4 Developing Leaders
Leadership is a term that has been defined in many ways by different theorists over the years. Most definitions involve a process of social influence wherein a leader exerts intentional influence over the cognitions, affect, and behavior of others (usually called subordinates or followers) to structure the activities and relationships in a group or organization. The leader is usually someone in a formal position of authority, although leadership can also be exerted informally or shared among different members of a group.
Most researchers evaluate leadership effectiveness in terms of the consequences for followers and other organization stakeholders. Researchers have used many different indicators of leadership effectiveness, including the short-term and longer-term performance of the leader's organizational unit, its preparedness to deal with challenges or crises, follower satisfaction and commitment, and the leader's successful advancement to higher levels in the organization.
The effectiveness of a leader depends on individual competencies, which include a variety of behaviors and skills. In this chapter, we first describe the competencies found to be related to leadership effectiveness. We then examine various types of training techniques and developmental activities that may be of use to increase these competencies and improve leadership effectiveness.
Over the past half century, thousands of studies have been conducted to discover the underlying reasons for effective leadership.1 Some progress
has been made in discovering why some leaders are more effective than others, although the leadership literature is full of ambiguous theory and contradictory research findings. Two types of competencies associated with leadership effectiveness are behaviors and skills. Leadership behavior includes observable actions (e.g., making assignments) and cognitive activities (e.g., making conscious decisions). Skills include the leader's knowledge and ability to perform various types of activities.
Behaviors Related to Leadership Effectiveness
Early researchers focused on the distinction between task-oriented behavior and people-oriented behavior (Fleishman, 1953; Halpin and Winer, 1957). Even though these two values are sometimes incompatible, effective leaders find ways to integrate them in patterns of behavior that are appropriate for the situation (Blake and Mouton, 1982; Yukl, 1981, 1994). Many later researchers and theorists have proposed taxonomies with narrower, more specific categories of leadership behavior. These taxonomies differ in purpose, level of abstraction, and number of behavior categories, and there has been much confusion and disagreement about the most useful way to classify leadership behavior.
The accumulated research evidence suggests that a number of specific types of behavior are especially relevant to leadership effectiveness: (1) clarifying roles and objectives, (2) supportive leadership, (3) planning and problem solving, (4) monitoring operations and environment, (5) inspirational leadership, (6) participative leadership, (7) positive reward behavior, and (8) networking. These categories of behavior are not mutually exclusive, but instead overlap and interact in their effects on subordinates. Our decision to highlight these behaviors does not imply that other behaviors are not relevant. We have selected categories that seem especially meaningful for understanding leadership effectiveness and that also have sufficient empirical evidence from different types of research to confirm their relevance. The research includes correlational field studies, laboratory and field experiments, case studies, and content analyses of critical incidents.
Clarifying Roles and Objectives
An important leadership function is to ensure that subordinates know what work they are supposed to do and the expected results of this work. The communication of plans, policies, and role expectations to subordinates is called clarifying or directing. Examples include defining job responsibilities for subordinates, assigning tasks, setting performance goals, authorizing action plans for accomplishing a task or project, and providing instructions in how to do a task.
Overall, the research suggests that leaders who are effective clarify objectives and priorities for subordinates but allow them considerable discretion in determining how to achieve the objectives (see reviews by Bass, 1990; Fisher and Edwards, 1988). A serious crisis is one situation in which strong, confident direction by the leader is usually essential to guide and coordinate the response of the organizational unit (Mulder et al., 1970; Yukl and Van Fleet, 1982).
Supportive leadership includes a variety of behaviors by which a leader shows consideration, acceptance, and concern for a subordinate's needs and feelings. Extensive research over several decades using a variety of research methods demonstrates that supportive leadership usually increases the satisfaction of subordinates with their leader and their job, regardless of the situation (see reviews by Bass, 1990; Fisher and Edwards, 1988). Results of research on the effects of supportive leadership on subordinate performance are less consistent, which may be due in part to the use of different definitions and measures from study to study (Yammarino and Bass, 1990; Boyatzis, 1982; Yukl and Van Fleet, 1982; Hand and Slocum, 1972; Latham and Saari, 1979; Porras and Anderson, 1981). It seems that supportive leadership contributes to higher performance in some situations, especially when it results in a more cooperative working relationship with subordinates.
Situational theories such as path-goal theory (House and Mitchell, 1974) and leadership substitutes theory (Kerr and Jermier, 1978) propose that less supportive leadership is necessary when job satisfaction and task commitment are already high (e.g., because the task is interesting and fulfilling, employees are experienced professionals, and coworkers provide a lot of support and encouragement). Most studies testing this proposition (see Indvik, 1986; Wofford and Liska, 1993) have found evidence consistent with it. However, even when subordinates are experienced and the task is interesting, a moderate amount of supportive behavior may still be appropriate.
Planning and Problem Solving
Planning and problem solving involve decisions about what to do and how to do it. Planning is more proactive and future-oriented, whereas problem solving is more reactive and immediate, and it is important to find an appropriate balance between them. Results from several types of studies indicate that effective leaders formulate flexible, pragmatic strategies and plans to accomplish their objectives (Carroll and Gillen, 1987; Howard and
Bray, 1988; Kim and Yukl, 1995; Kotter, 1982; Shipper and Wilson, 1992; Winter, 1979).
Leaders at all levels must also deal with unforeseen events and problems that disrupt the work, reduce efficiency, and require modification of plans. Results from a number of studies using different research methods suggest that effective managers take responsibility for identifying work-related problems, analyzing them in a systematic but timely manner, and acting decisively to implement creative, practical solutions (Boyatzis, 1982; Carroll and Gillen, 1987; McCall and Lombardo, 1983; Morse and Wagner, 1978; Peters and Austin, 1985). More problem solving is probably needed in dynamic, uncertain situations than in stable, placid situations in which there are few unanticipated events or external threats.
