Scarpino: Alright, so the recorder is live. As I said when the recorder was off, I’m going to take a couple of minutes to read a statement so you know what I’m saying about you. Today is Friday, October 13, 2017. My name is Philip Scarpino, Professor of History at Indiana University/Purdue University, Indianapolis (IUPUI); and Director of Oral History for the Tobias Center for Leadership Excellence, also at IUPUI. I’m interviewing Dr. Robert Lord at the SQUARE Brussels Meeting Centre, Brussels, Belgium, which is the headquarters for the annual meeting of the International Leadership Association. This interview is a joint venture undertaken by the Tobias Center and the International Leadership Association. We will include a more detailed biographical summary with the transcript of this interview, but for now I’ll provide an abbreviated overview of Dr. Lord’s distinguished career. He earned his PhD in Psychology at Carnegie Mellon University in 1975, writing a dissertation titled, Group Performance as a Function of Leadership Behavior and Task Structure. Dr. Lord was employed by the University of Akron from 1974-2012, rising through the academic ranks from Assistant to Associate to Full Professor, holding the rank of Distinguished Professor from 2004-2012. Dr. Lord played a key role in developing the University of Akron’s graduate industrial/organizational psychology program ranked in the top 10 in the United States in 2009 by U.S. News & World Report. In 2013, Dr. Lord joined the faculty of Durham University in the United Kingdom where he is employed as Professor of Management, Durham Business School, and Director, International Center for Leadership and Followership. Dr. Lord’s colleagues who helped me understand his career described him as a “thought leader,” a brilliant and productive scholar who combines wide-ranging interests with the ability to stay grounded and focused on research problems. They also described him as student oriented and a gifted and generous mentor. They really like you, by the way, you have some real fans. Robert Lord has an amazingly productive career as a published scholar, including three co-authored or co-edited books and about 144 refereed journal articles or book chapters published between 1976 and 2017. About 59 of his articles and chapters are first-author publications. His Google Scholar Citation Index shows 21,626 lifetime citations with just over 9,800 since 2012. His most cited publication with 1,862 citations is “Leadership and Information Processing: Linking Perceptions and Performance,” co-authored in 2002 with Karen Maher, who earned her PhD under his direction in 1991. He has played a major role in training and mentoring the next generation of scholars in his areas of expertise, including leadership, having served as Major Advisor for 40 dissertation students and as a committee member for an additional 49 dissertations. Dr. Lord has earned numerous awards and recognitions, including but not limited to, Best Paper of the Year Award by Leadership Quarterly for 2015; and, Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award, Society of Industrial and Organizational Psychology for 2012. The Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award is a national award intended to recognize a scholar who has made the most distinguished empirical and/or theoretical scientific contributions to the field of industrial and organizational psychology. The recognition that brings us here today is the International Leadership Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award. I want to ask your permission to do the following: To record this interview, to transcribe the interview, to deposit the recording and the transcription in the IUPUI Special Collections and Archives where they may be used by patrons, including posting all or part of the recording and the transcription to the website of the IUPUI Special Collections and Archives, and also to deposit the recording and transcription with the International Leadership Association and the Tobias Center where they may be used by patrons with the understanding that all or part may be posted to these organizations’ websites. Can I have your permission to do those things?
Lord: Sure. That’s fine with me.
Scarpino: The big thing is to understand that this is not anonymous, that you name is going to be associated with this.
Lord: Yeah, sure, absolutely.
Scarpino: Again, as I mentioned when the recorder was off, I’m going to start by explaining, for the sake of anyone using this interview, that I’m going to start by asking you some big-picture questions in order to get the conversation going. After that, I’m going to ask you a few questions about your childhood to get some demographic information in the record. I’ll follow those questions by asking you about your youth and young adulthood, education, aimed at providing insight into the big picture question: Who are you? Who is Robert Lord? When we’re done with the questions about your youth and adulthood, or young adulthood, we are going to work our way more or less chronologically through your career, with plenty of discussion about leadership. That’s where we’re going.
Scarpino: First question, just to throw it out on the table: What provided the interest in studying leaders and leadership? Where did that come from?
Lord: That’s a really good question. I think probably around 1972 or something like that when I was in graduate school, I took a course in small group behavior. Part of what we examined there was leadership, and it kind of grew out of that. I started looking at leadership functions. That’s sort of more like what is it that people do to make groups effective. It was kind of a shared leadership approach so that we would code leadership functions from all members of small groups. So that’s really more like group psychology and trying to understand task performance. It comes really from, I guess, conceptually from work done by Bales and coding interactions. In the 1950s, he developed an interaction coding system. It dealt more with, what I’d call, surface structures or kinds of statements, and functional behaviors dealt more with what the behaviors were attempting to accomplish in terms of moving groups towards their goals and managing social processes. That was my focus through my dissertation. Leadership was an outcome, as well as group performance being an outcome that we tried to explain.
Scarpino: Who taught that class that lit the fire?
Lord: Well, I think it was more like a seminar. There were several faculty that were in the class. My memory is a little hazy, but I think for sure I know Joel Goldstein was there; and I think Hans Pennings; and might have been Terry Gleason was there as well, but I don’t know. Carnegie Mellon was kind of an interesting place because they didn’t really treat graduate students all that much different than faculty. Once you were there, you were a colleague.
Scarpino: If you were in a seminar with three distinguished faculty members, that’s pretty good.
Scarpino: You mentioned coding functions. What kinds of functions, and could you brief explain for people who are not in your discipline what you’re doing and what you’re coding?
Lord: Sure. To be honest, I don’t remember all the categories. I’d have to look at it.
Scarpino: Just a few examples.
Lord: One would be problem definition. For there, we found kind of an interesting thing. You would expect people to start out defining problems the first thing in groups, and some did. But sometimes you would get a lot of those comments in the middle or near the end, and they’d be symptomatic of poor performance. I think that’s an important point because when you code behaviors and try and use them to predict outcomes, usually you just count the behaviors and assume the more the better and sometimes the more the worse.
Scarpino: Right. But in this case, timing of the behavior was important, not just whether or not they did it.
Lord: Yes. I guess I wasn’t that sophisticated. I just counted and did regressions to predict dependent variables. Other behaviors might be asking for information or supporting people, sort of communication behaviors, things like that. One of the things that we should have put in there, but we didn’t, was setting goals and getting feedback on goal attainment.
Scarpino: I think we all go back and look at our first research project and wish we could do it over. (Laughing)
Lord: Well yeah, sure, because it was the early 1970s. About the same time, a little bit earlier, Ed Locke was doing stuff on goal-setting, but it wasn’t as widely recognized as it is now.
Scarpino: When you’re talking about coding and the time period that you were involved in this, that’s with punch cards and a mainframe computer?
Lord: Well, we had a form and we would check behaviors in certain categories as we watched the group, and we would videotape it and then go back and look at any problems. But it was not really all that sophisticated. Later on, we got really tricky after I went to the University of Akron, and we’d do split screens. So, we would have one of the group and one of what they were doing, but that’s as sophisticated as we got. Nowadays, you do it a whole lot differently.
Scarpino: So you mentioned Bales. Could you give a full name on him?
Lord: I think it’s Robert Bales. I think he was a professor at Harvard.
Scarpino: Okay. You spent much of your adult life conducting research on leaders and leadership, writing and publishing on these topics, and teaching classes, that’s listed on your CV. In order to provide a bit of a window into your thinking, how do you define leadership? How do we know it when we see it?
Lord: A lot of people have trouble with that. I don’t. I just think of it as a perceptual process that results in increased influence for the person being perceived and moves a group towards its common goals.
Scarpino: In 2012, I had the opportunity to interview Edgar Schein, who was also a recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award. He is quoted in numerous places as saying, “The only real thing of importance that leaders do is to create and manage culture.” By culture he meant organizational culture. If I were to give you his statement based on all of your experience studying organizations and leadership, and if I were to say, “The only thing of real importance that leaders do is. . . . .”, how would you fill in the blank? What do leaders do that matters?
Lord: You can answer that question at lots of levels, okay?
Scarpino: Let’s go from the simple to the complex.
Lord: Okay, let’s start off where we were. Schein has a good point, and I would extend it to say that one of the things that leaders do is they create structures. They create social structures. Culture can be one of them. That’s an aggregate structure. They may also activate identities and followers. That’s more of an individual level structure. But they create or activate structure that then have effects in structuring group behavior or organizational behavior. Just to show you that I’m a fan of Schein, in 2008 and 2009 I was working with Sean Hannah and a number of other psychologists. He was at West Point at a center for developing the behavioral ethics of the military. General Petraeus, who is here this time, asked us to survey the troops in Iraq, which we did. It took a while, and I won’t get into the nuts and bolts of it. One of the things that we looked at as a dependent variable was abusive behavior of noncombatants. What we essentially found was that leaders created ethical cultures. Okay? That’s that word again. And cultures affected abusive behavior. In a sense, it’s just supporting Schein. We looked at this at multiple levels; a company level, a platoon level, and a squad level. We looked at leadership at all three of those levels and culture at all three of those levels. This article is published in the Academy of Management Journal in 2012. What we found is that ethical leadership behavior cascades down levels, and it has a horizontal effect on culture, but culture was the big mediator in terms of affecting abusive behavior as an outcome. Schein is right in the sense that that’s one thing that leaders do, but that’s at one level. They do the same thing in terms of group identities, creating a group identity. They do the same thing in terms of individual identities. We wouldn’t call it culture. It’s another kind of structure. I would broaden his statement and say that what leaders often do is they create structures. Those structures have an effect. In a study I did with Dave Day who I think you have probably talked to. . .
