Friday, August 15, 2008

Three Models of Leardship for the Geekiest Muppets of our time: Or why Yahoo did not merge with Microsoft in the First Place


I was a Director of the Order Fulfillment Applications in Information Technology [IT] Department of “EL ARADO”. At the time, my company was in the verge to be merged with a competitor, i.e. Plow of the Sea Inc. Facing this merged, I had the feeling that in order to lead this merge, first I needed to know how to follow. Furthermore, I followed the suggestions provided by the Vice-president [VP], whom by the way, I also considered my mentor. Therefore, I conducted a research aiming to gather information about three different leadership models that we could utilize to take appropriate decisions and implement a plan of action, to meet on one hand, the expectations of the new management; and on the other, to prepare myself to effectively facilitate and support my staff throughout the merging process. Well, I need to tell you that I was overwhelmed by the tremendous amount of theories, models, styles, approaches and taxonomies on this relevant developing discipline, as it is denominated by Gary Yukl (2002) in his book “Leadership In Organizations” (p. 6). [Nevertheless, I was also very motivated because I knew that after my research eventually would have put me in the position by which I would have had been much better equipped to, handle the unexpected, manage the expected and assist my staff and the new management to face those then new ‘merging’ challenges effectively.]

Major Leadership approaches

According to Yukl (2002) there are three major characteristics that researchers use as a way for understanding leadership effectiveness, i.e. characteristics of the leader, of the followers and finally, of the situation. As a result, theory and research has been classified, as Yukl explains, in five major perspectives or approaches: [1] Trait, [2] behavior, [3] power-influence, [4] situational and [5] integrative. (p. 9 -11) I conceptualized these approaches as dimensions that overlap and interlock within different ‘degrees and shades’ in any given instantiation of leadership. It seems that from these mere general perspectives, practitioners can create useful frameworks to improve or apply effective leadership skills at different levels for their organizations. It is within this context that I understand frameworks as continuums that integrate in their underneath different approaches, which in turn have different theories using dissimilar taxonomies and in their “surface or interface’ interpretative descriptions and/or prescriptions to plan, decide and act effectively. I think that the figure 1 below is a good example of how one might view the entire field of leadership; I could also view it as a sample of an integrative approach of leadership. In reality, the figure 1 is the exhibit of the Army leadership framework that I extracted from the Field Manual No 22 -100 titled “Army Leadership Be, Know and Do.”

Figure 1

As you see the base of this truncated pyramid is labeled values and attributes, I think this belongs to the trait approach; this perspective is the oldest and has been around since 1930’s. The next level is labeled “Direct Leadership”, I think that this approach is centered on how things are done and so falls in the realm of the behavior approach. The immediate superior level is coined “Organizational leadership”. Some of the actions within this area are geared to convince, motivate, or influence people to achieve those imperative tasks in a proper and timely way; and thus it seems to be based on the power-influence approach. “Lastly, the last and highest level is called “Strategic Leadership”. This is were the leaders experience or “suffer” [it all depends, I guess, on how one looks at it] a great deal of uncertainty, these is the core of every action and from this vantage point leaders are the ones who must set the path and for such they need to spell and outlined for the entire organization their vision. CEOs, Presidents, Generals, et al, are all part of this group, but also it can be a regional manager, a restaurant owner, or a sergeant in a small unit or a parent that needs to figure how to motivate her or his children to be educated.

I link the last level of leadership primarily links with the situational approach. Any given circumstance is embedded in a geographical area that is in turn affected by changes for near and other farther away regions of our world, the world in which we live and now appears to be a global and small shopping mall.

The Three Models

Participative Leadership

The leader shares it decision-making power with the employees and/or allows them to influence her or him. The leader does not take decisions autocratically; rather, the leader might consult with employees then takes the decisions alone, or perhaps the leader could decide to take the decision jointly with employees or just the leader would delegate the entire decision-making process to others (Yukl, 2002).

Figure 2

It is a very interesting model, by the way, I think it is the most effective, not only because it is inclusive. It involves people and might facilitate, within multiple other factors, teamwork, positive morale and enthusiasm, but because and by the simple fact that one brain rarely think better than many brains, and even if it could, there will be not proper checks or balances system in place to contrast the leader’s decisions or views against other viable alternatives. Since power means the ability to make decisions on what needs to be done, when, how and by whom. In addition, It also implies the determination of what resources are going to be utilized by whom, and how much it is going to be utilized and for how long I present below a illustration of how the participative leadership is compare according its power style among two other styles, the autocratic and the free-rein.

