Boundary Spanning Leadership: Tactics to Bridge Social Identity Groups in Organizations
CROSSING THE DIVIDE: INTERGROUP LEADERSHIP IN A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE, T. Pittinsky, ed., Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press, 2009
18 Pages Posted: 21 Nov 2009
Date Written: 2009
As structural and technological boundaries are dismantled, a flat world of boundaryless organizations gives rise to a different type of boundary found in intergroup relations. In organizations worldwide, leaders are challenged to bridge social identity boundaries between groups of people with different histories, perspectives, values, and cultures. For instance, in South Africa, leaders work to transform deep-rooted social tensions between Afrikaners and Black Africans in a financial services firm. In Southeast Asia, a CEO of a faith-based organization attempts to bridge differences between religious fundamentalists and non-believing staff regarding how best to align the organization with the needs of a pluralistic, multi-faith community. In a manufacturing facility in the U.S., line managers struggle to create an environment in which Native Americans, African-Americans, European Americans, and Hispanics can work productively together on the assembly line.
As these examples make clear, groups of people who have historically remained apart are now increasingly working together. In this chapter we focus on the role of boundary spanning leadership - leadership that bridges boundaries between groups in service of a larger organizational vision, mission, or goal. Specifically, we provide a detailed description of four boundary spanning tactics - suspending, reframing, nesting, and weaving – that leaders can use to span differences across groups of people in organizational settings.
Keywords: Leadership, Boundary Spanning, Social Identity, Globalization, Collaboration
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation