Bolman and Deal’s Four Frameworks in Organization Management and Leadership: Case Study of Seattle Public Utilities Agency

Leadership is of utmost importance in the accomplishment of organizational goals. The relationship between employees and the management as well as the manner in which the management treats its employees is significant in their productivity. There are four frameworks in regard to the approaches that managers can employ in their leadership. These according to Bolman and Deal (2008) include; “the structural, human resource, political and the symbolic frames”. This essay is an analysis of the four frameworks through a case study of Seattle Public Utilities, which is an agency that provides essential services in the city of Seattle.

Choose VeritableEssays.Com to buy essays online

Structural Framework

This leadership style is focused on maintaining esteemed character and self sacrifice for the organization. Such leaders are usually devoted to ensure that the organization is capable of accomplishing its goals through their actions. They are the determinants of the organizational culture, and hence their actions largely affect the behavior of employees as well as the organizational doctrines. They are usually respected in the organization and mainly focus their efforts towards maintaining their personality and skills as well as concentrating on their obligations in the organization. Their sense of direction is clear to everyone, a reason that makes them to be followed and sought for advice by many. They usually maintain ethics in all their actions, and mainly focus on the future of the organization (Bolman and Deal (2008).

Leaders who practice this approach assist the employees in developing the path to be followed in order to accomplish goals. This, according to Bolman and Deal is accomplished through careful examination and strategy. They view a leader as a person who is capable of organizing the community that they lead through their ability to analyze situations and come up with structures for solving problems. Such leaders avoid acting in a dictatorial manner. They are usually motivated while working in settings characterized by facts, whereby they can apply theories and their expertise as well as analytical skills. They set achievable goals that are understandable by everyone. These are achieved through allocation of roles to the employees, and supervising to ensure that the process follows the right track while adhering to organizational policies. They respect the management hierarchy, whereby each level of management is significant in the process.

Due to the fact that an organization has to be faced with dilemmas, the structural leader is usually faced with situations whereby a balance has to be established between the external environment and the organizational practices. Such a leader usually focuses on plain and consistent thinking   in order to deal with organizational problems as well as utilization of the available opportunities (Bolman and Deal 2008). This is dependent to a large extent on the environment that the leader works in. A favorable working environment is usually a derivative of the predecessors in the organization’s management. The structural leader ensures that he leaves an enabling environment once he leaves an organization. This facilitates learning in the leaders who come there after. On the other hand, he ensures that the present leaders within the organization, especially those working under him have such leadership qualities as him/her. The organizational strategy is usually developed through structural Leaders, who are keen on the working framework, environment, realization of organizational goals, testing as well the necessary reforms within the organization.

Even though this leadership style is seen to be perfect in many ways, there are several weaknesses that it demonstrates. This is because a human being tends to be irrational at times, and may tend interfere with even the most perfect set up in organizations. On the other hand, organizations are usually faced with conflicting ideas, a fact that needs to be embraced in any organization. Once these ideas are harmonized, the leader may acquire important information that widens his scope of knowledge. The structural approach tends to ignore these conflicts. More over, structural leadership approach tends to emphasize on prudent leadership. Instead, this needs to be a matter of rational confidence as well as inexorableness.

The structural approach is one of the leadership styles that have enhanced accomplishment of organizational goals in Seattle public utilities. For an organization involved in the public sphere, structural leadership plays a significant role in ensuring that the employees are capable of handling people’s affairs in provision of services. Seattle is a large organization that has provided water, sewerage facilities, drainage, and solid waste management, as well as other services that are essential for human health. Other activities include maintenance of environmental integrity through ensuring proper disposal of waste. In order to integrate all these activities and ensure that the organization accomplishes its goals, leaders such as Diana Gale have been successful through their style of leadership. She was able to bring changes in the organizational culture, streamlining the operations of the public utility within a year after her appointment (Gozdz 1992).