Monitoring Operations and Environment
Leaders need information from a variety of sources about the internal operations of their work unit (e.g., effectiveness of processes, status of projects, subordinates' competencies, quality of products and services) and relevant events in the external environment (e.g., the concerns of customers and clients, the capabilities of suppliers and vendors, the actions of competitors, market trends, economic conditions, government policies, and technological developments). Monitoring provides information needed to identify problems and opportunities, as well as to formulate and modify objectives, strategies, plans, policies, and procedures. Without adequate monitoring, a leader will be unable to detect problems before they become serious, provide appropriate recognition for subordinate achievements, identify subordinates who need coaching or assistance in accomplishing their work objectives, evaluate performance of subordinates accurately, and have a sound basis for determining allocation of rewards such as pay increases. Several types of studies provide evidence that monitoring is related to leadership effectiveness (Daft et al., 1988; Grinyer et al., 1990; Kim and Yukl, 1995; Komaki, 1986; Kotter, 1982; Larson and Callahan, 1990; Peters and Austin, 1985). However, it is essential for leaders to select appropriate forms and amounts of monitoring for subordinates and the situation. More internal monitoring is probably needed when subordinates are inexperienced, they have tasks that require close coordination, and the cost of mistakes is high. More external monitoring is probably needed when the environment is dynamic, competitive, or hostile.
Participative leadership can be defined broadly as including all forms of shared decision making with subordinates and delegation of authority to
individual subordinates or groups of subordinates. The results of quantitative research (i.e., questionnaire studies, field experiments, laboratory experiments) on the effects of participation are summarized in several literature reviews and meta-analyses (Cotton et al., 1988; Leana et al., 1990; Miller and Monge, 1986; Wagner and Gooding, 1987). These reviews reveal that research evidence from the quantitative studies is inconsistent. Some studies found evidence that participative leadership resulted in higher subordinate performance, whereas other studies failed to find significant results. In contrast, findings from descriptive case studies of effective managers have been more consistently supportive of the benefits of participative leadership (e.g., Bradford and Cohen, 1984; Kanter, 1983; Peters and Austin, 1985).
Most of the quantitative research on participative leadership did not directly examine the possibility that consultation and delegation are effective in some situations but not others. To address this problem, Vroom and Yetton (1973) developed a theory specifying the necessary conditions for participative leadership to improve decision quality and subordinate commitment to the decision. Research conducted to test this theory has generally supported it (see Vroom and Jago, 1988; Yukl, 1994). The research indicates that a leader's use of participative decision making improves decision quality when subordinates have information and ideas not possessed by the leader and are willing to cooperate with the leader in finding a good way to achieve their shared objectives.
Delegation is a unique form of participative leadership that appears to improve subordinate performance when used in appropriate situations (Leana, 1986; Miller and Toulouse, 1986; Peters and Austin, 1985). Delegation is more likely to be successful when subordinates are competent, committed to organizational objectives, and willing to take on important responsibilities.
Inspirational leadership behavior is used is to motivate followers to exert exceptional effort and place the needs of the group or organization above their individual needs. Most studies on inspirational leadership suggest that it is one of the strongest predictors of subordinate commitment and performance (Avolio and Howell, 1992; Hater and Bass, 1988; House et al., 1991; Howell and Frost, 1989; Howell and Higgins, 1990; Podsakoff et al., 1990; Seltzer and Bass, 1990; Waldman et al., 1987; Yammarino and Bass, 1990; Yukl and Van Fleet, 1982).
According to most theories of inspirational and transformational leadership (e.g., Bass, 1985; Bennis and Nanus, 1985; Burns, 1978; Conger, 1989; Kouzes and Posner, 1987; Shamir et al., 1993; Tichy and Devanna, 1986), such leadership can enhance group performance in any situation, but it is
especially important when major changes in the strategy and culture of the organization are necessary.
Inspirational leaders develop a clear and appealing vision of what the organization could accomplish or become. They interpret external events in a way that helps followers understand the challenges and opportunities facing the organization and the need for change (Bennis and Nanus, 1985; Tichy and Devanna, 1986). Inspirational leaders stimulate followers to think about problems in new ways and question old assumptions and beliefs that may no longer be valid (Bass, 1985). They build follower confidence and hope by acting confident and optimistic themselves, by expressing confidence that followers can attain challenging objectives, by communicating a credible strategy for achieving strategic objectives, by planning activities in a way that will ensure that progress is experienced early in the task, and by celebrating successful accomplishments by the group (Shamir et al., 1993; Kouzes and Posner, 1987).
Inspirational leaders use highly visible, symbolic actions to emphasize important values and demonstrate their own commitment to a vision, strategy, or change. Concern is demonstrated by the way a leader spends time, by resource allocation decisions made when there are trade-offs between objectives, by the questions the leader asks, and by the actions the leader rewards (Schein, 1992). The values espoused by a leader should be demonstrated in the leader's own behavior, and this must be done consistently, not just when it is convenient. Leading by example is especially important for actions that are unpleasant, dangerous, unconventional, or controversial.
Inspirational leadership is not simply a quality of the leader but is a quality of the relationship that develops between leaders and followers (Burns, 1978; Meindl, 1990). A leader's influence depends also on the perceptions and interpretations of followers. It is important to take into account the relations that develop among the followers and subordinates themselves. This social process affects the interpretations of followers and may be independent of influences that emanate from the leader's behaviors. It involves the thought processes of organizational actors and observers and has been modeled in terms of a social contagion process (Meindl, 1990). This approach alters the research focus from the leader per se to the larger contexts in which the leader functions.
