Leadership, Culture and Climate

on Sunday, 13 May 2012. Posted in Interviews about Leadership / Gender Theory

Leadership, Culture and Climate
Deputy Head, Department of Management, Monash University
Professor James Sarros

Professor James Sarros is Deputy Head of the Department of Management at Monash University. He has a Bachelors degree in arts (literature) and a diploma in education from La Trobe University, a Master of Education (Administration) from the University of Melbourne, and a PhD (Administration and Organizational Behavior) from the University of Alberta, Canada. James has worked in secondary and tertiary education, including a major restructure of the public school system during his time in the Ministry of Education in the 1980s. He has taught in universities in the United States and the UK, and has consulted to companies such as AsiaInc, Australian Institute of Management, CEO Institute (Leadership), CEO Roundtable, Committee for Economic Development of Australia, Department of Finance and Administration, Dowd Corporation, Frankston City Council, HIH Insurance, Lyncroft Management Consulting, Medical Benefits Fund, Mornington Peninsula Business Council, and Wheeler Strobel Consulting Group.

James is frequently invited to provide media commentary on leadership and organizational culture issues, and addresses business, government, and community organisations on these and related topics.

Professor Sarros has published extensively in the areas of organizational leadership, character, culture, and values, including books, cases, working papers, conference papers, professional commentaries, and refereed journal articles. Professor Sarros’ research has been funded through university, government, professional association, and private enterprise support.

Awards include the 1998 HarperCollins Milestone Award for his book entitled Leadership – Australia’s Top CEOs; best paper awards nationally (Australian and New Zealand Academy of Management, 2002, 2004) and internationally (British Academy of Management, 2001); the 2005ANZAM Research Fellow Award for contributions to Australian Research 2003-2005; the 2005 Most Downloaded Articles Top 200 Award, Emerald Literati Network; and the 2000 Postgraduate Association Supervisor of the Year Award. His most recent publication on leadership character has just been released (James C. Sarros, Brian K. Cooper, Anne M. Hartican, and Carolyn J. Barker. (2006). The character of leadership: what works for Australian managers – making it work for you. Milton, QLD.: Wiley).

Pathways to Success: 

James C. Sarros, Peter W. Reed and Anne M. Hartican spoke to 19 Asian women  across both private and public enterprises about leadership attributes.


The Australian Business Leadership Survey

In 1999, a proposal to support a long term study into leadership in Australia was submitted to AIM by Professor James Sarros, Director DBA Operations at Monash University.

The subsequent survey of AIM members represents one of the first comprehensive studies of Australian management and leadership undertaken since the release of the Karpin Report findings in 1995.

The purpose of the survey is to identify the leadership styles of Australian executives, their perceptions of organisational culture and their responses to current issues related to leadership performance. The survey will be conducted over a three year period:

  • 2000: Australian leadership styles and organisational culture

  • 2001: Leadership in relationship to leader communication and worker commitment

  • 2002: Case studies of selected companies to give an in-depth illustration of findings from phases one and two

The Australian Business Leadership Survey #3 (ABLS3) is the culmination of research involving the Australian Institute of Management and Monash University over the last five years, and builds on the findings from two previous studies, ABLS1 and ABLS2. 

A stratified random sample of over 6,000 members from the Institute’s Australia-wide membership base resulted in a response sample of 2,376 members.

James Sarros, Judy Gray, Iain Densten, Brian Cooper examined the relationships among leadership, culture, and climate for innovation as perceived by the respondents and in response to the four research hypotheses underlying this part of the study, namely:  

  • H1.transformational leadership and organizational culture are positively associated with climate for innovation

  • H2.transactional leadership and organizational culture are negatively associated with climate for innovation

  • H3.organizational culture mediates the relationship between leadership and climate for innovation

  • H4.climate for innovation is related to industry type, location, and size

 To VIEW the study see: THE AUSTRALIAN BUSINESS LEADERSHIP SURVEY #3: Leadership, Organizational Culture, and Innovation of Australian Enterprises


Interview with Professor James Sarros

How do you define leadership?

LEADERSHIP IS THE CAPACITY TO CREATE CHANGE AND INITIATIVE THROUGH OTHERS SO THAT AL BENEFIT FROM THE OUTCOMES.  IT MUST HAVE A MORAL IMPERATIVE, IT REQUIRES EFFORT AND INTELLIGENCE, AND ABOVE ALL, IT RESIDES IN INDIVIDUALS WITH A STRONG CHARACTER AND SENSE OF SELF-IDENTITY.

