Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Action Centred Leadership


A general and popular model on a functional approach to leadership is associated with John Adair, who has a long pedigree in this area. Adair’s (1973) model is often cited within the outdoor and expedition literature (e.g. Barnes, 2002; Loynes, 2004; Ogilvie, 2005).

According to Adair's explanation, an action-centred leader must:

* Direct the job to be done (task structuring)
* Support and develop the individual people doing it
* Co-ordinate and foster the team as a whole

The effectiveness of the leader is dependent upon meeting three areas of need within the group: the need to achieve the common task, the need for team maintenance, and the individual needs of group members. Adair (1973) symbolised these needs, and associated interactions with three overlapping circles.

Adair’s (1973) popularised three-circle diagram is a simplification of the variability of human interaction, but is a useful tool for thinking about what constitutes an effective leader in relation to the job he or she has to do. The effective leader carries out the functions and exhibits the behaviours depicted by the three circles. Situational and contingent elements call for different responses by the leader. Hence imagine that the various circles may be bigger or smaller as the situation varies i.e. the leader will give more or less emphasis to the functionally-oriented behaviours according to what the actual situation involves.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Words of Wisdom

Photograher: Bob Greenfield

It is of practical value to learn to like yourself. Since you must spend so much time with yourself you might as well get some satisfaction out of the relationship.

- Norman Vincent Peale -

Photograher: Bob Greenfield

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Leadership Development - Conditional Outdoor Leadership Theory


Image Credit: Paddle Golden Gate 

Simon Priest and Robert Chase (1989) took the notion of situational leadership and adapted it specifically for outdoor practitioners. The Conditional Outdoor Leadership Theory (COLT) postulates that leaders must go beyond the dimensions of relationship, task, and group readiness and look at all the levels of conditional favourability (Martin et al., 2006; Priest and Gass, 2005). The COLT model presents a continuum of leadership styles from autocratic, through democratic, to abdicratic (Lewin et al., 1938; Katz et al., 1950; Tannenbaum and Schmidt, 1973) depending on whether the power to make decisions rests with the leader, is shared between the leader and group, or is abdicated to the group (Priest, 1986; Priest and Gass, 2005; Ogilvie, 2005).


Figure 1: COLT Model (Priest & Gass, 2005, p 248)

According to this model, with increasing concern for a task, or getting the job done, good leaders adopt an autocratic leadership style. With increasing concern for relationships, effective leaders employ an abdicratic style. When these concerns are equally important, the model predicts that good leaders will utilize a democratic style. These styles are spread across a typical orientation matrix of (X-axis by Y-axis) concern for task and concern for relationships (Stogdill and Coons, 1957; Blake and Mouton, 1978; Hersey and Blanchard, 1982). 

The proportion of style expressed also 'flexes' in response to a spectrum of factors (Z-axis) encompassing the favourability of conditions (Fiedler, 1967; Ogilvie, 2005). 

Image Credits: Mark Tozer Collection

The degree to which there is a high or low 'favourability' within each of these conditions - environmental dangers, leader proficiency, group cohesion, member competence, and decision consequences will create circumstances conducive that shift the style in one direction or another.

Low favourability: Dangers are extreme; leadership is deficient; the individuals are incompetent; there is poor group cohesion; consequences of decisions are major. A more autocratic style might be necessary.

Medium favourability: Dangers are acceptable; the leader is proficient; individuals are reasonably responsible; the group gets along fairly well; the consequences of decisions are mostly recoverable. Style depends on the "pull" of concerns.

High favorability: Dangers minimal; the leader is highly proficient; the are very competent; the group gets along very well; the consequence of decisions are minor. A more abdicratic style may be favorable.

In other words, immediate danger can require autocratic leadership, though a united and competent group may well flourish under an abdicratic leader, even under adverse conditions (Martin et al., 2006; Priest and Gass, 2005; Ogilvie, 2005). 

The key point to pick up here is that no one style can be right all the time. The most effective style for ‘good leadership’ is one that is flexible within changing situations (Priest and Dixon, 1991, Tozer et al, 2007).

Ogilvie (2005) makes the remark that the model is a sophisticated one and considerable effort is required to grasp the essential meaning sufficiently to be of any use in practice. 

