Academic journal article Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies

An Attempt at a Consentience regarding Formal Leadership

Academic journal article Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies

An Attempt at a Consentience regarding Formal Leadership

Article excerpt

Given the importance of leadership in organizations, an attempt to integrate the many disparate concepts and constructs related to this topic is long overdue. With that goal in mind, an integrative framework was created that focuses on three distinct levels of abstraction--big leadership, mid-range leadership, and small leadership. Within this tripartite taxonomy, an attempt was made to reconcile some vexing issues that have been frustrating academics and practitioners alike.

Big leadership is viewed as transformational in nature, requiring a charismatic visionary being in the right place at the right time. Both mid-range and small leadership, however, are transactional in nature, but small leadership is so to a fault.

Our approach to mid-range leadership theory attempts to identify the important dimensions of transactional leadership, differentiate the normative from the situational ones, and specify the conditions under which the situational leadership factors apply.

In our framework, small leadership consists of the myriad of quotidian interactions between the leader and subordinates that are easy to overlook but have an important cumulative effect on the social compact between leader and subordinates that is so essential to gaining subordinate compliance.

Lastly, whenever appropriate, contingencies are specified at all three levels, and substitutes for leadership identified. While not a mega-theory, our leadership framework is integrative and, thus, useful to managers who lead organizations, teams, and individuals.


If the copious leadership literature reveals a consistent theme, it is the lack of effort toward integration. While generalized definitions and disparate theories abound, it is difficult to find a useful operational definition and an integrative framework of leadership. Furthermore, even though most leadership authorities acknowledge a distinction between managership and leadership, a consensus is lacking regarding their relationship to one another. Some authorities, such as Gardner (1987), subsume managership under leadership; while others, led by Mintzberg (1973), consider leadership to be just one of the many managerial roles. This state of affairs is quite inexplicable in light of the importance of the topic.

Some Vexing Issues

To present a coherent and unified schema of leadership, several vexing issues need to be addressed. First, leadership has been discussed at various levels of abstraction, from the "Great Man/Woman" approach to micro leader behaviors, and every level in between. Second, some leadership theories are of a normative variety (one best leadership approach for all situations) while others are of a situational or contingency character (leadership styles fashioned to suit the attributes of the leader, characteristics of subordinates, and circumstances of the situation). These ostensibly conflicting approaches are in need of syncretization. Third, the leadership construct has been disaggregated into different constituent components by different theorists, and a reconciliation would be most welcome. Fourth, the whole controversy of whether or not leaders are born versus made needs to be confronted. Fifth, what are the substitutes for leadership, and when is leadership important? Sixth, just how much of the leadership construct overlaps other organizational behavior constructs, and what to do about it? A good case in point is the Vroom, Yetton, Jago leadership model (Vroom & Yetton, 1973; Vroom & Yago, 1988). In some textbooks it is included under leadership, while in others under decision making.

Last but not least, many leadership studies have been conducted on ad hoc groups. It may be that results from these studies should not be generalized to leadership in actual organizations, where leaders hold their positions for much longer and the consequences of leader behavior are much more serious. …

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