Zahira Jaser wrote an article for the journal Leadership titled The connecting leader: Aligning leadership theories to managers’ issues.

« “During performance reviews we had to assign A-E ratings to our employees. However, to maintain a normal distribution each manager was handed pre-decided ratings from HR. That round I was handed two Bs and a D. I had to review three team members, who in my opinion were two As and a B. I tried to influence my boss to get me a better hand of grades, but not only I failed in securing that, I was also told not to disclose the forced rating mechanism, which was a confidential organizational policy. I still remember the tears of this ambitious, and diligent young lady who received a D from me. I wanted to explain that I really meant to give her a B, but I couldn’t. By doing that I would have let down my boss, and the company. She left after 6 months.” …  That manager was me, in my previous 15 years career in banking. »

Aligning leadership theories to actions within organizational structures

« From these reflections stem the concept of a CL [connecting leader], defined as an individual concurrently contending with identities, actions, emotions of a leader and a follower. The CL approach locates leadership at the core of organizations and communities, where leaders are very much stuck in the middle of a web of relationships. »

« It therefore focuses on the exploration of the dynamic relationship of these roles not just as coexistent, but as interconnected and transforming each other through tensions and conflict. It recognises the roles as co-enacted by organizational actors who exercise agency albeit situated within a constraining organizational structure, characterised by asymmetrical power (Giddens, 1979, 1984). It echoes previous critics of our tendency to romanticize heroic leaders (Meindl, 1995) by overemphasizing their agency, yet, differently from previous post heroic theorists (Learmonth and Morrell, 2017) it retains the semantic difference between leading and following, to acknowledge the influence of structure (hierarchical or horizontal) on individual roles and actions. »

« In other words, the CL lens is preoccupied with issues of middle power (Anicich and Hiursh, 2017), of middle-levelness (Gjerde and Alvesson, 2020), of strains that arise from structural dynamics. Where individuals find themselves stuck, and yet need to act, to attain leadership outcomes and/or fulfill personal and organizational objectives. »

« it highlights how the limits of a leader to enact leadership are tightly intertwined with his/her enactment of followership. »

« The CL perspective takes into account that leading and following happen in iterative relational exchanges, where following actions can indeed characterise and qualify successive leading actions. »

Jaser is editor of the book The Connecting Leader: Serving Concurrently as Leader and Follower, “an edited collection of chapters that aims to develop this perspective further.”

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