Assessing Leadership — The Purpose in Leadership Inventory

Researching, Steve Hanna, Flickr

Photo Credit: Researching, by Steve Hanna, Flickr

The inaugural edition of the journal Servant Leadership: Theory and Practice came out at the end of August. I’m grateful to have an article included in the August 2014 issue of the journal. My article is focused on the development and initial testing of what I’m calling The Purpose in Leadership Inventory.

In this brief post, I’m providing a link to the full article followed by a brief overview of what leadership variables are measured by the instrument.

The Development and Initial Testing of the Purpose in Leadership Inventory:
A Tool for Assessing Leader Goal-Orientation, Follower-Focus, and Purpose-in-Leadership

Why Was the PLI Created?

The Purpose in Leadership Inventory (PLI) was created for two audiences.

Leadership Researchers: First, the PLI is designed for researchers in the field of leadership studies. Developing new instruments to measure leadership variables is one of the keys to ongoing advancement of the field. As the field of leadership studies has grown throughout the last century, noticeable shifts are occurring. The PLI is designed to capture some of these shifts, and help researchers understand which leadership factors are associated with effectiveness in diverse organizational contexts.

Leadership Practitioners: Second, the PLI is designed for engaged leadership practitioners who desire to study the place of goal-orientation, follower-focus, and purpose-in-leadership within their organizations and leadership practice. Diverse leaders approach leadership differently. The PLI allows leaders to gain insight into how followers perceive their leadership around these vital variables.

What Does the PLI Measure?

As mentioned above, the PLI measure three core leadership variables. These are:

  • Goal Orientation
  • Follower Focus
  • Purpose in Leadership

The first two capture variables highlighted in a previous post: People or Production — Getting Things Done while Caring for People. A focus on accomplishing goals and getting things done is important for leaders. Equally import is a focus on caring for followers. Goal orientation and follower focus are the first two variables measured by the PLI.

The third variable is the significant addition to the leadership research stream. This variable is Purpose in Leadership. Purpose in leadership as a variable is based on the work of individuals such as Paul Wong who focus on meaning-centered approaches to leadership and management. These approaches take seriously the leaders’ sense of meaning and purpose.

Why Does this Matter?

The more I engage in leadership research, the more I’m convinced that purpose matters. Leaders who have a sense of purpose and meaning in their lives as leaders add value to their organizations. Such leaders help the members of the community understand that their work and organizational outcomes actually make a difference in the world.

As leader-centered models of the 20th century have been modified by more recent approaches such as transformational and servant leadership, the opportunity to reflect on the deeper meaning and purpose in leadership has emerged. The PLI is a tool to help leadership practitioners and researchers investigate the priority of these leadership variables.

I’m looking forward to seeing the additional research that will emerge through the Purpose in Leadership Inventory.

Don’t Confuse Motion with Progress

photo

One of the favorite lessons I’ve picked up studying leadership and management from the thinking of Peter Drucker is this:

Don’t Confuse Motion with Progress!

While not necessarily a direct quote from him (at least I don’t know where it is), I picked this particular lesson up from a documentary on his life. Those close with him reported that he often challenging their practice around these themes:

Don’t Confuse Motion with Progress…. Are you being busy, but not productive?

This “Druckerian” insight holds a place in my office physically, and a place in my thinking frequently. In our lives and work it is easy to stay busy. In my American context, life is full, busy, and constantly in motion. If motion is the measure that matters, then things are great here!

More than Motion

But motion really is not what matters most in the flow and practice of leadership.

Organizations do not simply need leaders who look busy. Organizations do not need leaders who are simply constantly in motion. In contrast to this, organizations need leaders that help their communities make progress toward vital organizational goals. Organizations need leaders who are being productive, making progress, and are advancing what matters most to the community they serve.

These are simple questions, but ones that brings significant focus to my life and leadership.

  • Am I confusing motion with progress?”
  • Am I being busy, but not being productive?”

Our communities do not ultimately need busy executives. Our communities need leaders who are are guiding our organizations and making progress toward goals that matter. I encourage you to join me in applying this Druckerian wisdom in your day-to-day work, life, and leadership. Don’t confuse motion with progress!

