adapted from Ferdman, B. M. (2014). The practice of inclusion in diverse organizations. In B. M.
Ferdman & B. R. Deane (Eds.), Diversity at work: The practice of inclusion (pp. 3–54). San Francisco, CA:

As shown at the top of the model in Figure 9.1, the way a society or community thinks about and
addresses inclusion affects the way an individual experiences it. For example, if the city commission in a
community such as Dearborn, Michigan, which has a large percentage of Muslims, were to promote the
recognition of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, then Muslim Dearborn residents might feel that their
heritage is being valued and recognized.

Moving down the model, organizational policies and practices also influence the inclusion experience.
For instance, if a new employee training program at a retail store fosters acceptance of customers who
are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, it may help these customers feel welcome shopping at the

At the leadership level, which is indispensable to promoting inclusion at all levels, leaders need to set
the tone for inclusion and hold followers accountable for inclusion practices. For example, if, during a
staff meeting of a department that is predominantly male, the department head gives a female staff
member time to voice her opinions to the others, that staff member will feel that her opinions matter. It
will also model to the group’s members how to listen to others and value their opinions, even if those
opinions are different from their own.

Another form of inclusion occurs at the group level. If group members do not actively recognize that
“individuals with different values, perspectives, and working and learning styles may come to a group
with different ideas of what is important and different notions of how groups should function, and value
different styles of communication,” then group members can experience misunderstandings that will
create barriers to group effectiveness (Komives et al., 2016, p. 119).

Groups promote inclusion when they establish enabling norms that give everyone in the group an equal
chance to voice their opinion, acknowledge and respect individuals’ differences, promote collaborative
work on tasks, and address conflicts productively. There is an old axiom regarding people in groups: “By
the group are you sickened, by the group are you healed.” When a group is functioning inclusively, it is
positive to group members, not toxic. The members feel accepted, comfortable, unique, valued, and
inspirited. This is the strength of inclusive group practices.

The interpersonal level is perhaps the most common place where inclusive practices are played out.
Through our interpersonal communication with others, we let them know our need to be included, our
willingness to include others, and our willingness to have others include us. For example, a first-year
international student living on campus may want her roommate to invite her to parties, but when the
roommate does invite her, the student makes an excuse for not being able to attend. The student
expresses a need to be included, but when she is included, the student becomes uncomfortable and
wants to pull back. Interpersonal inclusion happens when we ask others for their opinions and are
interested in who they are, but still enable them to maintain their personal space as individuals.

The individual inclusion experience is the foundation of the framework illustrated in Figure 9.1. Ferdman,
Barrera, Allen, and Vuong (2009) describe this experience “as the degree to which individuals feel safe,
trusted, accepted, respected, supported, valued, fulfilled, engaged, and authentic in their working
environment, both as individuals and as members of particular identity groups” (p. 6). The experience of
individual inclusion is affected by the inclusion practices at other levels, and individual inclusion can also
impact these other levels (see Figure 9.1).

To understand how the different levels of inclusion in the framework can influence the other levels,
consider, for example, in the United States, same-sex marriage has been legalized, giving same-sex
couples the same legal rights as those in heterosexual marriages. This can influence other inclusive
practices down the line. At the organizational level, this new legal status allows same-sex couples the
same benefits as heterosexual couples, such as health insurance and family leave. But even with these
legal protections, 46% of LGBTQ Americans remain closeted in the workplace, according to a 2018
report by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation for reasons from fear of being stereotyped or making
people feel uncomfortable to possibly losing connections or relationships with coworkers (Paul, 2019).
However, if the leader of an organization engages in inclusive practices, such as encouraging LGBTQ
couples to openly attend organizational events with their partners and inviting them to dinner with other

staff members and their spouses, that leader is modeling inclusive behavior for his followers. At the
group level, the coworkers of an LGBTQ employee host a baby shower when their colleague welcomes
a child into their family. On the interpersonal level, coworkers will talk with an LGBTQ employee about
their partner. Finally, you can see how this inclusion would lead to an LGBTQ employee feeling that their
sexual orientation and marriage are accepted and respected by their coworkers. These inclusive
practices may be helpful in allowing other LGBTQ people in the organization to feel more comfortable
sharing their sexual orientation and gender identity with their coworkers. Inclusion comes from the top
down—starting with society and community and ending with the individual.

As shown in Figure 9.1, Ferdman’s framework also identifies that the influence of inclusion travels back
up the levels from individual to societal. The same-sex couple example also works to show this upward
influence of inclusion. When LGBTQ employees feel accepted and respected, they may be more likely
to engage in inclusive behaviors with others who are different from them. If a group’s majority is
engaged in inclusive behaviors, it can influence its leaders to adopt those same inclusive practices. As a
result, the organization overall becomes an accepting work environment for LGBTQ individuals, and the
community in which the company operates is influenced by the company’s inclusive practices. Because
of the company’s inclusive practices, more LGBTQ employees may choose to join the company, which
will bring more LGBTQ people into the community. As LGBTQ people become engaged in the
community as neighbors, friends, and community members, the society around them will become more
accepting and respecting of LGBTQ people and relationships.

While this example shows that inclusion can and should happen at many levels, as a leader, the
challenge is to foster that sense of inclusion among one’s followers as well as influence the
organization’s approach to diversity and inclusion. In the next section, we discuss some practices
leaders can engage in that help to do just that.

Leader Practices That Advance Diversity and Inclusion
A questionnaire to measure inclusion in work groups developed by Ferdman and his colleagues
(Ferdman, 2014; Ferdman et al., 2009; Hirshberg & Ferdman, 2011) identified six key components of
the experience of inclusion (see Table 9.4). Components are like the ingredients of inclusion. When
followers experience these components, they feel included. These components provide a good blueprint
for actions and behaviors and communication that leaders should engage in to provide inclusion for

Table 9.4 Components of the Inclusion Experience

Components Examples


Feeling Safe

• Do I help others feel physically and psychologically safe?

• Do I help others feel like they are a full member of the

• Do I help others express opposing opinions without fear
of negative repercussion?


Feeling Involved and Engaged

• Do I treat others as full participants—as insiders?

• Do I give others access to information and resources to
do their work?

• Do I help others feel like they are part of our team?

Components Examples


Feeling Respected and Valued

• Do I treat others as I would like to be treated myself?

• Do I let others know I trust and care about them?

• Do I treat others like they are a valued group member?


Feeling Influential

• Do I let others’ ideas and perspectives influence the

• Do I let others participate in decision making?

• Do I listen to others’ perspectives on substantive issues?


Feeling Authentic and Whole

• Do I allow others to be truly themselves in the group?

• Do I let others know they can be completely open with
the group?

• Do I encourage others to be honest and transparent?


Recognizing, Attending to, and
Honoring Diversity

• Do I treat everyone fairly without discrimination?

• Do I let others know I trust and care about them?

• Do I encourage others to be honest and transparent?

Source: Adapted from Ferdman, B. M. (2014). The practice of inclusion in diverse organizations. In B. M. Ferdman & B. R. Deane
(Eds.), Diversity at work: The practice of inclusion (pp. 3–54). San Francisco, CA: Wiley.

1. Feeling Safe

To help individuals feel safe, it is important for leaders to treat followers in nonthreatening ways. In
situations where one person feels different from others, the leader plays a fundamental role in letting
that person know that they will not be hurt physically or psychologically if their ideas differ from others
and that they will not be ridiculed or criticized for expressing these ideas. Even if a person’s opinions go
directly against the majority opinion, that individual can feel safe that they will not experience negative
repercussions. This is especially important in situations of alleged harassment, where targets may
hesitate to report the behavior for fear of not being believed by a supervisor, having no action taken
against the perpetrator, or being regarded as a “troublemaker.” Leaders need to communicate with each
of their followers in such a way that all of them feel they are a part of the whole. It is a safe feeling for
individuals to know they will not be rejected by the group for their uniqueness.

2. Feeling Involved and Engaged

In addition to a feeling of safety, inclusion comes from feeling involved and engaged. Helping followers
find this feeling is a challenge for leaders, but worthwhile because engaged and involved followers are
more productive and satisfied. It is inspiriting to be around them. Cultural differences may affect how

followers are perceived by others in the group. For example, employees from some cultures may be less
likely to speak up or contribute to group projects, and so may be overlooked or regarded as weaker
members of a diverse team. If they come from a culture with a strong politeness norm, where
disagreeing openly is seen as disrespectful, or where women are expected to defer to men, they may
feel uncomfortable with sharing ideas, being assertive, or disagreeing with a group’s thinking.

Leaders must find ways to help individuals become involved and immersed in the larger group’s efforts.
When an individual likes their work, participates freely in it, and enjoys being a part of the team, they are
more likely to feel involved and engaged. As discussed in Chapter 6, “Engaging Strengths,” recognizing
people’s strengths is a wonderful way for leaders to help followers feel engaged. In addition, leaders
should treat followers as if they are insiders, as people who are important and deserve to know what is
going on within the organization. Leaders need to share information freely so that followers feel like full
participants in the workings of the group or organization. People feel involved and engaged when they
know they are full-fledged group members and that their participation matters.

3. Feeling Respected and Valued

Practicing the Golden Rule—“Treat others as you would like to be treated”—is at the core of how
leaders can help followers feel respected and valued. When leaders put themselves in the shoes of their
followers, they can get in touch with what it means to be well thought of, worthy, and wanted. None of us
like to be judged, stereotyped, ridiculed, singled out, disconfirmed, ignored, or belittled. Followers want
to feel that they belong and are connected to the group, that the leader trusts and cares about them,
and that they are intrinsic to the group.

4. Feeling Influential

Another component contributing to the inclusion experience is a feeling of having influence. All of us
have unique ideas and positions on issues. When people express their ideas and are heard, they feel
like they exist and that they are meaningful. When an individual is in a staff meeting and others listen to
their ideas, it makes that individual feel significant. If that person’s comments influence the direction of
the group, it really makes the person feel significant. We all want to be influential, to put our stamp on
things, to touch the world and have our efforts mean something.

It is critically important for leaders to recognize that followers have a need to have an impact—to
express themselves in a way that affects others. Effective leaders help followers feel influential when
they recognize that followers want to be heard and have an impact. Letting followers participate in
important organizational discussions and acknowledging their comments and suggestions as
substantive and valuable makes those followers feel influential. Another way of allowing followers to feel
influential is by including them in the decision making of a group. When followers are able to participate
in decisions, they feel a sense of significance; they feel agency. To have agency is to affect the process,
to feel alive, to feel influential. It is having agency that helps followers feel included.

5. Feeling Authentic and Whole

In any group or organization, there is always a certain amount of pressure to assimilate to that group or
organization’s mission, norms, and values. This pressure creates tension within individuals because in
order to be accepted with the larger group, they often find it necessary to hide or downplay unique
characteristics of themselves or the group with which they identify. For example, to be accepted as an
autoworker at a Ford plant in Detroit, an individual might try to hide the fact that he or she drives a
foreign-made car. Or, if your partner’s parents are quite liberal and against the National Rifle

Association’s stance on gun rights, you might not want to disclose to them that you are an avid hunter
and longtime NRA member.

This tension between wanting to be yourself and wanting to be a part of the group can be
counterproductive to feeling authentic and whole. Leaders can address this tension for followers by
creating an atmosphere where individuals feel free to be as honest and transparent as they are
comfortable being. To be transparent and authentic, followers need to feel trust from the leader. Leaders
need to establish environments where being fully transparent with one another is rewarded and not
punished. When you are in this kind of group or organization, you feel unique and connected at the
same time. It is a situation where assimilating to the larger entity does not require losing one’s own
sense of self.

For example, Angie is a multiracial college student at a small private university who, because of her very
light skin color, knows that most of her fellow students assume she is white. Even though she is very
involved in campus activities, the topic of her racial identity rarely comes up, and Angie doesn’t feel a
need to discuss it with other students. However, she often wants to speak up when she hears students
making racist comments, but doesn’t do so. The college’s president recently asked Angie to join the
school’s antiracism committee representing students of color on the campus. Angie is hesitant to do so
because it would mean being open about her racial identity, which could change how some of the other
students treat her. However, she also knows that she would be more true to herself if she did participate
on the committee, because she could effect change in some of the racist attitudes on campus. The
president has talked with her at length about the importance of being acknowledged by others for her
unique multiracial perspective, encouraging her to be authentic and transparent with others. He has
expressed that he believes because she is already a very respected and active member of the campus
community, she would be influential in helping the other students to embrace change regarding racism.

6. Recognizing, Attending to, and Honoring Diversity

The last component of the inclusion experience is directly related to leaders and diversity. In any group
or organization, people want to be treated fairly; they do not want to be discriminated against because of
their social identity or the identity of their social groups. Research shows the importance of validating the
social identities of diverse group members when bringing them together for collaborative work. Workers
should be able to talk about their social identities openly (race, nationality, gender identification, etc.),
celebrate their identities and the unique perspectives they provide, and discuss together ways in which
the group members’ diverse backgrounds and skill sets can be mutually beneficial (Hofhuis, van der Rijt,
& Vluf, 2016; Ospina & Foldy, 2010).

Having leadership that understands and embraces diversity in the organization can be critical for
innovation. “When leadership lacks innate or acquired diversity or fails to foster a ‘speak up’ culture,
fewer promising ideas make it to market. Ideas from women, ethnic minorities, LGBT individuals, and
members of Generation Y are less likely to win the endorsement they need to go forward because 56
percent of leaders don’t value ideas they don’t personally see a need for. This thinking can exert a
stranglehold on an organization if its leaders are predominantly white, male, and heterosexual, for
example, or come from similar educational and socioeconomic backgrounds. In short, the data strongly
suggests that homogeneity stifles innovation” (Hunt et al., 2015, p. 13).

As a leader, each of us has the responsibility to be fair-minded and open-minded toward all of our
followers. But dealing with diversity is not just about fairness. It is also about acknowledging differences
and fully embracing them even if it produces conflict. Leaders need to work through conflicts related to
differences. Last, leaders need to be attentive to recognizing the ways people differ and honoring the
individuality of each of them.

Barriers to Embracing Diversity and Inclusion

Unfortunately, in the effort to successfully embrace diversity and inclusion, a leader can run into five
common barriers—both on an individual level and on an organizational level—that can hinder this:
ethnocentrism, prejudice, unconscious bias, stereotypes, and privilege. Leaders must confront these
barriers head-on in order to effectively address diversity and develop inclusion in their organization.


As the word suggests, ethnocentrism is the tendency for individuals to place their own group (ethnic,
racial, or cultural) at the center of their observations of others and the world. Ethnocentrism is the
perception that one’s own culture is better or more natural than the culture of others. Because people
tend to give priority and value to their own beliefs, attitudes, and values over and above those of other
groups, they often fail to recognize the unique perspectives of others. Ethnocentrism is a universal
tendency, and each of us is ethnocentric to some degree.

Ethnocentrism is a perceptual window through which people make subjective or critical evaluations of
people from cultures other than their own (Porter & Samovar, 1997). For example, some Americans
think that the democratic principles of the United States are superior to the political beliefs of other
countries; they often fail to understand the complexities of other cultures. Ethnocentrism accounts for
our tendency to think our own cultural values and ways of doing things are right and natural (Gudykunst
& Kim, 1997).

Ethnocentrism can be a major obstacle to effective leadership because it prevents people from fully
understanding or respecting the viewpoints of others. For example, if a person’s culture values individual
achievement, it may be difficult for that person to understand someone from a culture that emphasizes
collectivity (i.e., people working together as a whole). Similarly, if a person believes strongly in
respecting authority, that person may find it difficult to understand someone who challenges authority or
does not easily defer to authority figures. The more ethnocentric we are, the less open or tolerant we
are of other people’s cultural traditions or practices.

A skilled leader cannot avoid issues related to ethnocentrism. A leader must recognize their own
ethnocentrism, as well as understand—and to a degree tolerate—the ethnocentrism of others. In reality,
it is a balancing act for leaders. On the one hand, leaders need to promote and be confident in their own
ways of doing things; on the other, they need to be sensitive to the legitimacy of the ways of other
cultures. Skilled leaders are able to negotiate the fine line between trying to overcome ethnocentrism
and knowing when to remain grounded in their own cultural values.


Closely related to ethnocentrism is prejudice. Prejudice is a largely fixed attitude, belief, or emotion held
by an individual about another individual or group that is based on faulty or unsubstantiated data.
Prejudice refers to judgments we make about others based on previous decisions or experiences and
involves inflexible generalizations that are resistant to change or evidence to the contrary (Ponterotto &
Pedersen, 1993).

Prejudice often is thought of in the context of race or ethnicity (e.g., European American vs. African
American), but it also applies in areas such as gender, age, sexual orientation, and other independent
contexts. Although prejudice can be positive (e.g., thinking highly of another culture without sufficient
evidence such as “the Swiss are the best skiers”), it is usually negative (e.g., “women are too

As with ethnocentrism, we all hold prejudices to some degree. Sometimes our prejudices allow us to
keep our partially fixed attitudes undisturbed and constant. Sometimes prejudice can reduce people’s
anxiety because it gives them a familiar way to structure their observations of others. One of the main

problems with prejudice is that it is self-oriented rather than other-oriented. It helps us to achieve
balance for ourselves at the expense of others. Moreover, attitudes of prejudice inhibit understanding by
creating a screen that limits one’s ability to see multiple aspects and qualities of other people. Prejudice
is often expressed in crude or demeaning comments that people make about others. Both
ethnocentrism and prejudice interfere with our ability to understand and appreciate the human
experience of others.

In addition to fighting their own prejudices, leaders face the challenge of dealing with the prejudice of
their followers. These prejudices can be toward the leader or the leader’s culture. Furthermore, it is not
uncommon for a leader to have followers who represent several culturally different groups that have
their own prejudices toward each other. Prejudice can result in advantages for some groups over others
and in systemic discrimination, which occurs when patterns of discriminatory behavior, policies, or
practices become a part of an organization and continue to perpetuate disadvantage to those being
discriminated against. Systemic discrimination can have a broad impact on an industry, a profession, or
a geographic area.

A skilled leader needs to think about, recognize, and address when systemic discrimination exists within
their organization and find ways to create inclusion with followers and groups who exhibit a multitude of

Unconscious Bias

Also called implicit bias, unconscious bias is the term used to describe when we have attitudes toward
people or associate stereotypes with them without our conscious knowledge that we are doing so.
Thoughts and feelings are “implicit” if we are unaware of them or mistaken about their nature.
Sometimes these attitudes actually contradict our own explicit beliefs (Devine, 1989). Research
suggests that unconscious bias occurs automatically and is triggered by the brain making quick
judgments and assessments of people and situations that are influenced by our own personal
background, experiences, memories, and cultural environment (Byyny, 2017). Unconscious bias can
result in some people benefiting while others are penalized.

For example, in screening potential candidates for a job, you may unconsciously choose to interview
candidates who are similar to you in age, gender, ethnicity, or other ways, such as having lived in the
same region, having attended the same schools, or having similar work experience. One of the most
common examples of unconscious bias is seen in studies that show that white people will frequently
associate criminality with Black people without even realizing they’re doing it (Oliver, 1999).

As discussed in the preceding section on prejudice, it is very important for leaders to recognize not only
their own unconscious biases, but those of their followers as well. One way to identify implicit bias is
through an assessment instrument like the Implicit Association Test (IAT) developed by Greenwald,
Banaji, and Nosek (Blindspot, 2017). The IAT measures an individual’s implicit biases in several areas
including race, weapons, body weight, age, gender, career, and skin tone. The IAT is available to take
online for free at the Harvard Project Implicit website (

Another way to learn and address unconscious biases is to have discussions with others, especially
those from socially dissimilar groups. Sharing your biases can help others feel more secure about
exploring their own biases. Facilitated discussions and training sessions promoting bias literacy have
been proven effective in minimizing bias, and providing unconscious bias training can reduce the impact
of bias in the workplace (Carnes et al., 2012).

Unconscious bias is malleable and can be changed by devoting intention, attention, and time to
developing new associations. It requires taking the time to consciously think about possible biases prior
to acting or making decisions. There is evidence that even minimal interventions in reducing
stereotyping and discrimination can be effective (Byyny, 2017).


A stereotype is a fixed belief held by an individual that classifies a group of people with a similar
characteristic as alike. Stereotypes allow people to respond to complex information and make meaning
from it by either generalizing it or putting a blanket category around it. It is a way of processing
information quickly.

Stereotypes label a group of individuals as the same at the expense of recognizing the uniqueness of
each individual. Labeling everyone the same results in assuming things about some individuals that are
not true. Stereotypes provide a way to generalize information, but during the process, individuals may
get labeled with characteristics or qualities that do not apply to them. For example, if you say, “Nightshift
workers are lazy,” you are characterizing every worker who works that shift as lazy, when in fact it may
be only one or two workers. If you stereotype the members of a certain ethnic or cultural group based on
perceptions or information you have, you will be making incorrect assumptions about them. Additionally,
many stereotypes about marginalized groups are deeply flawed, negative, and harmful.

In a small way, stereotypes can be useful. Stereotypes can reduce uncertainty in some situations
because they provide partial information to us about others. For example, if you see some people
wearing jerseys for the New England Patriots and you are also a Patriots fan, you will feel comfortable
sitting next to them at a Patriots football game. You already assume, based on their clothing, that they
have beliefs similar to yours. Similarly, if you tell your parents, who are of Dutch heritage, that they’ll like
your new partner because she is a “good Dutch woman,” you are using a positive stereotype that will
give your parents some information about your partner. This kind of stereotype provides limited
information and begs to be challenged with phrases such as “What else can you tell me about this
person?” Each individual is much more than a label can communicate, so we must constantly challenge
our mental assessments to look for the unique qualities of every person.

For leaders, stereotypes are a barrier to diversity and inclusion because stereotypes categorize
individual followers into a single classification, which prevents the leader from seeing each individual’s
unique merits and qualifications. Because stereotypes are a mental shortcut, leaders can avoid thinking
more deeply about individual followers. For example, if a college professor who teaches three classes
labels one class as “a good class” and the other two as “bad classes” based on experiences he has had
with some students in those classes, the stereotype will prevent him from seeing the many good
qualities of individuals in the “bad” classes and also the negative qualities of the students in the “good”

Stereotypes have a significant impact on how leaders treat followers. To include followers and embrace
them fully, leaders need to be attentive and open to the individual nuances of each of their followers. For
Jane Doe to be included requires more than recognition of her gender. It requires understanding that
she is a single mom with four kids, a part-time college student, a wife who lost her husband in the Iraq
War, and a woman who is struggling with breast cancer. Calling Jane Doe a woman classifies her, but
fails completely in accurately describing the uniqueness of her situation. When leaders stereotype
followers, they box them in and trap them under simplistic and empty labels.


A final barrier to inclusion is privilege. Privilege is an advantage held by a person or group that is based
on age, race, ethnicity, gender, class, or some other cultural dimension, which gives those who have it
power over those who don’t. Privilege has been described as an unearned advantage that some people
have in comparison to others. In situations where it exists, privilege excludes others and puts them at a
disadvantage. For example, in many countries around the world, privileged people in the ruling class
have political, economic, and social power over people living in poverty, who are exploited and lack
opportunities to transcend their circumstances. Or, to consider another example, during the Jim Crow
period in the United States, privileged white citizens had power over Black citizens, and as a result,

Black citizens suffered tremendously on all levels from employment and economics to education.
Privilege is something that often goes unrecognized by those who have it, but usually is very apparent
to those who do not have it.

Because privilege is a barrier to inclusion, leaders need to be introspective and determine if they are
privileged in some way in comparison to others, including their followers. Because leadership involves a
power differential between the leader and followers, leaders can often be blinded to the privilege they
have. In addition, privilege can be very difficult for those without it to address because leaders may deny
they have privilege or not acknowledge it because they do not want to weaken their power.

Those with privilege sometimes argue that the status and power they have is not privilege. Rather, they
believe it is the result of their hard work, competence, and experience. For example, individuals who are
born to affluent parents and go to elite schools are likely to land high-paying, prestigious jobs when they
graduate from college (Rivera, 2015). If one were to challenge privileged individuals about their
privilege, they might say they obtained a good job because they worked hard and put in long hours.
Rivera (2015) points out that it is often the connections that privileged individuals have with others of
influence that lead them to find better jobs. Ultimately, privilege and hard work are not mutually exclusive
and both an individual’s circumstances and their efforts can contribute to their success.

