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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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8: Transitional Approaches to Leadership: Relating


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The approaches covered in this chapter move away from a primary focus on leaders and, most interestingly for communication scholars, the relationship between leaders and followers becomes increasingly important. The characteristics of followers, their needs, their motivations, and the obstacles they encounter in pursuing their goals come to the fore here. This transition to a focus on exchange relationships also prepares us for a richer description of the operation of teams. While the approaches that we will discuss in this chapter have increased emphasis on the relationship between leaders and followers most still have a very asymmetrical approach with a clear focus on leaders (Baker, 2007).

Theory X, Theory Y

A classic leadership theory that bridges style approaches and transitional ones is that of McGregor’s (1960) Theory X, Theory Y which essentially argued that a leader’s style is dependent on their assumptions concerning the nature of their followers. He believed that leadership was a complex relationship emerging from the characteristics of leaders, the nature of their followers, the characteristics of the organization, and the larger cultural and social milieu that leaders found ← 249 | 250 → themselves in. He thought that leaders and followers mutually influenced each other (Bennis, 1972). McGregor had a chance to directly apply his theories when he was president of Antioch College. He also headed the Industrial Relations Section at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Bennis, 1972). In modern parlance Implicit Follower Theories suggest leader’s views of followers impact subordinates’ liking, trust,...

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