Monday, June 30, 2014

It ranks as critically important for leaders to embrace and adopt the values and behaviors, idealized and promoted by organizations, as representing their desired cultures and worldviews. However, I suggest that organizations that limit their leadership development efforts to instructing current and potential leaders that leadership values and behaviors merely represent those values and behaviors that organizations really desire from all members that they will thereby, necessarily limit the intentional development of "real" leadership skills. Additionally, while some people seem to possess gifts for providing directions; others seem to have a need to learn the associated skills, throughout their organizations. In any case, here's my list of what leaders have to do differently from everyone else in organizations. Of course, by leader and leadership, I refer to people in any organizations who take up the mantle of going out ahead and showing self or others the way (Greenleaf, 1977, p. 117) and to what they do in that role, respectively. I say this because I believe that the appropriate use of leadership skills does not depend on positions or ranks, but rather, on roles (either formal or informal). Given that, and with all other things equal, it appears that leaders must possess the abilities to:

1. Identify and prioritize desired outcomes
Leadership should only ever enter the picture, when members of organizations do not know where to go or how to get there. If members know where to go and how to get there, they may need accountability partners (otherwise managers) to keep them on the "straights and narrows," but they don't need leadership. Therefore, the uses of leadership only come into play when management (or some other, similar sets of skills) won't work. Why? Because most organizations have identified and publicized their desired destinations and outcomes with most all of their members; and they have validated and standardized most of the processes and procedures needed to reach those desired outcomes and destinations -- especially at the operative and coordinative levels (Kast and Rosenzweig, 1979).

2. Direct the activities and behaviors of self and others
Showing people the way requires providing them with directions. Even though some people have seemed to only correlate the concept of "providing directions" with taking authoritative command and control; objectively, in most cases, individuals have to take personal responsibility for the paths that their organizations will follow. Additionally, in most cases, most organizations hold the designated leaders accountable for the associated outcomes, regardless of whether those leaders use authoritative, coercive, democratic, or participative methods of decision-making to determine those paths. For example, when lost drivers stop to ask local people to show (otherwise lead) them to their desired destinations, they ask those locals for directions. No shame exists in not knowing the ways to go or in not knowing the destinations. Neither should shame exists in providing directions. Shame might only ought to exist, if and when leaders abused their authority, to determine or provide provide the required directions.

3. Chart courses without maps
People should use the leadership skill set, when they or their would be followers, for whatever reasons, can't follow validated, standardized procedures, in timely matters. Specifically, leadership serves as the "go to" skill set when: (a) no validated, standardized processes and procedures exist that would allow people to reach their desired destinations or outcomes; (b) someone needs to make a choice, as to which validated, standardized processes and procedures to employ; and (c) the existing processes and procedures no longer result in the efficiency or effectiveness desired by the relevant stakeholders -- and not knowing the destinations fits into this last category. Arguably, all other situations most appropriately call for the uses of skill sets other than leadership. Additionally, would be followers who know what to do and how to do it can wind up resenting would-be leaders who propose new destinations or new directions for getting there, without sharing good reasons for adopting either.

4. Discern the existence of opportunities, challenges, and pitfalls
From time to time, especially in situations where traveling through relatively unknown territory, "bumps in the road" will emerge. These might include budget overruns, "scope creep," or any of a myriad of other political, structural, or resource-based occurrences; any of which could prove beneficial or detrimental to the organization, in the short or long runs. Leaders who can't or won't look for and identify relevant concerns, necessarily insert greater elements of risk into reaching desired outcomes and destinations.

5. Create innovative solutions
This most aptly represents the course adjustments that leaders need to make, in response to emerging opportunities, challenges, and pit falls that teams typically encounter along the ways to their ultimate destinations. This step addresses those bumps in the road, discussed in the previous step. After all, discerning that needs exist, for which no standard processes exist, necessitates the use of leadership, by definition.

6. Take responsibility and accountability for processes employed and outcomes achieved
This is where the "hows" of leadership really enter into the picture. Look at the 90+ attributes of leadership that Winston and Patterson (2006) identified as characteristics that they and other authors have suggested that leaders should value and employ. In their list, they included values like trustworthiness, care for followers, concern for outcomes, and just about any other values and related behaviors that most people have desired for everyone (not just leaders) to embrace in their given organizations. However, regardless of whether or not other members take responsibility or put themselves in situations whereby others may hold them accountable for how organizations do business, both internally and externally, embracing and displaying the desired attributes of their organizational cultures represents the "bottom line" for those who would lead.

Greenleaf, R. K. (1977). Servant leadership: A journey into the nature of legitimate power and greatness. New York: Paulist Press.

Kast, F. E., & Rosenzweig, J. E. (1979). Organizations and management: A systems and contingency approach (3rd ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.

Winston, B. E., & Patterson, K. (2006). An integrated definition of leadership. International Journal of Leadership Studies, 1(2), 6-66. Access this at:



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