Unfortunately, those with privilege are many times unaware of how that privilege makes their lives
different from the lives of those without privilege. Some people may believe that those in poverty are
lazy and undeserving because they have not worked hard enough to pull themselves out of their
circumstances. They may not be aware that poverty is a difficult condition to transcend. For example,
imagine being the mother of two children, and as the result of a car accident, your spouse has
developed a chronic health condition that keeps him from working and requires he have constant care.
His medical bills wipe out any extra money you have. Even with TANF benefits and disability income, it’s
a struggle to make rent and utility payments and buy enough food to feed your family. You want to work,
but you can only work during school hours on weekdays when your children are in school. You do not
have a car, so you must walk or take public transportation, which limits how far away your job can be
from your home. Any small thing can upset the fragile balance you have established: a trip to the doctor,
an unexpected bill, an increase in expenses. The road out of poverty for this mother and her family
seems nearly impossible. Her situation seems so intractable that no amount of motivation or hard work
could resolve it.

Having privilege blinds individuals to the experience of the underprivileged. Without the ability to
understand, without judgment, individuals and their unique situations, leaders end up excluding rather
than including them.

Collectively, the barriers to embracing diversity and inclusion (i.e., ethnocentrism, prejudice,
unconscious bias, stereotypes, and privilege) underscore the difficulty in accepting and confirming those
who are different from ourselves. Leaders must not only address these barriers as they occur with their
followers, but must also take a critical look at their own biases regarding diversity and work to eliminate
these barriers in their own lives. As we have learned from Ferdman’s framework, inclusion is a fluid
process and must occur at the individual as well as societal level.

This chapter discusses how leaders can embrace diversity and inclusion in their organizations. Diversity
plays a seminal role in effective leadership; it is defined as the differing individuals in a group or an
organization. Inclusion is defined as the process of incorporating others who are different into a group or
an organization in a way that allows them to feel they are part of the whole. Diversity focuses on
recognizing differences, and inclusion is concerned with embracing those differences.

The historical development of workplace diversity in the United States has emerged over three periods.
The early years (1960s and 1970s), which included the creation of landmark equal employment laws,
focused on discrimination and fairness. Second, the era of valuing diversity (1980s and 1990s)

emphasized pluralism and the competitive advantages of diversity in the workplace. Third, the era of
diversity management and inclusion in the 21st century (2000 to present) emphasizes acknowledging,
valuing, and integrating people’s differences into the organization and places inclusion at center stage in
addressing concerns about diversity.

An inclusion framework was developed by researchers to describe how the process of inclusion works.
This framework illustrates inclusion as an interaction of an individual’s levels of belongingness (i.e., the
desire to be connected) and uniqueness (i.e., the desire to maintain one’s own identity). For leaders,
managing diversity is about managing the tension followers experience between connectedness and
individuality. The individual experience of inclusion occurs as a result of inclusion practices on many
levels, including interpersonal, group, leader, organizational, and societal. Inclusion travels from the
societal level down to the individual and back up the levels from the individual to societal.

Researchers have identified six components of the inclusion experience that provide a blueprint of how
leaders should behave and communicate to provide inclusion for followers. To help followers feel safe,
leaders need to treat them in nonthreatening ways. To help followers feel involved and engaged, leaders
should recognize followers’ strengths and let them know they are full-fledged members of the
organization. To help followers feel respected and valued, leaders should practice the Golden Rule and
show trust and care for followers. To help followers feel influential, leaders should recognize followers’
need to have an impact on others and enable them to participate in decision making. To help followers
feel authentic and whole, leaders should create an atmosphere where followers can feel free to be as
honest and transparent as they are comfortable being. Finally, to help followers feel recognized,
attended to, and honored, leaders should exhibit open-mindedness toward all followers, honoring the
individuality of each of them.

Barriers that can inhibit leaders and followers from embracing diversity are ethnocentrism, prejudice,
unconscious bias, stereotypes, and privilege. The challenge for leaders is to remove or mitigate these
barriers. Although addressing diversity is an interactive process between leaders and followers, the
burden of effectively addressing diversity and building inclusion rests squarely on the shoulders of the
leader. Effective leaders recognize the importance of diversity and make it a focal point of their

Glossary Terms
assimilation 214

diversity 211

equity 212

ethnocentrism 226

inclusion 211

melting pot 214

multiculturalism 213

pluralism 215

prejudice 227

privilege 230

social identities 211

stereotypes 229

systemic discrimination 228

unconscious bias 228


9.1 Case Study—What’s in a Name?

Springfield High School’s athletic teams have been called the Redskins since the school opened in
1944. The small town of 7,000, which is roughly 95% white, is located in an area of the Midwest that
once had thriving Native American tribes, a fact the community is proud to promote in its tourism
brochures. So when the members of a local family with Native American ancestry came before the
school board to ask that the name of Springfield High School’s athletic teams be changed because they
found the use of the word Redskins to be offensive, it created a firestorm in the town.

The school’s athletic teams had competed as Redskins for 70 years, and many felt the name was an
integral part of the community. People personally identified with the Redskins, and the team and the
team’s name were ingrained in the small town’s culture. Flags with the Redskins logo flew outside
homes and businesses, and decals with the image of the smiling Redskins mascot adorned many car

“Locals would come before the board and say, ‘I was born a Redskin and I’ll die a Redskin,’” recalls one
board member. “They argued that the name was never intended to be offensive, that it was chosen for
the teams before ‘political correctness’ was a thing, and that it honored the area’s relatively strong
Native American presence.”

But several other local Native American families and individuals also came forward in support of
changing the name. One pointed out that “the use of the word Redskin is essentially a racial slur, and as
a racial slur, it needs to be changed.” The issue drew national attention, and speakers came in from
outside the state to discuss the negative ramifications of Native American mascots.

However, the opposition to change was fierce. T-shirts and bumper stickers started appearing around
town sporting the slogans “I’m a Redskin and Proud” and “Don’t tell me I’m not a Redskin.” At board
meetings, those in favor of keeping the name would boo and talk over those speaking in favor of
changing it, and argue that speakers who weren’t from Springfield shouldn’t even be allowed to be at
the board meetings.

The board ultimately approved a motion, 5–2, to have the students at Springfield High School choose a
new name for their athletic teams. The students immediately embraced the opportunity to choose a new
name, developing designs and logos for their proposed choices. In the end, the student body voted to
become the Redhawks.

There was still an angry community contingent, however, that was festering over the change. They
began a petition to recall the school board members and received enough signatures for the recall to be
put up for an election.

“While the kids are going about the business of changing the name and the emblem, the community
holds an election and proceeds to recall the five members of the board who voted in favor of it,” one of
the recalled board members said.

The remaining two board members, both of whom were ardent members of the athletic booster
organization, held a special meeting of the board (all two of them) and voted to change the name back
to the Redskins.

That’s when the state Department of Civil Rights and the state’s Commission for High School Athletics
stepped in. They told the Springfield School Board there could not be a reversal of the name change
and that the high school’s teams would have to go for four years without one, competing only as

Over the course of those four years, new school board members were elected, and the issue quieted
down. At the end of that period, the students again voted to become the Springfield Redhawks. “You
know, the kids were fine with it,” says one community member. “It’s been ten years, and there’s an entire
generation of kids who don’t have a clue that it was ever different. They are Redhawks and have always
been Redhawks.

“It was the adults who had the problem. There’s still a small contingent today that can’t get over it. A
local hardware store still sells Springfield Redskins T-shirts and other gear. There is just this group of
folks who believe there was nothing disrespectful in the Redskins name.”

1. Do you agree with the assertion the athletic team name should be changed?
2. Describe how Ferdman’s model of inclusion practices (Table 9.4) worked in this case. Did the

influence for inclusive practices travel both up and down the model?
3. What barriers to embracing diversity and inclusion did the school board and community experience

in this case?
4. Using the inclusion framework in Table 9.3, where would you place the Native American residents in

the town of Springfield? What about Native American students at Springfield High School?
5. By changing the name of the athletic teams, do you believe the school board was showing inclusive

practices? If so, which ones?
6. What role does privilege play in the resistance of community members to change the athletic teams’


9.2 Case Study—Mitch Landrieu: Symbolic Progress
New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu wanted to observe the 300th anniversary of his city in a way that
would “build something that would make us better” (Winfrey, 2018).

The city was still rebuilding and recovering from the devastation of a recession, a major oil spill, and four
hurricanes when Mitch was approached by a friend with the idea of removing the Robert E. Lee statue,
one of four prominently placed statues around the city memorializing the Southern confederacy and its
leaders. Mitch was born and raised in New Orleans, the son of white parents. He grew up in a diverse
neighborhood surrounded by the richness of the culture of New Orleans. His father, a member of the
Louisiana legislature, was one of the only people to vote against segregationist laws in the 1960s.

Initially, Landrieu shied away from the proposal, but started researching the history of the monuments—
who had constructed them and to what purpose. Realizing this was an opportunity to heal a significant
wound at an important time in the city’s history, he decided all four of the statues should be removed.
After almost two years of effort, significant controversy, and difficulty, the last statue came down on May
19, 2017. On that day, Mayor Landrieu delivered the following speech explaining why he felt this was so
important for the City of New Orleans and its people:

Thank you for coming.

The soul of our beloved City is deeply rooted in a history that has evolved over thousands of
years; rooted in a diverse people who have been here together every step of the way—for both
good and for ill. It is a history that holds in its heart the stories of Native Americans—the
Choctaw, Houma Nation, the Chitimacha. Of Hernando De Soto, Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La
Salle, the Acadians, the Islenos, the enslaved people from Senegambia, Free People of

Colorix, the Haitians, the Germans, both the empires of France and Spain. The Italians, the
Irish, the Cubans, the south and central Americans, the Vietnamese and so many more.

You see—New Orleans is truly a city of many nations, a melting pot, a bubbling caldron of
many cultures. There is no other place quite like it in the world that so eloquently exemplifies
the uniquely American motto: e pluribus unum—out of many we are one. But there are also
other truths about our city that we must confront. New Orleans was America’s largest slave
market: a port where hundreds of thousands of souls were bought, sold and shipped up the
Mississippi River to lives of forced labor, of misery, of rape, of torture. America was the place
where nearly 4,000 of our fellow citizens were lynched, 540 alone in Louisiana; where the
courts enshrined “separate but equal”; where Freedom Riders coming to New Orleans were
beaten to a bloody pulp. So when people say to me that the monuments in question are history,
well what I just described is real history as well, and it is the searing truth.

And it immediately begs the questions, why there are no slave ship monuments, no prominent
markers on public land to remember the lynchings or the slave blocks; nothing to remember
this long chapter of our lives; the pain, the sacrifice, the shame . . . all of it happening on the
soil of New Orleans. So for those self-appointed defenders of history and the monuments, they
are eerily silent on what amounts to this historical malfeasance, a lie by omission. There is a
difference between remembrance of history and reverence of it.

For America and New Orleans, it has been a long, winding road, marked by great tragedy and
great triumph. But we cannot be afraid of our truth. As President George W. Bush said at the
dedication ceremony for the National Museum of African American History & Culture, “A great
nation does not hide its history. It faces its flaws and corrects them.” So today I want to speak
about why we chose to remove these four monuments to the Lost Cause of the Confederacy,
but also how and why this process can move us towards healing and understanding of each
other. So, let’s start with the facts.

The historic record is clear, the Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, and P.G.T. Beauregard statues
were not erected just to honor these men, but as part of the movement which became known
as The Cult of the Lost Cause. This “cult” had one goal—through monuments and through
other means—to rewrite history to hide the truth, which is that the Confederacy was on the
wrong side of humanity. First erected over 166 years after the founding of our city and 19 years
after the end of the Civil War, the monuments that we took down were meant to rebrand the
history of our city and the ideals of a defeated Confederacy. It is self-evident that these men did
not fight for the United States of America, they fought against it. They may have been warriors,
but in this cause they were not patriots. These statues are not just stone and metal. They are
not just innocent remembrances of a benign history. These monuments purposefully celebrate
a fictional, sanitized Confederacy; ignoring the death, ignoring the enslavement, and the terror
that it actually stood for.

After the Civil War, these statues were a part of that terrorism as much as a burning cross on
someone’s lawn; they were erected purposefully to send a strong message to all who walked in
their shadows about who was still in charge in this city. Should you have further doubt about
the true goals of the Confederacy, in the very weeks before the war broke out, the Vice
President of the Confederacy, Alexander Stephens, made it clear that the Confederate cause
was about maintaining slavery and white supremacy. He said in his now famous “cornerstone
speech” that the Confederacy’s “cornerstone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not
equal to the white man; that slavery—subordination to the superior race—is his natural and
normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon
this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.”

Now, with these shocking words still ringing in your ears . . . I want to try to gently peel from
your hands the grip on a false narrative of our history that I think weakens us. And make
straight a wrong turn we made many years ago—we can more closely connect with integrity to

the founding principles of our nation and forge a clearer and straighter path toward a better city
and a more perfect union.

Last year, President Barack Obama echoed these sentiments about the need to contextualize
and remember all our history. He recalled a piece of stone, a slave auction block engraved with
a marker commemorating a single moment in 1830 when Andrew Jackson and Henry Clay
stood and spoke from it. President Obama said, “Consider what this artifact tells us about
history . . . on a stone where day after day for years, men and women . . . bound and bought
and sold and bid like cattle on a stone worn down by the tragedy of over a thousand bare feet.
For a long time the only thing we considered important, the singular thing we once chose to
commemorate as history with a plaque were the unmemorable speeches of two powerful men.”

A piece of stone—one stone. Both stories were history. One story told. One story forgotten or
maybe even purposefully ignored. As clear as it is for me today . . . for a long time, even
though I grew up in one of New Orleans’ most diverse neighborhoods, even with my family’s
long proud history of fighting for civil rights . . . I must have passed by those monuments a
million times without giving them a second thought. So I am not judging anybody, I am not
judging people. We all take our own journey on race.

I just hope people listen like I did when my dear friend Wynton Marsalis helped me see the
truth. He asked me to think about all the people who have left New Orleans because of our
exclusionary attitudes. Another friend asked me to consider these four monuments from the
perspective of an African American mother or father trying to explain to their fifth grade
daughter who Robert E. Lee is and why he stands atop of our beautiful city. Can you do it? Can
you look into that young girl’s eyes and convince her that Robert E. Lee is there to encourage
her? Do you think she will feel inspired and hopeful by that story? Do these monuments help
her see a future with limitless potential? Have you ever thought that if her potential is limited,
yours and mine are too? We all know the answer to these very simple questions. When you
look into this child’s eyes is the moment when the searing truth comes into focus for us. This is
the moment when we know what is right and what we must do. We can’t walk away from this

And I knew that taking down the monuments was going to be tough, but you elected me to do
the right thing, not the easy thing and this is what that looks like. So relocating these
Confederate monuments is not about taking something away from someone else. This is not
about politics, this is not about blame or retaliation. This is not a naïve quest to solve all our
problems at once.

This is however about showing the whole world that we as a city and as a people are able to
acknowledge, understand, reconcile and most importantly, choose a better future for ourselves
making straight what has been crooked and making right what was wrong. Otherwise, we will
continue to pay a price with discord, with division and yes with violence.

To literally put the Confederacy on a pedestal in our most prominent places of honor is an
inaccurate recitation of our full past. It is an affront to our present, and it is a bad prescription
for our future. History cannot be changed. It cannot be moved like a statue. What is done is
done. The Civil War is over, and the Confederacy lost and we are better for it. Surely we are far
enough removed from this dark time to acknowledge that the cause of the Confederacy was

And in the second decade of the 21st century, asking African Americans—or anyone else—to
drive by property that they own; occupied by reverential statues of men who fought to destroy
the country and deny that person’s humanity seems perverse and absurd. Centuries old
wounds are still raw because they never healed right in the first place. Here is the essential
truth. We are better together than we are apart.

Indivisibility is our essence. Isn’t this the gift that the people of New Orleans have given to the
world? We radiate beauty and grace in our food, in our music, in our architecture, in our joy of
life, in our celebration of death; in everything that we do. We gave the world this funky thing
called jazz, the most uniquely American art form that is developed across the ages from
different cultures. Think about second lines, think about Mardi Gras, think about muffaletta,
think about the Saints, gumbo, red beans and rice. By God, just think.

All we hold dear is created by throwing everything in the pot; creating, producing something
better; everything a product of our historic diversity. We are proof that out of many we are one
—and better for it! Out of many we are one—and we really do love it! And yet, we still seem to
find so many excuses for not doing the right thing. Again, remember President Bush’s words,
“A great nation does not hide its history. It faces its flaws and corrects them.”

We forget, we deny how much we really depend on each other, how much we need each other.
We justify our silence and inaction by manufacturing noble causes that marinate in historical
denial. We still find a way to say “wait”/not so fast, but like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “wait
has almost always meant never.” We can’t wait any longer. We need to change. And we need
to change now.

No more waiting. This is not just about statues, this is about our attitudes and behavior as well.
If we take these statues down and don’t change to become a more open and inclusive society
this would have all been in vain. While some have driven by these monuments every day and
either revered their beauty or failed to see them at all, many of our neighbors and fellow
Americans see them very clearly. Many are painfully aware of the long shadows their presence
casts; not only literally but figuratively. And they clearly receive the message that the
Confederacy and the Cult of the Lost Cause intended to deliver.

Earlier this week, as the Cult of the Lost Cause statue of P.G.T. Beauregard came down, world
renowned musician Terence Blanchard stood watch, his wife Robin and their two beautiful
daughters at their side. Terence went to a high school on the edge of City Park named after
one of America’s greatest heroes and patriots, John F. Kennedy. But to get there he had to
pass by this monument to a man who fought to deny him his humanity.

He said, “I’ve never looked at them as a source of pride . . . it’s always made me feel as if they
were put there by people who don’t respect us. This is something I never thought I’d see in my
lifetime. It’s a sign that the world is changing.” Yes, Terence, it is and it is long overdue. Now is
the time to send a new message to the next generation of New Orleanians who can follow in
Terence and Robin’s remarkable footsteps.

A message about the future, about the next 300 years and beyond; let us not miss this
opportunity New Orleans and let us help the rest of the country do the same. Because now is
the time for choosing. Now is the time to actually make this the City we always should have
been, had we gotten it right in the first place.

We should stop for a moment and ask ourselves—at this point in our history—after Katrina,
after Rita, after Ike, after Gustav, after the national recession, after the BP oil catastrophe and
after the tornado—if presented with the opportunity to build monuments that told our story or to
curate these particular spaces . . . would these monuments be what we want the world to see?
Is this really our story?

We have not erased history; we are becoming part of the city’s history by righting the wrong
image these monuments represent and crafting a better, more complete future for all our
children and for future generations. And unlike when these Confederate monuments were first
erected as symbols of white supremacy, we now have a chance to create not only new
symbols, but to do it together, as one people. In our blessed land we all come to the table of
democracy as equals. We have to reaffirm our commitment to a future where each citizen is
guaranteed the uniquely American gifts of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

That is what really makes America great and today it is more important than ever to hold fast to
these values and together say a self-evident truth that out of many we are one. That is why
today we reclaim these spaces for the United States of America. Because we are one nation,
not two; indivisible with liberty and justice for all . . . not some. We all are part of one nation, all
pledging allegiance to one flag, the flag of the United States of America. And New Orleanians
are in . . . all of the way. It is in this union and in this truth that real patriotism is rooted and
flourishes. Instead of revering a 4-year brief historical aberration that was called the
Confederacy we can celebrate all 300 years of our rich, diverse history as a place named New
Orleans and set the tone for the next 300 years.

After decades of public debate, of anger, of anxiety, of anticipation, of humiliation and of
frustration. After public hearings and approvals from three separate community led
commissions. After two robust public hearings and a 6–1 vote by the duly elected New Orleans
City Council. After review by 13 different federal and state judges. The full weight of the
legislative, executive and judicial branches of government has been brought to bear and the
monuments in accordance with the law have been removed. So now is the time to come
together and heal and focus on our larger task. Not only building new symbols, but making this
city a beautiful manifestation of what is possible and what we as a people can become.

Let us remember what the once exiled, imprisoned and now universally loved Nelson Mandela
and what he said after the fall of apartheid. “If the pain has often been unbearable and the
revelations shocking to all of us, it is because they indeed bring us the beginnings of a
common understanding of what happened and a steady restoration of the nation’s humanity.”
So before we part let us again state the truth clearly.

The Confederacy was on the wrong side of history and humanity. It sought to tear apart our
nation and subjugate our fellow Americans to slavery. This is the history we should never forget
and one that we should never again put on a pedestal to be revered. As a community, we must
recognize the significance of removing New Orleans’ Confederate monuments. It is our
acknowledgment that now is the time to take stock of, and then move past, a painful part of our

Anything less would render generations of courageous struggle and soul-searching a truly lost
cause. Anything less would fall short of the immortal words of our greatest President Abraham
Lincoln, who with an open heart and clarity of purpose calls on us today to unite as one people
when he said: “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right, as God
gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s
wounds . . . to do all which may achieve and cherish—a just and lasting peace among
ourselves and with all nations.”

Thank you. (Landrieu, 2017)


1. Some people argue that leadership has a moral dimension that moves people toward the common
good. Do you think Mayor Landrieu’s speech has a moral dimension? If yes, what values is Mayor
Landrieu promoting? What are the obstacles to his advocacy?

2. By removing the statues and through his speech, Mayor Landrieu takes a strong stand against
dignifying symbols of the Confederacy. Do you feel his actions fostered a stronger sense of
inclusion within the city of New Orleans? Discuss how different perceptions of the statues and their
inherent messages may have affected different groups within the community.

3. The chapter discussed five barriers to diversity and inclusion: ethnocentrism, prejudice,
unconscious bias, stereotypes, and privilege. In what ways were these statues symbolic of these

4. Table 9.2 describes different metaphors for diversity during different time periods. What is the
metaphor and emphasis of Mayor Landrieu’s speech, and what are the implications of this
approach for diversity and inclusion?

5. Consider the various symbols in your community, school, or workplace that you see every day.
Select one or two and discuss the possible perceptions of each symbol to different members of your

9.3 Cultural Diversity Awareness Questionnaire


1. To identify your attitudes and perspectives regarding cultural diversity
2. To help you become aware of and understand your prejudices and biases
3. To help you understand the potential consequences of your approach to diversity in the workplace


1. Read each statement and circle the number that best describes your belief or behavior.
2. Be as candid as possible with your responses; there are no right or wrong answers.

Never Almost
Never Sometimes Almost

Always Always

1. I am aware of my own biases and how they
affect my thinking.

1 2 3 4 5

2. I can honestly assess my strengths and
weaknesses in the area of diversity and try to
improve myself.

1 2 3 4 5

Never Almost
Never Sometimes Almost

Always Always

3. I assume good intent and ask for clarification
when I don’t understand what was said or

1 2 3 4 5

4. I challenge others when they make
racial/ethnic/sexually offensive comments or

1 2 3 4 5

5. I speak up if I witness another person being
humiliated or discriminated against.

1 2 3 4 5

6. I do not participate in jokes that are
derogatory to any individual group.

1 2 3 4 5

7. I don’t believe that my having a friend of color
means that I’m culturally competent.

1 2 3 4 5

8. I understand why a lack of diversity in my
social circle may be perceived as excluding

1 2 3 4 5

9. I realize that people of other cultures have a
need to support one another and connect as a

1 2 3 4 5

10. I do not make assumptions about a person
or individual group until I have verified the facts
on my own.

1 2 3 4 5

11. I have multiple friends from a variety of
ethnicities and abilities.

1 2 3 4 5

12. I connect easily with people who look
different from me and am able to communicate
easily with them.

1 2 3 4 5

13. I’m interested in the ideas and beliefs of
people who don’t think and believe as I do, and I
respect their opinions even when I disagree.

