Academic journal article Journal of Management and Organization

Situational Stress and Restriction of Stylistic Repertoire in High Potential Managerial Aspirants: Implications for the Implementation of the 'New Organization'

Academic journal article Journal of Management and Organization

Situational Stress and Restriction of Stylistic Repertoire in High Potential Managerial Aspirants: Implications for the Implementation of the 'New Organization'

Article excerpt


The literature on new organizational forms commonly stresses the key role of 'collaborative individual's in delivering the challenging balance of creativity and productivity, vision and focus, openness and decisiveness critical to achieving coherence and responsiveness in the turbulent environment of the 21st Century. This paper reports a recent study that considers these requirements as expressed by competing psychological types/brain styles and assesses the impact of stressors within the task environment on the breadth of stylistic repertoire of high-potential managerial aspirants. It finds that stress significantly shrinks stylistic repertoire and, more critically, moves the focus away from creative, collaborative and ambiguity-tolerant styles towards performance-driven, control-oriented, and grounded styles. The implications of this finding for building the strategically coherent but flexible and developmental cultures advocated in the 'new organization literature are discussed.


A significant thrust within the literatures on organizational design, leadership and influence over the last quarter of the 20th Century, underpinned by the development of post-modernism and humanism, predicted a more open, ecologically integrated, process-oriented and holistic approach to the leadership and development of individuals and organizations. Key drivers of these trends were increasing complexity, discontinuity and turbulence in the strategic international environment, radical changes in information technology enabling knowledgebased enterprise and empowering 'knowledge workers' and more deregulated socio-economic environments. A major thrust within this broad paradigm shift focused on strategic networks and a theory of organization based upon the 'looselycoupled' relationships said to characterize them. Perhaps the most complete attempt to place this work within the historical context of organizational thought was produced by Limerick, Cunnington and Crowther (1998). They called their approach the 'Fourth Blueprint' of management drawing contrasts with previous blueprints, including the Scientific Management, Human Relations and Systems schools of thought.

Other theorists proposed similar trends essentially moving towards more open, flexible, interactive and 'connective' organizations. Thus, concurrent with the publication of Limerick and Cunnington's first edition in 1993, Hastings (1993) published a similar text on the nature and management of networking using a UK and European perspective. Savage wrote of 'Fifth Generation Management' (Savage 1996), with the title coming from the evolutionary stages of IT but the organizational design message being essentially the same as that of Limerick and Cunnington. Also, Miles and his colleagues in the U.S. have written on network, 'cellular' or 'spherical' organizations (Miles & Snow 1994; Miles, Snow, Mathews & Coleman 1997). These varying versions on the 'New Organization' theme commonly see the future of organizational life becoming more uncertain, discontinuous and, thus, to use Weick's term, requiring 'loosely coupled' integrating mechanisms (Orton & Weick 1990).

A central element of these theories, perhaps best developed by Limerick et al. (1998) is the concept of the 'Collaborative Individual' as the new prototype human 'exemplar'. These are typically highly qualified specialists who are the drivers of emergent thrusts within their organizations rather than being directed by them and are creative risk-takers tolerant of ambiguity, individually responsible and proactive and yet collaborative and supportive of their fellow network members. This implies a markedly different mental model and psychological contract with the organization than that which characterized earlier blueprints more focused on control and defined goals.

There is evidence that such transcendent demands may be beyond the repertoire of cognitive and effective responses within western managerial elites at present. …

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