1 An Overview of the Leadership Discourses Simon Western Introduction This chapter summarizes the leadership discourses, and show how they relate to each other and to leadership practice. It is important to highlight that while these discourses emerged at different social and economic periods, each are now familiar and have become normative.

Each discourse dominated a historical period, in contemporary organizations, each one has its strengths and weaknesses. Each discourse may stand alone and dominate different sectors and organizations, but they also co-exist, within organizations and within individual leaders and leadership teams. However, one discourse is usually dominant in any given situation at any given time. In leadership practice, co-existence usually means one of two things:

1. a strategic leadership synthesis of skills and culture to maximize organizational effi- ciency and enhancement of member engagement; 2. competing cultures and visions of how to lead the organization.

I will now summarize each discourse.

Discourse 1: leader as controller The first leadership discourse that emerged at the beginning of the twentieth century epitomized by Taylor’s scientific management is the Leader as Controller. This character is very similar to MacIntyre’s social ‘manager’ character, which he claims signifies the tension between manipulation and non-manipulation, and I would add between control and autonomy. The Controller leadership discourse is born from scientific rationalism and the industrial revolution, which, in the name of the Enlightenment and progress, relegated the worker to being a cog in a machine, mirroring standardization and mechanization within Source – An edited version of Western, S. (2008) ‘An overview of the leadership discourses’. 02-Preedy-et al-4240-Ch-01 (Part 1).indd 11 15/07/2011 9:42:39 AM 12 Leadership Theories and Values the mass production of the factory. The leader as Controller operates as a technocrat leader focusing on efficiency. In Etzioni’s (1961) taxonomy of control, this leadership character is based on an overt system of coercive and utilitarian control, using reward and deprivation (transactional leadership). In the leadership discourse, covert control is applied from beyond the workplace. The political/economic and social leadership supports the drive for worker efficiency, leveraging worker productivity through class power relations and the threat of unemployment, poverty, healthcare and pension benefits. Political leadership always retains the leader as Controller discourse in the background alongside other leadership discourses, using the threat of job loss and welfare to work benefit links etc., as a social control mechanism (healthcare linked to paid employment is very important in the USA).

Discourse 2: leader as therapist The second discourse is the leader as Therapist. [It] signifies the dominant therapeutic culture in contemporary Western society and highlights the tension between individualism and alien – ation, personal growth and workplace efficiency, well-being and mental/emotional health. [It] represents the subtlety of therapeutic governance as opposed to coercive control. This leadership reflects the wider social trends of atomization, self-concern, and the post-war individualistic expectations of being fulfilled, successful and happy (Rieff, 1966; Lasch, 1979; Furedi, 2003).

The Therapist leader emerged from within the Human Relations movement and encom – passes the work of theorists such as Mayo, Lewin, Maslow, Frankl and Rogers. Their focus on individual personal growth and self-actualization was readily translated to the workplace, through techniques to motivate individuals and teams, through job re-design and job enhancement to make work more satisfying and to produce work-group cohesion.

Employers and theorists believed that happier workers would be more productive than unhappy, coerced workers. This approach in essence was seen as more progressive and productive. It aimed to overcome the alienation created by the machine-like efficiency under the leader as Controller discourse. Work became a site for personal growth and achievement, a place to create meaning and identity. Under the leader as Therapist, people ‘went to work to work on themselves’ (Rose, 1990), embracing therapeutic culture in society at large.

Personnel departments were established, management consultants and new texts, theo- ries and a huge training and development industry flourished. The leader as Therapist still flourishes, often alongside the later Messiah character; a common scenario is the HR Director acts as the Therapist character and the CEO as leader as the Messiah character.

Recent examples of the therapist discourse are the interest in emotional intelligence and the huge growth of executive coaching. However, this discourse lost its potency in corpo- rate life, as it could no longer deliver the economic benefits across global business.

