Leadership you can wear

October, 2004


Year 2, issue # 7 

Alfredo Behrens

This is a space for quick conversations on management and society. 

Our interests gravitate around issues of leadership, management of workteams, technology, creativity, emotional intelligence and most issues which should be shared to shape a better world. 

Our approach brings thorough  perspectives into real-life situations and seeks awareness rather than complience

Your comments will be most welcome.



Business leadership definitions may prove to be elusive, but leadership's effects are not, they are crucial. In this issue we bring you two related writings.

The Feature Article suggests that there is not one leadership fit to all organizations. Rather, organizations evolve and successively require different styles of leadership. Occasionally one leader may evolve with the organization, but it is unlikely.

The Management Insights article draws on the practical issues of life: there is a market for business leaders. 

Yet we know from the Feature Article that while you may need off-the-shelf leaders somewhat readily, the do have a 'best-by' date, like many groceries do. The fact is that your organization may have outlived the usefulness of many off-the-shelf leaders and you will have to choose in a more rarified world. So, why not grow you own leader? 

The short answer is that it is difficult to grow your own leaders. But growing your own leader may also be unhelpful because if experience matters much, your own staff is, by definition, better prepared to solve the problems of your organization's past, not those of the future. 

Yet you may grow your own leaders if you wish and in Management Insights you may learn what works and what does not.

In this issue the illustrations bring political resonance rather than artistic enlightenment. The choice of the illustrations is simple enough. If one wishes to illustrate Latin American leaders one must chose political ones, for the others are not recognizable across the region. That in itself is worth an article is it not?

The Editor












You are an expatriate manager and feel that your staff does not respond as expected. Is it your staff, is it the local culture or is it yourself?


Perhaps you can live with that doubt but your company certainly cannot. The doubt alone undermines your leadership effectiveness, besides, your instructions are not being adequately followed. You must act quickly.


NewsLeader is organizing discussion modules on cross-cultural management so you can learn when you are at fault and when you are not. 


Join us.


Write or call the Editor for further details.



Culture In Company


NewsLeader is articulating with major bookshops the building of company libraries holding films and music, besides books. All will be lent to employees. We are also offering a matching service: speakers to inspire, debate, provoke and expand your company and its culture. 


Join us in this effort to build the companies of the future.


Write or call the Editor for further details.




What leader for what organization?

Alfredo Behrens

[email protected]


Winston Churchill, one of the warring World’s most renowned leaders, was thrown out of office once the war was over. In peacetime Britons preferred a different leadership style. The same with corporations.


Based on the work of Gareth and Jones,[1] I highlight why a company may demand different leadership styles through its existence and suggest what extensions to this analysis may be necessary to make it even more relevant to the Latin American business environment.


Since most companies begin small, let us begin by a start-up. This company usually revolves around a visionary leader delivering one product. The initial team is small and chosen by the leader, allowing for little argument about the focus and the ways. There is also little disagreement on whom the competition is and on how to sell to whom and at what price.


These organizations show a high degree of solidarity between its members because they display an intense commonality of interests and focus. Sociability is also high; the staff freely interacts during working hours and beyond. Reciprocity in collaboration is taken for granted, for it is only seen to be in the best interest of the organization. Gareth and Jones call these organizations “communal”.


The leader of communal organizations tends to be loved, his vision shared and his moral authority binding, as is his standing a source of meaning for the work to be tackled. A successful leader of this type of organization is likely to guide his team to another organizational phase, when the high degree of solidarity gives way to an organization more accommodating to individuality.


By then the organization may have grown to over 200 or 300 members, it may have developed several products that it sells in several markets and it may be already multi-site. This organization cannot cope with the demands of the highest level of solidarity, yet it vies to keep its high level of sociability and new staff is likely to have been hired on this trait. People are no longer able to socialize all together out of office but they keep a high level of social interest in each other. Reciprocity is still assured and high networking allows for high teamwork spirit. Lower on solidarity than the earlier phase, this still high sociability organization is highly “networked”, which is the name that Gareth and Jones use for this organizational phase.


The early visionary leader is phased out in favour of a more professional backstage style of management. The new leader operates mostly behind the scenes and knows how to stimulate different collaborators differently. He is also more at ease with individuality.


This leader must also know how to help his organization keep focus on performance; for it is in the nature of large organizations high on sociability to seek to preserve social relationships, perhaps even at the expense of performance. Some leaders fall short on this issue and, while liked, they may fail to lead the timely adjustments that may avoid more painful restructuring later on.  If the leader falls short on this account, the organization may go through a long period of poor performing units led by teams of old friends; discontent may spread, market share may drop, turnover increase; eventually the leader is replaced by a more performance-oriented one.


By then this organization, having already lost the early high solidarity traits, has also lost much of its high sociability ones. As the organization is refocused on performance for survival there is little time for getting to know each other, mistakes are not tolerated, working hours are extended and rewards are calibrated on performance with clearly set goals. Networking is pursued in as much as it serves the performance goal. Individuality prevails. Reciprocity is not taken for granted.  This goal-oriented organization has entered a mercenary phase of organizational culture.


