Ten Functions of a Leader

1.      Help interpret the meaning of events

2.      Create alignment on objectives and strategies

3.      Build task commitment and optimism

4.      Build mutual trust and cooperation

5.      Strengthen collective identity

6.      Organize and coordinate activities

7.      Encourage and facilitate collective learning

8.      Obtain necessary resources and support

9.      Develop and empower people

10.  Promote social justice and morality

-Gary Yukl, Leadership in Organizations


A conceptual tr…

A conceptual trap is to the thought world of the mind what the astronomers’ black holes are to the universe. Once inside, there seems to be no way of getting out or seeing out…Margaret Mead said that when she journeyed in her anthropological studies from tribe to tribe she discovered that it did not matter what was done in a particular tribe–it only mattered who did it. If the weaving in a particular tribe was done by men, it was an occupation of high prestige. If twenty miles away weaving was done by women, it was of low prestige…It is interesting that [most economists] thought this way too. When they speak of labor creating value and about payment for that value, it is very clear the labor they are talking about is not the labor of women in the home. The labor that creates value and is “productive” is industrial labor and in most generations has been the labor of men. The labor of women in bearing and caring for children, for example, was not considered, despite it being absolutely fundamental to an entire economy and culture.

From “Patriarchy as a Conceptual Trap” by Elizabeth Dodson Grey

Clarity Circles

A clarity circle is a process by which a group of people helps a person through an important life choice by ONLY asking questions — to help them perceive the realities, assumptions, and emotions that underlie their dilemma. The person facing the important choice sits in a chair, and the other members form a semi circle around her. The circle starts with the person in the middle explaining their dilemma or life choice. The other members then take turns asking open-ended and non-leading questions, which are each answered by the person in the center. The process continues until the person in the center has achieved clarity around the issue.

…Too often in…

…Too often in organizational life, people begin analyzing problems by personalizing them (“If only Joe was a leader…”) or attributing the situation to interpersonal conflict (“Sally and Bill don’t collaborate very well because their work styles are so at odds”). This tendency often obscures a deeper; more systemic (and perhaps more threatening) understanding of the situation. For example, “Sally and Bill represent conflicting perspectives on the tough strategic trade-offs that need to be made in our harsh economic climate, and each is protecting the functions and jobs of their own people. The conflict is structural, not personal, even if it’s taken on a personal tone.” To counteract the personalization of problems, start with diagnosing and acting on the system (“moving outside in”) and then do the same for the self (“moving inside out”).

Heifetz, The practice of adaptive leadership, p. 8

You know best w…

You know best who you really are by watching what you do rather than listening to what you say. The only way you can really know what you believe in comes from the times when one belief comes into conflict with something else you say you believe in. It does not mean much to say you believe in something if it is so far down on your list of cherished values that you never have to act on it.

Heifetz, The Practice of Adaptive Leadership, p 45

Fritjof Capra’s Dual Nature of Organizational Structure


Fritjof Capra, in The Hidden Connections, poses a dual nature of business organization. (In the term “business” I am including any group of people that constitute a workplace both for profit and not for profit companies.)

Businesses are both 1) social institutions designed for specific purposes (such as making money, managing distributions of political power, transmitting knowledge, or spreading religious faith, and 2) communities of people who interact with each other, build relationships, help each other, and make their daily activities meaningful at a personal level.

Peter Senge (in Capra) characterizes one as a “machine for making money” and the other as a “living being.”

The first type of organization is mechanistic. It comes from classical management theories of the early twentieth century. All the thinking is done by the managers and designers, leaving all the doing to the employees (Taylor, in Capra). A fast food chain is a perfect example of the first type of organization. It doesn’t matter who is hired, they fulfill the same role each time. It is characterized by formal structures–clear lines of communication, coordination, and control. This approach has been successful in increasing efficiency and productivity, but workers in these types of organizations feel animosity and resentment to the organization.

At the same time, there exists the second type of organization in any business–the informal living organization comprised of human beings. This is a fluid and fluctuating network of communication. This is where the organization’s flexibility, creativity, and learning capability reside. Skills are exchanged; tacit knowledge, “common sense”, and meaning are generated. When new people join or leave the organization, the informal network changes or breaks down and restructures itself. Smart managers recognize that there is an interplay between the organization’s formal structures and its informal living networks. Typically, they will allow the formal structures handle the routine work while relying on the informal structures to handle work that doesn’t fit within the routines.

Interesting Quotes:

“People [in organizations] do not resist change; they resist having change imposed on them.”

“If organizations were truly living communities, buying and selling them would be the equivalent of slavery, and subjecting the lives of their members to predetermined goals would be seen as dehumanizing.”

“A machine can be controlled; a living system . . . can only be disturbed. Working wtih the processes inherent in living systems means that we do not need to spend a lot of energy to move an organization. There is no need to push, pull, or bully it to make it change. For or energy are not the issue; the issue is meaning.”

“…intelligent, alert people rarely carry out instructions exactly to the letter.”

On the profound conflict between biological time and computer time:

“People feel that they have hardly any time for quiet reflection, and since reflective consciousness is one of the defining characteristics of human nature, the results are profoundly dehumanizing.”

“What to do with that spare time [created through technology and increased efficiency] becomes a question of values. It can be distributed among the individuals in the organization–thus creating time for them to reflect, organize themselves, network, and gather for informal conversations–or the time can be extracted from the organization and turned into profits for its top executives and shareholder by making people work more and thus increasing the company’s productivity.”

It’s Official–I’m starting my Master’s degree in Organizational Development!

After much deliberation about graduate school, it’s official. I am starting my Master’s degree in Organizational Development this fall.

“What is Organizational Development?” I can hear my friends, family, and colleagues asking this question for years to come.

Organizational Development is the process of helping organizations solve problems and reach their goals. The field is interdisciplinary and draws on sociology, psychology, and theories of motivation, learning, and personality.

I am interested in this degree because I want to help people and organizations by making work more enjoyable. When people enjoy what they do, they do better work. I’m especially interested in studying leadership.

I chose this particular program at Antioch University Seattle because I am excited to work with the professors and students there. My advisor Barbara Spraker is working on a project on international women’s leadership, and I hope to become involved.

I will travel to Seattle one weekend a month for three and a half days of classes. The rest of the time I’ll be reading and writing, working on community projects in Santa Cruz, and working on the management team at MAPS.

This semester I’ll also be TA-ing a class on Leadership at Hult International Business School in San Francisco.

I’ve bought my books and signed up for classes. It’s exciting to be in a structured educational environment again. I’m looking forward to meeting the other students and getting started!