Leadership theories, role models – and common sense

Leadership theories, role models –
and common sense
“There is nothing so practical as
a theory that works”
“Business leaders have the difficult
task of acting as role models every
hour of every day”
The world of business is essentially one where applied, intelligent common
sense, allied to the outstanding management of people, money, resources
and information, are seen as the critical executive strengths. It is primarily a managerial arena where pragmatism, productive ‘do-how’ and
discipline – in the achievement of results – are regarded as the more
laudable managerial virtues. In such a world of forecasting, planning,
organization, mobilization and control, there is no gain saying the crucial
importance of reality, practicality and sound common sense, as key executive competencies.
Almost by default, pragmatism has inevitably assumed the dominant role,
in relation to theory, in the practices of management and leadership, within
the vast majority of organizations that make up the business world. In
recognition of that position of precedence and preference, it must be said
that the management philosophies and so-called practices taught at many
business schools, universities and by major consultancies, often bear little
relation to the managerial realities of shop-floor leadership, crossfunctional integrative management and corporate governance. Clearly,
there are exceptions to this criticism. In the UK, Exeter University,
Warwick, Cranfield, London and Ashridge are among those British
business schools whose teaching does have its roots in reality, while
INSEAD at Fontainebleau, IMD at Lausanne, Stockholm School of
Economics, Copenhagen Business School and Nyenrode, in Holland, offer
some of the most relevant – and creative – learning experiences available for business leaders, on a par with those of the best US business
D. O. Hebb1
an American psychologist, made the point that – “theory is
a sophisticated statement of ignorance” and in providing learning opportunities for leaders – be they managerial training programmes,
workshops, or face-to-face coaching – we need to remain conscious of
Hebb’s definition. Taking a different view, Professor Barry Turner2
suggests there is nothing so practical as a theory that works. Theories
that provides necessary context, perspective and understanding, to
practice, offer people both meaning and a sense of purpose, which they
might not otherwise find, by being excessively committed to utilitarian
A great many gurus have entered the very testing arena of business leadership and management, over the last hundred years. Their acceptance,
survival and professional longevity have depended upon their ability to
add perceived value to the body of knowledge, understanding and
evolving best practices that represent state-of-the-art leadership and
Among those who have invested leadership theory with major significance are John Adair, Paul Hersey and Kenneth Blanchard, Noel Tichy,
Warren Bennis, Henry Mintzberg, Charles Handy and, most recently,
Jim Collins. All have developed models or concepts of leadership, way
beyond mere fad, that have stood – or will stand – the test of time. All
have added major value to our understanding and practice of both leadership and management.
This chapter explores some of the practical and applicable ideas of Adair,
Hersey and Blanchard, Tichy and Collins.
1. Professor John Adair
A former soldier and subsequently lecturer at the at the Royal Military
Academy, Sandhurst. John Adair3 held the first Chair in Leadership at
a British university. A prolific author and public speaker, he has developed and promoted the concept of ‘Action-centred leadership’ shown in
figure 3, below.
Action-centred leadership – the model and constructs
Adair’s model of leadership is based upon three key functions of leaders,
1. Achieving the task
2. Maintaining the team
3. Meeting the needs of the individual
Adair’s model has been extensively used since the 1960’s and is acknowledged as being a pragmatic and relevant basis for the day-to-day
leadership and management of tasks, teams and individuals, at any level,
from shop-floor to Boards of directors.
The central notion of maintaining equilibrium of focus, between – meeting
the demands of the task, maintaining the team and meeting the needs of
individual team members – is a major guide to leaders and provides a
practical yardstick for self-monitoring, self-development, training and
coaching. The model, as a whole, provides a relevant discipline in exercising
close-quarter leadership and lends both form and focus to that highly
engaged style of leading and managing.
Achieving the TASK
the TEAM
The leader’s role is to
keep the three functions
in balance, so that none
are neglected through
undue focus on either
of the others
2. Paul Hersey and Kenneth Blanchard
Early in the 1970’s Hersey and Blanchard4 developed their concept of
‘Situational leadership’.
The basic premise of their model is that the functioning maturity of the
team members is a major determinant of the ‘style’ and focus that need
to be adopted by leaders, in order to elicit the optimum productive
responses from people.
‘Functioning maturity’ is the degree to which people are sufficiently:
1. Competent to successfully undertake the task given them
2. Confident to cope with the challenges posed by the task
3. Committed and motivated to undertake the task
Plotting a range of leadership styles, based upon ‘appropriateness’ of
behaviour, against a comparable continuum of team member functioning
