Chapter 6: Creating a Vision
Since Northouse defines leadership as a process that influences a group of individuals toward a common goal, the ability to create vision in a group must surely be key to being a good leader. It relates to the charisma trait so many leaders have. It relates to the interpersonal skills that are generally needed in a good leader.
Vision is "a mental model of an ideal future state" (109). One branch of leadership theory discussed in Northouse (2010) is "transformational leadership." Transformational leadership attempts to change and transform others, in contrast to "transactional" leadership, which motivates people more on the basis of rewards and punishments. Transformational leadership "creates a connection that raises the level of motivation and morality in both the leader and the follower" (2010, p. 172).
Northouse (2012) suggests that a vision has five characteristics: 1) a picture of a future that is better than the status quo, 2) a change in the status quo, 3) values that others find worthwhile, 4) a map to get there, and 5) a challenge to transcend the status quo.
Unless a leader can articulate a vision, it will not likely take hold. They may need to 1) adapt the vision so that it is close enough to where people are for it to catch hold. The leader may need to 2) highlight the values of the vision so followers see its value. The leader will want to 3) choose the right language, using words and symbols that motivate. This includes language that includes the followers within the vision, rather than the vision simply being that of the leader.
Implementing the vision is the real test of a leader. To do so the leader should being modeling the values s/he is promoting, should set high performance expectations for others, and should come alongside to encourage and empower those moving toward the goals.
Chapter 7: Setting the Tone
Chapter 7 largely relates to the kinds of things a leader needs to do for the group to move toward its goals, to implement the vision. The ability of a leader to do so relates directly to some of the leadership skills discussed in chapter 5.
First, Northouse (2012) says the leader should provide a sense of structure for group members. It looks like, for Northouse, vision translates into "mission," which he defines as "the goal toward which they are working," which "provides organization to the rest of their activities" (130). A leader tries to orchestrate tasks so that "synergy" occurs, when the talents of each individual is maximized toward accomplishing the mission.
The leader not only provides a sense of structure but clarifies group norms, where norms are "the rules of behavior that are established and shared by group members" (130-31). The leader tries to build cohesiveness, a sense of "we-ness" or cement that holds a group together (132). Finally, a leader promotes standards of excellence, expectations of performance. The three R's here are 1) require results, 2) review results, and 3) reward results.
Chapter 8: Listening to Out-Group Members
In order to create synergy and cohesiveness, a leader needs to get the whole team on board. The "out-group" are those individuals in a group or organization "who do not identify themselves as part of the larger group" (152). Why do out-groups form?
- When individuals are in opposition to the larger or dominant group.
- When individuals do not identify with the beliefs, norms, or values of dominant group members.
- When people sense they are excluded by the larger or dominant group.
- When some individuals lack communication or social skills needed to relate to the larger or dominant group.
A possible strategy for a leader is 1) to listen to out-group members, 2) to show empathy to out-group members (empathy is when you stand in someone else's shoes and feel what they feel), 3) to recognize the unique contributions of out-group members, 4) to help out-group members feel included, 5) to create a special relationship with out-group members, and 6) to give out-group members a voice and empower them to act.
Chapter 9: Handling Conflict
"Conflict is a felt struggle between two or more interdependent individuals over perceived incompatible differences in beliefs, values, and goals, or over differences in desires for esteem, control, and connectedness" (174). To break it down. Conflict is a struggle between opposing parties with differences who are interdependent in some way. There is always a felt, affective part to the struggle.
It is helpful to recognize that conflicts always involve two parts, a content part and a relationship part. On the content level, the conflict can relate to 1) beliefs and values or 2) goals. Procedural conflict is conflict over how to reach a goal. Substantive conflict is conflict over the substance of the goal itself.
The relational aspect of conflict can involve "personality clashes." Sometimes the conflict is not really about the content, even though it presents itself that way. The relational side of conflict can involve 1) issues of esteem, 2) issues of control, and 3) issues of affiliation. Issues of esteem have to do with someone feeling valued. Issues of control have to do with competition for power. Issues of affiliation have to do with feeling like you belong.
The chapter presents two different approaches to conflict, one of which is more a matter of tactics and the other more theoretical. Fisher and Ury (1981) present a method called "principled negotiation."
1. Separate the people from the problem (get a sense of the distinction between the content and relational dimensions of the conflict).
2. Focus on interests, not positions (what is really going on here?).
3. Invent options for mutual gains.
4. Insist on using objective criteria (precedent, professional standards, what a court would decide, moral standards, traditions, scientific judgment).
Northouse (2012) adds three communication strategies: 1) differentiation (getting the different sides to the story), 2) fractionation (dividing a large conflict into smaller, more manageable pieces), and 3) face saving (finding ways for parties to maintain their self-image).
Kilmann and Thomas (1975, 1977) provide a helpful delineation of conflict styles. A chart with two axes sums it up: level of assertiveness and level of cooperativeness. The "avoidance" style is low on both assertiveness and cooperativeness. The "competition" style is high on assertiveness but low on cooperativeness. The "accommodation" style is high on cooperativeness but low on assertiveness.
The "compromise" style meets in the middle. It "works best when other conflict styles have failed or aren't suitable to resolving the conflict" (197). But the best possible outcome is "collaboration," high on assertiveness on all sides, yet just as high on cooperativeness.
Fisher, R. and Ury, W. (1981). Getting to yes: Negotiating agreement without giving in. New York: Penguin Books.
Kilmann, R. H. and Thomas, K. W. (1975). Interpersonal conflict-handling behavior as reflections of Jungian personality dimensions. Psychological Reports, 37, 971-980.
Kilmann, R. H. and Thomas, K. W. (1977). Developing a forced-choice measure of conflict handling behavior: The "mode" instrument. Educational and Psychology Measurement, 37, 309-325.