The Process Of Managerial Leadership

September 20, 2010

Yukl’s textbook on leadership, “Leadership in Organizations,” admits there are probably as many definitions of leadership as people that have tried to define it. The definition you use really depends on what you want to do with it – identify leaders, determine how they are selected, describe what they do, describe why they are effective, or determine whether they are even necessary.

Yukl’s focus was on managerial leadership, or leadership in the workplace. He settled on the following definition for managerial leadership:

Leadership is a process of influencing others to understand and agree about what needs to be done and how to do it, and the process of facilitating individual and collective efforts to accomplish shared objectives. ( p. 8 )

The slick thing about this definition is that anyone who engages in an influence process for the purpose of helping others understand what needs to be done, or that helps other individuals or groups accomplish shared objectives, is practicing leadership. We use the terms leader, manager, boss, and supervisor for people we normally associate with expectations to perform the leadership role, and we use the terms subordinate, direct report, staff, and follower to denote the folks we assume are the target of the leadership process.

Let me ask you two questions about the process of managerial leadership:

1. What are the most important things leaders want or expect from followers?

2. What are the most important things followers want or expect from leaders?

I’d really like to know your thoughts. If you can back your observations up with a citation or reference that we can all check out, that would be particularly appreciated. Please leave your comment at the end of this post. Thanks!!

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  1. Juan says:

    In my humble experience :
    1. What are the most important things leaders want or expect from followers?
    Leaders expect followers to get things done aligned to the vision laid out for them for the better good of all.

    2. What are the most important things followers want or expect from leaders?
    As a follower I expect leaders to be role models, to lay out the vision towards achieving a better world for all.

    A leader has to be a follower and a follower has to be a leader. A leader has to develop followers to become leaders, therefore a leader has to be a follower as well.

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    Thanks, Juan. I think many would agree with your observations. Bret

  2. 1. Leaders want / expect from followers…competency in their skills and time span for accomplishing tasks. Additionally respect for the person-hood of the leader. The leader has an expectation that when value is offered to the subordinate (training/learning, work that stretches their capability, delegation of tasks) that the person chooses to explore their values and commitments of the person and accomplish the tasks. Plus sharing the requisite information needed to increase the absorptive capacity of the changes and work.

    2.Follower expectation of leader. It is reciprocal to #1. Followers expect the leader to have competency in their position plus a respect for the person-hood of the follower. They want to know and understand how the work/change/task/goals/vision will affect them and the expectation that the leader has thought this through. Additionally evaluative feedback of great work and work that is not so great in a clear and distinct system that is easy to understand.

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    Welcome, Michael. Concur that reciprocal respect of the individual, not the position is very important. Thanks for sharing! Bret

  3. Jim Taggart says:

    Yukl’s definition is as good as most of those out there. I do prefer the use of the expression managerial leadership, and have used it for over a decade. Why? Because it distinguishes between those in managerial positions in organizations (public, private, non-profit) who expected to be leaders (read Mintzberg on this topic) and those who exercise leadership on a daily basis but who are not in formal management positions. Too often see see exemplary leadership practiced by employees who do not hold positions with formal authority. Yet, these people are often the movers and the shakers, as well as the organization’s thought leaders.

    With respect to Bret’s two questions:

    1. What are the most important things leaders want or expect from followers?
    I would suggest that leaders desire loyalty and commitment from those they lead. However, I must emphasize that while managers are appointed to their positions, leaders must EARN their followership. See my answer to Q#2

    2. What are the most important things followers want or expect from leaders?
    This would include, in my view, alignment between what the leader espouses and how he or she actually behaves. It gets an integrity. Also, followers expect that their leader will never abandon them for the leader’s own gain. He or she backs them fully.

    Sorry for the long reply 🙂

    Read more:

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    Great thoughts, Jim. Love the extra insight on managerial leadership. It’s a term I’ve never used before but kind of like. Thanks for sharing! Bret

  4. Corrie Block says:

    The key to character-driven leadership is empathy. You have to care about other people in order to trust your character to guide you as a leader.

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    Welcome, Corrie! I would agree 100% that there is no substitute for caring. Well said. Thanks! Bret

  5. Hi Bret, I have asked clients the first question. I would say that loyalty is most often the answer (this prompts a discussion about whether this loyalty they want is earned by them, as it must be).

    Regarding the second question, respect tops my list!

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    People that say loyalty first make me nervous. Have too often seen that really mean do what I say and never question me. I think an emphasis on loyalty only leads to trouble. It’s a self-centered perspective that often is in conflict with your #1 on the follower list. Thanks, MJ! Bret

  6. davidburkus says:

    I think leaders look for compliance. Followers for freedom. That’s obviously not optimal…but probably the way it is.

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    My friend Wally Bock will not like this, but I think those involved in the leadership process (ok, let’s call them leaders) look for *deviance*, something new, change. Other folks (oh no, can we call them managers?) look for compliance. But I agree with you that followers want autonomy. Thanks! Bret

  7. Wes Balda says:

    Best to look at Max De Pree, and explore the leader as debtor in “Leadership is an Art”. While you’re at it, Peter Drucker… … he definitely believed in leadership, but he made you work at it. To be honest, my whole view is that leadership is a dimension of management, like Drucker. If we were better at defining leadership (see Yukl!) maybe we wouldn’t have to defend this so often.

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    Welcome, Wes! I LOVE the De Pree book. Thanks for sharing your thoughts! Bret