The Flamholtz Leadership Effectiveness Framework Overview

excerpted form The Role of Leadership in Business Process Reengineering: An Empirical Study of the Relationship Between Leadership Behavior and the Reengineering Outcome, 1997, Norma Sutcliffe.

            Unlike some other leadership frameworks such as the transformational leadership framework, the Flamholtz Leadership Effectiveness framework does not assume that for some leaders their sole source for influencing behavior is contingent rewards (that is, rewards given with 'good' behavior and punishments given for 'bad.'.  Likewise, it does not assume that personal traits such as charisma and intellectual stimulation are essential prerequisites for effective leadership.  Rather, it looks at the behavior of leaders in the tasks they perform, in the style they use, and in the situation.  It draws from several research streams: leadership styles (Likert,1961, 1967;  Tannenbaum and Schmidt, 1958; ), leadership tasks (Bowers and Seashore, 1966), situational leadership (Hersey and Blanchard, 1977), and contingency leadership (Fiedler, 1967). 

            The Leadership Effectiveness framework (1986, 1990) defines leadership as the “process whereby an individual influences the behavior of people in a way that increases the probability that they will achieve organizational goals.”  This process involves understanding, predicting and controlling others’ goal-directed behavior.

            Leadership Types.   There are two types of leadership: strategic leadership and operational leadership.  Flamholtz (1986, 1990) defines strategic leadership as the process of influencing members of an organization to plan for its long-range development.  It is oriented towards the entire organization’s development and its ability to function in the environment.  Two key tasks of strategic leadership are in formulating a strategic vision and in managing the corporate culture.

            Operational leadership, in contrast, is defined as the process of influencing members of an organization to achieve established long and short-term goals on a day-to-day basis.  This study will concentrate on operational leadership because its performance is relevant type for achieving BPR implementation.  Strategic leadership is relevant primarily in planning for a reengineering effort, not in achieving the BPR implementation.

            Operational Leadership Overview.   Effective operational leadership depends on using a leadership style that is appropriate to the situation (the leadership style-situation fit) when performing key leadership tasks (Figure 1).  Thus, the two major kinds of factors that determine leadership effectiveness are the chosen style and the leadership task.  These factors, style and task, are also related through two other intervening concepts: the work to be done, or “work,” and the people doing the work, or “people.”  The “work” and “people” operate as key determinants in selecting the leadership style and then operate as the focus of the five leadership tasks.  Two leadership tasks are oriented to meeting the needs of “work,” and the other three are oriented to meeting the needs of “people.”  This framework hypothesizes that effective leaders use a style appropriate to the situation.  Also, effective leaders balance the execution of leadership tasks between those meeting the needs of “work” and “people.”

            Drawing on contingency theory the Flamholtz Leadership Effectiveness framework is based on the notion that no single style is effective in all situations, but rather the situation determines the style that will most likely be effective (Fiedler, 1967; Fiedler & Chemers, 1984; Hersey and Blanchard, 1984).

            This overview now looks at the range of leadership styles (the six that Flamholtz identified), then the situational factors influencing the appropriateness of style’s fit.  When the fit is better then the probability is greater that the leader will influence others.  The overview then looks at the leadership tasks, and finally at the influence of task orientation and people orientation on effectiveness.

Figure 1:  Operational Leadership Effectiveness Overview



2.2.1    The Leadership Style-Situation Fit

            The LE framework argues that the effective leader uses a leadership style that is appropriate for the situation.  Before examining the factors in the situation that determine how germane a style is, this section describes the available styles (Flamholtz, 1986, 1990; Likert, 1961, 1967; Tannenbaum and Schmidt, 1958)  This section ends with describing the various fits.

            Leadership Styles.   The six styles of leadership are on a continuum.  The basis of the continuum is the amount of freedom that the leader allows to others in making decisions.  These six styles divide into three style categories: directive, interactive, and nondirective (Table 1).

Table 1:  The Leadership Styles and Categories






Declares what is to be done without explanation.


Benevolent Autocratic

Declares what is to be done with an explanation.



Gets opinions before deciding on the plan presented.



Formulates alternatives with group, then decides.



All in group have equal voice in making decisions.



Leaves it up to group to decide what to do.


            In the directive style category, the leader states what will be done.  When using the autocratic style, the leader gives no explanation when giving an order.  When using the benevolent autocratic style, the leader gives a rationale with the order. 

            In the interactive styles category, the leader asks for the opinions of subordinates before deciding.  In the consultative style the leader asks for opinions on a tentative plan of action and then decides.  In the participative style, the leader asks for group input in formulating plans and then the leader decides.  

            In the nondirective styles group, the leader lets the subordinates decide what will be done with or without any influence from the leader.  In the consensus style, the group decides what to do with the leader participating along with other members of the group.  In the laissez-faire style, the leader presents the problem to the group and then leaves it up to the them to decide what should be done.

