Relational Leadership: New Developments in Theory and Practice

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R
elational Leadership: New Developments in Theory and Practice

Co
-
Chairs:

Jody Hoffer Gittell, Brandeis University

Anne Douglass, University of Massachusetts Boston


Presenters:


Relational leadership as collective leadership: Mapping the territory

Erica Foldy & Sonia O
spina, NYU Wagner School of Public Policy


D
-
Leadership and relational leadership: Beginning the conversation

Deborah Ancona, Elaine Backman

& Kate Parrot
, MIT Sloa
n School of Management


From relational to sens
e leadership with savoir
-
relier: Leading in complexity

Valerie Gauthier, HEC Paris


Developing strategic relational leadership

Carsten

Hornstrup, M
a
cMann Berg; University of Tilbu
rg


Leading in coordination: T
he meta
-
feedback role of leaders of performative groups

John Paul Stephens, Case Western Reserve



Discussant:

Joyce Fletcher, Simmons


Potential Sponsors:

Organizational Behavior

Organization and Management Theory

Organizational Development & Change




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Relational Leadership: New Developments in Theory and Practice

In this symposium we explore relational leadership and

related concepts,

highl
ighting
new developments in

theory and

their implications for

practice. Relational leadership is defined
here as a
pattern of reciprocal interrelating between

workers and managers to make sense of the
situation, to determine what is to be done and
how to do it

(Gittell

& Douglass, 2012
).

Each
party learns from the other, with workers contributing the more focused in
-
d
epth knowledge
associated with their roles while managers contribute the broader less focused knowledge
associated with their roles.

Together they create a more integrated holistic understanding of the
situation.

This process of reciprocal interrelating
involves communicating through relationships
of shared goals, shared knowledge and mutual respect, with mutual respect as an emotional
connection that heightens each party’s attentiveness to the needs and insights of the other,
triggering cognitive connect
ions in the form of shared goals and shared knowledge.

In the traditional bureaucratic organizational form, by contrast, the worker
-
manager
relationship is defined by norms of hierarchy and power
-
over rather than power
-
with (Weber,
1920). At the same time

this hierarchy is embedded in roles that provide some protection against
outright domination (Weber, 1920). “Hierarchy without domination” means that a realm of
autonomy exists within the confines of a worker’s job description, protected by formal rules

from outright domination (Weber, 1920). Theories of street
-
level bureaucracy (Lipsky, 1980) as
well as more recent theories of job
-
crafting (
Berg, Grant & Johnson, 2010, Wrzesniewski&
Dutton, 2001
) suggest that workers do

have a realm of autonomy even in traditional bureaucratic
organizations, providing them discretion within the confines of their job descriptions and even
enabling them to reshape their job descriptions. This realm of autonomy can be used to withhold
work

effort but can also be used to take

actions on behalf of customers or to increase the

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meaning of the work. Effective use of this autonomy is limited however when workers lack
understanding of the whole due to their subordinate position in the bureaucratic

hierarchy and

their constrained role in the horizontal division of labor.

In the pure relational organizational form,
participants
exercise influence based on their
personal qualities rather than
their roles
. The upside of the relational form is that
par
ticipants

must earn the commitment or loyalty of other organizational participants. The downside is that
the lack of role
-
based authority means there are no formal limits to the use of that authority,
which can degenerate into despotism or nepotism as Web
er argued when making his case for the
superiority of the bureaucratic form.

Relational leadership differs from the leadership found in the pure bureaucratic form and
the pure relational form by being both role
-
based
and

reciprocal. Relational leadership

builds on
Follett’s (1949) concept of reciprocal control, a form of control that

is not coercive but rather “a
coordinating of all functions, that is, a collective self
-
control” (1949: 226). Achieving this
collective self
-
control, she argued, requires a

form of leadership that is distributed throughout the
organization rather than concentrated in a few positions. Follett observed organizations in which
“we find responsibility for management shot all through a business [and] some degree of
authority all
along the line [such that] leadership can be exercised by many people besides the
top executive” (1949: 183). Rather than vesting authority in one person over another based on
his or her position in the hierarchy, authority is shared (Fletcher, 1999). T
he
core characteristic
of relational leadership

is
the embedding of

authority
into

each
role
, based on the knowledge
associated with it.

Distributed

leadership, carried out by both formal and informal leaders throughout the
organization to facilitate ach
ievement of organizational objectives

(Ancona

&

Bresman, 2007),

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has several characteristics in common with to relational leadership. Distributed

leadership is a
form of influence that can be exercised by participants a
t any level of an organization, and
m
oreover,
leaders are most effective when they can inspire others to engage in the
responsibilities of leadership rather than attempting to carry out all leadership responsibilities on
their own. Distributed leadership thus would appear to require facilitat
ive leade
rship behaviors
rather
than directive leadership behaviors, and transformative leadership

behaviors rather

than
transactional or passive leadership behaviors. Lending support to this perspective,

Carson and
co
-
authors (2007) found that supportive

supervisory behaviors predict greater frontline worker
engagement in shared leadership.

However, relational leadership does more than draw upon expertise and leadership from
participants throughout the organization. It is a process of reciprocal interrel
ating through which
the expertise held by different participants interpenetrates, creating a more holistic perspective
that is integrative rather than additive.
Rela
tional leadership requires facilitating
the
interpenetration of expertise among others, whi
ch in turn requires the skills to build relationships
among others, creating a safe space in which they can reciprocally interrelate with each other.
According to
Lipman
-
Blumen (1992: 184)
, facilitating connections among others is a key
attribute of connec
tive leadership:

Connective leadership derives its label from its character of connecting individuals not
only to their own tasks and ego drives, but also to those of the group and community that
depend upon the accomplishment of mutual goals. It is leade
rship that connects
individual to others and to others’ goals, using a broad spectrum of behavioral strategies.
It is leadership that ‘proceeds from a premise of connection’ (Gilligan, 1982) and a

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recognition of networks of relationships that bind society

in a web of mutual
responsibilities.

