Reflective Human Action
This course was adapted from Leadership: Reflective
Human Action (Andrews, Mitstifer, Rehm, Vaughn, 1995)
by Susan S. Stratton and Dorothy I. Mitstifer.
Copyright © 2001, Kappa Omicron Nu.
Reflective Human Action
Introduction and Course Syllabus
Welcome to Reflective Human Action! This eight week online course is sponsored by Kappa Omicron Nu as a contribution to leadership development. Leadership is a popular topic in education and business but Reflective Human Action puts a different twist on the subject. Self-development, after all, is a personal choice, and this course enables persons to take charge of their lives. In return for this “freebie” we ask only that you write your “story”—a sort of testimonial—about how you used the content of this course and what the outcomes were. You may send your story to kon.org.
You, of course, know that copyright law holds that use of this material for purposes other than your personal self-development requires advance approval. Approval can be acquired through kon.org.
There are at least four choices for utilizing the course:
1. Knowledge - Read the text to learn about leadership, especially reflective human action. The "e-lectures" are identified by the following symbol:
2. Experiential Knowledge - Read the text and select several exercises that increase your competence in selected areas.
3. Self-Managed Life Change - Read the text and complete the whole series of exercises in order to make a major difference in your life.
4. Life Change facilitated by Telementoring or E-mail Mentoring - Enhance the process with a mentor selected by you, or contact Kappa Omicron Nu to supply a mentor (there may be a cost associated with this choice). Requests can be made through kon.org.
The focus of this leadership course is to lay the groundwork for the process of reflective human action. This process is an active, mind-engaging method of meaning-making in a community of practice.
The first half of this course focuses on the natural law of systems. Systems exhibit the same principles regardless of what type of system is present. So understanding how natural law creates self-organization of the system will give a leader a tremendous advantage in being confident that a chaotic situation does not require control, but rather acceptance of the chaos. The system will naturally move to sharing information, developing relationships and embracing a vision. This concept is found in Margaret Wheatley’s work entitled, Leadership and the New Science (1994).
The second half of the course focuses on the work of Robert Terry (1993). Authentic Leadership: Courage in Action offers us several tools to examine situations. First, Terry’s work begins with a foundation that underlies all action. That foundation includes authenticity, ethical sensibility and spirituality. Secondly, Terry gives us the Action Wheel, which helps leaders appropriately frame issues, which leads to effective solutions and interventions. Finally, Terry gives us the 7 C’s of Authenticity, which helps us examine whether we have found our authentic self.
Finding our authentic selves takes private reflection, noticing who we are in the present moment, and recognizing the influences of the system to which we belong. Much of this course will require true “inner” work.
Components of the Reflective Human Action Model (below) will be explored throughout the course.
Reflective Human Action Model
To do this course well, you will need:
· The Supplemental Textbook – Leadership: Reflective Human Action. Order from Kappa Omicron Nu (517.351.8335 – kon.org/contact.html).
· A private journal
· Some time management
The following topics will be covered in this course.
Week 1: Theoretical Framework: The Nature of Reality
Week 2: Experiential Learning: Core Principles of the New Reality
Week 3. Theoretical Framework: Core Features of Reflective Human Action
Week 4. Experiential Learning: Core Principles of Reflective Human Action
Week 5: Theoretical Framework: Applying the Issues of Action
Week 6: Experiential Learning: Framing Issues
Week 7. Theoretical Framework: RHA—An Uncommon Journey to Leadership
Week 8: Exploratory Learning: Personal Leadership Styles
Final Paper: The Power of Personal Mission Statements and Reflective Human Action
Each week there will be at least one reading, discussion question, and activity. However, some weeks may require more than one activity.
As for time management, you should plan the following sequence of events each week:
Pick up the e-lecture, reading assignments, and activity(ies) on Friday; that way you can plan your week around completion of the activities. Reading should be completed by Tuesday. Your activities should be well underway by Tuesday. Your participation in the discussion should take place later in the week.
So grab your journals and let’s get to work!!
Andrews, F. A., Mitstifer, D. I., Rehm, M., & Vaughn, G. G. (1995). Leadership: Reflective Human Action. East Lansing, MI: Kappa Omicron Nu.
Terry, R. W. (1993). Authentic leadership: Courage in action. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Wheatley, M. J. (1994). Leadership and the new science: Learning about organization from an orderly universe. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler.
Reflective Human Action
Week 1 - The Nature of Reality: Principles of Reflective Human Action
Topics: The Nature of Reality, the New Science, Natural Laws, Accepting Chaos
Objective: Notice and reflect on experience about how chaos sets new energy in motion in a system.
This week’s assignments:
1. Read the E-Lecture On-line and Chapter One in the accompanying text.
2. Participate in the two discussion questions.
3. Complete one reflection activity, posting your observations.
· What does physics have to do with leadership?
· What do natural laws and human nature have in common?
· What natural laws are evident in the course of a human interaction or group dynamic?
· Do systems have similar characteristics?
· What does the solar system have in common with an organizational system?
Do these questions create a chaotic state in your mind? If so, you are on the right track to begin this course in Reflective Human Action!
In Week 1 Readings, you will be introduced to deep philosophical, scientific, and spiritual questions and theory about the nature of reality. In the new view of reality described in the readings, it may appear that Western science is merging with Eastern thought, creating a new order!
Have you ever complained about how things are always changing? If you listen to conversation around you, particularly if it involves people over 40, you will frequently hear comments that indicate a desire to resist change, control change, or manage change. Change is often framed as an aggressor, “victimizing” the population upon which it descends!
The reality of change is that it creates chaos. If each person could, in fact, accept chaos, rather than resist it or deny it exists, our world would be able to organize itself toward effective solutions. Natural law says that we will self-organize when we accept chaos. For in accepting chaos, we will share information, develop relationships and embrace vision. In other words, when we accept chaos, we naturally enter into a process that will seek solutions. This self-organizing naturally creates a process of renewal in any system—even those made up of human beings!
This principle is part of the theory of “the New Science”.
In the new science, control of a situation relies NOT on denial of chaos and attempts to maintain order, but rather acceptance of chaos and entering into a process of engagement with others.
Have you ever noticed that when two or more seemingly opposites come together, chaos occurs? When those opposites rub together, some storming occurs in the relationship, but through that interaction a new energy is created in the system. This energy is a synergistic, creative energy. Using this situation as a reference point, have you ever experienced this process in a relationship where you have moved from “forming” into “storming” into “performing” and then “norming?” How does your experience relate to the principles of the new science: accept chaos, share information, develop relationships, and embrace vision?
“Chaos: the final state is a system’s move away from order.” What does this mean to you? Give evidence of your interpretation.
Activity: Choose Option I or II
Option I: Reflection
Think about an individual with whom you have some difficulty. Describe that individual in terms of why you don’t get along. Ask yourself and reflect on this idea: What if the opposite were true? What if the individual didn’t have the “negative qualities” you describe, but, in fact, those “negative qualities” are what you radiate and only see by reflection (like a mirror) in the other person?
Explore the possibility that you exhibit the very qualities that you don’t like in the other person. Talk to at least one person about the possibility that you exhibit those qualities.
Post your observations in relation to self: reference any new information you discovered, describe how that new information changed the relationship, and describe the new vision of yourself.
Option II: Reflection
Observe a head of broccoli. Notice how the smallest piece reflects the same shape as the whole? A natural law is: The whole system is contained in every part of the system.
Reflect on a system that you belong to—your academic department, your family, a team. List positive and negative qualities you have observed in that system. Then reflect on how you exhibit those same qualities.
Notice the patterns in other members of the system. Reflect on how you exhibit those same patterns. Share your observation with one other person in the system.
Post your observations as you relate to the natural law of “each part contains the whole.” Reference any new information you discovered, describe how that new information changed your relationship to the system and your relationships within the system, and describe the new vision of yourself.
Week 2 - Core Principles of the New Science
Topics: Accept chaos, share information, develop relationships, and embrace vision.
Objective: Reflect on the application of the New Science
This week’s assignments:
1. Read the E-Lecture…it’s a long one!
2. Participate in one discussion question.
3. Complete one reflection activity and e-mail the piece to your instructor.
Is it true that perception is reality?
It is! Through questioning our static reality, our perceived reality changes. Why? When we question, we open the possibility of a new perception. Through the questioning, we “see” information to support a new perception. In Leading from the Heart: Choosing Courage over Fear in the Workplace, author Kay Gilley uses a questioning technique that challenges all reality. Asking “What if the opposite were true?” opens the door to consider other realities.
For example, twenty years ago, we all “knew” that if someone were diagnosed with cancer, they would not likely survive more than 6 months to 2 years. But someone asked, “What if the opposite were true?” Because of that question, we now have treatments available that change the old reality.
