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Considered as a vital issue since the beginning of humanity, leadership remains a topic of a central interest, vested with the trappings of myth, legend and imagery. A review of the leadership literature suggests that there are almost as many different definitions of leadership as there are scholars who have attempted to define the concept (Bass, 1990). Further, leadership is applied to a diversity of behaviours, ranging from that of supervisor to that of prophet. Perhaps the closest to consensus over a definition of leadership is that of a social influence process, although the same may be said for most experiences that involve more than one person (Pondy, 1978). The variety of perspectives explained in the field of organizational leadership range from the psychological paradigm, whose approach is that of psychodynamic or Freudian psychology (Kets de Vries, 1989; Levinson, 1981; Zaleznik, 1977, 1990), to that of political science and the sociological paradigm (Burns, 1978; Weber, 1947), whose interest lies primarily in the mass-movement perspective and the societal effects of such leadership.
This paper explores an additional alternative for understanding of organizational leadership, that of the praxis of leadership (Kakabadse, 1991). The argument put forth suggests that leadership acts are the results of each individual's interpretation of what they should or should not do, bounded by the discretion inherent in their roles. Thus, any consideration given to leadership as a construct, must incorporate an analysis of context, which in turn requires analysis of the economic, political and cultural relations of organization and society. Hence, the concept of leadership praxis provides a unifying concept for organizational and leadership understanding.
Praxis is the recognition that theory must eventually be located in "sensuous human activity" (Locke, 1971; Sternberg, 1985). The test of theory is its eventual relevance to improving the human conditions; "through practice and labour the human species synthesises and alters the material world and thereby transforms nature qua known as well as itself" (Held, 1980, p. 9). Praxis stands for the ability of actors to engage in acts of leadership which assist in the maintenance of a way of life which incorporates critical values and irreversible commitments (Selznick, 1957). Leadership, in this regard, involves a sense of shared, team based interactions. Especially in transformational circumstances, no one individual has the right way other than the one they enforce. However, if a shared leadership to moving forwards, is the objective, leadership needs to be a communal endeavour, wherein the direction of the organization or society is discussed and debated. Thus, the image of leadership becomes one of substance, humanity and morality.
Leadership, in this respect, resides in actions, not in positions, and requires continuous (re)-examination and learning within contexts. Hence, leadership is conceptualized as a temporary property of the person or a transient phenomenon, one which can be practised equally well by different individuals, depending on the circumstances and their strength of ideas. However, each act must have a critical audience, as leadership is a social construct and as such each leader must have followers. The "critical spirit" (Grob, 1984) or "will" (Kakabadse, 1991; Korac-Kakabadse and Korac-Kakabadse, 1996; Korac-Kakabadse et al., 1996; Plato, 1941, 1952) forms the foundation for leadership acts. Will to action marks the leader and displays a willingness to enter the field of human interaction, where one learns compassion and wisdom, to overcome doubt and sharpen decisions (Bogue, 1994). In debating that the critical spirit is the ground of all leadership, Grob (1984, p. 270) posits that "without the willingness to examine one's life, alleged leaders in any and all areas of human endeavour must, of necessity, become identified with their purpose, purpose which inevitably congeal into fixed doctrine or dogma". For Grob (1984), leadership must be conceived as critical reflection and a critical action within the dialectic of enactment, structure and power. From the praxis perspective, some propositions concerning leadership are suggested.
These propositions are based on the idea of "role discretion" (Kakabadse, 1991), one that deals with vision (definition of meanings; enactment), dialogue (demystification or penetration of structure; politically critical; and critically educative), action (responsibility), maturity and wisdom (Korac-Kakabadse and Korac-Kakabadse, 1996; Korac-Kakabadse et al., 1996). It should be noted that not all agree with this viewpoint and for that reason alternative viewpoints are outlined hereafter. After an examination of different leadership models attention is given to the concept of "discretionary" leadership. Following such analysis, the study reported in the monograph, bounded by the concept of discretionary leadership, presents the finding of leadership capability of senior Civil Servants in the Australian Commonwealth Government. Based on the results, best practices leadership recommendations provide for the concluding sections of the monograph.
Leadership: an overview
A century of scholarly literature has produced a myriad leadership and management theories and models and at the same time has muted the leadership and management terminology to the synonymous definition of "good management". In order to differentiate the contrasting theories of leadership, an overview of the field is initially necessary before further in-depth analysis is undertaken.
From the so-called "great man theory" (Bernard, 1926; Tead, 1935) to the current favour of the transformational leadership thesis (Avolio, Waldman and Yammarino, 1991; Tichy and Devanna, 1986) and "New Age" value and spiritual leadership (Banner and Blessingame, 1988; Bennis and Nanus, 1985; Fairholm, 1991, 1993; Senge 1992), four generic perspectives have provided a basis for the diversity of theories and models. These are the personality, behavioural, contextual and developmental perspectives.