Fletcher’s concept of ”fluid expertise” (1999: 64) in the worker
-
manager relationship
reflects a co
-
creation process consis
tent with relational leadership
:

[P]ower and/or expertise shifts from one party to the other,

not only over time but in the
course of one interaction. This requires two skills. One is a skill in empowering others;
an ability to share
-

in some instances even customizing
-

one's own reality, skill,
knowledge, etc. in ways that made it accessible
to others. The other is skill in
being

empowered: an ability and willingness to step away from the expert role in order to learn
from or be influenced by the other.

Fluid expertise requires mutual respect, as well as the ability to be caring, responsive

and closely
attuned to another

through the development of both cognitive and emotional connections
. One
characteristic of

relational leadership is leading through humble inquiry, described by Schein
(2009) as a form of giving, seeking and receiving hel
p that leaders can use to establish a culture
of reciprocal learning throughout an organization.

Relational leadership
(worker
-
manager), along
with relational coordination (worker
-
worker) and relational coproduction (worker
-
customer),
are three processe
s of reciprocal
interrelating that form the core of relational bureaucracy.

Relational bureaucracy

is a hybrid of
the relational and bureaucratic
forms

in which reciprocal interrelating enables participants
torespond to each other in

knowledgeable and caring
ways, while formal structures embed
reciprocal interrelating into roles, thus enabling the scalability and sustainability typically
associated with the bureaucratic form (Gittell

& Douglass, 2012
).

S
tructure of symposium


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This symposium explores
relational forms of leadership
, with participants from multiple
perspectives seeking to articulate the theories behind
these forms of leadership

as well

as

their
implications for practice.

We start with a mapping of the territory b
y

Foldy and O
spina, arguing
that relational leadership
is
one of several forms of collective leadership. Ancona, Backman and
Parrott

follow with an updated

look at distributed leadership and its characteristics


distributed,
decentralized and decoupled f
rom roles, outlining similarities with and differences from the
concept of relational leadership.

Gauthier and Hornstrup

each explore relational leadership as a process of sensemaking in
the face of complexity, recognizing both cognitive and emotional di
mensions of this process.
We conclude with a study by

Steph
ens that explores how leaders foster coordination among
others through meaning making, a process that involves
embodying the
whole

for diverse
participants.

As discussant, Fletcher will launch the

symposium with buzz groups, asking audience
members to discuss with each other what they hope to learn. She will break at two points during
the symposium to allow additional buzz groups among audience members, then will present her
overarching commentary

at the conclusion, followed by audience discussion.




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Potential s
ponsors

The proposed symposium explores the micro
-
processes of relational leadership, thus
creating a potential fit with the Organizational Behavior Division. We explore the implications of

these micro
-
processes of leadership for the organizational form itself, and the organization’s
ability to achieve critical performance outcomes, thus creating a potential fit with the
Organization and Management Theory Division. We explore relational lea
dership as

a means
for
transforming
mechanistic
organizations
to become more responsive to complexity and
uncertainty
, creating a potential fit with the Organizational Development and Change Division.


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Relational leadership as collective leadership: Mappi
ng the territory



Erica Gabrielle Foldy

&

Sonia Ospina

Wagner School of Public Service, New York University


As criticisms of traditional leadership theory and research amplify and diversify, a variety
of new terms challenge the notion of leadership as a
one
-
directional relationship between leader
and follower. Scholars have referred to leadership as “shared”, “distributed,” “constructed,”
“post
-
heroic” and “relational” among other terms (Pearce & Conger, 2003; Gronn, 2002;
Hosking, 2003; Drath, 2001; Osp
ina

& Sorenson, 2006; Fletcher, 2004; Uhl
-
Bien, 2006). While
they all rest on a basic assumption that leadership does not automatically reside in a single, often
heroic, individual, these conceptualizations of shared leadership vary widely. In this
prese
ntation, we provide a brief map of the territory
--

a framework that suggests the basic
dimensions that can differentiate these approaches. We then suggest “collective leadership” as an
umbrella term that encompasses these conceptualizations and position r
elational leadership
within this framework.



The move away from the single, heroic, leader is not new. Several decades of
scholarship have explored how leadership is practiced


implicitly or explicitly
--

as a joint
endeavor (
Hollander, 1964; Burns, 19
76; Rust, 1991).
However, the last decade has seen a burst
of scholarship investigating this phenomenon, along with a proliferation of terminology to
describe it. While many of the terms may appear similar or even interchangeable, in fact they
differ sig
nificantly in what they describe. Having reviewed the relevant literature in management
and organization studies, psychology and education, we suggest two basic dimensions along
which the different approaches can be plotted: the “locus of lea
dership” and t
he “view of self”
(see Table 1).


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The locus of leadership is where leadership resides; it is the source of leadership or its
“epicenter” (Hiller, Day and Vance, 2006); it is where, as researchers, we look for leadership.
There are three loci: the individu
al, the relationship and the system. The traditional and still
dominant perspective is the individual as the locus of leadership: leadership is enacted by
individuals who have the appropriate traits, characteristics or styles and engage in measurable
lead
erly behaviors (Antonakis et al, 2003). Other work understands leadership as based in the
relationship between leaders and followers: “Leadership is a concept of relationship; it assumes
the existence of some people who follow one or more others… There ca
n be no leadership if
there is just one person” (Pearce, Conger and Locke, 2007, 287). A third approach is to see
leadership as belonging to the collective (Drath et al, 2008) or residing in a system or context


social, organizational, even a group or te
am. Spillane et al, scholars of education, suggest
leadership should be conceptualized as “a distributed practice,
stretched over

the social and
situational contexts of the school” (their italics; 2004; 5). Smircich and Morgan see leadership as
“enact[in
g] a system of shared meaning that provides the basis f
or organizational action” (1982:

258).

