Monday, January 31, 2011

During a sermon a pastor friend of mine preached not long ago, he made a statement essentially saying that all one has to do to see a leader is to look for a servant. I have confronted and contemplated that saying and the implications surrounding it before... and I probably will again. It seems that many people, especially in Christian circles, have ascribed to some theory of servant leadership and consequently to the broader human relations foundations upon which scholars and others have built servant leadership and similar types of theories. Several have also suggested that they base such beliefs primarily on their interpretation of Mark 9:33-37, a passage that loosely states that those who would be greatest must be servants. Closer inspection suggests that these may have misinterpreted that passage since, "… God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him" (Acts 10:34b-35, NASB). Furthermore, the word for great in the Greek (ìÝãáò) has no relationship to the word for lead or leadership (åkóåíÝãêwò). Additionally, the observations that: (a) some people have placed service squarely into their descriptions of correct ways to lead, and (b) those descriptions have subsequently influenced their traditions, which now also define leadership as service and vice versa, have not accounted for the other observations that: (a) different people define service in different ways, and (b) what appears as a service to some might actually present as a disservice to others. Additionally, since "… faith, if it has no works, is dead…," (James 2:17b, NASB), then the suggestion that one had the correct motives or behavioral intentions would seem to provide little justification for the almost necessarily confounded results.

Another problem seems to emerge when defining leadership as service. This problem appears to relate to most all of the traits listed in all the leadership theories presented over the last century. The problem: organizations have routinely desired the exhibition of what theorists have called leadership traits from all members, not just leaders. For example, have organizations only desired for leaders to serve? Have they not also desired for followers and peers to serve, as well? In a study designed to identify major leadership traits and attributes, Winston and Patterson (2006) cited over 90 leadership variables they gleaned from a survey of over 150 articles and books on leadership (they actually found that the day they looked, a popular online database listed over 26,000 articles regarding leadership). Some of these variables included selecting; equipping; training; influencing; focusing others on the mission and objectives, causing others to expend spiritual, emotional, and physical energy, both willingly and enthusiastically; and using critical thinking skills, insight, intuition, persuasive rhetoric, and interpersonal communications. Most every organization would arguably describe these and most of the other attributes cited as competencies they desire in leaders. I posit, however, that it also appears likely that those same organizations would desire for their followers to exhibit these attributes, as well. Which organizations would not want followers to use critical thinking or superior communication skills when they confront challenging situations? Which organizations would not desire for their followers to understand and to buy into their missions and objectives, so well that those followers, independent of any leader inputs, motivate each other to provide discretionary effort to achieve tasks, objectives, and goals? Some theorists might arguably call that level of follower input a type of self-leadership or possibly a form of emergent leadership, but can they have it both ways? To me, it seems somewhat disingenuous to define leadership only in terms of functional position, while further suggesting that anyone in any position throughout an organization can exercise leadership, based on situational contingencies.

Winston, B., & Patterson, K. (2006). An Integrative Definition of Leadership. International Journal of Leadership Studies, 1(2), Article 1. Retrieved July 16, 2008 from

Friday, January 28, 2011

It's been almost a year since I began full-time PhD work at Regent University. Sometimes, I have felt like the professors were trying to hook a two-inch information fire hose to the back of my brain. At other times, it was only a one-inch hose. Therefore, as you might expect, I have developed some new thoughts, feelings, views, and opinions; some of these personal perspectives have changed; and others have remained relatively the same, but somewhat deeper. These new, changed, and deepened perspectives primarily concern leadership, but they also cover organizations, generally, and to a lesser extent research, and consulting. If you've followed this site, you've probably noted some of my new and changing leadership philosophy. This month, I'll try to encapsulate where I presently find myself.


I've operationalized a theoretical definition of leadership. It's different than many of the other ones I've read about and heard and therefore, different than what I used to accept as leadership. Where many, if not most, of the competing definitions have something more to do with a leader's ability (to create vision, influence followers, etc.), the definition I arrived at represents more of a process of leadership. As such, the phrase "anyone can be a leader" becomes much more than a slogan or a cliché that coaches use to try to encourage members to give their all. This theory implicitly suggests that there exists a strong likelihood that everyone is regularly confronted with leadership opportunities to which their preparation will determine the level of success of the resulting outcomes. Here's what I've come up with:

“Leadership is a response to emergent, contextual opportunities where, in a given situation, an expert in subject matter or process exercises authority and assumes personal responsibility and accountability in directing activities of self and others, with the behavioral intention of minimizing or eliminating an ethical gap between what is and what should be, as defined by concerned stakeholders.”