The head of the solid waste agency developed plans to motivate the public to reduce pollution and the costs involved in garbage collection through recycling it. This helped in solving the situation whereby the public was at loggerheads with the Seattle public utility in regard to the construction of an incinerator. Diana Gale, through her structural approach of leadership was able to develop better ways to assist the public in dealing with garbage rather than through an incinerator which could have been a source of green house gases that cause environmental pollution. In many years, Seattle residents had been paying a flat rate for garbage collection. These services were provided in an unlimited manner. Through the leadership of Diana, the program whereby residents pay according to the amount of garbage they contribute was initiated, which changed the conventional way that was not satisfactory to many.

The program facilitated recycling of garbage since the more households discharged, the more they paid (Haskins et al 2002). The organization has been successful in reducing disposable garbage in the city. This significantly reduced the land fills that were a nuisance to the public. The management of the organization is composed of analytical leaders who are focused on making their programs to work through careful analysis and planning. This has made it a model for the other utilities dealing with waste management nationally. Apart from solid waste, the leaders have developed efficient models for ensuring that clean water is supplied in the city. New treatment plants had to be constructed in 1995. The management was faced with a challenge of acquiring funds for these projects, but through effective analysis and planning they were able to generate funds for renovation of reservoirs and pipes, as well as construction of a new water treatment plant for water from Tort River.

Human Resource Framework

This is a leadership style in which the leader tends to empower and support others in order for them to accomplish their goals as well as those of the organization. Such leaders have a strong attachment and confidence in the people that they lead. They try as much as possible to be accessible and available to the people, and always have a solution to their problems. They help people to develop ideas in order to reach a solution. They believe in participation in matters that require solutions rather than dictating the way forward. They do not rely so much on facts, but mainly on finding solutions to the prevailing problems with the assistance of the employees. All decisions made in regard to problem solving are considerate on the emotions of the employees (Bolman and Deal 2008).

Leaders who adopt this approach work with the realization that workers with an optimistic attitude more often than not take pleasure in their work and feel encouraged and recognized for their participation. That worker who is not contented and does not in actual fact get pleasure from the work, but is basically working for a take-home pay generally produces at a low level. Such a worker develops a negative outlook and normally pulls others down. The productivity of a worker is dependent on his rapport with his direct manager. Failure of the leader to honor his promises, giving recognition when appropriate, making unenthusiastic remarks, or blaming the employees for mistakes that should be solved collectively largely impacts on the productivity of employees. It lowers their morale and happiness and consequently affects their output. The leaders who adopt this approach usually emphasize on establishing a link between them and the employees, developing willingness in them to work harder for the realization of organizational goals.

In this leadership style, the needs of employees are put ahead of organizational needs. However, leaders emphasize on the importance of the workers as well as the organization in the realization of the goals of each of them. This means that the organization is important to the workers the same way they are significant in facilitating the realization of organizational goals. They provide their inputs in terms of skills and ideas while on the other hand they benefit from the employment opportunities created when an organization thrives. This means that in case the relationship between the two turns sour, either one or both will not be capable of accomplishing the set goals. When this relationship is good, the leaders create an enabling environment for working, and the organizational goals can be achieved.

The leaders who adopt the human resources approach are usually reliable and have the ability to inculcate confidence in the employees (Bolman and Deal 2008). They are encouraged to work harder through communicating the necessary information to them. Contented employees are the best performers in any organization. High productivity is attributed to job satisfaction. This results when leaders ensure that all actions they take are well thought out and their impact on the employees carefully evaluated. They are supposed to know which actions should be undertaken and which ones should be avoided. Happiness in employees is achieved by ensuring that the organizational goals are reflected by the actions of managers. An organization with leaders whose decision making is not consistent with its objectives results in unsatisfied employees, thereby lowering their productivity.

Leadership that is human resource oriented is characterized by trust and the desire to create understanding amongst the employees in regard to the organizational goals. They share organizational information such as performance, challenges and the strategies of the organization with them, and also seek their ideas in chatting the way forward. This motivates the employees especially when they are involved in the organization’s decision making process. Employees enjoy participating in management through teamwork when they are happy. It becomes easy to identify problems and come up with solutions. They turn out to be assets to the organization and strikes that may arise due to dissatisfaction are rare.

