Leadership In Teams And Decision Groups Management Essay

Part of the reason for the suboptimal performance of groups is that people strongly desire consensus, even straining for consensus, as argued by Bass (1990), under the rubric of groupthink. This popular and catchy term was applied to Janis’s analysis of foreign policy decisions that were truly disastrous. The Bay of Pigs invasion is one such example. In 1961 President John Kennedy and his advisors tried to overthrow Fidel Castro with an invasion of Cuba by 1,400 CIA-trained Cuban exiles. The result was that nearly all were captured or killed, the United States was humiliated, and Cuba aligned itself even closer with the USSR. By all accounts, this was a truly poor decision.

Yukl (1998) notes that:

“A major controversy is whether charisma [transformational leadership] is primarily a result of leader attributes, situational conditions, or an interactive influence process between leader and followers. This controversy resembles the divergent perspectives of the trait, situational, and reciprocal influence approaches within the mainstream leadership literature”. (p. 205)

Yammarino and Bass (1991) expounded on this point and clarified the perspectives using numerous levels of scrutiny. In a few words, leader attributes or trait qualities noted by Yukl (1998) are individual- (leader) or person-level elucidations of leadership. Situational conditions, or situational tactics, discussed by Yukl provide group- or collective-level clarifications of leadership. Person-situation views then deal with leadership in terms of these numerous levels of analysis (McEvoy & Beatty, 1989). The interactive power process or reciprocal influence approaches brought up by Yukl deal with leader-follower relationships which are dyadic in nature. Given these compound views, a cross-level formulation is probable. Yukl also states that:

“Charisma [transformational leadership] is believed to result from follower perceptions of leader qualities and behavior. These perceptions are influenced by the context of the leadership situation and the followers’ individual and collective needs”. (Yukl, 1998, p. 205)

In analyzing such fiascoes, Farley, (1996) theorized that failure was not due to the stupidity of the participants. After all, in the Bay of Pigs decision, the group was composed of individuals such as Arthur Schlesinger (a noted Harvard historian), Robert McNamara (Secretary of Defense and former President of the Ford Motor Co.), Dean Rusk (Secretary of State and former head of the Rockefeller Foundation), and McGeorge Bundy (Dean of Harvard Letters and Science). Rather, he argued that groupthink arises from a situation marked by homogeneity of its members, strong and directed leadership, group isolation, and high cohesion. When people are similar, close-knit, isolated from contrary views, and have a strong leader who expresses a clear preference, groups strain to find a consensus around the preferred position (Hater & Bass, 1988).

Some by-products of such a tendency are that individuals are reluctant to voice dissent, to examine the negative aspects of the preferred position, to seriously consider alternatives, and to systematically develop contingency plans (Burningham & West, 1995). The reluctance to voice dissent, even when such thoughts are contemplated, arises not only from self-censorship but also from pressures to conformity. People are made to feel that dissent is an obstacle to achieving a goal and a sign of disloyalty. One should “get on board” (Houghton et al, 2003). Such a description is not unlike that demonstrated by cults. There, too, cohesion, strong and directed leadership, and isolation are characteristics of such groups that achieve loyalty and adherence to position; even those that result in members’ suicide. Members fear the expression of dissent and the group quickly and consistently punishes its expression (Bass, 1990; Yukl, 1998).

The Changing Career Needs of Managers and Leaders

This paper shows the increasing demands being made on managers and leaders. The term ‘leadership’ in itself signals some shifts in skill needs which the word ‘management’ does not seem to embrace so clearly (Johnson & Johnson, 1994). In the context of careers, there is an ever growing list of the career experiences seen as desirable for senior managers and leaders in order to develop the ever widening range of skills and knowledge required (Graen & Wakabayashi, 1992). The list includes:

• broad business experience-especially of different products or markets, the wider political and economic context, and sometimes experience of other organizations or sectors;

• cross-functional experience (Yukl, 1998);