1 2 3 4 5

Never Almost
Never Sometimes Almost

Always Always

14. I work to make sure people who are
different from me are heard and accepted.

1 2 3 4 5

15. I recognize and avoid language that
reinforces stereotypes.

1 2 3 4 5

16. I know others’ stereotypes associated with
my ethnicity.

1 2 3 4 5

17. I encourage people who are culturally
different from myself to speak out on their issues
and concerns, and I validate their issues and

1 2 3 4 5

18. I avoid assuming that others will have the
same reaction as I do when discussing or viewing
an issue.

1 2 3 4 5

19. I understand that I’m a product of my
upbringing and believe there are valid beliefs
other than my own.

1 2 3 4 5

20. I do not take physical characteristics into
account when interacting with others or when
making decisions about others’ competence or

1 2 3 4 5

21. I recognize that others stereotype me, and I
try to overcome their perceptions.

1 2 3 4 5

22. I include people who are culturally different
from myself in team decision-making processes
that impact them.

1 2 3 4 5

23. I actively seek opportunities to connect with
people who are different from me and seek to
build rapport with them.

1 2 3 4 5

Never Almost
Never Sometimes Almost

Always Always

24. I believe “color blindness” is
counterproductive and devalues a person’s
culture or history.

1 2 3 4 5

25. I avoid generalizing behaviors or attitudes of
one individual in a group to others.

1 2 3 4 5

26. I actively convey that employees or students
of varying backgrounds are as skilled and
competent as others.

1 2 3 4 5

27. I do not try to justify acts of discrimination to
make the victim feel better. I validate their
assessment of what occurred.

1 2 3 4 5

28. I try to learn about and appreciate the
richness of other cultures and honor their
holidays and events.

1 2 3 4 5

29. I believe there are policies and practices in
place that negatively impact people outside the
majority culture.

1 2 3 4 5

30. I understand the definition of internalized
racism and how it impacts people of color.

1 2 3 4 5

31. I recognize that race is a social construct,
not a scientific fact.

1 2 3 4 5

32. I know and accept that people’s experiences
and background impact how they interact with
and trust me.

1 2 3 4 5

Source: Adapted from Special Populations and CTE Illinois Leadership Project. (2016). Cultural Diversity Self-Assessment. Retrieved


Sum the numbers you circled on the questionnaire. This number is your cultural diversity awareness

Total Score

Cultural diversity awareness score: ________

Scoring Interpretation

This self-assessment is designed to measure your beliefs and behavior regarding cultural diversity and
inclusion. A higher score on the assessment indicates that you are acutely aware of prejudice and bias,
and that you are very aware of the impact of your behavior on others. Individuals who score high relate
to others in ways that value diversity. A lower score on the assessment suggests that you are unaware
of prejudice and bias, and that you are not fully aware of the impact of your biased behavior on others.
Individuals who score low communicate with others in ways that do not value diversity.

If your score is 130–160, you are in the very high range.

If your score is 100–129, you are in the high range.

If your score is 70–99, you are in the moderate range.

If your score is 40–69, you are in the low range.

If your score is 0–39, you are in the very low range.

9.4 Observational Exercise

Diversity and Inclusion

1. To become aware of the dimensions of diversity and inclusion
2. To develop an understanding of how leaders address diversity and inclusion in the workplace

1. Your task in this exercise is to interview a leader about their views on diversity and inclusion. The

individual you interview should have a formal position of authority in a company (e.g., supervisor,
manager), a school (e.g., teacher, principal), or the community (e.g., director of social work, bank
vice president, small business owner).

2. Conduct a 30-minute semistructured interview with this individual by phone or in person.
3. Develop your own interview questions. If necessary, you may incorporate ideas from the following


Tell me about your job. How long have you held this position, and how did you get it?

What comes to your mind when you hear the word diversity? How is diversity addressed within
your organization? How important do you think diversity is in your place of work? Why?

Are there areas within your organization that have less diversity than other areas? Do you think
the organization should address this?

What challenges do you face regarding diversity among those whom you supervise?

How do you treat employees/followers who are different from others? Do you allow everyone to
participate in decision making?

What is the best way to make an employee/follower who is a member of a marginalized group
feel genuinely included with others?


1. Based on your observations, how important is diversity and inclusion to the leader you interviewed?
2. Which metaphor in Table 9.2 (i.e., melting pot, salad, or smorgasbord) would you use to describe

the way the leader approaches their followers? Give examples to illustrate this metaphor.
3. Do you think the leader holds any stereotypes about others? In what way do these affect their

4. In what way does the leader try to make individuals who are different from the group feel a part of

the organization? Give specific examples where relevant.
5. Do you think privilege is in any way related to how this person leads? Defend your answer.

9.5 Reflection and Action Worksheet

Diversity and Inclusion

1. What is your response to the word diversity? Explain your thoughts on diversity.
2. Reflect on the six primary dimensions of cultural diversity shown in Table 9.1 (i.e., age, gender,

race, mental and physical abilities, ethnicity, and sexual orientation). Which type of diversity is
easiest for you to embrace, Why? Explain your answers.

3. One way to explore the concept of inclusion is to reflect on your own personal feelings about
inclusion. In a group situation, how much do you want to be included by others? Using a personal
example, discuss a time when you were in a group or on a team when you felt included by others
and a time when you felt excluded. Why did you feel included in one situation and not the other?
Elaborate and discuss.

4. Think about what circumstances got you to where you are today. Do you have a past that some
would describe as privileged? Or, would you say you are not privileged? Do you see your
colleagues or coworkers as having privilege? Discuss your thoughts on privilege.

1. Explore your answers on the Cultural Diversity Awareness Questionnaire. Select three items on

which you chose almost never or never. Based on your responses to these items, discuss what you
could do in your own leadership to be more inclusive toward others.

2. Imagine for a moment that you have been selected to lead a group service learning project. What
will you say to make others in your group feel psychologically safe? In what way will you let them
participate in decision making? How will you encourage those individuals who are most different
from the group to feel like insiders yet still unique? Discuss.

3. As discussed in the chapter, stereotypes often get in the way of including others who differ from us.
What common stereotypes do you sometimes attribute to others (e.g., a white male police officer, a
Muslim woman wearing a hijab, or a transgender man)? How can you change these stereotypes?
What messages will you give yourself to eliminate these stereotypes? Discuss.

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Descriptions of Images and Figures
Back to Figure

The diagram consists of 6 non-concentric circles with the levels illustrated by circles gradually
expanding in size at each level. A small central circle forms the base of the diagram. The levels, from
the small central circle to the largest outer circle, are as follows:

1. Individual. Sub-title, Inclusion Experience.
2. Interpersonal. Inclusive Behavior.
3. Group. Inclusive Practices.
4. Leadership. Inclusive Practices.
5. Organizational. Inclusive Practices.
6. Societal. Inclusive Practices.

2 vertical arrows are positioned either side of the framework. The upward arrow on the left indicates the
pathway from the Individual to the Societal. The downward arrow on the right indicates the pathway from
the Societal to the Individual.


In general, humans do not like conflict. And so when there are individuals in a group or an organization
who do not identify with the larger group—an out-group—we tend to look at them as “troublemakers” or
“malcontents.” But in fact, all of us have been out-group members at one time or another. The term itself
is descriptive, not derogatory. Out-groups are common and inevitable, and listening and responding to
out-group members is one of the most difficult challenges facing a leader. When a leader fails to meet
this challenge, out-group members feel devalued, and their unique contributions go unexpressed for the
common good. Good leaders know the importance of listening to all members of a group, especially the
out-group members.

It is common to find out-groups in any context where a group of individuals is trying to reach a goal. Out-
groups are a natural occurrence in everyday life. They exist in all types of situations at the local,
community, and national levels. In nearly all of these situations, when one or more individuals are not
“on board,” the performance of the group is adversely affected. Since out-group members are so
common, it is important for anyone who aspires to be a leader to know how to work with them.

Out-group members can be identified in many everyday encounters. At school, out-group members are
often those kids who do not see themselves as a part of the student body. For instance, they may want
to participate in music, clubs, sports, and so on, but for a host of reasons do not do so. At work, there
are out-groups comprising people who are at odds with management’s vision, or who are excluded from
important decision-making committees. On project teams, some out-group members are those who
simply refuse to contribute to the activities of the larger group.

But out-groups don’t always self-exclude. In the United States, women and African Americans were
barred from citizenship, voting, owning property, and attending college before gaining the same rights as
white men. For many decades, these out-groups advocated for equal rights on the basis of their
inherent human dignity. They argued against unjust laws and, in the case of desegregation, the misuse
of power by state governments in ignoring federal mandates. These out-groups challenged unethical
societal norms and played a crucial role in creating a more inclusive nation.

As in these examples, out-groups can perform other valuable functions. Out-groups can help prevent
groupthink during group decision-making processes by questioning assumptions, resisting pressure to
conform to group opinion, and offering alternative perspectives that challenge popular proposals. Out-
groups can bring up uncomfortable truths that majority group members may prefer not to face, such as
the environmental cost of developing and marketing a new product, or that a group’s research is
incomplete and should be redone, or that a school’s mascot may to have racist connotations. Out-
groups are also in a position to help a majority group see its biases, asking questions such as “Why are
there no women on this committee?” or “Why isn’t our student body any more diverse than it was five
years ago?”

While there are several reasons for the development and existence of out-groups, the important thing to
remember about out-group members is that they often have valuable contributions to make, and effort
should be made to create an inclusive environment that will facilitate their contributions. As we
discussed in Chapter 9, “Embracing Diversity and Inclusion,” inclusion is the process of incorporating
others into a group or an organization by helping people who are different from the majority group feel
they are part of the whole. Rather than being viewed as “difficult,” out-group members should be seen
as being “different” from the whole, with different values and skills that can be recognized—and

embraced—by other group members. Admittedly, this can be hard, but it starts with listening to out-
group members.

This chapter will examine why it is important for a leader to listen to out-group members. The questions
it will address are “Who is in the out-group?” “Why do out-groups form?” “What is the impact of out-
groups?” and “How should a leader respond to out-groups?” This discussion of out-groups will
emphasize specific strategies that leaders can employ to build a sense of belonging and community and
advance the goals of the larger group. And despite the negativity that may be associated with out-
groups, this chapter takes the view that out-groups often have positive contributions to make and that
leaders have an obligation and a responsibility to listen to out-group members and “bring them in” to the
efforts of the larger group. Some will argue with this position, and others will say it is naïve; but the
inherent value of every unique member of a group or an organization cannot be understated. Although
there will be times when out-group members need to be abandoned because they are too extreme, it is
inefficient to deal with them, or they just simply do not want to be included, this chapter will argue that in
most situations leaders have a duty to listen to and include out-group members.

There are many different ways to define out-group members. First, let us caution that before defining
who is in an out-group, leaders need to be mindful of their own biases. As we discussed in Chapter 9,
people are often influenced by unconscious bias. They may prefer working with people who are similar
to them in age, gender, ethnicity, or other characteristics, and spend less time with people who are
different from them (Tajfel, Billig, Bundy, & Flament, 1971). These different people can then, intentionally
or unintentionally, become the out-group. An example of this would be teachers who have favorite
students in a class, which results in other students feeling less liked or less worthy. By virtue of their
position, leaders have the power to cause individuals to feel they are not in the main group. Another
caution would be to avoid the use of labeling out-groups (Link & Phelan, 2001). Once labels such as
lazy or uneducated or militant are used to characterize a particular group, it is hard to erase that
perception or association. Leaders should also be careful about using the pronouns we and they when
referring to different group members, which reinforces the idea of a clear divide, with one group (we)
being more favored. Finally, leaders should recognize that boundaries between in-groups and out-
groups are permeable. People in each group likely share some characteristics and beliefs with
individuals in other groups, and may feel more affinity with members of the “other” group on some
issues than with those in their group.

For our purposes, the term out-group members refers to those individuals in a group or an
organization who do not identify themselves as part of the larger group. They are individuals who are
disconnected and not fully engaged in working toward the goals of the group. They may be in opposition
to the will of a larger group or simply disinterested in the group’s goals. They may be unaccepted,
alienated, and even discriminated against. In addition, they may think they are powerless because their
potential resources have not been fully accepted by the larger group.

Out-groups come in many forms: They can be people of color working in predominantly white
workplaces whose voices are not being heard, or people whose ideas are unappreciated. They can be
those who simply do not identify with the leader or other members of the primary group. Sometimes out-
group members are social loafers—group members who are inclined to goof off or work below their
capacity when they are in a group. In short, out-group members sense themselves to be at odds with
the larger group. For example, the single female on an all-male engineering team might be frustrated
that the other team members do not take her ideas seriously or appreciate her perspective on issues.

How Out-Groups Form
There are many different reasons that out-groups form. First, out-groups form because people disagree
with the social, political, or ethical position of the majority—they sense that they are in opposition to the
larger group. When decisions need to be made in organizational settings, consensus is often difficult to

achieve because of time constraints and the need to move forward. Without consensus, individuals align
themselves either with the majority viewpoint or with the minority. This minority is often seen as an out-
group. Even when decisions are made by taking a vote, the results often produce winners and losers,
and the losers frequently perceive themselves as members of the out-group. Although voting on a
decision is often seen as a desirable democratic approach to reaching an outcome, the downside is that
it always results in individuals feeling they are not in concert with the rest of the group.

A second reason that out-groups form is explained by social identity theory. This theory suggests that
out-groups come about because some individuals cannot identify with the beliefs, norms, or values of
the dominant group members. Research on groups (Hogg & Abrams, 1988; Tajfel & Turner, 1979, 1986)
indicates that individuals in groups often share a social identity and act toward each other in terms of
that identity (Abrams, Frings, & Randsley de Moura, 2005). In group settings, members embrace the
social identity of other group members and make the group’s concerns their own. For example, in a
support group for people with cancer, group members are likely to embrace a common identity—as
cancer survivors who are coping with the disease. People find meaning in belonging to the group and
sharing their experiences with others. They see one another as having a shared experience. However, if
one of the members is struggling with a more serious form of cancer and does not feel like a survivor,
then that person may become an out-group member. Out-groups are created when individuals in a
group cannot identify with the group and, as a result, do not embrace the dominant group’s reality.

Closely related to the identity issue, a third reason out-groups form is because people sense that they
are being excluded by the larger group. They do not know where they fit in or whether they are needed
by others in the group. Group members may think they are too old, too young, too conservative, too
liberal, or just plain different from the larger group. For example, on a college soccer team, freshman
players might wonder how they fit in with the upperclassmen. Similarly, in a college nursing class made
up mostly of women, a male student might feel different from the other nursing students and wonder
how he fits in the program. In situations such as these, people often sense that they are alienated from
the larger group. In addition, they may think of themselves as powerless and weak. It is no fun to think
you are not a part of the group and to feel excluded from it. We all have a need for inclusion, and when
those needs go unmet, we feel anxiety.

A fourth reason for out-group development is that some people lack communication skills or social skills
that are needed to relate to a larger group. In any group of people, there are often one or two people
who set themselves apart from the group through their actions. For example, in an undergraduate group
project team, there may be a student who talks excessively or dominates group discussions and
consequently alienates himself from the rest of the group. Or there could be a student who acts very
dogmatic, or another who consistently makes off-the-wall remarks. These types of individuals distinguish
themselves as different from the rest of the group by how they talk or act. It is as if they are unable to
adapt to the norms of the group. As much as they try, these people often find themselves on the outside
looking in. Even though they may want to join the larger group, they have difficulty doing so because
they do not know how to fit in. In these situations, their lack of communication and social skills often
leads them to becoming out-group members. In reality, there are many possible reasons for out-groups.
Any one reason is as legitimate as another. Developing an understanding of these reasons is the first
step in trying to resolve out-group issues.

The Impact of Out-Group Members
While out-group members can have positive outcomes, as we discussed earlier in the chapter, out-
group members can have many adverse effects as well. Some of the downsides of out-groups are
relatively insignificant, such as causing minor inefficiencies in organizational productivity. Other
downsides are more important, such as creating conflict or causing a strike to be called.

So why should a leader be concerned about the negative impact of out-group members? First, out-
group members run counter to building community. The essence of community is encouraging everyone
to be on the same page and moving everyone in the same direction. Community brings people together
and provides a place where they can express similar ideas, values, and opinions, and where they can

be heard by members of their team. Community allows people to accomplish great things. It enables
people to work hand in hand in pursuit of a shared vision that supports the common good. Through
community, people can promote the greater good of everyone in the group.

However, by their very nature, out-group members are sometimes in conflict with or avoiding community.
Because the community may seem threatening, unfamiliar, or uninteresting to them, some people have
a need to pull away from community. Their action detracts from the community being able to use all of
its resources to reach a common goal.

The following example occurred in a college social work class; it illustrates how out-groups can have a
negative impact on community. Introduction to Social Work is a popular class with a good reputation on
campus. Every semester, the major assignment in the class is a group service project in which everyone
is required to participate.

One semester a few months after Hurricane Katrina had wreaked havoc in the South, several members
of the class proposed a service project doing relief work in New Orleans over spring break. Clearly,
there was a need for the project, and the project would utilize everyone’s talents and skills. To pull it off,
the class would need to do a lot of planning and fund-raising. Committees were to be formed and T-
shirts designed. There seemed to be agreement that a good theme would be “Together—We Can Make
Things Better.”

Problems arose for the class when some of the students did not want to participate. One student
pointed out that he thought it was the government’s job to provide relief, not the private sector’s. Another
student argued that there were already many volunteers in New Orleans, and maybe the class could
better serve others by doing cleanup work on the south side of their own city. Two others in the class did
not like the idea of working for the poor over spring break because they wanted to go to Cancún,

These students could not find common ground. The trip to New Orleans was canceled, there were no T-
shirts printed, and the students ended up doing 40 hours each of tutoring at the local grade school as
their service project. The class could not come to an agreement with the out-group members, whose
wants and needs prevented the rest of the class from pursuing the project in New Orleans. The interests
of the out-group prevented the class from experiencing community and all its benefits.

However, it’s important to note that sometimes out-group members are not avoiding community by
choice and they may be experiencing the negative effects of exclusion or favoritism from in-group
members. Chapter 9 discusses ways leaders can ensure they are create inclusive environments for all

A second reason that leadership should be concerned with out-groups is that out-groups have a
negative impact on group synergy. Group synergy is the positive energy created by group members who
are working toward a common goal. It is an additive kind of energy that builds on itself. Group synergy is
one of the most miraculous features of effective groups and of highly functioning teams. Groups with
synergy accomplish far more than groups without it. Group synergy is not just the sum of each person’s
contribution; it is the sum of each person’s contribution and then some. It is the “plus more” that allows
high-functioning groups to achieve far beyond what would be expected.

Unfortunately, out-groups prevent groups from becoming synergistic. Out-groups take energy away from
the group rather than adding energy to the group. Rather than working together to accomplish a
common goal, out-group members who choose to avoid community stand alone and seek to do their
own thing. This is harmful for the group because the unique contributions of out-group members are not
expressed, discussed, or utilized for the common good. Every person in a group brings singular talents
and abilities that can benefit the group. When out-groups form, the individual contributions of some
group members are not utilized, and group synergy is compromised.

This example about a team of marketing executives at a publishing company may help to illustrate this
issue. The team was charged with developing concepts for a new publication on food and dining in their

city. Two of the team members had worked on magazines before and had some strong ideas about the
content for the new publication. Another team member worked in the restaurant industry for a number of
years and had a different idea for the magazine’s content based on his experience. A marketing
executive who had neither magazine nor food industry experience had been put in charge of the team
based on her seniority with the company. The fifth team member was a new hire who had just started at
the agency.

Unfortunately, there were strained relationships between different groups on the committee from the
outset. The two former magazine executives wanted the publication to be a dining guide with reviews of
local area restaurants and a detailed listing of every eatery in town. The writer from the food industry felt
it should be more upscale, a glossy publication with feature stories on food trends and local chefs and
beautiful, mouth-watering photographs created by a food stylist. The new hire, still learning the
company’s culture, was hesitant to offer an opinion, instead saying he would support what the team
leader thought best. The team leader, who was four months from retirement, believed that the group
members should work things out among themselves and come to a consensus on the best concept with
which to move forward. The two magazine executives took the new hire to lunch several times, trying to
convince him to come to their side. After several weeks of meetings, the team had to present a concept
to the publishing company’s board of directors. Because the team could not agree on a direction for the
new publication, each side presented its concept to the board. The company president became
incensed that the team was unable to put together a solid plan for a magazine and released all
members from the project.

In the above example, the team leader failed to pull the divergent out-group members together into a
single group. She needed to recognize the unique contributions of each of the out-group members (e.g.,
previous magazine experience, food industry knowledge, marketing expertise) and use those
contributions for the benefit of the entire group. Because the leader was not successful in responding to
the out-group members, group synergy was diminished, and the project was placed on hold.

A third reason out-groups are of concern to a leader is that out-group members do not receive the
respect they deserve from others. A central tenet of ethical leadership is the duty to treat each member
with respect. As Beauchamp and Bowie (1988) pointed out, people need to be treated as autonomous
individuals with their own goals, and not as the means to another person’s goals. Being ethical means
treating other people’s decisions and values with respect: Failing to do so would signify that they are
being treated as means to another’s ends.

A leader has an ethical responsibility to respond to out-group members. These individuals are not in the
out-group without reason. They may have valid grounds for feeling alienated, unaccepted, or
discriminated against, or for choosing simply to be uninvolved. No matter what the reasons are, out-
group members are people who deserve to be heard by the leader and the other group members.

In summary, the impact of out-groups is substantial. When out-groups exist, they have a negative impact
on community, group synergy, and the out-group members themselves. The challenge for every leader
is to respond to out-group members in a way that enhances the group and its goals.

While many ideas about effective leadership are abstract, these strategies for how a leader should
respond to out-group members are tangible. They are concrete steps that a leader can take to handle
out-group members more effectively. In reading these strategies, ask yourself how you could adopt them
to improve your own leadership.

Strategy 1: Listen to Out-Group Members
More than anything else, out-group members want to be heard. Whether they perceive themselves to be
powerless, alienated, or discriminated against, out-group members have a need for others to listen to

them. Clearly, the fact that some people sense that they are not being heard is at the very center of why
out-groups exist. Out-group members have ideas, attitudes, and feelings that they want to express;
when they believe they have not been able to or will not be able to express them, they pull away and
disassociate from the group.

Listening is one of the most important ways that a leader can respond to out-group members. While it
requires paying attention to what people say, it also requires being attentive to what people mean.
Listening is both a simple and a complex process that demands concentration, open-mindedness, and
tolerance. Listening requires that a leader set aside their own biases in order to allow out-group
members to express their viewpoints freely.

Jane Addams, who founded the social settlement Hull House in Chicago in 1889, is an example of a
gifted listener. In response to problems created by industrialization, immigration, and overcrowding in
cities, Addams established a live-in community called a settlement house, where trained workers
provided resources for newly arrived immigrants to help them acculturate to the United States. It always
began with listening to their needs—for housing, for childcare, for jobs, for language courses, and so on.
By listening first, Addams and her associates created a bond of trust that transcended language and
cultural barriers, and that made newcomers to the country feel welcome and want to invest in their new
communities (Metzger, 2009).

When out-group members think that the leader has heard them, they feel confirmed and more
connected to the larger group. Clearly, listening should be a top priority of a leader.

Strategy 2: Show Empathy to Out-Group Members
Similar to listening, a leader also needs to show empathy to out-group members. Empathy is a special
kind of listening that requires more effort than just listening. It requires a leader to try standing in the
shoes of out-group members, and to see the world as the out-group member does. Empathy is a
process in which the leader suspends their own feelings in an effort to understand the feelings of the
out-group member. Father Greg Boyle, the founder of Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles, the largest
gang intervention, rehabilitation, and reentry program in the world, is an example of an empathetic
leader. In response to the spike in gang killings in L.A. in the late 1980s and early ’90s, Father Boyle
started meeting with gang members, listening to their stories, understanding their varied reasons for
joining gangs, and treating them as human beings, rather than as social problems to be controlled. With
a team of dedicated workers and mentors, he created rehabilitation and job-training programs for these
men based on their expressed needs, helping them to find hope again in a society where they felt they
had no place (Homeboy Industries, 2019).

While showing empathy comes more naturally to some than to others, it is a skill anyone can learn to
improve. Techniques for showing empathy include restatement, paraphrasing, reflection, and giving
support (see Table 10.1). Through the use of these techniques, a leader can assist out-group members
to be understood.

Table 10.1 How to Demonstrate Empathy

A leader can demonstrate empathy through four communication techniques:

1. Restatement

By restating what another person has verbalized without adding any of your own personal thoughts
and beliefs, you directly acknowledge and validate another person’s point of view. For example, say,
“I hear you saying . . .” or “It sounds as if you feel . . .”

