Academic journal article SA Journal of Human Resource Management

A Conceptual Framework for Understanding Leader Selfschemas and the Influence of Those Self-Schemas on the Integration of Feedback

Academic journal article SA Journal of Human Resource Management

A Conceptual Framework for Understanding Leader Selfschemas and the Influence of Those Self-Schemas on the Integration of Feedback

Article excerpt


The popular media and news are fraught with reports of leaders who fail. It is sadly not uncommon to hear of unethical leadership behaviour or business leaders performing poorly. According to Rothstein and Burke (2010, pp. 1-3), 50% - 75% of all individuals in leadership positions are underperforming. This figure is supported by Gentry (2010, p. 316), who maintains that 50% of all managers are ineffective. Considered in this light, the popular notion of 'people do not quit companies, but they quit managers' rings true. In addition, Leslie and Wei (2010, p. 129) assert that those who lead, lack the appropriate skills to meet their organisations' current and future needs. These findings are particularly disconcerting when one bears in mind that leadership is one of the most salient aspects of organisational life.

Rothstein and Burke (2010, p. 1) and Bligh, Kohles, Pearce, Justin and Stovall (2007, pp. 528, 530) agree that although there is ample research focussing on the leadership aspects, factors or facets that make leaders successful, there is insufficient research available that investigates the 'dark-side' of leadership, documenting leaders' blind spots, shortcomings, derailments and failures. While leadership research in the areas just mentioned deserves more attention, the need for effective leaders grows unabated (Rothstein & Burke, 2010, p. 2).

Literature review

Detecting leadership shortcomings, derailments and failures

Leadership derailment can only be addressed when the signs of derailment are discovered early enough and assuming certain conditions have been met. Leaders need to have a clear understanding of what it is that they need to change if they are to change their behaviour. In addition, they should be focussed and motivated to make the necessary changes, and have the necessary support to develop professionally. Self-awareness could be considered an antidote to derailment - if leaders wish to avoid derailment, they have to enhance their levels of self-awareness (Gentry, 2010, pp. 316-317).

Leadership and self-awareness

The ability to be self-aware, or to think about oneself consciously, is what separates humans from other living organisms. Sturm, Taylor, Atwater and Braddy (2014, p. 658) refer to various scholars who state that individual self-awareness can be traced back to early social, clinical and developmental psychology. These scholars define self-awareness as having two primary components: (1) how people see themselves and the process by which people make assessments about themselves (i.e. reflecting on their own levels of self-awareness) and (2) the ability to detect how they are being perceived by others (i.e. feedback received from other individuals; Sturm et al., 2014, p. 658).

Murphy, Reichard and Johnson (2008, p. 258) define self-awareness as, '... the similarity or difference in the way a person sees himself or herself, compared to how they are perceived by others'. Alimo-Metcalfe (1998, p. 37) holds a similar view to self-awareness, describing it as the way one sees oneself, compared with how others see you.

According to Butler, Kwantes and Boglarsky (2014, p. 88), Taylor (2010, p. 57) and Rothstein and Burke (2010, pp. 5-6), there is growing consensus among scholars of leadership that self-awareness forms the foundation for leadership development and leadership effectiveness, and is therefore core to leadership self-management efforts. Self-awareness is explicitly and implicitly recognised by various leadership style theories, including those on authentic, servant and transcendent leadership (Sturm et al., 2014, p. 658).

Butler et al. (2014, pp. 87-88) refer to various instances in the literature that demonstrate that leaders who exhibit higher levels of self-awareness are more likely to be aware of their own emotions and the impact thereof on others. They further quote research that has shown that self-awareness is a critical element to both the personal success of the leader and the success of the organisation as a whole. …

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