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close this bookGuide for Managing Change for Urban Managers and Trainers (HABITAT, 1991, 190 p.)
close this folderPart II
View the documentThe urban manager: evolving roles for managing change
View the documentStrategic planning: concepts and strategies for planned change
View the documentCulture and management
View the documentPower, influence and personal empowerment: making a difference back on the job
View the documentManaging change: the leadership dimension

Managing change: the leadership dimension


Lao Tzu


Topic: Managing change: The leadership dimension

Time required: 2 hours

The purpose of this session is to help participants begin to think about leadership as an important function in human settlement management. While there are many ways to help participants learn more about the leadership function, the following exercise helps them focus on their own experiences and those of others they believe exhibit leadership qualities.


(1) Ask each participant to spend a few minutes working alone to identify someone they believe exhibits leadership qualities and to list the qualities or behavioral characteristics this person exhibits which contribute to their leadership role. (Ask participants to be specific.)

(2) Ask each participant to share the name (or role if they prefer not to reveal their choice of leader by name) and the qualities/characteristics they believe contribute to the person’s leadership.

(3) Write these qualities/characteristics on newsprint or a white board as they are being described.

(4) At the end of the individual presentations, hold a general discussion about leadership and its importance to human settlement management. Supplement the group discussion about leadership with additional information from the reading in the Guide if it seems necessary or appropriate.

(5) Finally, ask participants to spend a few moments individually thinking about their own roles and how they might provide greater leadership within their organization or community. Ask them to write these ideas on a card or piece of paper and share the ideas with at least one other person in the group before the session ends.


“If the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.”

St. Matthew

It has been said, with considerable authority, that “leadership is one of the most observed and least understood phenomena on earth.”1 What we hope to do in this module is shed some light on leadership as an important factor in managing change. In other parts of this workbook, we have explored a number of ideas which are integral to urban leadership but they all fall short of defining the leading edge of this personal characteristic.

1 James MacGregor Burns, Leadership, New York, Harper and Row, 1978, p.2

Many of the topics covered earlier in the manual (e.g., the role dimensions of the urban manager, the issues of power and influence, and the importance of strategies planning) are all critical dimensions of urban leadership, but leadership as a personal attribute is much more. There is, for example, a tendency to mistake effective management with leadership. One can be good at such managerial activities as planning, organizing, coordinating, directing and communication without being a leader. And, it is possible to be poor at many of these managerial tasks and still be a leader. Managerial skills, as we know them, neither deny a person leadership qualities (if they are missing) nor assure the person he or she will be a leader, if these skills are in abundance. Having said this, management skills are, nevertheless, tools of leadership. Sound ambiguous? Well, leadership also has that quality about it.

Burns, quoted earlier, writes about two kinds of leadership: transitional and transforming leadership. Transitional leadership “occurs when one person takes the initiative in making contact with others for the purpose of an exchange of valued things.”2 Leaders need followers. Without them, it is impossible to lead. Transforming leadership, by contrast, “occurs when one or more persons engage with others in such a way that leaders and followers raise one another to higher levels of motivation and morality.”3 He goes on to say, “The ultimate casual impact of leadership can be understood only in the flow of specific leadership-followership interactions emerging from the clash and consequences of hierarchies of motivations.”4 Leadership goes beyond the ability to apply administrative skills and processes in such a way that progress happens. It has much to do with creating conditions where change can take place and then encouraging a higher order of values that will facilitate the change. Managing the process of change is possible without leadership but leadership makes it much easier.

2 IBID, p. 19
3 IBID, p. 43
4 IBID, p. 439


Leadership is often confused with some of the characteristics of leadership for example, status. Many leaders do not have status but this does not mean that status is irrelevant. Status is often associated with position, particularly in organizations. Leadership is also confused with position or official authority. Leadership can be, and often is, exercised at all levels of organizations. Leadership is not confined to those with status or official authority. Nevertheless, one could argue that having official authority (the more, the better) makes it easier to exercise leadership. And yet, those with authority often exhibit few visible traits of leadership.

