Leadership conceptual ambiguities

A post-positivistic critique



The authors propose a postmodern critique of modernist leadership traits research and offer a robust theoretical and methodological alternative to overcome the ambiguous conceptual use of transformational and charismatic leadership traits. A content analysis of leadership studies from 1999 to 2008 in peer-reviewed journals and management texts was conducted to identify those salient characteristics often associated with leadership traits. Given the evasive nature of the researched phenomenon and the lack of typical quantitative rigor, our quasi-meta-analysis revealed 10 distinctive intrapersonal and interpersonal referents or social perceptions used by researchers when describing leadership traits and the effects of those traits on workers in general. Based on the 10 organizational and social icons deduced from the content analysis, the authors offered a postmodern leadership evaluation matrix as a substitute performance metric in an organizational setting, thus eliminating modernist conceptual ambiguities tied to the leader–worker dyadic in varying organizational contexts. The findings suggest that leadership researchers should consider complex behavioral decision-making processes that result in emergent group performances instead of focusing on a leader's ephemeral behavioral traits.