Originally posted on Work in Progress.

Searching for the term “leadership” in six key journals published by the American Sociological Association* from 1994-2014 brings up 31 peer-reviewed articles. This stands in stark contrast to the 2,848 papers published by these journals in total. By this measure only about 1% of sociological research is dedicated to leadership.

We have only found one book chapter that addresses the question of what a sociology of leadership might be. In Nohria and Khurana’s (2010) edited Handbook of Leadership Theory and Practice, sociologist Mauro F. Guillén provides a review of classical sociological approaches to the study of leadership yet directly acknowledges too that there is no such thing as a separate subfield of ‘the sociology of leadership.’

We are frustrated by this. Why is this topic off-limits in sociology? Might we consider Leadership as a substantive area in sociology? What would this look like?

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Our recent post, “Holacracy: The Death of Management As We Know It?” inspired a related conversation about self-directed teams. Today we’re sharing that conversation with you.

A couple of decades ago, Larry Sternberg (who is now the President of Talent Plus) blazed the trail for self-directed teams as the General Manager for The Ritz-Carlton, Tysons Corner. He and his leadership team didn’t go so far as holacracy by doing away with the entirety of the organizational chart, but they did eliminate three layers of middle management – without laying off or firing a single person.

Here’s an excerpt of a Q&A aimed a discovering what Larry learned from that experience and how it might change the way leaders think about people and organizations:

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Many leaders claim the business world has never before been so dynamic and will continue to change logarithmically. If executives do not focus upon the future within a leadership team context, adaptability to the New World through agility, understanding and trust of one another is jeopardized!

Based on my leadership analyses of thousands of leaders over almost 20 years, I am pleased to share with you some key thoughts relevant to team development: 

Many leaders emphasize team building. Some leaders have the talent to build or develop a team; others do not without some help.

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  1. Perfection/Exactness
  2. Competitive
  3. Lifelong Learner
  4. Integrity
  5. Strategic Thinker

I like to lead people with what one of my best, prior managers used to call the “Columbo approach”. Rather than tell someone what the answer is, lead them to it so they feel it is their answer. Help them to come to the correct answer by asking probing questions, and let them feel the reward and receive the recognition of getting to the best answer. Many people know the right answers if you are willing to ask them the right questions. The key is the ability to allow others to take credit when you could have taken the credit yourself. In the prior you are both right, in the latter you are right and the other person learns nothing. At any organization, people are the largest asset and the driver of value. At Talent Plus, we understand that statement, and we show it every day.

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In my capacity at Talent Plus ®, I have the privilege to use my strengths and passions on a day-to-day basis. Talent Plus is in the business of discovering the talents in others and then helping develop that talent to its highest potential so that the people around them benefit. I have the great pleasure of leading our consulting division – a dynamic group of teams that service our clients and provide them with consultative strategies to grow their organizations through harnessing the power of their human capital. The purpose of this blog is to share how I use my talents as a leader in order to develop my own potential and impact Talent Plus stakeholders. At Talent Plus, we focus on growing what we call our "Top Five Themes," which are our most intense areas of aptitude as measured by our scientific interviews.

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