CHAPTER 3: LEADERSHIP: A SYSTEMS PSYCHODYNAMIC PERSPECTIVE
In this chapter, the second literature aim is discussed and focuses on leadership as the contextual research construct of this study, with particular emphasis on leadership from a systems psychodynamic perspective. Firstly, leadership as context is explored, followed by systems psychodynamic insights on leadership. Leadership as function as well as leadership as the taking up of a role is discussed. These definitions are discussed in order to indicate the definition I used during this study. The chapter concludes by presenting related systems psychodynamic constructs, i.e. valence, holding and containment, and finally a chapter summary is provided.
LEADERSHIP AS CONTEXT
In this sub-section, context is created by presenting the roots of leadership in the form of a brief overview on how understanding of leadership has evolved by discussing the major approaches to leadership over the last century. This is followed by an illustration of which aspects of general leadership literature are applicable to the systems psychodynamic leadership approach. The section then links up with a more formal discussion on systems psychodynamic perspectives on leadership.
Traditional approaches to leadership include, for example, trait theories (see Mann, 1959), psychoanalytic theory (see Klein, 1985), leadership behaviours (see Northouse, 2010), and leader–member exchange theories (see Bass, 1981). Trait theories propose that there are qualities that differentiate leaders from followers, and the purpose of leadership research should be the identification of these qualities (Bateman & Snell, 1999). The theory has been criticised because it does not allow for the interactive effect of leaders and followers (Khan, 2014; Northouse, 2010). Reflections from a psychoanalytic perspective portray the leader as a figure (father/mother) or as a bad object (such as a tyrant, despot or dictator), representing the superego, or serving as container for follower phantasies (see 126.96.36.199) and frustration (Klein, 1985). Extreme manifestations of a specific neurotic style could lead to dysfunctional leadership behaviour (Lyndon, 1994). Theories of leadership behaviour emphasise the identification of behaviours critical to leadership, which implies that individuals can be trained to become good leaders. Leader– member exchange theory explains leadership and leader–follower relations as an interactive process (Bass, 1981). When in-group and out-group dynamics are at play, in-groups would be afforded more independence, attention and reward, thereby leading to high levels of performance and satisfaction (Northouse, 2010).
The situational approach focuses on leadership in a particular context (Hersey & Blanchard, 1969; Hershey et al., 2008). The premise is that each situation is unique, and therefore requires a unique response. Situational approaches, including path–goal theory and other contingency models, for example Fiedler’s contingency model (Bass, 1997), assume that employee abilities and motivations vary according to situations. Leaders rather than employees thus need to adapt their strategies ranging from being directive to being supportive (Ashforth, 1994). Despite the criticism levelled against these approaches for their lack of comprehensive research to validate its suppositions and assertions (Vielmetter & Sell, 2014), situational approaches have proved to be a practical approach in a range of diverse settings (Ayman & Korabik, 2010; Khan, 2014). Situational approaches received renewed attention when researchers noted that people are often overwhelmed by situational demands on the leadership role (Vroom & Jago, 2007).
The full range approach to leadership focuses on the visionary and interpersonal aspects of leadership (Yammarino, 2012). The model encompasses laissez-faire, transactional and transformational leadership (Bass & Avolio, 1994). This approach reflects leadership as contingent reinforcement by a transactional leader or leading followers beyond their self-interest for the good of the organisation through a transformation leader (Bass, 1997). More traditional styles of leadership, seem to have been replaced by ‘servant leadership styles’ (Yammarino, 2012), as well as strong influence by spiritual (Mayer, Viviers, Flotman & Schneider-Stengel, 2016) and ethical principles that underpin leadership (Sato, 2004). These leaders seem to convey an organisational vision that is personally motivating to followers, and which develops an organisational culture characterised by caring, appreciation and shared values that ultimately inspire a sense of belonging (Brown, 2003). In more recent times, collectivist approaches, involving multi-person interactions, have become imperative (Yammarino, 2012). These approaches include team leadership (Mulvey & Padilla, 2010), network leadership (Balkundi, Kilduff & Harrison, 2011), shared leadership (Shaw, 2002), and complexity leadership (Uhl-Bien & Marion, 2009; Valerio, 2009).
