Kappa Omicron Nu
Dorothy I. Mitstifer
Dr. Mitstifer is Executive Director of Kappa Omicron Nu Honor Society.
© Dorothy I. Mitstifer 2005
Contact: [email protected]
chapter introduces a leadership development model that raises the
question: Leadership for what? Leadership is about going
somewhere—personally and in concert with others in an organization1.
Although leadership is often discussed in terms of leader qualities and
skills, especially position (elected or appointed) leadership, the
matter of leadership as a responsibility of each professional receives
little attention. Organizations and programs do not flourish with one
leader in a group. Thus, more attention has to be paid to the definition
of leader as anyone willing to help (Wheatley, 2005). Leadership is not
about position only, but about taking responsibility as a member of a
group (whether 2-person or 60-person) to share leadership for the
the investments in time, money, and energy, leadership development
programs in many organizations are often piecemeal, focused on aspects
in isolation (Ready, 2004). They may offer the latest competency
program, an up-to-date performance management system, a sophisticated
assessment instrument, the latest electronic learning package, and/or a
program built around available speakers and facilitators known to the
leadership development committee. In these approaches, there is also a
danger in focusing on local issues to the exclusion of broad, sweeping
issues of importance to the national or international perspective for
the organization. Then, too, we live in a world that is different and
changing so fast that former approaches just don’t serve the current
and future needs of organizations.
organization needs to learn how to grow its own leaders, but it needs a
theoretical framework to accomplish this worthy objective. The South
American poet Machados declared, “The road is your footsteps, nothing
else” (Wheatley, 2005, p. 43). The leadership development model
described in this chapter is intended to guide your footsteps in a
direction that clarifies your personal and professional journey and
shares responsibility among colleagues for the well-being of your
organization. The following sections will discuss the basic components
of a leadership development model, a leadership theory, issue framing,
and a concluding section that ties everything together as a
comprehensive approach to leadership development.
Basic Components of the
Reflective Human Action Leadership Development Model
the premise is accepted that an organization cannot succeed without
position leadership and group members sharing leadership
responsibilities, it is then incumbent upon each organization to
establish an intentional program to develop leadership skills at all
levels. Presently, pre-professionals and professionals, alike,
experience leadership development in a haphazard manner. In some ways,
leadership of a profession is more important than content to carry on
its mission and practice. The proposed Reflective Human Action (RHA)
Leadership Development Model (Figure 1) focuses on (a) strengthening
self-awareness, (b) developing relationships and teamwork, (c)
understanding alliances and political realities, (d) understanding the
elements of a promising future of the organization, and coupled with (e)
Reflective Human Action (RHA) leadership theory as its foundation and
framing as a communications tool. It is hypothesized that the model will
enable individuals to assume leadership responsibilities as
professionals. At its base this model states the philosophy that
underlies leadership; the next level includes the basic components of
leadership development that are coupled with theory and with competency
in framing—all leading to the overall objective: organizational
leadership. The following section explains the four basic components of
Reflective Human Action (RHA) Leadership Development Model
© 2005 by
Dorothy I. Mitstifer. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
People live in their own world of self-generating beliefs,
which are often untested (Ross, 1994). These beliefs are the product of
past experience and inferences from observations. Argyris (1990) labeled
this phenomenon the “ladder of inference,” a mental pathway based
upon observable data and experiences and composed of the data selected,
the meanings assigned, the assumptions made, conclusions drawn, beliefs
adopted, and actions taken. If all of these components are unquestioned
and untested, these inferences may lead to misguided beliefs. But
one’s self-awareness can be strengthened by reflection (becoming more aware of one’s own thinking and reasoning), advocacy (making one’s thinking and reasoning more visible to others), and inquiry (inquiring into other’s thinking and reasoning) (adapted from Ross,
1994, p. 245).