Scarpino: . . . Yes, I did talk to him.
Lord: . . . we sort of discovered that leadership effects lag the appointment of a leader. At top levels, it may lag two or three years. Part of the reason for that is that it takes time to create structures and create strategies, and then those things have effects that are independent of leaders.
Scarpino: I’m going to follow up on Iraq, and then I’m going to follow up on some of the other things that you said. I assume that you did these studies of company, platoon, and squad in the United States.
Lord: No, no.
Scarpino: You went to Iraq?
Lord: No, no. We didn’t go to Iraq. We developed the instruments, and the Army chaplains collected the data for us.
Scarpino: By abusive behavior, you mean of civilians?
Lord: Of noncombatants. It could be civilians. It could be people that were detained for one reason or another.
Scarpino: You talked about leaders creating social structures and activating identity, group and individual identity. Do effective leaders understand that they are doing those things, or does it just happen? You see it because you’re coding it, right?
Lord: Yeah, that’s a good question. First of all, they may not understand it because some structures just emerge. In leadership, you have the interplay of top-down effects and bottom-up effects. In typical person-focused leadership, we tend to think that the leader has these qualities, and they make good decisions, and they percolate down, as that example with ethical military leadership illustrates. But leaders also create climates or a sense of empowerment that allows people to interact in certain ways, and their interactions create structures. So you have bottom-up structures that develop in ways that are not necessarily understood or anticipated. Complexity theory is a theory that deals with how social processes operate that way. You will see occasionally, like in the program, I forget who, but somebody has an article of like what can we learn from ants and fish. Well, ants develop bottom-up sort of social structures and very complicated structures. Fish do too. Every time you see a structure, it doesn’t mean that you have a central leader directing it.
Scarpino: Does that make any difference when one of the variables is the kind of organization -- military being fairly rigid, hierarchical; other organizations, say a not-for-profit, being completely different in terms of the bottom-up and top-down?
Lord: Sure, but you also have to think of – the military has a very clear structure. It has clear goals and clear ethical standards. But if you think of what happens in actual combat situations – it’s chaos. And so there they give leaders a lot of discretion to utilize the resources of their platoon or company, and to make their own decisions. As long as it’s consistent with what they call “command intent,” it’s okay.
Scarpino: When you talk about creating social structures, activating identities, group and individual identity, how would that influence leadership education? Or how do those things influence the way you teach leadership?
Lord: Well, I try and teach people about the processes. When I teach leadership, I try and get away from entity viewpoints; leaders have certain traits that allow them to be effective and talk in terms of processes and what is going on in terms of perceptual processes, information processes, social processes, and then also structural things that affect outcomes. The other area that I study a lot is motivation. You can also think of leaders affecting the suffering of the processes in followers. That has a really important effect.
Scarpino: When you talk about motivation, you are talking about the ability of a leader to motivate followers, or the leader’s motivation?
Lord: No, the ability to motivate followers in certain ways. We’ve known for a long time that in the leadership field, there is a tendency to take common sense ideas about what leadership is and what leaders do and build theories around them, where a deeper understanding could use scientific-based constructs. That idea comes from a really interesting article, it’s a book chapter by a person named Calder, and it in a book edited by Barry Staw. An example of that is that if you think about motivation from a motivational process, we have a big difference in terms of whether you activate two kinds of systems. One is a promotion system, and one is a prevention system. A promotion system has to do with trying to achieve good outcomes, things that are attractive, operating in a world that’s relatively safe, and it’s really a left frontal hemisphere type of a system. A prevention system is avoiding harm, not making errors, and correcting errors when they occur. That’s a right hemisphere system, and it’s also a little bit more spatial. The left is more symbolic and linguistic. Leaders can activate those different kinds of motivational systems and, in the process, change the way followers go about doing what they’re motivated to do. You can approach the same goal, but the underlying way that you think about it could be quite different.
Scarpino: Do good leaders move from one of those scenarios to the other depending on the situation?
Lord: They probably do. Whether they know that they’re doing that and think of these kinds of systems, I don’t know, or whether just kind of build skills over time.
Scarpino: So, a new question: James MacGregor Burns published his seminal work called Leadership in 1978, just a few years after you earned your PhD. Did you know Burns, by the way?
Scarpino: He said the following on page 2 of that book: “There is, in short, no school of leadership intellectual or practical. Does it matter,” he asked, “that we lack standards for assessing past, present, and potential leaders?” The question that I want to ask you because you have been doing this for a long is: Do you agree or disagree with Burns’ statement that in the late 1970s, we lacked standards for assessing the past, present, and potential leaders?
Lord: That’s probably right.
Scarpino: Because you were certainly working in that area, and your field was working in that area. What would cause to think that he was right?
Lord: First of all, in some ways, it’s an oversimplification because you said standards; in what domain? Leadership in one domain is not the same as in another domain. I think leaders acquire what I call domain-specific skills. I have an article with Rosalie Hall in 2005 where we talk about that in depth. Rosalie Hall, just for the record, is my spouse, and we’ve been. . .
Scarpino: . . . I found that out after I emailed her. (Laughter) I didn’t know it at that time.
Lord: We’ve been doing stuff together since before we were married, since the early 1990s. In that particular article, we took the literature on skill development and tried to apply it to leadership. But what you see, even before that, is that when you ask people to define leadership, they’ll define it differently in different contexts. Our argument would be that the skills, as the literature on skill development shows, are domain-specific. If you’re a good pianist, that doesn’t mean you’re a good chef. If you’re a good astronaut, that doesn’t mean you could become the CEO of Eastern Airlines and do a good job. It also suggests that if you want to select good leaders, you have to take account of the domain.
Scarpino: By domain you mean context?
Lord: Yeah, the context, leaders in what area. This is something that has always kind of puzzled me. I’ll preface this by saying I come from an industrial organizational psychology program, and we teach industrial organizational psychology, at least at University of Akron broadly. If you were building a selection test for a particular area, you have to do a job analysis, a task analysis to see what the job requires, to see what the tasks are and what skills they require, and then you have to build a battery based on that particular situation. Well, we should be doing the same thing in leadership. If leadership is important enough that we pay leaders all this money, we ought to be willing to invest some money in analyzing the job and figuring out the skills required, but we don’t do that. Instead, we think of leadership not as a skill, but as a quality of the person and so we look for general traits that might predict leadership, and I think that’s a mistake. We ought to ask, “What do we want leaders to be effective at? What are the skills that they need to have in those situations?” and then select on that basis.
Scarpino: I’m going to come back to the literature in the field in a few minutes, but given all the social science literature that exists on leadership, do you find that to be a little bit surprising that much of this is still done by the sort of figurative seat of the pants?
Lord: It’s surprising and discouraging. I think this is a nice organization, but if you sort of thumb through the papers being presented, a lot of them are done by students or people early in their career. It says if they took what they were interested in, put the label of leadership with it, and then started looking at it. It’s common sense ideas about leadership. Of course, there is a basis for common sense ideas about leadership because we all interact with leaders and so we build some understanding of what is going on and some sense-making, but it’s not necessarily the best basis for building a scientific theory about what leadership is, how it has outcomes, and what leaders should be doing.
Scarpino: We’ll again in a few minutes talk more about your series of leadership, but you do talk about the process of leadership and the interplay between the leader and the, what we now call, the follower. When we look at that process, and you look at it from the point of view of somebody who is maybe not a social scientist and just wants to understand leadership, how does one blend science and common sense? Where does each of those fit into the understanding or the functioning of leadership?
Lord: Okay, a really good question. I think you have to separate a couple things. One is leadership is a perceptual process. It’s an interpersonal process where we see other people behave, and we try and form some assessment of the person. We do that using the linguistic structures and schemas that we have for making sense of other people. We may not always use leadership as a basis for understanding other people, but that’s another issue. There is a strong perceptual component, and it is understood in terms of social cognitive processes associated with perceptions, emotional processes, embodied processes. Then there is an effect of leaders on performance. There can be direct effects of leaders on performance, and some can be highly visible. I remember watching a football game when Mike Ditka was a football coach and somebody a made a mistake. He pulls them off the field, and he yells at them on the sidelines. You would say, “That’s leadership. You can see it. You can observe it.” But the kind of effects that we started talking about, like leadership occurring through structures and developing cultures, and those effects may be occurring a year, two years down the road. Well, it’s hard to understand causality in those terms, so people substitute perceptual processes. Jim Meindl, who is deceased but is also getting an award, Jim’s big contribution was to emphasize that process and argue that leadership is socially constructed, and that people have romantic ideas as to what leaders are, sort of like the John Wayne model of leadership. That might be a type of intuitive, common sense understanding that’s popular, but it misses the really important processes that produce excellent performance in a way that can be sustained on an individual level or on an organizational level.
Scarpino: As a social scientist, you do your research, but in any way you’re trying to influence the process of leadership, you’re constantly arm wrestling with cultural perceptions.
Scarpino: Yeah. How do you win?
Lord: Well, sometimes you don’t. And you have to be honest. It’s like I’m more of a social scientist and researcher than a practitioner, but of course I’ve been a department head so you’re in some ways a leader then. I’m the director of a leadership center, and that seems to be effective.
Scarpino: You teach MBA students, or. . .
