In the fast pace of the 21st century there is a demand for effective leaders capable of handling the internal and external changes occurring in our organizations. This paper seeks to inform the reader because change is natural; it is constant; it is inevitable. But, what constitutes effective leadership is the question? The main purpose of this paper is to offer 10 recommendations toward effective leadership that are outcomes of an eclectic leadership approach – Facilitative Social Change Leadership Theory (FSCL). The FSCL approach is a melding of Social Change Theory, Social Change Leadership Theory, and Transformational Leadership Theory as well as the work of Tichy and DeVanna.
Introduction and Framework
In a review of the literature numerous definitions of leadership can be found. This same body of literature suggests a variety of viewpoints on the necessary competencies, skills, values, and behaviors which are deemed key toward effective leadership.
For examples, according to Olsen (2009), a key area of leadership development is an understanding of oneself: one’s ability to manage oneself by behaving according to one’s values. That is, to be a person of character with a sense of purpose and commitment. Attention to such issues is a foundational element of effective leadership. A leader’s sense of self contributes to the ability to understand others and work with them toward the achievement of common goals.
In addition, it can be claimed that leadership is generally understood to be a dynamic activity that ultimately affects social and organizational change. In On Becoming a Leader Warren Bennis (1989) noted that learning to lead is “learning to manage change” (p. 145). It has been suggested that “leaders create and change
cultures” (Schein, 1992, p. 5). More recently Crawford, Brungardt, and Maughan (2000) have gone so far as to claim that “conceptually defined, leadership is about creating change” (p. 114).
Effective leaders seek answers about how to survive in a rapidly changing environment. As noted above, to be successful a leader must understand and effectively manage internal and external social changes to ensure survival. Additionally, leaders need to understand the phenomenon of leadership and learn effective ways of dealing with the chaos that surrounds them – to move forward, to achieve, to make progress – within and outside of their organizations.
Leadership education has become more prominent in the United States and globally with many venues delivering educational and training programs. For example, as reflected in many mission statements of colleges and universities, educational institutions seek outcomes related to student leadership development and reaching higher levels of developmental maturity in the areas of leadership skills, knowledge, and competence. (Haber & Komives, 2009)
In a tradition of inquiry, this paper seeks to inform the reader because “the first step is understanding” (Gardner, 1990, p. xiv). The Facilitative Social Change Leadership (FSCL) approach as offered herein was chosen due to its focus on effective leadership that is relational, change-directed, learned, and transformative in its process. The focus on the individual as a leader is explored in order to focus on some of the foundational aspects of leadership. Leadership effectiveness has entered an age requiring a fundamental shift in the way leadership is understood and practiced. Contemporary environments demand leaders and followers working together. I will offer 10 recommendations toward effective leadership which flow from an understanding of this theoretical approach to leadership.
Further, the paper examines FSCL’s applicability to effective leadership as it applies to the empowerment of leaders and followers as they transform their organizations as a result of ongoing social changes within and outside their organizations.
To ensure understanding throughout this paper, several definitions are offered at this time.
Community – a social group, department, organization, government agency, or society at large.
Change – a conversion or shift in the internal and external culture or environment of a social group, department, organization, government
agency, or society at large.
Social Change – to bring about or alter conditions to improve the human welfare.
Organizational Social Change – to bring about or alter conditions in the internal and external culture or environment to improve the human welfare of personnel in a department or organization.
Social Change Leadership Theory (SCLT) – the “what, how, and why” of leadership to create change – personal, organizational, and societal by promoting the development of social change agents who address and solve community problems (Crawford, et al., 2000).
Facilitative Social Change Leadership Theory (FSCL) – a leadership approach adapted from Transformational Leadership Theory, Social Change Leadership Theory, and Social Change Theory as well as the work of Tichy and DeVanna (cited in Northouse, 2004) that suggests how leaders can be effective as they seek to empower followers in the ongoing process of meeting the challenges that arise due to changes or shifts in their internal culture and external environment.