From abstract to concrete – Self-awareness can be defined as the ability to become the object of
one’s own attention, to evaluate self. It requires the ability to
reflect—to step back and take a hard look at one’s information,
perspectives, assumptions, conclusions, beliefs, actions. Writing or
journaling may be useful in getting in touch with self. Another method
is mental imagery, which offers the opportunity to see oneself as seen
by others. Or it may require a quiet natural setting or a guided
discovery process to free one to look inward. Feedback could be helpful
from someone with whom you have an open, trusting relationship. The
metaphor of a lens might be beneficial in looking at self. What lens am
I using to look at self? A telephoto lens could help to pick out a few
more elements, or a wide-angle lens could help me see the big picture.
Some questions might include: What is the influence of my style and
habits on others? What more information could I gather? What are
alternative perspectives and assumptions? What impact does more
information and alternative perspectives and assumptions have on
conclusions and beliefs? How might my actions change with more insight?
Ross (1994, p. 245) suggested the following questions that
can assist a group in testing beliefs:
are the observable data behind that statement?
everyone agree on what the data are?
you run through your reasoning? What is the basis of your
you said _______, did you mean _______?
The ladder of inference is a tool for examination of
one’s own beliefs and actions and contributes to a healthy climate for
reflection in organizational matters.
Developing relationships and teamwork
leadership within an organization by definition requires that one’s
self-knowledge be applied in interaction with others to develop
relationships and teamwork. Collaboration is a worthy skill because it
provides many benefits: a unified approach, effective internal decision
making, reduced costs through shared resources, and more creative
outcomes (Weiss & Hughes, 2005). But collaboration is not easily
achieved. To improve collaboration, the issue of conflict must be
addressed. Differences in perspective, competencies, access to
information, and strategic focus cause conflict, so acknowledgement and
development of processes to manage it are necessary precursors to
effective collaboration. By exploring all of the differences, conflict
situations produce benefits by providing new insights and possibilities
for improving organizational decisions and outcomes.
collaboration requires both individual and network expertise.
Connectivity gained through networks produces synergistic outcomes, but
it has its downside as well: countless meetings can drain time and
energy. So, there is a “need to develop a strategic, sophisticated
view of collaboration . . . .” (Cross, Liedtka, & Weiss, 2005).
The appropriate degree of connectivity must be determined for achieving
specific results required of the organization. Some tasks will require
all players while others can be assigned to specific networks, all the
while maintaining openness and communication to ensure understanding and
abstract to concrete – Teamwork relies first of all
upon trust—a firm reliance on the integrity, ability, and character of
team members. Trust develops through sharing: telling and listening
about personal events and feelings; through vulnerability: being
perceived as having the capacity to err and willingness to acknowledge
it; through loyalty: making a commitment to goals and other members; and
through accepting others: welcoming the uniqueness of others. Thus team
building requires time to get to know each other, in informal and fun
environments (family picnics, team sports events, day-long trips) or in
a more formal team-building program. To guard against groupthink
(converging on agreement regardless of quality), there is a need to
ensure that the following roles of team members are functioning:
knowledge contributor, process observer, collaborator, people supporter,
challenger, listener, mediator, and gatekeeper.
effective team will create strategies, policies, and structures to guide
its work; identify the vision, values, and goals to respond to the
perceived need; develop action plans to achieve the goals, including a
timetable and assignment of tasks according to expertise; monitor and
evaluate the implementation; use feedback to refine plans if necessary;
communicate progress; and celebrate accomplishments. High performance is
gained through shared leadership, alignment of function and purpose of
the team, focus on tasks, shared responsibility, innovation and
creativity, diversity of ideas and expertise, effective problem solving,
open and honest communication, and responsiveness to needs and
opportunities. In contrast, teams need to be aware of pitfalls and
possible strategies if they are encountered. Team members working
independently or at cross-purposes may be prevented by making sure that
the vision and goals accomplish personal and team goals. Turf battles
slowing or stopping project progress may require open communication
regarding the conflict and redistribution of roles and responsibilities.