• direct line responsibility for staff-often including staff of varying kinds, e.g. professional staff versus clerical or shop floor staff;

• strategic experience-often this means head office roles;

• delivering major projects-especially those crossing organizational boundaries;

• managing in particular situations, e.g. start-ups, mergers, joint ventures;

• initiating and leading people through major change;

• working in other cultures, especially in other countries;

• staying in some of these roles long enough to show real delivery of business goals! (McEvoy & Beatty, 1989)

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This list is by no means exhaustive but it is still potentially exhausting to achieve. Organizations do have the strategic aim of offering wider career experience to those likely to reach senior general management positions (e.g. managing director of a business stream or country) (Hater & Bass, 1988). This broadening is perhaps the clearest strategic intention of the corporately managed approaches to career development we discuss later. Such careers are very likely to include lateral or diagonal moves and project working, as well as promotions. However, we must not only think about management careers in terms of the tiny minority who will reach the very top of the organization. The first move into managing other people is a key career step both for the organization and the individual. It is too easy to promote people into management roles who do not have the necessary potential or attitudes, simply because they have been good at doing the job below. The transitions between broad levels of management work-often junior (or first line), middle, senior, plus sometimes a small ‘top’ tier-each require significant changes in skills and attitudes (Kozlowski, et al 1996). The career strategy needs to support each of these major career transitions and build in ways of checking that the right decision is being made both for the organization and the employee. Recruitment is also a critical career transition and can occur at any level. Recruits at professional and managerial level are often brought in to fill a particular job without much thought as to their future career (Farley, 1996).

The 1980s and 1990s saw a preoccupation with ‘general managers’-people who are both senior and manage multifunctional teams (Graen & Wakabayashi, 1992). Good general managers were seen as being a cure for all ills. This obscured for a while the varied management roles which large organizations have, and the diverse career paths they imply. Functional managers and leaders are far more numerous than general managers. Nearly all first line managers have a strong functional focus to their work, i.e. they are responsible for a particular type of work (Houghton, et al, 2003). At middle management levels, functional managers head up a department or division which often has a particular functional focus (e.g. research and development), production, sales or marketing, finance, information technology), HR, etc.). Even at board level, many jobs are what we might call functional leadership roles (finance director, marketing director, etc.). These jobs combine a strong element of professional judgment with the need for many of the generic leadership skills required by general managers. The career paths of functional leaders need to develop both breadth and depth within the function across business units, with perhaps some excursions into other functions (Oliver, 2000).

So career development for managers and leaders needs to recognize the diversity of managerial careers both by level and by career path. BP, for example, has recently strengthened technical as well as general management careers. General managers, functional leaders and also high level specialists are all seen as contributing to the leadership capability of the business.

Innovative Technologies and Leadership Development

Many visionaries have predicted radical business change due to the current directions of technology. However, even the best and most entertaining of these (Houghton et al, 2003) can show you an inevitable tomorrow and yet leave you without a clue about the reality of today. In this paper, there will be no discussion about how the world will radically change in the next 10 years. The reality gap between what can be done now (and makes business sense) and what will be doable in the next 10 years is simply too wide. Instead, we will examine some technologies that have already made a big impact (Yukl, 1998). The discussion will be about how these pose threats and offer opportunities to business leadership. Instead of a broad survey of new technologies, we will focus on one critical new concept, that of ‘presence’ (Thomas, 2000).

