My Philosophy of Leadership Peter G. Osborn Draft 3 OSBORN 1 The following paper is a rough outline of some of the key ideas and reflections I have had on the topic of leadership. The paper can be seen as a starting point for developing my personal philosophy of leadership. I have gone through several transformations in my understanding of leadership and how I view the leadership of others. Many times in my life I have not been the leader but rather the follower. Most of these people have proven to be outstanding leaders. I will address some of the characteristics that I have valued in those leaders. At the same time I have also chosen in certain situations to not follow someone that held the title or position of leader. These experiences have also impacted my understanding and philosophy of leadership. When I think of the process of developing and constructing my philosophy of leadership it reminds me in some ways of the steps for building a house. During the spring of 2001 my wife, Karen, and I began the process of constructing our first house. One of the things we spent a great deal of time researching was the location of the lot where we would build our house. We considered everything from school district, neighborhoods, type of community, to if the lot was wooded and provided safe and ample room for our three boys to explore. In a sense we wanted to build a house in a culture or surrounding we felt was suited to raising a family. Senge (1996) also shares the importance of understanding the culture or context in which a leader lives. Every culture has a history even if the culture is brand new there is a culture that people bring with them. As a leader I want to be sensitive to the various cultures of the organization and those I lead. I understand that while I may come from a particular culture and background it most likely isn’t the same culture and background of those around me. My culture is not greater or less than any others person’s culture, it is just different. The OSBORN 2 beauty and strength is in these differences. For in our uniqueness we find opportunities to grow and expand our thinking and the potential for creativity and flexibility. It is also important to identify and understand that all cultures have a common theme or thread based on the fact that all cultures are made up of people and the relationships people have with one another. The Blueprint The first step in building a new house is the selection of a blueprint. The purpose of a blueprint is to provide direction or a roadmap of where the project is planning to go. When I think of my philosophy of leadership I think it is important to consider carefully who I look to for direction and guidance. In their article, “Leading Transition: A New Model for Change” Bridges and Mitchell (2000) share that leaders “usually need coaching before they can effectively coach others.” As a leader I have actively searched for competent coaches and mentors that understand and model good practices of leadership. I have also gained valuable help and insight from reading various books1 on leadership and ethics. These resources have provided me with a sense of direction, a roadmap, or blueprint one could say of where I want to travel as a leader. Each night after work my family and I would drive with great anticipation to the building lot to see what had taken place since the last time we had visited. The process of building the house developed over a extended period of time. In the same way my leadership philosophy has and is continuing to develop over time. The Foundation 1 See bibliography OSBORN 3 The next step in building a house is the preparation for the foundation. Often times things like trees, rocks and dirt need to be removed before the foundation can be built. In the same way I have had to evaluate my various personal views and understandings of leadership to see if they were hindering my leadership or my ability to follow. One of the misconceptions that I had about leadership when I first started the journey was that just because someone was in a position of leadership or authority didn’t necessarily mean they were truly leading. Leadership is much more than holding a position or title of authority. A second misunderstanding I had about leadership was that it was something that could be easily defined or described. Leadership is one of the most challenging topics to define and yet most people quickly recognize leadership when they see it taking place. To this day I struggle to explain or describe my philosophy of leadership in under twenty- five words. My philosophy of leadership is larger than a definition and hopefully deeper than twenty-five or even fifty words. The foundation of a house represents the stability and the starting point on which everything else will be built. In my philosophy of leadership my foundation is formed by my core values. My first core value is that I place significant emphasis on people and my relationships with them. As a leader I value relationships because people are created in the image of God. One of the defining aspects of being created in the image of God is that I am a relational being. As a relational being I desire and even need meaningful relationships (Genesis 1-2). Even before creation God existed in unique relationships within the Godhead2. I as well live in relationships. My relationships can be defined as existing with the creator and the things he has created. Although we are created in God’s 2 God the Father, God the Son (existed in Spirit before the incarnation), and God the Holy Spirit OSBORN 4 image we struggle to function in harmonious relationships because we live in a fallen world. Relationships are pained by the result of human sin and rebellion. Instead of