Negative, manipulative, or secretive interactions probably indicate the
need for more attention to team-building activities as well as open
team leaders (appointed or elected by team members) know that you
can’t force collaboration, but you can expect it. It requires
discipline and dogged persistence in expecting collaborative behavior.
When leaders “consistently ask questions that remind people of those
expectations, they tend to get what they expect” (Linden, 2003, p.
47). A collaborative leader should be able to
§ Articulate the project’s purpose
in a way that excites others.
§ Be an effective convener: get the
appropriate people to the table and keep them there.
§ Help the participants see their
common interests and the benefits possible through joint effort.
§ Generate trust.
§ Help the participants design a
transparent, credible process.
§ Assist the participants in win-win
negotiations to meet three related interests (needs of each partner, of
the product they are creating, and of the relationships involved).
§ Make relationship building a
priority for the group.
§ See that there’s a senior champion
[external leader] of the effort.
§ Help everyone engage in
collaborative problem solving and make creative use of their diverse
viewpoints when differences arise.
§ Celebrate small successes; share
§ Provide confidence, hope, and
resilience. (Linden, 2003, pp. 42-44)
tasks must be accompanied by the disposition to have persistence,
energy, and resolve; passion about achieving a collaborative outcome;
the ability to pull others rather than push them in a collaborative
direction; and the ability to think systemically and see the
interconnections (Linden, 2003, p. 45).
be recognized that involving persons in a group activity does not make a
team. Equally important is the realization that teamwork may not always
seem efficient, but it is likely to be most effective.
III. Understanding alliances and political realities
between and among people, are often uncertain, fluid, and complex. These
relationships often include alliances formed on the basis of values and
interests of a core of like-minded individuals. Thus, an organization
needs to examine the alliances in the group to find the mutual points of
agreement upon which to build trust. Although these alliances may be
political realities, it isn’t useful to label their activities as
political. So-called political intelligence, however, is needed to
identify how relationships are likely to affect success (Ciampa, 2005).
Political skills include the use of power and influence to enhance or
protect interests, thus group members need to be encouraged to go out of
their way to help the group find ways to be sensitive to the various
points of view and to be respectful of diverse spheres of interests.
Efforts need to be made to ensure that interactions and group processes
are transparent so that trust can build.
abstract to concrete – Politics
is the procedural dimension, the art and science of making choices about
the “means to the end,” in every human equation. Although the end can’t justify all
means, some actions dismissed as “politics” might be
misunderstandings or miscommunication. Because politics stems from a
diversity of interests, it is in the best interests of the organization
to explore the processes by which people engage in politics (Ratzburg,
the activity take place—inside or outside the organization
direction of influence—vertically or laterally in the organization
legitimacy of the action—generally
accepted differences or threats
behavior is often related to the investment persons have in the
organization, the alternatives they perceive they have, the level of
trust, and the perceived efficacy in influencing the group. Additional
contributions are ambiguous goals, scarce resources,
irrational decision-making processes, and organizational change.
Limiting factors have to do with open communication, reduction of
uncertainty, and increased awareness of the issues and activities of the
who effectively use political intelligence accurately “read”
political currents but don’t label them that way, recognize how
relationships affect issues and decisions, engage others to go out of
their way to help, and don’t seem self-serving. Holbeche
(2004) describes constructive political behavior as
in a principled way
strong support for constructive ideas
a personal reputation
others rather than directly using power
use of power and influence is critical in examining political realities.
Power defined as expenditure of energy toward action—the decision, the
passion, the self-determination,
and the will—is the invisible spirit behind commitment (Terry, 1993).
If conducting a power audit, an organization would first check the
energy level of the group. Is it lively and engaged, or is it flat and
dull? Is there anger, joy, frustration, or hostility? Is participation
and involvement high or low? Second, are all the critical stakeholders
represented? Third, what is the capacity to make and keep decisions?