Seattle Public Utilities recognizes in the organization’s decision making process that all the actions undertaken have social, economic and environmental impacts. Competitiveness in the organization’s activities is usually achieved through human resource practices that motivate the employees to accomplish organizational goals. This is the human resource approach of leadership whereby the organization ensures that competitiveness amongst the employees is maintained. Consumers use the internet to interact with the consumers which has improved consumer satisfaction (Bleiler 2003). It is understood that employees need time to rest and conduct their private business after business hours. The human resource oriented leadership has enabled service delivery to consumers especially when they need clarification in regard to the organization’s operations after business hours. This has been accomplished through voice response equipment, which has made it possible for consumers to make inquiries without necessarily interfering with worker’s private time to pick phone calls.

The organization has empowered its human resources in order to improve their performance. Goals have been set for them to achieve and each employee reports on a monthly basis concerning the two week programs in a month. It is an organization whose leadership focuses on the creation and applying best practices. This is one aspect of leadership to which the organization’s success is attributed to. The employees are encouraged to participate in setting up of organizational goals. Even the customers are motivated to present their views in regard to the services offered by the organization. The employees assist in conducting surveys within the community in order for people to give their input, which is usually significant in developing organizational strategies for upgrading performance.

The employees are motivated to participate in groups or teams in the planning stage. This ensures that the ideas of each individual are considered in determining the course of action for the organization. They are also involved in the evaluation of progress in nearly all the utilities, whereby the teams help the management in decision making. These teams are significant in the devolution of management activities from the conventional hierarchical one to a broad based management whereby all views are important. These views are usually discussed in forums, and the most promising ones are put in to practice. The practice creates harmonious relations between the organization’s departments which work together to accomplish a common goal. The management team interacts more often with the employees and therefore any upcoming problem can be solved before it gets out of hand (Knights and Willmott 2006).

The use of modern management systems is understood as one of the major factors that has enhanced employees’ performance. The organization’s leaders understand that empowerment of human resources through provision of assistive technology improves their productivity. Employee reward schemes are also significant in ensuring that they own the organization, and that they derive enthusiasm in working in it. Their ideas are never ignored. Rather, they are taken by the management for consideration.

Political Framework

The leaders who adopt this approach are usually focused on building association and advocacy. Such leaders usually tend to control the people in order to realize their goals. They are usually clear regarding their personal goals and their desires in leadership. Most of their efforts are usually geared towards realization of their interests. The leaders are able to analyze how power is shared within the organization, and they know exactly what is achievable and what is not in regard to their efforts. These involve approaching those with the potential of enhancing the realization of their goals and convincing them to join them in a coalition. Once a linkage is established, they push forward their agenda and ensure that each player in the coalition understands and accepts it (Bolman and Deal 2008).

Most of the time they win through support established through networking with other powerful individuals in the leadership hierarchy. On the other hand, they also realize the potential of groups, and therefore they make efforts to win their support in the goals that they pursue. The success of political leadership is usually determined by the number of adherents. For this reason, the leaders have to ensure that they gather as much support as possible. However, their ideologies and priorities are not always appealing to all the people. This makes them apply coercion at times, which is one of the negative aspects of the political approach to leadership. They tend to exercise control in all aspects of the work environment. They have minimum flexibility and are largely conservative.

The adherents are usually persuaded to do what the leader wants. There is usually no room for consultation since all the goals are set, and all that remains is to undertake the tasks in order to meet the leader’s expectations. His values and prospects are the determinants of the behavior of the employees. This leadership style is mainly exercised in organizations when the resources to be shared are scarce. Everybody would like to have a share of the limited resources, which usually creates problems since some must do without. The leader comes in handy, in determining who is to get and who will get next time. These kinds of decisions are difficult and unless particular interest groups in the organization such as unit alliances, to support the leader, they might not be workable.

The coalitions are usually important in ensuring that individual and group differences are harmonized. The alliances help in changing the differences over a considerable period of time. The decisions for the organization as well as its goals develop from the prevailing activities of negotiations, agreements, and the desire to attain a higher level in the management hierarchy. The scarcity of resources is a significant factor in determining harmonious relations within the organization. Unless individual differences are solved, it is likely that individuals and groups will remain in conflict in most of their activities.