The Australian Business Leaders Survey which you conducted in 1999 found that “Australian executives use all aspects of transformational leadership - particularly individualised consideration and inspirational motivation, plus the contingent reward style of transactional leadership fairly often.” How do you regard this finding? Why does the transactional model of leadership achieve better leadership outcomes than any other model of leadership?

OUR RESULTS ARE SIMILAR TO RESEARCH IN THE USA AND UK, THAT FINDS TRANSFORMATIONAL LEADERS ACHIEVE GREATER AND MORE POSITIVE OUTCOMES THAN DO TRANSACTIONAL LEADERS.  WHERE TRANSACTIONAL LEADERS ACHIEVE OUTCOMES ON THE BASIS OF REWARDS (YOU DO THE JOB, YOU GET THE REWARD, I.E.,  PAY), TRANSFORMATIONAL LEADERS ACHIEVE OUTCOMES BEYOND EXPECTATIONS BY APPEALING TO PEOPLES' SENSE OF IMPORTANCE, BY CREATING STIMULATING AND CHALLENGING WORK ENVIRONMENTS, AND BY RECOGNISING INDIVIDUAL ACHIEVEMENTS.

The Australian Business Leaders Survey also found that women are more likely to use transformational leadership behaviour than are men and that they are likely to be more satisfied with their leadership approaches than men are, and are more likely than men to consider the way they lead to be effective. In your experience, do you think that Australian organizations value the leadership style of women and are they keen to adopt approaches that will enable more women to reach the upper echelons of corporate management?

GENERALLY, WOMEN ARE MORE TRANSFORMATIONAL THAN MEN WHEN IT COMES TO ROLE MODELLING AND CARING BEHAVIORS.  THAT IS, THEY ARE BETTER AT FACILITATING WORK ENVIRONMENTS THAT ARE COOPERATIVE, AND WHERE PEOPLE FEEL WANTED AND IMPORTANT.  THIS IS NOT TO SAY THAT MEN CANNOT LEAD IN THIS FASHION, IT'S JUST THAT RESEARCH INDICATES THAT TRANSFORMATIONAL LEADERSHIP WORKS WELL FOR WOMEN.  NOW WHILE ORGANIZATIONS WOULD BENEFIT FROM THIS APPROACH, THE INDICATIONS ARE THAT THERE STILL REMAIN OBSTACLES TO WOMENS' ASCENDANCY TO SENIOR LEADERSHIP POSITIONS.  THIS IS SOMETHING WE NEED TO WORK ON.

Have you in your research uncovered best practice approaches that corporations have used to enable more women to break through the glass ceiling barrier?

A RECENT STUDY OF OURS INTERVIEWED SUCCESSFUL BUSINESS WOMEN IN SINGAPORE, KUALA  LUMPUR, AND HONG KONG (PDF OF SUMMARY OF THE STUDY IN THE LATEST EDITION OF MONASH BUSINESS REVIEW 2(2), 2006, PP.28-30  IS ENCLOSED).  THAT STUDY FOUND THAT WOMEN WHO GET AHEAD WOKR HARD AND LONG, HAVE A STRONG SENSE OF IDENTITY AND DESTINY, AND ALWAYS GIVE THEIR BEST. THE ARTICLE LISTS 1 2 STRATEGIES FOR SUCCESS.

You have said that leaders need to be socially responsible to unlock the potential of their workers by moving the power base away from themselves and to their workers, and that this power shift is ‘empowerment’ and it goes hand in hand with learning. Can you explain how empowerment is linked to learning?

EMPOWERMENT MEANS THAT LEADERS TRUST THEIR WORKERS TO GET THE JOB DONE WITHOUT THE LEADER CONSTANTLY NEEDING TO CHECK ON THE WORKERS TO ENSURE THE WORK IS COMPLETED.  IN THE BEST OF COMPANIES, THIS ACT OF TRUST ALLOWS WORKERS TO THINK AND ACT INDEPENDENTLY, AND TO TRY INNOVATIVE AND CREATIVE WAYS TO ACHIEVE OUTCOMES.  THIS CAPACITY TO USE THEIR CREATIVE SKILLS ENCOURAGES LEARNING AND PROMOTES STIMULATING WORK ENVIRONMENTS.

What qualities do you consider are necessary for individuals to be effective leaders?

