Article: how Can we Train Leaders if we don’t Know what Leadership Is? Literature Review

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Article: How can we train leaders if we don’t know what leadership is? Literature Review Critical paper analysis Article: HOW CAN WE TRAIN LEADERS IF WE DO NOT KNOW WHAT LEADERSHIP IS ? By RICHARD A: BARKER 2 CONTENT: 1. summary of the article difference between leader and leadership definitions of leadership different leadership concepts / paradigms difference between leadership and management leadership and leadership training – different ideas 2.

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Critical discussion Problem of leadership definitions Lack of illustrations Concepts of bureaucracy and adhocracy Problem of ‘leader’ and ‘follower’ Leadership training A manager is not always a leader 3 1. HOW CAN WE TRAIN LEADERS OF WE DO NOT KNOW WHAT LEADERSHIP IS ? BY RICHARD A. BARKER (summary of the article) The article defines leadership and gives examples of many different definitions, past and recent ones, and shows that there is no single generalized leadership concept.

BARKER clearly separates the three terms, leader, leadership and management by explaining and criticizing the old feudal paradigm 1 and the new one which are the basis of conceptualisation of leadership. BARKER points out that there is a difference between being a leader (which is defined by BURNS as leader traits and behaviours ) and the term “leadership”. According to BURNS, leadership consists of goals that must be related towards an end value and represents a reciprocal process within a context of competition and conflict.

Since Burns, the study of leadership has taken many differe nt forms which had a narrower focus on the term, however today there is very little known about leadership. There are very few recent definitions of leadership, although those that exist focus on the leader’s knowledge, traits, skills and abilities and the process of influencing. Contrary to many other authors, BARKER does not make the assumption that people know what leadership is. The responses from various studies which were done with leadership students have shown that there is very little consistency when it comes to the definition of leadership.

Often these definitions are contradictory, discrepant and the content and nature of leadership are confused. However, even though there is little tendency in the definition of leadership, scholars have tried to produce a generally accepted perspective of leadership, a paradigm as the base for leadership. 1 Paradigm = a generally accepted perspective of a particular discipline at a given time; “he framed the problem within the psychoanalytic paradigm- dictionary 4

This paradigm is a feudal one, where there is a ruler (masculine), within a hierarchical system, who directs and controls the activities of their subjects towards the achievement of the leader’s goals. This is usually in the form of defence and acquisition of land, i. e. war. The feudal system has been adapted slightly to form the Industrial paradigm, with economic warfare. Both paradigms have been used time and time again so that almost all existing theories and concepts of leadership today, rely on this paradigm of ‘one man at the top’.

BARKER says that now there has been however a tendency towards circular or horizontal social structures of society so that the old paradigm is no longer very relevant for all organizations. According to ROST and BURNS it focuses on the leader abilities rather than on the process of leadership. Considering the word leadership itself, it can be broken down into 2 different types; abilities and skills or relationships. BARKER detailed that if leadership is focused on behaviours, skills, traits and abilities, the term has two social functions: the hope for salvation and the blame of failure.

There is a lot of training for leadership abilities using this old model however it is very difficult for those being trained to put the theory into practice since they are taught simplistic models that must be applied to complex social and organizational processes. Before analysing the leadership training, it is important to ask ROST’S question: ‘how do leaders abilities differ from those of an effective manager? ’ According to BARKER, management is conceptualized as “a skill or a set of behaviours: the ability to allocate and control resources to achieve specific, planned objectives” wherefore everyone can be or become a manager.

Management is the rational process of bringing about and maintaining stability and routine and also to 5 anticipate and adapt to change but not to create it, whereas leadership is all about creating new patterns of behaviour and change. The Industrial paradigm puts the leadership into a dynamic supervisor/subordinate relationship frame which is not clearly defined. The relationship can be political (BURNS) or it can be an interaction with many different people (evolutionary: ROST), but it is not a rational process.