Power is an essential part of action and of leadership. In order for
power to be dynamic, flowing, and changing over time, it should be
examined under the following themes (Terry, 1993, p. 74):
requires a prevailing sense . . . that energy, whether individual or
collective, is legitimate and appropriate.
requires a deep sense
of personal or collective self-determination.
involves outward expression.
translates into institutional forms such as reflection, debate,
voting, and consensus making.
requires current political information and skills in order to assess and engage in a current context.
depends on retrospective ownership of past actions.
alliances are based upon effective communication, treatment of allies as
equals, professionalism, and time spent in listening and strategizing.
that contribute to the development of alliances include (Heathfield, n.d.):
high quality work
conflicts and disputes immediately
an ally—giving credit and support
directly to an ally if you have a problem
By understanding alliances and
political realities and using constructive political behavior, leaders
can make things happen, unblock barriers to change, create buy-in on
organizational initiatives, produce greater organizational cohesion, and
speed up decision making. But leaders have the responsibility of
creating a receptive environment by using persuasion constructively.
“Persuasion promotes understanding; understanding breeds
acceptance; acceptance leads to action” (Garvin & Roberto, 2005,
IV. Understanding the elements of a promising future
opportunity, and risk could be called the hallmarks for establishing
promising futures (Price, 2004). Vision and direction need to be well
understood if organizations are to have a clear sense of where they are
going and to focus attention on this vision. With vision, smart choices
can be made with the end result in mind. Short-term goals are geared to
the larger picture. “Vision allows for a long-term proactive
stance—creating what we want—rather than a short-term reactive
stance—getting rid of what we don’t want” (Blanchard & Stoner,
2004, p. 22).
abstract to concrete - When pushing the boundaries, there
is always an element of risk. In this fast-paced world, we face
diversity, contradictions, and complexity. How do we converge our
energies to balance the opportunities and risks in the interest of a new
vision and excellence? It will be important to find answers to the
questions of “What is important?” “What is best?” “Who are we
impacting?” “What will be the consequences?” A promising future
offers these challenges; answers come from looking at current realities
and visions, using the data to establish core beliefs, converting
beliefs into principles, and proposing practices to implement the
beliefs (Donaldson, 2000). With courage and perseverance, leaders of an
organization can use these elements to define and recreate the entity
for a promising future.
strategies or models are available to guide future planning. Scenario
thinking (Scearce & Fulton, 2004) clarifies the issues, explores the
driving forces of change, synthesizes the driving forces to create
scenarios, develops a strategic agenda based on patterns and insights
that emerged in the scenarios, and creates a mechanism to monitor shifts
in the environment. This process is sometimes called scenario analysis.
planning models come in various forms. Most of them include a values
audit, formulation of mission and vision statements, external scan, a
performance audit, a gap analysis, strategic goals, an action plan for
strategic direction, a communication process for the plan, a process for
monitoring the implementation and continuous environmental surveillance,
and evaluation and control (Pfeiffer, Goodstein & Nolan, 1985, 1993,
1998; McNamara, n.d). Other models include Preferred Futuring (Lippitt,
1998), Future Search (Weisbord & Janoff, 1995), and Open
Space Technology (Owen, 1997).
thinking has gained currency over planning because of the tendency to be
“overly concerned with extrapolation of the present and the past as
opposed to focusing on how to reinvent the future” (Lawrence, 1999).
Leidka (as cited in Lawrence, 1999) proposed a closed circle model that
incorporates both notions: current reality®strategic
thinking: disrupting alignment®desired
planning: creating alignment. The following discussion describes
selected salient elements in establishing a promising future.
A mission statement describes why your organization exists, its
basic purpose. The intent is philosophical; it is a statement about
ends—products, outputs, or other effects. The statement must be broad
in detailing the mega-end—the difference the organization will make
for its beneficiaries. Sub-ends will be developed to reach the mega-end.