Views of self are rooted in the researcher’s ontological and epistemological assumptions
about the very nature of human beings, with consequent understandings o
f “the self” as
individuated and autonomous or connected and co
-
constructed. When applied to leadership,
these assumptions paint different pictures of how the relationships undergirding leadership
actually work. Positivist and post
-
positivist approaches u
nderstand the self as a distinct entity,
clearly bounded, which then engages with other, similarly autonomous beings (Uhl
-
Bien, 2006;
Ospina&Uhl
-
Bien, forthcoming). In this “entity” approach, the leader and leadership are
confounded (Hosking, 1988), with l
eadership defined as an influence relationship between two

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social actors
--

leader and follower
--

who exist as such, prior to the relationship. Leadership is
explained by the neo
-
charismatic school, for example, as a process by which leaders “affect
follo
wers as a result of motivational mechanisms that are induced by the leaders’
behaviors”
(Antonakis, 2011:
270), including “visionary behavior, positive self
-
presentation, empowering
behaviors, calculated risk taking and self
-
sacrificial behavior, intellect
ual stimulation, supportive
leader behavior and adaptive behavior” (271).


In contrast, a constructionist perspective sees the self as self
-
in
-
connection, created
through interaction, with no inherent core or status independent of that which is forged thro
ugh
that interrelationship (Dachler& Hosking, 1995; Ospina

&Uhl
-
Bien, forthcoming). In the
constructionist approach, leadership (and those defined as leaders or followers) emerge
s

in
process as co
-
constructions that help advance organizing tasks (Hosking,
1988). Leadership
happens in context, it does not exist prior to the relationship: "leaders must constantly enact their
relationship with their followers;" they "must repeatedly perform leadership in communication
and through discourse" (Fairhurst, 2007: 5
). In this approach leadership is understood as
relational in that it emerges only in the context of “a particular form of interaction happening at a
certain t
ime and place” (Drath, 2001:
16). In this sense, leadership is not something that the
leader, as
one person, possesses, as much as it is something achieved in community and owned
by the group (Ospina& Sorenson, 2006; Foldy et al, 2008).

Plotting each of the two dimensions on a separate axis creates six cells which each
represent a different
conceptualization of collective leadership, corresponding to different
degrees or types of coll
ectivity. (In Table 1
, we have suggested specific approaches and scholars
whose work illustrates each cell.) We very deliberately choose the term “collective” b
ecause it
can encompass all of the quite varied forms in the framework. Terms like “distributed” or

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“joint” leadership suggest that leadership resides in autonomous individuals who then share
particular leadership tasks. Words like “processual” (Hosking,

1988) or “discursive” (Fairhurst,
2007) imply a more disembodied approach, one that investigates the process or work of
leadership rather than the behaviors of individual leaders and followers. The term collective is
elastic enough to provide a broad umb
rella, as suggested by this definition: “involving all
members of a group
as distinct from its individuals

1
.


The place of relational leadership in the framework varies because people have used the
term in different ways. For example, the definition pos
ed for this panel is relational leadership as
“a process of role
-
based reciprocal interrelating” between workers and managers to negotiate the
work that is to be done. In contrast, Uhl
-
Bien (2006) defines relational leadership as “
a social
influence proces
s through which emergent coordination (i.e., evolving social order) and change
(e.g., new values, attitudes, approaches, behaviors, and ideologies) are const
ructed and
produced.” (2006:
655) The first definition implies that leadership inheres in independ
ent
individuals who inter
-
relate across different hierarchical positions. The second locates
leadership in a jointly constructed but disembodied process, not in individuals.
Uhl
-
Bien (2006)
proposes Relational Leadership Theory as an approach that can enc
ompass both individuated and
connected perspectives by explaining both the emergence of leadership relationships (drawing on
traditional individuated views that focus on the nature of the relationship, such as Leader
-
Member Exchange), and the relational dy
namics of organizing (including various constructionist
views of leadership). In fact, the term “relational” has been used to refer to quite distinct
understandings of leadership, each with different ontological and epistemological assumptions



1

Retrieved from On
-
line Merriam
-
Webster Dictionary, December 30, 2011:
http://www.merriam
-
webster.com/dictionary/collective



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that result
in quite distinct approaches to conducting research (Uhl
-
Bien &Ospina, forthcoming).
This suggests the timing is right for a symposium
exploring relational leadership.

Table 1: A map of collective approaches to leadership


View of
“Self”


Locus of leadership

Individuated self

Connected self

Individual

Co
-
leadership


Sally
(2002); Hennan

&

Bennis
(1999)

Leadership couples


Bennis

&

Biederman
(1997); Gronn (1999)

Connective leadership


Lipman
-
Blu
men (1992)



Relationship


LMX


Graen

&

Scandura,
(1987); Graen

&

Uhl
-
Bien
(1995)

Relational Leadership


Gittell

& Douglas (2012)

Follower Centered
Leadership


Meindl
(1995); Shamir et al (2007)

Shared Leadership


Pearce
& Conger (2003)

Relational Leadership
Theory
-

Uhl
-
Bien (2006)

Post
-
heroic Leadership


Fletcher (2004)



System


Distributed Leadership


Gronn (2002); Spillane
(2006)

Shared Leadership in
teams
-

Carson, Tesluk

&

Marrone (2007); Day,
Gronn

& Salas (2006)

Networks


DeLi
ma (2008);
Balkundi

&
Kilduff (2006)

Constructed Leadership
-

Drath (2001); Ospina

&
Sorenson (2006); Foldy et
al (2008)

Discursive Leadership
-
Fairhurst (2007)

Processual Leadership
-
Hosking (1988)

Complexity Lead
ership
Theory
-

Uhl
-
Bien, Marion
&McKelve
y (2007)



1
3

D
-
leadership

and relational leadership: Beginning the conversation

Deborah Ancona, Elaine Backma
n

&

Kate Parrot

MIT Sloan School of Management


Th
e

purpose of this symposium is to explore relational leadership and related concepts
.
In
this presentation, we
introduce the concept of

“D
-
leadership”

which we
developed based upon
intensive fieldwork in organizations operating in dynamic, highly competitive industries
. D
-
leadership refers to leadership that is decentralized, distributed a
nd collective, and de
-
coupled
from organizational roles. In the presentation, we provide a brief description of our research
questions and methods; present the D
-
leadership model; highlight our main findings; and identify
three ways that the D
-
leadership m
odel differs from the relational leadership model
developed by
the

symposium organizers.

