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

See all articles by Chris Ernst

Chris Ernst

Center for Creative Leadership (Greensboro)

Jeffrey Yip

Claremont Graduate University

Date Written: 2009

Abstract

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

Ernst, Chris and Yip, Jeffrey, Boundary Spanning Leadership: Tactics to Bridge Social Identity Groups in Organizations (2009). CROSSING THE DIVIDE: INTERGROUP LEADERSHIP IN A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE, T. Pittinsky, ed., Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press, 2009. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1510190

Chris Ernst

Center for Creative Leadership (Greensboro) ( email )

One Leadership Place
Greensboro, NC 27438-6300
United States

Jeffrey Yip (Contact Author)

Claremont Graduate University

150 E. Tenth Street
Claremont, CA 91711
United States

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