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.

Manage with Realism — Lead with Optimism

Hope_Darren-Tunnicliff

Photo Credit: Hope, by Darren Tunnicliff, Fllickr

Hope…

People and organizations thrive on hope and optimism. Hope helps to orient people toward the future and inspire hearts and minds to action. Optimists choose to see the proverbial half glass full, and look for opportunities with a spirit of positivity.

Regarding optimism, Winston Churchill noted: “For myself, I am an optimist—it does not seem to be much use being anything else.” Similarly, Churchill declared: “An optimist sees an opportunity in every calamity; a pessimist sees a calamity in every opportunity.”

Biblical authors also point to the power of hope noting that because of the love of God “hope does not disappoint” (Romans 5:5).

Hope is powerful. It holds a vital place in the life of organizations and the work of leadership. But hope alone is not enough. Hope and optimism must be blended with realism for leaders and managers.

One of my guiding leadership principles is this: Manage with Realism—Lead with Optimism.

Manage with Realism

Pessimism is exhausting. Always seeing the glass half empty and only looking at problems drains life from people and organizations.

But realism is an alternative that need not be pessimistic. Organizations benefit from managerial attention to details. Engagement with detail is best carried out from a place of realism—engagement with real strengths, real weaknesses, real opportunities, and real threats (…a “SWOT” analysis with realism). Healthy leaders and managers do not avoid reality, they face it. Healthy leaders and managers need to manage with realism.

Lead with Optimism

The story does not end with facing reality and managing with realism. Leaders and managers also need to inspire hope and optimism in the hearts and minds of people. Leaders and managers need to manage with realism and lead with optimism.

Desmond Tutu said, “Hope is being able to see that there is a light despite all of the darkness.” Managing with realism is not the end of the story. Leaders help their people see light in the darkness and hope in the midst of reality by leading with optimism.

As Helen Keller noted, “optimism is the faith that leads to achievement,” and “nothing can be done without hope and confidence.” To inspire our people toward achievement, leaders must inspire with hope and optimism.

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Rather viewing realism and optimism as being at odds, organizational success depends upon leaders and managers attending to both. How are you doing on these fronts? How is your organization doing? Are you managing with realism and leading with optimism?

 

A Syllabus for Personal Learning

Learn Sign, philosophygeek, Flickr

Photo Credit: Learn Sign, philosophygeek, Flickr

A Syllabus for Personal Learning

I am a professor, so syllabi are a regular part of my life. As we move toward the start of fall semester classes, syllabi are in place and I’m getting ready for the start of a new year.

I was in a faculty workshop today that referenced “the power of the syllabus” for personal learning.

What is the purpose of a course syllabus? A well-formatted course syllabus provides an overview of several key learning features such Learning Goals, Learning Resources, and Learning Assignments.

These features may also be helpful for our personal learning.

As you look to the next 6-12 months in your personal learning and development, perhaps it’s time to explore a Personal Learning Syllabus.

Here are a few recommendations as you consider whether a syllabus for life-learning may be helpful for you.

1.  Learning Goals

As you think about your personal desires for learning, what are your goals for the next 6-12 months? Goals are often shaped by topics we are interested in pursuing.

Are you interested in learning more about change? Are you interested in learning more about effective leadership practice? Are you interested in focusing on your personal or spiritual formation as a leader?

Whatever these topics are, consider 2-3 learning goals you have for your personal leadership development in the coming 6-12 months. Write these goals down. Keep them in a place that will trigger your learning around these goals.

2.  Learning Resources

Based on the goals you identify, what are the tools and learning resources that will assist you? These resources may be books, magazines, journals, key mentoring relationships, relevant blogs, or other learning tools.

As you scan a diverse set of learning resources, what are the 3-5 key learning resources that will best facilitate your engagement around your goals?

3.  Learning Assignments and Activities

Finally, in addition to learning goals and learning resources, what learning assignments or activities may contribute toward your learning goals? This may include:

  • attending conferences, classes, workshops
  • taking a personal assessment
  • organizing your thinking into relevant blog posts
  • journaling or other writing exercises
  • visiting key people or organizations that provide models of excellence around the leadership or learning themes you are pursuing.

The key is to not leave learning at the level of goals and reading. It includes bringing this reflection to a place of action and implementation. Creative learning assignments and activities provide a context for synthesizing personal learning.