Transformational Leadership – a leadership approach that embodies individualized consideration that gives personal attention to subordinates, intellectual stimulation that values the intellect, encourages the imagination, and challenges old ways of doing things, inspirational motivation that involves envisioning an attractive attainable future that is aligned to individual and organizational needs, and idealized influence that exhibits persistent pursuit of objectives, confidence in the leader’s vision, strong sense of purpose, and relational trust. (Bass, cited in Boyd, 2009)
Review of Leadership Theory Literature
In the past it was believed by many that certain personal traits enhanced a person’s ability to lead. An example of this theory is Bernard Bass’ Great Man Theory. While a few people may still hold to this theory, it pretty much died out in the early 1900s. (Crawford, et al., 2000)
Others like Ralph Stodgill (1948) believed that leaders were born with certain leadership genes that gave them the leadership traits necessary to lead. This approach later expanded to include skills (learned behaviors). At this point in the development of leadership theory it was believed that physical characteristics, social background, intelligence, ability, personality, task related abilities, and social characteristics all combined to make one an effective leader.
More modern approaches in leadership theory include Contemporary Traits Theory. One example is Stephen R. Covey’s 7-Habits of Highly Effective People. Covey (1991) offers seven traits which make a person an effective leader: (a) be
proactive, (b) begin with the end in mind, (c) put first things first, (d) think win/win, (e) seek first to understand, then to be understood, (f) synergize, and (g) sharpen the saw.
Another modern approach to leadership was put forth by Daniel Goleman. His approach deals with the leader’s Emotional Intelligence Quotient (EQ).
Goleman’s approach focuses on (a) self awareness, (b) self-regulation, (c) motivation, (d) empathy, and (e) social skills. (Goleman, Boyztzis, & McKee, 2004)
For many years people subscribed to the traditional transactional leader approach. DuBrin (1995) noted transactional leaders complete transactions through a focus on administrative work and giving rewards for good performance. Kouzes and Posner (1995) referred to this type of a leader as simply a manager. Leaders fitting this label tend to focus on the most basic of human needs identified in Maslow’s hierarchy – physical, safety, and belonging needs. Hackman and Johnson (2009) indicated this type of leader is a passive one who establishes reward criteria while attempting to maintain the status quo.
Kurt Lewin and Ronald Lippitt published their research on leadership styles. Along with Ralph White, they offered a continuum based on three styles of leadership: autocratic, democratic, and laissez-faire leadership. (Goldhaber, 1993)
Rensis Likert suggested the Systems of Interpersonal Relations based on the nature of the relationships between leaders and followers. System 1 leaders are exploitative autocrats. System 2 leaders are benevolent autocrats with similar attitudes. System 3 leaders are consultative in their approach to dealing with followers while maintaining high levels of control. System 4 leaders are democratic and use a team approach. (Goldhaber, 1993)
Douglas McGregor is the author of Theory X and Theory Y. His approach is based on human motivation. He suggests Theory X leaders view workers as lazy, stupid, apathetic, and irresponsible. On the other hand, some leaders subscribe to Theory Y wherein followers are viewed as self-directed and willing to work hard. (Goldhaber, 1993)
Robert Blake and Jane Mouton developed a model which is identified as the Managerial Grid. In this approach there are two dimensions – task and concern. According to Blake and Mouton, leaders will fall into one of five types. First, there is the 1/9 country club leader. This leader is most concerned about providing a positive work environment. Second, the 1/1 impoverished leader is someone who is highly ineffective in both the task and concern (people) dimensions. Third, the 5/5 organization person seeks to balance task and concern issues, but will compromise in favor of task, if necessary. Fourth, the 9/9 team management
leader places a very high value on both task and concern issues. And, fifth, the 9/1 leader stresses follower adherence to leader authority and expects obedience. (Blake and Mouton, 1964)
Robert Greenleaf (1977) while Director of Research for General Electric coined the phrase servant-leader. This concept has its roots in Eastern (Taoist – “be a humble valley.”) and Western thought (Jesus, Mark 10:43-44, “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.”). The basic premise of servant- leadership is that leaders should put the needs of followers ahead of their own needs. Such leaders ask, “What is best for my constituents?” Notable supporters of this line of thought include Margaret Wheatley, Peter Block, Max DePree, and James Autry.
