In my first two posts (27 Aug 2008 and 24 Sep 2008) I wrote about leadership in situations where there is no leader, in the sense that there is no asymmetrical influence, no person with more influence than others.  I argued that by thinking about leadership in terms of its outcomes of direction, alignment, and commitment (DAC) it is possible to think about such leader-less situations as still having plenty of leadership.

Now I want to extend this line of thinking to situations where there is clearly a leader, a person who has more influence on others than they have on him.  I want to explore how an outcome view of leadership (seeing leadership as the beliefs and practices that produce DAC) reframes the leader-follower influence relation as a special case of a shared process.  In other words, the same underlying shared process that enables a leader-less group to create leadership is what enables a leader to create leadership.

Take the case of the restaurant owner who instituted a no-tipping policy, as reported in a recent article in the New York Times.

The owner, Jay, was disillusioned by the fact that the restaurant’s wait staff and kitchen employees did not share his sense of passion for the business.  Instead, they were bickering over money.  The wait staff was constantly maneuvering for better tables, and the kitchen staff didn’t believe they were getting their fair share.  After thinking about it for some time, Jay traced the problem to working for tips, which he decided hurt teamwork and lowered morale. A no-tipping policy would encourage his employees to concentrate on their work and stop expending so much energy on angling for tips.  He met with the staff, who agreed to the no-tipping policy.  (The details of this meeting are not reported in the article).  Tips were replaced by an 18 percent service charge split 3-to-1 between the wait staff and kitchen workers.

The result has been what Jay hoped for.  Even though the wait staff is earning slightly less than before, they report being happier in their work and less anxious about what a customer will tip and how much others are making.  One waiter said that her work had “more meaning” than it ever had before.  Kitchen workers are making more and feel more connected to the business.

The following table presents two ways of interpreting these events.

The leader-influence interpretation

The DAC outcome interpretation

Jay develops a vision of better teamwork and morale, to be realized through a no-tipping policy.

Jay comes to believe that practices associated with a no-tipping policy (such as pooling service charges and sharing them out) will increase DAC.

Jay must influence his employees using a combination of his authority, personal influence skills, and vision for change.

Since DAC is a shared outcome, Jay must assure that his belief about the positive effect of a no-tipping policy on DAC is shared by the staff.

Jay meets with the staff.  He succeeds in influencing them to buy into the no-tipping policy.

Jay meets with the staff.  As a result of the meeting, they all share a belief about the positive effect of a no-tipping policy on DAC.   

Jay’s vision is realized.  Teamwork and morale improve as a result of his leadership.

Their shared belief and the associated practices are validated.  Teamwork and morale improve as a result of their leadership.

Leadership is framed as the behavior of the owner and the process of influencing and getting buy-in from followers

Leadership is framed as the shared beliefs and practices that produce DAC.

An important thing to notice about this table is that the DAC outcome interpretation does not invalidate the leader-influence interpretation.  In other words, the two interpretations are alternative valid ways of describing of what happened.  But they are not equivalent descriptions of what happened.  The DAC outcome interpretation provides a bigger picture of what happened to make leadership occur.  It gets beyond a leader-influence description while including it in a bigger framework.  From the perspective of the DAC outcome interpretation, leadership is not just about how a leader influences followers to buy into a vision, it is more broadly about how people who work together produce direction, alignment, and commitment.  DAC can be created even without a leader, and so creating DAC with a leader is one way to go, but not the only way.

In my first two posts, I talked about the practical value of a DAC outcome perspective for helping people create leadership when there is no clear leader present.  In my next post, I will get into the question of what difference it would make to a leader like Jay to adopt a DAC outcome perspective on leadership.

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