Intelligent leadership and leadership competencies : developing a leadership framework for intelligent organizations

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Doctoral thesis (monograph)
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Dissertation series / Helsinki University of Technology, Industrial Management and Work and Organisational Psychology, 2003 / 4
The purpose of this study was to develop a leadership framework for intelligent organizations. This was done by analyzing the future working environment of managers, leadership as a phenomenon and as a process and leadership competencies. How leadership is typically learned and trained and how we could improve these activities, was also studied. One of the contentions of this thesis is that as the world is shifting from an industrial paradigm to a post-industrial paradigm, it is necessary that we understand the consequences of this shift vis-à-vis leadership culture and practice. In my study I have tried to apply a methodological approach, which I have termed as "science by doing". It can be seen as belonging to a certain school of action research. In this approach, I have tried to combine a practical approach and a scientific approach. Moreover, through practical follow-up management development projects the idea has been to create new, personally experienced, tested and interpreted knowledge. This orientation is underpinned by a balance between direct personal experience and indirect intellectual abstraction. It is an approach that goes beyond fragmented theories and that could possibly point a way towards a new school of leadership. I have used the research design with three layers: 1. personal skill map research; 2. leadership development in practice; and 3. the new framework for leadership. The objective of personal skill map research was to apply and develop the method of analyzing and developing personal key skills. Personal key skills (e.g. decision making and stress management) are that kind of general skills (altogether 14 skills), which we need to be effective and to create a sense of well-being in our normal life. This research was my licentiate dissertation and has formed an important basis for this research in which I have continued the same theme but focused on leadership competencies. Leadership development in practice means that I have documented five case studies concerning management development at Kone and Nokia during the nineties. All these cases are different kind of leadership development projects which give us a lot of practical experience about our topic. The main purpose of this research has been to define the new framework for leadership. This has been done on the basis of my own experiences and extensive theoretical research in which I have tried to go through all the relevant leadership theories. I have grouped those theories into 14 clusters and analyzed what they could give to leadership in the 21st century. I believe that we need a radical paradigm shift in our thinking about leadership; a move from an industrial to a postindustrial paradigm. We don't know exactly what this new paradigm will look like, but I have outlined ten cornerstones for this new framework Based on this framework I have developed an intelligent leadership model. The model itself is based on the system theory and it tries to describe the leadership process as a whole with the ten key elements that belong to it. One of the main premises I make is that intelligent leadership is shared and collaborative and therefore significantly different from the way leadership has been addressed in mainstream models. Moreover, leadership is seen as a process, not a position. It therefore goes without saying that the proverbial followers are actively involved inthis model and that they are also engaged in the phenomenon of leadership, not "followership". It is also important to state that purpose and vision give the justification for leadership. Leadership is always based on universal principles and values. Future leaders are living in a turbulent and chaotic environment, where the real power to act comes from recognizing the pattern of change and sensing and seizing windows of opportunity. In this kind of environment they will need a lot of competencies to survive. I have defined a competence tree of a leader or leadership, which consists of six clusters and altogether 26 competencies. This is based on the personal skill map research (the skill tree of a life), a comprehensive summary of previous competence research in the leadership area and some examples from practice (e.g. Nokia, Ahlstrom and ITU). I have also developed a Leadership Self-Assessment Tool, which consists of 160 items. The leadership competence framework and the self-assessment tool was tested with sixteen executives ("successful people managers") from Ahlstrom, Fortum, Kone and Nokia. This group considered the competence tree of a leader comprehensive, practical and useful. Also the self-assessment tool was considered useful, and it gave a lot of self-reflection impulses. People usually learn leadership best by doing. Good self-reflection competencies and awareness about your own learning obstacles are needed for this. Also management and leadership training is useful when its timing is correct and it is tailored to the company's situation. It should always start with self-leadership. Intelligent leadership widens the area of influence from individuals to teams, to organizations and to societies. Intelligent leadership should help individuals to develop themselves comprehensively as human beings. It should support working individuals in becoming self-directed teams. It should support organizations in becoming intelligent. And in addition to this, it should support us in building intelligent societies, where we can integrate economy, ethics and ecology. This is the ultimate goal of all leadership training. During the last twenty years a huge amount of studies and books on leadership have been published both by academics and practitioners. I have a strong belief that today there is a momentum, and we have enough leadership knowledge that enables us to achieve the intellectual breakthrough and go beyond fragmented theories towards a new school of leadership; "a new scientific management" for the 21st century. I hope this research can support that progress in a tiny way.
Thesis advisor
Vartiainen, Matti
leadership, intelligent leadership, competence, leadership competence, management development
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