Leadership Without Easy Answers Part I: Setting the Frame

Whitnie Clark

Part One presents an overview of the meaning of leadership, focusing particularly on the concepts of adaptions and authority


Leadership involves our self-images and moral codes
"Great men", positioning the rise to power is rooted in a heroic set of personal talents, skills, or physical characteristics
Situational approach departs radically from suggesting that certain people emerge because of time to social forces calling them forth
The contingency theory states that the "appropriate style of leadership is contingent on the requirements of a specific situation."

Four general approaches attempt to define leadership objectively without making judgements:

  1. Great men theory
  2. Situational approach
  3. Contingency theory
  4. Advocates of transactional approach

There are several advantages to viewing leadership in terms of adaptive work: points to pivotal importance, evaluate leadership in process and not imposing own hierarchy


Responses to disequilibrium are the product of evolutionary adaptations that transformed into routine problem

Adaptive work involves not only the assessment of reality but also the clarification of values.

Adaptive work requires leadership that allows and contains invention and change and pushes society to the next step.

Three forms of Disequilibrium:

1) The problem introduces no new challenge,

2) When no ready solution is presented to the problem, and so short term equilibrium is established with long term consequences.

3) Society may learn to meet new challenge.

Due to mutual vulnerability there are three major adjustments: our ethos of self-reliance that is tempted by interdependence, having to relate differently to enemies, and mutual trust must be shared by mutually shared enterprises and effort

The roots of authority

Having authority brings not only resources to bear but also serious constraints

Dominant members across all species perform these 5 functions: 1) Choose the direction of group movement 2) Protect the group from predators/enemies 3) Orient members of their status and place 4) Control conflict 5) Maintain norms

Small Adult Groups Emerged three generalizations:

  1. hierarchy roles establishes
  2. the group selects members to chair the group
  3. the group looks to the chairpersons for selective services
The importance of leaders is that people are willing to give up their free will and freedom with the expectation and trust of their leader to solve the problem.

Heifetz, Ronald A. Leadership Without Easy Answers. 1st ed. Cambridge, Mass. [u.a.]: Belknap Press of Harvard Univ. Press, 2001. Print.

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