The same is true of power. Many who have access to sources of power do not have leadership abilities. Or, if they possess these resources, do not apply them. Karl Wallenda, the great tightrope aerialist, once said, “Being on the tightrope is living; everything else is waiting.” Perhaps, the same is true of exercising leadership.

Finally, there is a widespread presumption that leaders are born, not made. Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus, in their book Leaders, contend that “leadership can be learned by anyone, taught to everyone, denied to no one.” Krouse and Posner, in exploring the leadership challenge, say “Leadership is an observable, learnable set of practices”. Maybe so, but we go back to the contention of Burns and others that leadership is transactional. Leadership is conferred by followers and inseparable from their needs and goals. One fascinating perspective on this relationship is the one defined by two management specialists in their work and writings about situational leadership. Let us look at situational leadership as an interim perspective between bureaucratic managing and what Burns calls transformational leadership.


Management theorists have a tendency to put management in leadership terms. It is understandable. “Leadership” has an additional aura of importance that “management” does not quite have. Maybe leadership sells more books in the long run. Two management research/authors, who have both benefitted from the leadership phenomenon and made a major contribution to management thinking in recent years, are Paul Hersey and Kenneth Blanchard.5 In the early 1970s, they determined that leadership (or effective management practices with subordinates) was situational and not a question of applying some ideal style of management irrespective of the circumstances. While this idea seems rather conventional now, it was a major breakthrough in managerial thinking at that time. What makes the Hersey and Blanchard model so important, in terms of the management process in developing countries, is its focus on developing subordinates.

5 Paul Hersey and K.H. Blanchard, Management of Organizational Behavior: Utilizing Human Resources, (3rd ed.), Engelwood Cliffs N.J., Prentice Hall Inc., 1977

There is a dearth of qualified managers in most developing countries as well as a shortage of resources to train managers. The situational model of leadership (or management) recognizes the need to develop subordinates and defines a step-by-step process by which individuals can be developed on the job. Their model of leadership is built around two basic behaviors that managers exhibit toward employees. The first is task behavior and describes the extent to which the manager engages in one-way communication; defines the roles of his or her employees; and tells them what to do, how to do it, and when it is to be done. The second is relationship behavior, the extent to which the manager engages in two-way communication; provides emotional support; and attends to employee needs.

Because the situational leadership strategy of employee development is so important to the overall human resource development responsibilities of the manager in developing countries, we want to borrow heavily from the Hersey and Blanchard model. It not only speaks to the responsibility of developing subordinates but also provides clues about how managers can delegate authority and responsibilities to their subordinates with confidence. It is no secret that many organizations are short on competent middle managers. Consequently, the thin veneer of top leadership gets overwhelmed with work and decisions that should be handled at lower levels in the organization.

The following description of the Paul Hersey and Kenneth Blanchard model of situational leadership provides at least one clue on how to escape this management dilemma. They contend that any leadership style consists of two dimensions:

Task Behavior - The extent to which the leader engages in one-way communication; defines the roles of his or her employees; and tells them what to do, how to do it, and when it is to be done.

Relationship Behavior - The extent to which the leader engages in two-way communication (that is, encourages information and feedback from employees and listens actively); provides emotional support; and attends to employee needs.


In effect, a leader’s style is determined by the mix of “task” and “relationship” behavior. This can be displayed on a grid as follows:

Task behavior forms the horizontal axis of the grid, going from low to high and relationship behavior, the vertical axis, again low to high. Building upon the grid, Hersey and Blanchard identify four basic styles:

(a) Telling: The telling style is high in Task and low in Relationship (this doesn’t mean there is not relationship, merely that Relationship Behavior is low compared to other styles).

(b) Selling: High in both Task and Relationship.

(c) Joining: High in Relationship and low in Task (again there is some Task, but it’s a good deal lower than in the “telling” style).