Joseph C. Rost supports the importance of followers. In fact, he claims that successful leadership is based on the relationship between leaders and followers. He contends that leaders and followers need to work together to bring about real mutual change. (cited in Hackman & Johnson, 2009)
James MacGregor Burns pioneered study in transformational leadership and wrote the seminal work, Leadership (1978). He indicates that leadership is exercised when people with varying motives and purposes mobilize as a result of competition or conflict with others. At some point institutional, political, psychological, and other resources are integral to the process. Such issues tend to arouse and engage people in an effort to satisfy their. Followers and leaders must realize their goals are mutually held and both leaders and followers benefit from their interdependent relationship. Applying the transformational approach, theory supports the idea that leaders must effect a change of the organization through what they contribute to it and their followers.
According to Northouse (2007), Bass “provided a more expanded and refined version of transformational leadership” (p. 179). In part, the work of Bass was founded on the 1970s work of J. M. Burns and R. J. House. Bass suggested a continuum that goes from transformational to transactional to laissez-faire leadership.
Christopher B. Crawford, Curtis Brungardt, and Micol Maughan (2000) identified key aspects of an effective transformational leader. These aspects include the ethical, charismatic, inspirational, and personal nature of the leader. They suggest such leaders must have the ability to grow the needs of the follower. Such leaders seek to meet the upper levels of people’s needs identified in Maslow’s hierarchy – self-esteem and self-actualization. The theory suggests leader morality is crucial to moving people to higher levels on Maslow’s hierarchy. Values are central to transcending the traditional leadership which is usually based on expertness,
reputation, and elite control. Another key point about transformational leadership: it is a collective action for collective relief on the part of the leader and followers.
Dynamics of Change
In his discussion of organizational and cultural change, Schein (1992) indicated that all human systems seek equilibrium. They try to maximize their autonomy within their environment. He claims coping, growth, and survival involves continuing the viability of the entity in the face of a changing society. He further asserts that “the function of cognitive structures such as concepts, beliefs, attitudes, values, and assumptions is to organize the mass of environmental stimuli, to make sense of them, and to provide, thereby, a sense of predictability and meaning to the individual” (p. 298). Shared assumptions developed over time in groups and organizations provide stability and meaning. Social cultures evolve over time. This evolution is one of the ways a group or organization maintains “its integrity and autonomy, differentiates itself from the environment and other groups” (p. 298). Thus, group or organizational identity is established.
Cameron and Quinn (cited in Falls, Jara, & Sever, 2009) illustrate a six step process for addressing the competing values frameworks within organizations as a way to address organizational change processes. According to the authors, a leader must (a) facilitate consensus on what the current culture is, (b) facilitate consensus on the desired future culture, (c) determine what the changes will and will not mean individually and organizationally, (d) facilitate identification of illustrative stories or organizational narratives about the culture and changes within the culture from key stakeholders in the organization, in order to gain a comprehensive understanding of the organizational self-identities at stake, (e) develop a strategic action plan that takes this information into account, and (f) form a plan.
Social Change Leadership Theory
The Social Change Leadership Theory referred to in this paper began in the spring of 1993 at Fort Hays (KS) State University. Several professors undertook to develop a leadership education program based on Social Change Theory.
According to Crawford et al. (2000), SCLT focuses on the what, how, and why of leadership. It is about creating change – personal, organizational, and societal. It promotes the development of social change agents who address and solve community problems. The theory has three foundational principles: creating change, collaboration, and civic leadership. SCLT advocates contend that leadership is not what leaders do; rather leadership is what followers and leaders do together for the common good. They are convinced people must work together
in order to effectively deal with change in the internal and external environments people face on a daily basis.