maturity, from ‘low’ to ‘high’, the Situational Leadership model is shown
in figure 4, below.
For example, leader style S1 (‘Telling’) where the leader explains, tells,
coaches, trains, as appropriate, is most likely to be the approach necessary to help team members to understand exactly what is expected of
them, where their functioning maturity is low (M1).
Similarly, where the team members are all competent, confident and
committed (M4), then the appropriate leader style would be S4
(‘Delegating’ and, one might add, empowering).
Had such a concept of leadership been understood – and practised – in
the ‘bad old days’, at British Leyland, it might have prevented some of
the ignorance, confused reactions and costly mistakes that followed one
senior executive’s public statement, at the company’s then newest plant,
composed largely of people with no experience of working in a car factory
– “With effect from April, we will adopt an open, participative style of
management” (i.e. level S3/S4).
April was two months off, the workforce was almost universally at a
functional maturity level of M1 and, with few exceptions, most managers
were operating, themselves, at levels M1 and M2.
High Task
High Relationship
High Relationship
and Low Task
Low Relationship
and Low Task
High Task and
Low Relationship
S3 S2
High M3
Low M2
Leader style to match follower maturity (S)
Functioning maturity of followers (M)
Leadership, as such, was virtually non-existent and the operators had
organized and marked off the areas under the overhead production line,
as a succession of badminton courts, mini football pitches and spaces
for other pastimes, during the frequent stoppages and consequent downtime. What was desperately needed, short-term, was some very effective
S1 close-quarter leadership!
The Situational Leadership model is a relevant and practical tool. Like
John Adair’s ‘three circle’ concept, it can be used as another set of personal
development benchmarks, in building and giving necessary form to
managers’ evolving leadership styles.
Equally, as with ‘Action-centred leadership’, the ‘Situational leadership’
model is widely known in the UK and using its logic as a basis for leader
development is often a matter of revisiting previous learning.
Furthermore, it is a concept that lends itself readily to the development
of a common leadership language and practices throughout an organization, as does the Adair model.
3. Noel Tichy
Tichy 5
an American academic, who is well known for his study of transformational leadership (see chapter 3) and leader development of other
leaders, evolved the concept of the Leadership ‘engine’. His model is
based upon the premise that leaders are essential, as the energizing and
driving force in collective activity. Tichy sees leaders, necessarily, as
committed, focused, tough individuals of high energy, who lead by
example. Tichy regards the effective mobilization of people – including
other leaders – as central to the leader’s role and primary contribution
to the organization.
The Leadership ‘engine’ has three distinct facets to it, as is shown in figure
In more detail, the three essential components of Tichy’s Leadership engine
1. Leaders are responsible for ensuring that there are sufficient
ideas and information flowing, that are relevant to the task
on hand. The leader’s role may, variously, be to generate,
stimulate, trigger, or foster new or fresh thinking on an issue, or
problem. Leaders, themselves, are not the fount of all knowledge,
but their task is to make sure that sufficient insight, intuition, logic
and intellectual energy is made available to deal effectively with
the challenges facing the team.
2. In leading by example – ‘walking the talk’ – leaders provide
a continual living demonstration of the values which represent
the core culture of the team or group. Day-to-day, through
Emotion +
Energy + ‘Edge’
integrity and consistency, their role is to define and exemplify what
their group stands for and believes in.
In many cultures – including those which collectively constitute the British
way of doing things – there can often be a fine and subtle line between
integrity and pretentiousness. Usually those on the receiving end, sooner
rather than later, distinguish the real thing from the inauthentic and
The third component is what Tichy defines as the E3 Factor. This,
in turn, is made up of three elements:
• Emotion and drive to get the job done well.
• Energy and the ability to energize others and create energy and
synergy where none existed previously.
• ‘Edge’ – which is the the ability to take necessary tough decisions
and remain resolute and resilient, in conditions of adversity or
high pressure. If leaders with ‘edge’ go down, they don’t stay
down, but rather live by a philosophy of – ‘So, life gives you lemons
– then make lemonade!’
In Tichy’s terms, ‘Edge’ represents the difference in leadership style
between those who will win – and those who will lose, in today’s competitive world.
Leaders with edge give a business speed, decisiveness, boldness and ‘raw’
energy. Leadership edge can apply to decisions about where to invest
time, money and resources, for optimum payback and where and how
best to add value to the business.
Equally, edge may give the necessary reality to ‘people’ decisions, about
individuals’ performance, jobs, roles, careers and futures.
Edge is the very opposite of what Arnold Toynbee described as the ‘condition of ease’ – in essence, a leadership ‘plateau’ of:
• lack of acuity, focus and sharpness
• Absence of a will to win