2. Paraphrasing

This communication technique involves summarizing in your own words what another person has
verbalized. It helps to communicate to the other person that you understand what they are saying.
For example, say, “In other words, you’re saying that . . .” or “Stated another way, you’re suggesting
that . . .”

3. Reflection

By serving as a mirror or sounding board for another person’s expressed or unexpressed emotions
and attitudes, you focus on how something has been expressed, or the emotional dimension behind
the words. This technique helps others gain an understanding of their emotions and assists them in

identifying and describing those emotions. For example, say, “So you are pretty confused and angry
by it all . . .” or “Am I correct in saying that you are frightened and intimidated by the process?”

4. Support

This communication technique expresses understanding, reassurance, and positive regard to let the
other person know that they are not “in the boat alone.” For example, say, “With your attitude, I
know you’ll do well . . .” or “I’m impressed with the progress you are making.”

Strategy 3: Recognize the Unique Contributions of Out-Group Members
Expectancy theory (Vroom, 1964) tells us that the first step in motivating others is to let workers know
they are competent to do their jobs. Motivation builds when people know they are able to do the work.
This is particularly true for out-group members. Out-group members become more motivated when a
leader acknowledges their contributions to the larger group. All of us want to know that our contributions
are legitimate and that others take us seriously. Out-group members want to believe that their ideas
matter and that they are important to the group.

In many situations, it is common for out-group members to believe others do not recognize their
strengths. To address these concerns, it is important for a leader to identify out-group members’ unique
abilities and assets, and to integrate these into the group process. For example, if an out-group member
suggests a radical but ultimately successful approach to accomplish a difficult task, the leader should
express appreciation to the out-group member and let them know that the idea was creative and
worthwhile. A leader needs to let out-group members know that what they do matters—that it is
significant to the larger group.

Another example of a college class in which students had to do a service learning project helps illustrate
the importance of recognizing the unique contributions of out-group members. For their project, one
team in this small group communication class chose to build a wheelchair ramp for an older woman in
the community. In the initial stages of the project, morale in the group was down because one group
member (Alissa) chose not to participate. Alissa said she was quite uncomfortable using hand tools, and
she chose not to do manual labor. The other team members, who had done a lot of planning on the
project, wanted to proceed without her help. As a result, Alissa felt rejected and soon became isolated
from the group. Feeling disappointed with her group, Alissa began to criticize the purpose of the project
and the personalities of the other team members.

At that point, one of the leaders of the group decided to start being more attentive to Alissa and what
she was saying. After carefully listening to many of her concerns, the leader figured out that although
Alissa could not work with her hands, she had two amazing talents: She was good with music, and she
made wonderful lunches.

Once the leader found this out, things started to change in the group. Alissa started to participate. Her
input into the construction of the ramp consisted of playing each group member’s and the older woman’s
favorite music for 30 minutes while the other group members worked on the ramp. In addition, Alissa
provided wonderful sandwiches and drinks that accommodated each of the group members’ unique
dietary interests. By the last day, Alissa felt so included by the group, and was so often praised for
providing great food, that she decided to help with the manual labor: She began raking up trash around
the ramp site with a smile on her face.

Although Alissa’s talents had nothing to do directly with constructing a ramp, she made a real
contribution to building a successful team. Everybody was included and useful in a community-building
project that could have turned sour if one out-group member’s talents had not been identified and

Strategy 4: Help Out-Group Members Feel Included
William Schutz (1966) pointed out that, in small group situations, one of our strongest interpersonal
needs is to know whether we belong to the group. Are we “in” or “out”? The very nature of out-groups
implies that their members are on the sidelines and peripheral to the action. Out-group members do not
feel as if they belong, are included, or are “in.” Schutz suggested that people have a need to be
connected to others. They want to be in a group, but not so much a part of the group that they lose their
own identity. They want to belong, but do not want to belong so much that they lose their sense of self.

Although it is not always easy, a leader can help out-group members be more included. A leader can
watch the communication cues given by out-group members and try to respond in appropriate ways. For
example, if a person sits at the edge of the group, the leader can put the chairs in a circle and invite the
person to sit in the circle. If a person does not follow the group norms (e.g., does not go outdoors with
everyone else during breaks), the leader can personally invite the out-group member to join the others
outside. Similarly, if a group member is very quiet and has not contributed, a leader can ask for that
group member’s opinion. Although there are many different ways to help out-group members to be
included, the bottom line is that a leader needs to be sensitive to out-group members’ needs and try to
respond to them in ways that help the out-group members know that they are part of the larger group.

Strategy 5: Create a Special Relationship With Out-Group Members
The most well-known study on out-groups was conducted by a group of researchers who developed a
theory called leader–member exchange (LMX) theory (Dansereau, Graen, & Haga, 1975; Graen & Uhl-
Bien, 1995). The major premise of this theory, introduced in Chapter 1, is that a leader should create a
special relationship with each follower. An effective leader has a high-quality relationship with all group
members; this results in out-group members becoming a part of the larger group.

Special relationships are built on good communication, respect, and trust. They are often initiated when
a leader recognizes out-group members who are willing to step out of scripted roles and take on
different responsibilities. In addition, special relationships can develop when a leader challenges out-
group members to be engaged and to try new things. If an out-group member accepts these challenges
and responsibilities, it is the first step in forging an improved relationship between the leader and the
out-group member. The result is that the out-group member feels validated and more connected to
everyone else in the group.

An example of how special relationships benefit out-group members can be seen in the following
example. Margo Miller was the school nurse at Central High School. She was also the unofficial school
counselor, social worker, conflict mediator, and all-around friend to students. Margo noticed that there
were a number of students who were not in any of the groups at school. To address this situation, she
began to invite some of these students and others to exercise with her at the track after school. For
some of them, it was the first time they had ever taken part in an extracurricular school program. The
students and Margo called themselves the Breakfast Club because, like the characters in the movie by
the same name, they were a motley crew. At the end of the semester, the group sponsored a school-
wide 5K run/walk that was well attended. One girl who finished the 5K said that Margo and the Breakfast
Club were the best thing that had ever happened to her. Clearly, it was the special relationships that
Margo created with her students that allowed out-group students to become involved and feel good
about their involvement in the high school community.

Strategy 6: Give Out-Group Members a Voice and Empower Them to Act
Giving out-group members a voice lets them be on equal footing with other members of the group. It
means the leader and the other group members give credence to the out-group members’ ideas and
actions. When out-group members have a voice, they know their interests are being recognized and that
they can have an impact on the leader and the group. It is quite a remarkable process when a leader is

confident enough in their own leadership to let out-group members express themselves and have a
voice in the affairs of the group.

Empowering others to act means a leader allows out-group members to be more involved, independent,
and responsible for their actions. It includes letting them participate in the workings of the group (e.g.,
planning, decision making). True empowerment requires that a leader relinquish some control, giving
out-group members more control. This is why empowerment is such a challenging process for a leader.
Finally, empowering others is one of the larger challenges of leadership, but it is also one of the
challenges that offers the most benefits for members of the out-group.

Leadership Snapshot:

Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States

Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

Abraham Lincoln, a backwoods circuit lawyer from Springfield, Illinois, was an unlikely choice to
become the 16th president of the United States. His mother died when he was 9, and he was

distant from his father. As a youngster, he had little formal education but was an avid reader.
Although he had a melancholy temperament, he was known for his storytelling ability and
inspiriting sense of humor. After graduating from law school, he served one term in the U.S.
House of Representatives and then proceeded to lose two subsequent contests for the U.S.

In 1860, he won the Republican nomination for president after ousting three formidable
candidates: William Seward, a New York senator; Salmon Chase, an Ohio governor; and Edward
Bates, a Missouri statesman. No one expected that a soft-spoken, unknown lawyer from rural
Illinois could win the nomination, but at the convention, after three rounds of voting, Lincoln
emerged as the Republican nominee. Lincoln won the presidential election, and before he took
office, six Southern states seceded from the Union to form the Confederate States of America.

Lincoln began his presidency in a nation torn apart by the issue of slavery and whether slavery
should be expanded, maintained, or abolished. In this context, Lincoln made a bold leadership
decision: He selected for his cabinet the four archrivals who had opposed him in the presidential
primary, as well as three Democrats. All of them were better known and more educated than
Lincoln (Goodwin, 2005).

Lincoln’s cabinet was a group of disparate politicians with strong egos who challenged the
president’s decisions repeatedly. Each of them had very different philosophies about the nation
and slavery in particular. Some argued strongly for restricting the spread of slavery. Others
argued for its abolition. Initially, the cabinet members did not view the president positively. For
example, Attorney General Bates viewed Lincoln as well-meaning but an incompetent
administrator. Edwin Stanton, the secretary of war, initially treated him with contempt but
eventually learned to respect his competencies as commander in chief (Goodwin, 2005).

Lincoln had a remarkable ability to work with those with whom he disagreed and bring together
those with disparaging opinions (Goodwin, 2005). For example, at the onset of the Civil War,
Secretary of State Seward directly challenged in writing Lincoln’s response to the battle at Fort
Sumter, claiming the administration was without a policy and should abandon its approach. In
response, Lincoln wrote a letter to Seward explaining his own position, without insulting Seward.
Instead of sending the letter, Lincoln delivered it to Seward personally. Such behavior was
Lincoln’s “hallmark in dealing with recalcitrant but important subordinates, generals or senators:
a firm assertion of his own policy and responsibility for it, done in such a way as to avoid a
personal rebuff that might create an enemy” (McPherson, 2005). Over time, Seward actually
grew close to the president and became one of Lincoln’s strongest supporters.

In a larger sense, Lincoln’s leadership was also about bringing together a nation that was deeply
divided. In 1858, well before he was elected president, Lincoln delivered his famous “House
Divided” speech at the Illinois State Capitol in accepting his nomination for U.S. Senate. Based
on a New Testament Bible passage (Mark 3:25), he stated, “A house divided against itself cannot
stand. I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free. I do not
expect the Union to be dissolved—I do not expect the house to fall—but I do expect it will cease
to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other.” In some ways, this speech
foreshadowed Lincoln’s style of leading and his role in addressing the debilitating and
devastating impact of slavery on the country.

It is important to note here that out-group members don’t always want to be included. According to LMX
theory, followers will become part of the in-group or out-group based on how well they work with the
leader and the leader works with them (Northouse, 2019). In-group members will often take on extra
roles and tasks to help out the group or department. In turn, these workers receive more attention and
support from the leader and experience greater motivation and job satisfaction at work (Malik, Wan,
Ahmad, Naseem, & Rehman, 2015). Other workers may be less compatible with the leader, may not like
the leader, or are not interested in expanding their role responsibilities or involvement in the

organization, and so become part of the out-group, receiving less attention and support from the leader.
These may be part-time workers, a busy parent who has obligations and responsibilities outside of work,
or someone close to retirement who is mainly interested in getting her required tasks done and going
home at the end of the day. Not all out-group members “mind” being in the out-group.

In today’s society, out-group members are a common occurrence whenever people come together to
solve a problem or accomplish a task. In general, the term out-group refers to those people in a group
who do not sense that they are a part of the larger group. Out-group members are usually people who
feel disconnected, unaccepted, discriminated against, or powerless.

Out-groups form for many reasons. Some form because people are in opposition to the larger group.
Others form because individuals in a group cannot identify with the larger group or cannot embrace the
larger group’s reality. Sometimes they form because people feel excluded or because out-group
members lack communication and social skills.

Regardless of why they form, the negative impact of out-group members can be substantial. We need to
be concerned about out-groups because they run counter to building community and have a negative
impact on group synergy. Furthermore, out-group members do not receive the respect they deserve
from those in the “in-group.”

There are several specific strategies that a leader can use to respond effectively to out-group members.
A leader needs to listen to out-group members, show them empathy, recognize their unique
contributions, help them become included, create a special relationship with them, give them a voice,
and empower them to act. A leader who uses these strategies will be more successful in their
encounters with out-groups, and will be a more effective group leader.

Glossary Terms
empathy 258

listening 258

out-group members 254

social identity theory 254


10.1 Case Study—Next Step

Next Step is a student organization run by graduate students in the School of Communication at a large
West Coast university. The mission of Next Step is to provide students with opportunities that will help
them prepare for the workforce or for more schooling. Some of the annual events that the group
sponsors are résumé development workshops, a professional development day in which people from
the community discuss their career paths, and workshops on interviewing skills.

Next Step has two annual bake sales to raise funds to pay for expenses such as renting meeting space,
compensating speakers, and providing refreshments at group workshops. After a lukewarm fall
semester bake sale, some Next Step members suggest finding a new fund-raising method, arguing that
bake sales cost members money and require a lot of work for little profit.

Next Step’s president, James, decides to put new fund-raising initiatives on the agenda for discussion at
the group’s next meeting. At that meeting, Brenna, a marketing and graphic design major, proposes that
the group sell T-shirts as the winter semester’s fund-raiser. Brenna believes that the college population
likes to buy T-shirts and is confident that she can create a design that will appeal to students. Mallory,
also a marketing major, volunteers to help promote the T-shirts. Group member Mark offers to use his
employee discount at the screen shop where he works to have the shirts printed affordably.

Other Next Step members voice approval for the T-shirt fund-raiser, and the discussion moves to talking
about designs for the shirts. James assigns Brenna and Mallory to survey students on their interest in
buying the shirts and at what price. Brenna will also develop mock-ups of the shirt’s design and bring
them to the next meeting while Mark is assigned to get pricing options.

James leaves the meeting feeling positive about the direction the new fund-raiser is going, but as he
loads his books back into his car, he overhears a conversation nearby. Next Step’s treasurer, Nichole,
calls the plan to sell T-shirts “stupid.” She states she personally would never order a shirt from a student
group and that Next Step is going to lose money printing the shirts. Ursula, Next Step’s secretary,
agrees with Nichole, calling other Next Group members “a bunch of Kool-Aid–drinking nerds” and
remarking that nobody is going to buy those shirts. James is shocked. Not only does he not remember
Nichole or Ursula voicing any objections to the plan at the meeting; he doesn’t remember them saying
anything during the meeting at all. James is concerned that two Next Step officers would talk so
negatively about the group and wonders if it is fueled by the shift to selling T-shirts or something else.
He makes a mental note to build an anonymous vote into the next meeting to make sure that members
who don’t like the idea have an opportunity to oppose it without being put in a public position.

Meanwhile, Brenna, Mallory, and Mark succeed in canvassing students, finding a reasonable price for T-
shirts, and developing attractive mock-ups for Next Step members to consider. James feels confident
that the positive outcome of the T-shirt committee’s efforts will help Nichole and Ursula change their
minds about the T-shirt sale.

However, the next day, James is working in a cubicle at the student center when Nichole enters. Before
he gets a chance to leave his booth to say hi to her, Next Step’s student liaison Todd comes up to
Nichole and says, “Can you believe how much work those brownnosers are putting into selling T-shirts?
Honestly, it’s so dumb—at least no one expects us to pitch in though!” As student liaison, Todd has a
pivotal role in the group and is responsible for promoting the group’s efforts at other student meetings
and for recruiting new members. His comments further alarm James.

James decides to act, and approaches Nichole and Todd, who were unaware that he was nearby.
James makes small talk, and then reminds them about the Next Step meeting coming up in two days.
Nichole rolls her eyes and says she knows about the meeting. James asks her if everything is OK.
Nichole responds, “Everything is fine. I just think that it’s silly to get so involved in this T-shirt sale. We all
have a lot going on for school, and this group is really just something to put on my résumé. I don’t
understand why we can’t just stick with the easy, mindless bake sale.” Todd nods in agreement and
says, “Yeah, James, you can’t tell me that you became president of a student group because you
believe so much in its mission. We both know it’s just because you want to look good when you apply
for jobs this summer.” Although taken aback by their attitudes, James responds that he believes in Next
Step’s mission and will make sure any and all concerns’ regarding the fund-raiser are raised at the next

As he prepares for the upcoming meeting, James concludes that there seems to be a division, at least
among the board’s officers, between those who are excited about the group’s mission and efforts and
those who are not supportive. He wonders if other Next Step members share the attitudes expressed by
Nichole, Ursula, and Todd or if they are in a minority. If they aren’t, thinks James, and the division goes
deeper, what does that mean for Next Step?


1. This chapter discusses several reasons that out-groups form. What is the best explanation for why
Ursula, Nichole, and Todd appear to be out-group members? What impact are they having on Next
Step? Do they have legitimate concerns? Discuss.

2. How could the initial meeting about fund-raising strategies have been conducted so that all
members were included in the decision?

3. Of the six strategies for how leaders should respond to out-group members, do you think that
certain strategies might be more appropriate or effective in this situation given the verbalized
feelings about Next Step from the out-group members?

4. How could other members of the group besides James help to build the group identity and sense of
cohesion in Next Step?

5. In this situation, do you think it is worth the time and effort to try to include Ursula, Nichole, and
Todd? Defend your answer.

10.2 Case Study—Unhappy Campers
It started when people experiencing homelessness heard that the city was considering a new proposal
that would no longer allow them to sleep at night in public parks. There was already a law forbidding
daytime sleeping in parks, and the goal of the proposal was aimed at making the parks more appealing
to the city residents, many of whom cited that the reason they did not visit city parks was because they
didn’t feel safe or weren’t comfortable with the number of people experiencing homelessness who
occupied those spaces.

The pending city proposal left people experiencing homelessness feeling they had nowhere to go. The
city, like dozens of other communities across the United States, lacked a reliable supply of affordable
housing. For those who live just above or below the poverty line, finding a home they could afford to rent
or buy was nearly impossible, and there were years-long waiting lists to get into subsidized housing
because there wasn’t enough of that kind of housing available.

The city also lacked adequate shelter facilities for those experiencing homelessness. There was only
one shelter, which was run by a religious organization and was structured so that men slept in one part
of the building and women and children in another. There were no facilities where families could stay
together. In addition, the shelter had a zero-tolerance policy on drug and alcohol use, it would not allow
same-sex couples, and “guests” were required to attend daily religious services in order to stay at the
shelter. There was also a three-month limit for shelter stays.

For many of the city residents, the perception they had of people experiencing homelessness was that
they were drug addicts, alcoholics, mentally ill, or “unemployed by choice.” Unfortunately, this proposal
made people experiencing homelessness believe that the city leaders viewed them this way, too.

For one couple, a tent replaced a house they rented for 15 years that had recently been flooded during
heavy rains and condemned. The wife, who had multiple sclerosis, was in a wheelchair, and her
husband worked a third-shift position at a manufacturing company so he could care for her during the
day. They could not find housing in the city they could afford and that was wheelchair accessible. The
shelter was not an option for them; the wife needed her husband’s care. So the couple opted instead to
live in a tent they bought at a thrift store, setting it up in various city parks, packing up and moving every
few days to a new site when the police would inform them they were violating the law.

They found they weren’t the only ones; the city was full of these nomadic campers. One woman began
experiencing homelessness after treatment for cancer cost her her job and her savings. There was a
mother of three whose landlord raised the rent on their apartment to a level that she could not afford.
She had spent the last three months living at the shelter while looking for a new place to live but not
succeeding before the family’s time there ran out.

Many of the people experiencing homelessness began talking to one another and soon organized a
group, choosing three people to serve as their leaders and spokespersons. These leaders requested a
meeting with city officials to explain how the proposal would hurt those experiencing homelessness

further. Their appeal was unsuccessful; the city manager and mayor told the group the change was
needed because it would benefit the majority of city residents (who, incidentally, paid property taxes),
rather than a small minority. They suggested that people experiencing homelessness “needed to follow
a few simple rules” to be able to stay at the shelter, and those who couldn’t adhere to those rules were
making that choice of their own volition.

The city’s response only confirmed what the community feared: that the complexities of their situations
were not understood or valued. That evening, an encampment of about 30 people popped up in the park
in the heart of the city’s downtown and directly across from city hall. The next day the camp doubled in
size. The group’s leaders explained to the media that they were camping in the park out of protest of the
new proposal, the lack of shelter options in the city, and the general disregard by city leaders for people
experiencing homelessness. The media interviewed several members of the camp, who related how
they had became people experiencing homelessness. The group said it would not leave the park until
the proposal was scrapped and the city developed a plan to help those experiencing homelessness find
suitable, affordable housing.

With the media attention, the camp grew, swelling to hundreds of people as more homeless people
joined the camp as well as supporters who camped with them in solidarity. The issue polarized the city.
Some people sympathized with those experiencing homelessness and flooded the camp with food,
clothing, bottled water, and other supplies. Others were in favor of the proposal banning sleeping in city
parks and saw the encampment as a public health hazard that attracted more people experiencing
homelessness from other communities and was overwhelming city resources. Two of the city’s eight
elected commissioners aligned themselves with the protest, sleeping in tents in the park with the people
experiencing homelessness. They worked to mediate a resolution between the group and city officials.
Other commissioners, however, accused these colleagues of using the situation for publicity and political

Two weeks after the camp popped up, the proposal came up for vote at the city commission meeting.
Several hundred people showed up to speak at the meeting, given four minutes each to talk. Many of
people experiencing homelessness told their stories, talking about the restrictive and discriminatory
conditions at the shelter and the need for the city to provide adequate housing. Others spoke out in
favor of the proposal, saying the people experiencing homelessness didn’t have respect for public or
private property as evidenced by how the camp had become unruly and unsanitary with trash and
rotting food left out in the open. At the request of the commission, the city’s police chief reported on the
number of times her officers had been called to the camp for fights, drug overdoses, and other

The meeting went on until the early hours of the morning. The final speaker was one of the two
commissioners advocating for people experiencing homelessness. She begged her fellow
commissioners to see the bigger picture: This wasn’t just about people sleeping in parks; this was
symptomatic of a big problem the city was not dealing with. This was about a lack of affordable housing,
living wages, and care for people with mental illnesses. The solution was not to ban people from
sleeping in the parks, but to come up with alternatives so they didn’t have to sleep in parks.

The commission, saying it needed more time for research, tabled a decision on the proposal. But that
didn’t put the issue to rest. People experiencing homelessness stayed camped in the park for another
two weeks during which there were record high temperatures and torrential rains. The camp became
more unsanitary and miserable by the day. Finally, the city gave the campers an option: Due to its
unsanitary conditions and the city laws, the city was going to forcibly remove the encampment. People
experiencing homelessness could move their camp to vacant city land near the shelter. They would
have access to the shelter’s shower and laundry facilities and meals, but they had to abide by the rules
regarding drug and alcohol use.

A handful of the campers moved, but those who didn’t ultimately lost the few possessions they had as
the city brought in front-end loaders and dump trucks, hauling away tents, makeshift shelters, and
belongings that remained in the park. They were met by a loud and active protest that resulted in

several arrests, but in the end, most of people experiencing homelessness grabbed what few things
they could carry and wandered off to find somewhere else to stay.


1. Who is the out-group in this case? Is there more than one out-group?
2. The chapter discusses several reasons why out-groups form. What is the best explanation for how

people experiencing homelessness became an out-group?
3. What role did unconscious bias, prejudice, or stereotypes play in people experiencing

homelessness becoming an out-group?
4. The chapter strongly suggests that the leader should try to bring the out-group into the group. In

what way did the mayor and city commissioners try to do this? Did they try hard enough? Defend
your answer.

5. Which of the strategies for how a leader should respond to an out-group were used in this
situation? Which were not? Do you think this affected the outcome?

10.3 Building Community Questionnaire


1. To identify your attitudes toward out-group members
2. To explore how you, as a leader, respond to members of the out-group


1. Place yourself in the role of a leader when responding to this questionnaire.
2. For each of the following statements, circle the number that indicates the degree to which you

agree or disagree.

Statements Strongly
disagree Disagree Neutral Agree Strongly


1. If some group members do not fit in with the
rest of the group, I usually try to include them.

1 2 3 4 5

2. I become irritated when some group
members act stubborn (or obstinate) with the
majority of the group.

1 2 3 4 5

Statements Strongly
disagree Disagree Neutral Agree Strongly


3. Building a sense of group unity with people
who think differently than I is essential to what I
do as a leader.

1 2 3 4 5

4. I am bothered when some individuals in the
group bring up unusual ideas that hinder or block
the progress of the rest of the group.

