“King of the Forest”
Courage in Leadership
Sherri Orwick Ogden
May 4, 2009
What does it take to be “King of the Forest?” What is at the heart of a great leader?
Studies indicate good leadership encompasses the typical characteristics such as decisiveness,
confidence, interaction with followers, etc. However, research also indicates a move toward
participatory leadership. Many of the qualities required to be a successful participatory leader
are also required of a courageous leader.
The purpose of this research study is to show that courageous behavior is necessary for
a participatory leader to be effective. Previous studies have shown courage is important in
leadership, but have not proven courage is an integral component of participatory leadership.
Many types of organizations can benefit from this study. Results will provide leaders
the opportunity to learn the behaviors associated with courageous leadership and enable them
to compare the elements of courageous behavior to their own leadership styles and leadership
within their organizations.
An effective, participatory leader must have courage.
The dependent variable in this hypothesis is effective, participatory leadership because
it is relative to the level of courage.
The independent variable in this hypothesis is courage.
Definition of Courage
In order to measure courage in leadership, courage must be defined. Research does not
agree on one definition. For the purposes of this research study, courage is viewed as a
behavior as opposed to a personality trait and defined as a behavior one exhibits despite a
In order to measure the level of courage in leadership, various behaviors are identified
by previous studies as integral to both courageous and participatory leadership. These
behaviors and their associated elements are outlined in the “King of the Forest” (KOF) model.
This research study analyzes the participatory leadership and courageous behavior
exhibited by executives and employees of the Northrop Grumman Corporation. Northrop
Grumman is a global security company with a profitable track record and a reputation for
effective leadership. The company’s vision includes integrity, performance, innovation,
collaboration and trust. Its values include quality products and services, customer satisfaction,
integrity, respect for others, and most importantly leadership. Northrop Grumman values its
leaders and believes “each employee can lead through competence, creativity and teamwork.”
Given their vision and values, Northrop Grumman values participatory leadership and
provides a good sample to measure courage in effective, participatory leadership. Due to the
large size of the corporation, this study is limited to Northrop Grumman Corporation’s Supply
Chain Management division. The vice president of this division, Veasey Wilson, actively
engages in and encourages participatory leadership. He oversees 800 employees, is committed
to upholding the core company values, and expects all employees to do the same.
This study utilizes the mixed methods approach to confidentially collect information
from all employees in the Northrop Grumman’s Supply Chain Management division. It includes
employees in leadership roles and those that are not. One of the challenges in this study is
ensuring truthful responses. The mixed approach incorporates both quantitative and
qualitative data collection methods allowing a comparison of information to guard against
inaccurate responses. In addition, an outside consultant implements the study to help
minimize fear and distrust. The data collection process is separated into three phases and is
designed to answer the following questions:
a. Is the leadership style participatory?
b. Is the leadership effective?
c. What level of courageous behavior exists relative to the effectiveness of
the participatory leadership?
Phase One implements a quantitative survey addressing the elements in the four
categories outlined in the King of the Forest (KOF) Model. Employees are asked to measure the
level of these behaviors on a Likert scale. They are asked to measure their own behaviors and
also those of their direct supervisors. The questions are designed to determine if the
supervisees perceive the leadership in their area as participatory and whether it is effective.
The survey also addresses whether the behaviors are exhibited despite a perceived risk.
This is accomplished by giving examples of situations where supervisors have a choice to
behave courageously and providing three behavior answer options: a) a response exemplary of
a strong level of courage, an example showing a medium level of courage, and the third
indicating no courage. Those surveyed are asked to choose which response is most indicative
of what they believe their direct supervisor would do. Additional questions indicate whether
those in leadership roles are perceived as the true leaders of the organization. In order to
address possible ethical issues, a “do not wish to comment” option for each question is
included. This will also help to avoid untruthful responses.
The data is analyzed by the consultant to determine patterns, discrepancies, conflicts or
questions. Is the leadership style participatory? Are all leaders implementing the participative
management philosophy? Is leadership in the division perceived as effective? How many
leaders exhibit courage in their leadership and to what extent?
Qualitative interview questions are generated designed to address discrepancies or
confusing results from Phase One. The consultant interviews all employees involved in Phase
One based on the interview questions generated. Employees have the option of declining the
interview or not commenting on particular questions to avoid possible ethical issues. Results
are recorded, coded, analyzed, and compared to the quantitative results. Do the two phases
provide similar findings? Are there discrepancies between the data gathered in Phase One and
the data gathered in Phase Two?
The third phase is observation. This phase allows the consultant to gather empirical
data providing a cross-check between findings from Phases One and Two. The consultant
observes leaders in each area for a period of three days and records courageous behaviors on a
checklist of KOF elements. In a comments section of the checklist, the observer also records
employee reactions to the leaders’ behaviors.
The results of all three phases are analyzed to conclude overall the level of courage in
participatory leadership of the Supply Chain management division. The questions designed to
measure employees’ perceptions of participatory leadership versus answers from the leaders
themselves are closely compared. The questions using the Likert scale are analyzed to provide
a measure of the participatory leadership in the division. The example questions designed to
measure courageous behaviors are tallied to see how answers indicate supervisors would act
courageously versus the answers indicating a medium level of courage and no courage.
The observation results are coded and tallied to determine how often leaders behaved
courageously in a three-day period and those results are compared to the results of phase One
and Two. Based on tallied measurements from all three phases, averages of courage and
participatory leadership are calculated indicating the level of courage relative to the