Lord: Yeah, I do do that too. You have some effects, but I think they are indirect. I’m good at getting people to help me because there are so many areas that I need help in (laughter), and they’re willing to do it because they’re so much better than me at that. (Laughter)
Scarpino: You mean to help you with your research?
Lord: Yeah, or just anything. I’m not as organized as you might think, and it’s getting worse as I get older.
Scarpino: I let my head get out of these questions here.
Lord: Sure. That’s fine.
Scarpino: Since 1978 when Burns’ book came out, which I would say still remains the seminal work in the field. . .
Lord: . . . Yeah, I’d say that, yeah.
Scarpino: . . . A little bit like reading Scripture though because anything you want is in there. I mean, there’s so much packed in there. . .
Lord: . . . Yeah, absolutely.
Scarpino: Since 1978, especially in the past several decades, the schools and programs of leadership have absolutely proliferated, and so has the literature on leadership and leadership studies. The question that I have is: Given the proliferation of leadership studies and literature, have we in the present developed standards for assessing past, present, and potential leaders? In other words, have we developed the ability to do what Burns said we didn’t, couldn’t do in 1978?
Lord: Oh, well, sure. Some organizations have. The military does a really good job at that, and they have for a number of years of both assessing and training. Organizations do that. They have a lot of leadership development activities. First of all, to get back to the selection point that I talked about, there are two ways you can approach finding people that have the skills to do a job. One is you can select certain people that have those skills, and the other is you can train them. While selection may be a problem, there is a phenomenal industry on leadership training. The argument there is really that you can develop skills in people.
Scarpino: Does leadership training work? Can you really train somebody to be a leader? I think for a minute that – I’ll give you a chance to think. With all my heart, I could want to slam dunk a basketball, and I could never do it because I’m not tall enough, I don’t have the jumping ability. There is no one who could train me to do that. I could watch movies; I could fantasize; but I could never do it. Is there any element of leadership that is like that, or can we actually train people to be leaders? Are they born or made?
Lord: I think they’re, well, both is the obvious answer. There is a lot of literature on identical twins and evolutionary basis for leadership that suggests that there are some inherited characteristics that predispose you towards being successful leaders. Training is a funny term, and most people who have been in the field for a while look at it more as experience. Leadership training in the long run is often setting up a series of situations where people can gain experience as leaders. That’s why a lot of leadership training programs are multiweek programs. They might run one, or two, or three semesters. We’re getting studies that look at the time course or trajectory of learning leadership skills. The problem with that is that outcomes of training are often associated with the way people are perceived by others and sometimes self-perceptions. What you tend to see is that as somebody gets into a leadership training program, their leadership ratings go down. I think it’s like a shift in standards. And then they come up. But what is central to the process is that people seem to develop an identity of themselves as being a potential leader, and then around that identity, they organize various kinds of skills so that, as someone is experienced and sees himself as a leader, they can do many things automatically. In the article that I mentioned with Rosalie Hall, what we argue is that you go through novice to intermediate to expert stages in terms of developing skills. To just flush that out a bit, a novice might be concerned with surface structures in terms of behaving as a leader, so they’re very focused on what they’re doing and how that’s being evaluated by other people. But as they learn ways to behave, then they have more capacity that’s free to self-monitor, to see how other people are reacting, and to think what other people’s needs are. So they become less self-centered and more other-centered, and then as they become experts, they have more principled knowledge and they are able to think in terms of bigger systems. I was talking to a colonel in the military, and I’ve forgotten his name, but he was telling me that it really wasn’t until 15 or 20 years into his career as a military officer that he really understood how a battalion functioned.
Scarpino: The military is almost a case study of what you were just saying though.
Lord: Yeah. So, I mean, you need to be able to have a certain set of skills and be able to manage what you’re doing so that you can then focus on understanding the way other people are reacting to you, what their needs are, and how you can help them do what they need to do. Then you have to be able to understand how they do it within the particular system because sometimes it’s not the person; sometimes it’s the system that has to be changed to allow the person to do what they are capable of doing.
Scarpino: An organization that has a goal of developing effective leaders, do they need to self-consciously foster that kind of scenario that you just talked about: novice progressing on up the line to expert? Do they have to be aware of that process and nurture leader along that path, or does it just happen?
Lord: I don’t know. (Laughter) I think it would be helpful if they were aware of it. I think it probably happens, even though they aren’t. It’s also the case, I think, that early on, people learn to manage their image in organizations and the way they’re perceived by other people. That’s not necessarily what’s going to make groups effective or organizations effective. People have to get beyond that, and some people don’t. They’re just interested in managing their careers and moving up. And some people do; they’re really interested in making other people function better and making organizations work.
Scarpino: How should we go about assessing the effectiveness of leaders? How do we know if they are doing a good job?
Lord: First of all, it depends at the level that the leaders are at, whether at sort of entry-level or lower-level leadership where you are mainly responsible for maybe a work team, that assessment is going to have to occur at that work team level. At intermediate levels, you might be responsible for a much bigger work unit. Then you have your top management team and the way they perceive you, but also the effects of the structures that you develop. Sometimes those effects are lagged to where they occur after the leader is no longer there. On a national level, I think Trump is benefitting a lot from what Obama did, and it’s not going to be until a year or two years into his presidency that we are really going to see the Trump effect. That’s hard for people to recognize. It’s hard for people to assess. Again, it depends on where you are. If you’re talking about higher levels and presidents, it is a whole lot different than if you are talking about higher levels and religious leaders, or technology leaders, or something like, or business leaders.
Scarpino: Assessing effectiveness is situational. . .
Lord: . . . Absolutely.
Scarpino: . . . depending on what they person is doing? So a political leader at the national level, how do we measure success? I’m not asking you to go after Trump.
Lord: Sure, sure, yeah.
Scarpino: I just want to be more specific.
Lord: Well, that’s a really good question. Politics is partly about perceptions, and so the way they’re perceived is one measure of success. Then their ability to exercise influence is another measure of success, and their ability to get things done is a third one. See, I tend to think of – if you take the period, you’re probably old enough to remember it, when Kennedy was President. . .
Scarpino: . . . Oh yes.
Lord: . . . and the Lyndon Johnson was President, Johnson was so good at getting things to happen working through Congress. And then I think he had Hubert Humphrey in Congress at the time, who was very effective at getting things done. But something like the civil rights legislation and the Voting Rights Act – that didn’t happen like that (snaps fingers); that took months, and months, and months to get that through Congress. That’s an effect that a really long shadow in terms of how it changed things for the rest of the country and for just various ideas as to what society should be like and what opportunity should be like. That was effective leadership, but then the Vietnam War was probably not effective leadership. Let’s not deal with that one right now, but it’s just an example.
Scarpino: Yeah. No, I understand. I mentioned, and you are well aware of the fact that since 1978 there is a massive body of leadership-related scholarship, scholarship that has come from a number of disciplines. Some of the work is narrative and qualitative. MacGregor Burns falls into that category. Some of it is highly quantitative. I had an opportunity to interview Fred Feeler at one point where he was undertaking sort of pathbreaking research at the University of Illinois association with a group effective research laboratory. Your own work I guess I would put in the quantitative approach. The question I have is: Given all that huge body of literature, what does it all add up to? I’m not assuming that you have read everything in print, but you are widely read.
Lord: Yeah. I think what it adds up to is it means that there are some aspects of leadership that we have a pretty good grasp on and some aspects that we are still struggling to develop a good theory of. I can elaborate.
Scarpino: Yes. Let’s start with the aspects that you put in the category of good, that we know. . .
Lord: Well, I think we know a lot about leadership perceptions. We know about that because we can draw on lots and lots of non-leadership research that I’d put in the social cognitive category. We know how social perceptions work in general from work that social psychologists do, and we know how cognitive processes function. We know about embodied aspect of perception. For example, transformational leaders are thought to have visions and inspire people’s activities, but transformational leaders also convey positive emotions. So, if they smile and other people smile, in terms of facial mimicry, then that changes the moods of the people who are responding to that leader, and they will see them as being more transformational. Perceptions are both physical and cognitive reactions of people and making sense of others. We know a lot about the cognitions. We know a lot about the social dynamics and the embodied aspects. If we were to say: Can you train somebody to be perceived as a leader? Yeah, you could to that. I don’t think it’s just gestures or embodied processes the way Cuddy talks about it. But in terms of voice qualities, posture, confidence, the ability to be salient, we could train people to do that. Salience is an important part of perception, and I think Trump understands it, but Ronald Reagan certainly understood it too. When Reagan as president, before he would go do a talk, he would have his advance people go out and say, “Where are the cameras going to be? Where is my mark where I’m supposed to stand so I’m salient?” Salience has an effect on leadership perceptions. Causal attributions have an effect on leadership perceptions. But we know about that stuff from work done in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. How leaders affect performance is much more difficult because -- think of the issue. Perceptions, we’re always dealing with the person who is the perceiver, and sometimes perceptions of aggregates of people, like maybe a group. But performance, we could be dealing with things at the level of an event, at the level of a person, at the level of a group, small groups, or at the level of an organization, or even national economic markets and how they perform. That’s a much more difficult area, and as you move up from events to markets, then the timeframe of effects increases. If we are dealing with an event, like a hurricane, we might evaluate leadership in terms of what somebody does in a day, or a week, or something like that, or maybe a month. But when we’re talking about how you change markets, like the State of New York is trying to restructure the way the electric markets work, and that takes years. Understanding performance in that scope is much more complex because of the level factor and the time factor.