Figure 3

Path-Goal Theory of leadership

This theory is categorized by Yukl (2002) as one of the contingency theories of effective leadership. This theory studies the probable correlation between the leader’s behavior (LB) and the employees’ job satisfaction and under certain favorable conditions LB effects in the employees’ performance. (p. 212-216)

Yukl explains that Path-Goal theory utilizes a motivation theory, called “expectancy theory” where the desirability of an outcome is denominated its “valence” and the perceived probability of an outcome is known as “expectancy”. The expectancy theory shows why employees rationally decide to make a maximal, moderate or minimal effort to accomplish a task based on their initial perception on how successful they would be in attaining it. Thus the leader’s job is to change or influence those negative perceptions who would inhibit or detriment the employees’ performance and outcomes. Yukl indicates that in this theory the LB uses supportive, directive, participative and achievement-oriented leadership. (p. 212-216)

The Path-Goal Theory of leadership can be useful or advantageous in stressful situations where there are complex and tedious tasks to accomplish or scenarios to deal with, as for instance “EL ARADO” and Plow of the Sean Inc., merger. In addition, it appears that positive correlations exist with the leader’s supportive leadership and the employees’ job satisfaction and increase of their self-confidence; moreover, there seem to be negative correlations of the leader’s supportive skills and employees’ anxiety and the unpleasant perceptions about work.

Figure 4

The main disadvantage of the Path-Goal theory is its complexity and its reliance on the expectancy theory of motivation thereby it could create uncertainty an ambiguity, which in fact would have a negative impact on the employees’ motivation. (p. 212-216).

Servant Leadership Approach

I have learned that to have followers and making them to accomplish organizational goals does not qualify you as a leader. The purpose of a leader needs to be to be also ethical, i.e. looking to achieve the highest good for the most people. A leader needs to inspire rather than only motivate its followers to do the right things. Over my past experiences, in which in spite of my reluctance and against my will, I would have had accomplished certain tasks but only because I was forced unfairly to do it so in a coercive way by a mean supervisor. The fact that I did those demanded tasks does not make that person, who forced me to do them, a leader. It just hold the power of my paycheck.

Suddenly as I remembered those instances, an inquiry came into my mind, and somehow I needed to know if there were, and I thought at the time that it was reasonable to believe it so, a model of leadership that deals with purpose and ethics. And I found it: the Servant Leadership (SL) approach. According to Yukl (2002), Robert K. Greenleaf coined the term 1970 and wrote a book about it in 1977 and now it appears the many corporations are using SL as guideline for their business strategic plans.

The main tenet of this model is that employees are human beings who have different needs and for such they ought to have meaningful jobs and thus the leader’s main responsibility is to empower, listen and empathize with them. Greenleaf sustains that looking for the well-being and developing of the employees is as important as providing high quality services for our customers. SL antagonist model is the Authoritative Hierarchical (AH) model which usually uses power and coercive mechanisms to obtain a forced loyalty or action, from the followers; in contrast, the SL uses open communication and honesty to earn the respect and trust among the followers.

I hardly see any disadvantage in applying the SL model; however, those who confirm themselves Machiavellians, point that the SL is permissive and give too much power to people, same power that the followers can use against the leader; which the ill-intentioned Machiavellians find a very undesirable outcome for leaders, princesses, dictators, ‘SteveBallmers’, ‘BillGateses’, ‘SteveJobses’, as other tyrants, et al. I like to think of this model as a follower-centered approach; and as an effective leadership model to achieve goals without causing harm or imposing ideas onto others too, let alone remembering the environment.