Where Do You Find Your Identity? — Reflections for Leaders

One Moment in Time: Identity II, Dar'ya Sipyeykina, Flickr

Photo Credit: One Moment in Time: Identity II, Dar’ya Sipyeykina, Flickr

Where do you find your identity as a leader? This is big question.

Does your identity come from what you do? Does it come from the title you possess? Does it come from the position you occupy? Does it come from your relationships? Does it come from present or past accomplishments? Does it come from the reputation of the program or institution you lead? And the list of questions could go on.

Finding a Firm Foundation

One of the books I enjoy coming back to on the topic of leadership is a short book by Henri Nouwen. Entitled In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership, Nouwen provides his take on where identity is wisely grounded. This work provides perspective for those aiming to lead from a place of Christian conviction. Nouwen writes:

leadership must be rooted in the permanent, intimate relationship with the incarnate Word, Jesus, and they need to find there the source for their words, advice, and guidance…. Dealing with burning issues without being rooted in a deep personal relationship with God easily leads to divisiveness because, before we know it, our sense of self is caught up in our opinion about a given subject.” (emphasis mine).

When Identity is Too Closely Aligned with our Opinions, Plans, and Performance

This final phrase in the Nouwen quote provides a significant warning for leaders. While it is important to have passion and conviction behind our ideas and opinions, there is also a danger when our “sense of self is caught up in our opinion about a given subject.” When this happens, we become quite difficult for others to work with. When this happens, a critique of our ideas quickly gets translated as a critique of us personally. When this happens, it becomes very difficult to receive insight and perspective from others.

A Positive Alternative for Identity

At this point in Nouwen’s comments, he continues on with a healthy alternative. Rather than having our identities defined by our opinions, or programs, or initiatives, Nouwen calls us to look to God as the most stable source of all to find our grounding and identity. He writes:

But when we are securely rooted in personal intimacy with the source of life, it will be possible to remain flexible without being relativistic, convinced without being rigid, willing to confront without being offensive, gentle and forgiving without being soft, and true witness without being manipulative.”

A Community Securely Rooted

These are the type of people with whom I want to work. This is the type of person I want to be. I desire to engage in rigorous discussion of unique perspectives and not have questions of my ideas viewed as personal attacks. When we are a people “securely rooted in personal intimacy with the source of life,” rich and deep community flourishes in such contexts. Having my identity rooted in this place helps me to serve others without overly personalizing my or their opinions and agendas in the process.

People or Production — Getting Things Done while Caring for People

People, Viewminder, Flickr

Photo Credit: People, Viewminder, Flickr

People or Production

In management studies, there is a rich history of work engaging the importance of focus on people and results.

— A Concern for People is characterized by leaders or managers emphasizing and recognizing the needs of followers, and then working to meet followers in these areas of need.

— A Concern for Production or Results is characterized by leaders emphasizing organizational objectives and what the best pathways are for meeting these goals and objectives.

Engaging Leadership Style

The “Ohio State” studies, and the “University of Michigan” studies on these themes were complemented by what is known as Blake and Mouton’s Managerial Grid. Based on the categories of concern for people and concern for production or results, Blake and Mouton’s categorizes leaders in the following manner:

  • Impoverished (low results/low people)
  • Authority-Compliance (high results/low people)
  • Country-Club (low results/high people)
  • Middle-of-the-Road (med. results/med. People)
  • Team (high results/high people).

People and Production

As leaders, it is easy to feel this tension between a focus on results or a focus on people. Many times, managers and leaders view it as a mutually exclusive decision. Either the focus will be on results, or the focus will be on people.

Thankfully, contemporary models of leadership are emphasizing the priority of both. Both people and production are valuable, and in fact the two serve each other in a healthy organizational system.

Chicken or Egg

But what comes first. Must a leader prioritize one over the other, even though both are valuable? Generally, transformational models of leadership emphasize change and getting things done. These approaches emphasize results along with individualized consideration as a necessary part of the leadership approach. This commitment to organizational goals is seen as the best way to meet the needs of people.

