11 Chapters
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2. The Distinctiveness of Leaderful Practice

Raelin, Joseph A. Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Although leaderful practice applies at all levels of the organization, it might well face its most direct assault not from those on the front lines but from those in the executive suite. Executives and their exponents might say, “Sharing and collaboration might work well among regular employees, but we must set the course and tone of the organization from the top.” For example, Carol Hymowitz, who writes an “In the Lead” column for the Wall Street Journal, reports the experience of general manager, Cynthia Danaher, in an article titled “How Cynthia Danaher Learned to Stop Sharing and Start Leading.” According to Hymowitz, the very talents that bring success to leaders at the entry and middle levels of the organization become counterproductive when one climbs farther up the corporate ladder. Presumably, one can no longer be an “involved-with-people” boss, nor can one promote teamwork at the upper levels. Danaher’s rationale is that “[p]eople say they want a leader to be vulnerable just like them, but deep down, they want to believe you have the skill to move and fix things they can’t. . . . Moreover, once a manager is in charge of thousands of employees, the ability to set direction and delegate is more vital than team-building and coaching.”1

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10. Getting Started on Your Leaderful Quest

Raelin, Joseph A. Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

YOU NOW KNOW WHAT LEADERFUL PRACTICE IS AND HOW IT compares to conventional leadership. You understand why leadership as we know it has to change if we are to prosper in our twenty-first-century organizations and communities.

You also realize that leaderful behavior in organizations will not miraculously show up; rather, it needs to be developed, first by you in your own self-development, and then by your community(ies). You also recognize that leaderful practice is made up of the four C’s, tenets that build toward a new paradigm of leadership. The four C’s, in turn, are constituted of a number of prior leadership traditions that need to be mastered to develop day-today leaderful practice.

Even though you may understand all of the aforementioned considerations, are you ready to embark on a change in your behavior as early as tomorrow? You might have resolved that whether you’re a manager or an employee, leaderful practice is something you can experiment with and adopt as your leadership quest. So, in this last chapter, I will address some immediate methods to get started on this quest, whether you’re a manager or an employee. There’s no need to wait any longer. Give it a shot. And good luck!

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7. Collective Leadership

Raelin, Joseph A. Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

LEADERSHIP IS BEING SEEN MORE AS A PLURAL PHENOMENON, something that the entire community does together. It does not need to be associated with the actions of a single operator. People in the community assume leadership roles when necessary, and through this collective action, leaderful practice occurs.

Consistent with the adaptive process of leadership, collective leadership may make its most important contribution to leaderful practice in promoting learning for the entire organization. Learning occurs as we make ourselves available to alternative perspectives of understanding. Although we tend to be willing to alter our perspectives on an individual basis, we also tend to resist exposing our vulnerability to others. Doing so requires a humility that seeks as much to serve as to achieve and to defer as to supersede. Creating a learning culture in an organization is easier said than done. No one can dictate openness to another; no one can demand someone’s vulnerability. Rather, it must pervade the culture of the organization.

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3. The Challenge of Leaderful Practice

Raelin, Joseph A. Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Leaderful practice may not always be specified as the first leadership behavior exhibited within the community. Take, for example, the case of a hospital unit team who, having put up with a heavy-handed supervisor for fifteen years, got a chance to try out a self-directed team approach when the supervisor left the hospital.1 The unit chose as its team leader someone who had strong interpersonal skills and who it considered a much kinder and gentler person. Originally, the team was excited about performing some of the administrative functions that the former manager had previously handled. The new team leader worked right along with the other staff in the unit, sharing administrative responsibilities. Over time, however, the team members began to push a lot of the shared responsibilities back onto the team leader. They reverted to their old ways and began to insist that the new team leader take on many of the former manager’s tasks. What happened to the self-directed team concept?

This case brings up the challenge of introducing leaderful practice when people and institutions aren’t ready for it. Individuals and communities are not generally standing by, primed to assume leaderful behavior. They need to evolve both an appreciation for and an ability to adopt leaderful practice. Although I am advocating that teams adopt a leaderful approach, I recognize that communities cannot become leaderful overnight.

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9. Compassionate Leadership

Raelin, Joseph A. Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

COMPASSIONATE LEADERS DO NOT SEEK TO CONTROL OR TO AWE others because of some unmet ego needs. Transcending their own ego identity, they seek to elevate others so that the whole community can benefit. What makes them special is not necessarily their own elevation to a high state of development but an interpersonal commitment to the dignity of others. They recognize the potential contribution of each member of the community, no matter what his or her position or status.

Yet, maintaining dispassionate control over the enterprise remains a popular prescription for leadership these days since it fits with the view that we require an “orderly universe,” one that eschews uncertainty and paradox. Most people do not like messes. They resist standing in the tension of opposites.1 They want conflicts resolved and our emotions held in check. This seems to be true even when we acknowledge that standing in the tension of opposites for a while can often lead to a better solution.

If dispassionate behavior is the norm, compassionate leaders may be correspondingly viewed as indecisive and weak. Consequently, leaders with a penchant for democratic practices might choose to avoid displaying these practices for fear of not seeming “in control.” Further, the Enron scandal, in which accounting irregularities led to the demise of a once-$50-billion empire, may have given top managers the impression that they operate at their own risk if they do not completely control their company. Unfortunately, direct control over behemoth enterprises that operate in countries across the globe can only be an illusion. You may reach a point where control may only apply to a few variables, leaving the less obvious but critical indicators away from the microscope. It is preferable to establish a culture of integrity that allows each operating unit the chance to manage itself while demonstrating accountability—in measures and in values—to the integrated whole.

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