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Teams and Their Leaders

A Communication Network Perspective

J. David Johnson

This book provides the first truly comprehensive treatment of three topics that have traditionally been treated separately: teamwork, leadership, and communication. Teamwork has become central to the operation of the modern organization. People from diverse backgrounds culturally, professionally, and demographically must work together to develop the well-rounded decision making needed for organizations to survive in our modern economy. Leadership, and relatedly management, have more traditionally been the focus of organizational operations.

While it is easy to rule by dicta, it is much more difficult to establish a framework in which true teamwork is possible. Teamwork is a very fragile thing. The minute managers start becoming too directive a slippery slope is started in which one's followers, perhaps better cast as team members, constantly look to them for direction and approval rather than acting on their own best instincts. Communication plays a central role in resolving these tensions. Messaging is central to traditional management functions, while providing a communication network structure that enables action is a more subtle, but longer lasting function of leaders. All three processes, teaming, leading, and communicating, must act in concert for the many benefits of teamwork to be realized.

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3: Classical Approaches to Leadership: Managing


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Perhaps one of the most fundamental distinctions in the leadership literature is that between assigned leadership, or headship, and emergent leadership. Assigned leadership, as we discussed in Chapter 1, rests on the authority system of the organization. When people refer to management they are referring to the assigned leaders of a particular organization. While it would be nice to think that all managers are leaders in every sense of the word, unfortunately this is not the case. However, in practice, it is often difficult to distinguish between people’s responses to the authority of an assigned leader and how they would respond naturally to the influence of someone they truly respect. Needless to say, this has often resulted in some muddying of the waters in research findings related to leadership.

More recently people have distinguished between vertical leadership and horizontal leadership, a distinction we will return to in Chapters 8 and 10, with the former taking on the characteristics of assigned leaders and the latter exhibiting emergent leadership qualities that are often seen as necessary for well-functioning teams. Horizontal leaders are normally peers to whom others look to for guidance. They often exhibit traits that enhance their credibility and status among their peers. Somewhat similarly to this distinction, there is a distinction between people who lead within the team and external leadership that serves to guide the team from positions outside the group. Often external leaders operate in a somewhat similar fashion to that of coaches...

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