Understanding Leadership: Integration of the Five Frames for Effective Leadership

Frameworks are used to understand organizations, and to find the best way to operate the organization, its structure, and resolve various issues that arise. The five organizational frames are the rational frame, the human frame, the systems frame, the political frame, and the cultural frame. It is imperative to understand that when organizational leaders integrate all five frames, they can successfully solve organizational dilemmas.
The Rational Frame
The first principle of the rational frame is the organization is an instrument for the achievement of specific goals. The second principle of the rational frame asserts that every organization has an optimal structure and process, and in order to achieve this, the organization must incorporate differentiation and integration. Differentiation can be achieved by dividing responsibilities within the organization. The third and fourth principles of the rational frame blame inefficient structure for organizational problems, and state that reorganization can often solve those problems.
The Human Frame
As its name implies, the human frame focuses on how human needs affect organizations. The first principle of the human frame is that the organization is the vehicle for satisfying healthy human needs. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is an integral part of the human frame. Just as a person whose physiological needs are not met cannot focus on needs of belongingness until his or her basic needs are met, the people within an organization, and the organization itself, operates in a similar way. On the organizational hierarchy of needs, increasing productivity and making a profit would be a basic need to survive. As organizations progress, ethical needs would be further up on the hierarchy of needs. Rather than simply questioning whether something is profitable would no longer be sufficient for someone who was looking at the situation from the human frame. The second principle of the human frame places the emphasis on the codependent relationship of the individual and the organization. The third principle of the human frame states that the needs of healthy people and the goals of functional organizations must be integrated in order for both to be productive. The fourth principle of the human frame is based on the concept of McGregor’s Theory X and Theory Y, which states that employees act the way they believe they are perceived by their managers-a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts.
The Systems Frame
The main focus of the systems frame is the relationship between the organization and its surrounding environment, whereas the organization adjusts to its surroundings. Due to this adjustment to the surrounding environment, there is never an absolute resolution to a problem, because the environment is constantly changing.
The Political Frame
All four principles of the political frame of reference address how organizations operate as a functioning unit within society. The first principle of the political frame states that the organization is bounded by the allocation of scarce resources. In this case, a leader viewing the organization’s dilemma from the political frame may view articles as a scarce resource. The second, third, and fourth principles address the differing beliefs of organizational members, negotiation that is necessary due to these differing beliefs, and the necessary conflict within organizations. Leaders viewing situations from this perspective would recognize that people within organizations are bound to perceive situations differently and for differing reasons. It is likely that these leaders would realize that internal conflict can lead to results by testing and refining ideas which would lead to discussion, and a possible compromise.
The Cultural Frame
The cultural frame addresses the way the actual organization can define problems and offer solutions based on the existing culture of the organization. The four principles of the cultural frame state that meaning is constructed for participants through organizational culture, that culture consists of the beliefs of these participants, and is reflected in behaviors and norms, and the group’s behaviors are due to learned responses based on that culture. Based on the aforementioned principles, a leader who is guided by the cultural reference frames does not make decisions that he or she feels is best for the organization, but to the contrary, the culture of the organization says what works in the specific environment.
In conclusion, effective leaders must integrate the perspectives of all five frames. Managers and entrepreneurs who approach organizational dilemmas using only one approach actually hinder organizations. When leaders do not balance the five frames, they become disconnected from the issue at hand and those who they lead. Integrative leaders combine various management styles and theories, rather than just choosing one.

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