Carver (1993, 1997) is unusual in promulgating short and to the point
mission statements. Although this approach calls for more rigor, it
provides clarity in defining “what good” for “which people” in a
long-term perspective. The following checklist measures effectiveness
(adapted from Carver, 1993, p. 5):
§ Ends, not means
§ Effects, not efforts
§ Outcomes (nouns),
§ Brevity, not padded
§ Accuracy, not
§ Not too broad or too
§ Net value added, not
A vision statement includes a significant purpose, a picture of the
future, and clear values. Because a purpose is your organization’s
reason for existence, it must inspire excitement and commitment in order
to unleash productive and creative energy. A picture of the future
should focus on a concrete end result. Clear values describe the
behavior guidelines for daily decisions. In order to be effective,
however, the vision statement must be created through broad dialogue,
communicated often, and lived through daily actions.
purpose of a vision statement is to create an aligned organization where
everyone is working together toward the same desired ends. The vision
provides guidance for daily decisions so that people are moving in the
right direction, not working at cross-purposes with one another.
(Blanchard & Stoner, 2004, p. 23)
scanning is the exploration phase of thinking and planning for the
future and a large part of understanding the fit between an organization
and its external environment, “in light of the mission, organization
strengths and limitations, and external challenges and opportunities”
(Duttweiler, 2004). In addition to the SWOT analysis (strengths,
weakness, opportunities, and threats) most commonly used, there are
other techniques: situational analysis, assets mapping, concept mapping,
issue analysis/mapping, stakeholder/political mapping, SPOT (strengths,
problems, opportunities, and threats), among others. The task at hand
and the preferences of the planning group are relevant in selecting the
goalsto establish a promising future arise from prioritizing
values and needs identified during the strategic thinking and planning
process. To ensure follow-through, action planning operationally
defines each goal, the action steps which describe the what and how,
the resources required, who is responsible, when each step will be completed, and how evaluation will be
conducted. Action plans help teams stay organized, coordinate their
activities, and keep projects to implement the future on schedule. A simple Excel spreadsheet can be used to display the data. Other
alternatives include a Gantt chart to show an overview of tasks. The
Gantt includes the tasks on one side and columns of weeks, days, or
months on the other. Horizontal bars are drawn to indicate the period
each task will be performed. A PERT chart is a flow diagram of activity
boxes to depict tasks.
Although understanding the elements of a promising future is the most
important of the four basic components of leadership development, this
stage cannot be reached without the other three—self-awareness, healthy relationships and effective teamwork, and
political skill. That’s a tall order. The need for leadership
is clear. Each organization must decide what it is going to do about it.
The four basic components of the RHA Leadership Development Model, in
and of themselves, will not ensure excellence because leadership is a
multidimensional and multi-layered construct. A comprehensive theory and
philosophy is necessary to provide a foundation for leadership.
chapter described the theoretical framework of Reflective
Human Action (Figure 2),
a leadership theory and philosophy promulgated by Kappa Omicron Nu, and
authored by Frances E. Andrews, Dorothy I. Mitstifer, Marcia Rehm, and
Gladys Gary Vaughn (1995). This theory was based on the work of Terry
(1993) and Wheatley (1994). To recap—the principles for leadership
§ Accept chaos
§ Share information
§ Embrace vision
and the core
features of Reflective Human Action are
§ Ethical sensibility
§ Features of action
Figure 2. Reflection Human
Ó 1995 by Kappa Omicron Nu. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
These principles and core features are themes throughout
the four basic components of leadership development discussed above.
Hesselbine (2005, p. 4) succinctly makes the case for these themes:
“We need leaders who believe and embody in concept, language, and
action that leadership is a matter of how to be, not how to do . . . .
