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Leadership Culture Wars

Psychological theories view leadership as a social influence process in which leaders use interpersonal behaviors to motivate followers to contribute to group goals. On the other hand, business-oriented models emphasize the leadership of organizational functions such as strategy, structure, staffing, and work systems. In this article, this distinction is conceptualized as representing the interpersonal how and the organizational what, respectively, and the two perspectives are viewed as complementary ways that leaders can impact organizational performance. Evidence is provided to show how leadership professionals tend to have a bias in favor of one, and corresponding neglect of the other, perspective. A study is then presented to test relationships between behaviors indicative of the how and the what and leadership effectiveness. Based on ratings of 421 senior managers from 4,670 superiors, peers, and subordinates, the results demonstrate the significant and roughly equivalent contributions for both the interpersonal how and the organizational what in predicting the perceived effectiveness of leaders and the unique routes through which each aspect of leadership affects team performance. Implications for research and practice are discussed in terms of integrative, multidisciplinary approaches to understanding and improving leadership.

Kaiser, R. B., McGinnis, J. L., & Overfield, D. V. (2012). The how and the what of leadership. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research64, 119-135.

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