Integrating Leadership Theories and Team Research: A Conceptual Framework Based on Level of Analysis and Type of Control

Article excerpt


Leadership has long been a primary area of research in organization studies. More recently teams and teamwork have also gained the attention of researchers. Both leadership and team phenomenon are examined from multiple theoretical perspectives, however there has been limited integration or cross development of the literature streams. We maintain that team research can benefit by including ideas from the leadership literature. To facilitate this integration we utilize a leadership framework that segments the leadership research by level of analysis (macro and micro) and by type of control used (controlling and inspiring). Various leadership theories can be placed within this framework. Using the same two dimensions as the leadership framework, four team research orientations, (team-utilizing, team-based, standard team, unique team) can be identified. We suggest that team researchers should consider their research orientation and use our framework to identify leadership theories that have the potential to inform and develop their research. The paper concludes with a summary and discussion of implications for both researchers and practitioners.


Leadership and team phenomenon are important and relevant topics in organizational studies. These two distinct areas of research have streams that address many of the same constructs and processes while dealing with productivity, communications, motivation, and other organizational issues. With such commonalities, researchers in each area can benefit from each other. Specifically we propose that our understanding of team phenomenon can be enhanced by incorporating many key concepts from the leadership literature.

We propose a leadership framework that segments the leadership research by level of analysis and by type of control used. Four distinct orientations toward teamwork research are proposed, also using the two dimensions of level of analysis and type of control. We propose that the leadership theories associated with each level of analysis and type of control can be used to provide much needed insight to those studying teamwork in contemporary organizations.

Furthermore, it provides a guide for practitioners as to which leadership perspectives can provide insight and guidance, taking into consideration their organization's use of teams and attitudes towards teamwork.

This paper starts with a brief description of leadership and then proceeds to discuss the importance of levels of analysis and types of control. A leadership framework is then presented followed by a discussion of teamwork research providing a linkage to the way in which various leadership theories can augment study in this area. The paper concludes with a summary and discussion of implications for both researchers and practitioners.


Leadership is complex. Nearly 50 years ago Warren Bennis (1959:259) wrote that "probably more has been written and less known about leadership than any other topic in the behavioral sciences." Since that time, thousands of empirical studies have been conducted in an attempt to clarify our knowledge of leadership. To our dismay, many of the leadership studies have found unclear, inconsistent, and even contradictory results (Bass & Stogdill, 1990). Disparities among these results are in part due to the assorted ways studies have been constructed and because much of the research is targeted to address only a very limited aspect of the entire phenomenon (Yukl, 1989). Much more clarity and an overall integration are needed (Yukl, 1989).

Leadership and Levels of Analysis

Among the ways leadership research can be divided is along levels of analysis. Specifically, leadership is usually studied at only one level of analysis. Due to its complexity, some theorists have focused at the individual level (Lord, DeVader & Alliger, 1986) where others look at dyadic and group interactions (Dansereau, Graen & Haga, 1975; Hollander & Julian, 1970), while other researchers have emphasized the organizational and/or societal level (Chen & Meindl, 1991; Biggart & Hamilton, 1987; Selznick, 1957). …


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