1 2 3 4 5

5. If some group members cannot agree with
the majority of the group, I usually give them
special attention.

1 2 3 4 5

6. Sometimes I ignore individuals who show
little interest in group meetings.

1 2 3 4 5

7. When making a group decision, I always try
to include the interests of members who have
different points of view.

1 2 3 4 5

8. Trying to reach consensus (complete
agreement) with out-group members is often a
waste of time.

1 2 3 4 5

9. I place a high priority on encouraging
everyone in the group to listen to the minority
point of view.

1 2 3 4 5

10. When differences exist between group
members, I usually call for a vote to keep the
group moving forward.

1 2 3 4 5

11. Listening to individuals with extreme (or
radical) ideas is valuable to my leadership.

1 2 3 4 5

12. When a group member feels left out, it is
usually their own fault.

1 2 3 4 5

13. I give special attention to out-group
members (i.e., individuals who feel left out of the

1 2 3 4 5

Statements Strongly
disagree Disagree Neutral Agree Strongly


14. I find certain group members frustrating
when they bring up issues that conflict with what
the rest of the group wants to do.

1 2 3 4 5


1. Sum the even-numbered items, but reverse the score value of your responses (i.e., change 1 to 5,
2 to 4, 4 to 2, and 5 to 1, with 3 remaining unchanged).

2. Sum the responses of the odd-numbered items and the converted values of the even-numbered
items. This total is your leadership out-group score.

Total Score

Out-group score: ___________

Scoring Interpretation

This questionnaire is designed to measure your response to out-group members.

A high score on the questionnaire indicates that you try to help out-group members feel included
and become a part of the whole group. You are likely to listen to people with different points of view
and to know that hearing a minority position is often valuable in effective group work.

An average score on the questionnaire indicates that you are moderately interested in including
out-group members in the group. Although interested in including them, you do not make out-group
members’ concerns a priority in your leadership. You may think of out-group members as having
brought their out-group behavior on themselves. If they seek you out, you probably will work with
them when you can.

A low score on the questionnaire indicates you most likely have little interest in helping out-group
members become a part of the larger group. You may become irritated and bothered when out-
group members’ behaviors hinder the majority or progress of the larger group. Because you see
helping the out-group members as an ineffective use of your time, you are likely to ignore them and
make decisions to move the group forward without their input.

If your score is 57–70, you are in the very high range.

If your score is 50–56, you are in the high range.

If your score is 45–49, you are in the average range.

If your score is 38–44, you are in the low range.

If your score is 10–37, you are in the very low range.

10.4 Observational Exercise


1. To learn to recognize out-groups and how they form
2. To understand the role of out-groups in the leadership process

1. Your task in this exercise is to identify, observe, and analyze an actual out-group. This can be an

out-group at your place of employment, in an informal group, in a class group, in a community
group, or on a sports team.

2. For each of the questions that follow, write down what you observed in your experiences with an

Name and description of the group in which you observed an out-group:

Observations of out-group members’ actions:

Observations of the leader’s actions:


1. What is the identity of out-group members? How do they see themselves?
2. How were out-group members treated by the other members in the group?
3. What is the most challenging aspect of trying to deal with members of this out-group?
4. What does the leader need to do to integrate the out-group members into the larger group?

10.5 Reflection and Action Worksheet


1. Based on the score you received on the Building Community Questionnaire, how would you

describe your attitude toward out-group members? Discuss.
2. As we discussed in this chapter, out-groups run counter to building community in groups. How

important do you think it is for a leader to build community? Discuss.
3. One way to engage out-group members is to empower them. How do you see your own

competencies in the area of empowerment? What keeps you from empowering others? Discuss.

1. Using items from the Building Community Questionnaire as your criteria, list three specific actions

you could take that would show sensitivity to and tolerance of out-group members.
2. In the last section of this chapter, six strategies for responding to out-group members were

discussed. Rank these strategies from strongest to weakest with regard to how you use them in
your own leadership. Describe specifically what you could do to become more effective in all six

3. Imagine for a moment that you are doing a class project with six other students. The group has
decided by taking a vote to do a fund-raising campaign for the local Big Brothers Big Sisters
program. Two people in the group have said they are not enthused about the project and would
rather do something for an organization like Habitat for Humanity. While the group is moving
forward with the agreed-upon project, the two people who did not like the idea have started missing
meetings, and when they do attend, they are very negative. As a leader, list five specific actions you
could take to assist and engage this out-group.

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Conflict is inevitable in groups and organizations, and it presents both a challenge and a true
opportunity for every leader. In the well-known book Getting to Yes, Fisher and Ury (1981) contend that
handling conflict is a daily occurrence for all of us. “People differ, and they use negotiation to handle
their differences” (Fisher, Ury, & Patton, 1991, p. xvii). Getting to Yes asserts that mutual agreement is
possible in any conflict situation—if people are willing to negotiate in authentic ways.

When we think of conflict in simple terms, we think of a struggle between people, groups, organizations,
cultures, or nations. Conflict involves opposing forces pulling in different directions. Many people believe
that conflict is disruptive, causes stress, and should be avoided.

As we stated in Chapter 5, while conflict can be uncomfortable, it is not unhealthy, nor is it necessarily
bad. Conflict will always be present in leadership situations, and surprisingly, it often produces positive
change. The important question we address in this chapter is not “How can we avoid conflict and
eliminate change?” but rather “How can we manage conflict and produce positive change?” When
leaders handle conflict effectively, problem solving increases, interpersonal relationships become
stronger, and stress surrounding the conflict decreases.

Communication plays a central role in handling conflict. Conflict is an interactive process between two or
more parties that requires effective human interaction. By communicating effectively, leaders and
followers can successfully resolve conflicts to bring positive results.

This chapter will emphasize ways to handle conflict. First, we will define conflict and describe the role
communication plays in conflict. Next, we will discuss different kinds of conflict, followed by an
exploration of Fisher and Ury’s (1981) ideas about effective negotiation as well as other communication
strategies that help resolve conflict. Last, we will examine styles of approaching conflict and the pros
and cons of these styles.

Conflict has been studied from multiple perspectives, including intrapersonal, interpersonal, and
societal. Intrapersonal conflict refers to the discord that occurs within an individual. It is a topic often
studied by psychologists and personality theorists who are interested in the dynamics of personality and
factors that predispose people to inner conflicts. Interpersonal conflict refers to the disputes that arise
between individuals. This is the type of conflict we focus on when we discuss conflict in organizations.
Societal conflict refers to clashes between societies and nations. Studies in this field focus on the
causes of international conflicts, war, and peace. The continuing crisis between the Israelis and the
Palestinians is a good example of societal conflict. This chapter focuses on conflict as an interpersonal
process that plays a critical role in effective leadership.

The following definition, based on the work of Wilmot and Hocker (2011), best describes conflict.
Conflict is a felt struggle between two or more interdependent individuals over perceived incompatible
differences in beliefs, values, and goals, or over differences in desires for esteem, control, and
connectedness. This definition emphasizes several unique aspects of conflict.

First, conflict is a struggle; it is the result of opposing forces coming together. For example, there is
conflict when a leader and a senior-level employee oppose each other on whether or not all employees
must work on weekends. Similarly, conflict occurs when a school principal and a parent disagree on the

type of sex education program that should be adopted in a school system. In short, conflict involves a
clash between opposing parties.

Second, there needs to be an element of interdependence between parties for conflict to take place. If
leaders could function entirely independently of each other and their followers, there would be no reason
for conflict. Everyone could do their own work, and there would be no areas of contention. However,
leaders do not work in isolation. Leaders need followers, and followers need leaders. This
interdependence sets up an environment in which conflict is more likely.

When two parties are interdependent, they are forced to deal with questions such as “How much
influence do I want in this relationship?” and “How much influence am I willing to accept from the other
party?” Because of our interdependence, questions such as these cannot be avoided. In fact, Wilmot
and Hocker (2011) contend that these questions permeate most conflicts.

Third, conflict always contains an affective element, the “felt” part of the definition. Conflict is an
emotional process that involves the arousal of feelings in both parties of the conflict (Brown & Keller,
1979). When our beliefs or values on a highly charged issue (e.g., the right to strike) are challenged, we
become upset and feel it is important to defend our position. When our feelings clash with others’
feelings, we are in conflict.

The primary emotions connected with conflict are not always anger or hostility. Rather, an array of
emotions can accompany conflict. Hocker and Wilmot (1995) found that many people report feeling
lonely, sad, or disconnected during conflict. For some, interpersonal conflict creates feelings of
abandonment—that their human bond to others has been broken. Feelings such as these often produce
the discomfort that surrounds conflict.

Fourth, conflict involves differences between individuals that are perceived to be incompatible. Conflict
can result from differences in individuals’ beliefs, values, and goals, or from differences in individuals’
desires for control, status, and connectedness. The opportunities for conflict are endless because each
of us is unique with particular sets of interests and ideas. These differences are a constant breeding
ground for conflict.

In summary, these four elements—struggle, interdependence, feelings, and differences—are critical
ingredients of interpersonal conflict. To further understand the intricacies of managing conflict, we’ll look
at the role of communication in conflict and examine two major kinds of conflict.

Communication and Conflict
When conflict exists in leadership situations, it is recognized and expressed through communication.
Communication is the means that people use to express their disagreements or differences.
Communication also provides the avenue by which conflicts can be successfully resolved, or worsened,
producing negative results.

To understand conflict, we need to understand communication. When human communication takes
place, it occurs on two levels. One level can be characterized as the content dimension and the other as
the relationship dimension (Watzlawick, Beavin, & Jackson, 1967). The content dimension of
communication involves the objective, observable aspects such as money, weather, and land; the
relationship dimension refers to the participants’ perceptions of their connection to one another. In
human communication, these two dimensions are always bound together.

To illustrate the two dimensions, consider the following hypothetical statement made by a supervisor to
an employee: “Please stop texting at work.” The content dimension of this message refers to rules and
what the supervisor wants the employee to do. The relationship dimension of this message refers to
how the supervisor and the employee are affiliated—to the supervisor’s authority in relation to the
employee, the supervisor’s attitude toward the employee, the employee’s attitude toward the supervisor,
and their feelings about one another. It is the relationship dimension that implicitly suggests how the
content dimension should be interpreted, since the content alone can be interpreted in different ways.

The exact meaning of the message to the supervisor and employee is interpreted as a result of their
interaction. If a positive relationship exists between the supervisor and the employee, then the content
“please stop texting at work” will probably be interpreted by the employee as a friendly request by a
supervisor who is honestly concerned about the employee’s job performance. However, if the
relationship between the supervisor and the employee is superficial or strained, the employee may
interpret the content of the message as a rigid directive, delivered by a supervisor who enjoys giving
orders. This example illustrates how the meanings of messages are not in words alone but in
individuals’ interpretations of the messages in light of their relationships.

The content and relationship dimensions provide a lens for looking at conflict. As illustrated in Figure
11.1, there are two major kinds of conflict: conflict over content issues and conflict over relationship
issues. Both kinds of conflict are prevalent in groups and organizational settings.


Figure 11.1 Different Kinds of Content and Relational Conflicts

Conflict on the Content Level
Content conflict involves struggles between leaders and others who differ on issues such as policies
and procedures. Debating with someone about the advantages or disadvantages of a particular rule is a
familiar occurrence in most organizations. Sometimes these debates can be very heated (e.g., an
argument between two employees about surfing the internet while working). These disagreements are
considered conflicts on the content level when they center on differences in (1) beliefs and values or (2)
goals and ways to reach those goals.

Conflict Regarding Beliefs and Values

Each of us has a unique system of beliefs and values that constitutes a basic philosophy of life. We
have had different family situations as well as educational and work experiences. When we
communicate with others, we become aware that others’ viewpoints are often very different from our
own. If we perceive what another person is communicating as incompatible with our own viewpoint, a
conflict in beliefs or values is likely to occur.

Conflicts arising from differences in beliefs can be illustrated in several ways. For example, members of
PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) are in conflict with researchers in the
pharmaceutical industry who believe strongly in the advantages of using animals to test new drugs.
Another example of a conflict of beliefs can occur when teachers or nurses believe they have the right to
strike because of unfair working conditions, while others feel that these kinds of employees should not
be allowed to withhold services for any reason. In each of these examples, conflict occurs because one
individual feels that their beliefs are incompatible with the position taken by another individual on the

Conflicts can also occur between people because they have different values. When one person’s values
come into conflict with another’s, it can create a difficult and challenging situation. To illustrate, consider

the following example of an issue between Emily, a first-generation college student, and her mother. At
the beginning of her senior year, Emily asks her mother if she can have a car to get around campus and
to get back and forth to work. In order to pay for the car, Emily says she will take fewer credits, work
more often at her part-time job, and postpone her graduation date to the following year. Emily is
confident that she will graduate and thinks it is “no big deal” to extend her studies for a fifth year.
However, Emily’s mother does not feel the same. She doesn’t want Emily to have a car until after she
graduates. She thinks the car will be a major distraction and get in the way of Emily’s studies. Emily is
the first person in her family to get a college degree, and it is extremely important to her mother that
Emily graduates on time. Deep down, her mother is afraid that the longer Emily goes to school, the more
student loan debt Emily will have to pay back when she finishes.

Leadership Snapshot:

Humaira Bachal, Pakistani Educator

Photo courtesy of Humaira Bachal

Humaira Bachal is a 30-year-old woman who has a dangerous passion: She wants to educate
children, especially girls, in her home country of Pakistan where only 57% of the children ever
enter primary school.

It’s hard not to worry about Bachal in the wake of the 2012 shooting of Malala Yousafzai, a
teenage Pakistani girl attacked by the Taliban for speaking out in support of girls’ education. But
she’s not afraid.

When Bachal was in ninth grade, she looked around her village of Moach Goth and saw children
playing in the streets instead of being in school or studying, and at all of 14, she thought that was
wrong. There were no private or government schools in her neighborhood, and Bachal had
received education only because her mother had sewn clothing or sold bundles of wood for 2
cents apiece to send her children to schools elsewhere.

Bachal knew what it meant to have to fight to be educated. Her father did not want her to go to
school, saying that she “was only going to get married and have children” (Rahi, 2010).

But her mother had other ideas. She wasn’t educated, but believed her children should be. She
labored to pay for her daughter’s education herself and had to sneak her off to school, hiding
Bachal’s whereabouts from her father. When he found out Bachal was going to take her ninth-
grade entrance exams, he became furious and beat her mother, breaking her arm. Despite this,
her mother gathered her daughter’s school bag and sent her on her way to the exam, which she

“My mother’s support at that critical moment was essential in making me who I am today,” Bachal
says (Faruqi & Obaid-Chinoy, 2013).

That same year while she was still being educated, Bachal started recruiting students in her
neighborhood to come to a small, private school she had opened. She even went door-to-door to
convince parents to send their children to the school. More than once she had a door slammed in
her face and her life threatened.

“Education is a basic need and fundamental right for every human being,” she says. “I want to
change the way my community looks at education and I will continue to do this until my last
breath” (Temple-Raston, 2013).

Pakistan has a dismal education rate: It spends half as much as neighboring India on education,
and if you are a young girl in rural Pakistan, you are unlikely to ever see the inside of a
classroom. There are more than 32 million girls under the age of 14 in Pakistan; fewer than 13
million of them go to school (Faruqi & Obaid-Chinoy, 2013).

In 2003, Bachal and five friends created their school, the Dream Foundation Trust Model Street
School, in a two-room building with mud floors. In just over a decade, Dream Foundation has
grown into a formal school with 22 teachers and 1,200 students. Children pay a rupee a day to
attend classes. There are four shifts at the school, including computer classes and one for
“labour boys” who work all day and attend classes in the evening. The Dream Foundation Trust
also offers adult literacy classes for men and women.

But Bachal and the school are specifically interested in educating girls. Bachal will often visit
fathers at their workplaces to convince them to send their daughters to school. She asks why,
when the girls become teenagers, they stop coming to school. The fathers talk about honor and
culture and how the girls are looked at by men as they go to school, and the men say things
about them. Bachal can relate; at one point the men in her village called her immoral for
becoming educated, and her brothers and father wanted to relocate to put an end to their shame
(Faruqi & Obaid-Chinoy, 2013).

Bachal reaches out to mothers to make them allies in her crusade. She asks them if they want
their daughters to be treated as unjustly as they have been and urges the women to help their
daughters have better lives by insisting that they get an education.

Bachal’s mother has no regrets about the sacrifices she made to ensure her daughters were
educated, saying, “Education is essential for women. They (her daughters) have reached this
potential because of their education. Otherwise they would have been slaving away for their
husbands somewhere” (Rahi, 2010).

And despite the attack against Malala Yousafzai, Bachal says she isn’t worried for her own

“Just the opposite,” she says. “It is not just one Malala or one Bachal who has raised a voice to
change this situation. There are a lot of other girls who are trying to change things. Even if they
kill 100 Humairas, they won’t be able to stop us” (Temple-Raston, 2013).

The value conflict between Emily and her mother involves Emily’s desire to have a car. In this case, both
individuals are highly interdependent of one another: To carry out her decision to get a car, Emily needs
her mother’s agreement; to have her daughter graduate in four years, Emily’s mother needs cooperation
from Emily. Both individuals perceive the other’s values as incompatible with their own, and this makes
conflict inevitable. Clearly, the conflict between Emily and her mother requires interpersonal
communication about their different values and how these differences affect their relationship.

Conflict Regarding Goals

A second common type of content-related conflict occurs in situations where individuals have different
goals (see Figure 11.1). Researchers have identified two types of conflict that occur regarding group
goals: (1) procedural conflict and (2) substantive conflict (Knutson, Lashbrook, & Heemer, 1976).

Procedural conflict refers to differences between individuals with regard to the approach they wish to
take in attempting to reach a goal. In essence, it is conflict over the best means to an agreed-upon goal;
it is not about what goal to achieve. Procedural conflicts can be observed in many situations such as
determining how to best conduct job interviews, choose a method for identifying new sales territories, or
spend advertising dollars. In each instance, conflict can occur when individuals do not agree on how to
achieve a goal.

Substantive conflict occurs when individuals differ with regard to the substance of the goal itself, or what
the goal should be. For example, two board members of a nonprofit human service agency may have
very different views regarding the strategies and scope of a fund-raising campaign. Similarly, two
owners of a small business may strongly disagree about whether or not to offer their part-time
employees health care benefits. On the international level, in Afghanistan, the Taliban and those who
are not members of the Taliban have different perspectives on whether or not girls should be educated.
These illustrations by no means exhaust all the possible examples of substantive conflict; however, they
point out that conflict can occur as a result of two or more parties disagreeing on what the goal or goals
of a group or an organization should be.

Conflict on the Relational Level
Have you ever heard someone say, “I don’t seem to get along with her [or him]; we have a personality
clash”? The phrase personality clash is another way of describing a conflict on the relational level.
Sometimes we do not get along with another person, not because of what we are talking about (conflict
over content issues) but because of how we are talking about it. Relational conflict refers to the
differences we feel between ourselves and others concerning how we relate to each other. For example,
at a staff meeting, a manager interrupts employees and talks to them in a critical tone. The employees
begin texting on their phones, ignoring the manager. A conflict erupts because both the manager and
the employees feel unheard and disrespected. It is typically caused by neither one person nor the other,
but arises in their relationship. Relational conflict is usually related to incompatible differences between
individuals over issues of (1) esteem, (2) control, and (3) affiliation (see Figure 11.1).

Relational Conflict and Issues of Esteem

The need for esteem and recognition has been identified by Maslow (1970) as one of the major needs in
the hierarchy of human needs. Each of us has needs for esteem—we want to feel significant, useful,
and worthwhile. We desire to have an effect on our surroundings and to be perceived by others as
worthy of their respect. We attempt to satisfy our esteem needs through what we do and how we act,
particularly in how we behave in our relationships with our coworkers.

When our needs for esteem are not being fulfilled in our relationships, we experience relational conflict
because others do not see us in the way we wish to be seen. For example, an administrative assistant
can have repeated conflicts with an administrator if the assistant perceives that the administrator fails to
recognize their unique contributions to the overall goals of the organization. Similarly, older employees
may be upset if newer coworkers do not give them respect for the wisdom that comes with their years of
experience. So, too, younger employees may want recognition for their innovative approaches to
problems but fail to get it from coworkers with more longevity who do not think things should change.

At the same time that we want our own esteem needs satisfied, others want their esteem needs
satisfied as well. If the supply of respect we can give each other seems limited (or scarce), then our
needs for esteem will clash. We will see the other person’s needs for esteem as competing with our own
or taking that limited resource away from us. To illustrate, consider a staff meeting in which two

employees are actively contributing insightful ideas and suggestions. If one of the employees is given
recognition for her input but the other is not, conflict may result. As this conflict escalates, the
effectiveness of their working relationship and the quality of their communication may diminish. When
the amount of available esteem (validation from others) seems scarce, a clash develops.

All of us are human and want to be recognized for the contributions we make to our work and our
community. When we believe we’re not being recognized or receiving our “fair share,” we feel slighted
and conflicted on the relational level with others.

Relational Conflict and Issues of Control

Struggles over issues of control are very common in interpersonal conflict. Each one of us desires to
have an impact on others and the situations that surround us. Having control, in effect, increases our
feelings of potency about our actions and minimizes our feelings of helplessness. Control allows us to
feel competent about ourselves. However, when we see others as hindering us or limiting our control,
interpersonal conflict often ensues.

Interpersonal conflict occurs when a person’s needs for control are incompatible with another’s needs
for control. In a given situation, each of us seeks different levels of control. Some people like to have a
great deal, while others are satisfied (and sometimes even more content) with only a little. In addition,
our needs for control may vary from one time to another. For example, there are times when a person’s
need to control others or events is very high; at other times, this same person may prefer that others
take charge. Relational conflict over control issues develops when there is a clash between the needs
for control that one person has at a given time (high or low) and the needs for control that others have at
that same time (high or low). If, for example, a friend’s need to make decisions about weekend plans is
compatible with yours, no conflict will take place; however, if both of you want to control the weekend
planning and your individual interests are different, then you will soon find yourselves in conflict. As
struggles for control ensue, the communication among the participants may become negative and
challenging as each person tries to gain control over the other or undermine the other’s control.

A graphic example of a conflict over relational control is provided in the struggle between Lauren Smith,
a college sophomore, and her parents, regarding what she will do on spring break. Lauren wants to go
to the Gulf Coast of Florida with some friends to relax from the pressures of school. Her parents do not
want her to go. Lauren thinks she deserves to go because she is doing well in her classes. Her parents
think spring break at the beach in Florida is just a “big party” and nothing good will come of it. As
another option, her parents offer to pay Lauren’s expenses to visit her grandparents, who have invited
Lauren to their home in California. Lauren is adamant that she “is going” to Florida. Her parents, who
pay her tuition, threaten that if she goes to Florida, they will no longer pay for college.

Clearly, in this example, both parties want to have control over the outcome. Lauren wants to be in
charge of her own life and make the decisions about what she does or does not do. At the same time,
her parents want to direct her into doing what they think is best for her. Lauren and her parents are
interdependent and need each other, but they are conflicted because they each feel that the other is
interfering with their needs for control of what Lauren does on spring break.

Conflicts over control are common in leadership situations. Like the parents in the example, the role of
leader brings with it a certain inherent level of control and responsibility. When leaders clash with one
another over control or when control issues exist between leaders and followers, interpersonal conflicts
occur. Later in this chapter, we present some conflict management strategies that are particularly helpful
in coping with relational conflicts that arise from issues of control.

Relational Conflict and Issues of Affiliation

In addition to wanting relational control, each of us has a need to feel included in our relationships, to be
liked, and to receive affection (Schutz, 1966). If our needs for closeness are not satisfied in our
relationships, we feel frustrated and experience feelings of conflict. Of course, some people like to be
very involved and very close in their relationships, while others prefer less involvement and more
distance. In any case, when others behave in ways that are incompatible with our own desires for
warmth and affection, feelings of conflict emerge.

Relational conflict over affiliation issues is illustrated in the following example of a football coach, Terry
Hinkle, and one of his players, Danny Larson. Danny, a starting quarterback, developed a strong
relationship with Coach Hinkle during his junior year in high school. Throughout the year, Danny and
Coach Hinkle had many highly productive conversations inside and outside of school about how to
improve the football program. In the summer, the coach employed Danny in his painting business, and
they worked side by side on a first-name basis. Both Danny and Terry liked working together and grew
to know each other quite well. However, when football practice started in the fall, difficulties emerged
between the two. During the first weeks of practice, Danny acted like Coach Hinkle was his best buddy.
He called him Terry rather than Coach Hinkle, and he resisted the player–coach role. As Coach Hinkle
attempted to withdraw from his summer relationship with Danny and take on his legitimate
responsibilities as a coach, Danny experienced a sense of loss of closeness and warmth. In this
situation, Danny felt rejection or a loss of affiliation, and this created a relational conflict.