Positive Reward Behavior
Positive reward behavior is usually defined as including two components: tangible rewards (e.g., bonus, merit pay increase) that are contingent on subordinate performance and (2) recognition (e.g., praise) for subordinate achievements and contributions to the performance of the leader's unit.
Podsakoff and colleagues (1984) reviewed research with questionnaire
measures of leader behavior and found that positive reward behavior was correlated positively with subordinate satisfaction and performance. Similar results were found in most subsequent studies that included a measure of positive reward behavior (e.g., Podsakoff and Todor, 1985; Wikoff et al., 1983; Yammarino and Bass, 1990). Although the results were not significant in every study, they suggest that contingent rewards usually increase subordinate satisfaction and performance.
Recognition is easier to provide than tangible rewards, yet it is a form of behavior that is often underutilized by managers. Praise is more likely to be effective when it is clearly based on real contributions and sincere, instead of being used as a manipulative technique for the leader's own personal objectives (Yukl, 1994). Effective leaders actively look for behaviors and contributions to recognize, they recognize a variety of different types of achievements and contributions, and they find creative ways to provide recognition (Peters and Austin, 1985). The beneficial effects of recognition are likely to be greater when it is provided by a highly respected, trustworthy manager who holds a key position in the organization.
Research indicates that effective managers develop and maintain large networks of relevant contacts with people on whom they are dependent for information, support, or resources (Kanter, 1983; Kaplan, 1984; Kotter, 1982). Managers who use more networking also advance faster and further in the organization (Luthans et al., 1985; Michael and Yukl, 1993).
Internal networking is likely to be more important for large, complex organizations with a high degree of lateral dependence than for managers of autonomous subunits (Kotter, 1982; Stewart, 1982). External networking is likely to be more important when there is high dependence on external clients or suppliers, as when the work unit must change its products, services, or timetables frequently to accommodate the needs of clients and customers. Upper-level managers usually depend more on people outside the organization, and as a result they have more external contacts in their networks (Luthans et al., 1985; McCall et al., 1978).
Skills Related to Leader Effectiveness
Three basic categories of skills relevant to leadership effectiveness are technical skills, conceptual skills, and interpersonal skills (Katz, 1955; Mann, 1965). Technical skills include knowledge of products and services; knowledge of work operations, procedures, and equipment; and knowledge of markets, clients, and competitors. Conceptual skills include the ability to analyze complex events and perceive trends, recognize changes, and identify
problems and opportunities; the ability to develop creative, practical solutions to problems; and the ability to conceptualize complex ideas and use models and analogies. Interpersonal skills include understanding of interpersonal and group processes; the ability to understand the motives, feelings, and attitudes of people from what they say and do (empathy, social sensitivity); the ability to maintain cooperative relationships with people (tact, diplomacy, conflict resolution skills); and oral communication and persuasive ability. A combination of specific technical, cognitive, and interpersonal skills is involved in the ability to perform relevant managerial functions such as planning, delegating, and supervising; this fourth category is referred to as administrative skills.
Research on skills relevant for leadership effectiveness generally supports the conclusion that technical skills, conceptual skills, interpersonal skills, and administrative skills are necessary in most managerial positions (Bass, 1990; Boyatzis, 1982; Bray et al., 1974; Howard and Bray, 1988; Mann, 1965). But only a limited amount of research has examined how situational differences moderate the relationship between skills and leader effectiveness. This research provides evidence that the relative importance of different types of skills depends on the type of organization, the nature of the environment, and the level of management (Boyatzis, 1982; Jaques, 1989; Katz and Kahn, 1978; Kotter, 1982; Kraut et al., 1989; Mann, 1965; McLennan, 1967; Pavett and Lau, 1983; Stewart, 1982).
Since the major responsibility of top executives is making strategic decisions, conceptual skills are more important at this level than at middle or lower levels (Jacobs and Jaques, 1987; Jaques, 1989; Katz and Kahn, 1978; Mann, 1965). Top executives need to analyze vast amounts of ambiguous and contradictory information about the environment in order to make strategic decisions and to interpret events for other members of the organization. Executives need to have a long time perspective (10 to 20 years) and the ability to comprehend complex relationships among variables relevant to the performance of the organization (Jacobs and Jaques, 1990). A top executive must be able to anticipate future events and know how to plan for them. Conceptual skills are needed to formulate a strategic vision to guide major changes in the organization in response to changes in the external environment (Wofford and Goodwin, 1994).
Unprecedented changes affecting organizations will make leadership in the 21st century even more important and difficult. To cope with these changes, leaders may require not only more of the same skills, but also new ones (Conger, 1993; Hunt, 1991; Segal, 1992). One competency that appears to be relevant for coping with increasing complexity and change is the ability to introspectively analyze one's own cognitive processes (e.g., how one defines and solves problems) and find ways to improve them (Argyris, 1991; Dechant, 1990). This competency (sometimes called self-learning)
appears to involve the ability to develop better mental models, learn from mistakes, and change assumptions and ways of thinking in response to a changing world (Druckman and Bjork, 1994).
