Paper 1 Leadership Orientation-Primary Leadership Frameworks 10

Leadership Orientation: Why the Human Resources Frame Is Most Effective
Leadership Orientation:
Why the Human Resources Frame Is Most Effective
Nicholas Barlett
Virginia Commonwealth University
Leadership Orientation: Why the Human Resources Frame Is Most Effective
The mechanics of great leadership are complex to understand but if one were to try to understand
the concepts it must be simplified into frameworks that are more comprehendible. The leadership
frameworks described by Lee Bolman and Terrence Deal (2008) provide a reference for
understanding what other leaders have done correctly and incorrectly in their leadership roles.
Using this framework allows for readers to understand the motivation and viewpoints of other
but it also allows readers to gain a better understanding of one’s own leadership style and frame
of reference when dealing with challenges. This article will explain the merits and the pitfalls of
the structural, human resources, political and symbolic frameworks of Bolman and Deal and
establish why the human resources frame is the most effective.
Leadership Orientation: Why the Human Resources Frame Is Most Effective
Leadership Orientation: Why the Human Resources Frame Is Most Effective
Understanding one’s own leadership style is essential to growing as an effective leader.
This level of self-reflection is possible with the use of a framework that will provide a context
for understanding a concept as multifaceted as leadership. Lee Bollman and Terrence Deal
(2008) provide four basic types of orientation that leaders view challenges from. Everyone
possesses these frameworks but there are natural inclinations toward one over another as one
faces the varied challenges that arise. As the reader gains the ability to recognize these and
understand which framework works best from moment to moment it is easier to achieve the
leadership goals that are desired (Bolman & Deal, 2008).
The ability to provide a common vision for an organization is an important leadership skill.
Leaders with this ability to frame an experience so that it sets a path that has meaning and
inspiration are symbolic leaders (Bolman & Deal, 2008). Wilfred Drath (2001) has established
three leadership tasks that are the basis for his view of the role of leaders in any organization.
Two of these three relate directly to the symbolic frame. He posits that setting direction and
creating commitment are essential tasks for any leader.
In the most sinister interpretation of Drath’s ideas, a leader can set a goal and convince others
through person charisma and a flair for the dramatic to follow but not have the greater good in
mind. An example of this is Trofim Lysenko, who used his charismatic persona and motivate
supporters to rise through the ranks to run the Soviet genetic science program in spite of the fact
that he was considered a pseudoscientist by the rest of the international science community
(Soyfer, 1994). Lysenko was described by British biologist Cyril Darlington as “obviously illeducated, quite shallow, very cunning and a little deranged” (Li, Liu & Wang, 2009). In
Leadership Orientation: Why the Human Resources Frame Is Most Effective
instances Lysenko’s goal was his rise to power not the advancement of a common goal. These
circumstances show that it is important to temper the symbolic frame with other frames.
Leaders that are strong negotiators and know how to form bases of allies to help reach a goal are
political leaders (Bolman & Deal, 2008). While this too is an important skill to have in the right
circumstances, it is one that can be problematic if it were to be too often used. The cautionary
example of Trofim Lysenko also holds important lessons about the political frame as well.
Lysenko’s was able use the political tensions of the Cold War to his advantage by fitting the
mold of what the Soviet polity were envisioning in a perfect mix of common sense and advance
scientific study. Unfortunately for the Soviets, the political dogma of the day got in the way of
true advances in science. This kept them from listening to the international scientific community
and clouded their logic (Soyfer, 1994).
Logic is essential in the structural framework. Structural leaders make decisions based on clear
analysis and understanding of the situation. These leaders tend to be establish structures and
policies that are well organized and rigid (Bolman & Deal, 2008). This framework provides an
ease of use that the others do not offer. Issues have very little grey when viewed through the
structural lens. This is especially convenient when having to make changes that must fall within
certain rules or policies. Many leaders also have the responsibility of enforcing standards and
policies. The structural framework is excellent in many of these instances because seemingly
complex issues can be simplified to its core in order to make a decision. Structural frameworks
fall short when the desired outcome requires dynamism and compassion. While the structural
framework provides black and white decisions, leaders must not forget that we live in a world
that is grey. The structural frame helps to provide order but it lacks the nuance needed to be a
leader of the variety of people and situations that arise.
Leadership Orientation: Why the Human Resources Frame Is Most Effective
An essential part of leadership is remembering that one needs the support of followers in order to
reach a goal. The human resource leader understands that people make up the organization and
are essential to meeting an established goal (Bolman & Deal, 2008). Through the lens of the
other leadership frameworks one can still see the value of the human resources leader. Symbolic
leaders can establish a goal that was created via participation from those that are being led.
Mankind has seen time and again that grassroots leadership is a very successful way to achieve a
goal. Leaders that use the political frame can build a coalition and achieve a goal by motivating
and coaching those that she is leading. Politicians in any democracy know well that one must
garner support by building strong interpersonal relationships with constituents to achieve a goal.
As mentioned previously, Structural leaders are more analytical and factual but miss the nuance
that comes with the role of leadership. The human resources frame can act to temper this
approach and keep an organization from becoming too rigid.
Due to the ability of the human resources frame to address so many areas of leadership it appears
to be the leadership orientation that is most universally effective. Human resources leaders can
set goals like symbolic leaders while avoiding losing focus of a common vision of those that are
being led. The human resources frame can develop a support base like the political frame but
there is less possibility of letting dogma get in the way of the common goal because leaders are
coaching followers toward a common goal. Human resources leaders can see the nuance that
structural leaders sometimes miss. While structural, political, and symbolic frames of leadership
are important to utilize on a daily basis, the human resources frame allows leaders to function in
multiple frames at once. Possibly most important, the human resources frame remains focused
on the importance of those that are being led and their value to an organization.
Leadership Orientation: Why the Human Resources Frame Is Most Effective
Bolman, L., & Deal, T. (2008). Reframing organizations: Artistry, choices, and leadership. (4th
ed.). San Francisco, California: Jossey-Bass.
Drath, W. (2001). The deep blue sea: Rethinking the sources of leadership. (1st ed.). San
Francisco, California: Jossey-Bass.
Li, B., Liu, Y., & Wang, Q. (2009). Science and politics. European Molecular Biology
Organization Reports, 10(9), 938-939.
Soyfer, V. (1994). Lysenko and the tragedy of soviet science. New Brunswick, New Jersey:
Rutgers University Press.