Several authors' contributions guided my path to this theory. The most persuasive of them included Richard Barker[1], Bruce Malina[2], and Michael Mescon[3], with added persuasion from Charles Manz and Chris Neck[4], Robert Terry[5], and Ralph Stacey[6]. Here's some food for further thought. Leaders can develop responses both proactively and reactively. Emergent refers to anything non-routinized. Contextual refers to anything specific, as opposed to general. One can grasp or receive authority. No one can hold another person responsible for anything[7] (the root word is response -- one responds, he or she accepts responsibility or not). The level of accountability applied should equate to the level of authority given or grasped. Providing direction requires content or process expertise -- that's where I believe leadership style enters (great man, transactional, situational, transformative, servant, etc.). One can lead others, as well as individually follow his or her own lead. Behavioral intentions count at least as much toward building and maintaining relationships as the work does and after the work is over, relationships will still be around. Because it deals with ethics, all leadership concerns the spiritual aspects of one's self. As important as the desires of self and followers become, leaders must also consider the concerns of members of their global neighborhood when directing outcomes.


A huge, HUGE amount of literature exists regarding organizations. Much of it describes, defines, and explains these groupings of human beings as systems. These systems present as open, closed, rational, natural, chaotic, orderly, bounded, and unbounded, among others. The more I've contemplated "systems theory," the more I've come to regard it as potentially cold and impersonal. Whether an organization consists of 2 or 2,000,000 people, the operative word is still people. In light of the works of Thomas Merton[8], Ralph Stacey, and my dialogue cohort, I can no longer look at organizations as systems and not see people. Additionally, because these organizational systems consist of people, they exist with much more complexity, adaptability, and dynamism than do typical mechanical or electrical systems[9]. Consequently, outcomes may relate more to the emerging network than they do to any plan of action. I believe Stacey would say that with a bit more resolve, however, I also believe the more closely the members' collective values align with each other's, as well as the organization's vision, mission, and plan of action, all other things being equal, the more likely they are to achieve the planned outcomes, regardless of the level of complexity or the emergence of concerns calling for adaptive solutions[10].


I used to believe that one's research stood on its own merit, somewhat separate from community service and from teaching. I now believe that they work together, along with the integration of information across disciplines. Standards, however, create issues. Disparity exists regarding scholars' roles; both between responsibilities (discovery, integration, application, and teaching)[11] and between institutions. While a concern for fairness should probably influence outcomes -- the goals, preparation, methods, results, presentation, and critique[12], where does the relationship element enter in? What role does psychological, emotional, familial, and spiritual formation of an individual member play? How do we and how should we measure success; by the output, growth, or relationship we develop with the member who conducts the research?

An additional overriding concern I have with quantitative, quasi-experimental research in social sciences applications is the number of researchers who are willing to tout great breakthroughs and generalize their findings, while forming limited theoretical foundations and reporting survey results that consist of R2 values of .30 or .40 at most. This goes hand-in-glove with what sociologist, Peter Berger[13] notes about research in his discipline and what I believe to be true in social sciences generally; that any trend toward narrow empiricism, leaves a discipline lacking in theoretical depth.

Finally, I believe that researchers in leadership studies are generally biased in their assumptions about who contributes the leadership processes in organizational settings. Much of the literature suggests that leaders emerge throughout any organization, but when researchers in some of that same literature interview or otherwise survey leaders, they only interface with CEOs, COOs, and others in the upper echelon or strategic management teams, as leaders. In doing so, they convey the implicit message that everyone else in the organization serves exclusively in follower roles. Word up -- you can't have it both ways. You either believe the differences between leadership and management are matters of semantics (e.g., doing the right things or doing things right, leadership as a subset of management, etc.) or you believe that leadership is a process that is separate from management or functional position and that any person in an organization, qualified by their content or process knowledge or experience, can lead and therefore, should lead. If you want to know where a researcher stands on this issue, just figure out to whom s/he assigned the questionnaire(s) labeled "leader" and the questionnaires labeled "follower."