The personality perspective, exemplified by the great man theory, trait theory and a variety of psychological theories, deals with leadership in terms of personality characteristics seeking to discover "who the leader really is". This perspective focuses on the leader's traits or characteristic responses occurring independently of the stimulus context. The leader's personality characteristics, or categories of characteristic response patterns, are assumed to be stable structures within the person that dispose that individual to act in certain ways (Bernard, 1926, 1938; Bingham and Davis, 1927; Davis and Warnath, 1957; Freud, 1922, 1953; Howell and Dipboye, 1982; Jung, 1953; Kets de Vries, 1977; Kotter, 1982; Lazarus, 1963; Tead, 1935; Yukl, 1981).
The trait categories and personality type dimensions underpin all models of the personality perspectives. The four personal categories of traits: needs/motives, temperament, cognitive orientation and interpersonal orientation and two general categories: knowledge and relationships (Kotter, 1982; Yukl, 1981) have been influential in the literature. The trait and personality approaches have received a contemporary revival in the quest for the "New Age" leader (Banner and Blessingame, 1988; Covey, 1990; Kouzes and Posner, 1987; McAller, 1991; Senge, 1992).
The behavioural perspective, epitomized by interaction-expectancy role theories, exchange theory, perceptual and cognitive theories, addresses leadership issues in terms of acts, or "what leaders do", and focuses on overt behaviour and behaviour-in-relationships (Fiedler, 1967; Homans, 1958, 1961; Jacobs, 1970; Katz and Kahn, 1978; Likert, 1961; Misumi and Peterson, 1985; Peters and Waterman, 1982; Pfeifer, 1977; Skinner, 1953; Tannenbaum and Schmidt, 1958, 1973; Vroom and Yetton, 1973; Yukl and Van Fleet, 1982). The behavioural perspective draws attention to the intentions of actors in a manner similar to Weber's (1949) category of Verstehen, assuming that actors possess two capacities, the ability to reason and the ability to know self-interest. This assumption is rooted in Locke's (1971) optimistic determinations of human nature.
The contextual perspective, exemplified by situation theory, contingency theory, path-goal theory, rational-deductive theory and humanistic models, determines leadership in terms of the situation within the value context or "where leadership takes place", focusing on leader-member relations, task complexity, power (Fiedler, 1967), agency size, work maturity (Child, 1973; Pugh and Payne, 1976) and goal attainment (Filley, House and Kerr, 1976; House, 1971). Deeply rooted in the contextual perspective are the concepts of unity and harmony, namely the "natural" order of things. Concepts are couched in Parsons' (1959) structural-functionalist imperatives of adaptation to other systems and the physical environment, the attainment of system goals, integration and the maintenance of stability and consistency.
The developmental perspective exemplified by developmental theory (Bennis and Nanus, 1985; Kakabadse, 1991) and discretionary leadership (Kakabadse, 1991) focuses also on situational behaviour. However, developmental theory emphasizes a process of constantly learning a repertoire of capabilities and responses to varied circumstances and people (Hrebiniak and Joyce, 1985; Hunt, 1991). Concepts of development offer a more dynamic approach to leadership. The model holds that each person has leadership potential and that the capabilities of leadership can be and are learned (Bennis and Nanus, 1985; Kakabadse, 1991). Within this framework those who do not develop their capabilities to the full, either have no desire to, or believe that they are lesser beings, having not been favoured with "born with" strengths and skills. Those who hold the latter beliefs are accused of failing to recognize that history is in fact written by "winners", to whose advantage it is to extol the myth of the favoured few.
Praxis leadership: the developmental perspective
The leadership development perspective is defined as a person's capability and commitment to perform leadership tasks, where capability is conceptualized as a function of knowledge and/or skills which can be gained through education, training and/or experience and commitment, the latter being a combination of confidence and motivation (a measure of a person's feeling of being able to do a task well without supervision, with interest and enthusiasm). The development perspective concept indicates that the ability of the leader to influence the context, may be assisted by personal skills, which can either be helped or hindered by circumstances. The model recognizes that the leader's own behaviour and his/her level of emotional maturity is important in setting values and examples and in establishing and maintaining high standards of performance (Goleman, 1986). Considering that leadership is increasingly concerned with the influencing of others, the exercising of political constraints, the control and allocation of resources within organizations, it is postulated that the leader's (in)effectiveness, has a direct beating on the strategic direction and success of the organization.