Research b
ackground

There are two

largely separate but parallel literatures
documenting the fact

that both
organizations and leadership practices have changed dramatic
ally

over the past three decades.
On
the one hand, macro
-
organizational scholars have provided evidence that
organizations
have

become
flatter;

more reliant on the use of teams
;
less

formal
ized

with
fewer

work rules and
less
detailed
job descriptions; and

characterized by more porous
boundaries

(DiMaggio 2003).
On the
other hand, micro
-
organizational scholars have
found that
in many sectors, there has been a
move away from “command and control” leadership in which leadership is exercised
individually by tho
se in formal positions of authority in a clearly defined hierarchy, toward

“shared leadership


(e.g. Carson et al, 2002), “distributed leadership” (e.g. Gronn 2002)
or
“co
mplexity leadership


(e.g. Uhl
-
Bien et al 2007)

in which leadership is exercised by
multiple
leaders throughout the organization
--

some in formal positions of authority and some not
--

14

working collaboratively
across organizational levels and boundaries.
This research bring
s these
two
literatures

together

by:

1)
providing

detailed, empirical descriptions of how collaborative
leadership is being practiced in organizations considered exemplars in this new leadership form,
and 2) identify
ing

what organizational structures, practices and cultures support it
. We

employ
ed
a

theo
ry
-
building, comp
arative case study methodology (Eisenhart

&

Graebner 2007) using the
following data sources:



A
study of leadership practices at two R&D labs at a Fortune
-
500 business

equipment and
services company, o
ne
with a

long history of collaborative

leadership practices
,

the other
which operated in a “command and control” manner.
We studied
two product development
projects in each lab relying

on
extensive interview data augmented by archival data,
observation of
on
-
site meetings,
and
feedback session
s with
study participants.



A
study
of leadership practices in a mid
-
size
d
, privately held company
that develops and
manufactures

high
-
tech products in consumer and business markets

considered an exemplar
of collaborative leadership. We studied

two product
development teams, two process
change

efforts
, and
two
strategic change initiatives
, relying

on
extensive interview data
augmented by
archival data
, observational data from site visits in the U.S, China and
Germany,

and
feedback sessions with study partici
pants.



Secondary

data
from

five

other companies known as exemplars of collaborative leadership
to fill in gaps and add external validity to our case study findings.

Findings

1.

“D
-
Leadership”

In analyzing leadership patterns in organizations identified as

exemplars of collaborative
leadership we found that they are characterized by three inter
-
related factors
:


15



Leadership is more
decentralized

than in command and control organizations, with
many change initiatives
initiated and

led by individuals and teams
operating at lower
organizational levels.



Leadership is designed to tap the
distributed and collective intelligence

of
organizational members in making leadership decisions.
Thus, leadership is often
shared among individuals with different forms of knowle
dge and expertise.



Leadership is more

decoupled from formal leadership positions
than in traditional
command and control organizations. Many individuals in non
-
managerial positions
initiate, champion and lead change initiatives.

In short, we found that le
adership in these settings was
decentralized, distributed and
collective, and decoupled from formal roles
, hence we call our model “D
-
leadership”

We were also struck by three additional findings. Firs
t, we found very high levels of
leadership self
-
efficac
y at all organizational levels. Many individuals drive change within these
organizations and have confidence in their ability to step into leadership roles.
Second, we found
employees in these settings shared a broad awareness of the business goals and
strategies of their
organizations, a phenomenon we call a “global mindset.” This meant that, regardless of their
formal roles, individuals could exert leadership informed by
the broader goals and guiding
principles of the
ir

organization
s
. Third, we found

these organizations had routines for vetting
ideas, creating teams, conducting experiments and accessing
organizational
resources in a timely
manner

that were widely
-
known and accessible to members throughout the organization. In
short, there were interw
oven sets of dynamic capabilities that facilitated leadership within
innovation and change processes.


16

2.

Organizational practices and policies

that support D
-
leadership

The

following organizational structures, practices and cultures

appeared to

support D
-
l
eadership:



Hiring for leadership self
-
efficacy and collaborative ability



L
ong on
-
boarding process
es

and
ongoing socialization

to sustain strong understanding of
organizational goals and principles as an aid to decision
-
making



Organizational managers
operating

as coaches,
not bosses



Orchestration of
, and rewards for,

creative, cross
-
functional
interaction and collaboration



Well developed pr
ocesses for collective vetting and

selection of new initiatives



Just
-
in
-
time structures and flexible resources ava
ilable for new initiatives



Mechanisms for c
oordinating and aligning individual and

team efforts



Widely
shared
mechanisms and norms that support
r
isk prevention and

mitigation



A culture of perceived fairness and transparency

Relational leadership and D
-
l
ea
dership

In their conceptualization, Gittell and Douglass define relational leadership as “a pattern
of reciprocal interrelating between workers and managers regarding what is to be done and how
best to do

it” (Gittell

& Douglass 2012
). This form of leader
ship, they argue, allows
organizations to fuse the more focused, in
-
depth knowledge of workers with the broader, less
focused knowledge of managers to create a “more integrated, holistic

understanding of the
situation


(Gittell& Douglass 2012).