Reflective Human Action is a state-of-the-art comprehensive theoretical framework; its action
wheel is an astounding diagnostic tool for naming and framing
organizational issues and determining the strategic interventions
necessary to address the identified issues. A professional development
module and an online free course (kon.org/rha_online_files/rha_online2.htm) are available to learn about the leadership theory and for use in
self-managed life change.
Framing with Reflective Human Action Theory
. . . is grounded in the wisdom of knowing what is really happening,
which often means moving beyond fixing and managing” (Terry, 2003, p.
34). Leaders need to understand and interpret what is going on in an
organization and how individuals should relate to it; these actions
define issue framing. The particular means of accomplishing these two
tasks has either a beneficial or negative impact on what is done about
the issue or conflict. Thus, in an effective collaborative leadership
style, a core skill is the ability to name and frame issues in
organizations. A process is needed to learn the concerns people have
about an issue; identify the consequences, costs, and benefits
associated with various options for action regarding the issue; work
through inherent conflicts; and find shared direction or common ground
for action. In contrast to framing as the hot topic in political
circles, which often seeks to win the “framing game,” this
skill fulfills a powerful role in groups by evoking greater
understanding of diverse perspectives, embracing a wider range of views,
and finding intelligent choices about a shared future.
(1993, 2003) made a significant contribution by focusing on the
importance in leadership of answering the question of what is really
going on. Using his Action Wheel (1993) (see Figure 2 in previous
chapter), the process of framing diagnoses the issues and identifies the
interventions. In the complex world of today, the deep questions of
identity and meaning must be answered by engagement of spirit. Thus
leadership must make a lifetime commitment to answer the tough questions
of what is really going
on. Terry’s six features of action—mission, meaning, existence,
resources, structure, and power—require the overarching skill of issue
framing for fulfillment of human action. Whether or not all
features of action have been attended to and are functioning well, the
group is united in thinking, being, and doing.
abstract to concrete – Terry’s Action Wheel
facilitates the function of framing. The first step is to diagnose the
issue by examining the dialogue to name and frame it and then to use the
intervention indicated by the arrow to address the issue. Two cases
follow to explain the process.
Case 1 - Some of the
faculty members in the unit (or members of a student club) are upset.
Statements such as “The decisions are already made.” “Why
doesn’t someone just do something?” “Morale is really bad; the
wrong people seem to be making decisions.” “We can’t get things
done. I don’t know what’s happening.” These are cues to the issue
of POWER. The intervention should deal with MISSION. There are no
shortcuts; mission work is time consuming and hard work. It must involve
all members; considerable dialogue about goals—the ends—of the
organization is required. What are the outcomes that this organization
wants to achieve? What is it in business for? The more the involvement,
the more the satisfaction with decisions about mission.
Case 2 - Mildred is
a new administrator and she wants to balance the needs of her department
with the greater good of the institution. She has determined that before
she decides what changes are needed she will interview selected
employees to get a feel for their concerns. To her surprise, there
seemed to be a theme: “We can’t operate; there seems to be too much
red tape.” “There doesn’t seem to be any coordination.” I
don’t know how decisions are made.” “I think our department is
poorly organized.” This feedback indicates that the issue is
STRUCTURE; therefore the intervention should deal with POWER—with who
provides the energy for action. Examination of the power relations as
discussed previously in Component III needs to involve the whole group
in conducting a power audit, addressing personal and collective needs
and desires, and exploring ways to share power through constructive
aspects of the model [Action Wheel] are implicitly present in every act.
Therefore, all features of action must eventually be addressed in any
proposed action” (Terry, 1993, 91-92). Thus, the organization needs to
address all features of action; a change in one affects all the others.
No organization is “fixed” once and for all; the dynamic nature of
organizations requires continuous and productive activity to ensure
viability over time.
could be described as a communication tool for everyone working on an
issue or conflict. The objective is to redefine the perspectives,
values, and assumptions about issues to become more inclusive and
mobilizing to individuals in the group. The social context is created
for win/win choices about direction. Communication in the form of
conversation is a key element in forging organizational futures. In her
book, Turning to One Another:
Simple Conversations to Restore Hope to the Future, Wheatley (2002,
p. 35) noted that
It is difficult to
give up our certainties—our positions, our beliefs, our explanations.
