Home Organizational Psychology Leadership Organizational Consultation XXX: Leadership and the Appreciative Perspective

Organizational Consultation XXX: Leadership and the Appreciative Perspective

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Culture of Diversity

In addition to the three distinctive cultures just identified, there is a fourth culture that blends all three domains. This is the culture of diversity. All three perspectives are honored in an organization where this diversity-rich culture thrives. Information flows throughout the organization, intentions are given serious and ongoing consideration. Ideas are generated and actions are taken at all levels of the organization.

Contextual leadership is clearly needed if a culture of diversity is to flourish, for diversity inherently requires the emergence of leadership at all organizational levels. Furthermore, diversity requires flexibility in the use of differing styles of leadership at each level of the organization and in specific situations. This fourth culture of diversity is more closely aligned with appreciation than are any of the other three cultures. The contextual leader who operates effectively in the culture of diversity is flexible and sensitive to the varying styles of leadership that are needed in complex organizational settings.

What exactly is contextual leadership? We find wide-spread support for and extensive descriptions of this leadership model in many contemporary books about leadership that emphasize the critical role played by organizational context in determining the effectiveness of specific leadership styles. The contextual approach to leadership is exemplified in the work of Hershey and Blanchard.ii It is exemplified in several even more insightful (but less popular) books written by Fiedler, Vroom and Yetton, and Woodward.iii Each of these leadership models emphasizes the relativity of leadership. By contrast, traditional leadership and management theory is typically more entrenched regarding effective practices.

As exemplified in the work of Blake and Mouton,iv these normative models emphasize the acquisition of specific skills and attitudes that are appropriate to one, correct mode of leadership. In the case of Blake and Mouton, this one correct mode is the so-called consensus-building style of leadership. Contextual models suggest that effective leaders use differing styles of leadership in particular settings and in doing specific tasks. No one style is always effective. Rather leaders must learn when to use a specific style and how to use this style. In the case of normative models, leaders must learn a specific style and apply it in all instances, whether this style is one of openness to other people, clarity regarding mission and goals, fairness and acceptance of diversity, or the ability to act in a decisive and strategically sound manner.

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