However, in applying a capability model, there is a necessity to distinguish between behavioural skills, knowledge and personal characteristics or traits. While skills and knowledge are, for the most part, learnable characteristics which may or may not be modifiable, traits are typically thought of as relatively fixed aspects of an individual's personality structure (Phillips and Hunt, 1992). The capability concept distinguishes "personal capabilities" from personal characteristics, decrying characteristics and emphasizing learning and adopting a philosophy of learning in order to become a leader. Thus, management styles, quantitative techniques, information management, information technology, qualitative assurance, productivity improvements -- are all technical themes worthy of leadership attention (Bogue, 1994). It is possible, however, to be master of all these technical themes and yet diminish one's own leadership potential because the individual lacks a vision for one's self or of one's own philosophy.
The convergence of empirical studies (Kakabadse, 1991; Kouzes and Posner, 1987) and theory-based examinations of developmental leadership activities (Bennis and Nanus, 1985; Sashkin and Burke, 1990) highlights a relatively small set of behavioural categories emphasizing leadership capabilities, namely, cognitive complexity, and two motivational competencies, self-efficacy and pro-social power need.
Cognitive complexity (Jacobs and Jaques, 1987, 1990; Jaques, 1979; Phillips and Hunt, 1992) represents the individual's mental means for constructing social systems that can pursue certain organizational aims or vision. As such, a particular measure of cognitive competency is prerequisite for leadership success, but in itself, not sufficient (Rosen and Brown, 1996). Leaders need to formulate meanings for others, as well as creating models which make sense for them (Peters and Waterman, 1982; Kakabadse, 1991). Displaying meaning is visibly and operationally expressed in terms of leadership philosophy, attribution of performance and measures of success (Kakabadse, 1991). Leaders must be clear as to who they are and what they really want to accomplish. Thus, it is essential that the leader is sure about his/her own identity before he/she can start leading others. As all human activities revolve around relationships, ultimately the leader's character will always shine through their actions (Kakabadse, 1991). Thus, a comprehensive self-identity is expressed through the leader's words, intentions and deeds and in order to unite has to provide coherent meaning for others. The perceived non-contradictory nature of the relationship between words, intentions and deeds is fundamental to self-mastery.
Self-efficacy (Bandura, 1977, 1982, 1986, 1988) or what Falk (1986) calls "reasonable self-direction" refers to one's beliefs about oneself as an effective "agent". In this sense, the Aristotelian (1911) emphasis on the development of virtues and the nature of practical wisdom, coalesces with Falk's (1986) reasonable self-direction, or the Kantian (1901) emphasis on autonomy. This construct provides the basis for agency theory and is similar to the construct of internal control (Rotter, 1966), which, in turn, is interlined with the philosophy of the self-fulfilling prophecy (Eden, 1990; Merton, 1968; Rosenthal and Kouzmin, 1993). Self-efficacious individuals believe that they can control or have an impact on their world by what they do, in effect, by the means of their own actions. Although self-efficiency includes concepts of self-confidence, which is based on hope and narcissism, it is equally based on life experiences that teach the individual that he/she can take actions that will effectively have an impact on his/her environment. Without a strong sense of self-efficacy, it is unlikely that a person will willingly take on a leadership role or even wish to be a leader (Phillips and Hunt, 1992). Clarity in terms of self-knowledge or self-efficacy is leadership power. Leaders hold a strong sense of self-confidence, growing out of the awareness of who they are and the visions that drive them to achieve. Leadership moves beyond the accepted body of knowledge of how to manage a process. The creative executive strikes out in unexplored directions, perhaps extrapolating from management theory but unencumbered by it (Zaleznik, 1990). Leadership may manifest itself through an idea so compelling, that it forces the formal structure of the organization to change, either temporarily or wholly, until the idea has been seen through to fulfilment. Self-efficacious leaders are not bound by process. They overcome process, to establish creative programmes, ideas and actions.
The pro-social power need refers to the need for power for its own sake and not for the sake of achievement of quality of results. Pro-social power need oriented people are characterized by exhibiting a need for coercion and control, irrespective of context or organizational requirement. The concept of pro-social power is fundamental in leadership praxis, as leadership deals with organizational enactment, which involves the demystification or penetration of structure (Berger and Luckmann, 1971). This in turn requires the ability "to make sense of things and to put them into language meaningful to a large number of people" (Pondy, 1978, p. 95). Hence, leaders build a consciousness reality (sometimes false), held together by shared myths, ritual and symbols. However, creating meanings and evaluating motives and goals, takes place within social structures and, as such, involves being politically critical and critically educational (Gramsci, 1971). If the social world or vision is constructed, and not shared with others as an objective reality, then the constructed "world" remains one of many possible worlds. To share a constructed world or vision with others requires communication or "cognitive politics", the "conscious or unconscious use of distorted language, the intent of which is to induce people to interpret reality" (Ramos, 1981, p. 76) in terms that produce direct and/or indirect benefits to agents of such distortion. Moreover, leadership also involves being critically educative through dialogue with people (Freire, 1974: 120; Kakabadse, 1991; Kakabadse et al., 1996) which is conditioned by language (Evered, 1983; Pondy, 1978). Critical education involves the notion of power, but not "power-over", an act or action but "power-to" act and action. That is leaders need to have maturity and wisdom (not only intellectual power) to analyse, to criticize, and to present a new reality. The educative use of power is realized in the empowerment of followers. Empowerment needs to provide the followers themselves with insight and reflection into the conditions of their existence and into the possibilities for change. The danger for immature leaders is to confuse "power-to" with "powerover", and in so doing, deny the empowerment of their followers. The empowerment of followers is the educative process which is accomplished through quality of dialogue, (penetration, challenge, presentation of alternatives). People do not grow by having their realities only confirmed, but by having them challenged, as well, and being supported to and listened to (Kegen and Lahey, 1984, p. 226).