Scarpino: As a social scientist studying leadership, is it easier to measure perception than it is performance?
Lord: Sure, sure. There is an article that’s in American Psychologist by Kaiser, Hogan, and Craig in 2007, I believe. They make a really important point that performance and perceptions are different. Very often we will have perceptual measures of performance, but hard, objective measures of performance are kind of what we really want to get at. Those are hard to find in leadership studies.
Scarpino: Did you ever work in that area?
Lord: Yeah. I did studies of small group behavior, and we looked at how effective they were and various outcomes.
Scarpino: So, small group behavior is a relatively small universe over a relatively short amount of time?
Lord: Yeah, exactly.
Scarpino: When we started down this path, you mentioned a scholar named Cuddy. I just want to make sure that I got that right. Do you have a full name on Cuddy.
Lord: C-u-d-d-y. There is an article by Cuddy which – and there is a pretty famous TED Talk that she did where she talks about sort of faking it until you make it, basically, I think those are the terms she uses. She talks about body posture and stuff like that; behave as if you are a leader and you’ll become a leader. It doesn’t seem to replicate.
Scarpino: Does it work?
Lord: No, but I think it’s because it’s a focus on the surface structure, behavior. What would work is if you get people to believe that they can do something. (Someone enters room)
Scarpino: Let’s make sure we are live again here. Okay, we’re good.
Lord: We were talking about Cuddy’s stuff and dealing with surface structures like body postures, but what’s important is what people think they are. So, if you dealt with people’s beliefs that they can be a leader and acting in a way that reflects that and then having social support in terms of people acknowledging that, then you can get a leadership identity developing. I think that can change people.
Scarpino: Do you make a distinction between leaders and managers?
Lord: Oh yeah. I think you have to.
Scarpino: Okay. What is that distinction for you?
Lord: For me, it ties into the definition that we started out with, and that is that leadership is a social perception process that involves exercising influence. You have to be perceived as a leader. Lots of managers are doing things and implementing procedures, following routines, and they’re not trying to exercise leadership and they’re not perceived as being leaders, but they are still doing a good job as managers. I think there is a really good book by Katz and Kahn in 1966 that’s called The Social Psychology of Organizations, I believe. They talked about leadership as filling in between the structures, doing things that aren’t necessarily formally laid out. On a bigger scale, Tushman and Romanelli talk about what they call convergent and reorientation periods and sort of a punctuated equilibrium model of how things evolve. You have convergent periods where things function pretty consistently, and then you have reorientations when things change erratically. It is in those periods that leaders likely have the most influence.
Scarpino: Reorientation would be because of some trauma in the organization or a change in leadership, or. . .
Lord: . . . Or vision, or competitive response, or something like that, or change in the environment.
Scarpino: I’m interested in something that you said a while ago about the time lag that it takes for a leader to come into a situation and have an impact. Without saying what it is, in a relatively short amount of time, I’m going to be interviewing a man took over a very large corporation when it was in a state of crisis. When somebody comes into a situation like that, it’s usually with the expectation that they are going to have an impact right now, but what you’re saying is that it really takes a while for a person. How do organizations – you’ve done a lot of work with organizations – how do they reconcile what really seems like an expectation that conflicts with reality?
Lord: Well, there’s a perceptual aspect. If they come in and they’re perceived as a leader and perceived as creating change or stabilizing things, then in part that happens. But then almost always, people who come in want to change key personnel. That takes time. They want to develop policies that are different. That takes time. They want to have those policies result in structures that can implement what they’re doing. That takes time. For example, what I think is probably a leadership failure is, if you look at the Navy, we have had five or six accidents where ships have run into things. Why does that happen on a systemic basis? And why does it happen all of a sudden? They investigate it. They change leaders. But they have to change their policy and the training and figure out what’s causing this, and that’s going to take some time.
Scarpino: Again, in reference to what has become really a massive body of interdisciplinary scholarship on leadership, in your experience, do the scholars of leadership talk to each other across disciplinary boundaries? Does the psychologist talk to the sociologist, talk to the historian, talk to the management expert?
Lord: I don’t think there’s one answer to that question. Some do, some don’t.
Scarpino: I’ll be a little more specific because I was trying not to lead the witness. I’m an academic in a different field, and you’ve spent a long career as an academic. People tend to go into their own disciplinary silos and stay there. What I was really looking for: Is leadership one of those fields where people have managed to reach out across the boundaries of the silo, or do we function in these silos?
Lord: We surely have, and so it develops. There’s a renewed interest in evolutionary aspects of leadership. There has always been a social aspect. Take social psychology; is that psychology or is that sociology? There has always been a dual focus there. Currently, we’re working in the area of quantum physics and cognitions and how that affects things.
Scarpino: I’m really excited to talk to you about that later on. I can hardly contain myself.
Lord: It leads you to think in different ways, and so that changes what you do and how you look at the field.
Scarpino: Tell me what you mean by the evolutionary aspect of leadership.
Lord: There is a really nice article in 2015 by – I’m not sure I’ll get the name right – but it’s like S-p-a-s-i-k and colleagues. Their argument is that as time develops and societies change, there are certain structures that change, and the need for types of leadership changes. For example, if you have societies that are hunter-gatherers and you have a clan structure, what leadership is in that context is going to be quite different than what leadership is when you have an agrarian society and people can own land and you have more hierarchical leadership and property rights, and that’s associated with leadership. Then when you develop an Industrial revolution and you have corporate leadership, that’s still different. It’s not family leadership; it is corporate leadership and stockholders that you’re responsible for. In sort of a post-industrial society, where it is much more fluid and people can communicate better, there are still different kinds of leadership skills and structures that are required. So, as the environment changes, various kinds of structures develop. The argument, I think, would be that in a social sense, social structures can be selected much more quickly than genetic structures. But there’s still the same arguments that there’s variety and processes that work, and that particular situation will be retained, and that will lead to different kinds of outcomes.
Scarpino: Are you thinking in terms of kind of a natural selection process, social natural selection process in leadership, that some things work and if they work, they in effect reproduce themselves and multiply; and if they don’t, they die out?
Lord: Well, sure, yeah. I mean, you see that in some ways, and I think it gets speeded up when you have better communications and you can see what somebody does. One day, it’s on the news, or it’s on Twitter, or it’s on YouTube the next day so everybody can see it.
Scarpino: The question that was in the back of my mind as you were talking is: How does one function in this kind of evolutionary environment when the speed of change accelerates the way the world is that we live in now where things are changing -- social structures are changing so rapidly? What does that say about leaders and leadership?
Lord: That’s a really good question. I don’t think that the leadership field has an answer to that yet. Complexity theorists would argue that you need to develop what is called requisite complexity and sort of need to match the complexity of some sort of organizational system to the complexity of the environment in terms of change, and a lot of that matching has to do with how processes between units operate. Mary Uhl Bien is a big proponent of that approach. Relational aspects of leadership and what happens in between people, rather than what people do, or in between organizations, is a really important aspect to look at and to understand. What happens in local relations sort of cumulates as you move up in terms of bigger and bigger systems. And how does it cumulate? Does it change as it cumulates? Those are important questions. It’s what we call the difference between compositional aggregation, where things aggregate but they keep the same form, versus compilation aggregation and as you create an aggregate, it’s different. In many kinds of thought processes and social processes, when we move from micro to macro, the phenomena change in qualitative ways. So, you need to be able to understand and influence that.
Scarpino: I had planned to ask you about complexity theory later on when it fit, but because you mentioned it, and somebody is going to get to this point in the interview and most people aren’t going to know what you’re talking about, could you sort of briefly say what that’s and how you are applying it to your work?
Lord: Complexity theory deals with how dynamic systems that are complex operate. The key point is to realize that in complex systems when components interact, they create something different. You can’t disaggregate the system and look at this component, this component, and this component by themselves. You have to understand how they all function together. The way that they function together may be quite different. It may not even be something that can be disaggregated. Then you have to say, “Well, how can we study those kinds of systems?” A lot of the study is with simulations of how models of systems work, but it’s also how leaders can do things that change the way systems evolve. In the terms of complexity theorists, leaders can catalyze, but they can’t control the way processes emerge. We talked about sort of left versus right hemisphere processes and promotion versus prevention. If you’re a leader and you want systems to be creative but you don’t know what the creativity is, you can emphasize left hemisphere promotion kinds of processes and create a culture that would emphasize creativity and maybe tolerate some mistakes, as long as you learn from those mistakes. Systems under that kind of leadership would evolve differently than systems under a prevention kind of orientation. You would have perhaps more stability. The problem most organizations face is they have to do what they do effectively, okay? So that’s kind of prevention and efficiency oriented. But they also have to adapt and be ahead of the curve in terms of learning. That’s promotion oriented or what has been called exploration and exploitation; exploration being more promotion kinds of things. There is an interest in what’s called ambidextrous leadership, where kinds of leaders who can do both.
Scarpino: Yeah, that’s where I tried to go earlier. So, an effective organization would have some institutional awareness that both of those processes are in play, and an effective leader would as well. Complexity theory -- how does that relate to similar and to different from chaos theory, which also is factored into your work, as I recall?
Lord: Chaos theory deals with systems that don’t repeat themselves. In complexity theory, you have complex systems, but they’re stable for a while and ideally they repeat themselves with some consistency, but then they may move on to different states. I think there is quite a bit of difference.