Relational conflicts—whether they are over esteem, control, or affiliation—are seldom overt. Due to the
subtle nature of these conflicts, they are often not easy to recognize or address. Even when they are
recognized, relational conflicts are often ignored because it is difficult for many individuals to openly
communicate that they want more recognition, control, or affiliation.

According to communication theorists, relational issues are inextricably bound to content issues
(Watzlawick et al., 1967). This means that relational conflicts will often surface during the discussion of
content issues. For example, what may at first appear to be a conflict between two leaders regarding the
content of a new employee fitness program may really be a struggle over which one of the leaders will
ultimately receive credit for developing the program. As we mentioned, relational conflicts are complex
and not easily resolved. However, when relational conflicts are expressed and confronted, it can
significantly enhance the overall resolution process.

Communication is central to managing different kinds of conflict in organizations. Leaders who are able
to keep channels of communication open with others will have a greater chance of understanding
others’ beliefs, values, and needs for esteem, control, and affiliation. With increased understanding,
many of the kinds of conflict discussed in the earlier part of this chapter will seem less difficult to resolve
and more open to negotiation.

In this section, we will explore three different approaches to resolving conflict: Fisher and Ury’s
principled negotiation; the communication strategies of differentiation, fractionation, and face saving;
and the Kilmann–Thomas styles of approaching conflict. As we discussed previously, conflict can be
multifaceted and complex, and while there is no magic bullet for resolving all conflicts, knowing different
approaches can help a leader employ the effective strategies for solving conflict.

Fisher and Ury Approach to Conflict
One of the most recognized approaches of conflict negotiation in the world was developed by Roger
Fisher and William Ury. Derived from studies conducted by the Harvard Negotiation Project, Fisher and
Ury (1981) provide a straightforward, step-by-step method for negotiating conflicts. This method, called
principled negotiation, emphasizes deciding issues on their merits rather than through competitive
haggling or through excessive accommodation. Principled negotiation shows you how to obtain your fair
share decently and without having others take advantage of you (Fisher & Ury, 1981).

As illustrated in Figure 11.2, the Fisher and Ury negotiation method comprises four principles. Each
principle directly focuses on one of the four basic elements of negotiation: people, interests, options,
and criteria. Effective leaders frequently understand and utilize these four principles in conflict situations.


Figure 11.2 Fisher and Ury’s Method of Principled Negotiation

Source: Adapted from Fisher, R., & Ury, W. (1981). Getting to yes: Negotiating agreement without giving in.
New York, NY: Penguin Books, p. 15.

Principle 1: Separate the People From the Problem

In the previous section of this chapter, we discussed how conflict has a content dimension and a
relationship dimension. Similarly, Fisher and Ury (1981) contend that conflicts comprise a problem factor
and a people factor. To be effective in dealing with conflicts, both of these factors need to be addressed.
In particular, Fisher and Ury argue that the people factor needs to be separated out from the problem

Separating people from the problem during conflict is not easy because the two are entangled. For
example, if a supervisor and his employee are in a heated conversation over the employee’s negative
performance review, it is very difficult for the supervisor and the employee to discuss the review without
addressing their relationship and personal roles. Our personalities, beliefs, and values are intricately
interwoven with our conflicts. However, principled negotiation says that people and the problem need to
be disentangled. By separating people from the problem, we enable ourselves to recognize others’
uniqueness. Everyone has their own distinct thoughts and feelings in different situations. Because we all
perceive the world differently, we have diverse emotional responses to conflict. By focusing directly on
the people aspect of the problem, we become more aware of the personalities and idiosyncratic needs
of those with whom we are in conflict.

Perhaps most important, separating people from the problem encourages us to be attentive to our
relationships during conflict. Conflicts can strain relationships, so it is important to be cognizant of how
one’s behavior during conflict affects the other party. Rather than “beat up” on each other, it is useful to
work together, alongside each other, and mutually confront the problem. When we separate people from
the problem, we are more inclined to work with others to solve problems. Fisher and Ury (1981) suggest
that people in conflict need to “see themselves as working side by side, attacking the problem, not each
other” (p. 11). Separating the people from the problem allows us to nurture and strengthen our
relationships rather than destroy them.

Consider the earlier example of the supervisor and employee conflict over the negative performance
review. In order to separate the people from the problem, both the supervisor and the employee need to
discuss the negative review by focusing on performance criteria and behavior issues rather than
personal attributes. The review indicated that the employee didn’t meet performance objectives—the
boss could say, “You didn’t get your work done,” but in separating the people from the problem, the boss
would instead explain how the employee was unable to meet the requirements (“The number of
contacts you made was below the required number”). The employee, on the other hand, may feel the
objectives were unrealistic. Rather than telling her boss it was his fault (“You set unobtainable
objectives”), the employee should make her point by providing facts about how these standards are not

realistic (“The economic downturn wasn’t considered when these objectives were developed”). By
focusing on the problem in this way, the employer and the employee are maintaining their relationship
but also confronting directly the performance review issues.

Principle 2: Focus on Interests, Not Positions

The second principle, which is perhaps the most well known, emphasizes that parties in a conflict must
focus on interests and not just positions. Positions represent our stand or perspective in a particular
conflict. Interests represent what is behind our positions. Stated another way, positions are the opposing
points of view in a conflict while interests refer to the relevant needs and values of the people involved.
Fisher and Ury (1981) suggest that “your position is something you have decided upon. Your interests
are what caused you to so decide” (p. 42).

Focusing on interests expands conflict negotiation by encouraging individuals to explore the unique
underpinnings of the conflict. To identify interests behind a position, it is useful to look at the basic
concerns that motivate people. Some of our concerns include needs for security, belonging, recognition,
control, and economic well-being (Fisher & Ury, 1981). Being attentive to these basic needs and helping
people satisfy them is central to conflict negotiation.

Concentrating on interests also helps opposing parties to address the “real” conflict. Addressing both
interests and positions helps to make conflict negotiation more authentic. In his model of authentic
leadership, Robert Terry (1993) advocates that leaders have a moral responsibility to ask the question
“What is really, really going on in a conflict situation, and what are we going to do about it?” Unless
leaders know what truly is going on, their actions will be inappropriate and can have serious
consequences. Focusing on interests is a good way to find out what is at the heart of a conflict.

Consider the following conflict between a college professor, Dr. Smith, and his student, Erin Crow,
regarding class attendance. Dr. Smith has a mandatory attendance policy but allows for two absences
during the semester. A student’s grade is lowered 10% for each additional absence. Erin is a very bright
student who has gotten As on all of her papers and tests. However, she has five absences and does not
want to be penalized. Based on the attendance policy, Dr. Smith would lower Erin’s grade 30%, from an
A to a C. Erin’s position in this conflict is that she shouldn’t be penalized because she has done
excellent work despite her absences. Dr. Smith’s position is that the attendance policy is legitimate and
Erin’s grade should be lowered.

In this example, it is worthwhile to explore some of the interests that form the basis for each position.
For example, Erin is very reticent and does not like to participate in class. She is carrying 18 credit hours
and works two part-time jobs. On the other hand, Dr. Smith is a popular professor who has twice
received university-wide outstanding teaching awards. He has 20 years of experience and has a strong
publication record in the area of classroom learning methodology. In addition, Dr. Smith has a need to
be liked by students and does not like to be challenged.

Given their interests, it is easy to see that the conflict between Erin and Dr. Smith over class attendance
is more complex than meets the eye. If this conflict were to be settled by negotiating positions alone, the
resolution would be relatively straightforward, and Erin would most likely be penalized, leaving both
parties unsatisfied. However, if the interests of both Erin and Dr. Smith were fully explored, the
probability of a mutually agreeable outcome would be far more likely. Dr. Smith is likely to recognize that
Erin has numerous obligations that impact her attendance but are important for her economic well-being
and security. On the other hand, Erin may come to realize that Dr. Smith is an exemplary teacher who
fosters cohesiveness among students by expecting them to show up and participate in class. His needs
for control and recognition are challenged by Erin’s attendance and lack of class participation.

The challenge for Erin and Dr. Smith is to focus on their interests, communicate them to each other, and
remain open to unique approaches to resolving their conflict.

Principle 3: Invent Options for Mutual Gains

The third strategy in effective conflict negotiation presented by Fisher and Ury (1981) is to invent options
for mutual gains. This is difficult to do because humans naturally see conflict as an either-or proposition.
We either win or lose; we get what we want, or the other side gets what it wants. We feel the results will
be favorable either to us or to the other side, and we do not see any other possible options.

However, this tendency to see conflict as a fixed choice proposition needs to be overcome by inventing
new options to resolve the conflict to the satisfaction of both parties. The method of principled
negotiation emphasizes that we need to brainstorm and search hard for creative solutions to conflict. We
need to expand our options and not limit ourselves to thinking there is a single best solution.

Focusing on the interests of the parties in conflict can result in this kind of creative thinking. By exploring
where our interests overlap and dovetail, we can identify solutions that will benefit both parties. This
process of fulfilling interests does not need to be antagonistic. We can help each other in conflict by
being sensitive to each other’s interests and making it easier, rather than more difficult, for both parties
to satisfy their interests. Using the earlier example of Dr. Smith and Erin, Erin could acknowledge Dr.
Smith’s need for a consistent attendance policy and explain that she understands that it is important to
have a policy to penalize less-than-committed students. She should make the case that the quality of
her papers indicates she has learned much from Dr. Smith and is as committed to the class as she can
be, given her other obligations. Dr. Smith should explain that he is not comfortable ignoring her
absences and that it is unfair to other students who have also been penalized for missing class. They
could agree that Erin’s grade will be lowered to a B, rather than a C. While neither party would be
“victorious,” both would feel that the best compromise was reached given each person’s unique

Principle 4: Insist on Using Objective Criteria

Finally, Fisher and Ury (1981) say that effective negotiation requires that objective criteria be used to
settle different interests. The goal in negotiation is to reach a solution that is based on principle and not
on pressure. Conflict parties need to search for objective criteria that will help them view their conflict
with an unbiased lens. Objective criteria can take many forms, including

precedent, which looks at how this issue has been resolved previously;

professional standards, which determine if there are rules or standards for behavior based on a
profession or trade involved in the conflict;

what a court would decide, which looks at the legal precedent or legal ramifications of the conflict;

moral standards, which consider resolving the conflict based on ethical considerations or “doing
what’s right”;

tradition, which looks at already established practices or customs in considering the conflict; and

scientific judgment, which considers facts and evidence.

For example, if an employee and his boss disagree on the amount of a salary increase the employee is
to receive, both the employee and the boss might consider the raises of employees with similar
positions and work records. When criteria are used effectively and fairly, the outcomes and final
package are usually seen as wise and fair (Fisher & Ury, 1981).

In summary, the method of principled negotiation presents four practical strategies that leaders can
employ in handling conflicts: separate the people from the problem; focus on interests, not positions;
invent options for mutual gains; and insist on using objective criteria. None of these strategies is a
panacea for all problems or conflicts, but used together they can provide a general, well-substantiated
approach to settling conflicts in ways that are likely to be advantageous to everyone involved in a
conflict situation.

Communication Strategies for Conflict Resolution
Throughout this chapter, we have emphasized the complexity of conflict and the difficulties that arise in
addressing it. There is no universal remedy or simple path. Schmidt and Tannenbaum (1960) pointed
out that there is no right way to deal with differences: “Under varying circumstances, it may be most
beneficial to avoid differences, to repress them, to sharpen them into clearly defined conflict, or to utilize
them for enriched problem solving.” (p. 108). In fact, except for a few newsstand-type books that claim
to provide quick cures to conflict, only a few sources give practical techniques for resolution. In this
section, we describe several practical communication approaches that play a major role in the conflict
resolution process: differentiation, fractionation, and face saving. Using these communication strategies
can lessen the angst of the conflict, help conflicting parties to reach resolution sooner, and strengthen


Differentiation describes a process that occurs in the early phase of conflict; it helps participants define
the nature of the conflict and clarify their positions with regard to each other. It is very important to
conflict resolution because it establishes the nature and parameters of the conflict. Differentiation
requires that individuals explain and elaborate their own position, frequently focusing on their differences
rather than their similarities. It is essential to working through a conflict (Putnam, 2010). Differentiation
represents a difficult time in the conflict process because it is more likely to involve an escalation of
conflict rather than a cooling off. During this time, fears may arise that the conflict will not be
successfully resolved. Differentiation is also difficult because it initially personalizes the conflict and
brings out feelings and sentiments in people that they themselves are the cause of the conflict (Folger,
Poole, & Stutman, 1993).

The value of differentiation is that it defines the conflict. It helps both parties realize how they differ on
the issue being considered. Being aware of these differences is useful for conflict resolution because it
focuses the conflict, gives credence to both parties’ interests in the issue that is in conflict, and, in
essence, depersonalizes the conflict. Consistent with Fisher and Ury’s (1981) method of negotiation,
differentiation is a way to separate the people from the problem.

An example of differentiation involves a group project. Members of the group have complained to the
instructor that one member, Jennifer, seldom comes to meetings; when she does come, she does not
contribute to the group discussions. The instructor met with Jennifer, who defended herself by stating
that the group constantly set meeting times that conflict with her work schedule. She believes they do so
on purpose to exclude her. The teacher arranged for the students to sit down together, and then had
them explain their differing points of view to one another. The group members said that they believed
that Jennifer cared less about academic achievement than they did because she did not seem willing to
adjust her work schedule to meet with them. Jennifer, on the other hand, said she believed the others
did not respect that she had to work to support herself while going to school, and that she was not in
total control of her work schedule.

In this example, differentiation occurred among group members as they attempted to assess the issues.
It was a difficult process because it demanded that each participant talk about their feelings about why
the group was having conflict. Both sides ultimately understood the other’s differing viewpoints. The

group and Jennifer set aside a definite time each week when they would meet, and Jennifer made sure
her supervisor did not schedule her to work at that time.


Fractionation refers to the technique of breaking down large conflicts into smaller, more manageable
pieces (Fisher, 1971; Wilmot & Hocker, 2011). Like differentiation, fractionation usually occurs in the
early stages of the conflict resolution process. It is an intentional process in which the participants agree
to “downsize” a large conflict into smaller conflicts and then confront just one part of the larger conflict.
Fractionating conflict is helpful for several reasons. First, fractionation reduces the conflict by paring it
down to a smaller, less complex conflict. It is helpful for individuals to know that the conflict they are
confronting is not a huge amorphous mass of difficulties, but rather consists of specific and defined
difficulties. Second, it gives focus to the conflict. By narrowing down large conflicts, individuals give
clarity and definition to their difficulties instead of trying to solve a whole host of problems at once. Third,
downsizing a conflict helps to reduce the emotional intensity of the dispute. Smaller conflicts carry less
emotional weight (Wilmot & Hocker, 2011). Last, fractionation facilitates a better working relationship
between participants in the conflict. In agreeing to address a reduced version of a conflict, the
participants confirm their willingness to work with one another to solve problems.

An example of fractionation at work involves David Stedman, an experienced director of a private school
that was on the verge of closing due to low enrollment. School board members were upset with David’s
leadership and the direction of the school, and David was disappointed with the board. The school had
been running on a deficit budget for the previous three years and had used up most of the endowment
money it had set aside. The school’s board members saw the problem one way: The school needed
more students. David knew it was not that simple. There were many issues behind the low enrollment:
the practices for recruitment of students, retention of students, fund-raising, marketing, and out-of-date
technology at the school, as well as bad feelings between the parents and the school. In addition to
these concerns, David had responsibility for day-to-day operations of the school and decisions
regarding the education of students. David asked the board members to attend a weekend retreat
where, together, they detailed the myriad problems facing the school and narrowed the long list down to
three difficulties that they would address together. They agreed to work on an aggressive recruitment
plan, fund-raising efforts, and internal marketing toward parents so they would keep their children at the

In the end, the retreat was beneficial to both David and the board. The big conflict of “what to do about
the school” was narrowed down to three specific areas they could address. In addition, the school board
developed an appreciation for the complexity and difficulties of running the school, and David softened
his negative feelings about the school board and its members’ input. As a result of fractionating their
conflict, David Stedman and the school board developed a better working relationship and confirmed
their willingness to work on problems in the future.

Face Saving

A third skill that can assist a leader in conflict resolution is face saving. Face saving refers to
communicative attempts to establish or maintain one’s self-image in response to threat (Folger et al.,
1993; Goffman, 1967; Lulofs, 1994). Face-saving messages help individuals establish how they want to
be seen by others. The goal of face-saving messages is to protect one’s self-image.

In conflict, which is often threatening and unsettling, participants may become concerned about how
others view them in regard to the positions they have taken. This concern for self can be
counterproductive to conflict resolution because it shifts the focus of the conflict away from substantive
issues and onto personal issues. Instead of confronting the central concerns of the conflict, face-saving
concerns force participants to deal with their self-images as they are related to the conflict.

Interpersonal conflicts can be made less threatening if individuals communicate in a way that preserves
the self-image of the other. Conflict issues should be discussed in a manner that minimizes threat to the
participants. By using face-saving messages, such as “I think you are making a good point, but I see
things differently,” one person acknowledges another’s point of view without making the other person
feel stupid or unintelligent. The threat of conflict is lessened if participants try to support each other’s
self-image rather than to damage it just to win an argument. It is important to be aware of how people
want to be seen by others, how conflict can threaten those desires, and how our communication can
minimize those threats (Lulofs, 1994).

In trying to resolve conflicts, face saving should be a concern to participants for two reasons. First, if
possible, participants should try to avoid letting the discussions during conflict shift to face-threatening
issues. Similar to Fisher and Ury’s (1981) principle of separating the people from the problem, this can
be done by staying focused on content issues and maintaining interactions that do not challenge the
other person’s self-image. Second, during the later stages of conflict, face-saving messages can
actually be used to assist participants in giving each other validation and support for how they have
come across during conflict. Face-saving messages can confirm for others that they have handled
themselves appropriately during conflict and that their relationship is still healthy.

The following example illustrates how face saving can affect conflict resolution. At a large university
hospital, significant disruptions occurred when 1,000 nurses went on strike after contract negotiations
failed. The issues in the conflict were salary, forced overtime, and mandatory coverage of units that
were short-staffed. There was much name-calling and personal attacks between nurses and
administrators. Early negotiations were inhibited by efforts on both sides to establish an image with the
public that what they were doing was appropriate, given the circumstances. As a result, these images
and issues of right and wrong, rather than the substantive issues of salary and overtime, became the
focus of the conflict. If the parties had avoided tearing each other down, perhaps the conflict could have
been settled sooner.

Despite these difficulties, face-saving messages did have a positive effect on this conflict. During the
middle of the negotiations, the hospital ran a full-page advertisement in the local newspaper describing
its proposal and why it thought this proposal was misunderstood. At the end of the ad, the hospital
stated, “We respect your right to strike. A strike is a peaceful and powerful means by which you
communicate your concern or dissatisfaction.” This statement showed that the administration was trying
to save face for itself, but also it was attempting to save face for nurses by expressing that their being on
strike was not amoral, and that the hospital was willing to accept the nurses’ behavior and continue to
have a working relationship with them. Similarly, the media messages that both parties released at the
end of the strike included affirmation of the other party’s self-image. The nurses, who received a
substantial salary increase, did not try to claim victory or point out what the hospital lost in the
negotiations. In turn, the hospital, which retained control of the use of staff for overtime, did not
emphasize what it had won or communicate that it thought the nurses were unprofessional because
they had gone out on strike. The point is that these gentle face-saving messages helped both sides to
feel good about themselves, reestablish their image as effective health care providers, and salvage their
working relationships.

All in all, there are no shortcuts to resolving conflicts. It is a complex process that requires sustained
communication. By being aware of differentiation, fractionation, and face saving, leaders can enhance
their abilities and skills in the conflict resolution process.

Kilmann and Thomas Styles of Approaching Conflict
There’s no doubt that people have different ways of handling conflict and that these different styles
affect the outcomes of conflict. A conflict style is defined as a patterned response or behavior that
people use when approaching conflict. One of the most widely recognized models of conflict styles was
developed by Kilmann and Thomas (1975, 1977), based on the work of Blake and Mouton (1964), and
is the basis for our Conflict Style Questionnaire on pages 302–304.

The Kilmann–Thomas model identifies five conflict styles: (1) avoidance, (2) competition, (3)
accommodation, (4) compromise, and (5) collaboration. This model (see Figure 11.3) describes conflict
styles along two dimensions: assertiveness and cooperativeness. Assertiveness refers to attempts to
satisfy one’s own concerns, while cooperativeness represents attempts to satisfy the concerns of others.
Each conflict style is characterized by how much assertiveness and how much cooperativeness an
individual shows when confronting conflict.


Figure 11.3 Styles of Approaching Conflict

Sources: Reproduced with permission of authors and publisher from Kilmann, R. H., & Thomas, K. W.
Interpersonal conflict-handling behavior as reflections of Jungian personality dimensions. Psychological
Reports, 1975, 37, 971–980. © Psychological Reports, 1975.

In conflict situations, a person’s individual style is usually a combination of these five different styles.
Nevertheless, because of past experiences or situational factors, some people may rely more heavily on
one conflict style than on others. Understanding these styles can help you select the conflict style that is
most appropriate to the demands of the situation.


Avoidance is both an unassertive and an uncooperative conflict style. Those who favor the avoidance
style tend to be passive and ignore conflict situations rather than confront them directly. They employ
strategies such as denying there is a conflict, using jokes as a way to deflect conflict, or trying to change
the topic. Avoiders are not assertive about pursuing their own interests, nor are they cooperative in
assisting others to pursue theirs.

Advantages and Disadvantages.
Avoidance as a style for managing conflict is usually counterproductive, often leading to stress and
further conflict. Those who continually avoid conflict bottle up feelings of irritation, frustration, anger, or
rage inside themselves, creating more anxiety. Avoidance is essentially a static approach to conflict; it
does nothing to solve problems or to make changes that could prevent conflicts.

However, there are some situations in which avoidance may be useful—for example, when an issue is
of trivial importance or when the potential damage from conflict would be too great. Avoidance can also
provide a cooling-off period to allow participants to determine how to best resolve the conflict at a later
time. For example, if Jan is so angry at her girlfriend that she throws her cell phone at the wall, she
might want to go for a ride in her car or take a walk and cool down before she tries to talk to her
girlfriend about the problem.


Competition is a conflict style of individuals who are highly assertive about pursuing their own goals but
uncooperative in assisting others to reach theirs. These individuals attempt to resolve a struggle by
controlling or persuading others in order to achieve their own ends. A competitive style is essentially a
win-lose conflict strategy. For example, when Wendy seeks to convince Chris that he is a bad person
because he habitually shows up late for meetings, regardless of his reasons for doing so, it is a win-lose
conflict style.

Advantages and Disadvantages.
In some situations, competition can produce positive outcomes. It is useful when quick, decisive action
is needed. Competition can also generate creativity and enhance performance because it challenges
participants to make their best efforts.

Generally, though, competitive approaches to conflict are not the most advantageous because they are
more often counterproductive than productive. Resolution options are limited to one party “beating”
another, resulting in a winner and a loser. Attempts to solve conflict with dominance and control will
often result in creating unstable situations and hostile and destructive communication. Finally,
competition is disconfirming; in competition, individuals fail to recognize the concerns and needs of


Accommodation is an unassertive but cooperative conflict style. In accommodation, an individual
essentially communicates to another, “You are right, I agree; let’s forget about it.” An approach that is
“other directed,” accommodation requires individuals to attend very closely to the needs of others and
ignore their own needs. Using this style, individuals confront problems by deferring to others.

Advantages and Disadvantages.
Accommodation allows individuals to move away from the uncomfortable feelings that conflict inevitably
produces. By yielding to others, individuals can lessen the frustration that conflict creates. This style is
productive when the issue is more important to one party than the other or if harmony in the relationship
is the most important goal.