The developmental perspective draws on ancient philosophy and modern theory to build a platform of wisdom for developing leaders. From Plato's philosophical King to Machiavelli's Prince (1958), from Hobbes' Sovereign (1929) to Nietzsche's Superman (1979), philosophy has set the search for the nature of the ideal leader. The very concept of the "new age leadership" perspective, centred on the renewed philosophical leadership paradigm, pursues its quest down the road of wisdom while rejecting the route of "I was born into greatness." Leaders grow through mastering painful conflict and paradoxes during their developmental years (Zaleznik, 1990). Leaders endure major events that have led them to experience a sense of separateness, or perhaps estrangement, from their environments (James, 1985). As a result, they turn inward in order to re-emerge with a created necessary condition for the ability to lead. This feeling of separateness is different from narcissism (Lasch, 1979). While narcissism is a pathology, in which the individual unconsciously tries to overcome a fragmented ego by overvaluing perennial fantasy and undervaluing the real world, including people, the effective leader is aware of boundaries and distinguishes between the inner and outer world, fantasy and reality, self and other people (Lasch, 1979; Zaleznik, 1990).
Because leadership influences "enactment" (Weick, 1969) and sense making (Weick, 1979), namely ways in which organizational members construct and negotiate the "reality" of their organization, there is an urgency in leadership for "boardroom" learning (Dror, 1980, 1984, 1987; Kakabadse, 1993). Enacted realities, including role definition and the acceptance and the affirmation of the symbolic universe within which organizational actors operate, are significantly different and more prone to distortion in crisis situations. Enactment requires, and also helps, individuals make sense of the organization by enabling people to join in the conventional, cultural and normative processes and to design a meaningful place (Ashby, 1952, 1960). In this sense, the "rationality" of the organization is a post hoc interpretation of events or a "symbolic product that is constructed through actions that in themselves are non-rational" (Brown, 1978, p. 370). Thus, leadership and organizational learning are both contextually defined and require different strategies in different circumstances (Belgard, Fisher and Rauner, 1988; Pask, 1961). For example, developing in a "lean", but growing, organization will require different learning strategies from that in the "lean", but mature, organization (Kakabadse, 1993). Furthermore, developing in organizations with dependencies on short-term revenues, requires different strategies to organizations with dependencies on long-term revenue and competency requirements (Kakabadse, 1993).
Capabilities v. competencies: the differentiating leaders from managers debate
Within the framework of the developmental perspective, the quest for new leadership has resulted in the theoretical distinction between leaders and the leadership role, and manager and the management role. The transformational leadership thesis flagged this separation and opened the flood-gates for a leadership revival through the reincarnation of the "charismatic" leader. The "age of value" (c. 1980-90), "age of ideology" (c. 1990) and the emerging "age of spirituality" (c. 1995) aided their distinct differentiation. Selznick (1957), for example examines leadership by distinguishing it from management. The leader, in his view, is concerned with "critical" as opposed to "routine" decisions in the organization. Critical decisions have to do with the definition of the purpose of the organization. In contrast, Burns (1978, p. 12) sees leadership "as a special form of power", where power is the mode of utilizing resources to achieve certain goals. Power, however, is not interpreted in any mechanical sense and as such is not always coercive. In his reformulation of leadership, Burns (1978) classifies leadership as "transactional" and "transformational". He considers that transactional leadership involves the exchange of valued goods, such as the exchange of votes for particular programmes on the part of politicians and the electorate. Transactional leaders may be found as leaders of small groups; opinion leaders in political parties; and in legislative and executive leadership. For Tucker (1981), leadership involves activities which are political in nature and are responses to addressing problem situations. Kakabadse (1991) redefines and operationalizes Burns' leadership classification into the categories of "discretionary" and …