having unity in our relationships we see disunity. This disunity reveals itself in the ugliness and unthinkable events we often see in the television news. As a leader my passion is to demonstrate the values of honesty, credibility, and a person worthy of trust. Bugay (2001) outlines three characteristics of a TransformActional Leader as: engendering trust, making personal connections, and having frequent communication. TransformActional leadership takes the strengths of both the Transformational and the Transactional leadership styles and combines them to create what he calls “TransformActional Leadership. As a leader I desire the trust of those that follow me. Like a TransformActional Leader, I hope to engender trust by gathering the diverse views and experiences of those around me and molding a community that possesses a shared vision. As a leader I strive to make personal connections by spending time with people in formal and informal settings. My philosophy of leadership resents those who see people as objects or machines to accomplish their will. Margaret Wheatley (1997) says, “we act as if even people were machines, redesigning their jobs as we would prepare an engineering diagram, expecting them to perform… with machinelike obedience.” In Reframing Organizations Bolman and Deal (1997) outline the value of respecting both the people in an organization and the organization itself in the human resource frame. People need organizations to provide them with employment and organizations need people to build and sell their products. The human resource frame emphasizes the value of people while still respecting the role of healthy organizations. One of aspect of the human resource frame that I think relates OSBORN 5 well to leadership is that when the fit between people and an organization is poor one or both suffer. In the same way, if the fit is good between people and an organization one or both parties benefit. I think the same can be said for leaders and followers. When the fit is good the end result is both accomplish their tasks and therefore both should be rewarded. Bugay (2001) says a TransformActional Leader’s focus is “the whole organization and the vision of the people within the organization.” A TransformActional Leader helps his or her followers look beyond their personal duties and see more clearly the organization’s goals and mission. I desire to be a leader that can honestly say I work hard to respect the values and interests of both the people and the organization. Another core value for me is integrity or honesty. I agree with Bennis and Nanus (1985) who contrasted the difference between management and leadership by saying, “management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right thing.” If I am not allowed to do the right thing in my position of leadership I quickly look for another leadership opportunity. The Frame / The Rough Plumbing & Rough Electric The frame of a house rests on the foundation and provides a framework that gives definition to both the exterior and interior of the house. The rough plumbing and rough electric provide the house with a network of pipes and wire to provide what is now considered the basics of any modern home. In the same way a leadership philosophy provides a framework for how one approaches the task of leading. Just as there is no one correct design for a house there are many styles of leadership. It is important to consider OSBORN 6 the neighborhood in which one is building a house in order to select a style that is appropriate. In the same way as a leader I need to be aware of my surroundings when leading and recognize that one style may work better as compared to another depending on the environment I am in. Finish Plumbing & Electric My family and I visited our new house one night when only the rough plumbing was finished. Although the cold and hot water lines were installed and even the drain lines were in place for the toilets they were of no use. Rough plumbing and rough electrical stop short of the finished product. Everything is ready but the final fixtures are missing. What good are hot and cold water lines or drain lines without the fixtures to use them? In a similar way leadership skills are not very helpful unless they are developed to the point of being functional. As a leader I desire to be continually developing my leadership skills in such a fashion that they will be usable and effective. I seek the input of trusted colleagues and mentors to encourage and even admonish me in the development of solid leadership skills. A leader needs to be an active life-long learner of leadership. A leader needs to be connected with the current leadership literature and trends. Final Walkthrough / Inspection / Moving In One of the final steps in building a new house is the final walkthrough or inspection. This is a time to see if everything is up to set standards and to make sure the builder have delivered what was agreed to. In the same way leadership needs to be OSBORN 7 evaluated, modified, and enhanced. This evaluation shouldn’t take place just at the end of major projects or during a yearly evaluation but rather on a continual basis. One way to conduct this type of regular evaluation is the process of reflection. Lucas (1998) says, “Reflection is the process of pausing stepping back from the action, and asking, what is happening? Why is this happening? What does this mean? What does this mean for me? What can I learn from this?” As a leader asking such questions this will help me remember the big picture. Reflection helps me see things later that I may have missed during the rush of a busy or extremely demanding day. Often times it is not until I reflect on a conversation that I realize that something I said or