Techniques For Enhancing Leadership Competencies
Two different approaches for developing leadership skills are training programs and learning from experience. Most training programs occur during a defined time period, are conducted by internal training professionals or outside educators, and take place away from the manager's immediate work site (e.g., a short workshop at a training center, a management course at a university). Experiential learning usually involves activities that are embedded within or related to operational job assignments, and they are often unplanned and informal. These experiences can take many forms, including coaching by the boss or coworkers, mentoring by someone at a higher level in the organization, special assignments embedded within the current job, special assignments on temporary leave from the current job, and a promotion or transfer that provides new challenges and opportunities for skill development. The effectiveness of training programs and developmental experiences depends in part on organizational conditions that facilitate or inhibit learning of leadership skills and the application of this learning by managers.
In the remainder of this chapter we examine features of both training programs and developmental experiences. We do not attempt to examine all training methods, aspects of development, and organizational factors that may facilitate or impede learning. For example, we do not attempt to evaluate self-development approaches, such as reading popular books for practitioners, viewing televised training programs and commercial videotapes, and using interactive computer programs designed to enhance management skills. There is almost no empirical research on the effectiveness of such approaches (Baldwin and Padgett, 1993). Our review focuses instead on the most promising training and development techniques about which there is at least some empirical research on effectiveness and facilitating conditions.
Most leadership training programs are designed to increase skills and behaviors relevant for managerial effectiveness and advancement. The training programs may attempt to increase self-awareness among participants, although they rarely try to change personality and values. Leadership training can take many forms, from short workshops that last only a few hours
and focus on a narrow set of skills, to comprehensive programs that last for a year or more and cover a wide range of skills as well as their underlying rationale (e.g., a university master's degree in business administration program for executives).
The effectiveness of formal training programs depends greatly on how well they are designed. Their design should take into account learning theory, the specific learning objectives, characteristics of the trainees, and practical considerations such as constraints and costs in relation to benefits. The current state of knowledge about learning processes does not provide precise guidelines for the design of training. Nevertheless, training is more likely to be successful if it is designed and conducted in a way that is consistent with some important findings in research on learning processes and training techniques (see reviews by Baldwin and Padgett, 1993; Campbell, 1988; Druckman and Bjork, 1991, 1994; Howell and Cooke, 1989; Noe and Ford, 1992).
The training content should be clear and meaningful. The activities should be organized and sequenced in a way that will facilitate learning. The choice of training methods should take into account the trainee's current skill level, motivation, and capacity to understand and remember complex information. Trainees should actively practice the skills to be learned (e.g., practice behaviors, recall information from memory, apply principles in doing a task). They should receive relevant feedback from a variety of available sources, and feedback should be accurate, timely, and constructive. The instructional processes should enhance trainee self-efficacy and expectations that the training will be successful.
Organizational Conditions Affecting Training Success
Research on the success of leadership training provides mixed results, and it is evident that the training is not always successful (Burke and Day, 1986; Latham, 1988). Sometimes the training is not worth the cost of providing it. The amount of learning that occurs within formal training programs and the application of learning back on the job depend greatly on several conditions in the job environment. The motivation to acquire and use new skills is increased by an organizational climate and culture that support personal development and continuous learning (Rouiller and Goldstein, 1993; Tracey et al., 1995).
One factor is how much choice employees have about attending training programs. Motivation to learn appears to be higher when participation in a training program is voluntary rather than compulsory (Facteau et al., 1995; Hicks and Klimoski, 1987) and when employees receive the training they prefer (Baldwin et al., 1991). Another factor is the extent to which bosses and coworkers promote and support the training. Several studies
have examined how support from people in the manager's immediate environment influences application of learned skills after the training is completed (Facteau et al., 1995; Fleishman et al., 1955; Ford et al., 1992; Hand et al., 1973; Huczynski and Lewis, 1980; Kozlowski and Hults, 1987; Noe and Schmitt, 1986; Rouiller and Goldstein, 1993; Tracey et al., 1995). Application of skills is more likely when bosses provide opportunity, encouragement, support, and reinforcement. Also, skills learned in a short training program can be enhanced by planning follow-up activities such as refresher sessions, progress review sessions, and specific projects related to the training.
Some progress has been made on documenting the importance of organizational factors for the application of training, but we still know little about the specific conditions facilitating application of different types of skills after training and the critical time periods for their maximal effect. To date, most of the research on organizational conditions consists of correlational studies that measure perception of the training environment and self-reports of skill application shortly after the training is completed. We need more longitudinal research on a wider variety of managerial skills, with better measures of learning, environmental conditions, and skill application (Baldwin and Ford, 1988; Tannenbaum and Yukl, 1992).
A large variety of training methods have been used for leadership training (Bass, 1990; Burke and Day, 1986; Tetrault et al., 1988). Lectures, demonstrations, procedural manuals, videotapes, equipment simulators, and interactive computer tutorials are used to teach technical skills. Cases, exercises, business games, simulations, and videotapes are used to teach conceptual and administrative skills. Lectures, case discussion, videotapes, role playing, and group exercises are used to teach interpersonal skills. Two promising techniques that are becoming widely used for leadership training are behavioral role modeling and large-scale simulations.
Behavior Role Modeling
Behavior role modeling is a training method widely used to enhance the interpersonal skills of managers. In behavior role modeling training, small groups of trainees observe someone demonstrate how to handle a particular type of interpersonal problem (e.g., provide corrective feedback, provide coaching), then they practice the behavior in a role play and get nonthreatening feedback. The effective behaviors are usually shown on a videotape that lasts from 3 to 10 minutes. In most programs the trainer explains the learning points prior to the modeling demonstration, then trainees observe
them enacted in the video. Sometimes learning points also appear in the video as the behaviors occur.
