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Operational Definition Of Leader Follower Distance Management Essay


When one thinks of vision in terms of leadership, more often than not, it conjures images of famous charismatic who, through their passionate orations, persuade followers to believe in and pursue radical change. Such images in the minds of researchers have given rise to the study of a pivotal tool charismatic leaders use to gain and maintain power through their influence on followers — the construction and delivery of visionary statements (Awamleh & Gardner, 1999; Berson, Shamir, Avolio, & Popper, 2001; Kirkpatrick,Wofford, & Baum, 2002).

Vision represents a leader's idealized goal that is shared with followers. Vision is central to the concept of charismatic leadership; some researchers have inextricably linked the two by using charismatic and visionary leadership synonymously (House & Shamir, 1993). Charismatic or visionary leaders throughout history have used their gift of inspirational articulation making them catalysts for social, political or economic change and therefore, what are referred to as transformational leaders (Bass, 1985, Burns, 1978). Empirical evidence from the past 20 years has shown that such leaders, through their understanding of the people and events around them, construct and deliver compelling statements that inspire followers to accept their vision of the future and behave accordingly (Conger & Kanungo, 1998; Strange & Mumford, 2002). Because visions are a means for such leaders to attract followers and promote change, effective envisioning processes require leaders to integrate aspects of their self-concept and personality into the vision (Shamir, Arthur, & House, 1994).

Whereas integrating aspects of the self into vision statements may be critical to the effectiveness of leader–follower identification processes (Shamir et al., 1994; Thomas & Greenberger, 1998), no prior research has examined the role that a leader's personal attributes play in the formulation and articulation of vision statements. Failure by prior researchers to address this issue is unusual since theoretical overviews of charismatic and transformational leadership consider leadership influence to stem from the leader's personal attributes and behavior, follower attributions, the context, or some combination of these factors (Bass, 1990; Conger & Kanungo, 1998; House & Howell, 1992).

Literature Review

There has been no clear consensus on a theoretical and operational definition of leader–follower distance, due to little attention given to the construct in leadership literature. Antonakis and Atwater (2002) describe leader–follower distance as a configural effect composed of the following independent dimensions: (a) physical distance resulting fromthe difference in locations; (b) perceived social distance stemming from differentials in hierarchy, status, and power; and (c) perceived interaction frequency reflecting the perceived degree to which a leader and followers interact with each other.

Charismatic leadership can be represented by a value-based emotional bond with followers. Charismatic leaders motivate followers to move beyond expectations and transcend their self-interests for the sake of a collective by implicating followers' selfconcepts with the leader's values and goals (Bass, 1985; Conger & Kanungo, 1998; Shamir, House, & Arthur, 1993; Sosik, 2005). Identification and internalization as influence processes (Kelman, 1958) and bases of commitment to leader (Becker, 1992) are readily applicable to a charismatic relationship (Conger & Kanungo,1998; Shamir et al.,1993). The effects of charismatic leadership on follower outcomes can be actualized through (a) a follower's personal identification with the leader, based on a leader's referent power and role-modeling behaviors, evoking follower's being proud to be associated with the leader, respect for the leader, and desire to idolize and imitate leader's behaviors and characteristics; and (b) a follower's internalization of a leader's values and beliefs, thereby leading a follower to be deeply espoused with the leader's vision and actions. In contrast, contingent reward leadership is defined by the notion of exchange. Followers instrumentally complywith the leader and aremotivated to carry out a leader's request and organizational role requirements in exchange for rewards (Bass,1985; Podsakoff, Todor, & Skov, 1982). Instrumental compliance as an influence process explains why a follower is psychologically attached to a contingent rewarding leader who can control extrinsic rewards through position and reward power (MacKenzie, Podsakoff, & Rich, 2001).

