From the individual cultural spatial dimension, the construct of character traits may be derived. Trait theory itself dominated the bulk of traditional leadership methodology over the previous century, and little additional discussion seemed to have been warranted. Nevertheless, it is now clear that cultural distinctiveness acts as an immutable object in the study of leadership theory. Some Asian and Middle Eastern societies clearly favor gender in the practice of leadership hierarchy, whereas other societies are more gender neutral. Age is likewise a factor in many Asian societies and is often used as a proxy suggesting that experience equates with competence. As a result, it would be inappropriate to apply a transformational leadership model to the evaluation of some societies due to the hierarchal gender- and age-based traits associated with those cultures. For example, in traditional Chinese and North Korean cultures, inquisitiveness and outspokenness may be perceived in a negative light, as opposed to the Western perception that these behaviors demonstrate a search for understanding and an extroverted approach.
An individual’s birthplace culture, or the culture in which he or she lives, will imprint an endurable mark of distinctiveness on the individual that will follow him or her over the course of the person’s lifetime. Although not entirely immutable, the culture in which an individual is raised or lives will dominate and forecast choices in leader decisions for as long as the person is in charge of people, policy, or other decision-making elements.
The environment in which many leaders operate is critically important to a leader’s success, as Fiedler suggested in his model decades ago. 40 The extent to which the literature has addressed the relationship between individuals and the environment is minimal. In fact, the preponderance of leadership theory ignores the environment altogether. Short of trait theory, very few studies attempt to tie traditional leadership theory to the environment in a manner that predicts and forecasts possible outcomes. In reality, by identifying the environment in which a leader will function, individuals can take advantage of factors in the environment to fit the current situation and maximize outcomes. This approach supports the multidimensional and complex idea that leadership processes include an ecologically valid two-way component between the leader and the environment 41 and that followers are embedded in the environmental context.
Leaders cannot execute their vision, inspire followership, and employ legitimate and charismatic attributes unless appropriate resources are available in the environment to assist in the communication of the leader’s message. If the environment lacks appropriate resources to assist in the transfer and the communication of the leader’s intent, the leader may not have a significant enough followership to lead anything. For this reason, the environmental construct is a necessary precursor to resource availability. Furthermore, leader recognition is not possible without appropriate resources to deliver the leader’s message.
Resources 42 have attracted a reasonable amount of attention in traditional leadership study; however, resources are generally viewed in older theories as variables unto themselves and not as constructs for measurement. In the OLM, resources may be accessed through both human followership and logistical means. For example, in the modern study of leadership, vehicles for message delivery have exponentially been available to small groups of individuals who may have been hermetically sealed from the preponderance of the world culture in the past. The advent of the Internet has allowed small fringe groups of previously marginalized peoples to gain standing and respect in the greater world community. Through a provocative website whose message inspires followership, a lone marginalized individual may find standing and prominence on the world stage. Clearly, environmental resources have gained prominence as vehicles for leadership followership.
The Omnibus Leadership Model: A Summary
The OLM meets the needs of future leadership researchers by including the spatial dimensions of higher order, individual culture, and environment. Table 8-2 provides a template for this model. Figure 8-3 illustrates the conceptual model of the omnibus leadership theory. The benefit of this theory derives from its ability to capture constructs that assist in explaining why certain leaders are driven to leadership decisions. For example, many leader decisions are based on values learned from childhood relating to cultural and spiritual teachings that can be acted upon in favorable environments. In understanding and applying this model, the foundations on which some leaders base their decisions becomes clear, as does why some leaders have widespread followership. In fact, followership based on cultural and higher-order issues cannot be overlooked in this modern era of the “War on Terror” and an increasingly globalized society.
Table 8-2 Omnibus Leadership Model
|Higher order||Beneficence or malevolence||Altruism or sadism||Actions|
· • Self-serving versus other-serving
· • Teamwork: glory “me” versus glory “we”
|Individual (culture)||Character||Extraversion or introversion Type A or B personality archetypes||Traits, abilities, and skills|
|Environment||Resources Stability Turbidity Dynamic||Human followership and logistical availability||Outcomes|
· • Action versus reaction
· • Flight versus fight
The OLM provides a framework for screening and evaluating real leaders from the despots and the infamous. For example, using this model as a guide, Hitler is clearly screened out of the leadership category due to his evil malevolence. His actions and outcomes resulted in sociopathic murder and do not qualify him as a leader of any sort in modern times. Likewise, their support of suicide bombers causes some modern-day figures to be similarly ruled out of leadership consideration because these acts are obviously nonbeneficent. 43 – 45
All leaders are guided by some higher-order principles that may present themselves as unconscious drivers for maintaining enduring beliefs and adopting certain values. Rokeach, in the values–beliefs–attitudes model, suggested that values form the bedrock of who we are as people and, consequently, as leaders. 46 However, without an understanding of the higher-order principles and values that guide a leader, it is not possible to fully understand retrospective actions, or forecast future behavior in a consistent manner.
Measuring the Model
Methods for measuring the OLM in the near term may rely on observational and nonexperimental studies. Donabedian proposed a similar observational methodology with the now renowned structure–process–outcome quality model in 1966. Donabedian’s original article contained few insights into means of empirical measurement other than to qualify review actions as having merit based on normative and accepted practices in the field. Donabedian suggested that subject-matter experts and panels were required to evaluate his new model. 47 Similar methodologies are necessary for the evaluation of the OLM. For example, it was not until the passing of the HMO Act of 1973 that scholars turned to Donabedian’s theoretical model to help guide health organizations toward developing quality models. If not for the passage of this act, and the requirement for health organizations to make an argument for quality in their organizations, Donabedian’s model may have languished in obscurity for years or decades—or perhaps it would not have been used at all.
A similar argument can be made for John Nash’s self-named Nash equilibrium (NE) theory, which was first developed in 1950. The NE theory, and later the Nash bargaining solution (NBS), became the basis for game theory. Nash’s concepts were largely regarded as theoretical and intangible when first produced. In subsequent years, however, they were used as the basis for U.S. economic policy making and resulted in the awarding of the Nobel Prize to Nash in 1994. Many readers may recall seeing Nash’s life portrayed in the movie A Beautiful Mind. 48
Traditional leadership models have typically employed true experimental and nonexperimental methods within their leadership frameworks. This approach would continue to be applicable with the OLM. Subjects and data may continue to be collected and analyzed using traditional practices and procedures. However, the OLM will help guide the researcher toward qualifying specific constructs of leadership for discerning certain phenomena.
FIGURE 8-3 Conceptual model of the omnibus leadership model.
In closing, perhaps the Latin phrase res ipsa loquitur (“the thing speaks for itself”) may suggest additional structure for the OLM. Leadership is action oriented: One knows it when one sees it. As a result, leadership theory may continue to confound research efforts. Perhaps leadership scholars must be satisfied with the appreciation of leadership as an art more than a science after all—at least until better theory testing methods are viable.