Creating change – leadership should make improvements and correct discrepancies between what is and what ought to be for everyone in a community. Social change leadership is purposeful and it results in organizational and cultural transformation. Leader-followers are positive agents of change. They seek to bring about improvements or correct deficiencies in organizations or society as a whole.
Collaboration – successful leaders have the ability to bring people together for collective action. Leader-followers are collaborators. They seek cooperation and are willing to share power. They are committed to empowering people in order to bring about social change. Social change leaders are civic leaders. Leadership is an influence relationship for change.
Civic leadership – civic leadership shifts from an emphasis on goal attainment for the good of individuals or just a group within an organization, to emphasizing the common good of society as a whole. Leader-followers believe in something bigger than themselves. They are actively involved in the process of social change. Their practice is to emphasize the common good (the good for all of society), not just what is good for themselves or their groups. SCLT advocates that there is a need for leader-followers whose focus is on promoting the good of the community and society. Social change agents participate in leadership to promote social concerns by involving individuals and various groups to serve society.
Facilitative Social Change Leadership Theory
The Facilitative Social Change Leadership theory is a melding of aspects of Social Change Theory, SCLT, and Transformational Leadership Theory as well as the work of Tichy and DeVanna (cited in Northouse, 2004). The basic premise of this paper is that through the application of FSCL leaders can effectively cope with and initiate organizational change. When considering the FSCL approach to leadership (Figure 1), a foundational issue that arises is, “How does the leader empower people to meet head-on and effectively deal with social change in the organization’s internal and external environments?”
Tichy and DeVanna (cited in Northouse, 2004) offer a three-step process for dealing with social change. First, they note the need to recognize “the need for change” (p. 181). Too many people too often are too comfortable with the current way of doing things. Therefore, they are not motivated to seek necessary change and may actually resist it. Tichy and DeVanna suggest encouraging “dissent” and allowing people to “disagree” (p. 182). Second, they indicate the need to create “a
vision” (p. 182). They refer to this as the “conceptual road map” (p. 182). And, third, they point out the importance of “institutionalizing changes” (p. 182).
Leaders must stress the need to break down old structures while putting in place new structures designed to enhance the new direction being taken by a community.
At this point, let us examine Figure 1. In Phase 1, leaders must be willing to take a stand based on their visions and established goals. It is necessary for them to follow the paths laid before them and take action to seek and implement innovative changes within their organizations despite the various obstacles facing them – internal and external. FSCL leadership rests on the leader’s willingness to lead. Without individuals motivated to take risks and action, little productive change can be achieved. The status quo rolls along unhindered; much to the glee of some within the organization. Awareness that innovation is demanded in a given circumstance must move the leader to initiate the needed change. The need for change may be a result of a perceived problem in the organization or a broad societal issue or a weakness of a particular leader. However, being aware of the need for change is not enough to initiate the process. Once aware, the leader must assume responsibility to resolve the situation. FSCL leaders must take responsibility to ensure action.
In Phase 2 it is necessary to provide a description of the problem, issue, or situation. In contrast to the status quo, the leader needs to determine an alternative way of doing things. Once an alternative has been established, the leader must seek assistance by developing coalitions. As noted above, coalition building supports the leader’s chances of being successful.
In Phase 3, with the alternative in place and coalitions established, the leader must confront the status quo including those within the organization who oppose the change as well as the higher powers that control the organization. It was mentioned above that social change brings with it conflict. It should be noted that while social conflict is not necessarily comfortable, without conflict it is unlikely that the leader’s vision and goals will be adopted. After a period of reach-testing during which all parties argue and support their own positions, a need arises for everyone to collaborate – that is, seek to support the proposed change. When seeking to institutionalize a change, it is necessary to modify current practices within the organization in favor of the new innovation. It must be remembered that each individual and group is an interdependent entity in the organization and, therefore, is affected by the proposed change. Only by working together can progress be achieved and the desired change made for the advancement of the organization. It is imperative for FSCL leaders to follow up the implementation of any change with periodic evaluation to ensure productivity and future survival of the organization.