Discourse 3: leader as messiah The third discourse is the leader as Messiah. The term leader has been elevated in recent years, challenging the dominance of the term ‘manager’ and signifying more social change. Coming to the fore since the early 1980s and most clearly articulated within the 02-Preedy-et al-4240-Ch-01 (Part 1).indd 12 15/07/2011 9:42:39 AM An Overview of the Leadership Discourses 13 Transformation leadership literature, the Messiah discourse provides charismatic leader – ship and vision in the face of a turbulent and uncertain environment. The Messiah charac- ter signifies the tension between salvation and destruction, between the technocrat and the moral visionary, and between hope and despair. The Messiah discourse appeals to indi- viduals and society, promising salvation from the chaotic world in which a lack of control is experienced and where traditional community is diminished. As the workplace rises in importance as a site of community, replacing institutions such as the church and family, so the manager/leader replaces the priesthood as a social character of influence. The Messiah character leads through their signifying capacity, symbolism, ritual, myth and language. Their focus is to act on culture change and the Messiah leadership discourse relies on ‘normative control’, which is self- and peer-control through surveillance and internalization, emotionalism and cultural norms. Followers of the Messiah character work hard because of an internalized belief system aligned to the leader’s vision and values. The earnings of leaders graphically represent the new values and expectations on leaders since the Messiah discourse arrived. In the 1980s, in the USA, CEOs earned 40 times the average wage (as the Therapist character), in 2000 (as the Messiah character) they earn over 475 times (Business Week, ‘Executive compensation scoreboard’, 17 April 2000).

Table 1.1, at the end of the chapter, shows an overview of the signifying qualities of each discourse, clearly demonstrating the differences between them and how they impact on leadership practice. It also includes an overview of a fourth discourse – eco leadership – that is discussed later in the chapter. It is an interesting exercise to be playful with the discourses we have dis – cussed, to observe leadership and the language leaders use, seeing if they fit into one or more of these discourses. Also look at vision statements, company websites, newspaper articles, and try to identify these discourses. When you have identified a leadership discourse, look for any pat – terns and the context in which they occur. Practising this alerts you to the underlying discourses in any leadership situation, which then enables you to take a critical stance, and ask why a certain discourse is favoured, and what implications this has for the employees and the organization.

The leadership discourses in practice The embodiment of the leadership discourse by a leader character brings the concept of a dis – course into the lived workplace. It provides a tangible and observable leadership practice to engage and negotiate with. It reveals to those who take a critical perspective how a discourse impacts and influences organizations, managers and employees. It reveals the constantly chang – ing tensions and desires within the social realm and how this impacts on leadership at work. There is a dynamic interaction between the character (the discourse-filled role) and the actor inhabiting the character. The interaction extends also to those interacting with the leader or leadership team.

Discourses preference Individual leaders, leadership teams and organizations rarely consciously choose their preferred leadership discourse as these are hidden within normative behaviours and expec- tations. However, they are drawn to discourses for various reasons. 02-Preedy-et al-4240-Ch-01 (Part 1).indd 13 15/07/2011 9:42:39 AM 14 Leadership Theories and Values Sometimes leaders and organizations are ‘trapped’ within a discourse; others change between leadership discourses under certain conditions. Individuals and groups can be attracted to different discourses depending on their personal social location and how they perceive the world from this location.

Often individuals have an internalized ‘idealized’ leadership stance, which relates to their social location, and their personal experience of leadership, beginning from their parenting.

If a person has a very strict mother or father, or they are brought up in a strict religious cul – ture or a harsh boarding school, this may influence the leader they identify with later in life.

They may assume that all leaders should be in the Controller discourse, as this is the norm to them. Alternatively they may internalize a view that this early experience was damaging to them and they may seek a reparative leadership model that would situate them in the ‘therapy discourse’. Individuals who doted on their parents or another early leadership role model may identify with the Messiah discourse, relating to the special leader who presents as a saviour.

Changes in leadership discourses often arise due to external pressures. An individual leader can be pulled by competing discourses. As British Prime Minister, Tony Blair embodied the Messiah discourse, talking passionately, with vision, with persuasion, attempting to modernize and change the culture of his political party, the country and beyond, but every so often he reverted to the Controller leadership discourse. His desire seems to be visionary, but his instincts seem to be the controller, the interventionist leader, setting a target and audit culture of micromanagement in the public sector.

Anxiety over performance often distorts a leadership team who favour the Messiah discourse, and all the company rhetoric supports transformational leadership, but then return instinctively to the controller discourse, when they receive poor output figures or share prices drop.

