Leadership framework assessment

Leadership Framework Assessment

From 1991. Has anything changed in our fundamental views regarding leadership?

A short assessment you may be interested in doing:


Four Frameworks for Leadership: The Bolman/Deal Model

It may be useful to approach leadership from the point of view of four different “frameworks”. Circumstances determine which approach (s) is appropriate. Effective leaders may use a number of these approaches at the same time.

1. The Structural Framework

The “structural” manager tries to design and implement a process or structure appropriate to the problem and the circumstances. This includes:

a. to clarify organizational goals
b. manage the external environment
c. develop a clear structure appropriate to task, and environment
d. clarify lines of authority
e. focus on task, facts, logic, not personality and emotions

This approach is useful when goals and information are clear, when cause-effect relations are well understood, when technologies are strong and there is little conflict, low ambiguity, low uncertainty, and a stable legitimate authority.

2. The Human Resource Framework

The human resource manager views people as the heart of any organization and attempts to be responsive to needs and goals to gain commitment and loyalty. The emphasis is on support and empowerment. The HR manager listens well and communicates personal warmth and openness. This leader empowers people through participation and attempts to gain the resources people need to do a job well. HR managers confront when appropriate but try to do so in a supportive climate

This approach is appropriate when employee morale is high or increasing or when employee morale is low or declining. In this approach resources should be relatively abundant; there should be relatively low conflict and low diversity.

3. The Political Framework

The political leader understands the political reality of organizations and can deal with it. He or she understands how important interest groups are, each with a separate agenda. This leader understands conflict and limited resources. This leader recognizes major constituencies and develops ties to their leadership. Conflict is managed as this leader builds power bases and uses power carefully. The leader creates arenas for negotiating differences and coming up with reasonable compromises. This leader also works at articulating what different groups have in common and helps to identify external “enemies” for groups to fight together.

This approach is appropriate where resources are scarce or declining, where there is goal and value conflict and where diversity is high.

4. The Symbolic Framework

This leader views vision and inspiration as critical; people need something to believe in. People will give loyalty to an organization that has a unique identity and makes them feel that what they do is really important. Symbolism is important as is ceremony and ritual to communicate a sense of organizational mission.

These leaders tend to be very visible and energetic and manage by walking around. Often these leaders rely heavily on organizational traditions and values as a base for building a common vision and culture that provides cohesiveness and meaning.

This approach seems to work best when goals and information are unclear and ambiguous, where cause-effect relations are poorly understood and where there is high cultural diversity.

Comparing the Four Frameworks

Each of the four frameworks approaches management tasks differently as can be seen in the following.


Structural: set objectives and coordinate resources

Human relations: promote participation

Political: arenas to air conflict and realign power

Symbolic: ritual to signal responsibility

Decision Making

Structural: rational

Human relations: open process to produce commitment

Political: opportunity to gain or exercise power

Symbolic: ritual to provide comfort and support until decisions made


Structural: realign roles and responsibilities to fit tasks

Human relations: maintain a balance between
human needs and formal roles

Political: redistribute power and for new coalitions

Symbolic: maintain an image of accountability and responsiveness


Structural: formal control system for distributing rewards
Human relations: process for helping people grow and improve

Political: opportunity to exercise power

Symbolic: occasion to play roles in shared rituals
Conflict resolution

Structural: authorities resolve conflict

Human relations: develop relationships

Political: develop power by bargaining, forcing, or manipulating others

Symbolic: develop shared values

Goal Setting

Structural: keep organization headed in right direction

Human relations: keep people involved and communications open

Political: provide opportunities for people and groups to make interests known

Symbolic: develop symbols and shared values


Structural: transmit facts and information

Human relations: exchange information, needs, and feelings

Political: vehicles for influencing or manipulating others

Symbolic: telling stories


Structural: formal occasions for making decisions

Human relations: informal occasions for involvement, sharing feelings

Political: competitive occasions to win points

Symbolic: sacred occasion to celebrate and transform the culture

Effective leadership

Structural: social architect

Human relations: catalyst and servant

Political: advocate

Symbolic: prophet and poet

Effective Leadership Process

Structural: analysis and design

Human relations: support and empowerment

Political: advocacy, coalition building

Symbolic: inspiration, framing experience

Ineffective leadership

Structural: petty tyrant

Human relations: pushover

Political: hustler

Symbolic: fanatic, fool

Ineffective leadership process

Structural: management by detail and fiat

Human relations: management by abdication

Political: manipulation

Symbolic: smoke and mirrors

Organizational Change

Structural: change causing confusion; need to realign and renegotiate formal policies

Human relations: change can cause people to feel incompetent, powerless; need to develop new skills, involvement, support

Political: change creates winners and losers; need to create arenas where issues can be negotiated

Symbolic: change creates loss of meaning and purpose; people form attachments to symbols need symbolic healing


Structural: economic incentives

Human relations: growth and self-actualization

Political: coercion, manipulation, and seduction

Symbolic: symbols and celebrations

Choosing a Frame

There are times when any of the four frames is appropriate. The below suggests some ways of determining when each is appropriate

If commitment and motivation are important: human resources and symbolic
If there is ambiguity and uncertainty: Structural
If resources are scarce: structural, political, symbolic
If there is conflict and diversity of opinions: political and symbolic
If there is a top down approach: structural and human resources

Bolman, Lee G., and Terrence E. Deal, Reframing Organizations, Jossey-Bass, 1991.