The problem with accommodation is that it is, in effect, a lose-win strategy. Although accommodation
may resolve conflict faster than some of the other approaches, the drawback is that the accommodator
sacrifices their own values and possibly a higher-quality decision in order to maintain smooth
relationships. It is a submissive style that allows others to take charge. Accommodators also lose
because they may fail to express their own opinions and feelings and their contributions are not fully

For example, Jenny’s boyfriend is a sports fanatic and always wants to stay home and watch televised
sports while Jenny would like to go to a movie or to a club. But to make him happy, Jenny stays home

and watches football.


As Figure 11.3 indicates, compromise occurs halfway between competition and accommodation and
involves both a degree of assertiveness and a degree of cooperativeness. Many see compromise as a
“give and take” proposition. Compromisers attend to the concerns of others as well as to their own
needs. On the diagonal axis of Figure 11.3, compromise occurs midway between the styles of
avoidance and collaboration. This means that compromisers do not completely ignore confrontations,
but neither do they struggle with problems to the fullest degree. This conflict style is often chosen
because it is expedient in finding middle ground while partially satisfying the concerns of both parties.

Advantages and Disadvantages.
Compromise is a positive conflict style because it requires attending to one’s goals as well as others’.
Compromise tends to work best when other conflict styles have failed or aren’t suitable to resolving the
conflict. Many times, compromise can force an equal power balance between parties.

Among the shortcomings of the compromise style is that it does not go far enough in resolving conflict
and can become “an easy way out.” In order to reach resolution, conflicting parties often don’t fully
express their own demands, personal thoughts, and feelings. Innovative solutions are sacrificed in favor
of a quick resolution, and the need for harmony supersedes the need to find optimal solutions to conflict.
The result is that neither side is completely satisfied. For example, Pat wants to go on a camping
vacation, and Mike wants to have a “staycation,” hanging around the house. In the end, they agree to
spend their vacation taking day trips to the beach and the zoo.


Collaboration, the most preferred style of conflict, requires both assertiveness and cooperation. It is
when both parties agree to a positive settlement to the conflict and attend fully to the other’s concerns
while not sacrificing or suppressing their own. The conflict is not resolved until each side is reasonably
satisfied and can support the solution. Collaboration is the ideal conflict style because it recognizes the
inevitability of human conflict. It confronts conflict, and then uses conflict to produce constructive

Advantages and Disadvantages.
The results of collaboration are positive because both sides win, communication is satisfying,
relationships are strengthened, and negotiated solutions are frequently more cost-effective in the long

Unfortunately, collaboration is the most difficult style to achieve. It demands energy and hard work
among participants as well as shared control. Resolving differences through collaboration requires
individuals to take time to explore their differences, identify areas of agreement, and select solutions that
are mutually satisfying. This often calls for extended conversation in which the participants explore
entirely new alternatives to existing problems. For example, residents of a residential neighborhood
seek to have an adult entertainment facility in their midst close or leave. The owner refuses. The
residents work with city officials to find an alternative location to relocate the facility, and the city gives
the facility’s owner tax breaks to move.

The five styles of approaching conflict—avoidance, competition, accommodation, compromise, and
collaboration—can be observed in various conflict situations. Although there are advantages and

disadvantages to each style, the conflict-handling style that meets the needs of the participants while
also fitting the demands of the situation will be most effective in resolving conflict.

For leaders and followers alike, interpersonal conflict is inevitable. Conflict is defined as a felt struggle
between two or more individuals over perceived incompatible differences in beliefs, values, and goals,
or over differences in desires for esteem, control, and connectedness. If it is managed in appropriate
ways, conflict need not be destructive but can be constructive and used to positive ends.

Communication plays a central role in conflict and in its resolution. Conflict occurs between leaders and
others on two levels: content and relational. Conflict on the content level involves differences in beliefs,
values, or goal orientation. Conflict on the relational level refers to differences between individuals with
regard to their desires for esteem, control, and affiliation in their relationships. Relational conflicts are
seldom overt, which makes them difficult for people to recognize and resolve.

One approach to resolving conflicts is the method of principled negotiation by Fisher and Ury (1981).
This model focuses on four basic elements of negotiation—people, interests, options, and criteria—and
describes four principles related to handling conflicts: Principle 1—Separate the People From the
Problem; Principle 2—Focus on Interests, Not Positions; Principle 3—Invent Options for Mutual Gains;
and Principle 4—Insist on Using Objective Criteria. Collectively, these principles are extraordinarily
useful in negotiating positive conflict outcomes.

Three practical communication approaches to conflict resolution are differentiation, fractionation, and
face saving. Differentiation is a process that helps participants to define the nature of the conflict and to
clarify their positions with one another. Fractionation refers to the technique of paring down large
conflicts into smaller, more manageable conflicts. Face saving consists of messages that individuals
express to each other in order to maintain each other’s self-image during conflict. Together or singly,
these approaches can assist leaders in making the conflict resolution process more productive.

Finally, researchers have found that people approach conflict using five styles: (1) avoidance, (2)
competition, (3) accommodation, (4) compromise, and (5) collaboration. Each of these styles
characterizes individuals in terms of the degree of assertiveness and cooperativeness they show when
confronting conflict. The most constructive approach to conflict is collaboration, which requires that
individuals recognize, confront, and resolve conflict by attending fully to others’ concerns without
sacrificing their own. Managing conflicts effectively leads to stronger relationships among participants
and more creative solutions to problems.

Glossary Terms
accommodation 295

avoidance 293

collaboration 296

competition 295

compromise 295

conflict 278

conflict style 293

content conflict 280

content dimension 279

differentiation 290

face saving 292

fractionation 291

principled negotiation 286

relational conflict 283

relationship dimension 279


11.1 Case Study—Office Space

The five members of the web programming department at a marketing company are being relocated to a
new space in their building. The move came as a big surprise; the head of the company decided to cut
costs by leasing less space, and with just a few days’ notice, the department was relocated.

The new space is a real change from what the programmers are used to. Their old space was a big
open room with one wall of floor-to-ceiling windows. Their desks all faced each other, which allowed
them to easily talk and collaborate with one another. The new office space has a row of five cubicles
along a wall in a long, narrow room. Four of the cubicles have windows; the fifth, which is slightly larger
than the others, is tucked into a windowless corner. The cubicle walls are 6 feet tall, and when they are
at their desks working, the programmers can no longer see one another.

The team leader, Martin, assigned the cubicles that each programmer has moved into. He put himself in
the first cubicle with Rosa, Sanjay, and Kris in the next three cubicles with windows. Bradley was given
the larger cubicle in the corner.

Bradley is the first to complain. When he sees his new space, he goes to Martin and asks for a different
cubicle, one with a window. He argues that he has been employed there longer than the other
programmers and should get to choose his cubicle rather than be told where he is going to be. Because
he and Martin work very closely on a number of projects, Bradley feels he should be in the cubicle next
to Martin, rather than the one farthest away.

Sanjay is also upset. He is in the middle cubicle with Rosa and Kris on either side of him. Rosa and Kris
used to have desks next to each other in the bigger space and would banter back and forth with one
another while working. Now that they are in the row of cubicles, they still try to chat with one another, but
to do so, they more or less shout to each other over Sanjay’s space. When Martin offers to let him trade
places with Bradley as a solution, Sanjay says he doesn’t want to give up his window.

Martin leaves everyone where they are. He hasn’t told them, but he purposely put Sanjay between Rosa
and Kris in order to discourage their constant chatting, which he viewed as a time-wasting activity.
Martin also felt like the larger cube was better for Bradley because he has more computer equipment
than the other programmers.

During the next two months, the web programming department starts to experience a lot of tension.
Sanjay seems to be in a bad mood on a daily basis. When Rosa and Kris start chatting with each other
over the cubicles, he asks them loudly, “Will you please just work and stop shouting to each other?” or
says sarcastically, “I’m trying to work here!” As a result, either Rosa or Kris will leave her cubicle to walk

down to the other’s space to chat, having conversations that last longer than their old bantering back
and forth used to.

Bradley stays in his corner cubicle and avoids talking to the other programmers. He believes that Martin
purposely gave him what Bradley perceives is the worst cubicle but doesn’t know what he did to deserve
being treated this way. He is resentful of the other staff members who have windows in their cubicles
and feels like Martin must think more highly of Rosa, Kris, and Sanjay than he does of Bradley. As
Bradley observes Rosa and Kris spending more time talking and less time working and the crabbiness
from Sanjay, he becomes very upset with Martin. It seems Martin is rewarding the programmers who
behave the worst!

Bradley becomes even more reclusive at work and avoids talking to the other programmers, especially
Martin. He communicates with them mainly by email messages, even though he’s only a few yards
away from some of them. He no longer collaborates closely with Martin; instead he tries to work on
projects without involving Martin. Unfortunately, if he encounters a problem that he needs Martin’s help
for, Bradley will try to solve it himself. Often, Martin won’t even know there is a problem that needs to be
solved until Bradley realizes he can’t solve it alone and the problem becomes a crisis.

The only time all five of the programmers actually see one another is in weekly staff meetings, which are
held in a conference room with a large table and a dozen chairs. In their old space, they didn’t have
weekly meetings because they were able to talk about projects and schedules with each other
whenever it was needed. In their new staff meetings, it seems like Martin is doing all the talking. Rosa
and Kris sit on one side of the table and try to ignore Sanjay who sits by himself across from them.
Bradley sits at the far end of the table at least two chairs away from everyone else.

After another unproductive staff meeting where no one spoke or looked at one another, Martin sits at the
head of the conference table after the other programmers have left with his head in his hands. He
doesn’t know what has happened to the cohesive team he used to lead and why things changed. It
seems absolutely ridiculous to him that this is all about space.

1. How would you describe the conflict that has arisen between the members of the web programming

2. Is the conflict a relational conflict? If so, what type of relational conflict? Is there a content

dimension to this conflict?
3. Using Fisher and Ury’s method of principled negotiation, how would you separate the people from

the problem? What do you think is really, really going on in this conflict?
4. Using the Kilmann and Thomas conflict styles, how would you characterize Sanjay’s conflict style?

What about Bradley’s? Do Rosa and Kris have a style as well?
5. How could Martin use fractionation and face saving in attempting to resolve this conflict?

11.2 Case Study—High Water Mark
Alcott Lake, a lakeside community, is having a crisis. For the past four years, the water level on the lake
has increased each year and is at a record high level. As a result, about 18% of the 250 homes located
on the lake are in danger of flooding, while the rest are on higher ground and not directly affected by the
high water. Many of the structures in danger are cottages that were built nearly 80 years ago and have
been in the same families for years. These cottages, which once had huge lawns separating them from
the lake, now have water a few yards from their doors.

The board of directors for the Alcott Lake Homeowners’ Association has been working for the last year
to find a solution to the high water levels. To directly address the problem, they asked the state’s
department of natural resources and county officials to allow them to pump water from the lake into a
nearby stream. That appeal was rejected because land downstream is also experiencing high water

levels and it would further endanger those properties. As the summer season approaches, and the lake
promises to get busy with boaters, the board is scrambling to find a resolution to the problem.

To avoid more damage to their properties, the owners of the endangered cottages have created a
petition asking the homeowners’ association to institute a no-wake policy on the lake for a year. The
wakes created by motorized boats cause large waves that crash up against the shore, causing erosion,
and could push the water into the endangered cottages. A no-wake policy would require motorized
watercraft to run at low speeds, which would eliminate any wakeboarding, tubing, or water skiing on the
lake. The petition also seeks to prohibit personal watercraft (such as jet skis) and high-speed fishing
boats from running on the lake. In order to be considered by the association’s board, the petition needed
signatures from 25% of the lake’s property owners; it garnered support from 35%.

At the meeting, the board heard resident after resident speak either for or against the no-wake policy.
Some said that the high water was a result of climate change and a long-term solution is needed, not a
short-term one. Others said that those who own rental property are going to lose revenue, while others
argued that the owners of endangered cottages were going to lose everything. When one property
owner asked why those with water problems didn’t install seawalls to protect their property like he was,
another responded angrily, saying that those owning the “big McMansions on the hill” can afford to build
expensive seawalls, but most people on the lake don’t have that kind of money.

One homeowner asked the board who would enforce the no-wake policy if it was passed, to which
another owner responded, “Me and my rifle.”

The homeowners’ association doesn’t take the man’s threat lightly; the directors know this is a highly
charged situation and that whatever they decide isn’t going to make everyone happy. Making a policy
that satisfies everyone seems like an impossible task.

1. Describe this conflict using the different elements of the conflict definition—struggle,
interdependence, feelings, and differences.

2. What is the content dimension of this conflict? What is the relational dimension?
3. Would Fisher and Ury’s method of principled negotiation be a good approach for the homeowners’

association to use to resolve the conflict? Why or why not?
4. How could the association board use the communication strategies of differentiation and

fractionation to deal with this conflict? What about face saving?

11.3 Conflict Style Questionnaire


1. To identify your conflict style
2. To examine how your conflict style varies in different contexts or relationships


1. Think of two different situations (A and B) where you have a conflict, a disagreement, an argument,
or a disappointment with someone, such as a roommate or a work associate. Write the name of the
person for each of the following situations.

2. According to the scale that follows, fill in your scores for Situation A and Situation B. For each
question, you will have two scores. For example, on Question 1 the scoring might look like this: 1. 2
| 4

3. Write the name of each person for the two situations here:

Person A ______________________________

Person B _______________________________

1 = never 2 = seldom 3 = sometimes 4 = often 5 = always

Person A Person B

1. _____|_____ I avoid being “put on the spot”; I keep conflicts to myself.

2. _____|_____ I use my influence to get my ideas accepted.

3. _____|_____ I usually try to “split the difference” in order to resolve an issue.

Person A Person B

4. _____|_____ I generally try to satisfy the other’s needs.

5. _____|_____ I try to investigate an issue to find a solution acceptable to both of us.

6. _____|_____ I usually avoid open discussion of my differences with the other.

7. _____|_____ I use my authority to make a decision in my favor.

8. _____|_____ I try to find a middle course to resolve an impasse.

9. _____|_____ I usually accommodate the other’s wishes.

10. _____|_____ I try to integrate my ideas with the other’s to come up with a decision jointly.

11. _____|_____ I try to stay away from disagreement with the other.

12. _____|_____ I use my expertise to make a decision that favors me.

13. _____|_____ I propose a middle ground for breaking deadlocks.

14. _____|_____ I give in to the other’s wishes.

15. _____|_____ I try to work with the other to find solutions that satisfy both our expectations.

16. _____|_____ I try to keep my disagreement to myself in order to avoid hard feelings.

17. _____|_____ I generally pursue my side of an issue.

18. _____|_____ I negotiate with the other to reach a compromise.

19. _____|_____ I often go with the other’s suggestions.

20. _____|_____ I exchange accurate information with the other so we can solve a problem

Person A Person B

21. _____|_____ I try to avoid unpleasant exchanges with the other.

22. _____|_____ I sometimes use my power to win.

23. _____|_____ I use “give and take” so that a compromise can be made.

24. _____|_____ I try to satisfy the other’s expectations.

25. _____|_____ I try to bring all our concerns out in the open so that the issues can be

Source: Adapted from “Confirmatory Factor Analysis of the Styles of Handling Interpersonal Conflict: First-Order Factor Model and Its
Invariance Across Groups,” by M. A. Rahim and N. R. Magner, 1995, Journal of Applied Psychology, 80(1), 122–132. In W. Wilmot and
J. Hocker (2011), Interpersonal Conflict (pp. 146–148). Published by the American Psychological Association.

Scoring: Add up your scores on the following questions:

A | B A | B A | B A | B A | B

1. ____|____

6. ____|____

11. ____|____

16. ____|____

21. ____|____

2. ____|____

7. ____|____

12. ____|____

17. ____|____

22. ____|____

3. ____|____

8. ____|____

13. ____|____

18. ____|____

23. ____|____

4. ____|____

9. ____|____

14. ____|____

19. ____|____

24. ____|____

5. ____|____

10. ____|____

15. ____|____

20. ____|____

25. ____|____


A | B



A | B



A | B



A | B



A | B


Scoring Interpretation

This questionnaire is designed to identify your conflict style and examine how it varies in different
contexts or relationships. By comparing your total scores for the different styles, you can discover which
conflict style you rely most heavily upon and which style you use least. Furthermore, by comparing your
scores for Person A and Person B, you can determine how your style varies or stays the same in
different relationships. Your scores on this questionnaire are indicative of how you responded to a
particular conflict at a specific time and therefore might change if you selected a different conflict or a
different conflict period. The Conflict Style Questionnaire is not a personality test that labels or
categorizes you; rather, it attempts to give you a sense of your more dominant and less dominant
conflict styles.

Scores from 21 to 25 are representative of a very strong style.

Scores from 16 to 20 are representative of a strong style.

Scores from 11 to 15 are representative of an average style.

Scores from 6 to 10 are representative of a weak style.

Scores from 0 to 5 are representative of a very weak style.

11.4 Observational Exercise

Managing Conflict

1. To become aware of the dimensions of interpersonal conflict
2. To explore how to use Fisher and Ury’s (1981) method of principled negotiation to address actual


1. For this exercise, you are being asked to observe an actual conflict. Attend a public meeting at

which a conflict is being addressed. For example, you could attend a meeting of the campus
planning board, which has on its agenda changes in student parking fees.

2. Take notes on the meeting, highlighting the positions and interests of all the people who
participated in the meeting.


1. How did the participants at the meeting frame their arguments? What positions did individuals take
at the meeting?

2. Identify and describe the interests of each of the participants at the meeting.
3. Discuss whether the participants were able to be objective in their approaches to the problem.

Describe how the people involved were able to separate themselves from the problem.
4. In what ways did the participants seek to find mutually beneficial solutions to their conflict?

11.5 Reflection and Action Worksheet

Managing Conflict

1. How do you react to conflict? Based on the Conflict Style Questionnaire, how would you describe

your conflict style? How has your past history influenced your conflict style?
2. This chapter describes three kinds of relational conflict (i.e., esteem, control, affiliation). Of the three

kinds, which is most common in the conflicts you have with others? Discuss.

1. Briefly describe an actual conflict you had with a family member, roommate, or coworker in the

recent past. Identify the positions and interests of both you and the other person in the conflict.
(Note: Individuals’ positions may be easier to identify than their interests. Be creative in detailing
your interests and the other person’s.)

2. Describe how you could fractionate the conflict.
3. Using Fisher and Ury’s (1981) methods, describe how you could separate the person from the

problem and how you could work together to address the conflict. During your discussions, how
could you help the other party in the conflict save face? How could the other party help you save

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Descriptions of Images and Figures
Back to Figure

The flowchart contains two pathways, each with two layers.

Pathway 1: Content Conflicts consists of two types of conflict.

1. Regarding Beliefs and Values.
2. Regarding Goals.

Pathway 2: Relational Conflicts consists of three types of conflict:

1. Issues of Esteem.

2. Issues of Control.
3. Issues of Affiliation.

Back to Figure

The stages are as follows, from left to right:

1. Separate the People from the Problem. Emphasis is placed on the word, People.
2. Focus on Interests not Positions. Emphasis is placed on the word, Interests.
3. Invent Options for Mutual Gains. Emphasis is placed on the word, Options.
4. Insist on Using Objective Criteria. Emphasis is placed on the word, Criteria.

Back to Figure

The diagram uses a matrix style to illustrate the interactions between Cooperativeness and
Assertiveness. The X-axis is labeled Cooperativeness and transitions, left to right, from Uncooperative
to Cooperative. The Y-axis is labeled Assertiveness and transitions, from lower to upper, from
Unassertive to Assertive. Each interaction between the Cooperativeness and Assertiveness labels is
mapped on the graph as a small circle as follows:

* Lower left circle equals Uncooperative and Unassertive. Labeled Avoiding.

* Upper left circle equals Uncooperative and Assertive. Labeled Competing.

* Lower right circle equals Cooperative and Unassertive: Labeled Accommodating.

* Upper right circle equals Cooperative and Assertive. Labeled Collaborating.

The four circles create a square shape on the graph. A circle at the center of the square is labeled


Leadership has a moral dimension because leaders influence the lives of others. Because of this
influential dimension, leadership carries with it an enormous ethical responsibility. Hand in hand with the
authority to make decisions is the obligation a leader has to use their authority for the common good.
Because the leader usually has more power and control than followers have, leaders have to be
particularly sensitive to how their leadership affects the well-being of others.

In recent years, there have been an overwhelming number of scandals in the public and private sectors.
Accounting and financial scandals have occurred at some of the largest companies in the world,
including Adelphia, Enron, Tyco International, and WorldCom. In addition, there have been stories of
sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, sexual assaults within the U.S. military, and a multitude of sexual
scandals in the lives of public figures including governors, U.S. senators, and mayors, to name but a
few. As a result of such high-profile scandals, people are becoming suspicious of public figures and
what they do. The public strongly seeks moral leadership.

As mentioned in Chapter 1, “Understanding Leadership,” the overriding purpose of this book is to
discover “what it takes to be a leader.” Closely related to this question, and perhaps even more
important, is “what it takes to be an ethical leader.” That query is the focus of this chapter. This means
our emphasis will be on describing how people act when they show ethical leadership. While it is always
intriguing to know whether one is or is not perceived by others to be ethical, our emphasis will not be
directed toward whether you are or are not ethical, but rather we will focus on the properties and
characteristics of ethical leadership. The assumption we are making is that if you understand the nature
of ethical leadership, you will be better equipped to engage in ethical leadership.

Before we discuss the factors that account for ethical leadership, you may want to go to the end of the
chapter and take the Ethical Leadership Style Questionnaire. It will help you understand your own
ethical leadership style and at the same time introduce you to the ideas we will be discussing in this

To begin, it is important to define ethical leadership. In the simplest terms, ethical leadership is the
influence of a moral person who moves others to do the right thing in the right way for the right reasons
(Ciulla, 2003). Put another way, ethical leadership is a process by which a good person rightly
influences others to accomplish a common good: to make the world better, fairer, and more humane.

Ethics is concerned with the kind of values and morals an individual or society finds desirable or
appropriate. In leadership, ethics has to do with what leaders do and the nature of leaders’ behavior,
including their motives. Because leaders often have control, power, and influence over others, their
leadership affects other individuals and organizations. Because of this, it is the leader’s ethics—through
their behavior, decisions, and interactions—that establish the ethical climate for an organization.

Leadership ethics is a complex phenomenon with multiple parts that overlap and are interconnected.
When trying to practice ethical leadership, there are six factors (Figure 12.1) that should be of special

importance to leaders. Each of these factors plays a role in who leaders are and what they do when
they are engaged in ethical leadership.


Figure 12.1 Factors Related to Ethical Leadership

1. The Character of the Leader
The character of the leader is a fundamental aspect of ethical leadership. When it is said that a leader
has strong character, that leader is seen as a good and honorable human being. The leader’s character
refers to their qualities, disposition, and core values. More than 2,000 years ago, Aristotle argued that a
moral person demonstrates the virtues of courage, generosity, self-control, honesty, sociability, modesty,
fairness, and justice (Velasquez, 1992). Today, all these qualities still contribute to a strong character.

Character is something that is developed. In recent years, the nation’s schools have seen a growing
interest in character education. Misbehavior of public figures has led to mistrust of public figures, which
has led to the public demanding that educators do a better job of training children to be good citizens.
As a result, most schools today teach character education as part of their normal curriculum. A model
for many of these programs was developed by the Josephson Institute (2008) in California, which
frames instruction around six dimensions of character: trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness,
caring, and citizenship (see Table 12.1). Based on these and similar character dimensions, schools are
emphasizing the importance of character and how core values influence an individual’s ethical decision

Although character is clearly at the core of who you are as a person, it is also something you can learn
to strengthen and develop. A leader can learn good values. When practiced over time, from youth to
adulthood, good values become habitual, and a part of people themselves. By telling the truth, people
become truthful; by giving to people living in poverty, people become charitable; and by being fair to
others, people become just. Your virtues, and hence your character, are derived from your actions.

An example of a leader with strong character is Nobel Peace Prize winner Nelson Mandela (see pages
31–32). Mandela was a deeply moral man with a strong conscience. When fighting to abolish apartheid
in South Africa, he was unyielding in his pursuit of justice and equality for all. When he was in prison
and was offered the chance to leave early in exchange for denouncing his viewpoint, he chose to remain
incarcerated rather than compromise his position. In addition to being deeply concerned for others,
Mandela was a courageous, patient, humble, and compassionate man. He was an ethical leader who
ardently believed in the common good.