A close friend was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She was told she had a 5% chance of recovery from this cancer, since this was her second occurrence of cancer. Most would give up the fight, believing that 95% of the people stricken die soon. Yet my friend believed, what if the opposite was true…What if I am in the 5% group? And she began treatments with a belief that she would in fact prove the statistics wrong. This belief system directed her body to fight to be in the 5%, rather than give up and go with the 95% who don’t make it.
Questioning our perception is the key to a new reality. Seeking information and sharing our thought process in relation with others creates new meaning for all involved.
You are probably sitting in a chair as you read this e-lecture. In our perception, a chair is a solid impermeable object, right? But, what if the opposite were true???
Leadership is practiced within the context of the environments in which we live and work. The issues that trouble organizations (whether they involve family, work, or play) are those that shape our ideas of science: order, control, structure, prediction, etc. But what if the opposite were true? Although new understandings have shaped our view of the natural world, the old theories continue to direct the man-made world of organizations.
Tom Peters, an internationally renowned speaker in the field of management and leadership wrote a book in 1987 entitled Thriving on Chaos. He intentionally chose this title rather than thriving amidst chaos to challenge his readers to go beyond coping with chaos. In other words, he wanted his readers to deal proactively with chaos and look at chaos as a source of advantage rather than as a problem.
In this module, we will more closely examine new scientific principles that have implications for leadership. Chapter One of the text introduced the four core organizing principles, but let’s focus on each concept in the New Science.
Chaos: The final state in a system’s move away from order
One core organizing principle of the new reality is accept chaos. New perspectives from the sciences deny the complex and rigid structure of the old models of leadership. Instead, order develops naturally from within instead of being imposed from without. What may appear to be chaotic is simply a natural transition to a new state. The ability to be confident when we don't know, when we are confused, or when we muddle through represents this principle of accepting chaos. Creative or breakthrough thinking often comes out of being overwhelmed, confused, and uncertain. New levels of order and new levels of understanding grow out of apparently chaotic situations. What some might call chaos may be a limiting tendency to look at "parts;" by standing back and looking at the whole, beautifully ordered forms may become apparent to us.
The role of chaos is an essential process by which natural systems, including individuals and organizations, renew, and revitalize themselves:
· The traditional definition of chaos is a system whose behavior is totally unpredictable.
· People tend to view and experience chaos as uncertainty, unpredictability, craziness, feelings of being overwhelmed.
· Chaos is order without predictability; order is inherent in the system and observable when the system is viewed over time.
· Order and change and autonomy as well as control cannot continue to be viewed as great opposites.
· Organizations are process structure rather than permanent structures.
· When a complex living system is subjected to high levels of change, it possesses an innate ability to self-organize or reorganize so that it functions better in its new environment.
· Disorder can be the source of new order (or form) better suited to the demands of the environment.
· It is hard for us to welcome disorder as a full partner in the search for order when we have expended so much of our lives trying to ward off disorder.
· Self and organizational transformation requires a willingness to "let go" and pass through the "dark night" of chaos--use chaos as a part of our thinking to create innovative and successful teams.
Information is the creative energy of the universe—the substance, the invisible workings of creation.
A second core organizing principle is share information. A new insight is that information is one of the primary organizational forces in the universe. Instead of creating information, information is creating life. Information is a resource that moves through the system, disturbs the peace, nourishes new life, engenders creativity, and encourages innovation. Closely guarded information, as the source of power of the old leadership model, is counterproductive to this new understanding. In other words, information is not an entity to condense, package, and pass along in memos. Rather it must be treated as a dynamic quality that nourishes change and creative ideas. Information, freely generated and exchanged, becomes the basic ingredient of the universe.
Begin to notice that information isn't simply something we organize but that it has the power to organize people and tasks. And since information has this organizing power, a critical leadership skill is to constantly receive, interpret, and use information to adapt to the ever-evolving environment.
The position of information is the primary organizing force in any organization:
· The more participants we engage in our universe the more we can access its potentials and the wiser we become.
· It is impossible to expect any plan or idea to be real to people if they do not have an opportunity personally to interact with it, to create different possibilities through their personal processes of observation.
· It is the participation process that generates the reality to which individuals then make their commitment.
· Information is the source of order, the self-generating source of organizational vitality.
· Information is an organization's primary source of nourishment.
· Organizations are discovering that their route to health and resiliency is to open their organizations to free-flowing information around which trustworthy employees are free to organize their work.
Reality is created as people and ideas meet and change in relationship to each other.
A third core organizing principle is develop relationships. Out of quantum mechanics we learn that the forces within the universe are best described as both particles and waves (or energy fields). When applied to the organization, participants are both workers and relationships. Reality is created as people and ideas meet and change in relationship to each other. Thus, an organization is best described as a web of relationships. To capitalize on this principle, organizations must open up and encourage people to move about, making contact with others, not because of role or status but because of work needs.
The rich diversity of human relationships is the energizing force for us as individuals and as leaders.
· Our attention must shift from the enticement of external rewards to the intrinsic motivators that spring from the work itself.
· 21st century leaders must focus on the deep longing for community, for meaning, for dignity, and for love in our organizational lives.
· We need to step back and see ourselves in new ways, appreciate our wholeness, and design organizations that honor and make sense of our totality.
· We need to recognize the unseen connections that influence our behavior in the work place or other setting.
· We do not exist independent of our relationships with others.
· Different settings and people evoke some qualities from us and leave others dormant; in each relationship we are different--we are new in some way.
· What is critical in organizations is the relationship created between the person and the setting--each relationship will be different and will always evoke different potentialities.
· Power in organizations is the capacity generated by relationships; look carefully at how the work place (or other setting) organizes its relationships--the patterns of relationships and the capacities available to form them.
· What gives power its charge is the quality of relationships.
· Leadership is always dependent on the context, but the context is established by relationships.
Vision: An energy field expressive of purpose and direction.
A fourth core organizing principle is embrace vision. Field theory teaches us that space is occupied by unseen structures that have a broad and significant impact. Vision as a field could have a wondrous capacity to bring energy to an organization and link with other fields to effect movement, flow, and change. The concept of vision as an energy field having an impact on purpose and direction suggests that organizations need to create consistent messages of vision. Indeed, field theory implies that there are potentials and influences everywhere. Kotter (1995) concludes that in addition to the need for a consistent vision to guide persons and organizations through change, a shared vision of the change process will increase the success of transformation efforts.
The role of vision is an invisible field that can enable us to recreate our work place and our world:
· Everyone in the organization has something to contribute to the vision.
· Peter Senge in The Fifth Discipline (1990) states: " . . . an organization's vision grows as a by-product of individual visions, a by-product of ongoing conversations" (p. 212).
Wheatley gives perspective to life in the 21st century with these thoughts:
New science requires us to question many of our most deeply held assumptions about how things work in life and in our organizations. None of these shifts is insignificant. All of them are worthy of further thought and conversation, as we try to invent and discover the organizations of the next century. Hopefully, these newer sciences point the way to a simpler way to lead organizations. But to arrive at that simplicity, we will have to change our behaviors and beliefs about information, relationships, control, and chaos. We will need to recognize that we live in a universe that is ordered in ways we never suspected, and by processes that are invisible except for their effect. (Wheatley, 1993, p. 16)
For more input on the New Science, watch Margaret Wheatley’s Leadership and the New Science video. (This video is available from Kappa Omicron Nu – 517.351.8335.)
What is your definition of chaos?
Recall a time in your personal or work life when you were in complete chaos. How do you respond to chaos in the environment? What did you do to work through the chaos? Did you have a positive or negative outcome as you worked through this chaos?
Reflection Activity & Written Assignment
Learning about ourselves by reflecting on our past can help us recognize the big picture of our lives. Our history can provide a broader view of the context in which our lives take place. By understanding our history we can understand why we view the world as we do and gain some insight into our leadership strengths. We can identify the main lessons we have learned and understand how our values, beliefs, perceptions, and expectations have changed with time.
When we reflect on our history, some of us recognize that our lives are not what we want them to be. We feel an emptiness, a sense that we have lost our values, and frustration with our lives. We yearn for the "right job," the "right relationship," the "right church," etc. Yet, we fail to identify that these symptoms reflect a loss of soul and without soul we can never find true meaning in life. The goal of soul work "is a richly elaborated life, connected to society and nature, woven into the culture of family, nation, and the globe. The idea is not to be superficially adjusted, but to be profoundly connected in the heart to ancestors and to living brothers and sisters in all the many communities that claim our hearts" (Moore, 1994, p. xviii). Care of the soul is not without its moments of darkness and periods of foolishness. However, the very foundation of soul is self-knowledge and self-acceptance (Moore, 1994).