(d) Delegating: Low in both Relationship and Task.

The four styles can be displayed on the completed grid as follows:



A brief explanation of the pros and cons of each style (when it is useful or not) will help to clarify Hersey and Blanchard’s situational leadership theory.

Telling Style: A leader using this style tends to be directive, to tell employees what to do and how to do it without necessarily asking for their advice. The leader in this case is often seen as a “take charge” person who is not hesitant about assuming responsibility or making decisions. He or she is most interested in getting the task done. This is a very useful style in crisis situations requiring quick, decisive action, when others are looking for direction. It is when this style becomes overused that it is no longer helpful. When this happens, the leader becomes over-controlling, dominant, and autocratic. Employees generally have one of two reactions to the autocratic leader:

(a) They rebel - that is, they begin to use their energy to challenge or to undermine the leader; or

(b) They become very passive - always looking for direction, doing what they are told, but nothing more, and rarely showing initiative or making even routine decisions.

Selling Style: In this case, the leader places about an equal value on task and relationship. He or she is clearly interested in getting the task done. And while he or she still is in control of the situation, he or she tries to get employees to “buy into” work decisions by involving them in discussions about how to do the work and paying attention to their needs. This style is often a good mix of task and relationship, conveying to the employee the importance of meeting work goals, but also respecting their needs and ideas. However, if used continuously, it can be very time-consuming (sometimes exhausting). The over use of a selling style can also convey mixed signals to employees. Employees will sometimes wonder whether the leader (or manager) really wants ideas and reactions, or is going to do what he or she wants to do anyway.

Joining Style: Under this style, the leader and the employees share much of the decision-making. Many decisions are made by consensus. Although the style is low in Task, it does not mean the leader is unconcerned about the task. He or she has simply determined that tasks can be completed more effectively by involving employees in the planning and decision making. This style is very effective when employees know their tasks well and do not need much direction. They generally appreciate the fact that the manager is not looking over their shoulders. However, the style can become troublesome when it is used excessively by a manager out of a fear of being disliked or unpopular with employees. When this happens, employees tend to take advantage of the leader by not performing up to standard or by violating rules (knowing they can get away with it).

Delegating Style: Although a low Relationship/low Task style appears to be the least desirable, one way to view it is as a substantial delegation of responsibility and authority. The employees are given a great deal of freedom within which to operate. If employees are sufficiently mature (we will discuss maturity below), this is an excellent style, as it signals to them that the leader respects their ability to perform the work without close supervision or lots of emotional support. However, when this style is the result of a leader who has withdrawn and no longer cares about tasks or relationships, it is clearly ineffective.


As we indicated earlier, a successful leader is one who can use all four styles, depending upon the nature of the situation. This means the leader needs to carefully assess the situation and choose a style that is appropriate. Perhaps the most important factor in any situation is the maturity of the employee, which is defined as:

(a) The ability to set high, but attainable goals;
(b) The ability and willingness to assume responsibility;
(c) Knowledge and experience needed to accomplish a specific task or job.

A few words of caution are in order. Employees are not mature or immature in a total sense; rather they have varying degrees of maturity depending upon the job they are performing. An engineer can be very mature in his normal functions of inspecting construction activities and providing guidance to contractors, but when promoted to supervisor, he may be less mature. He may need more direction and support until he learns his new role.

Also, maturity is not necessarily related to age. A young employee can be very mature in handling a specific job. It is job maturity that we will be concerned with here.


Hersey and Blanchard suggest a gradual shifting of styles as employees increase in maturity as demonstrated by the model illustrated on the following page.


Consider the case where a new procedure is being introduced about which employees have little knowledge. Such employees would likely be seen as low in maturity. According to the theory, this would initially call for a “telling” (or high Task/low Relationship) style. The employees would require more direction from the leader and would not be in a position to offer their own ideas because of the newness of the procedure.