Recent meta-analytic reviews of the charismatic and contingent reward leadership literature consistently provide strong support for the positive relationships between these leadership styles and many follower outcomes (DeGroot, Kiker, & Cross, 2000;

Judge & Piccolo, 2004; Lowe, Kroeck, & Sivasubramaniam, 1996). These results indicate that followers of leaders who combine charisma with contingent rewards are affectively and cognitively attached to their leader, unit, and organization; highly satisfied with their working environment; deeply motivated to put forth more effort; receive higher performance ratings; and engage in organizational citizenship behaviors. The current study examines follower job satisfaction, helping behavior and job performance as follower attitudinal, behavioral and performance outcomes, respectively. Several charismatic leadership researchers note that charisma is both relational and attributional and can be considered in terms of leader–follower distance (Antonakis & Atwater 2002; Kark & Shamir, 2002; Waldman & Yammarino, 1999; Yammarino, 1994).

In light of this notion, the effectiveness of charismatic leadership may result from both actual leader behaviors in close interpersonal relations and followers' charismatic attributions in distant leadership situations. In the distant situation, follower attributions of charisma may be influenced by (a) the distant leader's symbolic impression management (Gardner & Avolio,1998); (b) leader-related indirect information such as bulletins and mass media (Waldman & Yammarino, 1999); (c) shared implicit leadership theories (Hall & Lord, 1995) and social information processing in follower–follower relationships (Meindl, 1990); and (d) peripheral cues such as leader and organizational performance (Meindl & Ehrlich, 1987). Contingent reward leadership also can be manifested by both relational and attributional phenomenon. For instance, the attribution of contingent reward leadership at a distance may based on (a) a company-wide contingent compensation system, policy or slogan (e.g., “Fair pay for fair work!”), and recognition system (e.g., employee of the month) (Yammarino, 1994); (b) leader-related indirect information such as story-telling, bulletins, and mass media; (c) shared implicit leadership theories (Hall & Lord, 1995); (d) social information processing in follower–follower relationships (Meindl, 1990); and (e) peripheral cues such as organizational performance (Meindl & Ehrlich, 1987).


Leaders and there Motivational Strategies:-

Leadership scholars often describe leadership theory as being highly diverse and lacking integration by quoting the observation of Stogdill (1974), repeated by Bass (1990) that “there are almost as many different definitions of leadership as there are persons who have attempted to define the concept” or “In its simplest form [leadership] is a tripod—a leader or leaders, followers, and a common goal they want to achieve” (Bennis, 2007, p. 3). To replace the tripod's entities — leaders, followers, and their shared goals — we propose an ontology in which the essential entities are three leadership outcomes: (1) direction: widespread agreement in a collective on overall goals, aims, and mission; (2) alignment: the organization and coordination of knowledge and work in a collective; and (3) commitment: the willingness of members of a collective to subsume their own interests and benefit within the collective interest and benefit.

Direction, alignment, and commitment (DAC), as the basic vocabulary of leadership, are assumed to be the essential elements of leadership. Whereas with the tripod ontology it is the presence of leaders and followers interacting around their shared goals that marks the occurrence of leadership, with the DAC ontology, it is the presence of direction, alignment, and commitment (DAC) that marks the occurrence of leadership. An important aspect of leadership theory, which lies outside the tripod ontology, is the leadership situation (Fiedler, 1978) or the context (e.g., Avolio, 2007; Johns, 2006; Osborn, Hunt, & Jauch, 2002). Context tends to lie outside the tripod because the terms of the tripod point to the influence interaction of individuals, who are generally assumed to have qualities and characteristics that are internally, and thus more or less independently, generated, such as personality or character. Leaders, followers, and their common goals can be, and often are, conceived independently from any particular setting. As a result, context is broadly understood as a separate variable that has certain effects on the leaders and followers who are embedded in it.

Shared/distributed leadership

An important and developing aspect of leadership theory in recent years has been the effort to conceptualize shared or distributed leadership. As discussed by Pearce & Conger (2003, pp. 6–9), even though precursor concepts have been around for nearly a century, including Mary Parker Follett's idea of the law of the situation (Follett, 1924) and Bowers & Seashore's (1966) empirical work on mutual leadership, the leadership field has only recently begun to take the idea seriously. They use the term shared leadership to describe the condition in which teams collectively exert influence. In this sense, shared leadership is a “collaborative, emergent process of group interaction ” that might occur “through an unfolding series of fluid, situationally appropriate exchanges of lateral influence” or “as team members negotiate shared understandings about how to navigate decisions and exercise authority”.