Finally,
th
ey

note that relational leadership is one of three
key processes in role
-
based interrelating, along with re
lational coordination (worker
-
worker) and
relational coproduction (worker
-
customer). The D
-
leadership model differs in a number of
important ways:


17

1.

In

the D
-
leadership model, leadership decisions arise not just from worker
-
manager
interactions, but from worker
-
worker and worker
-
customer interactions as well. In fact,
our case data suggests that these decisions most often involve intertwined sets of
rec
ursive interactions involving all three types of agents.

Thus the level of analysis shifts
from the dyad to the system or network of relationships.

2.

The relational model rests upon the assumption that managers and workers have very
different knowledge bases. In the organizations we studied, however, there was a great
deal of overlap in the knowledge base of workers and managers.

3.

Finally, in the D
-
leadership model, leadership behavior emerges from the interaction of
leaders, teams and contexts. Leadership cannot be viewed in isolation but must be seen
as an emergent process.




18

From relational to sense

leadership

with sav
oir
-
relier: Leading in complexity

Valérie Gauthier

HEC Paris, MIT Sloan


In the concept of savoir
-
relier
, we
address

two dimensions of leadership: relational and
sensible. We define savoir
-
relier as

the capacity and will to build sensible, trustworthy and
sustainable relationships across boundaries (i.e. between entities that are inherently different,
opposite or antagonistic),
hence encouraging and valuing differences to engage in po
sitive and
mindful innovation. To do so, s
avoir
-
relier

enacts sense (meani
n
g, sensibility, vision
) out of
complexity for both the individual and the organization in their relation to the world as they

become relational sense
-
builders
who are

capable
of embracing complexity with
efficiency
as
well as

respect

and humility.

This
article is

based on three assumptions: 1) Following
Morin’s theory on complexity
(from the Latin
Complexus
: “that which is woven together”)
, we argue that the world’s
complexity cannot be filtered through the lens of rationality or specialized and isolated

scientific
disciplines alone; thus organizational theory needs to bind psychological and sociological
perspectives and open to subjective sensibility as a complement to objective rationality and to
transdisciplinarity as a new way to add
ress this complexi
ty. 2)

Secondly we argue that the savoir
-
relier process for leaders and organizations is analogous to the process of poetic translation as
presented in the poetic translation theory (Gauthier, 1994): by translating the unexpected
associations between heter
ogeneous constituents (as in the sounds, images and meaning in a
poem) and by re
-
creating a new and dynamic
ensemble

that builds mindful and sensible sense for
the new envi
ronment in which it thrives. 3)
This understanding of complexity and poetic
metaphor

applied to leadership
opens the door to a new way of approaching leadership where the
relational sense
-
building capacity

of individuals and organizations as living systems functions

19

effectively in complex settings that carry a multiplicity of paradoxical
constituents and
uncertainty factors. We will

addre
ss the role of the SR leader,
manager
or

function in the
organization with reference to three different settings. In so doing, we will thus link to existing
research and lay foundation for future research
in organizational theory, leadership, decision
-
making or any other area touching upon complex thinking where the savoir
-
relier perspective
can be further exemplified and strengthened.

Savoir
-
relier as a response to complexity

We understand complexity
as

p
osing the paradox of the one and the many, of order and
disorder, of subject and object, of reductionism and holism. Facing complexity in this way
requires a paradigm shi
ft where relationship and sense
building
play

a central role. At the level
of organizations,
large and small, anywhere in the world, we argue that the need for sense to
perform at complex global levels involves savoir
-
relier capacity. It is translated into
organizations that face and address complexi
ty as

“a fabric of heterogeneous constituents that are
inseparably associated” (Morin, 2008) by developing a savoir
-
relier

that builds sense out of
mindful connections between those constituents and fosters positive innovation.

Complexity is
“the fabric of

events, actions, interactions, retroactions, determinations, and chance that
constitute our phenomenal world” (Morin, 2008).

Organizations

as living systems

The complexity theory of
Morin draws from a wide range of domains where savoir
-
relier
already app
lies, such as natural sciences and human sciences and we open the door to different
possible applications and research to further demonstrate the relevance of this concept for
thriving businesses and people in our 21
st

century world of complexity. For inst
ance, the science
of ecology was born out of the central concept of ecosystem: “the organizational ensemble that

20

constitutes itself by means of interactions between living beings and the geophysical conditions
of a specific place… ecosystems are themselves

part of the biosphere which has its own life a
nd
regulations” (Morin 2008:
88).

To further explain what subtends Morin’s vision of complexity we illustrate the three
principles it relies on: dialogic, recursive and holographic. The dialogic principle emp
hasizes a
special kind of link where the elements are necessary to each other, both complementary and
antagonistic. The second principle is called recursive as individuals produce society that
produces individuals. This cycle of production is itself self
-
c
onstitutive, self
-
organizing and self
-
producing, hence producing a relational circuit. The third principle surpasses both reductionism
and holism by relying on the image of the hologram where the sociologist is part of the society of
which she is not the c
enter, but a part and possessed by all society. In the end, the holographic
principle binds with recursive logic, which is linked to the dialogic idea so that knowledge of the
parts is enriched by knowledge of the whole, which in turns draws from knowledge

of the parts,
producing a single productive movement of knowledge.

R
elation
al
leadership

as a sensemaking process

While building upon Morin’s theory of complexity we make a positive link with the use
of the basic evolutionary epistemology process assumed by the organization concept of
sensemaking (Weick, 1993). In this sensemaking process, we see a transition between
the
complex thinking process and the savoir
-
relier process through the retrospective interpretations
that are built during interdependent intera
ction (Campbell, 1965, 1997). S
ensemaking can be
treated as

reciprocal exchanges between actors (Enactment) and

their environments (Ecological
Change) that are made meaningful (Selection
) and preserved (Retention). We

will call this model
“enactment theory,” as has become the convention in organizational work


(e.g
., Jennings and

21

Greenwood 2003in Weick, 2005:
414).