I still believe the simplest consulting solutions are the best solutions. They present the least opportunity for miscommunication throughout an organization. Additionally, consulting is based on trust. One might have the best solution available to share, but if s/he has not built an atmosphere of trust and collaboration with the client, that expertise can be rendered relatively moot in most cases.[14] The old adage that people don't care how much you know, until they know how much you care, certainly applies to the role of a consultant. In fact, in many ways I see the consulting role as very similar to a leadership role. Some member of an organization brings in a consultant, either from inside or outside. He or she possesses process or content knowledge and attempts to solve some dilemma. The difference, however, is that as a consultant, he or she must not accept authority to conduct business that the principal should rightfully conduct. It's not fair to other stakeholders who count on the principal. It's not fair to the consultant, who is arguably at a cultural disadvantage as compared to a principal. It's not fair to the principal, who receives rewards (accolades or punishment) based only on the implementation of decisions of another person, the consultant.

[1] Barker, Richard A. "The Nature of Leadership." Human Relations 54.4 (2001): 469-493.
[2] Malina, Bruce J. The Social World of Jesus and the Gospels. London, UK: Routledge, 1996.
[3] Mescon, Michael H. “The Dynamics of Industrial Leadership.” The Journal of the Academy of Management 1.2 (1958): 13-20.
[4] Manz, Charles, and Chris Neck. "Inner Leadership: Creating Productive Thought Patterns." Academy of Management Executive 5.3 (1991): 87-95.
[5] Terry, Robert W. Authentic Leadership: Courage in Action. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1993.
[6] Stacey, Ralph D. The Challenge of Human Interdependence: Consequences for Thinking about the Day to Day Practice of Management in Organizations. European Business Review, 19.4 (2007): 292-302.
[7] See Avery, Christopher M., Meri Aaron Walker, and Erin O'Toole Murphy. Teamwork is an Individual Skill. San Francisco: Barrett-Koehler, 2001.
[8] Merton, Thomas. No Man is an Island. Orlando, FL: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1978.
[9] See Arrow, Holly, Joseph E. McGrath, and Jennifer L. Berdahl. Small Groups as Complex Systems: Formation, Coordination, Development, and Adaptation. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2000.
[10] See Heifetz, Ronald A., and Donald L. Laurie. "The Work of Leadership." Harvard Business Review 75.1 (1997): 124-34.
[11] Boyer, E. L. Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professoriate. New York: Jossey-Bass, 1997.
[12] Glassick, C. E., M. T. Huber, and G. I. Maeroff. Scholarship Assessed: Evaluation of the Professoriate. New York: Jossey-Bass, 1997.
[13] Berger, Peter L. Invitation to Sociology: A Humanistic Perspective. New York: Anchor Books, 1963.
[14] Block, Peter. Flawless Consulting. San Francisco: Pfeiffer. 1981.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Leadership is not servant-hood. They might ideally present similar constructs, but the similarities one finds between servant-hood and leadership arguably becomes more than a paradox, oxymoron, or conundrum. The relationship between these two presents a non-sequitur. Conder this: Did Jesus ever really command any of His disciples to serve other people in order to lead them? In several instances, He stated or implied that no one should serve anyone other than the Father (Matthew 4:10, 6:24). Likewise, the Apostle Paul stated that believers should serve the Lord (Romans 12:12 RSV). Moreover, Jesus arguably did not lay down His leadership, but rather He laid down His lordship, when He took upon Himself the form of a servant. Yes, He washed feet and yes, that was probably an act of leadership, but consider the context. Did He do it to exercise/demonstrate leadership? Was He showing them how to lead or was He leading or discipling them in how to love? At the end of the day, servant leadership serves only as a form of leadership: a tool used to direct others to accomplish a mission or to achieve goals or objectives. Moreover, as theorized in the modern era, servant leadership has often appeared to require that leaders acquire and maintain knowledge of followers' needs. It would seem to demonstrate profound naiveté or the height of arrogance if one advanced a theory that human leaders have or could develop what it takes to discern absolutely between the needs of employees, clientele, and stakeholders.

Love serves as the end all to meet all. The Scriptures place it in the unique, number one position. Additionally, He commanded us to love not just our neighbors, not just our employees and friends, but also to love our enemies (Matthew 5:43-48). How can modern theories of servant leadership reconcile that? When we love people as the end, we place ourselves in a position that compels us to acknowledge their value and the potential power they bring to any group to which they belong. The associated constructs surrounding love extend beyond the boundaries of groups and into their environments. Moreover, leadership is also not agapao, though love may play a role in well-intentioned leadership, especially in the forms of passion and compassion. Ultimately, regardless of the way we define leadership, it appears that as believers, we must employ leadership as merely one of several means to fulfill the Great Commandments. The affect of defining the leadership acts of Jesus or anyone else as the ends, rather than the means, seem fraught with potential peril: "There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death" (Proverbs 16:25, RSV).