Servant-oriented models of leadership emphasize a commitment to people. These approaches emphasize a commitment to serving the needs of people as primary. This commitment to people is seen as the best way to accomplish organizational goals and objectives.

A Matter of Emphasis

It really comes down to a matter of emphasis. Both people and production are a priority. Both followers and goals are essential. But which is the best way to meet these aims. For the time being, I land on the side of emphasizing people first, and seeing this as the best way to also get things done.

Thankfully, there is a growing body or research helping us understand this relationship between goal-orientation and follower-focus.

______________________________________

Pursue both. Leaders who value and develop their people will have a solid community ready to meet organizational goals. Leaders who work with their community to get things done will have healthy organizations that provide stability for their people. Both are a priority, so lead well toward both of these ends.

Perspective, Priorities, and Personal Care — Reflections on Seasonal Transitions

1st Fall Picture, DaDaAce, Flickr

Photo Credit: 1st Fall Picture, DaDaAce, Flickr

Enjoying Summer

I love summer. I love the warm weather that finally arrives in Minnesota. I love the chance to connect with family, friends, and neighbors. I love softball games in the park. I love time to get outside and enjoy nature. I love the change of pace. I love the opportunity to be with people that the normal school year busyness does not always allow.

But summer can be complex as well. Summer activities take planning and coordination. Summer activities take time away from work that needs to get done. Summer activities add a layer of complexity.

Preparing for Fall

I’m feeling this complexity especially as the summer-to-fall transition happens in late August. Summer activities are slowing down and preparations for the school year are ramping up.

For our household, ramping up toward fall is not only about the kids starting back to school. It is also about us as parents preparing for fall teaching. My wife began her teacher training this week. My fall faculty workshop begins next week. And, our kids start back to their first day of school next Monday.

Sometimes ramping up for work can feel like more of a job than the work itself. Training sessions are in motion. School supplies need to be purchased. School uniforms and clothes need to be secured and organized. Lesson plans need to be polished. Syllabi need to be finalized.

Keys for Thriving in Transition

As I’m in the heart of managing this seasonal transition and shifting gears into fall, I’m thinking about keys for managing transitions in seasons of life and work. What are some of the keys to managing transitions well? What are some keys to thriving in the midst of changing seasons?

Here are three guidelines I’ve been thinking about today:

1 — Need for Perspective

If transitional seasons are the norm, this may lead one to weariness very quickly. Thankfully, most of us experience seasons of normalcy between periods of transition. I’m in a very full two week period at the moment. One of the tactics I use to manage this busy season is simply keeping things in perspective.

Anything can be managed for two weeks, right? Perspective helps me to press in, get things done that need to be done, and to remember that this season of transition will soon level out to a new norm in a few weeks. I find that transitions require a need for perspective, and this perspective helps me to stay calm and focused in the midst of the busy season.

2 — Need for Prioritization

We can’t do everything. This is certainly true for me. I’m grateful for the many opportunities I have: serving in a job I love, time with family and friends, invitations to speak, engagement with research and writing projects, pursuing opportunities for learning, serving among communities I value, and the list goes on. But, I can’t do everything…and neither can you. This requires prioritization.

Priorities are based on perspective. As we aim to see our lives and the investment of our time will help us better understand when to say yes and when to say no. When opportunities and invitations arise, having perspective, and prioritizing based on this prospective gives a basis for decisions relate to time investment.

I’m thinking a lot about what to say yes and no to in this season of transition. Though not the only example, I sent a final “no” regarding a conference I wanted to attend in September. I valued the learning opportunity, but in the midst of prioritization, that was something that had to go as I looked to the month ahead.

How are you prioritizing in this season?  Based on these priorities to what are you needing to say yes, and to what are you needing to say no?