The learning points can be practiced by trainees in a role play conducted in front of the class or in small groups that allow several trainees to practice the behaviors concurrently. Trainees can obtain feedback from a variety of sources, including the trainer, other trainees who serve as observers, and from videotapes of their own behavior in the role plays. In most programs, trainees are asked to plan how to implement the behavior guidelines back on the job. After writing their plans, trainees can discuss them in dyads, in small groups, or with the trainer privately to do some reality testing and obtain guidance and encouragement.
Burke and Day (1986) conducted a meta-analysis of studies evaluating behavior role modeling and concluded that it was one of the most effective training methods for managers. Subsequent reviews also support the utility of this training method (e.g., Latham, 1989; Mayer and Russell, 1987; Robertson, 1990), although most of them expressed concerns about the limitations of the research. Few studies have measured behavior change back on the job or subsequent performance improvement in addition to immediate learning of behaviors in the training session. Despite the positive results found in most studies on the effects of behavior role modeling training, we still know little about when and why the training is effective.
Large-scale simulations are being used increasingly in training programs for managers (Kaplan et al., 1985; Van Velsor et al., 1989). This technique can be used to help participants practice and learn administrative skills, interpersonal skills, and leadership behaviors. The simulations typically involve a single hypothetical organization with multiple divisions (e.g., a bank or plastics company). Participants are assigned to a different positions in the organization and carry out the responsibilities of the executives for a period of one or two days. Participants read extensive background information about the organization and their position (e.g., prior history, products and services, financial information, industry and market conditions, organization chart, position duties and responsibilities). Each participant also has copies of recent correspondence (e.g., memos, reports) with other members of the organization and outsiders. Participants have separate work spaces, although they are allowed to communicate by various media and to schedule meetings. During the simulation the ''managers" make strategic and operational decisions just as they would in a real organization.
Participants receive feedback about the group processes and individual skills and behaviors. Feedback is usually provided by other participants and by observers who track the behavior and decisions of the participants.
Additional feedback can be provided by videotaping meetings among the participants. The facilitators help the participants understand how well they functioned as executives in collecting and processing information, analyzing and solving problems, communicating with others, influencing others, and planning strategy and operations.
There is increasing evidence of the utility of simulations for leadership development, although the research literature on simulations is still very limited (Keys and Wolfe, 1990; Thornton and Cleveland, 1990; Wolfe and Roberts, 1993). More research is needed to determine what types of learning occur and the conditions that facilitate learning. Some serious limitations in most large-scale simulations that need to be addressed include the short time period available to make effective use of behaviors that necessarily involve a series of related actions over time and the lack of appropriate follow-up activities to facilitate transfer of learning back to the job (Druckman and Bjork, 1994).
Learning from Experience
Much of the skill essential for effective leadership is learned from experience rather than from formal training programs (Davies and Easterby-Smith, 1984; Kelleher et al., 1986; Lindsey et al., 1987; McCall et al., 1988). In recent years there has been increasing interest in studying how managers learn skills and values from their experience. Researchers have begun to investigate what is learned, how it learned, and the necessary conditions for successful development of leadership competencies.
The extent to which leadership skills and values are developed during operational assignments depends on the type of experiences afforded by these assignments. Research on aspects of job experience related to leadership development (Lindsey et al., 1987; McCall et al., 1988; McCauley, 1986) found that growth and learning were greatest when challenging situations or adversity forced a manager to come to terms with personal limitations and overcome them. The research also found that challenge was greatest in jobs that required a manager to deal with change, take responsibility for high-visibility problems, influence people without authority, handle external pressure, and work without much guidance or support from superiors.
More learning occurs during operational assignments when people get accurate feedback about their behavior and its consequences and use this feedback to analyze their experiences and learn from them. However, useful feedback is seldom provided within operational assignments, and, even when available, it may not result in learning. Feedback is more likely to result in development when there is external pressure for the person to change, combined with strong social support (i.e., acceptance, assurance of
self-worth, sincere desire to help the person) (Kaplan, 1990). The extent of learning from feedback may also depend on some characteristics of the manager (Bunker and Webb, 1992; Kaplan, 1990; McCall, 1994). More learning is likely for managers who are receptive to feedback, willing to experiment, reflective about the reasons for outcomes, and concerned about people as well as the task (Kelleher et al., 1986).
A key source of feedback and coaching for most managers is the boss, but sometimes the boss does not provide them (Hillman et al., 1990; London and Mone, 1987; Valerio, 1990). A person is unlikely to get much feedback and coaching from a boss who does not understand their importance, who is preoccupied with immediate crises, or who is mainly concerned with his or her own career advancement. Another potential source of feedback and coaching for managers is peers and subordinates (Kram and Isabella, 1985; London et al., 1990). Peers and subordinates may be especially important as a source of feedback, advice, and support for managers when superiors are unavailable or unwilling to provide it.
Organizational Conditions Affecting Learning from Experience
As in the case of training, some conditions within an organization help to determine how much job challenge occurs, how much feedback is provided, how mistakes and failure are interpreted, and how much the managers are motivated to learn new skills. Not much research has been conducted on these situational conditions.
The amount of management development during operational assignments is influenced in part by prevailing attitudes and values about development. More development is likely when executives in an organization have strong values about the importance of development for the effectiveness of the organization and are aware of the developmental opportunities in operational assignments (Hall and Foulkes, 1991). At present, most organizations do not make job assignments that explicitly provide adequate developmental opportunities and a logical progression of learning (Baldwin and Padgett, 1993).
The learning climate, culture, and reward system within the organization may also influence development. More leadership development is likely in an organization in which top management values it highly and perceives it to be important for organizational effectiveness. In an organization with a learning climate that values continuous learning, more members of the organization will be encouraged to seek opportunities for personal growth and skill acquisition (Kozlowski and Hults, 1987).