As those employees increase in maturity, the leader needs to gradually shift into a “selling” style. This would mean easing up on the direction a little and providing immediate reinforcement (encourage, recognition, praise) as employees begin to master the procedure. The thick line forming a bell-shaped curve on the diagram suggests how styles should shift as maturity increases.

As employees become even more mature (“moderate” to “high”) the leader would shift next into a “joining” style. In many respects, this is a “leap of faith” in which control shifts from the leader to the employees. The employees begin exercising self control and begin making more judgement on their own about their work. But the leader is there to provide support, encouragement, or to step in if an employee becomes disinterested, withdrawn, or troubled in any way.

Finally, for employees who become very active in a particular set of tasks - that is, they have taken on full responsibility, they know their jobs, and require little attention - a “delegating” style is most appropriate. It might seem strange that the leader would engage in less relationship behavior at this point. But it does not mean there is less trust and rapport; in fact, there is more. It simply takes less direct effort by the leader to prove the trust with mature employees. They tend to meet their needs for recognition through the work itself, through feedback from the people they serve, and from co-workers. This allows the leader to spend valuable time working with people who need more direction, or in planning new programs.


The situational management theory described here is based heavily on the idea of employee growth and development. Much of the leader’s success depends on his or her ability to help employees mature. Effective leaders need to become proficient at using several styles and then to apply those styles appropriately to the situation at hand.

In order to apply a style appropriately, a leader needs to assess the situation. A key element in this is assessing the maturity level of employees; leadership is always a transaction between the leader and the employee (or follower).


But the leader also needs to assess other aspects of the situation - the time pressures; the expectations of one’s boss and other key officials; the information available; and the constraints of the organization (policies, regulations, financial limits). In practice, there is a constant interplay between all three elements, as illustrated earlier:


The Hersey and Blanchard model of leadership is an important concept to consider in managing change. It is particularly relevant to developing country settings where: (1) the depth of supervisory capacity in many organizations is not commensurate with the need; and (2) where delegation of responsibility is not as prevalent as it should be to develop subordinates and to get the job done.

The situational leadership strategy, just outlined, puts a high premium on developing employees at all levels of the organization. Developing human resources is integral to the development process for nations, organizations and communities. Developing subordinates is at the heart of public leadership and essential if the manager is committed to the process of managing change.


The Hersey and Blanchard contributions to leadership and the processes of managing change are important. But, the focus is on the work setting and the accomplishment of organizational tasks. Urban leadership, on the other hand, very often transcends the boundaries of the organization.

Much that is written about leadership focuses on the larger-than-organization issues and responsibilities of those engaged in development. Let us look at what some other contemporary authors have been saying recently about the leadership phenomenon.

James MacGregor Burns was quoted earlier but his work on leadership is so key to understanding the process that he is difficult to ignore. Here are some of the propositions he has put forth about leadership:

(1) Leadership is collective. As Burns states, “One person leadership is a contradiction in terms”. This is consistent with his view about the transactional nature of leadership and the role of followers.

(2) Leadership is dissensual. Any potential change involves conflict and the leader is seen by Burns as not only a manager of conflict but also the generator of conflict. “Meaningful conflict.” according to Burns, “produces engaged leaders who in turn generate more conflict.” Conflict, rather than being destructive, helps organize motives, sharpen popular demand, and broaden and strengthen values. In spite of its many benefits, managers would just as soon avoid conflict.

(3) Leadership is causative. It makes things happen.

(4) Leadership is morally purposeful and goal oriented. It seeks direction and movement to a higher plane of human endeavor. While we would all like to think that leadership is always directed toward some ultimate positive value, our collective experience tells us otherwise.