ROST’s main idea is “that leadership is a dynamic social and political relationship that is based on a set of mutual development purposes. ” Relations hips are contractual and are a narrower field than the concept of leadership process, which is broader and provides the vehicle for creating leadership relationships. The leadership process is defined as “a dynamic process of interaction that creates change. ” This view of leadership makes a defined leader unimportant and diminishes the relevance of leaders and their characteristics, abilities and behaviours.

Leadership can only be defined by the society or culture it is in as it is a democratic and social process, containing complex relationships, which constantly changes its form, speed, direction etc. Ethics also play a major role in the conceptualisation of leadership. The paper describes ethics as end values or outcomes and describes how they are incorporated into the definition of the leadership process. Two constructs of social psychology have been created, that help to explain ethics and their role in leadership.

In these constructs the subconscious controls the conscious behaviour. In the two tier framework, ethics are considered as conscious as is leadership, whereas in the three tier model, according to HARRE ET AL. , leadership is seen as more subconscious but profoundly compelling. Leadership is said to be “a means for individuals to explore, understand, modify and articulate their own and other individuals’ ethics. ” Within this paradigm, it is 6 leadership that creates the leader not the other way round.

Leadership must necessarily be founded during a crisis2, which acts as a catalyst for the leadership process. This process, occurring in organisations which have serious trouble, is so uncontrollable that it may result in unpredictable outcomes and it can also be very disruptive to the management process. In leadership objectives are mutually created, whereas management has to use an authority relationship with power to manipulate the employees. The new paradigm removes many well-established social institutions: The group becomes responsible for the outcome, not the leader.

High executive perks and salaries and the traditional approaches to leadership are not justified anymore. The new concept provides for an examination of the beliefs and assumptions behind the leadership theories. However it remains unaccepted due to being not scientifique enough, contrary to the old paradigm. The old paradigm has four assumptions the new one does not support: Firstly, leadership is often broken down into its basic components to be studied, however leadership has experiential qualities that defy deductive analysis.

Secondly, leadership is also broken down into cause-effect relationships; however the new paradigm is about the whole, so it is completely inconsistent with deductive methods. Thirdly, that focus should lead to some sort of predictability and control. But the new paradigm is contrary to this, as there is a strong de -emphasis prediction as a central theme. It focuses on a group process, which is extremely difficult to sort out since it is so complex. This new theory may prove to be too complicated 2

Crisis = a perceived differential between what exists in the social order and what is desired by an individual that is strong enough to be motivating (BARKER), it orients people to think about change. 7 and to unapproachable by the Cartesian theory of explanation. However the current empirical approach is not working so something must be done. Fourthly, the old leadership paradigm was based on the assumption of constancy, but there are problems of inconsistency over time and subjectivity. The main point here is that accepting the new paradigm does not necessarily mean that the old one must be discarded.

In some situations, it can still be used to better explain leadership even though there is a trend towards situations where the new paradigm is much better siuted. BARKER points out that there are different ideas about leadership training. ROST and BURNS criticized that management and leadership must be defined in the same way for leadership training to be defended. They said that this ciew is inadequate and over rationalistic. According to KLENKE, training should rather focus on leadership as a process.

He avoids a bipolar or dualistic thinking. WREN focuses on citizenship as a function of leadership. Therefore, training should be focused on leadership participants actively shaping their world. BARKER criticises that modern liberal disciplines have 3 problems which has to be solved to make consistency between education and the emerging paradigm in order to make a bette r training : understanding (interpretation) instead of empiricism (rationalism), tendency of relativism in the studies and incorrect bases of academic disciplines.

In the final part of the article, BARKER gives some more practical advice on education of leadership, managerial training, executive / managerial 8 development and leadership education3 and he concludes that the experience which is the most important aspect of leadership would be lost if training is only rational and scientific. A new theory is needed to have a better understanding of what leadership is, so as to cope with it. 2. CRITICAL DISCUSSION: BARKER gives a huge variety of different definitions of leadership and analyses them in a very detailed way.

He offers the reader different concepts of leadership which use different definitions as their basis. Thus the reader realizes how many points of views about leadership exist and how important it is to know which concept is used if we study leadership. However, BARKERS main weak point is that he gives the reader only an overview and critique of the different definitions and concepts but does not try to find his own definition. He criticizes others for the thing he himself cannot achieve.