AS MENTIONED ABOVE, A STRONG SENSE OF SELF, SOLID MORAL PRINCIPLES, THE ABILITY TO PUT OTHERS' NEEDS AND INTERESTS AHEAD OF YOUR OWN, A VISION OF WHERE YOU WANT TO LEAD YOUR COMPANY/DEPARTMENT/ETC, AND THE CAPACITY TO WORK HARD.  INVOLVING OTHERS IN YOUR MISSION IS NECESSARY, AS A LEADER CANNOT WORK IN A VACUUM. YOU ALSO NEED TO BE PREPARED TO TAKE CRITICISM, AND RESPOND TO IT IN A CONSTRUCTIVE RATHER THAN A DESTRUCTIVE FASHION.

Why do you believe that leaders need to understand their own core values and beliefs that underlie their decisions?

UNLESS A LEADER CAN UNDERSTAND THEIR VALUES AND THEIR MISSION IN LIFE, THEY CANNOT EFFECTIVELY LEAD OTHERS.  ALL ACTIONS, WHETHER THEY BE INTENDED FOR THE GREATER GOOD OR FOR THE INDIVIDUAL, ARE GROUNDED IN VALUES AND ATTITUDES, IN BELIEF SYSTEMS AND CULTURAL NORMS, AND IT IS THESE BUILDING BLOCKS THAT HELP GUIDE OUR BEHAVIORS AND INTENTIONS.

If the evidence shows that transformational leaders are people with vision, charisma, influence, motivation to challenge, accept and offer guidance, elicit high levels of commitment, respect and trust in the organization, how can leaders who do not have a charismatic, dynamic and positive nature, be taught to develop these attributes? Do you believe that these traits of leadership can be genuinely learned?

SOME THINGS CAN BE LEARNED, SUCH AS HOW TO COMMUNICATE BETTER, LISTEN MORE CAREFULLY, AND DEVELOP BETTER BOOK KEEPING SKILLS. IT TAKES EFFORT, BUT IT CAN BE DONE.  HOWEVER, YOU CAN'T REALLY TEACH PEOPLE INTELLIGENCE, OR INGRAIN IN THEM A SENSE OF CHARISMA, OR CONSIDERATION FOR OTHERS, OR STRONG ETHICAL PRINCIPLES - THESE ATTRIBUTES ARE TO A LARGE EXTENT INNATE. NOT ALL LEADERS ARE CHARISMATIC, BUT THEY FIND SUBSTITUTES FOR THOSE LEADERSHIP SKILLS AND TALENTS IN WHICH THEY MAY BE DEFICIENT.  FOR INSTANCE, HELPING PEOPLE ACHIEVE THEIR WORK GOALS, PROVIDING ENVIRONMENTS THAT RECOGNIZE ACHIEVEMENTS AND CELEBRATE SUCCESSES, AND KEEPING AN OPEN MIND ON MANY THINGS HELP LEADERS AS MUCH AS DOES THE MORE VISIBLE AND DYNAMIC ATTRIBUTE OF CHARISMA.

Who are some of the leaders you admire? Why?

I  ADMIRE PEOPLE WHO ARE PREPARED TO STAND UP FOR THEIR BELIEFS IN THE FACE OF OVERWHELMING OPPOSITION, WHO DO NOT SEEK THE LIMELIGHT, BUT WHO STILL MANAGE TO ACHIEVE MARVELLOUS RESULTS.  THE  UNSPOKEN HEROES OF EVERDAY LIFE ARE ADMIRED AS MUCH AS ARE THE ANZACS.

Why did you become interested in leadership?

IT'S IMPORTANT TO UNDERSTAND HOW LEADERS ACHIEVE SUCCESS OR CREATE FAILURE IF WE'RE TO IMPROVE OUR LOT IN LIFE AND MAKE THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE FOR OUR CHILDREN.  LEADERSHIP MANIFESTS ITSELF IN EVERY PLACE, WHETHER IT BE THE WORK PLACE OR THE HOME FRONT OR THE SCHOOL YARD, THE FACTORY FLOOR TO THE BOARDROOM.  WITHOUT LEADERS, WE WOULD HAVE ANARCHY.

What is your opinion of the status of leadership at universities in relation to women holding senior positions in universities? Have you contributed to this changing in the University you are employed in?

WE HAVE EXCELLENT WOMEN LEADERS IN OUR UNIVERSITIES IN AUSTRALIA, AS DOES THE USA AND THE UK.  MONASH UNIVERSITY HAS A WOMENS' LEADERSHIP PROGRAM THAT IS GEARED TOWARD APPOINTING MORE WOMEN TO SENIOR LEADERSHIP POSITIONS, AND I HAVE CONTRIBUTED IN A SMALL WAY BY DISCUSSING THE  OF TRAINING PROGRAMS AND THE PROJECTED OUTCOMES OF THESE PROGRAMS.