We begin with a review of some studies in ‘telepresence’ that expose a range of key leadership issues. The remote ‘being there’ of the interactive live webcast is one innovation that is already having some business impact (Yukl, 1998). Whilst most managers can immediately see the significance of a form of ‘business television’ that gives instant desktop access to allow them to ‘talk to the troops’, it is also possible to foresee more wide-reaching changes accompanying the widespread deployment of such technologies (Kozlowski, et al 1996).We will close with a brief examination of some other ‘presence’ technologies that have yet to make an impact. For example, the ‘co-presence’ technologies of instant messaging (IM) have been a big hit in emerging ‘always on’ broadband communities and are now starting to make a showing in some corporate systems (Houghton, et al, 2003). Finally, many Internet communities are developing strong new communities of practice around ‘weblogs’, simple forms of personal web page diaries and activity logs (Johnson & Johnson, 1994; Burningham & West, 1995). However, there is little current evidence of real deployment of such technologies in industry-so-called ‘business blogging’. We will argue that all these technologies will, clearly, have an impact and indeed that they all shared a similar set of leadership threats and opportunities (Graen & Wakabayashi, 1992). According to what could be termed ‘classical diffusion theory’ (Johnson & Johnson, 1994), the dilemma for the leader faced with any new technology is to decide which form of adoption is appropriate. For any decision about change the choice is to belong to one of these groups:

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• innovators (those willing to commit now and take the risk);

• early adopters (respectable but adventurous);

• early majority (the deliberate decision-makers);

• late majority (skeptical and wary of change);

• laggards (a traditional community, reluctant to change).

Most leadership manuals will try to encourage the reader to spot the opportunity to join the ‘early adopters’ community, the advice being to get somewhat behind the ‘bleeding edge’ of the fully innovative risk-takers, but amongst those who encourage and foster innovations that are still (at least slightly) ahead of the competition (Farley, 1996). Although multicultural teams pose additional challenges and are not always effective, the trend toward composing and managing multicultural teams to tackle global problems, conflicts, and obligations is only expected to increase. Therefore, it becomes of paramount concern to understand the challenges within these teams as well as the factors that distinguish effective multicultural teams from ineffective teams. One factor that has been argued to play a central role in the effectiveness of such teams is their leadership (Bass, 1990). Others have similarly argued for the important role that team leadership occupies within culturally homogeneous teams (Oliver, 2000). Due to the complexity inherent within these teams, it has been argued that leadership within these teams poses additional challenges above and beyond those present within culturally homogeneous teams. However, when and if team leaders learn how to integrate and take advantage of a team’s diversity, the wider range of human resources available to such teams allows them to often function more effectively than many homogeneous teams (Bowers & Seashore, 1966). Therefore, understanding the role of the team leader within multicultural teams as well as methods by which needed leader competencies can be developed would seem to be an efficient way to begin to explore the factors related to effective multicultural teams. First, some of the challenges that the leader may face in promoting effective team process and performance within multicultural teams are examined. In doing so, we briefly describe primary cultural dimensions as well as the basic tenets of team leadership. Second, based on these challenges, we describe a scenario-based instructional strategy for leader development (i.e., event-based approach to training, EBAT) (Thomas, 2000). In describing event-based training, we also illustrate its potential for enhancing our understanding of multicultural team training. Third, we integrate the leader challenges with event-based training to extract an initial set of team leader competencies that can be trained using EBAT and that are especially beneficial within multicultural teams. Finally, we note where we see holes within the literature.

Team Leadership

Although team leadership is a relatively young area of inquiry, it has been argued to have a considerable impact on the promotion of the dynamic processes (i.e., the knowledge, skills, and attitudes) involved in teamwork (Bowers & Seashore, 1966) and has been argued to be increasingly important as complexity increases (Brewer & Beck, 1994). Because of the complex nature of multicultural teams, it would seem that leadership might be a key determinant of a team’s success (Graen & Wakabayashi, 1992). Although it is important to understand this phenomenon, few, if any, talk about leadership within cross-cultural teams i.e., impact on team process and teamwork (Hollander, 1985). However, in beginning to understand this phenomenon, we can utilize the work on team leadership combined with that on cultural diversity to extract challenges, competency requirements, and instructional strategies.