Facilitative Social Change Leadership Approach
Given the diversity of leadership theory that currently exists in the literature, the question arises: “Why add the Facilitative Social Change Leadership approach to the stew pot of leadership theory?” The answer is because leaders in the 21st century are on the front line of massive social change. They represent the avant- garde. Too often traditional approaches intended to handle social change do not work or, in fact, have failed. It is their task to work with those who are not satisfied with the current state of affairs in their organizations.
In addition, part of the answer lies in understanding the FSCL approach and recognizing its applicability to effective leadership. A facilitative leader uses a collaborative approach which includes the follower’s involvement and participation in decision-making. They promote interactive relationships. While following procedures, rules, and policies the facilitative leader is able to promote thinking and activity outside the box. Such leaders recognize the value of learning from trial and error. They are willing to take risks in order to promote positive change to allow the organization to meet the shifts in its internal or external environments.
FSCL leaders tend to share several common beliefs. For example, they are frustrated by the status quo. It is the facilitative leader’s belief that the community can be improved through change. Of course, there will be individuals or even groups who are resistant to any proposed change in the internal or external environment. However, FSCL practitioners are convinced they must be involved in creating or responding to change in order for the community to prosper and meet the challenges of constantly changing environments. Such leaders are aware of the importance of gaining the support of significant individuals and groups as they promote social change. The FSCL leader realizes that empowering others will result in a corps of people who will be brought on board to deal with the needed change.
A social movement will result from effective FSCL leadership. This will provide a depth of invaluable experience and knowledge, thereby ensuring effective organizational change. In addition, facilitative-minded leaders recognize the importance of involving outside individuals and organizations which often bring with them needed credibility for helping bring about the desired change. A wise FSCL leader recognizes that both individuals and outside organizations bring important information, data, experience, knowledge, potential resources, influence, and power to their efforts to influence organizational change. Such inclusion of internal and external entities allows the leader to empower others and helps to ensure achievement of their goals.
C O L L A B O R A T I O N
C O N F L I C T
C O N F R O N T A T I O N
PHASE 3 INTERACTION
C O A L I T I O N S
A L T E R N A T I V E S
D E S C R I P T I O N
PHASE 2 PREPARATION
R E S P O N S I B I L I T Y
W I L L I N G N E S S
A W A R E N E S S
PHASE 1 INITIATION
Three-Phase Facilitative Social Change (FSCL) Process Model
A person who subscribes to the FSCL approach accepts and understands that conflict is a normal part of human interaction. In fact, as a result of social change pressures within an organization, conflict would be considered to be a positive component of the process, and not necessarily a negative event. Certainly facilitative leaders know it is important for controversy to be handled in a civil manner because sometimes there will be tensions among the participants.
Differences of opinion and vision will emerge during the change process, but the facilitative leader sees this as a valuable part of the process.
According to Boyd (2009), transformational leaders assist followers in reaching their fullest potential while in the process they transform their little corner of society. He notes that a transactional leader exchanges rewards or recognition for performance. He points out that transactional leadership results in the expected outcomes, although transformational leadership will result in outcomes exceeding the expectations of both leader and follower.
Transformational leadership facilitates understanding of oneself as a leader and leadership itself (Boyd, 2009). When viewed through the FSCL lens, the application of this approach suggests an effective leader is one who uses idealized influence to provide followers with a compelling vision through a strong role model that followers can trust. FSCL leaders create a shared vision and use inspirational motivation to set high expectations for their followers which builds commitment to organizational goal achievement. They are more likely to be able to motivate followers to go beyond their own self-interest for the advancement of the organization. These transformative leaders intellectually stimulate and inspire followers to challenge their personal assumptions along with those of the leader and organization. Therefore, the followers gain encouragement to find innovative ways to solve problems. FSCL leaders take into consideration individuals’ needs in order to create a supportive environment as they listen to their followers and help them to self-actualize.