These help define us; they lie at the heart of our personal identity.
Yet I believe we will succeed in changing this work only if we can think
and work together in new ways. Curiosity is what we need. We don’t
have to let go of what we believe, but we do need to be curious about
what someone else believes.
ability to listen without judgment needs to accompany the curious mind.
It isn’t the differences that divide; it’s judgments that do.
Listening for differences will create uncertainty, but “We can’t be
creative if we refuse to be confused. Change always starts with
confusion; cherished interpretations must dissolve to make way for the
new” (p. 37). From diversity a group can gain a rich array of ideas
and possibilities for finding common ground.
described several additional communication strategies2 for
framing issues. In all of the processes, inclusion and engagement of
diverse people and perspectives produce common ground, with underlying
shared needs, spirit, and experience. Even if win/win solutions are not
found, the complexity of issues will have been uncovered, and
participants will have gained an appreciation for the difficult task of
making some decisions.
It All Together
professed intention of this chapter was to describe the RHA Leadership
Development Model for developing professional leadership. After the four
components of the model were explored and juxtaposed with Reflection
Human Action theory, the overarching skill of issue framing was
discussed as a communication tool for mobilizing leadership action. When
responsibility is widely shared, leadership efforts are successful for
at least ten reasons (adapted from Terry, 1993, pp. 286-287):
A consensus is formed on desired outcomes.
No one loses.
Ownership is pooled.
Fear and hope combine to motivate cooperation.
People make things happen.
Non-positional leaders fill key roles.
Reliable information is gathered.
A flexible system of self-direction is used.
Individual talents are tapped.
Individuals with initiative and entrepreneurial spirit are
RHA Leadership Development Model focuses on a belief in people—their
capacity, energy, creativity, and commitment; on coherence, not control;
and on taking action. Organizations depend upon these factors to ensure
their endurability and viability in the future. But most important of
all, organizational endurability depends upon having a model to organize
its leadership development process and upon inviting broad participation
and engagement in rethinking, redesigning, and restructuring the
organization to achieve its mission. Taken together, leadership and
broad participation can create a sense of community.
the natural instinct for community does not necessarily lead to
organizational strength and endurability. Indeed, various cultures
(including professions) are increasingly creating specialty islands to
protect themselves from difference. Wheatley (2001, 2005) holds that
this phenomenon can be traced to the mistaken assumption that
organizations are machines. For example, the language of tool, build,
drive, and reengineer—all imply machine characteristics.
Instead, a different ideal is surfacing—organizations as adaptive,
flexible, self-renewing, resilient, learning, and intelligent. These
attributes are found in living systems—self-organizing systems.
need to adopt characteristics of a self-organizing system and to erase
all traces of command and
systems have what all leaders crave: the capacity to respond
continuously to change. In these systems, change is the organizing
force, not a problematic intrusion. Structures and solutions are
temporary. Resources and people come together to create new initiatives,
to respond to new regulations, to shift the organization’s processes.
Leaders emerge from the needs of the moment. (Wheatley, 2005, p. 33)
is the nature of self-organizing systems to be disturbed by outside
information, not directed by it. The sense-making capacity comes from
within the system. “This explains why organizations reject reports and
data that others assume to be obvious and compelling” (p. 37). Thus,
the system (organization) has to develop its own identity—a coherent
center and clarity about what sustains the organization through
turbulent times. The organization’s identity is formed through clarity
about vision, mission, and values and a current interpretation of its
history, present decisions and activities, and its sense of its future.