I like a lot this method for “EL ARADO” and Plow of the Sea Inc. merger; it fits my personal traits and ideas about responsible management. As stated by Wong & Page (2003) “Most of the companies at the top of Fortune Magazine’s best companies to work for in America have adopted some aspects of SL. There are at least two reasons for its resurgence: (1) SL is part of the larger movement away from command-and-control leadership towards participatory and process-oriented leadership in the Information Technology [IT]-based economy, and (2) SL holds the promise of an ethical and socially responsible management and leadership as an antidote to corporate scandals.” (p. 1)

Figure 5

“If you are planning for one year, grow rice. If you are planning for twenty years, grow trees. If you are planning for centuries, grow men.” – A Chinese Proverb

The Golden Model: Participative Leadership Approach

There are not simple choices for leaders; more importantly, as a Director facing an acquisition, I know that merges usually cause the following: Intention of turnover, nervousness or stress, job dissatisfaction or insecurity among staff, in one famous acronym: FUD [Fear, Uncertainty and doubt]. Using this approach the leader and the employees will be able to interact and thus they will be able to communicate more clearly to each other, they will hear their own voices in decision-making process and most likely, they will adapt more easily to the merge.

However, when using this model often, it is difficult getting a decent consensus among staff members and other factors are added-on, such as time consumed by numerous long meetings, the decision-making will take more time. Eventually, it will require and drain more time, motivation and cooperation from the employees’ part as for the leader’s part to continue the making-decision process. Anyway, what in the world that is genuine, and for such worth it, Would not call your best efforts to obtain it?

The participative leadership model is the democratic and inclusive way to make decisions and to achieve objectives and goals. I think is the best one for a merger in which two cultures will and need to fuse into a new one, a sort of social phenomena, known as transculturation.

One caveat, though, in the situational approach we found two major subcategories of research, one it is group under the label contingency theories of leadership. These theories study the correlation between the leader attributes and situational variables. Therefore; effective leaders use, or know how and when to use, different leadership styles according to the situation, their experience, the moment, and more importantly, according to their traits, values and principles. Something that some people would ever would like to or could consider to change, their attitude towards others and even towards themselves. Incidentally, we can point in here to the difference between Gandhi and Hitler; or Bob Taylor's and Larry Roberts' expert leadership style, compare with the greedy and jerky moves of Ballmer and Gates, as the profound difference between Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak . For instance, Jobs is selling iPods, and applications for his iPhone or whatever it is. In the meantime, “WOZ” is living a quite life. He is playing his guitar. Wrote his book. He is teaching children at the school. He went to finish his college education. I just cannot imagine Steve Jobs doing this, he would never will be able to do any of that. He is far too egoistical and egomaniac. Nevertheless, I have watched and listened many of his former employees to state that they were very glad because they were not working anymore under the ‘Jobs’ of his [referring to Steve Jobs in here] ““leadership””. [All of this has been very well documented, written and filmed not once but many times]

My question, it is why we are still listening to these people? Perhaps, we think that these people are the leaders or our times, and so they do epitomize our culture. It is a catastrophic confusion, I think, they are not leaders, they are opportunists, they are "crocodiles", and not even sharks. Sharks do not cry while they are eating at their victims, yes they did not have partners they only have victims. Ok, you do not believe me, I give you one proof of it, listen to what Metcalfe has to say [the inventor of Ethernet] on his deal with Microsoft, more specifically about his then Network Operating System [clue: Around the time of Windows 3.11 for workgroups].

It is nothing wrong, until these “predators” got so lucky and powerful that their erroneous way of life is having devastating consequences in the economy, in the industries, at our jobs, in the academics, in our children education, at the non-profit sectors, in the news, and finally in the government. For many people these are icons. However for some of us, who know what they really are and how ugly they sucks, and as I stated sometime ago, they constitute a new kind of “Gura”, they are the new idols with the feet of silicone, and so they seem to be the Geekiest Muppets of our time but not more than that for sure. History will tell us this... however there are more than couple books, articles and films.

I forgot to mention the leadership of "The Monkey Boy"


Big Dog Leadership Styles, [Web Site]. U.S. Army. Available: [2006, January 03, 2006].

Clark, D. (2001, October). Leadership (May 15, 2001), [Shareware Material]. Donald Clark. Available: [2006, January 04].

Wong, P. T. P., & Page, D. (2003). Servant leadership: An Opponent-Process Model and the Revised Servant Leadership Profile, Servant Leadership Roundtable (pp. 1- 13).

Yukl, G. (2002). Leadership In Organizations (5th Edition ed.). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall Inc.

U.S. Army Handbook (1973). Military Leadership.

Plowed Results | Resultados Arados