• Failure to recognize and respond effectively, in time, to critical
challenges within their environment
As Tichy states – “This is the ultimate failure of leadership…”
4. Jim Collins
Author of the best-selling book, Good to Great, one-time McKinsey
research analyst, former Stanford professor and proponent of the controversial ‘first who… then what’ principle, Jim Collins 6
emerges as one of
the most exciting and challenging of the current management gurus. His
findings on leadership are as surprising as the conclusions that he came
to about the ways in which ‘good’ companies achieve sustainable greatness and he has evolved from his extensive research, in over 1400
companies, what he defines as ‘Level 5 leadership’.
Working by logical, incremental steps, in a highly disciplined and
focused way, Level 5 leaders look first to get the right people onboard –
and in the right roles (and get rid of the wrong people) before they ask
the question ‘what?’. In other words, their first priority is the right people
and then they set the right direction. They are also consistent leaders with
a strong sense of accountability and high ‘say-do’ credibility. Collins and
his research team found that the so-called Level 5 leaders tended to work
consistently and diligently, over considerable periods of time, at developing a ‘flywheel’ effect, to create ever-increasing momentum, in
transforming their companies from good to great. Collins identified several
more unusual, or unexpected, characteristics, among the ‘good-togreat’ leaders, including a readiness to confront brutal and often
unpalatable facts, such as, for instance:
“We’re at least 20% over-manned in our manufacturing operations.
“The pace, nature and direction of transformation of this organization
have overtaken the HR manager’s knowledge and competency levels
and are way beyond her professional experience. There is no longer
a place for her, in this seat, on this ‘bus’. We must find a replacement,
within 3 months.”
“This supplier has successively taken us for a ride, for at least the last
18 months. As a result, we’ve incurred avoidable losses of over £350,000.
How, precisely, did this happen?”
“Yield of first quality tiles, in production, has been running at around
73%, for the last 3 weeks, when it should have been consistently over
95%. What, exactly, do we need to do differently?”
Level 5 leaders focus just as much upon what they and the business need
to STOP doing and what should be abandoned, as they do on what new
practices and processes they need to adopt, in the interests of greatness.
Shedding much loved brands, products and practices (often hallowed by
little more than the passage of time) can be one of the toughest decisions
that CEO’s and their Boards have to make. These, too, are the decisions
that demand that leaders persist and don’t waver in the face of opposition and ridicule from those with vested interests in preserving the status
Confronting hard reality and working through the ‘Stop doing’ list, moves
a business closer to what Collins describes as the ‘Hedgehog Concept’
and, in turn, provides a further logical basis for necessary transformation. Hedgehogs provide the analogy because of their ability to recognize
the one big, critical factor facing them and so they are able to break down
the complex, and multi-facetted, into a fundamental and focused single idea
(as opposed to foxes, who know a great many varied and small things
and may diffuse and spread their efforts too widely). Most good-to-great
leaders it seems, from Collins’ study, are ‘Hedgehogs’, rather than ‘Foxes’.
In the form of another ‘unholy trinity’ (figure 6) the Hedgehog Concept
is best portrayed as three intersecting circles, representing much
needed, disciplined thinking, in the form of three pivotal questions:
• What can we be best in the world at? (and, equally important –
what can we not be best at?)
• What is the economic denominator that best drives our economic
engine, e.g. profit per ‘x’?
• What are our core people deeply passionate about?
Level 5 leaders, according to Collins’ study are essentially disciplined
people who lead through an unusual combination of professional drive
(strong focus on the business – not themselves) and personal humility
(as opposed to arrogance and egotism).
Including our core
values, mission
and brands What we are deeply
passionate about
What best
drives our
economic engine
What we can
be best
in the world at
Figure 7 sets out the interplay of the two characteristics which underpin
the principal good-to-great leadership style and focus.
All of the above models and concepts, from John Adair’s ‘Action-centred
Leadership’ to Jim Collins’ ‘Level 5 Leadership’, provide practical insights
into the functions, roles and processes which, together, make up organizational leadership. Each one offers something that virtually everyone,
in a leadership role within the business world, can use as a basis for developing and enhancing their own competencies and style, as a leader –
especially if they are prepared to take on the challenges of becoming a
better close-quarter leader.
Close-quarter leadership, both as a mindset and as a series of carefullyhoned practices, is so-described because the process depends upon high
leader awareness, focus and commitment to others’ success. The parties
involved, necessarily, become professionally engaged, as closely as
possible, with very clear intended aims and outcomes, that might not otherwise be achievable, through more ‘distant’, less focused leadership.
‘GOOD-to-GREAT’ – what makes the difference?