The leader of the mercenary culture is likely to be less adroit at stimulating collaboration by a complex array of incentives. He believes that people respond to fear and greed and will use threats and power rewards in pursuit of total annihilation of the competition; and will reward its staff accordingly. Fearsome as it may seem, this organization is once more a highly focused organization where a one-dimensional collaboration helps build a sense of unity, characteristic of high solidarity, despite its low sociability. However, overburdened with its focus on performance, the mercenary organization, poor in sociability, fails to learn and share information. Islands of proprietary knowledge may arise.


Without nurturing the binding force of solidarity the mercenary organization may recede to the lowest level of organizational culture, poor in solidarity besides sociability: the Fragmented culture. Here company units or individuals are, at best, misaligned with the organization’s overall goal; individual goals may even take precedence over collective ones. The leader of these organizations, commanding little attention, is typically tolerated and frequently ignored; until the organization succumbs.


Again, this is not a blueprint for the evolution of all organizations; and there may be good reasons for some organizations to remain in any one stage, even the fragmented one. Yet, that the evolution portrayed here is a plausible one for many companies; serves my purpose: to illustrate the balancing act between organizational culture, company performance and leadership styles; suggesting that there is not one best leader for all companies; and even those long-living business leaders, that are frequently portrayed as prototype leaders by the popular press, may be doing more good to themselves than to the organizations they lead.


We must still work together in the Latin American scenery to “localize” this framework of analysis. For instance, we may want to fit-in issues like foreign vs local organizational culture in the case of subsidiaries.  We may also want to discuss the nature of leadership in public corporations, or during and after mergers. Perhaps even more creatively, we may reflect on the organizational impact of the culture of cynicism in Latin American societies. This cultural trait slows down the building trust and inhibits solidarity also limiting sociability to small tribes within the organizations. This environment may foster the emergence of leaders more fitting of mercenary organizations, without the benefits of the latter.

[1] Goffee, Rob and Jones, Gareth; “The Character of a Corporation” Harper Collins, 1998.











Off-the-shelf leadership; 

best by when?



Alfredo Behrens

[email protected]



A leader leaving gracefully is a rare treat in the Latin tradition. Latin leaders tend to hang around much longer than the led would have wished. It would be interesting to figure out why Latin people put up with such characters for so long; but that is not the purpose of this musing. Here we assume that leaders are all transient, albeit at different speeds. Even in Latin America leaders eventually need replacement and in business we need to figure out how to match the new leader to the organization that is left behind.


Goffee and Jones offer a framework for making leadership decisions. They tell us that the degree of sociability and solidarity that organizations practice allows us to shape all organizations into four clusters. Furthermore, while not all organizations will evolve through all clusters, and not even along the same path, all four phases of the organizations will show a better match to a leadership style. This offers a matching clue to which I devote more attention in the companion article in this edition.

However, we still have to figure out how the leaders are nurtured to be ready when an organization is ready for them.


Charam, in a recent interview, tells us that the business schools do not teach how to select talents. Let alone can they provide future leaders with the experience necessary to sustain leadership through time and the hard choices of selecting, retaining and calibrating people for positions of leadership. This is why, Charam argues, so many leaders are not up to the job; because they come from staff functions, from consulting companies, and business schools. Charam refers to them as "quant jocks"


Does Charam know? We'll be on the safe side assuming he does know what he is talking about, for he trained many business leaders when a professor at Harvard Business School. But better still, retired professor Charam is friendly with renowned business leaders like Sam Walton or Jack Welch, leaders he has served as advisor to.


Executive coaches like Goldsmith and Morgan also tell us that business practice makes a leader. But if staff functions do not provide leaders, as Charam argues, then what business practice does?


The key seems to be in nurturing the right people in a coaching environment. Leaders select raw leaders that need to be raised to the position. How best to do so? Morgan and Goldsmith argue that it is best done by close follow-up with their collaborators. Leadership behaviour needs to be honed and requires frequent feedback. No matter what leadership training styles the companies prefer; the real difference is made by supplementing that training with frequent feedback. Without the latter any leadership training may be as effective as another one. It is not surprising, is it?



Read more by Charam and by Goldsmith and Morgan; you may need to register at Strategy + Business, but, as NewsLeader is, S+B is also free and fully worth it.



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Alfredo Behrens
[email protected] 
Phone +55 11 38713363
Sao Paulo, SP

Alfredo Behrens is an economist. He holds a PhD by the University of Cambridge, has lectured at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School, at FSU and at PUC-RJ and is now an adjunct faculty member of the Centre for New and Emerging Markets at London Business School. He has broad experience in advising high public officials, shareholders and board members of banks and other large corporations on issues such as: governance, corporate relations with governments, cross-cultural managment and strategic planning focused on the internationalization of companies. He has worked in or with the private and public sector in the Americas, East and Western Europe and Southern Africa. He was awarded the MacNamara Fellowship by the World Bank, the Hewlett fellowship by Princeton University and the Jean Monet Fellowhship by the European University, Fiesole, Italy.

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