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Let's Disrupt Leadership

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Let's Disrupt Leadership
Birds on telephone lines

In the past two decades of stretching, doubting, and exploring leadership development, a disruptive narrative has emerged, that “many leadership development programs had little impact and perhaps the whole leadership development industry was failing.” In their August 2020 article Developing the Theory and Practice of Leadership Development: A Relational View, authors Cynthia McCauley and Charles Palus at the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) go on to say:

  • leadership development focuses on changing behavior rather than addressing the underlying mindsets that are at the root of problematic behavior
  • the field is leader-centric, ignoring the power shifts in society that elevates followers
  • leadership effectiveness is assessed primarily via individual competencies or job performance; they rarely include collective concerns like work group climate or team performance
  • senior executives do not make necessary changes in organizational systems to support broad individual change
  • the slow-moving hierarchical system with compartmentalized expertise isn’t adequate for today’s complex challenges which call for reinvention of organizations

Among the most disruptive ideas that could drive a leap in leadership development is that “leaders are not the fundamental source of leadership, but that leadership is an emergent property of interactions among people working together.” This perspective is described by the authors as “relational view of leadership.” It democratizes leadership – leaders are active participants in leadership and are not “containers” of leadership. The focus of leadership development is then not on the individual leaders, but on the team, work groups, and organization.

Developing the theory and practice of leadership development: A relational view

Cynthia D.McCauley, Charles J.Palus

Abstract: Organizations are demanding leadership development that is more sensitive to context and supportive of organizational transformation, and critics of current leadership development practices claim they are too narrowly construed to yield meaningful results. Relational views of leadership may be the disruptive idea that helps reconstruct leadership development in ways that meets these concerns.
To better understand how these relational views can impact the practice of leadership development, we examined the use a specific relational framework in one leadership development organization. We found that leadership development professionals used the framework to convey a relational point of view on leadership to their participants, to facilitate collective identification and action on leadership issues, to develop leadership by focusing on leadership culture, and to enable the democratization of leadership development.
We use these findings to advance a constructive-developmental perspective on the development of leadership development.

Research Article

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