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Leadership: Leaders, Followers, Environments by Art Padilla

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Determining impact—how do we know when leadership is effective?

Deciding whether leadership is constructive or destructive is a matter of outcomes and long-term group performance: how well did the team perform, while operating within existing laws, rules, and regulations, compared to its rivals? The test of good or bad leadership, from this perspective, is about outcomes. Of course, some leader behaviors and traits, along with follower characteristics and environmental or organizational conditions, are more likely to result in good group outcomes than are others. But the essence of destructive leadership ultimately concerns negative organizational results. In the end, the success or failure of a leadership situation depends on relative outcomes. The effectiveness of leaders as leaders is tested ultimately by results, by the “achievement of purpose in the form of real and intended” change.22

Two thorny concepts are involved in determining impact or outcomes: timing and attribution. Timing has to do with the sequence of events and implies a certain cause-and-effect. Attribution is related to timing; it is about deciding who and what are responsible for the outcomes. A sports analogy might help here. A first-year football coach with a winning record realizes that it was the previous coach who recruited most or all of his current players. In addition, the team's schedule might be easier than in previous years; weaker opponents improve the likelihood of winning. This illustrates both ...

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