However, the COLT model is considered to be more finely tuned to the needs of outdoor learning where levels of concern for the care and well being of the individual are likely to be higher than in the cut-and-thrust realms of industry and commerce from which most other models and theories about leadership have originated.

Image Credits: Mark Tozer Collection

Reference List

Blake and Mouton (1978)

Fiedler (1967)

Hersey and Blanchard (1982)

Katz et al., (1950)

Lewin et al., (1938)

Martin et al. (2006)

Ogilvie (2005)

Priest and Chase (1989)

Priest and Dixon (1991)

Priest, S., and Gass, MA (2005). Effective Leadership in Adventure Programming. Human Kinetics.
Stogdill and Coons, 1957

Tannenbaum and Schmidt (1973)

Tozer (2007)

Monday, October 13, 2008

Monday Morning Wave

Photographer: Sean Davey

Jason Frederico comfortably ensconced, with Rockpiles thundering all around. Oahu, Hawaii.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The Trait Approach to Leadership

The Trait Approach arose from the Great Man theory as a way of identifying the key characteristics of successful leaders. Surveys of early trait research by Stogdill (1948) and Mann (1959) reported that many studies identified personality characteristics that appear to differentiate leaders from followers. It was believed that through this approach critical leadership traits could be isolated and that people with such traits could then be recruited, selected, and installed into leadership positions. However, as Peter Wright has commented, ‘…others found no differences between leaders and followers with respect to these characteristics, or even found people who possessed them were less likely to become leaders’ (Wright, 1996: 34).

The issue with this approach lay in the fact that almost as many traits were identified as studies undertaken to find them. After several years, it became apparent that no consistent traits could be classified. Although some traits were found in a considerable number of studies, the results were generally inconclusive. Some leaders might have possessed certain traits but their absence did not necessarily mean that the person was not a leader. The table lists the main leadership traits and skills identified by Stogdill (1974).

Although there was little consistency in the results of the various trait studies, however, some traits did appear more frequently than others including: technical skill, friendliness, task motivation, application to task, group task supportiveness, social skill, emotional control, administrative skill, general charisma, and intelligence. Of these, the most widely explored has tended to be ‘charisma’.

LeUnes and Nation (2001) advise not to disregard the Trait Approach completely. They suggest a wiser course would be to integrate trait theory into more comprehensive ones that take into account other leadership variables. Contemporary theorists do just that, they see leadership as a function of the interaction of the leader, the followers and the situation. One conceptualisation of this interactive perspective is that of Hollander (1984) who speaks of Locus of Leadership. This locus is the point at which there is a convergence of these variables. Hollander’s model provides a convenient springboard for discussing variants of this general theme that have had more application.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Monday Morning Wave

Photographer: Spencer Hornby/Stryker

The ancient Greeks detected essential elements that made up the world. For surfers, riding where Air meets Water meeting Earth - therein lies the Fire

- Jim Kempton -

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Great Man Theory

One early view, generally known as the Great Man Theory posits that great men shape history through their leadership. These great men would be leaders in any situation because they possess the necessary traits. The development of psychological tests added impetus to the Great Man notion because traits could be objectively measured, at least in theory. In reality, this approach suffered considerably under scrutiny.

According to Carron (1980), the only trait that holds up to inspection is intelligence. Bass (1997) cites twenty-three studies supportive of the position that leaders are intellectually brighter than so-called subordinates. Bass (1997) also cites only five references to the contrary, but also mentions five more indicating that large disparities in the intelligence of leaders and others can actually militate against successful leadership.

Even though intelligence does appear to be a consistent trait of leaders, comprehensive literature reviews (e.g. Campbell, Dunnette, Lawler & Weick, 1970; Mann, 1959) show only modest correlations between intelligence and leadership, relationships sufficiently modest so as to lead Carron (1980) to conclude that less than 10 percent of task performance can be explained by the leader’s intellectual ability. Cattell (1946) also pointed out that intelligence taken separately is still a multifaceted trait made up of many other characteristics, such as wisdom, maturity and perseverance, to name but a few (Hughes et al., 2008).