Levels of Leadership

13 Pages Posted: 21 Oct 2008

See all articles by James G. Clawson

James G. Clawson

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

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In today's organizations, leaders need to be able to influence employees to be motivated and committed to high performance; no longer can managers simply get by dealing with employees only through a power relationship or by telling employees what to do. Leaders need to look beyond behavior (level one) to their employees' thinking (level two) and their VABEs (values, assumptions, beliefs, and expectations--level three) about their lives, the world, their work, and so on. This note explains the differences between these three levels of human activity.




For every thousand hacking away at the leaves of evil,

there is one striking at the root.

Before we begin to address the various aspects of the general model, there is an important set of ideas we need to consider. They have to do with the difference between focusing on the superficial and focusing on the deeper, more powerful aspects of leadership. Leadership is about affecting human activity. And human activity can be thought of as occurring at three levels: observable behavior, conscious thought, and basic values and assumptions. Behavior is simply what others do, which—with a camera with sound equipment—we can observe and document. People speak and act. They make gestures and movements, and we can see and hear these. This behavior is what I call Level One activity.

At Level Two, people have conscious thoughts that they may or may not reveal to us. While we may not be aware of these thoughts, the person very much is. Our attempts to lead others may or may not pay attention to what others are thinking.

. . .

Keywords: leadership, motivation, organizational behavior

Suggested Citation

Clawson, James G., Levels of Leadership. Darden Case No. UVA-OB-0792, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=911116

James G. Clawson (Contact Author)

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business ( email )

P.O. Box 6550
Charlottesville, VA 22906-6550
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.darden.virginia.edu/faculty/clawson.htm

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