This activity will help you identify the strengths and perceptions you have acquired from living life. Will they fortify you to face reality as it is, to embrace the most difficult, to pursue a common exploration of the future, and to search for the common good among a diversity of perspectives? Will you be ready to dream for a new and more humane future, embrace the true and real in yourself, and truly "live soulfully" (Moore, 1994) as you engage with others in leadership?
Arriving at a point in our lives when we can say "I know who I am" does not occur overnight. It is the culmination of many efforts to achieve a positive sense of self, to know our abilities and limitations, and to find meaning or purpose in our lives. In this activity, you will increase your awareness of the lessons you learned from the past. These will provide insights about yourself and about your roles as leader.
Activity Instructions: (Choose Option I or II)
Option I: Noticing the patterns that create chaos.
1. Think about the most chaotic system you know. It might be your family of origin situation, your current marriage or family, your academic department, or perhaps a difficult relationship. Reflect on the following directives:
a. Chart the history of the relationship(s) in that system.
b. Note particularly the impact of people coming and going inside that system.
c. Do you notice any recurring patterns in the history of the system?
d. Develop a theory about how the pattern will play out in the future if personal leadership is NOT exercised.
2. After you have explored your system, write a reflection paper to summarize your theory, giving evidence to support your position.
3. From what you have learned about this system, add to your reflection paper by exploring the following: How and with whom would you share this information to actually shift the system positively? What impact might sharing your observations have on the situation?
1. Reflect on the following questions. Focus on the simple and little things in your life that have significance for leadership.
a. Picture yourself at the earliest age you can remember. What did you look like? What were you doing? Who was with you? What objects are in your picture? Who is in your family? What is your birth order? If you are the oldest in the family, what happened to your place in the family when younger siblings were born? If you are the youngest, how did other members of the family respond to you?
b. What was your role in the family when adults were home? When adults were not home? With whom did you stay when your parent(s) were away? How old were you when you were allowed to stay at home alone?
c. Who were your playmates? What was your role when playmates came to your house to play? Were you a leader of the playmate group? Were you a follower? Did you dominate the play experiences? Were you well liked? ignored? admired? selected first (or last) when groups chose teams?
d. Were you good at sports? good at such things as math and science?
e. How did your size compare with your playmates? Was your size (appearance, abilities, lack of abilities, gender, ethnic group) a factor in your early play experiences? teenage experiences?
f. Did your family vacation together? Describe what happened on a typical family vacation. How often did the family move? Why did you move?
g. When did you first notice the opposite sex? Did your behavior change when a member of the opposite sex was present? When did you begin dating? Were you popular?
h. What was your relationship with your grandparents? Did you visit them often? Did you stay with them when your parents were away?
i. After you left home, where did you find friends? Who mentored you? What was your role in your circle of friends? in the organizations and institutions of which you were a part?
j. In work situations, what roles did you hold? Were they mandated or chosen? How did you relate to authority?
2. After you have explored your past, write a reflection paper to summarize your experiences as follows: identify the typical role you have played, define what you are good at and poor at and what you enjoy and avoid, explore the typical reactions you elicit from others.
3. From what you have learned about yourself, add to your reflection paper by exploring the following: characteristics (strengths) you bring to leadership, ways you want others to respond to you, behaviors that you want to overcome to be a more effective leader.
Moore, T. (1994). Care of the soul: A guide for cultivating depth and sacredness in everyday life. New York: Harper Collins.
Week 3 - Core Features of Reflective Human Action
Topics: Authenticity, ethical sensibility, spirituality and features of action
Objectives: Recognize the features of action in statements and correctly identify which feature is represented.
This week’s assignments:
1. Read E-lectures and Chapter Two and Organizational Issues 1-4
2. Participate in one discussion question.
3. Complete one activity.
Many believe “We are human beings having an occasional spiritual experience.” BUT…
What if the opposite were true? What if we are spiritual beings having an occasional human existence? Imagine how that view of life would change your interpretation of experience!!
Authentic leadership really comes from the second perspective—we are indeed spiritual beings having an occasional human experience. It is this perspective that allows us to step back from the human situation, notice the human action presented to us, informing our response with authenticity, ethical sensibility and spirituality. Looking at human behavior from this perspective allows for observation of the human experience, complete with human foibles, challenges, and limited five-sensory perception. Standing in this new perspective, we can draw new conclusions about the challenges we face.
In human interaction, there is a stimulus and response. For most people, there is an automatic response to the situation. For example, a colleague makes a cutting remark; we automatically retort without thinking, making the situation worse. In a new reality, imagine a space between the stimulus of the cutting remark and your delivery of a response. Imagine that you can step into that space or gap and process the following questions:
a. What is going on with my colleague that s/he would say such a nasty thing to me?
b. Who do I want to be in my response?
c. What alternative responses could I use to be the person I really want to be?
d. Listen to your intuitive self to give you an appropriate response, and then consciously deliver the response that reflects who you REALLY want to be.
It is in the noticing of who we are being in a situation and who we really want to be that is a key to authentic leadership.
How do you know if you’re being authentic? Robert Terry (1993) gives us a way to evaluate our responses in this 7 C’s of authenticity: correspondence, consistency, coherence, concealment, conveyance, comprehensiveness, and convergence. This week’s readings give clear definitions of each of these concepts.
Terry has analyzed human action and identified seven features of every human action: mission, meaning, existence, resources, structure, power and fulfillment. These seven features provide the framework for selecting an appropriate leadership response as we interact on a human level. Selecting the appropriate response requires the leader to frame the issue before responding. This framing will determine what we “see” in the interaction, and consequently how we interpret the meaning of the action, what alternative responses we’ll consider, and how we deliver an authentic response. The ability to frame appropriately is a second key to authentic leadership.
The Action Wheel (Terry, 1993) will not provide any right answers—it is intended to generate new insights, to help a group question the obvious. It helps the group get unstuck. Although the positional leader will find the Action Wheel to be useful, its use by groups is by far the more important use. Instead of focusing on who’s at fault or complaining, naming the issue takes the forefront.
The first step is analytic. It has to be acknowledged that as a member of a particular group, you may not have the ability (i.e., status, credibility, option to deal with the underlying issue) to provide leadership in bringing the issue to the stage of dialogue. Even if a particular group does not wish to examine the issue, the individual can use the framework to determine “What is going on?”
The second step is strategic—determining the intervention. Whatever feature we think an issue represents, it really represents the next feature clockwise as indicated by the direction of the arrow. If, for instance, an issue is determined to involve power, the intervention to work on is mission. Eventually, all features of action must be addressed, but what is critical is locating the focus of our engagement at the outset of the leadership task. Most of the time, leadership work will continue clockwise with subsequent features of action. But the Action Wheel is meant to help a group be creative in solving problems. After working through the intervention, it’s possible that it would be useful to return to the foundations (the counter clockwise features).
Those of us who have worked with the Action Wheel have more and more respect for its value as a tool. But it takes time, and we don’t necessarily expect you to have enough experience on one or two activities to determine its value for you. We’re all learners, and we are all rich resources to each other.
Leadership is a particular way of engaging with life. It is a lifelong commitment to growing toward human fulfillment.
In the following scenarios, using the Action Wheel (Figure 1) identify the issue, the appropriate intervention and the principle of Reflective Human Action required for leadership in the given situations.
Charles is President of the ABC local chapter. He is concerned because there is lack of involvement by officers in the work of the chapter. He discusses the situation with several officers and identifies the concerns: "Nobody seems to care about ABC.", "I'm not clear on our direction.", "We are never very successful."
Cindy and her new husband are struggling with blending two families into a fully functioning one. Such accusations and questions as "Things just aren't fair." "We don't do things like that anymore." or "Why are we doing this anyway?" are commonly heard.
Ahn is working for an organization with declining membership statistics. She thinks the organization is important, but she is getting discouraged because she hears members say, "The times are against us." "There doesn't seem to be anything that will help us." or "The situation is hopeless."
There are seven features found in every human action: meaning, mission, power, structure, resources, existence, and fulfillment (Terry, 1995). These features are implicit or explicit in every action whether the action has occurred, is occurring, or will occur in the future. In themselves, these features are value neutral and are neither good nor bad. They are present whether the individual performing the action is aware of them or not. However, knowing that every action has these features can direct leadership to the discovery of what is really going on--toward framing issues appropriately. See also http://www.action-wheel.com.
1. Mission is the direction, the toward which, of human action, the purpose, the expectation, the aim, the vision, the goal, the intention, and the objective. Mission directs and focuses power which energizes and modifies structures to accomplish a mega end. Mission answers the question: What is the ultimate purpose of this action?
2. Meaning is the why or for which of human action and the context of action. Meaning of an action evaluates, recommends, justifies, and makes sense of the action. Meaning expresses significance and legitimacy and puts mission into context. It provides cultural justification and sets boundaries for human action. Meaning answers the questions: Why am I doing this action? What is at stake?