‘Level 5’ Leaders lead by:
Create outstanding results Show compelling modesty
Demonstrate unwavering resolve Act with quiet determination
Set and maintain standards Channel ambition into the company
Assume responsibility for poor results Credit others with success
Such styles of leadership are best developed by:
• Coaching by a competent, experienced close-quarter leader
with specific results-based feedback.
• Bespoke – as opposed to general – leadership training, with
participant and tutor feedback.
• ‘Reverse’ coaching, where team members, on the receiving end
of the individual’s leadership, give him/her feedback and
coaching on the felt impact of that leadership style.
• Regularly analyzed ‘incident-method’ self-review and feedback,
facilitated, explored and constructively built upon by a trusted,
credible third party.
• If and where available, appropriate role-models.
One problem is that there are, as yet, too few role-models of the kind needed
to provide sufficiently credible examples, for others to follow and
The ‘classical’ leader role-models so often quoted – Mandela, Gandhi,
Churchill, Richard Branson, Archie Norman, Lee Iacocca, or Jack
Welch are all, in their differing ways, examples of great leaders. All are,
or were, charismatic leadership icons on a grand scale – several of them
being dynamic, larger-than-life personalities. A major factor with rolemodels is recognizing when such icons actively corrupt, or simply no
longer represent, currently defining values, needs and realities. In other
words, at which point – and why – would you cease to follow Hitler,
General Custer, Napoleon, Ernest Shackleton, or even Winston Churchill?
Low-key ‘thinking’ leadership
As we saw in chapter one, however, currently emerging highly successful
leaders, in the world of business, tend to operate in more low-key ways
to achieve sustainable transformation and greatness, for their businesses.
By and large, they don’t fit the outgoing, extravert stereotype of the traditionally accepted leadership role-model. They are leaders of a different
ilk, creating new, involving operational environments, where the cultural,
economic and social imperatives that determine leadership ability and
style are changing dramatically – where the traditional critical leader
message – “Follow me and I will lead you to a better world…” becomes
re-defined as – “Together, we will build a better world…” Among their key
directional competencies are:
1. The ability to reduce complexity to profound and manageable
2. Strong, clear sense of necessary direction.
3. The ability to identify the real priorities for concerted action.
4. Resolute single-mindedness in the dedicated pursuit of those
5. The acuity to ask the sort of questions that will ignite necessary
change and transformation.
6. High awareness and insight in their ability to mobilize and move
others in the direction required.
Such leaders typically act like thinking people, while they think like actionoriented individuals, focusing strongly on the requisite goals and outcomes
of the business – not their own image and personal standing. However,
there are some disadvantages – even dangers – in low-key, ‘quiet’ leadership styles. Deflecting interest away from themselves and into the
business can make a leader appear as colourless, devoid of charisma and
lacking in personality. Communication skills – and the related demonstrable
ability to inspire others – remain as essential elements of a leader’s expected
repertoire of talents. Thus there is a fine line between professional low-
profile leader styles that do deliver – and acquiring a reputation as a ‘grey
nonentity’ who collects the rewards, while others, of higher visibility, are
assumed to be doing all the hard work.
In her very cogent article – on the UK’s more publicity-shy heroes, which
appeared in the February 2004 edition of the Institute of Directors journal
Director – Jane Simms7
identified some of Britain’s very successful ‘dark
horse’ CEO’s and Chairmen who generally shun the limelight. Most
appear to avoid becoming cult figures, or media personalities, and focus
their energies and commitment in very targeted ways on the business.
Her impressive list includes Terry Leahy, CEO of the highly successful
Tesco Supermarket chain, CEO John Peace, whose Company GUS outperformed the FTSE All Share by 134%, since his appointment in 2000, Julian
Richer, Chairman, Richer Sounds who is highly regarded by customers,
investors and his own people alike and Rose Marie Bravo, CEO,
Burberry, who has transformed an ailing brand the into a leading ‘must
have’ fashion item, growing capitalization from £200 million to £1.4 billion,
in just four years.
Maintaining a low profile and avoiding becoming an icon or symbol, when
clearly successful and under public pressure to assume the role of a cult
figure, may be difficult in the extreme. The City, the press – and
business in general- want successful role-models and frequently add their
own ‘colouring matter’ to make them appear larger than life. Manfred
Kets de Vries, Professor of Leadership Development at INSEAD business
school states – “People project fantasies onto them and they become a
walking symbol, which can be very hard to carry”.
It is also very human and very natural to want to receive recognition
and bouquets, in an age where brickbats and public criticism, often barely
short of defamation, have become an established occupational hazard
for CEO’s and other senior business leaders. ‘Good’ publicity, and cultivated leader ‘brand image’, can undoubtedly be good for the business