Complexity leadership

Marion and Uhl-Bien (2001) point to the way in which most existing approaches to leadership theory “remain grounded in the premise that leadership is interpersonal influence” (p. 391). They relate this emphasis on influence to reductionism and determinism in the field: reductionism being the attempt to understand the whole (e.g., leadership as a social phenomenon) based on an understanding of the parts (e.g. leader influence on follower behavior), and determinism being the belief that a knowledge of preceding events (e.g., leader influence behavior) allows more or less certain prediction of succeeding events (e.g., goal achievement, motivation).

Relational approaches

A third area of leadership theory development that is pushing against the limits of the tripod is relational theory (Dachler & Hosking, 1995; Drath, 2001; Fletcher & Kaufer, 2003; Gergen, 1994, 1995; Hosking, 2007; McNamee & Gergen, 1999; Murrell, 1997; Ospina & Sorenson, 2006; Uhl-Bien, 2006). As a general concept, relational theory is grounded in a constructionist perspective, which holds that meaning is generated and sustained in the context of ongoing relationships (not just communicated in relationships) and is negotiated across time (Gergen, 1994). An immediate implication of this general relational idea is that the meaning of the terms leader, follower, and shared goals is not fixed; the meaning is continuously being framed and reframed from context to context and from one time to another.

Managerial Implications:-

First, managers can be trained to produce vision statements that reflect their tendencies toward displaying charismatic and/or contingent reward leadership (Frese, Beimel, & Schoenborn, 2003). Such training is consistent with the Gallup Organization's philosophy of building upon managers' talents and strengths for leadership development and follower engagement purposes (Rath & Clifton, 2004). To the extent that the messages in the vision statements can raise the motivation and work engagement levels of followers (Conger & Kanungo, 1998), senior management should consider delivering leadership training programs that teach managers about both the content and delivery of vision statements.

Second, when selecting managers for training programs in charismatic/transformational leadership (Avolio & Bass, 1998), trainers should pay more attention to the personal attributes of potential participants. Study results indicated that managers who are high self-monitors, possess a high need for social power, and/or a low need for social approval may be most effective in reflecting their charismatic leadership behavior in inspirational vision statements. Inspirational visions have been proposed to elevate followers' level of commitment, perception of meaningfulness of their work, and willingness to make sacrifices for the organization (Shamir et al., 1993).

Third, men have been stereotypically associated with agentic organizational behavior aimed at being instrumentally competent, rational and unemotional, whereas women have been described as more intuitive, empathic and emotionally expressive (Eagly, Johanneson-Schmidt, & van Engen, 2003). Whereas women may be more effective at articulating inspirational visions because of their expressiveness, perhaps trainers could build upon men's strengths in formulating inspirational visions by training them to deliver their message more effectively.


Today's leaders act in a global, complex, uncertain and interconnected business environment. Among the challenges in this context is the need to reduce complexity and uncertainty for people and provide a desirable picture of the future, which is shared by the people they lead. Leaders need to have a sense of purpose and guiding vision. Moreover, they have to lead in a business environment, which undergoes a general crisis of legitimacy and trust, commercial viability and long-term business success depend on the ability of a firm and their leadership to act responsibly with respect to all stakeholders in business, society and the environment. In conclusion, our study demonstrates how a leader's personality can interact with his or her behavior to help shape vision content. Such an illustration can spur future research examining how the self concept may be projected by leaders into their communications in ways that allow followers to better identify with them. Through both quantitative (survey) and qualitative (written documents) data analysis, this study also provides empirical evidence that leaders are often self-expressive of who they are in their communications, and such expressiveness needs to be consistent with their behavior to produce the vision statements that are authentic to their true selves. As interest in authentic and charismatic leadership processes continues to grow, it is important for researchers to study how personal attributes, behavior and contextual variables interact to influence the formulation, content and delivery of vision statements. To this end, this study helps us to better understand what John C. Maxwell meant when he said “People buy into the leader before they buy into the vision.”

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