A diversity of viewpoints allows for new approaches to meet the organization’s needs as shifts occur in the organization’s environment. Because facilitative leaders accept the idea that their duties and activities are intended to serve the community as a whole, they strive to create a shared vision and common purpose. Commitment by all persons and parties is ultimately necessary. When the leader is committed to a facilitative social change process, then the followers will be empowered.
Empowered individuals and groups will confirm the need for the change and the selected path for that change to be accomplished. The bottom line is that complex organizational issues need to be addressed in a collaborative manner. The leader and followers must work together toward the achievement of the vision and goals of the organization.
Generally a coalition of social change agents is needed to successfully transform an organization. With this in mind, the facilitative leader works to form liaisons that empower individuals and groups. Leadership must be willing to confront existing power structures. With empowered followers it is more likely a coalition will be effective in pulling off the desired organizational change.
In 1996 Alexander Astin and Helen Astin, of the UCLA Higher Education Research Institute, stressed their belief that it is possible for all individuals to be leaders and to make a difference in society (Crawford, et al., 2000). Practitioners of FSCL must put the needs of followers ahead of their own wants and needs. The facilitative leader asks, “What is best for my followers?” They recognize the importance of listening to their internal and external constituencies. Such leaders are attentive and attempt to clarify the will of the followers they serve. These leaders are empathic. They employ empathy as they seek to understand and recognize the needs of others. On occasion facilitative leaders will need to provide healing for the emotional hurts experienced by individuals or groups during periods of conflict. A person practicing facilitative leadership will be more aware of others’ needs in given situations. In addition, FSCL leaders tend to be more sensitive to ethical issues. They seek to motivate others, but they are careful to use persuasion that is not based on their authority as leader. Further they know conceptualization is critical in setting a vision for social change within the organization. They employ foresight for effective long-range planning which includes collaborating with the followers. This type of leader is committed to the principle of stewardship and recognizes the position of leadership is held at the will of the followers. That is, it is a trust between that leader and followers. Such leadership is committed to the growth of people – nurturing and training are vital. The FSCL leader attempts to build a strong sense of community resulting in a sense of belonging among all parties.
By providing good information, FSCL leaders empower followers in constructive ways to create a shared vision and the corresponding strategies for addressing change are more likely to be a success. FSCL has the potential to empower everyone. As noted earlier, it is true that when dealing with change there are going to be people or factions that resist, even oppose, the recommended change in the organization. Yet, when collaborative practices are implemented, it is likely disenfranchised individuals or groups will be more likely to be motivated to work toward the established vision and goals that have been set. This is why Covey (2004) urges leaders to “find your voice and inspire others to find theirs” (p. 26). As a result, what happens is a broader group of people who are leader-followers that have been empowered to act. Empowerment through FSCL gives a sense of ownership to the followers. Therefore, tangible results can be achieved because various individuals are working together with a unified focus. When working with other committed individuals there is often a synergistic effect created which has
the potential to produce extraordinary outcomes (Covey, 1991). Collaboration that results from empowering others through the FSCL approach to leadership can result in the institutionalization of effective problem-solving processes. As followers experience successes in achieving their goals, a more collaborative process is likely to become the standard for problem-solving within the organization. Adopting this framework sets forth an inclusive rather than exclusive dispersal of information, thereby changing the way social change is handled when dealing with organizational problems and events.
Along with the nine aspects of the FSCL change process, Figure 2 presents the major tenets of the sources that heavily influenced its development. SCT includes three categories directly affected in the change process – individual, group, and community (see Crawford, et al. 2000, p. 116, for a description of the categories). Within these dimensions there are a total of seven elements. The three categories of SCLT that influenced the facilitative approach are (a) personal, (b) civic, and
3. Civic leadership
5. Common purpose 4. Create vision
4. Collaboration (G)
2. Encourage dissent
1. Need for change
1. Consciousness of self
Comparison of SCT, SCLT, Tichy-DeVanna, and FSCL Leadership Approaches
And, Tichy and DeVanna (cited in Northouse, 2004) provided an additional three categories in the development of FSCL including (a) need for change, (b) institutionalization of changes, and (c) creating a vision.