did may have communicated a message I didn’t intend. Reflection provides me with the opportunity to replay the events of a day or project and consider what I could have done differently. Finally, the day to move into our new house had arrived. My family and I were driving the large U-Haul truck up to our new house. While we would all agree that the move was exciting it also represented a major transition. We had lived in our previous house for several years and enjoyed great relationships with our neighbors and the community. We were confident that we would establish new relationships but transitions are challenging, even when it is the right move. Bridges and Mitchell (2000) outline three separate yet equally challenging processes that people move through when encountering change and transition. As a parent and as a leader it is important for me to help those I lead move in a healthy way through change and transition. Bridges and Mitchell (2000) outline three steps that people need to move through dealing with change. The first step is saying goodbye. My family needed to say goodbye to our neighbors and the community we were leaving. OSBORN 8 Goodbyes are never easy but they provide closure and place a period on a chapter of life. When leading or following it is important to provide opportunities for others and yourself to say goodbye to the way things have been done. The second stage is helping people shift into neutral. As a family we knew that it would take time to build new relationships with neighbors. The “neutral zone” is challenging because many people make one of two errors. They either try to move back into the comfortable past or rush into an uncertain future. Both paths may look like progressive movement but the results of such knee jerk reactions are rarely acceptable. The final step is moving forward. Now that the past is behind and time has been spent discovering the best plan of action, people need to step forward and carry out the plan. This step is full of uncertainty and as a leader I need to be careful that people are at least somewhat comfortable embracing the new direction or they will be hesitant in stepping forward. In November of 2001, my family and I moved into our new house. At the moment we moved in our new house became a home. A house is just a building but a home is a network of people in meaningful, supportive relationships. In the same way I do not think a leader is a leader just because they carry the title or are in a position of leadership. Many true leaders don’t carry a title or position of leadership. True leaders connect with people in meaningful relationships to collectively create an environment that accomplishes goals based on a shared purpose and mission of an organization. In “Leading with Soul” Bolman and Deal (2000) state that a leader needs to share with others in the organization their passions and heart. When leaders share themselves in this fashion they connect in more meaningful ways with other people. Followers are allowed an opportunity to see what drives a leader and where a leader’s passions reside. OSBORN 9 After going through the process of building our own house there is only one thing that I think would be more exciting in regards to house building then going through this process myself. That “one thing” would be watching and participating with one of my children in building a new house. Seeing one of my children go through the process of building a new house would be very exciting. As a leader I also have a strong commitment to enabling those around me to go through the process of developing their leadership skills. Seeing others grow as leaders should never challenge true leaders but rather encourage them to continuing growing themselves. When I reflect back on the journey of building our first house I see many things that I would change and do differently. However, if I never began the journey I wouldn’t be aware of these areas and everything else I learned during the process of building. The lesson I have learned over and over again is that being a leader often times starts with being willing to try something. For me this leadership journey has only begun to scratch the surface. I look forward to building many additions in my leadership skills and taking time to remodel and update leadership skills and concepts as they become outdated or ineffective. OSBORN 10 Works Cited Bolman, L. G. & Deal, T. (2001). Leading with soul: An uncommon journey of spirit. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Bolman, Lee G. & Terrence E. Deal (1997). Reframing Organizations: Artistry, Choice, and Leadership. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers. Bugay, D. P. (2001). TransformActional leadership: Leaders building on trust. International Leadership Association Proceedings. Academy of Leadership. Cuilla, J. B. (1996). “leadership and the problem of bogus empowerment.” Ethics & Leadership Working Papers. Academy of Leadership. Johnson, C. E. (1999). Emerging perspectives in leadership ethics. Annual Meeting International Leadership Association. Academy of Leadership Press. Lipman-Blumen, J. (1997). Connective leadership. Drucker Magazine 1 (1), 12-19, 38. Offerman, L. R. (1997). "Leading and empowering diverse followers." The Balance of Leadership & Followership Working Papers. Academy of Leadership Press. Senge, P. M. (1996). "The ecology of leadership." Leader to Leader, No. 2. The Peter F. Drucker Foundation for Nonprofit Management. Vaill, P. (1997). "The learning challenges of leadership." Academy of Leadership Press. Wheatley, M. (1997). "Goodbye, command and control." Leader to Leader, No.3. The Peter F. Drucker Foundation for Nonprofit Management.
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