3. Existence is the setting from which human action arises. Existence answers the question: What is the history of this event, situation, or action?
4. Resources are the with which of human action. These are the tangible and intangible components with which action is accomplished. Resources limit power and structure and come from what is actually or potentially available in existence. Resources answer the question: What are the critical assets needed to accomplish the mission?
5. Structure is the through which of action. It is the plans, the maps, the arrangements, the forms, and the processes that order and direct power toward the accomplishment of mission. Structures channel, sustain, and restrict power, generate new ideas, allocate new resources, and urge the mission forward. Structure answers the question: What are the plans and processes through which this action will be accomplished?
6. Power is the actual expenditure of energy. It is the by which of human action, the decision, the passion, the self-determination, and the will that provides energy to the action. "It is the invisible spirit behind commitment, the unique human dimension of power" (Terry, 1993, p. 73). Power answers the question: What is the stakeholders’ level of commitment for this action?
7. Fulfillment is the completed human action. It is the into which the meaning, mission, power, structure, resources, and existence of human action converge at any given point in time. Fulfillment answers the question: What is the completed action?
- Reflect on the following Problem List and identify the issues expressed by the comments. In your reflection, discern whether the statements are more about:
What is the ultimate purpose of this action? (mission)
Why am I doing this action? What is at stake? (meaning)
What is the history of this event, situation, or action? (existence)
What are the critical assets needed to accomplish the mission? (resources)
What are the plans and processes through which this action will be accomplished? (structure)
What is the stakeholders' level of commitment to drive action? (power)
What is the event in its completed action? (fulfillment)
- Compare your answers with the posted answers. Share your thoughts about any answers you do not agree with in the answer key. How were you framing the problem and why? Post questions that are generated for you.
____________The situation is terminal.
____________We have conflicting policies.
____________We tried that before. It didn't work then, and it won't work now.
____________There is nothing to draw on for help.
____________Things don't make sense.
____________The decision making is by fiat.
____________Things just aren't fair.
____________Nobody cares about this place.
____________There is no coordination among jobs.
____________Morale is down.
____________People operate on selfish, narrow interests.
____________The organizational chart doesn't reflect the way things happen.
____________The things we have don't work.
____________One policy undermines others.
____________Why are we doing this anyway.
____________The company is poorly organized.
____________My energy level is really low.
____________There's nothing to hope or dream for anymore.
____________They don't do things right anymore.
____________I don't know what's happening. I just know that I was deeply upset when I left work.
____________The forces battering us are beyond our control.
____________We can't get things done.
____________We've lost our way.
____________History is against us.
____________All decisions are already made; it's a sham.
____________The environment is overwhelming us.
____________This is a crazy world.
____________There is no rhyme or reason to the way things are organized.
____________We need more, or less, of X for us to do our work.
____________The situation can't change.
____________The decision-making process is vague or undefined.
____________I don't know what we need.
____________We have a terrible track record.
____________We are not sure what we need to complete the task.
Terry, R. W. (1993). Authentic leadership. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Week 4 - Core Principles of Reflective Human Action
Topics: Living Consciously, Present Moment Awareness & Commitment
Objective: Experience conscious living and present moment awareness.
This week’s assignments:
- Read the E-Lecture.
- Complete two reflective activities.
If you’ve ever visited London, England, you probably recognize the phrase “Mind the Gap”. In London, as you board or disembark from the subway, a male voice warns over the public address system. “Mind the gap. Mind the gap.” Of course, the intent is to watch your step and don’t fall into the gaping space between the train and the platform. This phrase has stuck with me to describe a unique space in time. Let me explain.
As we live each day, we are constantly bombarded with stimuli. We perceive the stimuli that cause a reactive response. Usually people receive and respond without thought. The response is generally automatic: stimulus/response…stimulus/response…stimulus/response. There is however a space—a gap, if you will—that is available to you between the stimulus and the normal time to respond. That gap contains the field of all potentiality…it contains spirit…it contains imagination and conscience…it contains self-awareness and independent will…it contains the key to creating something new.
We all have the possibility of accessing this space, but we often fail to notice that it’s there. In order to access it, you must first get out of “automatic drive” and begin to notice yourself as you “be” in the world. This requires reflection on the stimuli presented and evaluating your options to get the best result of who you want to be in any given situation. To repeat…you need to notice who you are being as you are being it…in other words, begin to create consciousness about you and your thoughts as you move about your world. In other terms, you must begin being present in the moment…
Present moment awareness is an amazing place to be. Time moves very slowly in this space—unlike when you move through the day in past or future awareness. Being in present moment awareness, you set aside your baggage from the past and your worries in the future and experience the moment—being present in this moment.
For example, you may be wondering right this very minute…I have so much to do today, how long is this e-lecture…I’ll never get that big project done if I don’t start moving…I don’t have time for this today. This is living in the future. And the future doesn’t exist yet.
Another example, the existence of guilt in your life. You may be thinking…yesterday, I didn’t take the time to hug my kids…I can’t believe I can get so busy that I would forget such a basic thing…but I couldn’t help it…I got that call that really threw me for a loop, then the flat tire made me late, then I got home and things were such a mess…I always told myself I’d never let a day go by without hugging the kids. I know what that feels like when the hugs aren’t there. This is living in the past. And the past no longer exists.
The only thing that is real is this moment. Who do you want to be in this moment?
Authentic leadership requires that you step into the gap between a stimulus and your response and reflect on the alternatives available to you in your response. Incorporate, into your evaluation, which response is going to better portray the person I want to be. This process takes an imperceptible moment, but it is critical to creating something that you do not currently know how to do. Without this reflection in the moment, you cannot lead. It is in the present moment that reflective human action takes place. Leadership occurs from that reflection in the present moment.
Leadership and Commitment
There is little difference between interest and commitment. When you are interested in something, you do it only when it is convenient. When you are committed to something, you accept no excuses and produce only results. (Gilley, 1997, p. 45)
Leadership requires commitment. Personal leadership can only be exhibited if you live authentically, in alignment with your core value system. Personal leadership is driven by a commitment to make a situation “right”. It comes from noticing when a situation is out of alignment with an established vision.
Commitment is doing, not trying. Have you ever tried to sit in a chair? You either are sitting OR not sitting—the act of trying creates an action suspended in non-accountability. Trying creates activity, but not bottom line outcomes. What commitments have you made to yourself that you have tried to keep, but never were able to fulfill? Perhaps the outcome has something to do with the trying!
Commitment requires discipline, not only in the fulfilling, but also in the consideration of the commitment. The foundation for this discipline is in conscious living. Conscious living requires one to be in the present moment—that space between stimulus and response—where one gets in touch with the authentic self—to examine the promise for action and assess whether the promise is in alignment with the true and authentic self. Conscious living requires us to carefully consider our authenticity in our response, examine if there is a possibility that something within us might sabotage or undermine our resolve. Conscious living helps us to see how events of the past may impede our ability to fulfill our commitment today.
Careful consideration is not the only thing required to fulfill a commitment. Good intentions are only intentions. Action must back up the intention. There needs to be plan—a strategy—to back up the commitment.
Here are some questions to consider before making a commitment (Gilley, 1997, p. 47):
What does the commitment require?
· What must I do to make sure the commitment is carried out?
· What must I refuse to do to make sure that it is carried out?
· How do I measure my progress?
· What support systems or mechanisms do I or others need to make sure that the commitment is carried out?
· Why wouldn’t I want to be committed to this?
· What situations test our commitment?
· How do we respond in those situations to ensure that we keep our commitment?
Gilley, K. (1997). Leading from the Heart: Choosing Courage over Fear in the Workplace. Newton, Massachusetts:Butterworth-Heineman
Activity: (Complete Activity 1 and 2)
To become fully aware in the present, practice this activity daily for the next seven days:
Choose some small aspect of a daily activity and really notice you in the process. It might be cooking or washing dishes, shaving or brushing your teeth, or walking across campus. Notice who you are being in the process of this activity. Notice your attitude about the activity. Notice your movement, your body’s tension, your rhythm and pace during the activity. Notice what distracts you from completing the activity in a focused manner. Is there a difference in your noticing between day 1 and day 7 of this activity? Post your observations about present moment awareness and you.
In our lives, values serve many purposes. They guide personal and social behavior. They inform us of what to do and what not to do relative to moral conduct and personal competency. They serve as guides for taking positions on issues, choosing our politics, and evaluating actions, beliefs, and attitudes of ourselves and others. "They are our deepest feelings and thoughts about ourselves and our life" (Throop, 1993, p. 5).