Leaders tend to create motivation for the followers to follow a particular course with predetermined incentives as well as retribution. This kind of leadership is usually evident in all levels of the management hierarchy. In order for the leader to attain the highest level, there has to be a certain amount of relationship which is maintained between the leader and his followers. This kind of leadership is usually useful where leaders need to deal with masses of people, especially within communities. It is a major source of change that is needed to develop new strategies especially if the predecessors failed in accomplishing organizational goals. The leaders have to adopt it in order to overcome the conventional ideologies that may hamper achievements in the organization. However, it is usually a suspicious style of leadership since people are usually unable to differentiate a leader’s personal goals from organizational goals (Bolman and Deal 2008).

The political leadership approach has been significant in the success of Seattle, especially in the organization’s corporate culture. In order to address issues of environmental pollution, the organization forms coalitions with other water service providers. Seattle’s mayor Nickels is one of the leaders who introduced this political approach to the organization’s leadership in order to promote cooperation amongst the other providers with similar interests. The first coalition in 2002 was focused on research to determine the effects of climate change on water utilities (Haskins et al 2002). This coalition was also focused on the reduction of greenhouse gases that the utilities emit in to the atmosphere through incinerators and land fills. The coalition was also expected to help in developing ways of coping with climate change.

The organization’s management had to encourage all its stakeholders to rally behind its efforts to form these coalitions. Through this leadership approach it was able to form an alliance with seven other water providers (Haskins et al 2002). Settle is reputable for its efforts in matters concerning climate change, and its ability to form partnerships with other water providers. This is a political leadership approach that has enhanced the expansion of the management’s knowledge in regard to climate change and control of greenhouse gases emission. This has been facilitated through sharing of information with other actors in the field.

The organization’s leaders understand what they want and the goals they want to achieve. The attainment of these goals is expected to be mainly focused on cooperation with others in the alliance, as well as the adaptive management approach that the organization’s leaders have adopted. The leaders have also succeeded in establishing a strong partnership between the employees, government agencies, community groups and agencies and experts. Through this partnership, the organization was able to establish a project that focused on evaluating the factors that were affecting the environment, and the improvements that could help in maintenance of a clean environment (Bleiler 2003). The organization succeeded in this project through mobilization of the community members and local non-governmental and governmental organizations in environmental needs assessment.

This leadership strategy whereby local community and governmental organizations are mobilized to form an alliance that pursues common goals is a major step in enhancing the ability of the organization to accomplish its strategies towards environmental conservation and also protection of the water resources. The leaders of Seattle introduce the organization’s concept to the people and local organizations and ensure that the strategies are understood through mobilization and training. The organization plays a significant role in guiding the stakeholders regarding the course of action to be taken in order to maintain environmental conservation. This is a political leadership approach that has made the organization to attract substantial support, which has been significant in its efforts towards sustainable management of water resources and waste reduction.

Symbolic Framework

The leaders who adopt this approach are usually regarded as spiritualists who can read the minds of the people as well as forecast on the future of the organization. Such leaders generate enthusiasm in the people through their visionary approach of leadership, and keep them motivated to accomplish organizational goals (Bolman and Deal 2008). This leadership style is known to take organizations in the perspective of a stage whereby they can demonstrate through role plays in order to communicate through creation of impressions which motivate the followers to perform. They are perfect in using signs that the followers interpret and act according to their understanding. Their experience is usually represented in the form of conceivable explanations of incidences. Once they discover a particular revelation, they usually communicate with the people and make them understand the prospects in it.

They are creative leaders who enhance resourcefulness in their followers. They are problem solvers who use their inventiveness, flexibility and inspirational approach to find solutions and motivate others to do so. Symbolic leaders usually indicate the factors that have high value as well as those that need to be prioritized while setting goals. After communicating their vision to the followers, they enhance understanding through ensuring that the followers are aware of the gains attributed to it. They ensure that this vision is clear and is integrated in the organization, which is significant in providing a good judgment of order and course in the organizational processes.