Team Leadership Defined

As evidence of the young state of the literature, a universal definition of team leadership has yet to emerge. For the purposes of this paper we draw from the functional approach to leadership (Oliver, 2000; House, 1977) to define team leadership as encompassing both task and developmental roles. Within the task role, the leader serves as a boundary spanner to gather information and ensure that the team has the necessary material and personnel resources to accomplish the task at hand. Furthermore, team leaders adopting a task role also serve to dynamically structure and regulate team processes in order to meet shifting internal and external contingencies (Yukl, 1998). Within the developmental role, the leader ensures that the team develops and maintains the requisite shared knowledge’s, affects, and behaviors that enable interdependent, coordinative, adaptive performance (Wolff, et al 2002). Furthermore, team leadership is distinctly different from both individual and organizational leadership in that team leaders need to foster the requisite competencies (Hollander, 1985) that enable members to work interdependently and adaptively.

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Implicit Leadership Theory

Implicit leadership theory represents the last theoretical driver that can be leveraged against, and although most of the work revolves around organizational and individual leadership, it represents some of the only work done on cross-cultural leadership (Hollander, 1985). More specifically, the work originating within the GLOBE (Global Leader and Organizational Effectiveness) Research Program is relevant. The GLOBE research project examined implicit theories of leadership across cultures (i.e., individual perceptions of leadership effectiveness). Findings indicated that (a) charismatic value-based and team-orientated leadership styles are universally endorsed, (b) humane and participative styles are nearly universally endorsed, and (c) self-protective and autonomous styles are culturally contingent (House et al., 1999). These researchers also identified (a) 21 leader attributes and behaviors that are universally viewed as contributing to effective team leadership, many of them falling under the global dimension of charismatic leadership (Houghton, et al, 2003), (b) 8 attributes viewed as negative (e.g., loner, non-cooperative, nonexplicit, dictatorial), and (c) 35 that were culturally contingent (e.g., cautious, risk taker, independent, formal, sensitive). Others have also found evidence for the idea that different cultures have various “prototypes” (Hater & Bass, 1988) of what constitutes effective leadership (Thomas, 2000). Finally, it is important to note that even if a leadership style is culturally endorsed, the actual manifestation of that style may be different across cultures.

In terms of understanding how team leaders promote effective team processes and the corresponding performance within multicultural teams, the GLOBE work is important because at a broad level it provides guidance in terms of how a leader’s behavior (i.e., leadership style) interacts with national culture to determine what a subordinate believes is “effective leadership” (Wolff, et al 2002). The implications here are that if leaders are not perceived as effective, members will be less willing to take direction from them or buy into their cognitive interpretations (i.e., mental models).


Synthesizing the aforementioned theories, we suggest that at a global level, team leadership can be described as involving two functional roles: sense making and sense giving. Leaders make sense out of dynamic circumstances by adopting a boundary-spanning role in which they gather information from their environment and encode the information into existing cognitive frameworks (Brown, 2000). Once the leader has encoded this information and assigned meaning to it, he or she then communicates this meaning to team members (i.e., sense giving) through a variety of mechanisms (e.g., clear direction, coaching and process assistance, feedback). It is at this point where leadership style and implicit leadership theories may come to bear (Burningham & West, 1995). The cognitive frame that the leader has imparted to the team now serves to further aid in the interpretation of member actions as well as guide future actions (Yukl, 1998). While this shared cognitive framework is being created, the leader simultaneously scans the environment so as to continue to dynamically provide sense to the team, thereby enacting his or her roles as sense maker and sense giver both within a task role, where the leader displays behavior related to task accomplishment, and within a developmental role. Finally, throughout this entire process, the assertions found within leader; member exchange are relevant for the leader’s individual relationships with subordinates and affect the meanings assigned to member actions and help determine how sense giving should be provided.

So what makes sense making and sense giving a challenge within multicultural teams? Within multicultural teams, sense making is difficult for the leader, and team members are faced with trying to interpret environmental cues and member actions while operating from different cultural frameworks that comprise different beliefs, values, assumptions, preferences, and cognitive styles. To gain a better understanding of how this may evolve and what it means in terms of competencies that need to be trained, we turn to the literature on cultural diversity.

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