Scarpino: I guess what I was asking you was: Are both of those theories in play when you talk about organizations?
Lord: Sure. I mean, you’ll see a lot of people who are complexity theorists that argue that organizations want to operate at the edge of chaos. I mean, they don’t want to be chaotic - there’s no predictability, there’s no potential for skills to develop, etc. - but if they’re close to it, they are thinking that they could be innovative, and then they will innovate better than somebody else and gain a competitive advantage. That’s a theory.
Scarpino: That’s an interesting way to look at it. So, the field of leadership studies – do you think it has contributed to a broader understanding of leadership that reaches and influences non-specialists; citizens and voters? Are people like that influenced by the field of leadership studies?
Lord: I don’t know. (Laughter) I mean, it’s a good question. How would I know that? I’m an academic. I teach a very small group of people, but it’s getting bigger.
Scarpino: Well, let me turn the question around then: Should they be? Should that field have an -- I don’t mean you go lecture on the street corner, but I mean. . .
Lord: Yes, they should. The problem is that it’s an industry and there is so much stuff out there. It’s like medicine in the sense of there is always products that are out there to try and help you get better or be well. People don’t understand the process, but they can go to a doctor and get some advice. There isn’t any doctor that we routinely go to in terms of understanding the leadership stuff. Everybody can walk through the airport and buy a book that’s out there at whatever bookstore is in your airport, and there is going to be a section where they have popular leadership books, whether it’s leadership according to Attila the Hun, or Elon Musk, or Steve Jobs, or what have you, and some of them are just baloney, and some of them might have some insightful things. How do people know? I mean, it’s like a marketplace, and it’s buyer beware. I think that people who get leadership training or follow the advice of people with a good history and a good reputation in the sciences probably get something worthwhile.
Scarpino: Do you consider yourself to be a leader?
Lord: Uh…not really.
Scarpino: I mean, you have been a leader.
Lord: Yeah, I have been, yeah, I’m in a leadership position, and what I do is effective. So, in that sense, I’m a leader and people perceive me as a leader. But do I consider myself to be a leader? No. I’m just working on studies and working with people, trying to solve particular problems, but I have a lot of – I consider myself to be more of a writer than a leader. Usually the first three or four hours I spend of every day is writing. I’m at a computer. But I have a job where I do a lot of leadership stuff, and it’s effective. A lot of it is just coping with problems. Some of the people will think it’s visionary, but it wasn’t; it was just happenstance, and it worked out well. I could give you an example of that if you want.
Scarpino: Please do, yes.
Lord: One of the things that people would sort of look at my career in the last few years and say, “Well, that’s visionary leadership.” Somebody just said that to me a day ago when we were talking about it – is that we have at Durham University developed a network of leadership scholars, of Implicit Leadership Theory scholars. We got a grant from the Leverhulme Trust, and so we’ve had meetings every year for four years now. It’s really an interesting group of people because it’s international, so it’s all over the world. People will look at it and say, “Oh, well, how did you create that?” Well, here’s the real – who is the guy who used to be on the radio that would say – Paul Harvey – “And now you know the rest of the story.” Did you ever listen to Paul Harvey?
Scarpino: I did, yes.
Lord: So, here is the rest of the story. Shortly after I went to Durham, I went to a conference in the U.S. My graduate student, who was a post-doc at Durham then, presented a paper that was a computer simulation model of social perceptions. Somebody else, a lady by the name of Stefanie Johnson, who was in Colorado, presented a paper at the same symposium. I did not organize the symposium, I was just sitting there in the audience. But since I know people, I was talking to them afterwards and I said, “You know, these two people would have benefitted from collaborating, and they could have done a better job if they worked together.” They both did an excellent job, but there was the potential for synergy that we were missing. So, people said, “Yeah, well, we should have meetings. We should do something more interactive.” So, I said “Yeah, that’s a good idea.” I went back to the hotel, and I was talking to my wife about it. You know, we were coming from the U.K. to the U.S., and the next morning we had jet lag. So, I’m up at 4:00 in the morning. Nothing is going on, and I’m thinking, “We should have a workshop where we bring all these people together.” I said to my wife, I said, “What do you think of this?” because she was up too. She said, “That’s a good idea.” And I said, “Well, I’m in the business school now, I’ll just email Birgit.” This was Birgit Schyns, who was still there. And I said. . .
Scarpino: . . . Who was instrumental in getting you to the U.K. Is that who you’re talking about?
Lord: Yeah, exactly. And I said, “And I’ll have Birgit ask the Dean if he would fund a workshop to bring these people together.” I emailed Birgit and I said, “Hey Birgit, can you do this? Tell him we need to know in 24 hours because we have another symposium, and we just need $30,000 for it.” So, the Dean wasn’t too happy, but he said okay. So, the same group then met two days later in a different symposium, and I said “Oh, yeah, well the Dean said he can support it, and we can sort of develop a meeting.” So, we talked about how we would do it. Then we did bring these people to Durham to have this workshop. Then that led into a grant proposal that a number of people worked on, and we got a grant. Then we’ve had three meetings from that, and that snowballed into where we then at the last meeting got associated with Army Research Institute. Then we did a proposal to continue this with the Army Research Institute at their invitation. So, I think it’s going to continue, but really it was an emergent process, there wasn’t a whole lot of vision involved. It was just looking at something that happened and saying, “You know, that could have been better if we’d have had a different structure,” and then being awake and so you had a chance to think about it, and having a Dean who would say okay, and a group of people who wanted to organize. So largely although I had the grant, it was just a whole bunch of really talented people who wrote the proposal. The same thing with the grant for the Army Research Institute. I couldn’t have done it by myself. I have great colleagues that I work with.
Scarpino: But don’t you think sometimes vision is just seeing that thing a little bit differently than someone else did and then persuading people to come along? And you’re really good at that, aren’t you?
Lord: Yeah, but here’s the thing: you don’t know where you’re going. The vision assumes. . .
Scarpino: . . . Well, that’s the secret, isn’t it?
Lord: Yeah. The vision assumes that when you get to someplace that you could see it, you know, like I can see that building out there and say, “Okay, I’m going to walk to that building.” But you could say, “You don’t know where you’re walking to,” and it’s something that the outcomes are different than if you hadn’t done what you’ve done, but you don’t know exactly what they’re going to be.
Scarpino: Your colleagues who I spoke to and who are incredibly fond of you said that one of your outstanding qualities is the ability to think big, to understand and articulate the big picture, but stay focused. Isn’t that sort of what vision is, is to see those points on the horizon and then have enough focus and initiative to walk in that direction and get other people to go with you?
Lord: Yeah, except you don’t see those points on the horizon. That’s the point that I’m trying to make. When we talk about quantum theory, we’ll talk a little bit more about that. They’re there; you don’t know they’re there, and so you find out about them by them by doing things. It’s the difference between exploration and exploitation. In exploration, you’re kind of doing things that allow you to find out what the potential in the environment is. March noted this. He’s got a great paper in 1991, so we’ve known about that since then.
Lord: I think his name is James March, but he’s at Stanford. He is a pretty famous organizational researcher.
Scarpino: I’m just trying to help the transcriber here/
Lord: Yeah, sure. Simon and March had a really famous book on organizations years ago. Maybe it was March and Simon.
Scarpino: One of the people that I talked about your career with is Rosanne Foti.
Lord: Yeah, sure.
Scarpino: Okay. I wasn’t exactly sure how to pronounce it, but I should have asked her when I talked to her. She suggested this question, and I’m going to give her the footnote here. She pointed out that a relatively recent focus of your research has been on self-identity and its relationship to leadership; leadership influences others’ identities, and others’ identities can shape the leadership interaction, and so on. So, here is the question: Can you reflect a little on your own leadership identity over the course of your career?
Lord: Oh, sure. I think it’s really helpful to think about this from a perspective that Matt Alverson mentioned at a conference I was at in May in a beautiful place, in Mykonos. He said that in their consulting work, they find a lot of people who are doing leadership activities, but they don’t see themselves as leaders until other people label them as such. I think that’s the case for me. I was department chair for five years at a university, and it was a period of change. We had had a head, and we moved to a chair. The head had been there probably twenty years. And so we sort of shifted the culture, and you just do what you think needs to be done. I didn’t really see myself as a leader. I’m aware of the fact that I’m being recorded, (laughter) so I’ll choose my words carefully. But the job had a lot of aspects that were annoying.
Scarpino: I was a department chair. I can appreciate the annoying parts of it.
Lord: The same thing now with this network. We have a center for leadership and followership. There is a lot of things that you do, that you create structures, and then you respond to things that maybe are dumped on you and you’ve got to deal with them, but you don’t see that as leadership. It’s just problem solving, but other people might see it as leadership. Then after a while, you sort of say, okay, yeah, it is because it’s creating a global perception that has impact. It’s an indirect structure. It’s the way things function and the way things are perceived by others, and that’s important.
Scarpino: Here is what I was wondering: The man who spent a long career dealing with perceptions – the perceptions that followers have of leaders, and the way that leaders shape the perceptions of the followers, and that whole process that we will talk more about later on – are you self-consciously aware of that when you’re in a leadership position? Are you practicing your own social science, or are you just doing it?
Lord: Mostly I’m doing it, but there are some things that you’re aware of too. For example, I’m pretty informal. Tomorrow you’ll see in a very different. . .
