Deconstructing Leadership in “Gutsy” Companies

At the beginning of the 21st century, leadership still remains a complex issue involving administration, management, directing, and control mechanisms. In the business sphere, leading is the most basic of activity because it determines objectives and purposes.

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The unique abilities of a leader may take a person to the top but may not be to his or her advantage when he or she is there. Kevin and Jackie Freiberg state that a number of corporate fraud and scandals demonstrate unethical behavior and actions followed by leaders, and propose a unique approach to leadership and directing employees. Kevin and Jackie Freiberg state that good leadership is based on a leader’s personality and influence which have a great impact on followers and their perception of a leader. They create a notion of gutsy leaders who transform modern enterprises and treat employees according to their personal and professional qualities.

Kevin and Jackie Freiberg admit that leadership behavior can be anticipated in advance of its activation. For each issue, in other words, one could plot a set of positions in the society out of which opinion-making activity is likely to emanate irrespective of the identity of the particular persons who occupy them. The role of the leader is to influence his followers and direct them. A gutsy leader is a person who “has a passion for making company a great place to work…. And you have to develop a leadership cadre that practices servant leadership” (Freiberg and Freiberg 2003, p. 181).

Strategic leadership has several dimensions which help to understand and examine the nature of leadership and its impact on business life. The authors provide a substantial analysis of the main leadership theories including trait theory, path-goal theory behavioral theories, and underline that despite wide variability in the composition and functioning of leadership, it does have stable, predictable elements. “By being gutsy leaders, they have the first of human qualities led their enterprises to new levels of performance” (Freiberg and Freiberg 2003, p. 2). Most opinion-making capacities are attached to occupational roles rather than being derived from the talents of those who fill the roles. Moreover, these roles tend to circumscribe the kinds and number of issues on which their occupants can circulate opinions to an unknown audience.

They state: “It takes true leadership and real guts to love people when they aren’t lovable. For gutsy leaders, this is the key commandment: Do unto others what enables them to succeed, regardless of what they do unto you” (Freiberg and Freiberg 2003, p. 186). These researchers underline that there a substantive attitudes and values, expectations, and interpretations with which opinion-makers respond to and order the world outside the policymaking process.

Their interest in and knowledge about world affairs, their evaluations of particular policies, their readiness to accept new information and to adjust long-standing policy attitudes accordingly, their perceptions of human motives and of all the issues and objects composing the international environment, their values as to the relative importance of different issues and the priorities which should be attached to international, national, and local considerations, these are but a few of the many substantive attitudes which can affect the nature and extent of consensus among business leaders. “People follow gutsy leaders because they want to be part of something special, something different, something they can totally identify with” (Freiberg and Freiberg 2003, p. 18).

Personal leadership style is a unique combination of different principles and strategies aimed to motivate and inspire employees, manage and control their works in order to achieve organizational or project objectives and goals. More specifically, the attitudes of public leaders are conceived to be organized within the framework of either continental or segmental orientations.

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Following Freiberg and Freiberg (2003): “hiring is a strategic priority” (p, 112). Hiring is also shaped by the ways in which opinion-makers actually play their roles by what shall henceforth be designated as behavioral variables. “That’s why the strategic hiring philosophy of nearly every gutsy leader we know is to hire people who don’t suck” (p. 117). Thus, it is difficult to apply this philosophy to the workplace and hire only energetic and high qualified professionals.

The researchers mentioned above agree that the theory of leadership is based on the power of personality. The leadership of the position is ineffective without functional capability. Position and function should coincide, but this is not always the case. The leadership of personality may only be an attempt to dominate by “masterful or persuasive” traits.

Following Freiberg and Freiberg (2003) ‘gutsy leaders create a sense of ownership’ (p. 67). These features underline that leadership requires many of the characteristics common to all leaders, but also requires special abilities to manage employees accordingly to their psychological and professional needs. “Leaders like Whole Foods’ Mackey and Semco’s Semler know that employees must feel a personal commitment” (p. 77).

In a modern business environment, it is very difficult to create a sense of ownership among all employees. To some extent, Freiberg and Freiberg (2003) idealize the workplace and forget about such human values as laziness and apathy. Also, it will be difficult to create a sense of ownership in large companies employees 3,000 employees, and more. This approach can be effective only in small private companies employing 10-15 workers.