Values are defined by many authors. Rokeach (1973), one of the leading researchers and scholars in the field of human values, defines a value as "an enduring belief that a specific mode of conduct or end-state of existence is personally or socially preferable to an opposite or converse mode of conduct or end-state of existence" (p. 5). Kouzes and Posner (1993) define values as "the beliefs about what means and ends are desirable and undesirable, preferable or not preferable" (p. 62).
When values are clear, persons do not have to rely on anyone else to provide direction. They can act independently and can recognize conflict between personal values and those of business or society. When values are clear and recognized, individuals are more in control of their lives and are thus empowered.
Values and value systems serve as guides for resolving conflicts and making decisions. We must recognize that we may not always be able to behave in a manner consistent with our values. Occasionally, two or more values conflict. By being clear about our values and being able to articulate them when appropriate, individuals can engage in true dialogue about priorities that direct their behavior. Also, we are most comfortable in situations when our thinking, feeling, and acting coincide, i.e., work together.
Kouzes, J. M., & Posner, B. Z. (1993). Credibility: How leaders gain and lose it, why people demand it. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Rokeach, M. ( 1973). The nature of human values. New York: Free Press.
Senge, P. M., Kleiner, A., Roberts, C., Ross, R. B., & Smith, B. J. (1994). The fifth discipline fieldbook: Strategies and tools for building a learning organization. New York: Doubleday.
Throop, R. K. ( 1993). Reaching your potential: Personal and professional development. New York: Delmar Publishers.
- Identify the five values you believe are most important to you and that undergird your actions. Use the Checklist for Personal Values (Senge et al, 1994), as a guide to stimulate your thinking. Add any values of your own that are not listed.
- Answer the following questions related to the five most important values you identified:
a. What do these core values mean, exactly? By holding these values, what are you expecting of yourself in good times? in bad times?
b. Have you considered other alternatives to these values?
c. Are you willing to affirm in public that you hold these values?
d. Are you willing to act on these values repeatedly and consistently over time?
e. In order to reflect these core values, what would you change in your personal life? in your professional life?
f. What would an organization be like which encouraged members (workers) to live up to these values?
3. As a result of your answers, do you want to change any of the selected values?
4. Focusing on the five values you consider most important, prioritize them in order of importance to you.
5. Reflect on the following questions:
a. Have you ever had to compromise one of your five core values? What did you feel when you had to give up a core value at home or at work?
b. How do you want to handle this situation in the future if it arises?
6. Post your top five values in order of priority to you. Share your thoughts about why have you chosen those particular values as priorities?
Checklist for Personal Values
Source: The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook: Strategies and Tools for Building a Learning Organization, by P. M. Senge, A. Kleiner, C. Roberts, R. B. Ross, & B. J. Smith, New York: Doubleday, 1994. Reprinted with permission of the publishers. All rights reserved.
______Advancement and Promotion
Affection (love and caring)
Change and variety
Having a family
Helpings other people
(being around people who are) Open and honest
Order (tranquility, stability, conformity)
Personal development (living up to the fullest use of my potential)
Power and authority
Quality of what I take part in
Quality in relationships
Recognition (respect from others, status)
Responsibility & accountability
Work under pressure
Work with others
Week 5 – Applying the Features of Action to Issues in the Commons
Topics: Authenticity, Ethical Sensibility, Spirituality, Listening, Questioning
Objective: Examine personal authenticity.
This week’s assignments:
1. Read the E-lecture and Chapter 3 in the text.
2. Participate in the Discussion.
3. Complete 1 Reflective Activity, posting responses in your journal.
Genuineness and a refusal to engage in self-deception characterizes authenticity. It "entails action that is both true and real in ourselves and in the world. We are authentic when we discern, seek, and live into truth, as persons in diverse communities and in the real world. What distinguishes leadership from other forms of action . . . is that leadership calls forth authentic action in the commons" (Terry, 1993, pp. 111-112). In other words, authenticity is reflective engagement in those public places where leadership lives, moves, and expresses itself.
Inauthenticity is abetted by the following factors: a sense of disconnection from institutions and people, the shift to information-based activity, questions about the viability of institutions, the popularity of virtual reality—made-up reality, the fragility of shared purposes, and a tendency toward relativism. However, the ability to name the challenges to authenticity gives hope for transforming the inauthentic.
Focusing on authenticity as a source for leadership is important in the areas of personality, inclusiveness of action, self-correction, engagement, vision, and ethical foundation. In these ways authenticity is as essential to leadership as the concept of action.
Individuals have the obligation to apply authenticity by exhibiting wise judgment, understanding self and others, demonstrating empowerment, and exhibiting personal growth and development. Authenticity is exhibited in community by an enduring future, mutuality/regard/respect, shared power in dialogue over collective interests, equitable and adequate distribution systems, adequate resources, and ecological diversity and survival.
Leaders can show authentic appreciation and respect for others by reaching out, listening to them, and learning from them. To be effective, we must listen actively to what others have to say. In this way, we affirm the legitimacy of another’s way of looking at the world, and we begin to let go of some of the defenses we all have about what is different.
Active listening means engaging the mind with the message and the speaker. When you are concentrating on the message and the speaker, you are engaging in true communication with another.
Some techniques for active listening include being physically prepared, being open to other points of view, being curious and willing to ask questions, and listening for underlying meanings (Throop, 1993).
Physical preparedness goes beyond physically hearing the message. Listening can be improved by the following tips (adapted from Ailes, 1988, p. 60):
- Relax and clear your mind so you can HEAR and BE RECEPTIVE to what the other person is REALLY saying.
- Focus on the speaker. Screen out noises and other distractions from the environment.
- Listen for the whole thought and whole sentence.
- Concentrate on the first words the speaker says.
- Be open to the speaker even though you don't like his/her looks.
- Hear the whole thought of the person. Don't form judgments too quickly.
- Evaluate what the speaker is really saying. Distinguish between specific information and generalizations presented.
- Listen for intent as well as content. Be sure the speaker's eyes, body, and face are consistent with voice and words.
- Attend to nonverbal messages. Voice quality, eye contact, facial expression, and body language contribute meaning to the message and help you improve your ability to understand the message.
- Recognize that human communication has three phases: reception, information processing, and transmission. When any of these overlap, the communication has the potential for confusion.
Being open to another’s point of view is not always easy! Each of us risks having to change our own views, feelings, ideas, or attitudes as a result of what we hear. "Listening in an open, nonjudgmental way does not necessarily mean that you must agree with everything the speaker says. It means you have to be willing to accept that the individual has the right to say it and to listen" (Throop, 1993, p. 205). Too, focusing on the other point of view means foregoing fault-finding and error-searching. This principle means that you let your curiosity about the other point of view guide your attention!
Part of being an active listener means formulating and asking meaningful questions that give additional detail and clarity about the message. Open-ended questions that require an explanation as a response also help to increase understanding.
Listening for meaning in the message is critical to learning from the message of another. Critical thinking skills are needed to identify ideas, facts, and relationships. This information is obtained with the following questions (Throop, 1993, p. 209): "What is the most important thing being said? What facts or ideas support the main idea? Does one thing cause another? Does this represent fact or opinion?"
These questions probe for information so you can learn from the message.
Listening openly and actively to the messages of others helps us affirm our willingness to reach out, to learn from others, to appreciate others, and to value differences as strengths.
Ailes, R. (1988). You are the message: Getting what you want by being who you are. New York: Doubleday.
Terry, R. W. (1993). Authentic leadership: Courage in action. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Throop, R. K. ( 1993). Reaching your potential: Personal and professional development. New York: Delmar Publishers.
Think of a time when you know you were authentic in an interpersonal interaction.
How do you personally know when you are being authentic and inauthentic? What do you observe about yourself when you are being authentic and when you are not? What do you hear in your head? What do you feel in your body? What conclusions can you draw from this?
Activity 1: Ethical Sensibility
Though ethics as a concept is familiar to all of us, some definitions will assure shared understanding. Ethics has to do with how people ought to act towards each other. Ethical issues have to do with questions of right and wrong--our duties and obligations, our rights and responsibilities in the ethical dilemmas at home, on the job, and in social situations. Ethical reasoning involves forming judgments about what to do.
Acting with courage is another way of saying ethical sensibility. Close your eyes and imagine someone acting with courage. Did you picture someone rushing into a burning building and saving a child or a pet, interceding with a potential attacker and preventing an assault in the park? Most of us envision dramatic, extraordinary acts when we think of acting with courage. However, it takes tremendous courage to choose to act based on principles of human dignity and respect, to be honest with yourself, to recognize rationalizations that keep you from living true to yourself, to stand up for the principles in which you believe, and to act for the common good. Ethical sensibility as a characteristic of leadership requires us to exhibit specific behaviors.
Ethical sensibility--the imperative to be intellectually and morally defensible.