While this retrospective process differs from the
recursive principle in Morin’s theory, the reciprocal interrelations and the notions of
ambivalence in the use of previous knowledge can be linked to the complex and dynamic
holographic and dialogic princi
ples.

Accordingly, using an analogy with the poetic translation process (Gauthier, 1994) we

argue that
the following

skills
are
necessary for effective relational leadership: 1)

An intuitive
mind

to perceive the unique and complex forces that build sense
out of a system. It is the same
intuition that, pushed by the desire to innovate and combined with creativity, will help in the
fin
al act of re
-
creation and sense
-
building in line with decisions made on the way. 2)

An
analytical mind

to get a deep understa
nding by decomposing and decoding complex situations
and problems. This refers to the capacity of a leader to discern patterns, understand different
viewpoints, listen and empathize with people’s diverging and heterogeneous ideas before and in
order to for
ge a vision and before making any decision. 3) The
ability to integrate uncertainty
and chance in assimilating the complexity

of the environment where the situation lies and
where it goes (vision) thanks to the holographic principle. The leader here needs
to capture the
sum of contradictory and ambiguous pieces of information both as part and as a whole to build a
vision for the organization to move forward. To be effective, such assimilation of uncertain
chance events requires a high degree of self
-
awarene
ss and introspection in order to identify and
accept the role of the subjective in the objective so as to build a sound and responsible vision for
the organization. 4) A capacity to “
decenter” oneself
and create a

movement from the original
situation in it
s living system to the new one, which encompasses agility. Here the leader proves
again her capacity to adapt but also to weave between antagonistic environments or living
systems embedded in their language, space, culture and time. In leadership, this can

be

22

exemplified by strategic thinking (versus programming or planning). 5) Finally, the
courage,
creativity and drive

to make choices, decisions, and take calculated risks in the act of
creative
translation so as to communicate them effectively. This final

act of re
-
enunciation or
re
-
creation

is what really distinguishes the savoir
-
relier leader from others by integrating timely, mindful
change and innovation with a sense of humility.

Applying savoir
-
relier

to examples from recent research

We will finally e
xplore how the savoir
-
relier concept can apply to organizations, using
three examples from recent research: 1) case managers in hospitals working across functional
boundaries as shown by Kel
logg, 2)
HR systems and helping in organizations
as shown by

Mussh
older et al and 3)
brokers’ role in building creativity and innovation i
n the music industry
as shown by Long Lingo and O’Mahoney. These
three
examples will be presentedto
demonstrate how

savoir
-
relier

contributes to

further unde
rstanding
relational
leadership as a
process of sensemaking
.

Conclusion

To survive
the
21
st

century
’s

rational, specialized, individualistic and complex world,
organizations
need

to resolve the tension between the necessary
agility

to adapt to a fast
changing complex environme
nt and the need for
sense

reflected in their ability to foster
innovation with vision, sensibility, mindfulness and ethical values. Whether this tension is
positive or negative, the resulting challenges and paradoxes require a new approach to
leadership, w
hich involves two essential building capacities: one with respect to relationships
and the other
with respect
to sense.





23

Developing strategic relational l
eadership


Carsten

Hornstrup

MacMann Berg/University of Tilburg


The aim of this research project is

to develop a relational approach to strategic leadership
and organizational communication. In the initial face of the project the focus has been to develop
a coherent theoretical framework, inspired by systemic and constructionist ideas. The ambition is
t
o use his frame as a thinking tool (Hornstrup et.al. 2012) as a source of inspiration for
developing fruitful practices. The basic idea is that modern organizations are facing two key
challenges. Building on interviews with 1500 CEO’s from public and priva
te organizations, the
conclusion is, that the increasing complexity and an increasing change rate is by far seen as the
two biggest challenges for managers. To be able to exist and thrive in these circumstances,
organizations must be able to exploit comple
xity and change. One of the key elements in doing
so is by developing their ability to change or innovate their management and organizational
processes. In other words, the challenge is to get from change management to creating
organizations that develop t
heir adaptability or changeability.

Background

Increasing complexity and
speed of change are t
wo of the

key challenges we face in
strategic leadership of
modern organizations (Hamel 2007, IBM 2010). One of the key obstacles
to meet
ing

these challenges is
t
he use of out
-
dated mental models, built
on a rational and
mechanic
al

understanding of organizations and human communication (Pearce 2008, Gergen
2010). These mental models have much mor
e in common with the early 20
th
century thinking
with its

focus on solv
ing very simple problems


creating frameworks for turning human beings
into “semi programmable robots” (Hamel 2007).

As Hamel argued
: ”
To
a large extent, your

24

company is being managed right now by a small coterie of long
-
departed theorist
s

and
practition
ers who inv
ented rules and conventions of ‘modern’

management ba
ck in the early
days of the 20
th
century. They are the

poltergeists who inhabit

the musty machinery of
manag
ement

(Hamel 2007:

ix).

When considering the
images often used to desc
ribe
organizations, the mechanistic

view can be seen in the
charts and diagrams that tend to dominate
our thinking about organizational design.

“They are the product of the static understandings
generated by a m
echanical view of organizations


(Mor
gan 1997:
6)
.

An

important difference between a
mechanistic and a systemic
-
constructionist approach
to organizational communication is that
the former

is based on an epistemology
that assumes
we
can transmit information, knowledge, experiences from one person or one
consciousness to
another (Weick

1995, Pearce 2004, 2008), while the latter is based on the notion that each
group
construct
s

its

own image of the world (Maturana

& Varela 1987, Maturana

&
Poerksen 2004).
This socially constructed image guides people’s

perce
ption of themselves a
nd the world around
them and
guides the way they communicate and create relationships within and outside the
ir

group (Gergen 2009, 2010).

