An Analytical Voyage of Discovery

“Understanding the Challenge …”

Framing is:

“The strategic use of information to define and articulate a leadership or negotiating issue or situation”.

(Singh, 2010: 52)

The practice of framing originates from the agenda-setting tradition (Goffman, 1974) although its use today – particularly within the context of leadership or negotiation – focuses more on the issues at hand (i.e. the essentials of the leadership or negotiation process and intended outcomes) rather than theory.

Framing is a practical tool and technique to be applied and is a critical element of problem solving. For example,it is suggested that:

Leaders will tend to frame a problem around their own perceptions and experiences rather than focusing on the characteristics of the problem that face them responding to what is described as a so-called “wicked problem” (with undefined characteristics) as if it were a tame problem (one that is easily defined and in which tried-and-tested solutions can be ‘taken off the shelf and applied to the problem’ (Brookes, 2016).

Leadership and Negotiation challenges are more distinctive forms of problem solving and decision making.

Framing is important in both setting an agenda but also in providing a sense of meaning. This is something that the media do very effectively but not always in a way that reflects reality! Framing and influencing are inextricably aligned

Framing involves focusing attention on some aspects of a challenge and leaving other aspects out. You may omit an issue as it is (in your view) irrelevant, or that it can ‘throw a spanner in the works’. In other words, because the challenge act as a distractor or it does not support your interests. However, as always, there is a danger in following this approach unless you give as much attention to the preparation of your frame as you do to other aspects of the challenge. What you may see as irrelevant, may be of vital interest to the other people so neglecting this counter interest may put you at a disadvantage.

Recall from our section on creating Intelligence:

There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know.

Framing, Influence and Persuasion

A key question to determine now, having appreciated the importance of framing, is the extent to which the framing of challenges can lead to the increased influence.


Understanding the difference between Hard and Soft Power and Influence.

A close association is often made between ‘power and influence’. The two drivers of behavioural change cannot and do not sit in a vacuum. Influencing skills are one form of the power of persuasion at one end of the spectrum, with coercion and intimidation being at the other! The classic study on ‘power’ is that of French and Raven, whose five-fold spectrum of power (French et al., 1960) is the most well-known. We will consider this further in later sections, (and later additions to the five sources), but summarise the five sources as follows:

Power matrix adapted from French and Raven 1960

Some Practical Reflections for you on Framing


Bratton, J., K. Grint, and D. Nelson 2005 Organizational Leadership. Mason, OH : South Western.

Brookes, S. (2016) The Selfless Leader: A Compass for Collective Leaders. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

French, J. R. P., Raven, B., Cartwright, D. & Zander, A. F. (1960) The bases of social power

Goffman, E. (1974) Frame analysis: an essay on the organization of experience. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

Singh, B. D. 2010. Negotiation & Counselling: text and cases, New Delhi, Excel Books.


Think about these examples.


In a negotiation, several options and alternatives will be available. The way that these options are framed within a negotiation is likely to have a significant impact on either parties willingness to reach an agreement.


There are several different elements that

we can consider when framing a leadership issue or negotiation.


Two basic scenarios on framing

You are in a store, about to buy a new watch for £100. As you wait for the sales clerk, a friend of yours comes by and says she has seen an identical watch on sale for £70 in another store two streets away. You know the service and reliability of the other store are just as good as this one. Will you travel two streets to save £30?

Now consider this similar situation.

You are in a store, about to buy a new video camera for £800. As you wait for the sales assistant, a friend of yours comes by and says she has seen an identical camera on sale for £770 in another store two streets away. You know the service and reliability of the other store are just as good as this one. Will you travel two streets to save the £30?

What would you do?

When you have thought about this, select the discussion below.

Click for Discussion


Nearly 90 per cent of the managers presented with the first problem said they would travel the two blocks. However, in the second scenario, only about 50 percent of the managers would make the trip. What makes the £30 so attractive in the first scenario and considerably less attractive in the second?

What do you think?  

Make a brief note in your reflective journal.  You can then compare your thoughts to those of others in the next section.

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The Selfless Leader