But how does one judge how to behave ethically? (Mitstifer, 1989, p. 10)
Although there are various models of ethical principles, most include the following five:
1. Value of Life - acting in a way which does not harm human life.
2. Goodness or Rightness - using the principle of the greatest good for the greatest number.
3. Justice or Fairness - assuring equality of treatment and fair distribution of benefits and burdens.
4. Truth-telling or honesty - basing action on truth.
5. Individual Freedom - assuring self-determination.
Terry (1993) applies the above generic ethical principles to leadership:
1. Responsibility - accountability for authentic action.
2. Love - attention, caring, and forgiveness.
3. Participation - actual engagement.
4. Justice - fairness.
5. Freedom - potential and possibility affirmed.
6. Dwelling - place, space, and time affirmed.
The overarching requirements for those who adhere to a social ethic are to SHOW UP and ENGAGE.
Mitstifer, D. I. (1989). Ethical dimensions of the scholar: A professional development module. East Lansing, MI: Kappa Omicron Nu.
Terry, R. W. (1993). Authentic leadership: Courage in action. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Activity 1 Instructions:
What would it take for you to exhibit moral courage as you face a situation you believe is unethical?
Choose one set of examples below. Examine how you might automatically react versus if you reacted with moral courage in the situations below. Reflect on your response first, drawing conclusions about you. Then ask two other people, of different generations than you. Are their responses any different from yours? Post your personal reflections on whether there are generational differences in terms of ethical sensibilities. Additionally, share your thoughts on what it really takes to show moral courage.
1a. Your sibling shoplifts a piece of clothing as you shop together.
1b. You learn that your sibling is wearing stolen goods.
2a. A friend tells you s/he is intimately involved with someone other than his/her spouse.
2b. You see your friend having an intimate, romantic dinner with someone other his/her spouse.
3a. You buy clothing made in a sweat shop in Malaysia.
3b. You can’t find any childcare under $20/day. A friend introduces you to a new immigrant who will only charge $12/day to provide daycare for your child.
4a. You are on the board of an organization who “dumps” leadership roles and tasks on unwilling participants or people who don’t show up at meetings. “Oh, Cathy, isn’t here tonight…let’s elect her to handle the convention since none of us have the time or interest!”
4b. You serve in a leadership position on a board, but are not available to attend the board meetings on a regular basis.
5a. You live in a community where intolerance is demonstrated by offensive language and judgmental gossip.
5b. Your friends would like to take you to a particular restaurant whose management is known to ship in young Jamaican men to capture the old world atmosphere of slave-servants.
Activity 2: Questioning and Listening
Focus on asking open-ended questions for one day and using active listening to receive the responses. Open-ended questions cannot be answered with a “yes” or “no”. Open-ended questions often start with a “why” or “how”. Such questions express curiosity, and lack built-in answers. At day’s end, reflect on what new perspectives you discovered in the experiment. In your questioning, did you help anyone else gain a new insight as well? After completing this experiment, write your personal reflections on what have you discovered about the value of questioning and listening in gaining insight and creating synergy. E-mail your thoughts to your instructor.
Week 6 - Applying the Features of Action to Issues in the Common
Topics: Framing Issues
Objective: Examine situations, using the Action Wheel.
This week’s assignments:
- Read the E-Lecture.
- Participate in the Discussion.
- Complete one activity, posting your observations in your journal.
In Authentic Leadership: Courage in Action by Robert Terry (1993) the stage is set for the importance of framing issues.
What is leadership and what is expected of us as leaders? To ask these questions, [however,] is to challenge the adequacy of prevailing leadership perspectives. How comforting it would be to believe that some expert knows a simple formula for leadership and can offer a sure way for leaders to define and solve problems. Yet leadership experts differ profoundly, offering conflicting theories about the nature of effective leadership. Some theorists say the essence of leadership is vision. Others say it is empowering followers. Still others offer leaders management skills, on the premise that even if we cannot diagnose the problem and have experts fix it, perhaps we can manage it (p. xvi)
Terry's view is that leadership depends on the ability to frame issues correctly. He defines framing as the ability to answer the question: "What is really going on?" and to call forth authentic action in response to issues identified.
To truly answer, “What is really going on here?”, the situation must be framed accurately.
The Authentic Leadership Model by Terry uses the Action Wheel (1993) as a tool to help leaders diagnose the real problems leadership faces and frame the issues appropriately. Framing issues requires the capacity to think in different ways at the same time about the same thing. The ability to see new possibilities and create new opportunities will enable leaders to find choices when options are limited severely and to find hope when fear and despair abound.
Terry’s model uses the seven features common to all human action to frame issues. It is based on two hypotheses: all human action is structured the same and the way we frame an issue determines how well we focus the issue, judge what is really happening, and direct our attention and intervention for change. Terry believes that the questions related to the features of action are so important because we often fail to identify the real problem before selecting and implementing an intervention.
Issue framing is a critical task of leadership, but it is not a mechanistic activity despite the usefulness of the Action Wheel. Leadership must understand the principles of the universe and of action and use authenticity, ethical sensibility, and spirituality to serve the common good. Terry (1993) situates leadership in the following quote:
Leadership is not a means to another end. It is not instrumental. Leadership is the action itself. . . . Leadership is a gift to be unwrapped and treasured; leadership is choice, to be claimed; leadership is part of a web of interdependent actions, to be made functionally whole; leadership is participation, to be energized; leadership is adventure, to be embraced; leadership is creativity and innovation, to be playful. Leadership is total engagement offered for the well-being of the earth and all it inhabitants. . . These are truly times to try our souls. We do indeed have miles to go before we sleep. These are also times that inspire our souls. The world becomes us. We can meet the call and make the difference expected of us as partners of the universe. The common ground in our hope is our action together, asking the difficult questions, searching for the fitting responses. (pp. 273-274)
Conger, J. A. (1994). Spirit at work: Discovering the spirituality in leadership. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
(Three students will be specifically assigned to create the discussion scenarios for this week.) Post a leadership dilemma for the class to analyze in terms of issue and appropriate intervention, according to the principles of Reflective Human Action.
Test Robert Terry’s theory in real life. Listen for a complaint or concern or objection on a project you are involved with.
- As you recognize the complaint, notice yourself in the situation.
- Pause to consider , “What is the issue here?”
- If you’re not sure, ask probing, open-ended questions until you can identify the issue.
- Respond with an appropriate intervention according to the principles of Reflective Human Action.
- Post your observations in your journal.
Week 7 - RHA–An Uncommon Journey to Leadership
Objective: Explore one’s inner self
This week’s assignment:
- Read the E-Lecture, then Chapter 4.
- Participate in the discussion.
- Complete 2 Reflective Activities, posting your observations in your journal.
Terry (1993) classifies the diverse viewpoints about leadership into six schools. He believes that each approach offers some important aspects of leadership that need to be blended into a comprehensive theory. This school describes the approaches that attribute traits and acquired skills to leaders. It proposes that leadership theory can be developed by examining the qualities of leaders and the elements of situations. This school leads to the argument of whether leaders are born or made and to the concept of "natural leader." It leads also to the notion that persons who have certain qualities are destined to leadership and those without are relegated to followership.
These ideas are described by Terry (1993) as exclusive personal theory. An inclusive approach to personal leadership is reflected in the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator that describes the dimensions of a person’s personality and recognizes everyone’s capacity to lead. This school, based on innate qualities, lacks appreciation for transcendence of human limitations and for the full complexity of action. However, it does help individuals understand their innate qualities and take advantage of their strengths. Knowing oneself and others are essential skills for recognizing and appreciating differing qualities, improving outcomes, valuing differences as strengths, nurturing ideas and people, supplying needed abilities, and understanding the social reality (history, reality, and possibilities of the social setting).
See for example: Bennis, W., & Goldsmith, J. (1994) Learning to lead: A workbook on becoming a leader. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley. Astin, H. A., & Leland, C. (1991). Women of influence, women of vision: A cross generational study of leaders and social change. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Helgesen, S. (1990). The female advantage: Women's ways of leadership. New York: Doubleday.
The overarching goal this week is to explore one’s inner self and answer the questions "Who am I " and "What traits do I have or have I acquired that support leadership?" Through knowing ourselves and others we will be able to address the obligations of leadership that accompany action. From the personal leadership perspective these responsibilities are to recognize, appreciate, and value differences as strengths, to improve outcomes, to nurture ideas and people, and to supply needed abilities.
All of us have many lives: our deep inner life where we connect with our spirit; our public life where we engage with other people at work, in our communities, at social, or at church events; and our private life where we are away from the public with our families or alone. According to Covey, Merrill, & Merrill (1994), our most significant life is our deep inner life. In this life, we connect with "our unique human endowments of self-awareness, conscience, independent will, and creative imagination" (p. 109). Without these endowments, we cannot generate a personal or professional vision that will lead to "quality-of-life events."