Friday, January 21, 2011

Garvin (2005) criticized Senge's (1994) approach to the development of learning organizations in that it did not provide a framework for action. Garvin appeared to have missed Singe's point. In the original work, Senge's mission included establishing cultural assumptions to embrace, not promoting specific structural processes to employ. One must arguably recruit and convince disciples before the true development of those disciples may begin. Senge, along with some other researchers, later provided a "field book" (1994) that offered more specific directions on the structures of learning organizations. Senge appears to have understood that the questions to which Garvin needed answers (e.g., How will managers know when their companies have become learning organizations? What concrete changes in behavior are required? What policies and programs must be in place? How do you get from here to there?) would find their best answers from the ones creating and shaping programs to meet specific, local needs. Conclusion: real problems probably do not result so much from structure or implementation issues  as they reside with vision and commitment issues.


Garvin, D. A. (2005). Building a learning organization. In W. L. French, C. H. Bell, Jr., & R. A. Zawacki (eds.), Organization development and transformation: Managing effective change (6th ed., pp. 274-287). Boston: McGraw-Hill Irwin.

Senge, P. M. (1994). The fifth discipline: The art and practice of the learning organization. New York: Currency Doubleday.

Senge, P. M., et. al. (1994). The fifth discipline fieldbook: Strategies and tools for building a learning organization. New York: Currency Doubleday.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Sorry I've been so late with this month's post. We are finally settled in (more or less), here in Virginia Beach, and I am ramping up to begin class in a few days. I'll be regularly posting some of my dialogues, so please comment (challenge), as appropriate.

A recent review of servant leadership literature revealed ambiguity as to who leaders are and how we measure their success. Much of the literature describes how difficult it is to accurately identify and quantify variables in leadership research, yet typical survey instruments often include items that arguably relate more closely to values rather than behaviors, thereby limiting researcher's abilities to obtain and measure valid results. Moreover, disregarding questions specifically concerning management, one could equally apply to followers many of the items in any of the leader surveys reviewed.

Furthermore, a bias appears to exist throughout the literature that inextricably relates leadership to management or functional position within an organization. Some theorists tout that those who employ the servant leadership model must focus on "employees" rather than the organization. This notion arguably implies that leadership is necessarily a management function that these theorists tie to positional authority in organizations. However, anecdotal evidence and some other researchers (Terry, 1993; Rost, 1995) suggest that one may find leadership, by some definitions, at any level in any organization.


Rost, J. C. (1995). Leadership: A discussion about ethics. Business Ethics Quarterly, 5(1), 14.

Terry, R. W. (1993). Authentic leadership: Courage in action. New York: Jossey-Bass.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Some style guides have prescribed that in citing the Bible or other "classical" works, they do not require the inclusion of reference entries. Some writers have argued that not citing the Bible as a reference relegates it to a position of lesser importance than other references. Some members of this last group have further argued that Christian researchers have an obligation to demonstrate the importance of insuring the Bible's prominent position and status, as compared to other references. They have further argued that researchers should accomplish this by citing the Bible in reference sections when they quote or discuss Scriptures in their professional writings. To me, this proposition seems wrong headed. Scholars through the ages have arguably exalted the Bible to a position where modern resesearchers need not include in reference sections the Bible and some other works found in historical literature... Reference sections that include all of the "ordinary" references. Rather than considering the Bible and the other exempt tomes as lesser works, these scholars have actually positioned them as greater works. Therefore, it seem plausible to infer that those who force a position of includingthe Bible into reference sections actually demote and diminish the Bible from the otherwise exalted position it so rightly deserves.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Burns (1978, p. 20) said that transformational leadership "occurs when one or more persons engage with others in such a way that leaders and followers raise one another to high levels of motivation and morality." What if the organization in question does not require "high levels of motivation and morality" to successfully complete the tasks, objectives, goals, and mission set before it or that it chooses to pursue?

Will followers not provide more discretionary effort toward accomplishing a mission, if they acquire more ownership of their organizations' visions. Does not vision ownership relate directly and proportionately to transformational leaders' abilities to motivate followers. However, a resulting question might include, "Will organizations utilizing transfromational leadership require or desire adding value beyond the minimum acceptable level necessary to accomplish the mission or to realize the vision?" Arguably, transformational leaders' uses of successful motivational techniques could result in organizational dysfunction, if, when a given organization achieves the nominal outcomes it expects it does not subsequently reward individuals for providing discretionary effort -- that effort beyond the minimum required.

Burns, J.M. (1988), Leadership. New York: Harper and Row.

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