Social Motives[Fiske] + Team Leadership [Carson & Tesluk]

These two pieces of content don’t really go together, but I didn’t have much to say about each of them separately, so I decided to combine them to a single post. They do share a discovery origin story: I came across both of them doing a rather extensive academic research review in the area of social networks analysis. While they were mostly used as scaffolding to support the more relevant research that I was reading about, I found them compelling enough in their own right to make note of them and add them to my ever-growing toolbox of frameworks and mental models. 

Photo by Jehyun Sung on Unsplash

Social Motives

Susan Fiske’s social motives construct is covered in detail in Social Beings: Core Motives in Social Psychology. Fiske’s theory posits that five needs shape an individual’s propensity for social interaction: 

  1. Belonging — the desire for strong stable relationships with others.
  2. Understanding — the need to predict what is going to happen and make sense of what does happen.
  3. Controlling — the need to perceive contingencies between our actions and outcomes, to be effective, in control and competent. 
  4. Self-enhancing — the desire to maintain self-esteem. A drive towards self-improvement and status attainment. 
  5. Trust — the need to see the world as a benevolent place. Expecting good outcomes, especially from other people. 

2 & 3 are more cognitive-based motives, while 4 & 5 are more affective-based motives. 

There are some solid similarities here to SCARF (status, certainty, autonomy, relatedness, fairness), BICEPS (belonging, improvement, choice, equality, predictability, status) and Wilson & Walton’s meaning-making engine (understand, self-integrity, belonging) suggesting either a shared origin or a deeper shared truth about the human condition. 

Team Leadership 

I came across this construct in a fascinating paper called The topology of collective leadership which was using Carson and Tesluk’s 2007 paper as the primary lens to look at different leadership patterns across teams, but I was unable to track down the original piece. So here’s the summary from the paper I did read: 

Carson and Tesluk (2007) observed that there is a large degree of convergence around four distinct roles that are important for team leadership:

  • Navigator — enables the collective to establish and maintain a clear purpose and direction.
  • Engineer — structures the collective and the task, coordinating the contributions of team members to meet the goals of the collective. 
  • Social integrator — maintains healthy and productive social interactions and relational processes within the collective. 
  • Liaison — develops and maintains relationships with key external stakeholders servings as both an advocate and ambassador for the collective. 
Source: The topology of collective leadership (2012)

These distinctions seem to align very well with my own experience and can potentially serve as a good template when we look to “unbundle management”. 

Social Motives[Fiske] + Team Leadership [Carson & Tesluk]

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