David W. Leslie, Chancellor, Professor of Education, at the College of William and Mary, notes that “colleges and universities have presented leadership conundrums….from the most varied perspectives….Yet this vast trove of purported wisdom remains somehow unsatisfying and desperately random” (Wergin, 2007, p. xv). That is to say, despite all that has been written about leadership, the question still remains: “What does it take to be an effective leader?”
At the risk of redundancy by simply adding to the “unsatisfying and desperately random” (Leslie, cited in Wergin, 2007, p. xv) pool of information concerning leadership and its effectiveness, I wish to share several recommendations which I am convinced enhance an individual’s ability to be an effective transformative FSCL leader. These recommendations come out of my investigation and thinking on the concept of “leading in place” popularized by Wergin (2007) and Shapiro (2005). Shapiro states, “Leadership is an action, not a title, and the ability to lead can be found in every person. Each of us must claim our authority to lead at the right time and in the right place” (p. 1).
FSCL is an eclectic approach that borrows from and melds many of the principles of Transformational Leadership Theory, Social Change Leadership Theory, and Social Change Theory. Thus, the FSCL leader is much like what Abu-Tineh, Khasawneh, and Omary (2009) describe in their article when they write about transformational leadership. According to them, a transformational leader is one who as a matter of principle challenges the process of doing things because they either create new ideas or recognize and support new ideas. These leaders demonstrate a willingness to challenge systems in order to turn new ideas into actions that result in new products, processes, and services. They seek challenging opportunities that test their abilities, thereby resulting in innovative ways of improve organizations. Transformational leaders show a willingness to change the status quo way of doing business. Such leaders experiment and take risks by adopting new approaches to how business is done in the organization. For them learning is a lifelong process. This type of leader recognizes the need to be prepared to make mistakes because every error leads to a new opportunity for success. Rather than punish someone for failure, transformational leaders are able to learn from mistakes rather than shifting responsibility and blaming followers.
“Leadership is not an exclusive club for those who were ‘born with it.’ The traits that are the raw materials of leadership can be acquired. Link them up with desire and nothing can keep you from becoming a leader” (Maxwell, 1993, Introduction). Because I am convinced that Maxwell is correct in his position on
leadership development and based on the FSCL approach as presented in this paper, I offer for your consideration 10 characteristics I have found that positively leadership contribute to effective leadership. The application of these characteristics allow for a transformative environment that involves the leader and followers involved in a joint effort to accomplish change which leads to organizational success.
Number 10: Follow procedures and adhere to policies. Effective leaders are essentially good followers. They understand that they are accountable to those in authority. Such leaders do not submit to this authority because of fear of their superiors. They know it is not a good idea to behave as a lone wolf, but instead to keep their work priorities aligned with the organization’s goal and have an appropriate sense of self- importance. People who lead in place value the necessity of following procedures and adhering to established policies to ensure survival of the organization.
Number 9: Submit to authority of others. Closely related to number 10 is the recognition that we are all under the authority of someone, whether it is a supervisor, director, president, board of governors, or whomever. Leaders and follower play an important role in the organization’s success. Failure to follow may lead to death – personal and organizational. The long term power possessed by a leader is positively correlated to the person’s ability to be a follower.
Number 8: Take risks. And, yet sometimes it is necessary for leaders to step outside the box, to be innovative. Such leaders are change agents. They are often visionaries whose presence and hard work lead to transformative change. They know that it is necessary to be flexible enough to know when it is time to try a new procedure or implement a new policy. For many taking a risk is frightening, but such behavior can be invaluable, benefiting the entire organization.
Number 7: Commitment. Any person who assumes a leadership role needs to be committed to the group or organization. These leaders seek to enhance opportunities allowing for everyone’s potential to be achieved through empowerment. The group’s or organization’s vision and mission must be internalized by the leader. An effective leader is a person who can commit to using one’s ability to lead others, perform technical skills, and conceptualize situations, thus helping to ensure goal achievement.