and some low-profile leaders have been criticized for not projecting their
personal profiles sufficiently, in the public interests of their companies.
Clearly, it is possible to lead effectively, in a low-key and very focused
way, without unnecessary narcissistic ‘baggage’ contaminating the
process and so taking the leader’s eye off the critical ball. Leahy, Peace,
Richer, Bravo and many others, are living evidence of the success of understated, but exceptionally talented, high-achieving leaders. Collins’
research and Simms’ findings – about leaders and leadership – would seem
to reaffirm, on both sides of the Atlantic, Alexander Pope’s adage:
“…Charms strike the sight, but merit wins the soul” – and, it would
seem, ensures sustainable longer-term business success.
Experience and theory –
a necessary synthesis
Nothing can entirely replace direct experience, as the most practical source
of learning for leadership.
However, when a manager says – “I’ve had 30 years’ experience of leading
and managing…” we need to know if those were 30 years in which the
most important lessons were continually drawn, explored and learned
from. Or – was it one year’s experience more or less repeated 30 times
Theory, which is relevant – and which works – lends context and perspective to experience and helps to provide critical links and insights which
enhance, focus and give direction to learning. Moreover, theory may invest
experience with a significance that otherwise might not be there.
As was stated in the Introduction to this book, leadership is currently
one of the most discussed and yet least understood phenomena in the
world of industry and business. The theories, constructs and models
reviewed in this chapter are all offered as practical and essentially complementary tools for understanding more of the processes, skills and mindsets
fundamental to sound leadership practice. Furthermore, used in conjunc-
tion, they provide insights into the roles, functions and responsibilities
of leaders – and, therefore, some of the expectations people may legitimately hold of those who lead them. They are offered not as an ‘either-or’
selection of ideas, but as a collection of concepts and models which,
together – and used selectively – provide a practical basis for both progressive coaching and managed self-development, for leaders
The first concept, John Adair’s Action-centred leadership model, emphasizes the importance of keeping in balance, the leader’s personal
direction of effort between achieving task objectives, maintaining effective, aligned teamwork and mobilizing individual team members’
Hersey and Blanchard’s Situational leadership model is based upon the
leader’s need to recognize – and respond appropriately to – the degree
to which those involved can and will successfully achieve the task objectives facing them. Thus the leader’s style needs to match and complement
the functioning maturity of those being led.
Noel Tichy’s Leadership engine highlights the importance of the
leader’s contribution to group performance, by generating/facilitating
ideas and solutions, identifying and crystallizing necessary group
values and, through what he terms the ‘E-3’ Factor, i.e. – leading with
emotion (passion), energy and ‘edge’ (toughness).
The fourth model is that of Jim Collins, which he terms ‘Level 5 leadership’. According to Collins’ extensive research, Level 5 leaders are
essentially low-key, but disciplined thinkers who are dedicated to
making their businesses great. They succeed as leaders through a combination of high professional drive aimed at outstanding delivery – and
personal humility. They give due praise to others for success and take
the blame when things go wrong. Rather like the philosophy of
Wellstream Northsea, manufacturers of high quality steel tubing for the
oil industry, Level 5 leaders appear to lead by a personal code of – “We
commit. We deliver – and there are no excuses”.
Currently, much of the most relevant research into leadership ‘best
practice’ consistently identifies strong directional sense, with its attendant skills of acuity, focus and the ability to identify the real priorities,
as a critical competency ‘cluster’ of successful leaders.
Chapter two references
1. Hebb, D. O. Quoted in Proceedings, IMI Business School,
IAMP, 1989 Geneva
2. Turner, B.T. Proceedings, Rover Cars in-house Management
Programme, 1988
3. Adair, J. Action-Centred Leadership model, illustrated in
many of Professor Adair
4. Hersey, P. & Blanchard, K. H. Management of Organizational
Behavior, Prentice-Hall, 1977
5. Tichy, N. Ibid
6. Collins, J. Ibid
7. Simms, J.Ibid

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1.      Place an order

You fill all the paper instructions in the order form. Make sure you include all the helpful materials so that our academic writers can deliver the perfect paper. It will also help to eliminate unnecessary revisions.

2.      Pay for the order

Proceed to pay for the paper so that it can be assigned to one of our expert academic writers. The paper subject is matched with the writer’s area of specialization.

3.      Track the progress

You communicate with the writer and know about the progress of the paper. The client can ask the writer for drafts of the paper. The client can upload extra material and include additional instructions from the lecturer. Receive a paper.

4.      Download the paper

The paper is sent to your email and uploaded to your personal account. You also get a plagiarism report attached to your paper.

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