Saturday, October 6, 2012



Do any leaders possess the skills and abilities required to single-handedly pull any group completely together, especially when using the term "leader" only in reference to people who fill the top functional positions in teams, group, or organizations? Some researchers have suggested that the complex, adaptive nature of organizations, generally, makes the possibility of any one person directing the behaviors of other members in the absolute realization of a preconceived vision highly unlikely (Arrow, McGrath, & Berdahl, 2000; Streatfield, 2001). Although it also appears, a priori, that a values alignment between members (regardless of functional position) could likely contribute to unified visions of future states of organizations and therefore, ultimately result in the better realization of their preconceived visions, at least one other scholar has suggested that it presents as unlikely that members could align their values to that degree, over the long haul (Vince, 2004). Specifically, opportunities and challenges emerge to confront organizations in processes of internal integration and external adaptation, the responses to which cause members to adopt new or modified values and priorities (Griffin & Stacey, 2005; Schein, 1992; Stacey, 2005). Notwithstanding the potential role of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers, some other scholars have actually theorized that leader effectiveness could correlate better to serendipity -- a contextual application of luck, happenstance, or being in the right place at the right time, than to his or her skillfulness in terms of directing the achievement of organizational outcomes (Svensson & Wood, 2005).

This doesn't even address the question of who actually serve as leaders at any level, at any time, within any organization, regarding any opportunities. Arguably, in an organizational setting, functional supervisors should have the "lion's share" of expertise, but in the internet age, who can guarantee that they will possess the most experience in any organization on any given topic? The bulk of members in many organizations include professionals that possess extensive work experience, including participation in international teams. If the job of leaders ultimately consists of directing behaviors toward the closure of perceived ethical gaps, created by emergent opportunities for which no procedure exists, then I posit that many members in many work centers, departments, and divisions could take the leadership mantle for themselves and for other members. The role of the functional supervisors, at those points and maybe at all times, becomes one of facilitator of the learning and leading processes (not necessarily qua servant leader, but actually as a servant of the other participants within the work division). In the role of process expert and facilitator, the functional supervisors can then provide the support necessary to let other members experience leadership in their own rights, as they respond to emerging opportunities; the functional supervisors can rework the flow of resources and organizational structures to meet members' emerging needs; and they can thereby position themselves to better mitigate the outcomes of conflicts and frustrations.

Arrow, H., McGrath, J. E., & Berdahl, J. L. (2000). Small groups as complex systems: Formation, coordination, development, and adaptation. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Schein, E. H. (1992). Organizational culture and leadership (2nd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Stacey, R. (2005). Introduction: Emergence and organizations. In R. Stacey (Ed.) Experiencing emergence in organizations: Local interaction and the emergence of global pattern (pp. 1-16). New York: Routledge.

Stacey, R. & Griffin, D. (2005). Introduction: Leading in a complex world. In R. Stacey & D. Griffin (Eds.) Complexity and the experience of leading organizations (pp. 1-16). New York: Routledge.

Streatfield, P. J. (2001) The paradox of control in organizations. New York: Routledge.

Svensson, G., & Wood, G. (2005). The serendipity of leadership effectiveness in management and business practices. Management Decision, 43(7/8), 1001-1009.

Vince, R. (2004). Rethinking strategic learning. London: Routledge.

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