The Many Faces of Leadership—a Practitioner’s response to Hogans’ Abstracting Leadership.
A response to the Hogan’s view on Abstracting Leadership
George P. Hollenbeck
In a recent flurry of emails in praise of Frank Landy on the news of his death, one of our colleagues said, “Who else but Frank could bounce into a room with such vibrancy and piss off so many people while making us all think.” The Hogans seem to have taken up Frank’s mantle! Their article has made me think while at the same time frustrating me.
Yes, the leadership literature is complex—its complex because leadership is complex. With so many leadership “positions”, a failure rate is as fanciful as is a single definition—we toss around 65% as a failure rate with utterly no evidence other than our “expertise.” Yes, those who get results are good leaders and, circularly, good leaders get results. But finding a single performance measureof a group is at best a crap shoot, at worst a misguided waste of resources, and seldom if ever “easy.” As a former HR executive, I caution us against dismissing too lightly the very carefully considered judgments that organizations make about leaders.. Translating leader performance into ROI is fooling ourselves into financial thinking just as we try to translate HR activity into ROI—fooling ourselves that line executives take our results more seriously than they do.
I was asked to respond to “Abstracting Leadership” at least in part because I am a practitioner. I don’t know a single practitioner who doesn’t consider personality as a key leader variable. In the world of work, defining personality as simply in the eye of the beholder is perhaps an interesting theoretical issue, it doesn’t work. Getting results (and good leadership) is more than “managing my brand;” or (to paraphrase an old saying) or more than “leadership is the secret to success; once you’ve learned to fake that, you’ve got it made.”
Although personality as reflected in behavior is a key part of maintaining a high performing group, there is more to ROI than simply motivating employees. As a practitioner I have frequently taught MBA students who have to learn that there is more to business success than motivation—things like knowing what you are doing, finding the resources to do it, etc. etc.
Call it employee motivation, which we have studied for years, or call it engagement, the current buzz, yes, it is important in organizational success, and yes, there is a lot more to leadership than engaging your employees.
Thank you, Hogans, for assuming Frank’s mantle; he would be proud. And I thank you for making me think!!