In spite of the advantages and benefits of the proposed approach, Freiberg and Freiberg (2003) are biased against modern leaders and their leadership styles. Many leaders follow their principles and treat employees as valued assets. Also, organizing ability is more important than ascendancy traits, and learning the job is more important than the ability to exploit one’s personality. Coordination involves educating and training individuals so that each can give what he or she is capable of giving, providing an opportunity for participation, and unifying the various contributions.

Anticipation entails understanding the long-term good of the greater community and creating situations in which that good can be achieved. In order to perform these functions, the leader must have a thorough knowledge of the job, and the ability to grasp the total situation, the capacity to create as well as direct power, the talent to see future directions, and a pioneer’s sense of adventure. Although much of the discussion centers on the role and functions of the top executive,

The need for gutsy leaders exists at many points in the business institutions, and each person should be prepared to answer the challenge of leadership of his or her own job. This diffusion of leadership does not mean that responsibility is likewise diffused. Thus, principles and methods proposed by Freiberg and Freiberg (2003) cannot be successfully applied to all workplaces and companies.

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For instance, centralization and decentralization can be accomplished simultaneously as the top executive retains responsibility for the whole, while each individual assumes responsibility for his or her own function in the whole. In this way, the leader neither abandons responsibilities nor takes responsibility from others. Instead, the leader makes each feel his or her own responsibility. Contrary to the popular conception of the public leader as a boss, the authors argue that the mark of a good leader is how little bossing he has to do. The effective public leader shows others what to do to meet their own responsibilities.

The relationship between leaders and followers should be reciprocal, with leaders guiding and followers keeping their leaders in control by making suggestions, taking wrong orders back for correction, and keeping the faith in a common purpose. In regard to succession, as established procedures used to select a successor come to govern the process, the forces of tradition and rationalization begin to take effect, and charisma is disassociated from a person and embedded in an objective institutional structure. In the process, an unstable structure of authority is transformed into the more permanent traditional or legal-rational structures of authority.

With simplification, discipline in the form of consistently rationalized, trained, and exact execution of received orders replaces individual action. With the development of legal-rational authority, either through the routinization of charisma or the breakdown of the privileges of traditional authority, there is a certain “leveling” influence with the recognition of authority treated as a source of legitimacy rather than as a consequence of authority. Thus, legitimacy in legal-rational authority takes on some democratic overtones.

Another problem with the thesis and approach proposed by Freiberg and Freiberg (2003) is that the executive cannot abdicate his decision-making responsibilities. He may not have the specific knowledge required for effective decision-making. Following Hacker (2008) the opinion of the expert should not coerce but enter into the decision process by means of circular response and integration. Public leadership performs the functions of providing the opportunity for participation and guiding individual endeavors in the pursuit of common purposes Informal leadership is also found to be important.

The foregoing is in marked contrast to a more positive view which emphasizes a growing consensus-building potential on the grounds that national leaders are changing as the nation becomes increasingly complex and its parts increasingly interdependent. Objective authority, or authority based on position or competence, is both present and important in the public sphere; and when the authority of position is combined with the authority of competence, it can be a very effective force.

There are several reasons why authority is usually effective (Hacker 2008). First, the business organization can increase the size of the zone of indifference and the overall zone of acceptance (and correspondingly reduce the zone of rejection) by judiciously manipulating organizational incentives and employing persuasive techniques. Second, to the extent that directives fall within the range of duties anticipated at the time the individual joined the organization, those directives are likely to be in the individual’s zone of indifference and perceived as a contractual obligation.

It is possible to say that status systems may lead to distorted evaluations of individuals, restrict the circulation of elites because of a reluctance to deprive a person of existing status, distort the system of distributive justice by according some more than their due measure of perquisites, exaggerate the importance of administrative matters over leadership, exalt the symbolic function of status, and generally limit the adaptability of the organization. It seems reasonable to presume, for example, that the greater the interaction among diverse types of leaders, the more they will comprehend each other’s attitudes and thus the readier they will be to join together in support of a particular policy.

The ‘gutsy’ leadership can be explained as a philosophy and constituted an ideology that effectively supported the existing political order. The researchers are primarily interested in human relations and the public sphere in general. They believe that the basic principles of human behavior, interacting, evoking, integrating, and emerging, to be the same in the public sphere as in other group settings. The authors chose to concentrate specifically on leadership styles and behavior, relations with subordinates, and policymaking.

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  1. Freiberg, K., Freiberg, J. (2003). Guts! Companies That Blow The Doors Off Business-As-Usual. Currency.
  2. Hacker, C. (2008). Boom! 7 Choices for Blowing the Doors Off Business-As-Usual. Web.
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