Understanding the leadership discourses makes it easier for leaders in practice to recog- nize these processes. When they are recognized, leaders can act to ensure that reactivity to short-term pressure doesn’t alter their strategic course. Different geographical, historical and socio-cultural contexts will also favour different leadership discourses. It appears that in the USA leadership seems more generically accepted than in Europe where it seems more distrusted. The Messiah discourse is there- fore more likely in the USA, and the Therapist discourse more likely in Europe as it has less of an overt leadership feel to it.

The British National Health Service (NHS) is an interesting example of a large public sector institution which has experienced all three discourses. It was dominated by hierarchy and control in the early years and until the 1970s was led by the leader as Controller dis- course with severe matrons, rigid role definitions, a bureaucratic structure and medical personnel acting with omnipotent power. This shifted towards the leadership as Therapist discourse as new management/leadership techniques filtered in from the private sector, and it was realized that leadership and motivation were key issues as employee morale waned in an under-resourced and underpaid service. In the late 1980s, greater reforms began to take place and again, following the corporate lead, the leader as Messiah discourse became prominent, with the aims of modernizing the NHS and changing the culture to enable flexible and adaptive working. Huge sums were spent on leadership development using competency frameworks designed to support the change using the Messiah discourse.

Symbolic culture changes took place, which were/are hotly contested, for example, to make patients into customers with choices and create an internal market. Interestingly, while the 02-Preedy-et al-4240-Ch-01 (Part 1).indd 14 15/07/2011 9:42:39 AM An Overview of the Leadership Discourses 15 espoused leadership was the Messiah discourse and CEOs have been given more positional power to change culture, the reality on the ground has been one of competing discourses.

The health workers’ favoured discourse is the Therapist discourse, which relates closely to their clinical roles and vocations, and that is what clinical leaders attempt to provide.

The senior management attempts to create culture change through the Messiah discourse, but complain that the government is so anxious about its modernizing reforms that it reverts to the leader as Controller discourse, micro-managing CEOs’ performance. This is due to the government anxiety that if the reforms fail they would themselves lose office. This anxiety is passed down throughout the institution and the experienced leadership is the Controller discourse. An ex-colleague of mine spoke of her experience as a clinical leader: My job used to be caring for people, now I feel like I am running a production line, all we are concerned about is getting the waiting times down, if we don’t, our funding is reduced. The leadership here talks about creating a culture of trust, empowering us to do our jobs, but in reality they are the most controlling leaders we have had in my 24 years of service. (Ward Charge Nurse, NHS hospital, September 2005: Anonymous) The result of an espoused Messiah leadership discourse colliding with the experience of a Controller discourse creates cynicism and distrust, resulting in low morale.

Positions within hierarchies, and location in functions and departments, also impact on the leadership discourse. The Messiah leadership discourse is more favoured, the higher in the organization one climbs. The Therapist leader has become favoured in the realms of aspiring middle managers, HR departments and the public sector. Human Resource depart- ments often fluctuate between the Controller discourse, when operating on transactional and contractual concerns, and the Therapist discourse, when dealing with leadership devel- opment. This split is unhelpful. They can be perceived as Controlling characters from below, and as Therapist characters from above. Structurally within companies the HR leadership becomes split between discourses, which is unhelpful as they are in a vital influencing position and should be working towards the company’s strategic leadership vision.

Leadership development, often instigated through the HR function, is a very risk-averse process, because the deliverers worry about having safe and measurable outcomes to jus- tify their work. Also when working with senior personnel, the risk is increased because of the power held by these executives. This often influences choices and the deliverers revert to individualist, reductionist and formulaic solutions: competency frameworks setting universal leadership goals, followed by individual ‘tests’ to ‘scientifically’ measure skills and identify gaps. The weakest part of this process is usually the follow-up. Sometimes it is missing altogether or the individual is given token leadership development. This approach is situated in the Therapist discourse, attempting to change individual behaviour through modification using a technician-rational approach. What is missing is a coherent systemic approach with an organizational development and strategic vision. Leadership discourses can be used heuristically to help understand an organizations’ individual leadership assumptions. If an HR leader can understand the tensions in their roles, they can resist the pull to the Therapist discourse and take a more strategic view alongside the individualist rational approach. To make progress in the emancipatory role of leadership in organizational life, the dis- courses help identify normative assumptions, social relations and beneath-the-surface 02-Preedy-et al-4240-Ch-01 (Part 1).indd 15 15/07/2011 9:42:39 AM 16 Leadership Theories and Values structural dynamics. They also help to reveal how power, authority, control and influence are exerted. The leader is as ensnared in the dominant discourse as are the followers; nobody is acting as a free agent unless they are aware of the dominant discourses which create the boundaries and norms in which we all act.