Scarpino: . . . I normally would. I put the tie on out of respect for you. (Laughter)
Lord: Well, tomorrow I’ll have a three-piece suit on. I thought about that consciously in my career because I want to work with students and other people in a way that makes them comfortable and minimizes the status differences. And some ways you do that as how you dress. It’s a way I’m comfortable in dressing anyway, but I also think about it. There’s two aspects to it. There is the aspect of the way you’re perceived and being aware of that, but it’s also the aspect of how someone else perceives you that affects the way that they interact with you. You want the interactions to be productive, and so you really have to behave in a way that people feel comfortable, and they’re not self-focused, they’re not focused on you, they’re focused on what you’re doing. Normally I’m focused on what we’re doing, not the way I’m being perceived.
Scarpino: For the small sample of your former students that I spoke to, if they’re representative, it works. One more general question, and then I’m going to narrow down here a bit. One of the things about leadership studies again is the explosion of books and articles in the field. Given that massive volume of literature that’s available, which four or five books or articles would you most recommend that someone read? If someone said to you “I want to get started” or “What do you recommend?”, what would you put on the list of must-reads?
Lord: The number one must-read is a textbook that’s coming out by Antonakis and Day. It is called The Nature of Leadership, third edition, and I think it’s out in the U.S. and it will be out. . .
Scarpino: . . . I think it is.
Lord: . . . but it’s not out in the U.K. until December, at least according to Amazon U.K.
Scarpino: That’s David Day?
Lord: David Day. I will say it is the best book in leadership. Anybody who is serious about leadership should read it cover to cover and then read it again. That would be my number one choice because it brings together a number of scholars, and they talk about areas that they’re expert in. I don’t have a chapter in the book. I had a chapter in the second edition, and they cut my chapter (laughter), and probably with good reason.
Scarpino: I did see an earlier version, and you were in there.
Lord: Yeah, yeah.
Scarpino: So, this is the third edition?
Lord: It’s the third edition. It’s an excellent book. So, that’s number one. If you want to understand leadership perceptions, I would start with Lord and Maher, which is a 1991 book. It’s been cited a lot. This was written – Karen Maher was a graduate student at the time, and she’s just a wonderful scholar and a good writer. She is since deceased. She had brain cancer and died, I think when she was 46. It’s a good book for someone to get an introduction to cognitive information processing…
Scarpino: And the title of the book is?
Lord: Leadership and Information Processing. The first half is probably better than the second half of the book. So that would be the second book. Honestly, I’ve read George MacGregor Burns’ book, and I didn’t get that much out of it (laughter). Sorry to say that. It wouldn’t be high on my list. It is a great book, but for someone who didn’t know a lot about leadership, it wouldn’t be my first choice. If I would pick a third book to read, it is a book by Henry Satp, S-a-t-p, (SIC – it is S-t-a-p-p) and it’s called Mind, Matter, and something else (SIC – the book title is Mind, Matter and Quantum Mechanics). Stapp is a Nobel Prize winning physicist, so he talks about reality, how reality occurs, and what quantum theory has to do with it. It just leads you to think in ways that people don’t normally think, but I think it’s helpful for leaders. So that would be number three. For number four, I’m going back to Dave Day again. If you want to understand leadership training, I would read Day, Halpin, and – I forgot his third author. They have like a 2009 book that deals with leadership development and training. It’s so good because it starts out with an adult development perspective. It just brings in a lot of literature. I guess I’m up to four?
Scarpino: That’s okay. Four is enough, if you want.
Scarpino: I almost always ask people this question, just to see what they think stands out about. . .
Lord: . . . Yeah. Well, I would pick something that – I also did a book on identity with Doug Brown, who is a wonderful scholar. It’s Lord and Brown, and it’s a 2004 book, but I think it is dated. If you were interested in identity, that might be one place to start. Then you would have to go to some of the more recent work that’s been published, and journal articles, and stuff like that. There’s also things like – if you were a leadership scholar and wanted to know how to do good leadership research, there’s a book that’s coming out by Schyns, Neves and Hall. It’s called The Handbook of Leadership Methodology (SIC – the book title is Handbook of Methods in Leadership Research). It deals with a lot of methodological questions that range from how you do experiments to how you measure variables to how you do data analysis and stuff like that. I’d pick that as number five.
Scarpino: Last question before I ask you the really simple stuff: Professionally, who do you look up to? Who inspires you, or who has inspired you professionally?
Lord: Well, early in my career, I would have to say Herb Simon, who was a great psychologist, mathematician, economist, you name it. He was the first psychologist to win a Nobel Prize. He’d walk to school, and he would eat lunch with students every day. If you talked to him, you were just talking to another person like you and I are talking, but he was amazingly productive. So that would be somebody. Golly. Some of my colleagues inspire me. Roseanne does; Dave Day does. They’re both better than I’m in terms of knowing the leadership. . .
Scarpino: (Laughing) I haven’t talked to Roseanne, but Dave Day said just the opposite, that you were better than he is. (Laughing)
Lord: No, no. Birgit Schyns is great. People have different skills. A person that I’m right next to office-wise now, Susanne Braun, she’s younger, but she is an exceptional scholar. She inspires me every time I have a meeting with her. She is just so much more on the ball than I’m. But in the leadership field, I think people who move the field forward. I think Jim Meindl did great stuff. I didn’t know him very well. I think I had sat next to him once having lunch at a conference, and that was the extent of my interaction. But I read his stuff, and that was really good. Bruce Avolio obviously has been really successful. Bruce was one of our students.
Lord: Yeah. Jerry Hunt, who has passed away. Jerry was a great organizer, and was a great person to help new colleagues along in their careers. He had an impact on me early on that I think I only appreciated later on in my life.
Scarpino: He was a colleague at. . .
Lord: . . . Jerry Hunt was in your state. He was at Carbondale. It’s Illinois, sorry, but it’s not too far away.
Scarpino: No, we are neighbors.
Lord: . . .for a while, and then he moved to Texas Tech. But he used to have these Carbondale Biannual Symposia on leadership in the 1970s. When we first presented our stuff on categorization theory, Roseanne Foti and I went down to one of those symposia. Bernie Bass I think at the time didn’t think – he was a commenter – and I think he just sort of said, “Well, okay.” But then later on, he said, “Yeah, that’s a pretty decent theory.” So, Jerry Hunt was a great person in the leadership field. He was a good scholar.
Scarpino: In the 1970s, if he was having these conferences every other year, then he was on the cutting edge of where the field was going.
Scarpino: It was a nascent field in those days.
Lord: Yeah. So, people looked up to him. It’s not a leadership person, but Jim Naylor was also somebody who had an impact on me early in my career.
Scarpino: Who was Jim Naylor?
Lord: Jim Naylor was at Purdue. He was department head there, and then he went to Ohio State and was department head there. He was a psychologist that founded Organizational Behavior and Human Performance as a journal, and then it became Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes. So, instead of OBHP, it was OBHDP. He also developed this group called Society for Organizational Behavior, which was his sort of fifty top people in the field, and you would get together and have yearly meetings. That’s still in existence. I’ll tell you a story, and this is a funny story. The first stuff that we did on Implicit Leadership Theories, we sent to JAP, which is Journal of Applied Psychology, and got a desk rejection. It was like three or four sentences. The one that sticks in my mind is the comment, “This manuscript is a decrement to the leadership literature and should not be published anywhere.” (Laughter)
Scarpino: Well, I got tipped off to ask you questions along that line.
Lord: And so we sent it to OBHDP. Naylor liked it and published it. You know?
Scarpino: The piece that you initially got rejected, that was one of your early pieces on Implicit Leadership Theory.
Lord: Yeah, it was Rush, Thomas, and Lord, so it came out in 1977 in OBHDP, and people still cite it today. It has a few hundred citations, maybe more.
Scarpino: I’ve got it on my desktop.
Lord: But, it didn’t get a wildly enthusiastic reception from the Journal of Applied Psychology when we sent it there. So, Naylor was always looking for something new, something innovative, and I think he helped the field along.
Scarpino: He also rode the right horse on that one, didn’t he? I mean, the thing that got rejected is really – it wasn’t too long before it was at the forefront of the field. So, I’m going to ask you some really easy questions just to get the stuff in there.
Scarpino: When and where were you born?
Lord: I was born in Detroit, Michigan on February 16, 1946.
Scarpino: Where did you grow up?
Lord: The first part of my life, I was in Detroit, a suburb. Well, the outer part of the city. . .
Scarpino: . . . Which one?
Lord: . . . called Redford, until I was five, and then we moved out further to what was a more rural area called Farmington. Then it became Farmington Hills. I lived there until I went to college. It was a great place to grow up. It was a different area. It was in a transition from rural to urban, but when I was there, we were in a subdivision that started out and there were just a few houses. So, you might ride your bike a couple miles to have kids to play with, and then 10 years later there was a house on every lot. But we always had room to play baseball, or goof around and stuff like that. It was a nice place to be a kid.
Scarpino: Did you have any brothers and sisters?
Lord: I have three sisters.
Scarpino: Older or younger?
Lord: One older, two younger. My sister Barbara is four years older than me. I have a sister Beverly who is a year and a half younger, and then a sister Beth who is nine years younger.
Scarpino: Who were your parents?
Lord: My mom, her name was Delma Grace Dixon Lord. She grew up in Canada, in Walkerville. She came to the U.S. Her dad moved to the U.S. during the Depression for work, and then she met my dad on a double-date.
Scarpino: Those are always dangerous (laughing).