Even when the organization has a strong culture to support the value of individual development, it is not easy to achieve. Planning of developmental experiences for individual managers is likely to be haphazard and unsystematic
if passed on from boss to boss. McCall (1992) suggests the need to make particular individuals or committees responsible for planning and coordinating the overall process of management development for the organization.
The U.S. Army may be a model for leadership development programs. Although there is no system-wide program, a number of Army training facilities and bases have designed programs that include many of the elements suggested by McCall. Many of the programs help soldiers to define goals and consider ways to achieve them. At the Army War College, students engage in data gathering and self-reflection, set goals, develop a learning plan, obtain feedback, and have periodic reviews. At Fort Leavenworth, students assess their own performance as part of a Leadership Assessment and Development Program. They are also given opportunities to consider performance requirements for tasks at higher levels in the organization's hierarchy. Missing, however, from many of these programs are assessments of how they impact the careers of participants. (See Druckman and Bjork, 1991:Ch. 5, for a discussion of these and other Army programs in the context of a framework for career development.)
A number of techniques can be used to facilitate the learning of relevant skills from experience on the job. These planned techniques can be used to supplement informal coaching by the boss or peers. The sections below briefly discuss special developmental assignments, job rotation, mentoring, after-action reviews, multirater feedback workshops, developmental assessment centers, and action learning.
Special Assignments. Special assignments are sometimes used to develop leadership skills, behaviors, and values. Some special assignments can be carried out concurrently with regular job responsibilities, whereas others require taking a temporary leave from one's regular job. Research on the effectiveness of developmental assignments is still very limited. Longitudinal research at AT&T (Bray et al., 1975; Howard and Bray, 1988) provides evidence that diverse, challenging assignments early in one's career may facilitate advancement. However, the relationship found between advancement and job challenge provides only indirect evidence about special assignments. The research does not evaluate the consequences of using special assignments as a separate developmental technique distinct from regular job responsibilities. Research at the Center for Creative Leadership and elsewhere suggests that different skills are learned from different types of challenges and hardship experiences (Field and Harris, 1991; Lindsey et al., 1987; McCall et al., 1988; McCauley et al., 1995; Valerio, 1990). However,
this research relies on managers' retrospective reports of their development, not on a systematic comparison among different types of assignments using measures of competencies taken before and after the assignment. Moreover, since selection for assignments is not random, it is difficult for analysts to separate the effects due to the assignment per se from those due to the characteristics of the people being assigned. More research is needed to determine what types of assignments are effective for what type of skills and what type of people.
McCauley and colleagues (1995) have suggested some ways to improve the use of special assignments for developing managers. Before making assignments, it is important to identify the challenges and learning opportunities they provide and relate them to the manager's developmental needs and career aspirations. Managers need to become more aware of the importance of developmental assignments, and they should share in the responsibility for planning them. The challenges afforded managers and what they learn from them should be tracked, and this information should be related to career counseling and succession planning. Similar recommendations are made by White (1992), who in effect is suggesting the integration of special assignments with mentoring and multirater feedback. Dechant (1994) suggests that learning from special assignments can be facilitated by the development of a concrete learning plan.
Job Rotation Programs. Job rotation programs with substantive assignments in different subunits of an organization offer a number of developmental opportunities. Managers face the challenge of quickly learning how to establish cooperative relationships and deal with new types of technical problems for which they lack adequate preparation. They can learn about the unique problems and processes in different (functional or product) subunits and the interdependencies among different parts of the organization. Job rotation also provides managers the opportunity to develop a large network of contacts in different parts of the organization.
Despite widespread use of job rotation in industry and the military, only a few studies have been conducted to evaluate this developmental technique. A study by London (1989) on scientists and engineers found that they benefitted in several ways from a job rotation program. Participants reported having higher mutual respect for other functions, a greater appreciation of the need for collaboration, and a stronger belief in the value of viewing problems from different perspectives.
A survey by Campion and colleagues (1994) of employees in a variety of organizations examined the costs and benefits of job rotation. Participants reported that job rotation resulted in increased managerial, technical, and business skill and knowledge. Amount of job rotation was positively correlated with rate of advancement, but the direction of causality was not
clear. To clarify the relationship of job rotation to skill acquisition and advancement, we need longitudinal research with repeated measurement of key variables at appropriate intervals.
The study by Campion et al. (1994) showed that job rotation also has some costs. One cost is lower productivity for the rotated individuals, which is due to the normal learning curve for a new type of job. We still have little knowledge about how long it takes to become effective in a different type of managerial position, or how long it takes for the desired learning to occur. Research is needed on the costs and benefits of job rotation, how much rotation is desirable, and how long managers should remain in each position.
Mentoring. In the last decade there has been increasing interest in the use of formal mentoring programs to facilitate management development (Noe, 1991). Mentoring is a relationship in which a more experienced manager helps a less experienced protégé; the mentor is usually at a higher managerial level and is not the protégé's immediate boss. Research on mentors (Kram, 1985; Noe, 1988) finds that they provide two distinct types of functions for the protégé: a psychosocial function (acceptance, encouragement, coaching, counseling) and a career facilitation function (sponsorship, protection, challenging assignments, exposure and visibility).
Mentors can facilitate adjustment, learning, and stress reduction during difficult job transitions, such as promotion to the first managerial position, a transfer or promotion to a different functional unit in the organization, an assignment in a foreign country, and assignments in an organization that has been merged, reorganized, or downsized (Kram and Hall, 1989; Zey, 1988). Several studies show that mentoring results in more career advancement and success for the protégé (Chao et al., 1992; Dreher and Ash, 1990; Scandura, 1992; Turban and Dougherty, 1994; Whitely and Coetsier, 1993).