We use knowledge of self or self-awareness to explore our needs and capacities and integrate them with our actions. In order to know self, we look at the reasons why we behave as we do. We examine our roots and evaluate how these impact our knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors.
Knowing self helps us tap into our deep conscience. Through conscience we realize our unique contribution. We use conscience to align our values and strategies with principles.
Once we are in contact with our own uniqueness, we can use creative imagination to envision and give meaningful expression to our vision and our values. Our creative imagination is likened to a blueprint. It is the mental picture of the construction before the first board is nailed in place. Through creative imagination we "see ourselves living our vision based on our values" (Covey, Merrill, & Merrill, 1994, p. 107).
Knowledge of self, recognition of our uniqueness, and living our vision lead us toward a new paradigm of leadership. This paradigm comes from accessing and creating an open connection with the deep energy that comes from a well-defined, thoroughly integrated sense of purpose and meaning in life. This paradigm "grows out of connecting with our unique purpose and the profound satisfaction that comes in fulfilling it" (Covey, Merrill, & Merrill, 1994, p. 107).
Bennis, W. (1989). On becoming a leader. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.
Covey, S. R., Merrill, A. R., & Merrill, R. R. (1994). First things first. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Kouzes, J. M., & Posner, B. A. (1993). Credibility: How leaders gain and lose it, why people demand it. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Louw, L-L. (1995). Ubuntu: Applying African philosophy to diversity training. In L. B. Griggs & L-L Louw, (Eds.). Valuing diversity: New tools for a new reality. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Terry, R. W. (1993). Authentic leadership. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Is it possible to have social consciousness without authenticity, ethical sensibility and spirituality? Is it possible to do works of social justice without authenticity, ethical sensibility and spirituality?
Activity: (Complete Activities 1 and 2)
- Review your top five values from Week 4.
- Reflecting on the world outside yourself, i.e. issues of social justice and global concern, list those social and public policy issues that you REALLY care about.
- Choose one of those issues and answer the following questions about it.
a. Why do you care so deeply about this issue?
b. Reflect on what leadership role you have taken to date to address the issue.
c. Reflect on how you might share information with another person, develop a relationship and embrace a vision about the issue.
- Post your observations in your journal.
The phrase "know yourself" is a common message for all leaders. If individuals are to establish and enhance their credibility as leaders they must know who they are and who they want to be. Self-knowledge is an essential part of defining a leader's integrity (Kouzes & Posner, 1993). According to Bennis (1989, p. 51), "to become a leader, then you must become yourself, become the maker of your own life." Knowing oneself is one of the most difficult tasks any individual faces. ". . . until you truly know yourself, strengths and weaknesses, know what you want to do and why you want to do it, you cannot succeed in any but the most superficial sense of the word" (Bennis, 1989, p. 40). Furthermore, Louw (1995) quotes an African proverb--A person is a person through other people--to assert that you don't know yourself without knowing yourself in relation to other people. In this activity, you will explore deep feelings and knowledge about yourself.
- Find a quiet place and time where you can be away from phones, friends, family, coworkers, etc.
- Complete the Inner Strengths Assessment Worksheet and honestly get in touch with what matters most to you.
- Form no judgments. Gather information and the gifts you have in this human form.
Inner Strengths Assessment Worksheet
(Modified from First Things First, by S. R. Covey, A. R. Merrill, & R. R. Merrill. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994).
1. What are my greatest strengths and talents that would be of value to other people?
2. What strengths and talents have others who know me well noticed about me?
3. How are the abilities and talents I identified different from and alike those identified by other people? Why might they be different?
4. What qualities of character do I admire most in the one person who has made the greatest positive impact on my life?
5. Why was that person able to make such a significant impact?
6. What have been the happiest moments of my life?
7. Why were these moments happy?
8. What are the three or four most important things to me?
9. When I review my personal life, what activities do I consider of greatest worth?
10. What are my personal needs and capacities?
11. What quality-of-life results do I desire in the personal area that are different from what I now have?
12. What do I have to do to create those results?
13. What are my physical needs and capacities?
14. What quality-of-life results do I desire in the physical area that are different from what I now have?
15. What do I have to do create those results?
16. What are my social needs and capacities?
17. What quality-of-life results in the social area do I desire that are different from what I now have?
18. What do I have to do to create those results?
19. What are my spiritual needs and desires?
20. What quality-of-life results in the spiritual area do I desire that are different from what I now have?
21. What do I have to do to create those results?
22. What are the most important roles in my life? _________________, _________________, _________________, _________________, _________________, _________________, _________________, _________________.
23. What are the most important goals I want to fulfill in each of these roles?
24. What progress am I making toward fulfillment of these goals?
25. What results am I currently getting in my life that I don't like?
26. What results am I currently getting in my life that I don't like?
27. What paradigms would produce better results?
28. If I had the personal, physical, social, and spiritual capacity to do anything I wanted to do with my life, what would it be?
29. What are the important principles upon which this choice is based?
Week 8 - Personal Leadership Styles
Topics: Creativity and Reflective Human Action, aesthetic approaches
Objective: Apply creativity to examine a system
This week’s assignment:
1. Read the E-Lecture.
2. Participate in the open challenge for discussion
3. Complete 1 activity, posting your observations in your journal.
The “new science” view of reality prompts leaders to view organizations as "webs of relationships." Thus, Gardner (1993) argues, "creative activity grows, first, out of the relationships between an individual and the objective world of work, and, second out of the ties between an individual and other human beings" (p. 9). As individuals work alone and together to shape ideas into reality, numerous possibilities are evoked and creativity results. "Innovation arises from ongoing circles of exchange, where information is not just accumulated or stored, but created. Knowledge is generated anew from connections that weren't there before" (Wheatley, 1994, p. 113).
Because everyone plays an essential role in the formation of knowledge, the creativity of each member in an organization is important. What does it mean to live and work creatively? Perhaps the most essential quality is the adoption of a creative attitude and way of living (deBono, 1992; Gardner, 1993; Moore, 1992). According to deBono (1992), "The creative pause should become a mental habit for anyone who wants to be creative" (p. 86). He defines the creative pause as a deliberate interruption in our everyday routine to pay attention to some point. We should pause at any time during our ordinary day simply because something is interesting, amusing, or in some way engaging. When we "let ourselves be arrested by the imaginal richness" (Moore, 1992, p. 289) around us, genuine creativity increases.
Not only must we "let the world in, to perceive it" if we are to live more creatively, but we must take time to "engage it fully" (Moore, 1992, p. 286). By spending meaningful time with nature, things, and human beings, "we get to know them more intimately and to feel more genuinely connected with them" (Moore, p. 287). Our creativity tends to flourish when we spend time thinking about the ideas we truly love and engaging in the activities that spark our imagination (Moore, 1992). As Wheatley (1994) reminds us, full engagement requires that we stop trying to do everything right and begin adding a quality of playfulness. A playful spirit adds imagination, emotional intensity, fun, mystery, and surprise that are too-often absent from "serious" work. The more we engage in play, the more likely we are to be surprised (Wheatley, 1994). "Surprise is the only route to discovery" (Wheatley, 1994, p. 142) and play often results in a "new-found creation of the mind" (Huizinga, 1955, p. 9-10).
We also enrich our engagement in ordinary activities, ranging from personal decision making to political expression, when we approach them aesthetically (Broudy, 1972; Moore, 1992). "To experience life aesthetically is to sense the drama in every event of nature, in every moment of life, in the conflict of colors and shapes, sounds and rhythms" (Broudy, 1972). It is to draw the parts of everyday experience together into a meaningful whole--a whole that illustrates beauty, theme, and variation on a theme, reciprocity, rhythm, harmony, balance, and resolution of conflict (Kupfer, 1983). Artistic experience occurs whenever we "create an external, concrete form in which the soul of our lives can be evoked and contained" (Moore, 1992, p. 302). For example, Wheatley (1994) compares organizations to the art of dance: "Knowing the steps ahead of time is not important; being willing to engage with the music and move freely onto the dance floor is what's key" (p. 142-143).
Do you have a problem in a system that you’d like to share? What changes can you make in the system to improve people’s ability to creatively address the problem? Consider time for reflection, mindfulness, creativity, playfulness, artistry and story-telling. Once posted, classmates may share other approaches to try.
Activity: (Choose Option I, II and III)
Option I: Pause for Creativity
Every time we stop to pause to reflect and wonder, there is a possibility of a new idea. Thus, deBono (1992) calls this habit the creative pause. Although not every creative pause leads to a creative result, deBono argues that the habit of stopping to engage with our thoughts stretches our imagination. Every time we pause, we invest in our creative potential and could discover something new. The following thoughts are examples of a creative pause:
I want to pay attention to . . .
Is there another idea here?
Is this the only way to do this?
This is interesting.