Lord: Yeah. They ended up on a double-date because he had a car, and her brother wanted to take somebody out and didn’t have a car. So, life has all these quirks that just change the way things happen. My dad’s name was George Theodore Lord. He grew up in Detroit. He worked in the auto industry all his life.
Scarpino: On a line?
Lord: He was an engineer in truck development, so he wasn’t an assembly person, but he sort of did testing of new trucks in applied situations, so he traveled a lot.
Scarpino: I’m going to try to ask you a question to get at your youth and the impact it had on the man that you became. Because of your field, this may be close enough for this to work, so we’ll see. This will either work or it won’t. In October 2011, I had the pleasure of interviewing Manfred kets De Vries at the ILA in London. To get ready for that, I read an article that he published in 1994 called The Leadership Mystique. One thing that he said in that article that really jumped out at me, and I tried it on him and it worked. In that piece, he said “All of us possess some kind of inner theater and are strongly motivated by a specific inner script. Over time, through interactions with caretakes, teachers, and other influential people, this inner theater develops. Our internal theater or inner theater in which the patterns that underlie our character come into play influences our behavior throughout our lives and plays an essential role in the molding of leaders.” Using his term “inner theater,” can you tell me about your inner theater?
Lord: That’s a tough one. I’m really task-oriented.
Scarpino: When you look back on your youth or young adulthood, are there things about people you met, events that took place that inspired you or shaped you and stayed with you for the rest of your life?
Lord: Yeah, sure, two things. One, I like to play baseball. I sort of thought I would be a baseball player. (Laughter)
Scarpino: A lot of boys wanted to be baseball players. (Laughing)
Lord: Yeah, as I got into high school and stuff, I realized I wasn’t fast enough or strong enough. I was a kid who was big early on. I’m not that tall now, but I was this tall when I was twelve, so I was a big kid. It helps with athletics, but that wasn’t the best route for me. But I still enjoy baseball. In fact, I’m an Indians fan, and a very unhappy Indians fan at the moment.
Scarpino: Cleveland Indians.
Lord: Yeah, but they had a great season in lots of ways. But the other thing is, I was probably always kind of quantitative, but when I was a kid, you would get the box scores. So you tend to think in terms of batting averages, and who went 1 for 3, 2 for 4, how would their average change, etc. It’s a kind of a domain in which you can think about numbers and how they change, and how things evolve from day to day. So that’s probably good training for somebody who does scientific stuff.
Scarpino: I was thinking when you said baseball, that seems likes a social scientist’s perfect game.
Scarpino: How about your parents? What kind of impact, lasting impact, did they have on you?
Lord: This is in retrospect. I’d say two things. From my mom, I got the sense that she was always there to support me. You know, whatever we did, she would still love you. It wouldn’t necessarily be okay, but she’d be in your camp. From my dad, it was a willingness to sort of discuss issues and think about different points of view. He was always willing to, I won’t say argue, but go through issues where we had different perspectives. He was a truck engineer, so we’d talk about fuel economy and I’d say, “Well, small cars are better.” “No, in ton miles per gallon, you know, the bigger cars are better.” Well, who thinks in terms of ton miles per gallon when you’re thinking about the efficiency of an automobile? Only a truck engineer. You could have different perspectives, but he would listen and discuss things. That’s kind of what scientists do -- they should do anyway. I think I got those two things from my parents. And then a quirky thing, which I’m not sure whether it is just a figment of my imagination or not, but being in the U.K., people notice we have a strange accent.
Scarpino: That Americans have a strange accent?
Lord: Yeah, exactly. They’re always kind, and they say, “Are you Canadian?” rather than saying, “Are you American,” at the moment. I don’t know if that’s because I sound just a lit bit Canadian because my mom grew up in Canada, or whether they’re just trying to be nice to us, or whether they are just not sure. It’s a comment of the times and the way the U.S. is perceived.
Scarpino: Well, that’s something, isn’t it? I’ve spent a lot of time in New Castle at New Castle University working with colleagues. Where did you attend high school?
Lord: Farmington High School.
Scarpino: Were you a good student?
Lord: Oh yeah. I’m very much a product of good public education. The high schools were good. Like in seventh grade, they kind of started tracking you, sort of had accelerated classes. Now they would be like classes where people get college credit or something, but then it was just like honors classes or something like that.
Scarpino: While you were of high school age, were there any individuals, besides your parents, who had a significant influence on your life trajectory?
Lord: I’m sure there were. Probably the teacher that stands out most is a guy by the name of Lee Peele, P-e-e-l-e, who was an English teacher. We would read a lot of books, but then he would have us doing things like painting. We had a class where we did oil painting in English. We had to write poetry and stuff like that. It was fun. It was inventive and different.
Scarpino: Do you think that he nurtured the eclectic interest that has stayed with you for the rest of your life?
Lord: Just maybe to some extent.
Scarpino: You graduated from high school and went to the University of Michigan, earned a B.A. in economics in 1968. Why did you decide to major in economics? What was the attraction?
Lord: It’s a crazy thing. Neither of my parents went to college, so I had no idea what college was all about, but my sister went to the University of Michigan. It was pretty cool, so I thought I’d go there, and it was pretty cool, a great school. I started out at the time, I thought, “Well, I kind of like music.” I played the trumpet, but these kids who are music majors are just worlds ahead of me. It had a good music school, and I was actually in engineering. I wanted to be a civil engineer, and realized I don’t have the mind of an engineer. That’s no criticism; I’m just not as detail-oriented as engineers have to be. I’m the kind of person when I take math, I get a C in calculus because I would drop a sign. I mean, I understood what was going on; I just didn’t do the calculations right. Engineers can’t get away with that. So, I switched from engineering to arts and sciences. I liked economics, so I majored in economics and took a lot of psych classes. I thought well, “I’m not sure I want to be an economist, but I like psychology,” so I went to graduate school in psychology.
Scarpino: You were like a lot of undergraduates, just sort of looking and. . .
Lord: . . . Finding your way. I never had a class in economics in high school, although I’m sure we had one. But I will say one thing about the University of Michigan – the world was different then; state-supported education, and it had a tremendous impact on me. When I started out, tuition was $140 a semester. When I graduated, it was $210 a semester. I worked in summers in auto assembly plants where they were making Mustangs. In 1964 and 1965, that was a big deal.
Scarpino: I had a 1965 Mustang. Maybe you made it. (Laughing)
Lord: Could have! But you worked a lot of hours, and I’d take home $210 or $220 a week. Where nowadays could somebody get a job where they could work a week – it was a hard week – and pay their whole college tuition? It just doesn’t happen, and I think it’s such a short-sighted change in terms of what happens. Now students borrow a lot of money, they end up with a lot of debt, and they’re forced then to take jobs where they make more money. I won’t name names, but I’ve seen really good scholars take jobs because they had to pay off $100,000 worth of loans or something like that. It’s just a different world. The University of Michigan was a great place. You could get world class scholars in so many disciplines. It was just mind boggling. It was fun. It was great for somebody who was in their late teens or early twenties.
Scarpino: You graduated in 1968. When you, at least figuratively, had that diploma in your hand, what did you think the rest of your life was going to look like? Where did you think you were headed?
Lord: I knew where I was headed.
Lord: I’ll give you another event. Michigan has a union. It’s basically a building where there are a lot of activities, and they have a grill in the bottom of it. I had three apartment mates. We were sitting in the union, and Walter Cronkite came on the TV. He starts talking about the Tet Offensive in Vietnam, and we all said, and I will just be brutally honest, we all said, “Oh, fuck, we’re all going to Vietnam!”
Scarpino: I think I probably said that myself. (Laughing)
Lord: Let’s see. One of my roommates was in Vietnam and was an engineer. He was dropped into Cambodia to build the roads back for the troops that were invading Cambodia, so that was his experience. Another one was enlisted. He liked language, so he had studied Russian and German. He went to the Army Security Agency, and he was supposed to go to Vietnam. He was home on leave before they sent him to Vietnam, and Russia invaded Czechoslovakia, so his orders got changed. He got sent to Germany to listen to the Russians. I went to graduate school and got drafted from graduate school. I was like the only American male in the group at Carnegie Mellon. The year that I went to graduate school, they were all Canadian males or American females. I got drafted and went in the service in March of my first year. . .
Scarpino: . . . 19?
Lord: . . . It would have been 1969. I was in the service until December 23, 1970, so 21 months. I got out to go back to school.
Scarpino: I saw that on you, and I was actually - before I talked to you about graduate school, I wanted to ask you about you were drafted.
Scarpino: Did you have a draft number?
Lord: A year before. Yeah, I was 325. I would have been great after the lottery, but I was already in the service.
Scarpino: You went in as an enlisted person?
Lord: Yeah, yeah. Well, I wasn’t enlisted. I was a draftee.
Scarpino: But, I mean, you had an enlisted rank. You were a private?
Lord: Yes, yeah. A private E1. Yeah.
Scarpino: Where were you stationed?
Lord: I was stationed in Fort Knox, Kentucky for nine months, and then I was sent to Germany. Wars are kind of funny. When they’re building troops up, everybody goes to Vietnam. When they’re starting to bring the numbers down, then not so many people are being sent there. I was lucky that I went to graduate school because it reduced my chances of going to Vietnam, but then because I was in graduate school, when I got out of basic training, they made me a clerk. I was in Army intelligence. But then I wanted to do something in psychology, so I requested that I could be moved to one place, to like a military hospital. Instead, they put me in a stockade as a social worker. So, that was interesting because talking about organizational climate, it’s like when you go in and they open your office and then they lock the doors behind you, it was like, “This is weird!” I did that for six or seven months.