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So, what are your goals for learning in the coming months? What learning resources and activities will help facilitate progress toward our learning goals?

Perhaps a Personal Learning Syllabus will help to organize your thinking in this area and help you make tangible progress around these goals.

If you end up implementing this idea, please share how it worked for you!

 

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!

Leadership: A Commitment to Learning

Learning by Anne Davis, on Flickr

Photo Credit: Learning by Anne Davis, on Flickr

The Cry for Leadership…

In an essay entitled “The Cry for Leadership,” John Gardner notes the following:

“Most men and women go through their lives using no more than a fraction—usually a rather small fraction—of the potentialities within them. The reservoir of unused human talent and energy is vast, and learning to tap that reservoir more effectively is one of the exciting tasks ahead for humankind.”

As someone who is at a mid-career point in my life, leadership, and work, such observations press the question of whether I will:

(1) simply rest on the skills/knowledge I’ve already developed (using the fraction Gardner notes), or will I

(2) aim to continue learning in the second half of my life and professional service of others?

Such a question motivates me as a practitioner-learner. In service of others, I want to commit myself to ongoing learning. Leadership = A Commitment to Learning. If I am committed to the servant leadership values I hold, this commitment leads me to a path of life-long learning. A commitment to leadership translates into a commitment to learning.

As a leader, how are you committing yourself to learning in service  of others?

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.

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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?

 

C.S. Lewis on Empowerment — Exploring Leadership Development

C. S. Lewis, Sigurdur Jonsson, Flickr

Photo Credit: C. S. Lewis, Sigurdur Jonsson, Flickr

Empowerment is vital for effective leadership. It is core to most of our relationships…from teaching, to parenting, to leading.

Leading People to Not Need Us

In discussing love and giving, C.S. Lewis implicitly engages the practice of empowerment. Lewis writes:

The proper aim of giving is to put the recipient in a state where he no longer needs our gift. We feed children in order that they may soon be able to feed themselves; we teach them in order that they may soon not need our teaching.”

Celebrating Growth toward Independence

This principle is not only essential for effective parenting or teaching, it is also essential for effective leading. It raises a heart-searching question for us as leaders: Are we leading our people to dependency on our leadership, or are we leading them to a place of independence and interdependence?

Recognizing Leader Struggles Along the Way

Organizational leaders who hunger for power and position will have difficulty leading followers to a place of independence. Organizational leaders who struggle with personal insecurity will struggle to free followers to this place as well.

Secure and follower-focused leaders recognize that it is a win for both their followers and their organizations to create pathways where leaders may be both developed and empowered for service.

Finding the Reward of Empowerment

Lewis continues to press his argument:

Thus a heavy task is laid upon the Gift-love. It must work towards its own abdication. We must aim at making ourselves superfluous. The hour when we can say ‘They need me no longer’ should be our reward.”

All too often, our saying “they need me no longer” is viewed as a threat rather than a reward. But true love—love that holds the importance of others and their goals alongside our own goals—will lead in such a way that both leader and follower values, goals, aspirations, and dreams may be pursued.

Developing and Deploying Emerging Leaders

In reality, leaders who get the concept of developing and deploying their people do not work themselves out of a job, for such leaders are constantly creating new opportunities for new developing leaders. Great leaders create space for others to flourish. Great leaders identify potential, develop this potential, and release this potential into new roles and opportunities.

Leadership development does not need to be a zero sum game. Thriving organizations and entrepreneurial communities benefit from a regular flow of developed and empowered leaders released into new opportunities.

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How are you wired as a leader around these themes? Do you tend to hold onto authority over others, or are you wired to identify, develop, and release talent in the cause of your organization’s mission? Great leaders empower their people!

Servant Leadership and #GLS14

Jesus Washing Feet, Fulbourn St. Vigor, Steve Day, Flickr

Photo Credit: Jesus Washing Feet, Fulbourn St. Vigor, Steve Day, Flickr

The 2014 Global Leadership Summit, put on by the Willow Creek Association, is taking place yesterday and today (August 14-15). Although I’m not present at the conference, I’m following key trending insights, particularly on Twitter (#GLS14).

Leadership and the Introvert

There are several takeaways from Day One. Bill Hybels shared key lessons in his opening session. Susan Cain’s reminder of the presence and importance of introverts in our organizations was also a welcome addition to the public leadership discourse.

