Washington Crossing the Delaware, Emanuel Leutze, 1851
Ideas for Leaders #087

Resolute Leadership, Coordination and Corporate Culture

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Key Concept

Resoluteness is often a term used to describe people in battle, moving forward in an unwavering, purposeful way. Now, research indicates that this trait is useful in an organizational setting too; resolute leaders are better equipped to coordinate their followers’ actions, and build high-performance teams. Conviction or resoluteness enhance a leader's credibility. However, resoluteness can also inhibit bottom-up information flow. So a balance is needed.

Idea Summary

"What makes a good leader?" is one of the most asked and researched questions of the past few decades. Finding a convincing answer is both more important now than ever and more difficult because we live in a world where an increasing amount of information is being produced and communicated. According to Professor Patrick Bolton, the workplace has become more complex and team work more important, as the market environment is constantly changing. Therefore, more adaptation and coordination is required, which means that there is a more important role for leadership.

Nowadays, it is not only an organization's structure, objectives, information, communication technology and environment that determine its success; leaders’ behavioural traits and their interactions with followers are also crucial determinants of an organization's ultimate performance. The challenge they face is in coordinating followers' actions over time, and steering the organization's course in a changing environment. In this respect, resoluteness is a particularly helpful trait.

"This is not an innate trait," says Bolton. "The main lesson emerging from our research is that leaders need to put themselves in the shoes of their team-members and ask themselves how their actions and announcements will be perceived/interpreted, how it will help team members make up their mind and give them a clear sense of the direction the leader wants to take the group."

The research envisages an approach to leadership approach involving four stages:

  1. First, the leader observes a 'signal' which describes the environment the organization is likely to be in. Based on this and his initial beliefs, the leader proposes a strategy for the organization around which other team members can coordinate their actions.
  2. In the second stage, the other members of the team (the followers) also observe 'signals' about the organizational environment and decide how closely they want to follow the leader's proposed strategy.
  3. In the third stage, the leader receives a second signal and will only then commit to the organization's strategy, based on all the information he has available. By this stage, followers have already acted, and the leader at this point is no longer concerned about coordinating their actions.
  4. In the fourth and last stage, once the strategy has been implemented, the organization's payoff is realized. The better adapted the strategy is to the environment and the better coordinated all the members' actions are, the higher the payoff will be.

This model works best when the leader and followers are equally informed about the environment, and the leader adopts a resolute and steady attitude.

Business Application

Appointing leaders known for their resoluteness is one way of ensuring good leadership in an organization; however, resoluteness as a character trait has its pros and cons. The dangers of resoluteness are particularly prominent in situations where followers have valuable information. So, how to adopt this essential characteristic in a balanced way?

"If leaders have a clear idea on what needs to be done and what direction to take the organization, then it is more important for them to convey this clearly to their teams than to elicit information from them, or to encourage them to take initiatives," advises Bolton. "If, on the other hand, leaders are uncertain about the direction in which to take their organization, then it makes sense for them to encourage initiatives from followers and to accept some lags in coordination may inevitably arise from such a management style."

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Authors

Institutions

Source

Idea conceived

  • 2012

Idea posted

  • February 2013

DOI number

10.13007/087

Subject

Real Time Analytics