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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Book Review: Leadership Theory and Practice


Leadership Theory and Practice by Northouse is an excellent book that will lead one though varying kinds of leadership skills, abilities, and theories. It gives a broad understanding of leading leadership theories and provides an excellent overview of the various contexts of leadership behavior and vantage points. It is written at an executive and graduate level due to its theoretical explanations but is well structured and uses standard language. It would be wise to include the book in leadership courses or personal libraries. 

The book has a number of important concepts such as the trait approach to leadership, skills approach, style approach, situational approach, contingency theory, path-goal theory, leader-member exchange, transformational leadership, team leadership, psychodynamic approach, women and leadership, culture and leadership, and leadership ethics. Each concept benefits the readers in terms of various leadership definitions and perspectives.

The book has a solid chapter on culture and leadership. Culture can often be defined as beliefs, values, rules, norms, symbols and traditions that are common to a group of people. When group members share these aspects they will define themselves differently than other cultures. Subcultures often include race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and age. When organizations are diverse they have different cultures and subcultures included. In other words, a singular viewpoint does not dominate the group. 

Ethnocentricism is the consistent placement of one’s own group (i.e. ethnic, racial…) as a superior outlook on life. The book indicates that nearly all human beings have a level of ethnocentricism and it is difficult for the majority of people to shake intellectually. The limitations of this are that without seeing other perspectives and values we are limited in how we view and see the world. Solutions can be one sided and based in a singular vantage point making them less effective.

Prejudice is when individuals use faulty judgment and unsubstantiated beliefs to judge another people. However, it is not prejudice if concepts are based off of fact and evidence (i.e. evidence based leadership). Yet if one focuses too specifically on some facts and ignore others than their motivation would be based in prejudice.  Honest and open discussions where parties desire to learn from each other are not prejudice as long as learning and new understandings occur. 

Different cultures focus on different styles of leadership and often promote them.  For example, Germanic cultures are more assertive while performance orientation is focused more in Anglo, Confucian Asia, and Germanic Europe. It is these general perspectives that make their way throughout the societal structure and perceived leadership performance. It would be difficult for a leader to rise that was from a completely different culture due to their widely varying beliefs.

The more aware one is of the varying cultures and leadership structures the more globally effective the leadership style. There are 22 positive leadership traits that apply to all cultures universally. The values include trustworthy, foresight, positive, confidence, intelligent, win-win problem solver, administrative, excellence, just, plans, dynamic, motivational, decisive, communicative, coordinator, honest, encouraging, motive arouser, dependable, effective in bargaining, informed, and a team builder. It is these values that should be supported and developed in organizations that desire to compete on a global scale.  

People who display undesirable leadership traits such as loner, irritable, ruthless, asocial, non-explicit, dictatorial, non-cooperative and egocentric should be avoided and not encouraged to take power positions. When they do, one can expect considerable chaos, in and out-group dynamics, and abuse of power to be the result. If you are going to choose your leader make sure you choose them wisely and based within their inner and outer traits. 

The section starts with a strong quote that sums up global integration and the need for global leadership, “Since WWII, globalization has been advancing throughout the world. Globalization is the increased interdependence (economic, social, technical, and political) between nations. People are becoming more interconnected. There is more international trade, cultural exchange, and the use of worldwide telecommunication systems. In the last 10 years, our schools, organizations, and communities have become far more global than in the past. Increased globalization has created many challenges, including the need to design effective multinational organizations, to identify and select appropriate leaders for these entities, and to manage organizations with culturally diverse employees. Globalization has created a need to understand how cultural differences affect leadership performance (pg. 301). “

Northouse, P. (2007). Leadership Theory and Practice. Thousand Oaks, CA; Sage Publications.


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