From a leadership context perspective, the above-mentioned theories seem to suggest that individuals with a grand, bold vision for the organisation or the future are often earmarked for leadership positions. There seems to be very little concern for the personal role to be taken up, or that such an individual needs to demonstrate sincere appreciation and understanding for the organisation as a connected system (Bell & Huffington, 2011; James & Arroba, 2005). The modern networked organisation is perceived as a rapidly evolving hybrid (Daskal, 2017; Diamond, 2016; Veldsman & Johnson, 2016; Western, 2013) and is different in terms of structure, nature, function, politics and culture compared to previous bureaucratic forms (Castelis, 2000; Kets de Vries, 2014; Martins & Geldenhuys, 2016). Interest created by more recent leadership theories regarding these constantly evolving hybrid organisations, has resulted in more attention being given to the anxieties that are created, particularly survival and transition anxiety (Amado & Elsner, 2007). This tends to influence the dynamics (group) in the organisation – hidden aspects that affect conscious processes and manifesting behaviours (Western, 2013) – which have become a deliberate focus point by later leadership theories, notably systems psychodynamic leadership perspectives, which have built on previous leadership models and ideas. This renewed focus includes issues related to authority, the emotional needs of the organisation, ambivalence surrounding work, collective defences and the structural features of the organisation (Krantz, 2001; Miller & Rice, 1967; Stokes, 1994b). Innovation, the clear articulation of a shared vision and the significance of personal and social intelligence, which are distinguishing features of transformational leadership, are also addressed by the systems psychodynamic approach to leadership (James & Arroba, 2005). Despite all these grand leadership theories, global financial and political crises as well as dissenting and diverging voices echoing across the globe are perhaps reflections of both a failure of leadership and a leadership in crisis (Bones, 2011; Diamond, 2016; Rossert & Marino, 2005; Stein, 2016; Veldsman & Johnson, 2016). The unrelenting pressure on leadership and the doling out of blame have resulted in trust and confidence in leadership being undermined (Bones, 2011; Mulvey & Padilla, 2010; Schilling & Schyn, 2012). Leadership challenges in the form of conscious and unconscious interactions at individual, group and organisational level are now more than ever before open to be explored vigorously by leadership theories (Lukomnik & Pitt-Watson, 2006; Maccoby, 2004; McInnis, 2012). In the South African context, the emergence of radical movements to the left, for example the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), appears to be a reflection of an increase in the pressure on and sharp decline in levels of trust in political and business leadership (Du Toit, 2014). Perhaps what is apparent from the above discussion is that leadership does not exist in a vacuum, but in the midst of a variety of dynamic situational variables creating additional stress and complexity for leaders (Ayman & Korabik, 2010; Hersey et al., 2008; Hollway, 2013; Yukl, 2002). A clear example is the current puzzling cultural and ethical contexts within which leaders have to operate (Brunning & Perini, 2010; Daskal, 2017; Mitonga-Monga, Flotman & Cilliers, 2016; Robbins & Decenzo, 2012; Veldsman & Johnson, 2016).
A SYSTEMS PSYCHODYNAMIC PERSPECTIVE ON LEADERSHIP
Leadership research has grown exponentially over the last decade (Boxer, 2014; Mayer et al., 2016; Northouse, 2010; Veldsman & Johnson, 2016; Yammarino, 2012), with invaluable contributions from scholars and practitioners throughout the world. Recent years have seen the development of theories explaining the role of leaders within complex systems and dynamic social networks (Balkundi et al., 2011; Diamond, 2016; Western, 2013; Yammarino, 2012). This reflects that there does not seem to be much consensus on the essence of leadership. It is necessary to point out the lack of consensus as well as the complexity when it comes to leadership, and therefore the purpose of this section is to explore systems psychodynamic contributions to leadership and leadership development specifically.
Psychodynamic theorists and practitioners posit that individual behaviour as well as organisational life is a reflection of constantly shifting irrational forces that underlie seemingly ‘rational’ choices and actions (Czander, 1993; Eisold, 2010; Gould et al., 2001; Hirschhorn, 1988; Kets de Vries, 2014; Krantz, 2010). Most conceptualisations of leadership tend to avoid the emotional, complexities and relationships within organisational life (Kets de Vries, 2006; Neumann & Hirschhorn, 1999; Volkan, 1988) by focusing on rational, conscious, observable phenomena. A rational and irrational approach is required in order to provide more comprehensive and meaningful explanations of leadership life in organisations (Boxer, 2014; Eisold, 2010; Vansina & Vansina-Cobbaert, 2008). In other words, if understanding of leadership is to be enhanced, the complexities, paradoxes and undercurrents of human behaviour and organisational life need to be explored. A psychodynamic approach to leadership acknowledges people as complex beings with innumerable motivational drives and patterns of interaction (Kets de Vries & Korotov, 2011).
At this point, I deem it necessary to discuss the unconscious briefly and indicate how it was operationalised in this study. Furthermore, the unconscious plays a critical role in systems psychodynamic thinking and constant reference is made to this phenomenon. Understanding of the unconscious differs widely. Freud laid the foundation in terms of our understanding of the unconscious. Freud (1916) proposed that all that individuals are aware of is stored in the conscious. What is in our subconscious can only be accessed when it is prompted. The vast majority of what we do not know is buried in the unconscious. The unconscious remains a mystery in some sense; hence, it has been defined and approached from contradictory perspectives (Nevid, Rathus, & Greene, 2008). Conceptualisations of the unconscious range from Freud’s (1916, p. 97) “primary process thinking” (i.e. energetic charge) to Jung’s collective unconscious and Klein’s notion of ‘phantasy’ (Klein, 1975), the emotional, relational and imaginary bases in the context of developmental processes (Hinshelwood, 1989) and Bion’s notions of dreams, dream-thoughts, pre-conceptions and conceptions (Bion, 1967). Recently, the societal influence on the unconscious has been re-emphasised (Hollway, 2013). In an attempt to highlight the power of society, Salling-Oleson (2012, p. 28) suggested that the unconscious is socially produced, carries non-verbalised meaning and consists of a combination of cultural and symbolic expressions – including language use – that are the outcome of mental processes and material. In terms of its content (as repository), the unconscious contains experiences not readily available to consciousness or awareness, predominantly of an ominous nature, for example traumatic experiences, emotions, motives and memories that have been consigned to the unconscious mind (Gosling & Case, 2013). With respect to its function, it has been suggested that the unconscious is the principle driving force behind human behaviour (Czander, 1993; Eisold, 2010; Hinshelwood, 1989). A notable departure from Freud’s theories regarding the unconscious is object relations theory (see Klein, 1975). This theory emphasises the role of individual relations with actual (in this case, external) and phantasised (in this case, internal) objects; thus, allowing for the analysis of not only the person, but also the relations with internal (unconscious) and external objects (Czander, 1993; Klein, 1985; Likierman, 2001; Ogden, 1982).