Take a few moments to jot down anything that is particularly intriguing, attractive, perplexing, or interesting to you. Think about the people around you, the room you are in, the ideas that you have found appealing, anything that comes to mind!
Are any ideas interesting enough to pursue further? What more do you want to know? How can you begin to more deeply engage with the idea?
If there is something in ideas that emerge from creative pausing that is inherently valuable, the insights sometimes can be applied in some way to solve a problem. The creative focus is related to the creative pause but involves selecting defined areas for reflection. Some examples are:
I want to improve . . .
We need some ideas for . . .
We need opportunities for . . .
Select an area for creative focus. Then play with ways the ideas from creative pausing that could be applied in a more focused manner. (The ideas may or may not lead anywhere, but there is always the possibility when you take a moment to try them out.)
deBono, E. (1992). Serious creativity. New York: HarperBusiness.
Option II: The Art of Creative Thinking
Kupfer (1983) argues that establishing aesthetic relations in everyday activities is essential to meaningful family, work, leisure, political, and educational life. Aesthetic experience--from personal decision making to building a community--depends on the capacity to integrate diverse details into a meaningful form:
In aesthetic experience, we respond to what is presented to us by discriminating among its constituents so as to integrate them into a unified whole. The whole is formed out of the interaction among its parts. While these parts are distinct, making distinctive contributions, their relations with one another and their place in the whole is decisive for their meaning and value. In the aesthetic ideal, they enhance and deepen each other's significance: one word's connotation enriching another's meaning, this musical phrase heightening that one's effect, the shape of a roof setting off the window's lines. The parts are interdependent, forming a kind of community. (p. 4)
Experience in organizations becomes more meaningful whenever we draw in artful qualities. Such artistry is especially significant in the new science view of reality where forms constantly change amidst chaos, and new forms must take shape in continual self-renewal. The following exercises are intended to help you think about art and aesthetics in your organization:
1. Describe your organization in terms of selected art concepts. Some examples are:
a. Sensory elements: color, shape, pattern, texture, sound, smell, taste, imagery.
b. Beauty, style, poetry, dance, music.
c. Reciprocity of parts, balance, contrast, emphasis, rhythm.
d. Tension and resolution of tension, unity in diversity, variation on a theme.
e. Drama, surprise.
2. How can you more fully integrate these concepts into the daily life of your organization?
3. Have aesthetic experiences in your organization contributed to creativity in the past? Explain. In what ways can your organization become more artful in the future?
Using an aesthetic approach and the action wheel, frame one issue pertinent to your organization (meaning, power, etc.,). Using ideas from art and aesthetics, suggest ways to intervene and address the issue.
Kupfer, J. K. (1983). Experience as art: Aesthetics in everyday life. Albany: State University of New York.
Option III: The Storied Organization
One particular art form that is significant to organizations is storytelling. A good story weaves together a unique plot with vivid details. Interesting characters have intentions, take actions, and experience outcomes in a particular setting. A good story also illustrates a theme which tells us something about our personal and shared lives.
Stories, to Bruner (1987), are an everyday form of "lifemaking" (p. 12) by which we interpret (and continually reinterpret) our experiences, imagine our futures, create identities, learn values, and understand our culture. When we see ourselves as "great weavers of tales" that "capture our imaginations and the experiences of our lives" (Wheatley, 1994, p. 142), the work in our organizations gains a quality of play, enjoyment, and creativity. The following questions are intended to help you think about the art of telling and interpreting stories:
- Write a story that illustrates your organization. Relate some of the most interesting and vivid details about characters, intentions, actions, outcomes, and setting. Discuss the following:
a. What is the overall theme (or themes)?
b. What organizational values does the story reflect? Does it reflect your mission?
c. What does it say about the personal sense of identity of those within the group?
d. What does the story reveal about the relationships among people and group culture?
e. How do you envision the story as it continues into the future?
2. Consider the features of human action. What does the story reveal about the features of human action in your organization?
3. Discuss ways you might enhance the creativity of your organization through stories.
Bruner, J. (1987). Life as narrative. Social Research, 54(1), 11-32.
Visioning is the term used to describe the process of focusing on an image of the future. It has been referred to by Jaffe, Scott, and Tobe (1994, p. 146) as " . . . a journey from the known to the unknown. "Other authors refer to visioning as " . . . the ability to see beyond our present reality, to create, to invent what does not yet exist, to become what we not yet are" (Covey, Merrill, & Merrill, 1994, p. 103-4).
We use current facts, hopes, dreams, threats, dangers, and opportunities to design our visions. Visioning encourages us to use awareness of ourselves, our conscience, our imagination, and our independence to ask the tough questions: What do we want to be? What does it take to be the best that we want to be? What are my capabilities for achieving what I want to be? For what do I want people to know me? Visioning focuses on what we want to become rather than on what we are presently.
Effective visions for the future are grounded in respect and honor for the past. People who accept their past and use it as a stepping stone to the future deal with change more easily than those who refuse to let go of the past. In our personal and professional lives, ". . . change occurs in creating a continuity from the past to the future. Honoring the past provides a springboard into the future" (Jaffe, Scott, & Tobe, 1994, p. 155).
The visioning process has numerous outcomes for an individual and an organization. Several outcomes important for an individual relate to commitment, sense of purpose, personal mastery, appreciation of differences as strengths, interdependence, and innovation.
In this activity, we will learn about the process of visioning as a means of reflecting on our own personal vision. Visioning challenges all of us to engage both head and heart in designing a mission statement of what we want to be and what it takes for us to "get there."
Getting in touch with our inner selves allows us to use our self-awareness, conscience, independent will, and creative imagination to create a compelling inner or personal vision. Putting that vision into words of a mission statement permits us to discover new ways of seeing ourselves and doing what is right. In other words, the end of the personal mission statement is "personal empowerment".
A personal mission statement is exactly that--truly personal and empowering for the individual who envisions it. It is not a "to do list" to be checked off when completed. Rather, it is a living document that becomes the person. It is the blueprint before construction, the criteria by which we live our lives day by day. Covey, Merrill, and Merrill (1994) indicate that "most people who feel empowered by their mission statements find that there seems to be a point at which their statement 'lives.' They own it. It is theirs. A vital connection is made between the mission and the moment of life. With nurturing and continuing cultivation the mission statement becomes the primary factor that influences every moment of choice" (p. 116).
Covey, Merrill, and Merrill (1994, p. 113) identified several characteristics of empowering mission statements. An empowering mission statement:
- Represents the deepest and the best within you and is rooted in a solid connection with your deep inner life.
- Is the fulfillment of your own unique gifts.
- Is transcendent and based on principles of contribution and purpose higher than self.
- Addresses and integrates all human needs and capacities and includes fulfillment in the physical, social, mental, and spiritual dimensions.
- Is based on principles that produce quality-of-life results.
- Deals with both vision and principle-based values.
- Represents a balance in your life.
- Communicates to you and inspires you.
Final Project: (Parts 1 and 2)
Personal Mission Statement
1. Find a quiet place where you can bring yourself into a reflective frame of mind.
2. Reflect on the results you want to achieve in your life. Write down your responses. Bring your vision to the surface by asking questions such as "If you could have it now, would you want it?" "What would it bring you, allow you to do?"
3. Allow the ideas listed below lead you toward expressions of deep wishes and vision.
a. Self-image: If you could design the kind of person you wanted to be, what qualities/characteristics would this person have?
b. Tangibles: List the material things this person would have.
c. Home: Describe the living environment of this person.
d. Health: What is your desire for the health and fitness of this person?
e. Relationships: What types of relationships would this person have with family, friends, associates?
f. Work: What is the professional or vocational aspiration of this person? What impact would you want this person to have on other people in the work environment? What do you see this person doing in the work environment?
g. Personal pursuits: Where do you see this person in terms of individual learning, travel, reading, volunteering?
h. Community: What is your vision for the community in which this person lives and works?
i. Life Purpose: What is the purpose of this person’s life?
4. Review what you have written about your vision. Identify the primary goals that surface from this analysis. Are there some common themes that both you and your partner share?
5. In the privacy of your own space, develop an action plan--a mission statement--for living out these goals.
Covey, S. R., Merrill, A. R., & Merrill, R. R. (1994). First things first. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Jaffe, D. T., Scott, C. D., & Tobe, G. R. (1994). Rekindling Commitment. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Once you have completed your personal mission statement, reflect on the principles of Reflective Human Action (authenticity, ethical sensibility, and spirituality). How does your personal mission statement integrate the process of the new reality: accepting chaos, sharing information, developing relationships, and embracing vision?
Mail your Final Project for evaluation to: Kappa Omicron Nu, or email a PDF version to firstname.lastname@example.org
The final grade will be based on participation in the course, substance and depth of the personal mission statement, and the reflective integration of the concepts explored in this course.