Strategic relational l
eadership

In developing the concept of strategic relational leadership, I
address

three different
domains
of leadership communication (Lang, Little &

Cronen 1990, Hornstrup et.

al. 2012).
Together these domains can open
us to

seeing organizations as not just as “systematic (ra
tional)
systems” but also as “ecologies

of relationsh
ips and communication” (Bateson 1972, 1979)
.
These domains include both the domain of production,
the domain of aest
he
tics

and the domain
of explanation. T
he domain of production focuses on how the more rational aspects of
relationships and communication
influence organizational coordination through c
larity and

25

transparency while the
domain of aest
hetics
focuses on how the more emotional side of
relationships and communication influence organizational coherence and coordination through
culture, emotio
ns, b
eliefs and attitudes. Finally the domain of explanation includes
curiosity,
reflexivity and irreverence (Cecchin 1987, Tomm 1988, Cecchin et.al. 1992, Barge 2004,
Hornstrup, Tomm

& Johansen 2009).

Looking at the different domain
s in a more practical light
,
each contribute
s

to our
understanding and ability to work with strategic organizational issues. The domain of production
invites us to develop

organizational patterns of

stable relationships and communication in a way
that creates
clarity and transparenc
y


cl
arity about g
oals, roles
,

directions and relati
ons and
transparency about what, why and why not. T
ransparency
is

a w
ay of addressing the

things we
can
be relatively certain about while admitting that there

are unforeseen or unknown issues that
will
influence us as we move into the future. In this way transparency is a vital part of creating
more distributed strategic competences because it invites everyone to be aware of uncertainty
and thereby invites everyone to pay attention to the fact that thing
s very well might change
(Pearce 2008).

The domain of aesthetics, with its

focus on culture, emotions, beliefs and attitudes,
is
important
both as a condition
for
and an obstacle to

change. Very often organiz
ational cultures
and values work

as a hindrance for change. Using the iceberg metaphor, the largest and heaviest

part of organizational culture

is below the water line and pull
s

in the direction of stability.
We
must be aware of

the effect
s of cultures and values and
look at them with bo
th appreciative and
irreverent eyes (Cooperrider

&

Srivastva 1987, Cooperrider

&

Withney 1999, 2000). To look at
them with appreciative eyes mean
s to look at them
as an underlying logic that guides the way we
see, understand and act (Hornstrup

&

Loehr
-
Pete
rsen 2003). If we don't apprec
iate the value and

26

the culture,

very often people will take it as criticism of something

dear to them. In other words,
before moving in the direction of changing the organizational system, we s
hould be aware of the
positive as
pects of any culture. At the same time we need to look at cultures with irreverent and
challenging eyes


o
r rather, invite people to be active participants in

taking an irreverent look at
their

own

culture. If we don't i
nvolve people in this process,
and
do it with a high degree of
transparency, w
e often end up with even more
change resistant organizations (Steensen 2010).

To keep the awareness and ability for change, the domain of explanation is vital. It is by
keepi
ng a reflexive open mind and
keeping ou
r curiosity alive
that
we create organizations with a
high degre
e of flexibility. If we
connect these capabilities (curiosity, reflexivity and irreverence)
to the domai
ns of production and aesthetics, we can open up

space for more flexible structures
and p
rocedures and create cultures where change is a natural part of organizatio
nal life.
Together, I propose, these three domains allow leaders to bridge
the
hard
-
core and soft
-
core

aspects of leading and organizing.



27

Leading in coordination: The meta
-
feedback role of leaders of performative groups


John Paul Stephens

Case Western Reserve University



Recent research on coordination has had little to say about the role of leaders. Rather,
organizational scholars have fo
cused more on the practice of coordination amongst
organizational actors. Specifically, scholars have focused on how various qualities of
communication and feedback influence coordination, such as speech, actions, and systems that
reflect more mindful cons
ideration of the relationships amongst actions within and between
workgroups (Bechky, 2003; 2006; Dougherty, 1992;
Gittell, 2002;
Hargadon

&

Bechky, 2006;
Kellogg, Orlikowski, &Yates, 2006; Weick

& Roberts, 1993). All of these studies have provided
detail
ed knowledge of how individuals use symbols, languag
e, and routines

to successfully
interrelate their actions at work. However, we know little about the involvement of those in
leadership positions (as managers or centralized coordinators) who must surely
be present in
these contexts.


The place of leaders in coordination at once seems important, but may understandably

have been left as secondary to organizational scholars. Leadership is important because
coordination has been defined as the "management of

interdependencies" (Malone &Crowston,
2000), and calls for the examination of coordination at the managerial level of analysis were
made over thirty years ago (see Van de Ven, Delbecq, & Koenig, 1976). On the other hand, the
role of supervisors, managers
and leaders may be readily downplayed in coordination research
given the decreasing importance of hierarchy in modern work organizations that rely more on
virtual collaboration and networked designs. However, even the more recent accounts of
coordination t
hat examine post
-
bureaucratic, less
-
hierarchical organizational contexts, hint at the

28

role of those in senior management positions concerned with "different groups of people with
different skills, backgrounds, and experience, education, career expectations
, expectations about
what their work day will be like" (Kellogg, Orlikowski, & Yates, 2006: 26). In a similar context,
the CEO of a modern design firm was aware of how important it was to "pick two people, with
different experiences and maybe even differen
t training and put them together and you’ve got
that kind of a synergy, an exchange of ideas" (Hargadon

&

Bechky, 2006: 489). Thus, the fluid
self
-
organization of organizational actors that took place in these contexts was at least partly
overseen and unde
rstood by someone in a managerial or leadership role. Accounting for the
mutually
-
reciprocal influence between those who must lead groups of people interrelating their
actions, and those performing coordination should enhance and make more robust our
expla
nations of how coordination works and why it might sometimes fail.