He makes the reader aware of the lack of a general definition of leadership and underlines this problem but he does not solve it. He puts the reader into a direction, motivates him to reflect and to enlarge his view but leaves the end, the latest version of the definition of leadership which has to be adapted to the actual situation, open. Another critical point of BARKER’S article is the lack of illustrations. He presents to the reader many definitions which have similar tendencies and which are not easily separable.

But he does not give the reader any examples. His article remains very theoretical. 3 For further information you can consult the article. 9 When talking about the feudal paradigm and the new one we can use the theory of “bureaucraty” and “adhocraty” to further explain the phenomena of the changing leadership concepts. In the bureaucratical organisation there was a high hierarchy and control, many different rules and impersonality which corresponds to the model of the feudal ruler who was at the top of the hierarchy and had the control over his subordinates.

In the past few years, the bureaucratical orga nisation has changed towards a more decentralised organisation, where the individualism and responsibility of each person plays an important role, which changes the previous “agents” into “actors”. Since leadership is present in organisations, the development of the organisational system should also influence the leadership concept. Here it is evident that BARKER speaks the truth when he says that old leadership ideas cannot be used to answer or explain new phenomena.

Therefore leadership training which is based mainly on the old feudal paradigm cannot be used in a new context. The old paradigm makes a difference between the “leader” and the “follower”. But in many actual organisations there is no real “follower” anymore. The members of the organisations are not passive individuals. They have their own values, ideas and objectives which they try to achieve, they have a certain responsibility within the organisations and take decisions. They are “acteurs”. Thus, it is not only the leader who brings about leadership.

The leader needs the collaboration of the others. A person can have the best leadership skills and it might still happen that no leadership occurs if the individuals in the organisation are not willing to achieve the end value or goal and do not want to participate in the leadership. Leadership that includes a certain relationship between the leader and the other individuals has always two sides: the leader’s side and the one of the others who let this person become a leader. 10 In my opinion this is a very important point concerning leadership training.

Special institutions offer firms or managers leadership trainings, but they focus on the leader’s skills, abilities and behaviour instead of taking in consideration the persons who have to be led. Often the leadership trainings are held in seminars and take place in courses with many people. Thus the training can not be specific enough. The persons taking part in these courses get general ideas of a good leader, they get to know the most effective skills a leader should have to influence people into his direction.

But these courses neither adapt the training to the individual person who has to become a leader nor to the people who has to be led. The training is not put into the actual and specific context in which leadership should arise. Another point that is also very important is the fact that very often firms send managers to these leadership trainings. But I have to mention that managers are not automatically leaders. They say what has to be done , they give certain objectives for the firm and can make the people in the firm work for them in order to achieve the final goal.

This is very often realized by the use of power which manifests itself in punishment, violence, seduction and strategy. BARKER is right when he explains, that even if the manager reaches the desired goal, he is not necessarily a leader as this goal is very often not mutual and the origin is not born within the group. In an organisation a leader can be a person which has a lower position than the manager, if he gets the others to work for one common objective .

The leader can only become and be a leader if people are willing to legitimate this person as a leader (a manager is not always accepted by the members of an organisation). This person can be for example a powerless worker in a firm who is situated on the lowest hierarchical level. It can be a completely disorganised person who doe not have any managing skills but is accepted as a leader by his collaborators. In my opinion many leadership skills are implicit which means that they are inherited, they are part of the individual’s 11 genes, like for example being charismatic.

Charisma cannot be taught or learned as it is a part of your inner self and also a part of your exterior appearance which cannot be changed. I co nclude that even a unique leadership concept and definition of leadership which is based on the new paradigm and adapted to the latest development of organisational and social structures existed, leadership would still not be completely successful. Leadership targets individuals that all differ and some of the most efficient and successful abilities of a leader are not learnable. Leadership training will always fail. 12

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Article: How Can We Train Leaders If We Don't Know What Leadership Is? Literature Review. (2017, Sep 11). Retrieved January 28, 2023 , from

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