Change in the organization rests in the hands of symbolic leaders; hence the organization usually depends on them while developing the organizational strategies. This is because for a good organizational strategy to be developed there is need to have a clear vision and a sense of reason that will form the basis of determining the organizational course of action. Such leaders assist those below them to accomplish their objectives. Such leaders facilitate change in human behavior especially through their symbolic interactions with the people. The organizational culture is largely dependent on their imaginative nature. They set the organization’s mission through creativity, while on the other hand they motivate the people through their personality and enthusiasm while dramatizing their thoughts to enhance creativity and imagination in their followers.

Symbols play a primary role in this leadership approach, giving the organization focus and determining the course of action. They generate enthusiasm amongst the employees, making them understand the importance of all activities, and the need to undertake them with caution. This way, people understand their significance in the organization. They feel appreciated for their contribution to the organization. It helps in changing their behavior, which is significant in the accomplishment of the overall mission. This is because any behavioral change that comes as a result of symbolic leadership tends to be positive and geared towards achievement.

It is possible for symbolic leaders to overcome the challenges that face organizations since the employees usually measure their level of contentment focusing on the similarities and differences between them and their leader. Role playing in symbolic leadership helps in maintaining close ties with the followers since everybody in the organization tends to be acting on the same grounds, and therefore there are no great differences between the leader who acts as the example and his followers. It is different from an authoritarian leader who dictates what is to be done by others but does not do it himself. Symbolic leadership is necessary for organizations that need to be high achievers. It helps in avoiding confusion amongst employees within an organization (Bolman and Deal 2008).

Symbolic leadership has been the core towards accomplishment of the Seattle Public Utilities’ goals. The human resources have been made to understand the goals and targets of the organization. Leaders have made it clear regarding the quality of services that the customers should expect from the organization. These are clear from the organization’s mission that each employee understands as a symbol of quality for the services offered by Seattle. In all the actions that the employees engage in, they usually focus on this mission which is

The symbolic leadership approach ensures that the employees do not forget the targets that the organization has set, and always work to ensure that they work towards their accomplishment. Other symbolic leadership styles include the use of slogans which communicate the objectives of the organization. They include catchphrases such as, “Water, Water, Everywhere” (Bleiler 2003). They help in maintaining a sense of responsibility amongst the employees for they always have in mind the fact that their work is to provide indispensable services such as clean water that people can not do without. The charismatic leadership of Seattle creates enthusiasm amongst the employees who are encouraged to focus on the organization’s performance indicators, which are mainly the level of customer satisfaction and the level of waste reduction in the environment. These are symbols that they use to evaluate their own performance while undertaking the organization’s activities.

Symbolic leadership in Seattle has enhanced team work whereby the employees are members of a team, with the leader playing an active role in one of the teams. This has helped in maintaining a strong relationship between the employees and the management, who are motivated to serve the customers better. Seattle leaders ensure they are a good example to be emulated by the employees. They make certain that the members each team reach their full potential as individuals and also as a group. They ensure that the group members are capable of accomplishing their objectives successfully. They ensure that the team members are bound together through their interpersonal skills and charisma (Haskins et al 2002).

Seattle public utilities agency is one of the organizations that many professionals have a high regard for, especially due to its leadership frameworks. This is because employees are usually attracted to organizations whose leadership presents them with an opportunity to exercise their skills while following the guiding principles of the organization. They also prefer to work with enthusiastic leaders who are analytical and focused in their management style. Seattle Public Utilities Agency is one such organization.


  1. Bolman L. G. and Deal T. E. (2008). Reframing Organizations: Artistry, Choice, and Leadership, 4th Edition, Jossey-Bass.
  2. Bleiler, R. (2003). SPU Technology Project Post-Implementation Review: Water Operations Mobile Computing, Seattle Public Utility.
  3. Gozdz, K. (1992). “Building community as a leadership discipline.” Emerging Strategies for Leadership and Organizational Change, vol. 5, 7 pp 107-119.
  4. Haskins S., Gale D. and Kelly L. (2002). “Creating and Optimizing New Forms of Public-private Partnerships in Seattle”. Journal of Water Supply, vol 2, 4 pp 211–218.
  5. Knights D. and Willmott H. (2006). Introducing Organizational Behavior and Management, Int’l Thomson Business Press.
0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>