Some exploratory theoretical and empirical work begins to describe how leaders may be
involved in the coordination of workgroups. First, while Weick and Roberts' (1993) description
of h
ow coordination occurs through heedful interrelating focuses primarily on how individual
crew members relate their efforts, they also describe how the bosun, or the ship's central
coordinator envisages the work of the collective. They describe how the bosu
n thinks "about the
kind of environment he will create on the deck that day, given the schedule of operations...he
represents the capabilities and weaknesses of imagine crewmembers' responses in his thinking,
when he tailors sequences of activities so that

improvisation and flexible response are activated
as an expected part of the day's adaptive response" (Weick

& Roberts, 1993: 370). They
continue: "the bos'n does not plan specific step
-
by
-
step operations but, rather, plans which crews
will do the plannin
g and deciding, when, and with what resources at hand."


This picture of a leader's involvement in coordination suggests that he or she would be

29

responsible for designing and being continuously aware of the mental map of the group's
operations. Such
knowledge would be based in situation awareness, where actors are mindful of
the elements in the environment within which they are coordinating, e.g. the actions and needs of
others (Endsley, 1988; Weick, Sutcliffe, &

Obstfeld, 1999). In the course of perf
orming
coordination, this situation awareness is based on dynamic mental models of the state of the
group, which is continuously updated based on the changing needs and actions of group
members
(Rico, Sanchez
-
Manzanares, Gil
& Gibson, 2008). While a ship's

bos'n may tend to
check on the progress of tasks as they are completed, an example from another unique case of
collective work
-

a choir and its conductor
-

better describes how the leader continuously guides
and re
-
presents for the group the state of its

coordinated activities. In an exploratory
ethnographic study, the conductor was observed to plan out the sequence of actions in a
rehearsal, and to modify the musical notation prescribed for each vocal section (Stephens, 2010).
The conductor's gestural an
d verbal expressions that accompanied the choir's performance not
only guided the tempo, volume and pitch of performance, but also helped individual singers to
recognize whether their interrelation of sounds was beautiful or not. Unlike the bos'n, the
cond
uctor served as a continuously accessible source of feedback for the entire group as its
members coordinated and not just before or after the performance of coordination.


Out of the myriad theoretical perspectives on leadership found in the organizationa
l
studies literature, these examples of leaders in coordination within groups are best linked to
social identity perspectives on leadership. Such a perspective is most relevant since it explicitly
deals with leadership as a quality of group membership, rat
her than as a quality of the individual
traits a leader might possess (Hogg & Van Knippenberg, 2003). In short, these perspectives
describe how, when the salience of group membership is high, individuals emerge as leaders who

30

seem to possess the qualities
that are most desirable or prototypical of the group, such as
aspirations, values, and behaviors. The social attractiveness of these characteristics makes others
readily conform to the behaviors and beliefs of these individuals (Hogg, 2000; Hogg & Terry,
2
001). However, in coordination, leaders must be simultaneously representative of the multiple
divisions of labor under their purview, be they firefighting, mechanics and cargo rigging in the
case of a bos'n, or singing the notes for soprano, alto, tenor, a
nd bass sections in the case of a
conductor. These individuals would not be effective leaders if they were not adept at developing
the "syntax" needed to communicate effectively across multiple
boundaries (Kellogg, Orlikowski

& Yates, 2006). This quality
of leadership is important since the context of coordination causes
members of various sub
-
groups to encounter each other raising the salience of their unique
memberships (Dougherty, 1992; Heath &

Staudenmayer, 2000); the research so far would
suggest that

an effective leader needs to knowingly represent the superordinate system to each
individual sub
-
group or specialty in order to circumvent bias and discrimination.


This brief review suggests multiple questions ripe for exploration. First, we do not know
about the generalizability of this perspective on leaders in coordination: are managers and others
in leadership positions generally concerned with effectively representing the system to various
sub
-
groups? Second, we do not know how this representation wo
uld occur: while a bos'n may
possibly assign tasks for the day via verbal or written orders, and a conductor uses speech,
gesture (and even writing) to communicate the quality of the group's coordination, are these the
only effective media, and when are th
ey best employed?

Method

In this paper, I will present data from in
-
depth qualitative interviews with leaders of
performative groups, viz. orchestral and choral conductors, and leaders of formal work

31

organizations, viz. managers and team leaders. Large mus
ical ensembles present unique contexts
in which mechani
sms of coordination are readily
accessible for study. Research on orchestral
conductors suggests that their involvement in coordination is
readily apparent (Marotto, Roos

&
Victor, 2007), since
“expres
sive signs which fail to communicate a sum total of information
which allows members to engage in lines of action and interaction can have little, if any,
authoritativeness within the orchestra” (Faulkner, 1973: 150)
.

Potential contributions


This researc
h can potentially make at least three main contributions to our understanding
of leadership and coordination. First, the current study takes a different stance from a relational
view of leadership in which there is reciprocal interrelating between workers
and managers
regarding what is to be done and how best to do it (
Gittell & Douglass 2012
). Rather, instead of
having the responsibility of leadership shot through the entire group or organization, the current
perspective explores the extent to which a lead
er can encompass the entire group in her thoughts
and actions. Second, this study should add to our understanding of the role of leader as boundary
spanner in coordination, and the role of communication. Those in managerial roles may find
themselves as bou
ndary spanners, but this research suggests that developing an aptitude for
communicating clearly across multiple groups (and not just between two) is especially important
for coordination. Finally, this research re
-
specifies the applicability of social id
entity
-
based
theories of leadership to organizations. Successfully embodying the entire system or organization
for various kinds of group members would involve being most representative of multiple groups
simultaneously, which would require unique skills a
nd contextual factors.




32

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