Working with leadership discourses Each discourse has its merits and its weaknesses. Once aware of the discourse, we can make some judgement and assessment as to how each discourse affects leadership and organizational culture. While we are all in a sense captured by a particular discourse, we are also able to negotiate, individually and collectively, to change the discourse and our relationship to it. Collectively, the discourse can be transformed, and with it the power and social relations that emanate from it. It is through this social construction (of which we are all active agents) that negotiation takes place and social change occurs.

Boxes 1.1, 1.2 and 1.3 offer examples of how each leadership discourse might impact within different work situations (which often reflects how they emerged). These boxes are there to open dialogue as to which leadership discourses, and the accompanying assump- tions, fit to different situations and contexts. As stated previously, discourses can and often do co-exist within organizations and sectors, but one is usually dominant. Box 1.1 Controller leader discourse Strengths Weaknesses Focus on output and task Results driven Improves efficiency Empirical and measurable targets Decisive leadership in a crisis Creates clear boundaries between work and home identity Creates employee alienation, resentment and resistance Poor use of human resource: does not utilize employees’ knowledge, skills and creativity Creates inflexible and rigid ‘them and us’ workforce relations Often leads to disputes Useful settings Less useful settings Production line, old manufacturing Workplaces where efficiency and control are vital Nuclear industry, projects which require high security, and high levels of checking Accounting departments Construction industry Task-focused project management First line leadership Post-industrial workplaces Knowledge-led industries Education sector Entrepreneurial business Innovation and creative sector Senior strategic leadership 02-Preedy-et al-4240-Ch-01 (Part 1).indd 16 15/07/2011 9:42:39 AM An Overview of the Leadership Discourses 17 Box 1.2 Therapist leader discourse Strengths Weaknesses Individual and team focus Emotional awareness Builds trust Empowers through engaging individual and team through building rapport, listening and finding ways to offer personal growth and development opportunities Lacks big picture, strategic focus Lacks dynamism and energy Doesn’t build strong cultures Individual focus rather than systems focus Organization can become introverted and narcissistic, focusing on employee needs rather than an external focus Useful settings Less useful settings Steady state organizations Education, health, public and not- for-profit sectors Value focuses in organizations with an ethos of human development Middle management-leadership roles, supporting individuals and teams Human Resource function Fast changing organizations Multinationals with complex structures, requiring more of a systemic and culture-led approach Manufacturing sector, building industry which require robust, task focus Senior leadership requiring strategic focus Asian cultures which are less culturally embedded in therapy culture than Western cultures Box 1.3 Messiah leader discourse Strengths Weaknesses Builds strong aligned companies Dynamic energized cultures Innovative, dispersed leadership Builds in dispersed leadership and autonomous teams Strategic and visionary Unsustainable over long periods totalizing- fundamentalist cultures Leaders can become omnipotent, dependency then becomes an issue Conformist homogeneous cultures can stifle innovation and creativity Useful settings Less useful settings Post-industrial companies Knowledge-based companies Global multinationals, large corporations Senior strategic leadership Steady state organizations Industrial, manufacturing sector Organizations reliant on continuity rather than transformation, e.g. health-care, banking Middle management/leadership Organizations with resistance to ‘leadership cultures’ (public sector organizations) 02-Preedy-et al-4240-Ch-01 (Part 1).indd 17 15/07/2011 9:42:39 AM 18 Leadership Theories and Values When thinking about leadership in one’s own workplace, or when visiting another organization, these boxes can highlight a few of the relevant issues to consider. If a dis- course exists in the wrong context, there will be increased tension, and the leader character will experience the full effects of this tension. If as a leader, you experience such tensions, then look at conflicts in discourses as a potential way of understanding and getting to the source of the problem. […] An emergent discourse: the eco-leader Post-heroic leaders The Messiah discourse is not the final word, but it remains the contemporary dominant discourse in the mainstream literature and practising leaders’ mindset. However, there has been a small but growing backlash against the Transformational and hero leader.[…] Badarraco (2001: 121) makes the case for quiet moral leadership: ‘modesty and restraint are in large measure responsible for their extraordinary achievement’. […] [This] is the post-heroic leader, but under examination we find regurgitated leadership approaches, taken directly from the Therapist leader discourse.