Some of the research suggests that informal mentoring is more successful than formal mentoring programs. For example, Noe (1988) found that personality conflicts and lack of mentor commitment were more likely to occur with assigned mentors. The difference between formal and informal mentoring may be due primarily to the way a formal program is conducted, including the selection and training of the mentors. The success of a formal mentoring program is probably increased by making participation voluntary rather than required, by providing mentors some choice of a protégé, by explaining the benefits and pitfalls, and by clarifying the expected roles and processes for both mentor and protégé (Chao et al., 1992). Protégés need to be aware of the developmental benefits of mentoring, because they can influence the amount of mentoring they receive (Hunt and Michael, 1983). Turban and Dougherty (1994) found that protégés were more likely to initiate
mentoring relationships and get more mentoring if they had high emotional stability, internal locus of control orientation, and self-monitoring.
Mentoring is also affected by demographic factors such as age, gender, and race. Women and minorities have special problems finding successful mentoring relationships (Ilgen and Youtz, 1986; Ohlott et al., 1994; Noe, 1988; Ragins and Cotton, 1991, 1993; Ragins and McFarlin, 1990; Thomas, 1990). Common difficulties women encounter in mentoring relationships include stereotypes about appropriate behavior, concern about intimacy with men, awkwardness about discussing some subjects, lack of appropriate role models, resentment by peers, and exclusion from male networks. Some of these difficulties persist even when women mentor women. Despite the difficulties, some recent studies found no evidence that gender affects the success of mentoring (Dreher and Ash, 1990; Turban and Dougherty, 1994).
In general, the research suggests that mentoring can be a useful technique for facilitation of career advancement, adjustment to change, and job satisfaction of protégés. However, there is little research yet on the ways mentors actually facilitate development of leadership competencies (Tannenbaum and Yukl, 1992). More research is needed to identify the skills, values, and behaviors most likely to be acquired or enhanced in a mentoring relationship, the learning processes, and the conditions facilitating development.
After-Action Reviews. Learning from experience is more likely when a systematic analysis is made after an important activity to discover the reasons for success or failure. The after-action review or postmortem is a procedure for improving learning from experience by making a collective analysis of processes and resulting outcomes for an activity conducted by the group. This approach for evaluating activities and planning improvements is pervasive now in the Army but much less common in civilian organizations.
After-action reviews are usually focused on technical aspects of tactics and strategy rather than on leadership issues. There is potential for providing useful feedback to individuals about effective and ineffective leadership behavior, but some obvious constraints tend to limit the occurrence of this type of feedback. Many subordinates are afraid to point out mistakes make by a powerful leader or to suggest ways the leader could be more effective in the future. Many leaders are reluctant to have their actions and decisions critiqued by subordinates in an open meeting.
There has been little research to evaluate the benefits of after-action reviews for increasing leadership development. Additional research is clearly needed to determine the conditions and procedures appropriate for using after-action reviews to improve leadership skills and processes.
Multirater Feedback Workshops. The use of behavioral feedback from multiple
sources has become a popular method for management development. This approach is called by various names, including 360 degree feedback and multirater feedback. In a feedback workshop, managers receive information about their skills or behavior from standardized questionnaires filled out by others, such as subordinates, peers, superiors, and occasionally such outsiders as clients. Feedback about how others view the manager is usually provided in a written report to each participating manager. In the feedback report, ratings made by others are usually compared with self-ratings by the manager and to norms for other managers. An experienced facilitator helps each manager interpret the feedback and identify developmental needs.
Accurate feedback depends on gaining the cooperation of a representative set of respondents who interacted frequently with the manager over a period of time and had adequate opportunity to observe the behaviors in the questionnaire. Respondents are more likely to provide accurate ratings if they understand the purpose of the survey, how the results will be used, and the procedures to ensure confidentiality of answers. Ratings are more likely to be accurate if the feedback is used only for developmental purposes and is not part of the formal performance appraisal process (London et al., 1990).
Despite the widespread use of feedback workshops in recent years, only a few studies have assessed their impact on management development. Three studies found that feedback workshops can result in improvement of management skills and changes in managerial behavior (e.g., Hazucha et al., 1993; Nemeroff and Cosentino, 1979; Wilson et al., 1990). Although multirater workshops appear to be a promising approach for leadership development, more research is needed to determine what form of feedback is most useful, the conditions under which behavioral feedback is most likely to result in beneficial change, the types of skills or behavior most likely to be improved by feedback workshops, and the types of managers who will benefit most from participating in feedback workshops.
Developmental Assessment Centers and Workshops. Traditional assessment centers use multiple methods to measure managerial competencies and potential for advancement. Such methods include interviews; achievement, personality, and situational tests; short autobiographical essays; and speaking and writing exercises. Information from these diverse sources is integrated and used to develop an overall evaluation of each participant's management potential. The assessment center process typically takes two to three days, but some data collection may occur beforehand. In the past, most assessment centers were used only for selection and promotion decisions, but in recent years there has been growing interest in using assessment centers for developing managers (Boehm, 1985; Goodge, 1991; Rayner and Goodge, 1988; Munchus and McArthur, 1991).