Susan Cain called us to “remember that one-third of your workforce is probably introverted,” that “most introverts are deeply passionate about a few things,” and that “they are leaders because they were passionate first.”

Patrick Lencioni on Servant Leadership

While the reports coming out throughout the first day were many, I especially appreciated the themes Patrick Lencioni addressed. Here are a few key tweets from Lencioni session:

  • “Leaders sacrifice themselves for the good of others.”
  • “If we’re doing it for ourselves, we’re going to leave a trail of tears behind.”
  • “If you’re not interested in developing yourself, don’t be a leader.”
  • “The best reason for someone to become a leader is to sacrifice themselves for the good of others.”
  • “Most people don’t really want to change the world, thy want to become known as the person who changed the world.”
  • “I’m tired of hearing about servant leadership because I don’t think there’s any other kind of leadership.”
  • “Servant leadership is the only leadership. All else is economics.”

Servant Leadership for the Good of Others

I’m passionate about servant leadership. Though I would not express this quite the same as Lencioni (I like hearing more about servant leadership!), the point is well-taken. Leadership at its core is about service. It is about valuing others. It is about focusing on their needs. It is about sacrificing for their good of those we lead.

Servant Leadership Next Steps

While this post is just a quick highlight of some of the servant leadership themes raised at #GLS14, some may wish to dig a bit deeper. Here is one of my journal articles on the topic, providing both a biblical and research-based frame for engaging servant leadership. Servant leadership is not only an ethical approach to leadership—it is also effective!

Enjoy the article, and enjoy Day 2 of #GLS14

Macro Change through Micro Improvements

Sunny Pebbles, Laura Thorne, Flickr

Photo Credit: Sunny Pebbles, by Laura Thorne, Flickr

I read an interesting article in The Economist recently. It is entitled Little Things that Mean A Lot, and the author argues that businesses should aim for lots of small wins that add up to something big.

New Routes to Organizational Success

The article focused primarily on the role of analyzing large pools of data in order to identify opportunities for incremental improvement. One illustration came from UPS. In America, there are some 60,000 UPS vans that drive 100 plus miles each day. If through data analysis UPS can find ways to reduce driving by 1 mile per day for each van, it is estimated that the company would save close to $50 million in fuel and related costs each year.

Although most of us are not looking for $50 million in small wins for our organizations, the new market realities in our world are calling for most organizations (for profit and nonprofit alike) to look for both big and small opportunities. Most of the “big wins” have already been identified since the beginning of the Great Recession. It is now time for organizations to up their game in finding the “small wins.”

Building a Mountain with Pebbles

One of the quotes in the article expresses the need in this manner: “It is about building a mountain with pebbles.” While most of us would simply prefer to find the mountain, the new realities of our world often translate to using a both-and approach to organizational improvements.  We need to have an explorer mindset, looking for new mountains of opportunity. We also need to have the mindset of the statistician, looking for macro opportunities within the micro dimensions of business and organizational life.

Explorers and Statisticians

How are you pursuing big-wins through small opportunities? How are you maintaining the entrepreneurial mindset of the explorer, while also seeing the details as the researcher or statistician would? This requires us to partner well with others on this journey. This requires us to build our teams with a diversity of expertise so that we can pursue growth and opportunity on both fronts.

Enjoy the journey, and keep your eyes open for macro change through micro improvements.

6 Characteristics of Organizations with Vision

mind_scratch, Ultima visión, Flickr

Photo Credit: mind_scratch, Ultima visión, Flickr

In a previous post, I highlighted the importance of Leading from the Front with Vision. Focusing on why vision matters, Burt Nanus provides a list of characteristics of organizations with and without vision. Here is a summary of these characteristics:

Organizations with Vision

Organizations without Vision

  • Opportunity-Driven
  • Focused on Change
  • Progressing toward Goals
  • Oriented Strategically
  • Focused on Long-Term Results
  • Proactive
  • Problem-Driven
  • Focused on Stability
  • Focused on Past Performance
  • Oriented Tactically
  • Focused on Short-Term Results
  • Reactive

An orientation toward change, pursuing opportunities, working toward goals, focusing strategically, paying attention to long-term interests, and being proactive tend to go along with visionary focus.

Based on these characteristics, are you embedded in an organization with or without vision? If you are leader, are you guiding your organization with vision?