Number 6: Be proactive. Covey (1989) points out the need to be proactive. Individuals who assume leadership must take the proverbial bull by the horns and move forward to be successful. This often requires individuals to facilitate the group’s or organization’s production through organization, effective oversight, providing directions, and collaborative decision making.
Number 5: Expect conflict. Conflict among people is a natural, constant, and an inevitable factor of human interaction. An effective leader expects conflict and is able to manage it in a productive manner. Such leaders seek to meet individual as well as the needs of management. This can be done through coalition formation that allows the leader to collaboratively build an agenda for change that meets the needs of the group or organization.
Number 4: Tell the truth, but with compassion. To some degree conflicts occur because people are not able to differentiate between task related conflict issues and their personal investment in a given situation. Too often in the past followers were viewed as lazy, unwilling to take responsibility, and needing to be controlled. Today it is recognized that, in fact, when people are dealt with in an open and honest manner then they are likely to perform at a very high level. Bracey, Rosenblum, Sanford, and Trueblood (1990) point out the importance of leaders being truthful when establishing and maintaining positive relationships with followers. Yet, at the same time the leader must compassionately tell the truth (e.g., about their job performance).
Number 3: Listen. Communication plays a vital role in the achievement of interpersonal and organizational goals. Communication is a two-way process. Effective communication requires leaders capable of effective listening. Remember, hearing and listening are not synonymous terms. Covey’s (1989) Habit #5: Seek First To Understand, Then Seek To Be Understood reflects the epitome of effective listening. Ineffective listening undermines people’s self-esteem, their self-confidence, and creativity.
Number 2: Love people. Roger D’Aprix stated that leaders must be “loving in our organizational relationships” (cited in Goldhaber, 1993, p. 217). “Loving” in this context means that we acknowledge the value of our coworkers and respect them with the dignity they deserve. We as leaders let them know that we care for them whether we like them or not. The bottom line is that we must value people and our relationships with them if we are to claim our “authority” to lead.
Number 1: Check your attitude. I contend effective leadership begins with a correct mindset. That mindset is founded upon an individual’s willingness to lead – to serve others. An effective leader desires the opportunity to step up to be involved in influencing not only one’s personal situations, but that of those being led. This leadership attitude flows from a reasoned choice; it is a conscious decision to take on the role with all its rights and responsibilities. Amid natural chaos and interpersonal interactions effective leaders are able to demonstrate a fixed purpose. Such leadership is determined to ensure that not only personal goals are reached, but more importantly, the organization achieves its objectives and fulfills its mission. Those who seek to lead in place must be compelled to lead no matter the personal cost.
Allow me to point out that these characteristics are not some magic formula for success, nor do they serve as a 10-step program like the Alcoholics Anonymous’ 12-step recovery program, but when adopted these characteristics and their underlying principles can lead to more effective leadership and followership.
I agree with David W. Leslie that there has been a lot of thinking, theorizing, and writing about leadership. Yet I am convinced we should continue to explore what constitutes effective leadership. In doing so it may be that we can bring greater clarity to what it takes to be an effective leader.
I do not pretend that I have found the final answer to the question regarding what it takes to be an effective leader. In sharing my thinking as it relates to the FSCL approach to leadership, an approach that promotes facilitative, transformative leadership, perhaps we can all be better at leading in place in our organizations.
Finally, it is my hope that I have added some bit of insight to the pool of literature concerning effective leadership. The characteristics presented in this paper are based on my leading in place for over 30 years in academic, business, church, community, and military environments in the United States. Therefore, allow me to encourage you to take action, to claim your authority to lead when the time comes, in the right place.
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Willis M. Watt has taught at Methodist University since August 2000. Bill has served as the Director of the Division of Professional Studies and Dean of the School of Information and Technology at the university. He is a Professor of Speech and is currently the Program Director of Organizational Communication and Leadership. Dr. Watt has published numerous articles and delivered presentations on a wide range of areas including religion, theatre, communication studies, and leadership. He received his doctorate from Kansas State University.