            Situational Factors.   Several factors determine the appropriateness, or “fit,” of a leadership style to a situation.  These factors come from the work that the group wants to accomplish, the people doing the work, and from the organization in which the group operates (Figure 1).

            The situation can be broken down into a number of relevant factors. The sources of these factors come from the work that needs to be done, the people who will be doing the work, and the organizational environment.  However, the two most influential sources come from the work to be done and the people doing the work.  Their situational factors account for 80% to 90% of the influence on leadership effectiveness in a given situation according to Flamholtz (1986, 1990). 

            These situational factors are the degree of task programmability and the people’s potential for job autonomy (Flamholtz, 1986, p.270; Hersey and Blanchard, 1984; Tannenbaum and Schmidt, 1958).  When a task is highly programmable, its optimal execution can be specified in advance.  When a task is not programmable, the task’s execution can be done in a number of ways that are difficult to specify in advance.  The potential for job autonomy consists of such sub-factors as the skill and education level of the people being led, their degree of motivation towards the work to be done, and their desire for independence in performing their work.

            The desire for independence in performing their work includes not only independence in determining how the job is done but also the desire to participate in determining how things should be done (Vroom, 1960).

            Research has shown that when the degree of task programmability is low and the potential for job autonomy is high, a nondirective style of leadership is most effective (Table 2).  When the task programmability is high and the potential for job autonomy is low, then a directive style of leadership is most effective.  Under other situations the interactive style is most effective (Hersey and Blanchard, 1984; Flamholtz, 1986; Tannenbaum and Schmidt, 1958).

  Table 2:  Factors Affecting Optimal Leadership Style


Potential for Job Autonomy

Task Programmability










            The other situational factors come from the organizational environment and do not exert as much influence.  They include the amount of available decision time given the leader, the culture of the organization, and the prevalent styles employed by other leaders.  When there is little time for making the decision, a directive style is indicated.  When there is ample time, people may be unwilling to accept a directive style.

            The culture of the organization has norms concerning the appropriateness of leadership styles.  Some styles are more highly valued than others.  In organizations where the expectation is “all will participate and all will share responsibility for formulating plans and actions,” directive leadership styles are disdained.  They would consider directive leaders to be dysfunctional, arrogant, and “bullying.”  Other organizations could find that this same directive, decisive action  is desirable; these directive leaders are doing their job.  These organizations feel some should lead and the rest should follow.

            The prevalent leadership styles of peers and superiors in the organization also exert influence on the leader’s choice.  The leader may feel peer pressure to use a similar style.  The leader, either consciously or unconsciously, may emulate the styles used by superiors in the organization.


2.2.2   The Key Leadership Tasks

            There are five leadership tasks.  The first two tasks focus on the work that the group does, and the last three tasks focus on the needs of people doing the work (Figure 1).  The first, goal emphasis, refers to the setting, communicating and monitoring of goals, or aims, that the group is to accomplish.  The second, work facilitation, refers to the leader getting the group the tools, materials, training, information, or any other support needed for accomplishing the goals.  The third, interaction facilitation, refers to coordinating people and facilitating effective communication between them and to encouraging the development of close, mutually satisfying relationships in the group.  The fourth task, supportive behavior, refers to providing positive and negative feedback to the people doing the work.  It is also “enhancing someone else’s feeling of personal worth and importance” (Bowers and Seashore, 1966, p.247).  The last leadership task, personnel development, refers to the assistance a leader gives to subordinates in their career development and in reaching their full potential.


2.2.3    The Orientations Toward Task and People-- Balance

            Goal emphasis and work facilitation are leadership tasks that are oriented towards the work itself.  Interaction facilitation, supportive behavior and personnel development, in contrast, are leadership tasks that are oriented towards meeting the people doing the work.  Research (Hemphill and Coons, 1970; Bowers and Seashore, 1966) found that effective leaders balanced their execution of the leadership tasks between the two independent orientations (task orientation and people orientation).  Still, they usually stressed some tasks within an orientation.  Less effective leaders tended to emphasize one orientation while neglecting the other.

            Task oriented leaders stress the work to be done at the expense of the needs of the people doing the work.  Inadequate attention is spent on developing effective communications between all members of the group, on giving feedback, and/or on assisting in developing people.  In contrast, people oriented leaders stress the needs of the people at the expense of the work.  Inadequate attention is spent on the goals and/or facilitating the work.

            Summary.   Therefore, leadership effectiveness depends on the performance of the leadership tasks in a style that is appropriate for the situation.

            The primary factors that influence leadership style suitability are task programmability, and the potential for job autonomy.  Additional influences are the prevailing leadership styles exercised by other leaders in the organization, the cultural norms of the organization, and the time available for making decisions.

            The primary factors that influence leadership task performance are task orientation and people orientation.  Both orientations are balanced in effective leaders; in less effective leaders one orientation dominates over the other.




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