3 — Need for Personal & Spiritual Self-Care

I’m also reminded of the need for good spiritual and personal self-care in these seasons of transition. It is amazing what simple things like eating well, getting enough sleep, and taking time to pause for spiritual reflection do in the midst of busy seasons. I like the title of Bill Hybels’ book Too Busy Not to Pray. When it comes to good spiritual and personal care, I think there are many “too busy not to” priorities:

  • Too busy not to sleep well
  • Too busy not to eat well
  • Too busy not to exercise
  • Too busy not to pray
  • Too busy not to reflect and meditate on the Bible
  • Too busy not to spend time with those closest to me

You likely have your own list of priorities for personal and spiritual self-care. In the second point above I emphasized the need to say no to some things. Equally important in busy seasons is the priority of saying yes to what matters most—saying yes to the personal and spiritual self-care that sustains us in busy times.

­_________________________

As you look to your own seasons of change, how are you managing the transitions? Are you getting the perspective you need to guide your decisions? Are you prioritizing based on this perspective? Are you maintaining the needed personal and spiritual self-care in the midst of it all?

 

3 Reasons God Cares about Your Work

Work, Wacky Toyo Boy Borj, Flickr

Photo Credit: Work, Wacky Toyo Boy Borj, Flickr

Adding Value to the Lives of Others

Work takes many forms. At its core, work is anything that we do to add value to the lives of others. In contrast to this, play and recreation tend to be things focused on adding value to our own lives.

Sometimes we add value to the lives of others on the job when we are compensated in one form or another for our work. Other times, we add value to the lives of others through volunteer service or through the work we do for our family and friends.

Practicing the Presence of God in Our Work

As I was engaged in this last type of work (cleaning up dishes at home this weekend), my mind was draw to Brother Lawrence and his focus on “practicing the presence of God” in all of life and work. Here’s a link to some of his reflections (The Practice of the Presence of God: The Best Rule of Holy Life).

One of the prayers attributed to Brother Lawrence emphasizes 3 reasons that God cares about your work. Here’s my summary of these 3 reasons:

1.  God Wants to Mold You in Your Work

First, God cares about your work because God wants to mold you and shape you through your work. He wants to form and change you through serving others and adding value to their lives. On this point, Brother Lawrence prayed,

“Lord of all pots and pans and things…
make me a saint by getting meals,
and washing up the plates.”

Through our work, God molds our character and values. Through our work, we are developed not only professionally but also personally. God uses work for our professional, personal, and spiritual formation. He uses work to change us for the better.

2.  God Wants to Meet You in Your Work

Second, God cares about your work because God cares about you. For many Christians, there is a tendency to separate our lives of weekend worship from weekday work. But God is not interested in just meeting you on Sunday morning (or whenever you gather for worship). God wants to meet you on Monday morning as well. He wants to meet with you and have you recognize His presence with you in your work. On this point, Brother Lawrence prayed,

Warm all the kitchen with Thy Love,
and light it with Thy peace;
forgive me all my worrying,
and make my grumbling cease
.”

You can join Brother Lawrence in asking God to Warm all the kitchen / office / garage / home / school / shop / etc. with His Love, and light it with His peace. Ask God for wisdom on the job (James 1:5). Talk with him about the opportunities and challenges you face. When worried or anxious about something you are facing, offer this emotion up to the Lord and invite Him to replace this with His peace (Philippians 4:6-7). Look for God to meet you in your work.

3.  God Wants to Minister through You in Your Work

Finally, God cares about your work because God wants to minister through you to others. Work is one of the main pathways we add value to the lives of those around us. On this point, Brother Lawrence prayed,

Thou who didst love to give men food,
in room, or by the sea,
accept the service that I do,
I do it unto Thee. Amen.”

As Brother Lawrence notes, Jesus not only met people’s spiritual needs, but He also met physical needs for food. We serve similar needs for one another through our work. God not only cares about you as a worker, He cares about the work you do. And, the work we do for others, particularly those with the greatest need, Christ views as service to Him also (Mathew 25:40).

God not only cares about chefs, He cares about the food we eat. He not only cares about dentists, but He cares about dentistry and the care of our teeth. He not only cares about plumbers, but also cares about access to water and a sanitary environment in which we can live. God uses your work to add value to the lives of others and to meet the needs of others. In our service to others, we are also serving Christ.