Scarpino: So you were basically serving as a social worker for incarcerated troops?
Scarpino: And where was this hospital?
Lord: This was Fort Knox.
Lord: And then I came down on a levy to go to Germany, to Shape, to be a liaison for a general. So I got there, and they said, “How well do you speak German?” I said, “Oh, not very well.” “How well do you speak French?” I said, “Oh, a little French,” and they said, “This isn’t going to work.” So, they made me company clerk, and I was a company clerk for a year, and then I got out of the service and went back to graduate school.
Scarpino: Did anything that you did in the service have an impact as you went forward with your career, as you thought about leadership or leaders of organizations, or dysfunctional members of organizations in prison?
Lord: Well, sure. It’s hard to say a specific example. Just being in Europe for a year, I mean, it broadens your perspective. I got to travel a fair amount and meet different people. I liked being in the service. I mean, I don’t like the war part, but you’re with a bunch of guys, and they were pretty decent guys, and you had a similar experience. The job wasn’t that hard as a company clerk if you’re just organized and careful. . .
Scarpino: . . . and you could type.
Lord: . . . And you could type, yeah. You had to be careful. I had a really good commanding officer who treated you respectfully and was a decent person. His name was Captain Johns (Spelling???). It was largely a positive experience for me in terms of the military. In terms of social processes, almost all of the people that I went through basic training with, before they were out of basic training, they had broken up with their girlfriends at home. You get the “Dear John” letters. It just happens. So, that had an impact too. In anything when you’re in a different situation, you grow and you learn and you develop, but I don’t know that there’s a particular leader or event or anything like that that had an impact.
Scarpino: When you got out of the service, you went back to Carnegie Mellon?
Scarpino: Why did you pick Carnegie Mellon in the first place?
Lord: (Laughing) I didn’t really have much choice. I applied to Michigan, Purdue, and Carnegie Mellon, and I got accepted in each school and got offered scholarships, but Carnegie Mellon would let me teach. I knew if I went to the other two schools, I’d get drafted, and I thought, “Well, if I go to Carnegie Mellon, will they draft a teacher?” - and the answer was yes. (Laughing) That didn’t help me either.
Scarpino: So you took the offer that was going to let you teach from the get-go so you wouldn’t get drafted?
Lord: Yeah, and I got drafted anyway. You can’t tell how things will work out. Then I went back to Carnegie Mellon because I could get out of the service three months early to go back to school. It was a great place, and I kind of liked it anyway.
Scarpino: As an undergraduate, you had already been taking psychology courses?
Lord: Oh, I had lots of psychology classes.
Scarpino: Your decision to specialize in psychology in graduate school was based upon the fact that you had these courses and liked the content. I was going to talk to you about how you got from economics to psychology, but – did you write a Master’s thesis?
Scarpino: What was that about?
Lord: Factors that predict who is likely to commit suicide or something like that.
Scarpino: So, it wasn’t much to do with leadership.
Lord: It didn’t have anything to do with leadership.
Scarpino: But then for your PhD, which you earned in 1975, you wrote a dissertation called Group Performance as a Function of Leadership Behavior and Task Structure. How did you get from factors that contributed to suicide to leadership?
Lord: Well, you asked me. I took a class in terms of small group behavior.
Scarpino: So you took that as a Master’s student?
Lord: Yeah. I mean, there, you’re a PhD student and you’ve got a Master’s, it’s just along the way. It’s just your first research project. It’s not a formal program and if you didn’t get it, it wouldn’t make any difference. But, I did, and you know. . .
Scarpino: . . . So you took a class and. . . And then I’ll be respectful of your time, but was your interest in leaders and leadership, or was it using leaders and leadership to build and test theories? Were you interested in building and testing theories or interested in leaders and leadership?
Lord: Probably neither.
Scarpino: That was a bad question. (Laughing)
Lord: No, no. It’s like, you look back at things, and that’s not the understanding that you had then. It’s like, I just wanted to get my dissertation done and get a job. I had a girlfriend who was an economist, and she got a job at Buffalo. I wanted to get a job someplace close to Buffalo. It wasn’t close enough. Things just didn’t work out. I think I probably was more interested in teaching when I first started, and then really realized, “Oh, geez. There’s this thing – research.” I mean, I had done research, but you’ve got to publish, and you’ve got to work with students and they have to be able to publish. I was successful at it. So, you kind of learn and change your identity as you went along. Some of it was social expectations of our department chair, who had high expectations. Some of it was, I was just really successful. I didn’t see anything unusual about it.
Scarpino: The success that you had researching and analyzing and writing that dissertation persuaded you that research was something that interested you and that you were good at and would like to maybe to devote a career to that, as opposed to teaching?
Lord: Well, I don’t think I was that farsighted, you know? I just did it. You were supposed to do it, and I did it, and I was reasonably successful at it. Then after the fifth or the eighth or the 10th publication, and then realize, “Okay, you know, I’m publishing in good journals, and my students that are working with me, we’re publishing in good journals.” It just kind of snowballs. That’s probably the best term for it.
Scarpino: Last question for this session. We’ll talk about scholarship tomorrow. Dissertations are supposed to add to knowledge. Keep in mind that people who listen to us are probably not going to be in your field. What was the contribution of your dissertation? What did you add to what we didn’t know?
Lord: Well, two things. It had two parts. One was a performance part, and one was a social perception part. The performance part dealt with how the functional behaviors required for effective performance vary depending on the structure and the type of task that people were doing. It really dealt with contingency views of functional leadership behavior and how that integrated with task typologies. I think that moved the field forward. Specifically, there was a paper that was published on unstructured tasks. That seems like a no-brainer, but it’s nice to show this empirically, that on unstructured tasks you need behaviors that structure them for people to be successful. You’re nodding your head. It seems like a no-brainer.
Scarpino: It seems like a no-brainer after you do all the work.
Lord: Yeah. Exactly. You develop a system. You can record these behaviors. You can see what’s correlated with performance and how it varies across time. It’s empirical, but it makes sense, at least to me now. The other part was a little bit more interesting because it dealt with who is perceived as a leader and the bases of power that are associated with leadership. I tried to manipulate reward, power, expertise, and legitimate power. They all had effects on leadership and ad hoc, which are newly formed small groups. We developed a measure of leadership perceptions. This is kind of crazy, but I’ll be honest. What happens with a dissertation, you just make up stuff. We developed. . .
Scarpino: . . . You just don’t tell anybody. (Laughing)
Lord: . . .these items, like this person was perceived to contribute to the task, and I would like them to be a leader again on a next group, and stuff like that. These items then were combined into a scale. That was a dependent variable that was predicted by behaviors and these manipulations. That got published in Administrative Science Quarterly, which was a good journal. It’s the first place I sent it, so I thought, “Oh, this isn’t so bad.” Except for the JAP experience, most of the stuff that I sent got published where I sent it. So that was the perceptual part.
Scarpino: Is that where the roots of Implicit Leadership Theory are?
Lord: In kind of an odd way. No, the roots of Implicit Leadership Theory are really clear to me. It’s like I got this issue of OBHDP and it had an article by Barry Staw in it in 1975. I remember getting the journal because you get journals in the mail. . .
Scarpino: . . .Right. They had wrappers around them.
Lord: . . . lying on the carpet, reading this. I had this orange shag carpet in my apartment. It was really ugly. So, I remember reading this, thinking, “Damn! This is really good,” because what Staw showed is that if you ask people to describe the performance and the processes in their group on a number of dimensions, and you randomly assign them to conditions where they’re told their group performed well or they performed poorly, that they describe the processes different. So, it’s kind of a backwards-looking approach. Staw’s issue was: What do correlations between behavior and performance mean if performance is affecting the way behavior is being described? That was the origin of what became called the performance cue effect where we looked at it. . .
Scarpino: . . . You did a meta-analysis of that later on, right?
Lord: No, no, it was a different meta-analysis. But I did do an article that dealt with that issue in terms of aggregating stuff, but I don’t think it was a meta-analysis. So, the leadership coding stuff, it’s like I knew how difficult it was to code behaviors and remember them because I had spent hours and hours doing this and training people to be able to code this system that I developed. You could spend two hours watching a group and coding the behaviors, and you come out someone say, “Well, what was the frequency of this behavior?” and you would say, “I have no idea. You know, I just did, but I don’t have any aggregate view of it.” So, I didn’t have much faith that people could describe and give accurate frequency ratings of the leadership behaviors that they had been exposed to. Then there was another article published in 1975 that basically said: you can get the factor structure of leadership measures when people – this is Eden and Leviatan in 1975, and I think this one is in the Journal of Applied Psychology – but you can get the same factor structure, which we use as a measure of how good a measure is, when people were describing a fictitious leader as when they were describing a real leader. So that suggests that the factor structure comes from the cognitive schema that people have for making sense of everyday leadership, not from their recollections of what actual behaviors they observed. So, it’s not a trait aspect of the leader so much as a perceptual structure that perceivers have to make sense of things. The Staw article, the Eden and Leviatan article, and my experience in coding behaviors, all three of them sort of came together. I said, “This is really interesting, and you know, this behavioral rating may not be all it’s cracked up to be.”
Scarpino: That looks like this is a good place to stop.
Scarpino: Because we went longer…
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