Mandela clearly illustrates that character is an essential component of moral leadership. Character
enables a leader to maintain their core ethical values even in times of immense adversity. Character
forms the centerpiece of a person’s values, and is fundamental to ethical leadership.

2. The Actions of the Leader
In addition to being about a leader’s character, ethical leadership is about the actions of a leader.
Actions refer to the ways a leader goes about accomplishing goals. Ethical leaders use moral means to
achieve their goals. The way a leader goes about their work is a critical determinant of whether they are
is an ethical leader. We may all be familiar with the Machiavellian phrase “the ends justify the means,”
but an ethical leader keeps in mind a different version of this and turns it into a question: “Do the ends
justify the means?” In other words, the actions a leader takes to accomplish a goal need to be ethical.
They cannot be justified by the necessity or importance of the leader’s goals. Ethical leadership involves
using morally appropriate actions to achieve goals.

Table 12.1 The Six Pillars of Character


Trustworthiness is the most complicated of the six core ethical values and
concerns a variety of qualities like honesty, integrity, reliability, and loyalty.

• Be honest

• Be reliable:
do what you
say you’ll do

• Have the
courage to do
the right thing

• Don’t
deceive, cheat,
or steal

• Build a



While we have no ethical duty to hold all people in high esteem, we should treat
everyone with respect.

• Be tolerant
of differences

• Use good

• Be
considerate of

• Work out


Ethical people show responsibility by being accountable, pursuing excellence, and
exercising self-restraint. They exhibit the ability to respond to expectations.

• Do your job

• Persevere

• Think
before you act

• Consider

• Be
for your


Fairness implies adherence to a balanced standard of justice without relevance to
one’s own feelings or indications.

• Play by the

• Be open-

• Don’t take
advantage of

• Don’t blame


Caring is the heart of ethics and ethical decision making. It is scarcely possible to
be truly ethical and yet unconcerned with the welfare of others. This is because
ethics is ultimately about good relations with other people.

• Be kind

• Be

• Forgive

• Help people
in need


The good citizen gives more than they take, doing more than their “fair” share to
make society work, now and for future generations. Citizenship includes civic
virtues and duties that prescribe how we ought to behave as part of a community.

• Share with

• Get

• Stay
informed: vote

• Respect

• Protect the

Source: © 2008 Josephson Institute. The definitions of the Six Pillars of Character are reprinted with permission.

To illustrate the importance of ethical actions, consider what happened at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq
in 2004. Because of the atrocities on 9/11, national security and intelligence gathering became a high
priority. Rules and standards of interrogation were expanded, and harsh interrogation methods were
approved. The government’s goal was to obtain information for purposes of national security.

Problems at the prison became evident when the media reported that prisoners were being sexually
abused, humiliated, and tortured by prison personnel and civilian contract employees. Gruesome
photographs of demeaning actions to prisoners appeared in the media and on the internet. To obtain
intelligence information, some U.S. Army soldiers used means that violated military regulations and
internationally held rules on the humane treatment of prisoners of war established by the Geneva
Convention in 1948.

In the case of the Abu Ghraib prison, the goal of maintaining national security and intelligence gathering
was legitimate and worthwhile. However, the means that were used by some at the prison were
considered by many to be unjustified and even ruled to be criminal. Many believe that the goals did not
justify the means.

In everyday situations, a leader can act in many different ways to accomplish goals; each of these
actions has ethical implications. For example, when a leader rewards some employees and not others, it
raises questions of fairness. If a leader fails to take into consideration an employee’s major health
problems and instead demands that a job be completed on short notice, it raises questions about the

Character education and SEL curriculum resources, activities, lessons, and more!

leader’s compassion for others. Even a simple task such as scheduling people’s workload or continually
giving more favorable assignments to one person over another reflects the ethics of the leader. In reality,
almost everything a leader does has ethical overtones.

Given the importance of a leader’s actions, what ethical principles should guide how a leader acts
toward others? Ethical principles for leaders have been described by many scholars (Beauchamp &
Bowie, 1988; Ciulla, 2003; Johnson, 2005; Kanungo, 2001; Kanungo & Mendonca, 1996). These
writings highlight the importance of many ethical standards. In addition, there are three principles that
have particular relevance to our discussion of the actions of ethical leaders: (1) showing respect, (2)
serving others, and (3) showing justice.

1. Showing respect. To show respect means to treat others as unique human beings and never as
means to an end. It requires treating others’ decisions and values with respect. It also requires valuing
others’ ideas and affirming these individuals as unique human beings. When a leader shows respect to
followers, followers become more confident and believe their contributions have value.

2. Serving others. Clearly, serving others is an example of altruism, an approach that suggests that
actions are ethical if their primary purpose is to promote the best interest of others. From this
perspective, a leader may be called on to act in the interest of others, even when it may run contrary to
their self-interests (Bowie, 1991). In the workplace, serving others can be observed in activities such as
mentoring, empowering others, team building, and citizenship behaviors (Kanungo & Mendonca, 1996).
In practicing the principle of service, an ethical leader must be willing to be follower centered. That is,
the leader tries to place others’ interests foremost in their work, and act in ways that will benefit others.

3. Showing justice. Ethical leaders make it a top priority to treat all of their followers in an equal
manner. Justice demands that a leader place the issue of fairness at the center of decision making. As a
rule, no one should receive special treatment or special consideration except when a particular situation
demands it. When individuals are treated differently, the grounds for different treatment must be clear,
reasonable, and based on sound moral values.

In addition, justice is concerned with the Golden Rule: Treat others as you would like to be treated. If
you expect fair treatment from others, then you should treat others fairly. Issues of fairness become
problematic because there is always a limit on goods and resources. As a result, there is often
competition for scarce resources. Because of the real or perceived scarcity of resources, conflicts often
occur between individuals about fair methods of distribution. It is important for a leader to establish
clearly the rules for distributing rewards. The nature of these rules says a lot about the ethical
underpinnings of the leader and the organization.

The challenge of treating everyone fairly is illustrated in what happened to Richard Lee when he
coached his son’s Little League baseball team. His son, Eric, was an outstanding pitcher with a lot of
natural ability. During one of the games, Eric became frustrated with his performance and began acting
very immaturely, throwing his bat and kicking helmets. When Richard saw Eric’s inappropriate behavior,
he immediately took his son out of the game and sat him on the bench. The player who replaced Eric in
the lineup was not as good a pitcher, and the team lost the game.

Leadership Snapshot:

Jasmine Crowe, Founder and CEO of Goodr

By TEDxPeachtree Team from United States of America – Jasmine Crowe, CC BY-SA 2.0,

Jasmine Crowe had already experienced career success that day in 2016 when she drove in
downtown Atlanta, Georgia, passing homeless people foraging through garbage looking for food.
In 2011, she founded (BCG) to counteract the lack of media coverage
for Black celebrities doing positive and philanthropic things to impact their communities. BCG, a
digital news site that provides news, videos, and photos of celebrity philanthropy, nonprofit
organizations, and causes that directly correlate with the Black community, partnered with
celebrities across the United States to sponsor campaigns to ensure their star power was being
used for good. BCG hosted events in more than 20 U.S. cities, as well as in the United Kingdom,
South Africa, and Haiti, and collected and donated over 3 million items to causes worldwide.

Crowe saw a new problem to tackle as she drove through the streets of downtown Atlanta: food
insecurity. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (2018), in 2017 nearly 40 million
people in the United States lived with food insecurity, meaning their access to adequate food is
limited by a lack of money and other resources.

On her new mission, Crowe began on the local level, creating an event called “Sunday Soul,” a
formal pop-up dinner where the Atlanta homeless community could dine with dignity while
enjoying a five-course Sunday meal. Sunday Soul was wildly successful, serving up to 500
people on the streets of Atlanta, and soon expanded and spread to Washington, DC, and New
Orleans, Louisiana. Crowe was the sole resource funding these meals.

To obtain food for pop-up dinners, Crowe could “spend up to 40 hours in the span of 3–4 days’
grocery shopping, price matching, couponing and cooking too,” she says. “When a video from
one of my pop-up restaurants went viral, I saw a lot of people asking me which restaurants and
grocery stores donated the food and the reality was that the answer was zero” (Fluker, 2018).

Curious, Crowe did some research and found that over 72 billion pounds of perfectly edible food,
or 40% of all food produced annually in the country, goes to waste every year in the United
States (Siggelkow, 2018). Many food-based businesses such as restaurants, catering, and event
companies often end up with leftover food, but don’t want the cost or liability of donating and
delivering it to those in need.

“Hunger is not a scarcity issue. There’s more than enough food. It’s actually a logistics issue,”
she says (Paynter, 2018).

“This is when I started thinking of solutions to get this food to people in need, I knew there had to
be a better way and I saw technology as the conduit to the change I wanted to create” (Fluker,

In January 2017, Crowe launched Goodr, a food-waste management company that leverages
technology to reduce food waste and combat hunger by redirecting surplus food from businesses
to nonprofits that can share it with people experiencing homelessness and families who are food
insecure. Goodr’s app allows clients to signal that there’s a surplus ready to be collected, and
Goodr sets up the distribution of the surplus to the more than 4,000 nonprofits who have signed
up to receive the food including homeless shelters, senior citizens’ housing facilities, and
veterans’ and youth organizations.

But Crowe knew that in order to get food-based businesses on board, she had to show them the
benefits of donating their surplus food; many had resisted, citing concerns from liability to
navigating the Internal Revenue Service tax code as obstacles. Crowe solved that by
incorporating blockchain technology in the Goodr app, allowing it to not only coordinate the
collection and distribution of food donations, but also provide an IRS-audit-friendly donation
record, real-time food-waste analytics, data security, and community impact reports. Goodr also
creates a digital ledger that shows food providers who ultimately received their goods, and where
the goods ended up being consumed. To deal with legal concerns, Goodr has a $12 million
liability insurance policy, holds harmless agreements signed by all of its nonprofit partners, and is
protected by federal and state Good Samaritan laws.

Some of Goodr’s Atlanta clients who use Goodr to distribute surplus food include Turner
Broadcasting System, Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, and the Georgia World Congress
Center. In 2018, Crowe said her goal was to have Goodr in 20 cities by the end of 2020, but she
would like to one day see it everywhere. “In five years, I’d like to see Goodr everywhere in the
United States with launches globally,” she said.

On its website, Goodr (2018) says it provides “a triple-win solution by improving an organization’s
bottom line through charitable tax donations, reducing its greenhouse emissions from landfills
and getting its edible surplus food to local communities in need.”

“We now have higher needs than we have supplies, so we’re trying to get real businesses to see
the business case in what we’re doing, but also see that this is the right thing to do, that it’s time
for them to stop throwing away this food,” Crowe says (Siggelkow, 2018).

After the game, Richard received a lot of criticism. In addition to Eric being mad at him, the parents of
the other players were very angry. Some of the parents came to Richard and told him that he should not
have pulled his son out of the game because it caused the team to lose.

In this example, the other players’ parents failed to recognize what Richard was doing as a coach.
Richard made a strong effort to be fair to all the players by treating his son the way he would treat any
player who acted out. He set a standard of good sportsmanship; when his own son violated the rules, he
was disciplined. Richard’s actions were ethical, but coaching the team as he did was not easy. He did
the right thing, but there were repercussions.

This example underscores the importance of the actions of a leader. A leader’s actions play a significant
role in determining whether that leader is ethical or unethical.

3. The Goals of the Leader
The goals that a leader establishes are the third factor related to ethical leadership. How a leader uses
goals to influence others says a lot about the leader’s ethics. For example, Adolf Hitler was able to
convince millions of people that the eradication of the Jews was justified. It was an evil goal, and he was
an immoral leader. On the positive side, Mother Teresa’s goal to help people experiencing extreme
poverty was moral. Similarly, Habitat for Humanity’s goal to build houses for people in need of affordable
housing is moral. All of these examples highlight the significant role that goals play in determining
whether leadership is ethical. The goals a leader selects are a reflection of the leader’s ethics.

Identifying and pursuing just and worthy goals are the most important steps an ethical leader will
undertake. In choosing goals, an ethical leader must assess the relative value and worth of their goals.
In the process, it is important for the leader to take into account the interests of others in the group or
organization and, in some cases, the interests of the community and larger culture in which they work.
An ethical leader tries to establish goals on which all parties can mutually agree. An ethical leader with
ethical goals will not impose his or her will on others.

Jacob Heckert, president of a regional health insurance company, is an example of a leader who used
his leadership for worthwhile goals. Jacob believed in community service and advocated, but did not
demand, that his employees engage in community service as well. Because he had several friends with
diabetes and two of his employees had died of end-stage renal disease, Jacob was particularly
interested in supporting the National Kidney Foundation. To promote his cause, he urged his entire
company of 4,000 employees to join him in raising money for the National Kidney Foundation’s 5K.
Each employee who signed up was responsible for raising $100. Everyone who participated received a
free water bottle and T-shirt.

On the day of the rally, Jacob was surprised when more than 1,800 employees from his company
showed up to participate. The rally was a great success, raising more than $180,000 for the National
Kidney Foundation. The employees felt good about being able to contribute to a worthy cause, and they
enjoyed the community spirit that surrounded the event. Jacob was extremely pleased that his goals
had been realized.

4. The Honesty of the Leader
Another major factor that contributes to ethical leadership is honesty. More than any other quality,
people want their leaders to be honest.

When we were children, we were frequently told by grown-ups to “never tell a lie.” To be good meant
telling the truth. For leaders, the lesson is the same. To be an ethical leader, a leader needs to be

Dishonesty is a form of lying, a way of misrepresenting reality. Dishonesty may bring with it many
negative outcomes, the foremost of which is that it creates distrust. When a leader is not honest, others

come to see that leader as undependable and unreliable. They lose faith in what the leader says and
stands for, and their respect for this individual is diminished. As a result, the leader’s impact is
compromised because others no longer trust and believe what they say.

Dishonesty also has a negative effect on a leader’s interpersonal relationships. It puts a strain on how
the leader and followers are connected to each other. When a leader lies to others, the leader in
essence is saying that manipulation of others is acceptable. For example, when a boss does not come
forth with a raise he promised, an employee will begin to distrust the boss. The long-term effect of this
type of behavior, if ongoing, is a weakened relationship. Dishonesty, even when used with good
intentions, contributes to the breakdown of relationships.

But being honest is not just about the leader telling the truth. It also has to do with being open with
others and representing reality as fully and completely as possible. This is not an easy task because
there are times when telling the complete truth can be destructive or counterproductive. The challenge
for a leader is to strike a balance between being open and candid and at the same time monitoring what
is appropriate to disclose in a particular situation.

An example of this delicate balance can be seen in a story about Dan Johnson. Dan was hired to work
as an executive with a large manufacturing company. The new job required Dan and his family to leave
the small Michigan community they lived in, giving up jobs and friends, to move to Chicago. The family
put its house on the market and began looking for a new home and jobs in Chicago. A few days after
Dan started, his boss, Justin Godfrey, took him aside and told him that he should not sell his Michigan
house at that time. Justin suggested that Dan postpone his move by using his wife’s job as an excuse
when people inquired why the family had not moved to Chicago. Justin could not tell him any more, but
Dan knew something major was about to happen. It did. The company announced a merger a few
months later, and Dan’s job in Chicago was eliminated. Justin was required to keep the merger news
quiet, but if he had not confided the little information that he did, members of Dan’s family would have
uprooted their lives only to have them uprooted again. They would have experienced not only financial
losses but emotional ones as well.

This example illustrates that it is important for a leader to be authentic. At the same time, it is essential
that leaders be sensitive to the attitudes and feelings of others. Honest leadership involves a wide set of
behaviors, which includes being truthful in appropriate ways.

5. The Power of the Leader
Another factor that plays a role in ethical leadership is power. Power is the capacity to influence or
affect others. A leader has power because they have the ability to affect others’ beliefs, attitudes, and
courses of action. Religious leaders, managers, coaches, and teachers are all people who have the
potential to influence others. When they use their potential, they are using their power as a resource to
effect change in others.

The most widely cited research on power is French and Raven’s (1959) work on the bases of social
power. French and Raven identified five common and important bases of power: referent power, expert
power, legitimate power, reward power, and coercive power (see Table 12.2). Each of these types of
power increases a leader’s capacity to have an impact on others, and each has the potential to be

Table 12.2 Five Bases of Power

1. Referent

Based on followers’ identification and
liking for the leader

Example: A college professor who is highly
admired by students

2. Expert

Based on followers’ perceptions of the
leader’s competence

Example: A person with strong knowledge
about a software program


Associated with having status or
formal job authority

Example: A judge who presides over a
court case

4. Reward

Derived from having the capacity to
provide benefits to others

Example: A supervisor who can give
bonuses to employees

5. Coercive

Derived from being able to penalize or
punish others

Example: A teacher who can lower a
student’s grade for missing class

Source: Based on French and Raven (1959).

Since power can be used in positive ways to benefit others or in destructive ways to hurt others, a
leader needs to be aware of and sensitive to how they use power. How a leader uses power says a
great deal about that leader’s ethics. Power is not inherently bad, but it can be used in negative ways.

As discussed in Chapter 1, “Understanding Leadership,” there is a dark side of leadership where a
leader uses their influence or power for personal ends. Unfortunately, there are many examples in the
world of such leaders. One example was Saddam Hussein, the president of Iraq from 1979 to 2003.
Recognized widely as a brutal dictator, Hussein was a Sunni Muslim (a minority in Iraq), a sect of Islam
that has a centuries-old conflict with the country’s majority Shi’a Muslims and ethnic Kurds. When
Hussein assumed power, he used his security forces to systematically murder anyone who opposed
him. Many of these were genocidal massacres of Iraqi citizens who were Shi’a Muslims and ethnic
Kurds. The number of Iraqis murdered by Hussein’s forces is unknown, but it is believed to be more
than 250,000. Another example of a leader using power in unethical and destructive ways is Jim Jones,
an American who set up a religious cult in the country of Guyana, and who led more than 900 of his
followers to commit suicide by drinking cyanide-laced punch. While these are extreme examples, power
can also be abused in everyday leadership. For example, a supervisor who forces an employee to work
every weekend by threatening to fire the worker if they do not comply is being unethical in the use of
power. Another example is a high school cross-country track coach who is highly admired by his

runners, but who requires them to take costly health food supplements even though the supplements
are not proven effective by standard medical guidelines. There are many ways that power can be
abused by a leader. From the smallest to the largest forms of influence, a leader needs to try to be fair
and caring in their leadership.

The key to not misusing power is to be constantly vigilant and aware of the way one’s leadership affects
others. An ethical leader does not wield power or dominate, but instead takes into account the will of the
followers, as well as the leader’s own will. An ethical leader uses power to work with followers to
accomplish their mutual goals.

6. The Values of the Leader
A final factor that contributes to understanding ethical leadership is values. Values are the ideas,
beliefs, and modes of action that people find worthwhile or desirable. Some examples of values are
peace, justice, integrity, fairness, and community. A leader’s ethical values are demonstrated in
everyday leadership.

Scholar James MacGregor Burns suggested that there are three kinds of leadership values: ethical
values, such as kindness and altruism; modal values, such as responsibility and accountability; and end
values, such as justice and community (Ciulla, 2003). Ethical values are similar to the notion of
character discussed earlier in this chapter. Modal values are concerned with the means or actions a
leader takes. End values describe the outcomes or goals a leader seeks to achieve. End values are
present when a person addresses broad issues such as liberty and justice. These three kinds of values
are interrelated in ethical leadership.

In leadership situations, both the leader and the follower have values, and these values are seldom the
same. A leader brings their own unique values to leadership situations, and followers do the same. The
challenge for the ethical leader is to be faithful to their own leadership values while being sensitive to the
followers’ values.

For example, a leader in an organization may value community and encourage their employees to work
together and seek consensus in planning. However, the leader’s followers may value individuality and
self-expression. This creates a problem because these values are seemingly in conflict. In this situation,
an ethical leader needs to find a way to advance their own interests in creating community without
destroying the followers’ interests in individuality. There is a tension between these different values; an
ethical leader needs to negotiate through these differences to find the best outcome for everyone
involved. While the list of possible conflicts of values is infinite, finding common ground between a
leader and followers is usually possible, and is essential to ethical leadership.

In the social services sector, where there are often too few resources and too many people in need,
leaders constantly struggle with decisions that test their values. Because resources are scarce, a leader
has to decide where to allocate the resources; these decisions communicate a lot about the leader’s
values. For example, in mentoring programs such as Big Brothers Big Sisters, the list of children in need
is often much longer than the list of available mentors. How do administrators decide which child is
going to be assigned a mentor? They decide based on their values and the values of the people with
whom they work. If they believe that children from single-parent households should have higher priority,
then those children will be put at the top of the list. As this example illustrates, making ethical decisions
is challenging for a leader, especially in situations where resources are scarce.

The world today is globally connected in ways it never has been before. Through your lifetime, you will
undoubtedly be exposed to and work with individuals from cultures very different from your own. As a
leader, it is important to recognize that not every culture shares the same ethical ideals as yours.

Different cultures have different rules of conduct, and as a result, leadership behaviors that one culture
deems ethical may not be viewed the same way by another culture.

For example, Resick, Hanges, Dickson, and Mitchelson (2006) found that Nordic European cultures
such as Denmark and Sweden place more importance on a leader’s character and integrity—defined as
a leader behaving in a manner that is just, honest, sincere, and trustworthy—than Middle Eastern
cultures such as those in Egypt, Turkey, and Qatar.

Another example is the use of bribery in business practices. Bribery (offering money or gifts in exchange
for favorable treatment or influence) to obtain business is forbidden for U.S. companies, no matter
where on the globe they are doing business, and offenders can face jail terms and large fines. However,
in some countries, bribery is a norm, and business can’t be transacted without it. In China, for example,
it is expected in business relationships that there will be the giving of carefully chosen gifts to convey
respect and that the business relationship is valued by the giver. It is considered a matter of business
etiquette (Pitta, Fung, & Isberg, 1999). And, until 1999, bribes were tax deductible and seen as a
necessary part of conducting business in Germany.

There is a strong demand for ethical leaders in our society today. This chapter answers the question
“What does it take to be an ethical leader?” Ethical leadership is defined as a process in which a good
person acts in the right ways to accomplish worthy goals. There are six factors related to ethical

First, character is fundamental to ethical leadership. A leader’s character refers to who the leader is as a
person and their core values. The Six Pillars of Character are trustworthiness, respect, responsibility,
fairness, caring, and citizenship.

Second, ethical leadership is explained by the actions of the leader—the means a leader uses to
accomplish goals. An ethical leader engages in showing respect, serving others, and showing justice.

Third, ethical leadership is about the goals of the leader. The goals a leader selects reflect their values.
Selecting goals that are meaningful and worthwhile is one of the most important decisions an ethical
leader needs to make.

Fourth, ethical leadership is concerned with the honesty of the leader. Without honesty, a leader cannot
be ethical. In telling the truth, a leader needs to strike a balance between openness and sensitivity to

Fifth, power plays a role in ethical leadership. A leader has an ethical obligation to use power for the
influence of the common good of others. The interests of followers need to be taken into account, and
the leader needs to work with followers to accomplish mutual ends.

Finally, ethical leadership is concerned with the values of the leader. An ethical leader has strong values
and promotes positive values within their organization. Because leaders and followers often have
conflicting values, a leader needs to be able to express their values and integrate these values with
others’ values.

In summary, ethical leadership has many dimensions. To be an ethical leader, you need to pay attention
to who you are, what you do, what goals you seek, your honesty, the way you use power, and your

Glossary Terms
actions 312

character 309

end values 318

ethical values 318

goals 313

honesty 316

modal values 318

power 317

values 318


12.1 Case Study—The Write Choice

Each semester, community college professor Julia Ramirez requires her students to do a 10-hour
community service project at a nonprofit agency of their choice and write a paper about the experience.
In the paper, they are to discuss their volunteer experience and incorporate concepts presented in class
into this reflection. This is the sixth semester that Professor Ramirez has used this assignment, and she
has always received positive feedback about the benefits of the assignment from her students and the

The community college that Professor Ramirez works at is making an effort to be “green” and, in order
to cut down on paper usage, requests that faculty and staff utilize online tools for giving and receiving
assignments and providing feedback to students. Professor Ramirez takes advantage of these green
initiatives, requiring h