__________________

Your work matters to God. Through it he wants to mold you, meet you, and minister through you. Are you keeping your eyes, ears, and spirit open to God in the midst of your work?

Cease Striving — Calling Leaders to Rest

Rest Here, Esther Simpson, Flickr

Photo Credit: Rest Here, by Esther Simpson, Flickr

“Cease striving and know that I am God.” – Ps. 46:10

Getting Things Done

As leaders, we tend to be achievers. We tend toward making things happen… toward work… toward activity… toward doing… toward performance… toward striving.

Of course, these characteristics have some very positive dimensions to them. Things tend to get done. Teams tend to perform. Organizations tend to run well. But can there be too much of a good thing when it comes to this leadership tendency?

Too Much of a Good Thing…Cease Striving

For Christian leaders, it is important to remember that leadership does not just happen by human effort and work. The reality of God’s existence changes the leadership equation for our lives as leaders and for our organizations. Christians believe in a God who does not simply sit back and watch His people work. Rather, Christians believe in a God who not only watches, but He is also engaged in the work itself.

The verse quoted above calls us to be still, to cease striving, and to know that God is God (Ps. 46:10). We are called to trust that God is at work even when we are not. We are called to trust that God is in control even when we feel we are not. We are call to take the attention off of ourselves and our striving, and transfer that attention to God who is actively engaged in our lives, organizations, and world.

He Gives to His Beloved Even as They Sleep

Beyond Psalm 46, there are many other passages in the Bible that remind us as leaders that striving is not always the answer. Sometimes the answer is resting rather than striving, because God is at work even when we are not.

One of my favorite passages on this point is Psalm 127:2…

It is vain for you to rise up early, To retire late, To eat the bread of painful labors;
For He gives to His beloved even in his sleep
.”

What a powerful reality. God gives to us, even when we sleep. God works while we rest.

Some versions translate the end of this verse as “he grants sleep to those he loves.” The reality is both concepts are true and powerful. He gives us sleep. He gives to us and our communities while we sleep.

Resting in the One Who Works

As leaders who work hard during the day, we should take time to “cease striving” and to rest. We should cease our work and go to sleep in peace knowing that:

  1. God grants sleep to his beloved, and
  2. Even in our sleep, God is still working on behalf of those who are resting in Him.

Good Theology = Good Rest

What powerful theology for those in need of rest. As leaders, we need to be able to shut down and rest. We need to be shut down and spend time with friends and family. We need to be able to shut down and sleep.

Leaders who believe the entire story of leadership success is written by their own effort will struggle to find the rest and restoration they and their people need. As we trust that God is at work, even when we are not, then the rest we need as leaders will be found by relying on the one who graciously works on our behalf.

Are you finding your rest in the Lord? Are you waiting on the one who is able to work for you? Are you finding refreshment by resting in the one who gives to His people even while they sleep?

Why I Blog: Fostering Healthy Leadership

Be the Change, Feggy Art, Flickr

Photo Credit: Be the Change, Feggy Art, Flickr

“Leadership is one of the most observed and least understood phenomena on earth.”
– James MacGregor Burns

James MacGregor Burns’ quote resonates with most of our experiences. We see leadership occurring all around us, but rarely take time to reflect in a systematic way on what makes this leadership helpful or unhelpful—effective or ineffective. Further complicating our observations, at times we see people leading well who have no formal positions of leadership within our organizations, and at other times we see people in positions of leadership who really are not providing the necessary leadership direction for our organizations as we move into the future.

Lingering Questions

And so we come back to Burns’ comments: Leadership is one of the most observed and least understood phenomena on earth. But must it be this way? Is leadership simply a mysterious reality? Is it something that we simply know when it is going well or poorly, but will never really understand what makes it work? Or might we be able to provide some basic descriptions of the form and shape of good, helpful, and effective leadership? Might we be able to get at some minimum factors that characterize both what helpful leaders and leadership look like?