Such clarity of purpose then enables the organization to reach out to
its customers, partners, and others to gather information, develop
effective relationships, and demonstrate that its identity truly directs
an organization self-organizes as a living system,
. it develops shared understanding of what’s important, what’s
acceptable behavior, what actions are required, and how these actions
will get done. It develops channels of communication, networks of
workers, and complex physical structures. And as the system develops,
new capacities emerge. Looking at this list of what a self-organizing
system creates leads to the realization that the system can do for
itself most of what [position] leaders have felt was necessary to do to
it. (Wheatley, 2005, p. 66)
there is an implication that there is no place for the position leader,
organizations do need a chief leader to create a receptive environment
for creative thinking and experimentation, support self-organizing
responses, provide information and resources, create connections, and
keep the focus on who the organization wants to be and what it wants to
accomplish. Position leaders also need to coach and develop people, keep
the team vision alive, energize with a positive outlook, insist on
transparency, make hard decisions when necessary, probe and question,
inspire risk-taking, and celebrate to recognize contributions (Welch,
new worldview of organizations as living systems affects position
leaders in profound ways (Wheatley, 2001, pp. 15-19). The following
principles guide their work:
Meaning engages creativity – if we want people to be
creative we must uncover meaningful issues.
Depend on diversity – a mosaic of perspectives comes from
Involve everybody who cares – the only way to know what
will work is to invite everyone into the design process.
Diversity is the path to unity – a group can come together
as it recognizes its mutual interests.
People will always surprise us – people come together
through the act of listening.
Rely on human goodness – the impossible can be done through
creativity, caring, and human will.
better nature of humans rises, according to Wheatley, because we are
beginning to give up treating people as machines.
We are our only hope for creating a future worth working for. We can’t go it
alone, we can’t get there without each other, and we can’t create it
without relying anew on our fundamental and precious human goodness.
(2001, p. 20)
summary, then, the RHA Leadership Development Model is intended to bring
it all together by choreographing the interaction among layers—the
philosophy that underlies leadership, the basic components of leadership
development, leadership theory, and issue framing—to offer a
comprehensive approach to leadership development. A model is only a
beginning for organizational leadership. You are invited to join your
colleagues on the journey—one footstep at a time.
1 Organization in this chapter refers to all kinds of informal and formal groups: neighborhoods, communities, agencies,
professions, institutions, corporations—even families.
communication strategies for framing issues:
National Issues Forum (NIF) and
Study Circles – The NIF and Study Circles techniques employ deliberative
sessions based on issue books or discussion guides developed in advance
by leaders who produce briefings that are unbiased and engaging. These
briefings describe the context, some of the underlying issues within the
issue, three to five approaches to the issues, arguments pro and con,
and notes on the values and trade-offs associated with each approach.
When participants can find their own values in the approaches, they can
better listen to each other’s perspectives and are less likely to be
stuck in narrow opinions. See www.nifi.org and www.studycircles.org.
and Mediation – Conflict is framed in terms of interests. A moderator helps
people clarify and agree on legitimate interests so that the group can
work on searching for solutions to embrace all interests. Fisher and
Ury’s “Getting to Yes” is explained at www.colorado.edu/conflict/peace/example/fish7513.htm.
Communication – Conflict is framed in terms of unmet needs. A facilitator
works to clarify the unmet needs through questions, empathic
imagination, and reflective listening. See www.co-intelligence.org/P-nonviolentcomm.html.
Facilitation – A
choice-creating process of framing and reframing evolves dynamically
during conversation. Attacks are resolved through questions such as
“So, what’s your concern?” “What do you think should be done
about that?” The conversation continues by charting concerns, possible
solutions, problem statements, and data. Framing unfolds through
interaction that follows the group’s energy and evolving
understanding. See www.co-intelligence.org/P-dynamicfacilitation.html.
Process – An issue is
framed and reframed until a new collective frame emerges from the group.
Special attention is paid to ensure that everybody’s concerns are
adequately addressed. Through this means a final decision will have more
wisdom and broad support. See www.co-intelligence.org/P-consensus.html.
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