[…] The leader is toned down, forceful but with humility and quiet but focused influence […] [S/he] needs to be authentic, emotionally intelligent, sensitive and less rational, privileging the emotional and internal self. Binney et al. (2004) describe the post-heroic leader as relational, as about people, the classic ‘leader as Therapist’ discourse. The post-heroic leadership literature also includes the recent idea of leader-coaches, the archetype leader-therapist. Much of this literature represents ideas from democratic and the Human Relations movement; it is particularly close to Greenleaf ’s ‘servant leader’ (1977) which pioneered post-heroic leadership under a different name, over 30 years before. […] The post-heroic leader literature also calls for dispersed leadership, networking and matrix organizations and advocates greater collaboration, in line with much of what the Transformational leader set out to achieve. Attempts have been made to harness the Therapeutic character to serve the interests of the Messiah discourse. For example, Jim Collins’ (2001) ‘Level 5 leader’ retains the hero- ism but inverts it. […] Leadership spirit/spiritual leadership Leadership spirit implies that leaders act with spirit, or there is a spirit of leadership. […] It matters little what informs or underpins the leadership spirit, however, the spirit must support the joy, creativity, the positive life-force and the underlying ethics and holistic 02-Preedy-et al-4240-Ch-01 (Part 1).indd 18 15/07/2011 9:42:39 AM An Overview of the Leadership Discourses 19 approach of the Eco-leader discourse. Practising how to leverage this leadership spirit is more important than finding its source.

[…] The spiritual leadership literature (e.g. Mitroff and Denton [1999]) blends the Christian- Judaeo tradition finding that spirituality is individual and transcendent, with the Eastern and perhaps indigenous Native American tradition, focusing on the ecological ideas that ‘We are all interconnected. Everything affects everything else’. […] The language used to describe the post-heroic leaders creates an image of a Therapist leader with spiritual and moral intent. These post-heroic leaders, however, are often more idealized, more of a fantasy, than charismatic leaders of the past. Spirituality is now entering the leadership literature and practice: ‘For at least a decade the press has reported company leaders speaking about spirituality and business, while multiple publications have advocated links between corporate success and issues of the soul’ (Calas and Smircich, 2003: 329). According to May (2000), spirituality is the most important influence in leadership. But as Tourish and Pinnington point out, ‘Ironically, this effort is often driven by a very non- spiritual concern – the desire to increase profits’ (2002: 165). […] The Eco-leader discourse […] The Eco-leadership discourse is about a new paradigm of leadership which takes an ecological perspective. This is a perspective which understands: that solutions in one area of business may create problems in another; that growth in one industry causes decline in another, with social consequences; that short-term gains may have immediate benefits, but may have longer-term consequences which may damage the business and the environment. Eco-leadership recognizes that within an organization there are inter- dependent parts which make up a whole; this goes for all stakeholder relationships, and in ever-widening circles that eventually reach the air that we breathe. It is about con – nectivity, interdependence and sustainability underpinned by an ethical, socially respon – sible stance. The Eco-leadership discourse takes ethics beyond business ethics into social concerns; it takes ethics beyond human concerns and recognizes a responsibility and relationship to the natural world. It also focuses the connectedness within each of us, and between each of us. The Eco-leadership discourse is fuelled by the human spirit. For some, this is underpinned by spirituality, for others not. Either way, the Eco-leadership discourse is a spirit-filled leadership, and a connected leadership. […] As globalization and new technologies make the world ‘smaller’, our connections seem more important, and our vulnerability and reliance on each other and on safeguarding the natural world are rising concerns. […] There is an ever-growing complexity of connected networks of organizations, suppliers, producers and consumers, forming webs of interaction with no single leadership, no 02-Preedy-et al-4240-Ch-01 (Part 1).indd 19 15/07/2011 9:42:39 AM 20 Leadership Theories and Values planned strategy, set in a constantly emerging and changing political and social environ- ment. From this arises new organizational forms and leadership approaches. […] Leaders of multinational corporations are also finding that they have to find ways to increase the emergent capabilities within their companies to have any chance of keeping pace with change and the de-centralized forces impacting on them. […] If one looks at the Messiah discourse through an open-systems perspective (von Bertalanffy, 1968), one can account for the un-sustainability of this leadership as the organizational boundaries are ever-closing and become increasingly rigid. When an organism’s (or organization’s) boundaries get too closed and don’t allow inputs and out – puts to flow (in human systems this includes communications), the organism starts to atrophy and will die. […] Open-systems thinking teaches us that we have to interact with the environment, and to achieve this successfully requires adaptive- and self-regulation. In terms of leadership, self-regulation and adaptive practice can only occur when there is dispersed leadership able to act and react to local change. […] Eco-leadership is a discourse which creates self-organizing and emergent properties arising from dispersed leadership, which build into organizations the ability to be adaptive to fluctuations and constant change.

