The Leader and the Personal Dimension

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There is an increasing need expressed in leadership literature for leaders to inspire others toward a higher vision of what it means to be human (e.g., Goleman, 1995; Greenleaf, 2002; Heifetz, 1994; Kouzes & Posner, 2002; Palmer, 2000; Senge, 1990). At the core of this dimension to leadership is examining how to transform human capacities in ways that fulfill the human spirit, raise awareness of new possibilities and potentialities and encourage self and others to transcend self-interest for the sake of the greater human endeavor (Bass, 1985; Burns, 1978).

Senge (1990) emphasized that leaders in today’s world need to continually clarify and deepen their personal vision and focus energies toward new realities and new stories that speak of hope and courage. Effective leaders are consciously present to leader-follower relationships, realizing that relationships form the foundation of leadership. How leaders’ values play out in the relationship can mark success or failure of the leader to inspire and motivate others to become more fully human.

Lowney (2003) proposed leadership opportunities are found not only at work but also in the ordinary activities of everyday life. Four principles of leadership emerged:

  1. Everyone is a leader; we are all leading all of the time, well or poorly.
  2. Leadership springs from within; it is about who we are as much as what we do.
  3. Leadership is not an act; it is a way of living.
  4. Leaders never complete the task of becoming a leader; it is an ongoing process (p. 19).

Lonergan (1968, 1988) viewed self-questioning as a natural instinct of the human conscience. The process of self-questioning forms the basis of personal authenticity and occurs when we are attentive and conscious of our thinking, gain deeper understandings, make judgments that are reasonable, and choose to act in ways that are responsible.

Examples of personal leadership theory and practice:

  • Servant-leadership (Greenleaf, 1977/2002): leaders are servants first, fostering a sense of community that embraces diversity, and developing in the self an intricate and artistic understanding of what it means to develop the freedom, health, wisdom, and autonomy of others;
  • Relational leadership (Fletcher, 2001; Komives, Lucas, & McMahon, 1998);
  • Transformational leadership (Bass, 1985); and
  • Appreciative leadership (Bushe, 2001; Luthans & Avolio, 2003).

Questions to explore through the coursework in this dimension include:

  1. How do leaders’ images of themselves effect the system in which they lead?
  2. What is involved in risking deep positive change at the personal level?
  3. What is the role of positive affect in higher levels of human development and what are implications for developing leaders?
  4. How does one cultivate a life of deliberately noticing, anticipating, and magnifying positive potential in the self and others?

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