Earlier this year, a group of individuals from the Young Professionals program coordinated by the Manitowoc County Chamber of Commerce met at Holy Family College to hear more about leadership, specifically related to the millennial generation.
The discussion was facilitated by Jim Begotka, Ed.D, assistant professor and program director for the Master of Science in Leadership and Organizational Development offered by Holy Family College.
Our aim in this blog is to connect to event participants and expand beyond to those who find this conversation relevant to their own development as a leader. As an effort to continue the conversation and wrestle with some of the questions Jim posed during the event, we pose overarching questions provided below.
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What is the means of getting to a self-transcendent and sustainable high performing leadership (the noun and verb)?
The title of the presentation on February 18, "Tips for Millennials in a 21st Century Age of Leadership", conveys that the YP group is a younger group and one that showed interest in the progression or evolution of leadership. A contact with a few of the participants after the presentation indicated that many had never thought of leadership as a progression, meaning through time, history, and the ages. A perplexing notion presented was – at one time, the study of leadership involved a rather limiting belief system – you are either born with the ability to lead, or not. In other words, at one time, the prevailing thought about leadership was – it was innate. Several participants had commented they had also not thought about leadership as a progression and/or evolution tied to natural stages of human development, Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, or career development theories. For example, related to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs and general career management theory - it may, and usually does, take decades over a leader's career, from the ages of 30s and approaching the 50s, before experience, learning, self-reflection and growth enable a leader to self actualize.
Self-actualization is considered a pinnacle in the original Maslow's Hierarchy model. However, we see more contemporary models that are modifications of Maslow's original and in these models self-transcendence is the pinnacle or apex of the pyramid of needs. These newer models are suggesting that self-transcendence is a "need" for our own growth and development. In the context of leadership, transcendence requires that we move beyond self as the centerpiece through a keen and refined sense of humility and pushing our boundaries, and achieve a mindset, values and motive - to serve others and the common good. In a business context – that is the organization overall focused on vision, mission, values, and of course teams and, the individual (contributors, team members, most any respectful descriptor of a human being besides a subordinate…).
How do you view the relationship between self-transcendence and leadership?
That was one of the questions posed to the Young Professionals in attendance at this session. It is a deep question, and one that takes time to process and reflect upon. There wasn't the expectation that anyone would provide a deeply thought out response during the presentation. But, it is a question to which we invite response. It is a key question that speaks directly to the evolution of one type of leadership to another, especially as we contrast the polar opposites as shown in the visual below.
The roadway from Industrial and Cold War ages to the Post Industrial, Information age depicts the evolution of leadership with major milestones, or markers of progression, from a leadership typology and style at one end, and another set of typologies at the other end. On one end, The Great Man Theory of Leadership with Authoritative/Directive Management types or styles, is typified by traits that include a high egocentric, power and authority dominant typology of leadership with a male gender bias. Women in leadership still contend with a glass ceiling and straight out bias and discrimination, but it would be fair to say leadership theory and practice has evolved from the yesteryear era of dependence on the notion that the great leaders only came from a pool of males that were born into leadership. In the era when the Great Man Theory was prevalent a prevailing thought existed - leaders are born, not made. That is a myth, or fake news as we call it today... On the other end, as we progress and evolve, yet still impacted by the PESTEL environmental factors, those of the Post Cold War era, on the other end are the leadership typologies that carry names like Resonant, Situational, Adaptive, and Servant styles of leadership.
The response to the question regarding the relationship between leadership and self-transcendence must involve the evolutionary shift in the locus of power and authority from self to others. This shift occurs to the point that leaders, with intentionality, serve their teams and contributors as in the Servant Leadership typology. Servant Leadership then serves as the typology that is clearly within the domain of transcending self, and necessarily involves the leader's readiness and commitment to service as a core and central personal value.
If we accept that Servant Leadership is the end point, or the pinnacle of leadership types, as if it were an achievement signified by the placement of others and the common good above self, then what is the necessary means for getting there? After all, we are ALL in our own quest for sustainable highly effective leadership - Yes. This brings us to our second question...
What is the means of getting to a self-transcendent and sustainable high performing leadership (both noun and verb)?
We all see change happening every day. We also see the impact of change not effectively dealt with. To effectively deal with change, or the impact of it on the human being, and we are talking about a business corporate context, we progress from what is naturally expected - resistance and anger. Then, either by digging within and/or by the support from others, somehow we allow ourselves to open up to the possibilities. That very stage requires a momentum building progression to acceptance of the change, even if we do not entirely know the outcome or what “done” means, as if there is such a thing nowadays… Eventually, by taking charge and exerting effort, the human change cycle progresses toward renewal and personal transformation. In the workplace this may mean our job changes, new skills and information needed, or the tasks and system changes, etc. We might as well acknowledge as well – in what organization is there just one thing changing at a time, and that change cycle goes neatly and nicely, progressing from one step to the next. These are the realities of change in the workplace; it is messy, there are multiple changes, and we do not exactly know the outcome….or what “done” means and looks like.
What happens when change doesn’t go well, meaning on an individual level? Resistance to change on a personal level manifests itself in health issues. For instance, we observe and encounter in our colleagues reactions like depression and anxiety, deployment of diversion mechanisms, and/or lack-luster performance stemming from being less than whole...
In reference to the change model shown below, As you move through the change cycle, it often occurs – we get stuck between the phases of Frustration, Depression and Experiment. That is the valley of the change process, and it takes everyone something within and/or from the external to help us build momentum to get beyond and unstuck. At that point the YP group discussed the variation in how we each get through that valley. A good learning point from that question alone, as leaders – On a personal level we deal with change quite differently.
Leadership is as diverse as people are diverse. Which makes sense as one thing I have learned over my many years (decades) of studying and practicing leadership – no two people do it the same way. We learn how to be leaders and we develop our leadership over time and through experience, contrary to that fallacy from years ago – leaders are born. With the complexities of life and change that occurs on a personal level, be it kids, community factors, health of loved ones, life changing events in the family unit, etcetera, we cannot take it for granted our vision and understanding of self is all that clear at all times. This is where the conversation with that YP group turned to the topic of Resonance and Resilience.
The principles discussed included:
- To be resonant internally, self-awareness is required.
- To be resonant externally, we must be connected to others and the situation (external environment)
- To be resonant requires resilience, the ability to recharge and renew self, as resonance requires energy. Without renewal our capacity for resonance, based on our ability to be resilient, becomes depleted.
In fact, the following serve as operational definitions for:
To achieve resonance (within self and with others) is to achieve the following on a sustainably effective level: High emotional intelligence; Authentic and trustworthy character; Charismatic to the point of inspiring others and their commitment; Encourage and influence others positively; and Assist others with discovering meaning in their work.
To achieve resonance equates to achieving the propensity to be your personal best, and as a resonant leader, you inspire others to be their best. At this juncture is where we can begin our blog, and continue the conversation about Resonant Leadership – what it is, and how we go about it.