Only a few studies have examined the effectiveness of developmental assessment centers. A study by Papa and Graham (1991) found that participation in a developmental assessment center resulted in more performance improvement after two years when managers received specific skill training afterward based on the feedback they received about skill deficiencies. Engelbracht and Fischer (1995) conducted a study of managers who participated in a developmental assessment center and received subsequent coaching and developmental assignments from their boss (who received a copy of the manager's feedback and recommendations for improvement). The managers were rated by superiors on skills and performance three months after the developmental assessment center, and the ratings were higher than those for a control group. Neither study provides a clear indication of the unique effects of the developmental assessment center, because other developmental activities such as skill training and special assignments were used in conjunction with it.
When combined with studies on participant perceptions about assessment centers (e.g., Fletcher, 1990; Iles et al., 1989; Jones and Whitmore, 1992), the research suggests that this developmental technique can enhance self-awareness, help to identify training needs, and facilitate subsequent development of leadership skills. However, we still do not know much about the underlying learning processes in developmental centers and workshops, or about the necessary conditions for successful development.
Action Learning. Action learning is an approach used widely in Europe for combining formal management training with learning from experience (Margerison, 1988; Revans, 1982). A typical program of action learning is conducted over a period of several months and includes field project work interspersed with skill training seminars. Individuals or teams of managers conduct field projects on complex organizational problems requiring use of skills learned in the formal training sessions. The emphasis is on developing cognitive and interpersonal skills rather than technical knowledge. The managers meet periodically with a skilled facilitator to discuss, analyze, and learn from their experiences.
Few studies have been conducted to evaluate the effects of action learning, and these studies have relied on self-reported benefits rather than objective indicators of behavior change and performance improvement. In a study by Prideaux and Ford (1988), participants reported that they increased their self-awareness, emotional resilience, interactive and team skills, analytical skills, and learning skills. Marson and Bruff (1992) studied Federal Aviation Administration supervisors who carried out six short, individual projects after classroom training, with coaching and support from their bosses; few of the supervisors reported any skill improvement. McCauley and Hughes-James (1994) had school superintendents rate the benefits derived from
individual developmental projects; the percentage of participants who reported increased skills was low. Overall, the results from research on effects of action learning are inconclusive. It is difficult to determine the unique benefits from developmental projects without an experimental study that includes a control group, which has not yet been done.
Many specific research questions have been identified in earlier sections of this review. At this point we point out some more general research questions about leadership training and development. Research on each of the following questions would greatly enhance our understanding about increasing leadership competencies in large organizations:
- How should we conceptualize and measure the skills, competencies, and behavior needed by current and future leaders?
- What types of experiences are most useful for developing different types of leadership skills?
- What training techniques are effective for different types of leadership skills and behavior?
- What skills and values are needed for shared leadership in teams, and what is the best way to develop these skills?
- What is the contribution of self-help activities to the development of leadership competencies, and how can the benefits be increased?
- To what extent are underlying values and personality traits influenced by developmental techniques, and what experiences and conditions are necessary for beneficial change to occur?
- How is leadership development related to other human developmental processes and life stages?
- How will changes in technology provide new challenges and opportunities for training and developmental activities in organizations?
- How can we achieve a better integration between formal training and development from operational assignments and self-development activities?
- How can we create and maintain the type of organization culture that will support, nurture and facilitate increased leadership development?
Considerable progress has been made in identifying the competencies related to leadership effectiveness. Nevertheless, ambiguity in the conceptualization of leadership competencies and measurement difficulties have impeded faster progress. Increasing environmental change and new challenges suggest that more skill and perhaps some new competencies will
be needed for success in the 21st century. New forms of organization and increasing skill requirements for leaders are likely to make shared leadership increasingly important. Organizations of the future will rely more on teams of leaders and the sharing of leadership functions by more members of the organization. As yet we know much less about this type of leadership than about leadership by individual managers in traditional, hierarchical organizations.
Training of leadership skills is a multibillion-dollar business conducted by universities, consulting companies, and in-house organization training centers. Despite the massive volume of training that exists, there has been only a small amount of research on its effectiveness, and much of it relies on self-serving judgments and subjective feelings. Informal self-learning by reading books and viewing videos is also a big business, but we know little about the benefits derived from these activities or the extent to which they can substitute for formal instruction. Guidelines for the design of training are available from several decades of research on human learning, but little of this research involved leadership training. Relatively new techniques such as behavior role modeling and simulations appear very promising for leadership training, but we need to find out more about how to use these techniques effectively. Organizational conditions, such as the degree of support from bosses and the learning climate, appear to be a major determinant of the application of training on the job, but there has been little research on how to create and sustain favorable conditions.
After years of preoccupation with formal management training, researchers have finally acknowledged the importance of learning leadership competencies from experiences on the job. Research on the conditions facilitating development of leadership competencies has made considerable progress in the past decade, yet mapping of relationships between specific experiences and enhancement of specific competencies has just begun. Several developmental techniques for increasing experiential learning on the job appear very promising, including mentoring, special assignments, job rotation, multirater feedback workshops, developmental assessment centers, after-action reviews, and action learning. However, the amount of research on these developmental techniques is still very limited. We have much to learn about the optimal conditions and timing for them, including what competencies will be enhanced, when the techniques should be used, how the techniques should be used, and for whom. It is evident that organizational conditions enhance or inhibit leadership development, but we need to learn more about how to create and sustain favorable conditions. We also need to learn more about the impacts of leader decisions and actions on those conditions. These concerns can be addressed by a framework that considers leader development as part of an organizational system.
Preliminary evidence suggests that formal training, development on the job, and self-development are much more effective when coordinated with each other and supported by a strong learning culture in organizations. However, we have just begun to think about how to integrate these different elements. More attention to this issue may be spurred by the growing realization that leadership development may be as important strategically as product development, marketing, and customer service for long-term organizational effectiveness (Hall and Seibert, 1992; McCall, 1992).