Academic journal article Journal of Leadership Studies

A Study of the Relationship of Butler's Conditions of Trust to Birnbaum's Organizational Models: Implications for Leaders in Higher Education

Academic journal article Journal of Leadership Studies

A Study of the Relationship of Butler's Conditions of Trust to Birnbaum's Organizational Models: Implications for Leaders in Higher Education

Article excerpt

Executive Summary

This article presents research findings from a dissertation study that sought to expand the level of knowledge regarding the issue of trust in leadership relationships. Specifically, the research was to determine whether selected aspects of trust are related to specific organizational models.

The problem of the study was to determine if any relationships exits between an organizational model and the level of trust subordinates place in their leader. The study found statistically significant relationships between higher education institutions perceived to conform to Birnbaum's collegial, political, and anarchical institutional models and Butler's loyalty, availability, and openness conditions of trust.

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Leadership, its concepts, theories, practices, and problems have been topics of study for centuries. Consequently, much has been written on various aspects of these subjects. However, new data gathered through detailed research into any subject often results in new questions. For example, several researchers have described alternative schema for categorizing and defining essential organizational characteristics or behaviors that make it possible to understand some types of organizational successes or failures (Birnbaum, 1988; Bolman & Deal, 1991; Higgins, 1997; Weick, 1990).

This research seeks to expand the level of knowledge regarding issues of trust in leadership relationships. Specifically, it endeavors to learn whether selected aspects of trust relationships are related to specific organizational models.

Robert Birnbaum (1988) examined the inherent processes of four organizational models of higher educational institutions. According to Birnbaum, organizational models are determined by their degree (tightness or looseness) of coupling. He labels these models of organizations as collegial, bureaucratic, political, and anarchical. From this information, extracts the most positive aspects of each model which he uses to propose a fifth model. This new model of organization is referred to as cybernetic.

While Birnbaum's work has been accepted by the academic community, there has been little research designed to test the accuracy of his findings regarding organizational models. Interest in the area of organizational models, and especially Birnbaum's work inspired Higgins (1997) to design an instrument to test Birnbaum's theory regarding the concept of coupling. Through her research, Higgins sought to determine the existence of any relationship between "the perceived organizational model of the educational institution and the perceived degree of coupling of on-and-off campus continuing education offices" (Higgins, 1997 p.2).

Models are just one of numerous ways to look at how organizations operate. There are other aspects including the size, purpose, type of leader and the level of trust within the organization. Trust is a source of significant interest in leadership studies. Butler (1994) is one who has significantly contributed to this growing body of knowledge.

One aspect of leadership is trust, which is characterized as a significant factor for effective leadership, and organizational management. In Leadership: Paving the Road to Trust, Robert Glasser asserts that trust and leadership go hand in hand in successful organizations. Several other noted authorities on this topic have echoed the critical relationship between the two.

John Gardner addressed the question on this issue in his 1990 work, On Leadership, writing, "much depends on the general level of trust in the organization. Leaders can do much to preserve the necessary level of trust." Burt Nanus also touched on the factor of trust to leadership in The Leader's Edge, and Visionary Leadership.

Closely aligned to the idea that trust is important to organizational leadership is the idea that there are various levels, or conditions of trust. …

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