In a more recent book about leadership within management, authors Kouzes and Posner report on a survey they conducted with nearly 2000 senior managers from both the public and private sector. Leadership, they concluded, is not the private reserve of a few charismatic men and women. “It is a process ordinary managers use when they are bringing forth the best from themselves and others.”6 The process of leadership, which these authors discovered in their research, involves five fundamental practices that enable managers to accomplish extraordinary things. They are:

(1) Challenging the process to get things done. While “bureaucracy” may be a manager’s worst enemy, few managers are willing to challenge it, or to force changes in its insidious and pervasive nature. Many management techniques, designed to help colonial officers control their local staff decades ago, have been continued, even though they are dysfunctional to the process of development and management. These techniques and practices need to be challenged.

(2) Inspiring a shared vision. Leadership is the ability to describe what will be (a vision) as though it has been. Visions are future oriented and, therefore, involve what some would call an element of inspiration if they are going to be conveyed from one person to another. There is an old saying that “you can’t light a fire with a wet match.” So it is with sharing visions.

(3) Enabling others to act. There is a tendency in many organizations not to share power, authority or responsibilities. When we don’t enable others to act, we deny the very essence of leadership. The situational leadership strategy by Hersey and Blanchard is designed to help enable others to act, and to do it with confidence.

(4) Modeling the way. The leader is a role model for others to follow. Modeling is the process of seeking full congruence between what we say, what we value, and what we do in such a way that it is transparent to others.

(5) Encouraging the heart. This is a quality that is more difficult to translate into a cross cultural message of any real meaning. Perhaps the authors say it well enough through examples. They suggest we recognize individual contributions and celebrate accomplishments.

6 James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner, The Leadership Challenge, San Francisco. Jossey-BassPublishers, 1990 pp. 7-13


As a final look at leadership through the eyes of a third person, I want to turn to John Gardner. He also ties leadership to the role of management or what he calls the leader-manager. Gardner says leader-managers distinguish themselves from other managers in at least six ways:

(1) they think longer term;

(2) they grasp the relationship of their own organization or work unit to larger realities (what some might call the external environment);

(3) they reach and influence constituents beyond their organization’s boundaries;

(4) they put heavy emphasis on such intangibles as values, vision, and motivation and they understand intuitively the non-rational and unconscious elements of leader-constituent interaction;

(5) they have political skills to cope with conflicting requirements of multiple constituencies;

(6) they think in terms of renewal (and we might add, development).7

7 John Gardner, On Leadership, New York, The Free Press, 1990, pp. 3-5.

For Gardner, these distinguishing characteristics translate into specific leadership tasks: (1) envisioning goals; (2) affirming values; (3) motivating; (4) managing; (5) achieving workable unity, or trust, within the organization and its environment; (6) explaining (helping others learn); (7) serving as a symbol; (8) representing the group in its dealings with others; and (9) fostering the process of renewal.8

8 IBID, pp 11-22

Most of these tasks would not be found in a basic management textbook. Some are deceptively simple (like “explaining”); others are more complex, even a bit ethereal. But then, Gardner reminds us, “Leadership is not tidy.”


We have just discussed a few of the characteristics of leadership, as some significant others define them. You may be asking, “Why should I be concerned about leadership? This is a guide about management and managing change.” Several reasons come to mind immediately.

First, leadership, as defined by Gardner and others, is good management - albeit, rare in practice. Developing countries need fewer bureaucratic managers and more leader-managers.

Second, leadership, the application of the characteristics and behaviors we have been discussing, is critical to human settlement development and change. Envisioning goals, affirming values, motivating others, fostering the process of renewal - all of these are essential to the development process. When the manager, who has access to physical, monetary and human resources, assumes the mantle of leadership, development is more management is development - physical, social, and human resource development, it is crucial that managers aspire to leadership roles.

Finally, leadership is that extra thrust that motivates others to do what needs to be done; the vision to define and redefine future alternatives; and the courage to reach beyond the boundaries of our own work environment to create alliances and coalitions for long term institution and community building. Without leadership, not much happens.

There is an old Persian proverb that says:

Thinking well is wise;
Planning well is wiser;
Doing well, wisest and best of all.

Wise leadership is all three-thinking well, planning well, and doing well.