One of the focuses of Eco-leadership is to find ways to harness the human spirit, and our intuition, connectedness to each other, to nature, and our non-rational ways [of] knowing.

Holism is vital to this discourse – leadership is always conceptualized as fluid and dis- persed throughout an organization. Leadership may emerge from surprising places given the right conditions. It is about acknowledging diversity and connectiveness rather than attempting to homogenize company cultures. It is about a leadership which looks for pat- terns, emerging in and outside of the company, and creates an adaptive culture and a local- ized and dispersed leadership which can both react more quickly and notice the changes occurring at grassroots level.

Ethics and Eco-leadership If the purpose of ethics is to inform moral conduct, then two clear questions arise when thinking about contemporary leadership. The first is well rehearsed: how can ethics inform the moral conduct of leaders, as individuals and as collective groups such as corporate boards? [This focuses on] our actions which affect others near to us, those we are in contact with or those we are responsible for. The second question is less well rehearsed. This ethical responsibility goes beyond being responsible only for what is directly in your control, and takes ethics to mean that we all share a responsibility for the planet, and for the indirect consequences of our indi- vidual and collective actions. 02-Preedy-et al-4240-Ch-01 (Part 1).indd 20 15/07/2011 9:42:39 AM An Overview of the Leadership Discourses 21 […] The Eco-leader discourse is beginning to recognize that leadership now means re-negotiating what success means for an organization or company. There is a need to look awry at this question, and not take the macro-economic and neo-liberal agenda for granted. Delivering growth and short-term shareholder value is no longer acceptable as the sole measurement of success if we are to act ethically and responsibly. […] Leadership success will be to harness technological advancement, knowledge, and our global trading platforms, to ‘provide’ for a better quality of life, and a sustainable future.

Ethical leadership is to take a critical stance, to look awry, to think holistically, to be accountable for your own actions and for the systems and networks you inhabit, both locally and globally. It places social justice and the environment first. […] Conclusion This new Eco-leadership discourse is an emergent discourse that has both continuity and discontinuity with the previous discourses, and is aligned to other leadership approaches.

[It] has three key qualities:

1. Connectivity (holism): It is founded on connectivity; how we relate and interrelate with the ecologies in which we work and live.

2. Eco-ethics: It is concerned with acting ethically in the human realm and with respect and responsibility for the natural environment.

3. Leadership spirit: It acknowledges the human spirit, the non-rational, creativity, imagination and human relationships.

The Eco-leadership discourse moves away from control and towards understanding emergence, connectivity and organic sustainable growth. The leader character exempli – fies tension between central regulation and self-regulation, between emergence and direction, organic growth and strategic planning. For the highly rational management world, many of these ideas are challenging and truly create a new paradigm. How do you invest in a business whose leadership talks about not-knowing and emergence as strategy ?

Leaders are realizing th