However, in this study the unconscious both as a system and in its dynamic content, represented our original historic, but more importantly, our protective here-and-now way of mental functioning (Manley, 2014; Meltzer, 1984; Vansina-Cobbaert, 2005). The unconscious can be a source of resistance to experiences, emotions and ideas that could threaten our mental functioning, or it could serve as resource for creativity and imagination. The unconscious is a complex combination of contents, structures and processes that were never clearly conscious or disappeared from consciousness because of several influences, for example suppression and repression (Gosling & Case, 2013; Vansina & Vansina-Cobbaert, 2008). The unconscious thus serves as ‘dynamo’ from which forces flow, thereby making creative energies or capacities available to be harnessed and transformed (Cervone & Pervin, 2008; Czander, 1993). It also has a primary defensive function (see section 2.3.2 on the role of the unconscious and defence mechanisms). Being part of the mental life of individuals, groups and organisations, the unconscious is indirectly accessible, and has motivational power as part of our inner world now and in the future as it influences our way of being in the world (Lawrence, 2010).
CHAPTER 1: SCIENTIFIC ORIENTATION TO THE RESEARCH
1.2 BACKGROUND TO AND MOTIVATION FOR THE RESEARCH
1.3 THE RESEARCH PROBLEM
1.4 AIMS OF THE RESEARCH
1.5 THE PARADIGM PERSPECTIVE
1.6 RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
1.7 FINDINGS AND DISCUSSION
1.8 CONCLUSIONS, LIMITATIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
1.9 CHAPTER DIVISION
1.10 CHAPTER SUMMARY
CHAPTER 2: ANXIETY: A SYSTEMS PSYCHODYNAMIC PERSPECTIVE
2.2 SYSTEMS PSYCHODYNAMIC APPROACH
2.4 CHAPTER SUMMARY
CHAPTER 3: LEADERSHIP: A SYSTEMS PSYCHODYNAMIC PERSPECTIVE
3.2 LEADERSHIP AS CONTEXT
3.3 A SYSTEMS PSYCHODYNAMIC PERSPECTIVE ON LEADERSHIP
3.4 RELATED SYSTEMS PSYCHODYNAMIC CONSTRUCTS
3.5 Leadership anxiety
3.6 CHAPTER SUMMARY
CHAPTER 4: LANGUAGE USE: A SYSTEMS PSYCHODYNAMIC PERSPECTIVE
4.2 DEFINING LANGUAGE USE
4.3 LANGUAGE USE IN SYSTEMS PSYCHODYNAMICS
4.4 LANGUAGE USE AS INDICATION OF LEADERSHIP ANXIETY
4.5 CHAPTER SUMMARY
CHAPTER 5: LANGUAGE USE AS MANIFESTATION OF LEADERSHIP ANXIETY DYNAMICS: A SYSTEMS PSYCHODYNAMIC MODEL
5.2 LANGUAGE USE AND THE UNCONSCIOUS
5.3 A SYSTEMS PSYCHODYNAMIC MODEL ON LANGUAGE USE AS MANIFESTATION OF LEADERSHIP ANXIETY DYNAMICS
5.4 CHAPTER SUMMARY
CHAPTER 6: RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
6.2 RESEARCH DESIGN
6.3 CHAPTER SUMMARY
CHAPTER 7: RESEARCH FINDINGS
7.2 PRESENTATION OF THE MAIN THEMES
7.3 LISTENING POST 1: THEMES AND WORKING HYPOTHESES
7.4 LISTENING POST 2: THEMES AND WORKING HYPOTHESES
7.5 LISTENING POST 3: THEMES AND WORKING HYPOTHESES
7.6 THE INTEGRATION OF FINDINGS
7.7 REFINEMENT OF THE MODEL: INFLUENCE OF EMPIRICAL DATA ON THEORETICAL MODEL
7.8 INTEGRATION OF THE UTILITY VALUE OF THE MODEL
7.9 CHAPTER SUMMARY
CHAPTER 8: CONCLUSION, LIMITATIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
8.3 LIMITATIONS OF THE STUDY
8.5 RESEARCH HYPOTHESES
8.6 CONTRIBUTION OF THE RESEARCH
8.8 CHAPTER SUMMARY
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