Leadership Can Be Learned

Part of my vocational calling is providing thoughtful responses to such questions. I believe leadership can be described and studied. I believe it can be learned. Not every person is wired to be a capital “L” Leader. However, just about everyone embedded in an organization, group, or family can grow in and learn how to positively influence and guide the people around them.

This is the heart behind why I’ve started blogging at purposeinleadership.com. Although I’ve been observing leaders in action most of my life, I’ve spent the last 15 years in focused study on the topic through various degree programs, organizational roles, research agendas, and teaching opportunities. I want to start sharing some of these lessons learned with a wider audience.

A Passion for Ridding the World of Bad Leadership

Harvard Business Review’s editorial mission is “to rid the world of bad management.” I have a similar passion in the area of leadership. Though I won’t be able to personally rid the world of bad leadership, I’d love to make a dent in this ambitious agenda. I want to spread a message…

  • …that leadership is more about serving others than being served,
  • …that people are the priority even in profit-driven sectors,
  • …that leaders need to create organizations and societies that are not only productive, but also are fit for human beings,
  • …that purpose in leadership is of central importance,
  • …that leadership is vital in organizations that create value for those they serve,
  • …that people will endure great hardship and sacrifice when they believe in what they are doing and feel their work and leadership has meaning and purpose,
  • …that leaders have a God-given responsibility to care for the people they lead,
  • …that core leadership characteristics and behaviors can be described,
  • …that leadership is vital in working toward human flourishing in organizations and societies.

Thanks for Joining Me in this Pursuit

Although I don’t believe that everything rises or falls on leadership, I do believe that the pursuit of effective and healthy models of leadership is a first-order priority in our day.

Thanks for joining me on this journey toward good, helpful, and effective leadership. Our organizations and the people we serve as leaders deserve our very best!

Leading from the Front … Leading with Vision

Leadership vs. Management, on Flickr

Photo Credit: Leadership vs. Management, on Flickr

Leading from the front requires leading with vision!

Engaging the question, “Why does vision matter?” Burt Nanus offers the following reflection:

Vision is the main tool leaders use to lead form the front. Effective leaders don’t push or production their followers. They don’t boss them around or manipulate them. They are out front showing the way. The vision allows leaders to inspire, attract, align, and energize their followers—to empower them by encouraging them to become part of a common enterprise dedicated to achieving the vision.”

In this brief post I encourage you to consider whether you’re leading from the front or whether you’re leading from behind. Are you calling people to an inspiring vision of what can be, or are you pushing and prodding followers to do what they really are not committed to already?

Vision helps to motivate followers intrinsically rather than extrinsically. Vision helps to lead from the front!

Purpose in Leadership and Work

Work with Purpose

Photo Credit: Work, by Sean MacEntee, Flickr

In the Handbook of Leadership Theory and Practice put out by Harvard Business School, chapter authors Podolny, Khurana, and Besharov discuss at length the challenges associated with separating the concepts of meaning and leadership and focusing primarily on the relationship of leadership and performance. In a drive toward performance (an overall good emphasis), leadership scholars and practitioners often have lost sight of the importance of meaning in leadership and work. A clear sense of the meaningfulness of work is vital for organizational members. Understanding purpose in leadership and work contributes to job satisfaction and an authentic belief that the work one does matters and is meaningful.

Providing this sense of meaning is a primary responsibility of leadership. While other organizational roles and responsibilities may connect with issues of performance more explicitly, as Podolny and his co-authors assert, this is not the only issue to address or question to answer. Performance and purpose are both essential for employees. People should be able to connect their actions in work to their ideals in life at a metaphysical level. People should also be able to connect their actions at work to their lives at a community and relational level. Leaders help to provide a context within which these meaning-connections may be made. I desire to provide this type of context for those with whom I work. I desire that I and my colleagues feel that our work matters, and is not simply a way to draw a paycheck. I want to have a focus on both getting things done (performance) but also going about this work in a way that taps into the threads of meaning and purpose in our lives.

How do you lead and manage with purpose? How do you help your people connect their work with meaning and purpose in their lives?