Full Range Leadership Development

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Bruce J. Avolio

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    Preface

    “It's never too late to be what you might have been.”

    George Eliot

    A great deal of my work on leadership over the last decade has made me realize how important it is to step back from what you are doing to envision what might be one of the many desired alternative future states. Now, after this book has been in print for 10 years, I have been asked to do the same with what I said to readers back in 1999, and yes, it does seem like a century ago to me. What I hope to accomplish with this new edition is to share with you what I have learned over the last decade from the mountains of research that has been completed by colleagues around the globe on full range leadership, how leadership development has evolved in practice, and most importantly what it all means to anyone's leadership development. I also intend to add to this book where I hope the field of leadership may head next.

    In all the discussions I had about leadership prior to writing the first edition and now the second, one issue repeatedly came up. The issue involves discussing leadership as a systemic process, as a person, or as a combination of both. When discussed as a system and process, we can explore the context in which leadership occurs, the characteristics of followers, the timing of events, the history in which leadership is embedded, and so forth. When discussed as persons, we get into names, personality characteristics, values (whether they are born versus made), experience, how intelligence plays a role in successes and failures, and so forth.

    My goal in writing the initial version of this book was to help leaders to begin thinking about leadership as a system, one that has a very broad range and depth. I refer to the range as a “full range of leadership” potential. To think about leadership as a system, one needs to consider the inputs, which for now we can say are the people, timing, and resources; the process, which we can describe as the system or context in which these people and resources interact over time; and the outcomes, which are the levels of motivation and performance we expect to achieve after optimizing the full potential of the leadership system. By optimizing the total leadership system, we intend to enhance each individual's vital force and, in turn, the collective force of the group or organization. At the same time, I remain interested in exploring leadership at individual, team, and organizational levels in order to fully understand how one can effectively lead an entire organizational system.

    A core organizing concept used in the first edition of this book is called vital forces. The concept of vital forces comes from African humanistic philosophy.1 One's vital force is either enhanced or diminished by the relationships one has with others.2 Each of us has our own force and energy that are enhanced (and sometimes diminished) by our relationships with others. How was your vital force when you worked in an organization where every relationship was politically motivated? Full range leadership development works to enhance the individual and collective vital forces in groups and organizations.

    According to African humanistic philosophy, in one's family, the grandfather's vital force is seen to be greater than the father's and the son's, given the grandfather's proximity to the family's ancestors. Yet, each family member derives a share of this vital force because of her or his unique relationship with other members and because of the unique talents they each represent. In some ways, the vital force is a perfect blend of collectivism and individualism, which for many people, especially current leaders, would seem quite paradoxical. I will have more to say on this collective-individualism distinction shortly.3

    Leaders, followers, and peers are enriched in terms of what they can accomplish through the quality of relationships they have developed with each other. If we examine the quality of each relationship in an organization and continuously work to improve those relationships, the probability is reasonably high that the organization will achieve its full potential. I say probability because many other factors effect the success or failure of an organization's leadership system, including timing, resources, and luck.

    I believe that, by fully understanding what is going on in the relationship between a leader and his or her followers, a much deeper appreciation can be developed for what constitutes a highly effective and more fully developed leadership system. Being added to the current discussion here is the idea of looking at this relationship along what I call a full range of leadership development potential and how that contributes to one's individual and collective vital forces.4

    People derive their vital forces through the relationships they have with each other at all levels of an organization, including the culture and climate of that organization. Relationships built on trust provide the basis for building the vital force that differentiates the average team from the highly developed one,5 the average organization from the market leader, and the exemplary leader from one who simply gets a job done. The task we now have before us is to provide a clear idea of how to build relationships between leaders and followers that can enhance the vital forces in each to achieve their highest aspirations and potential. So, it does not matter whether you are a leader, a follower, or both. In fact, in any one day, it is rare that most people are not both leader and follower, and it is in the optional exchanging of these roles that the best organizational systems and teams are built.6

    I am pleased to say that the full range model of leadership that guided the development of the original version of this book and my focus on leadership development for 2 decades has been nearly completely supported and validated. I say nearly, because there are always some shortcomings in terms of what is missing or how we measured something or in regard to predictions we made during the very early stages of our work. Asking you to develop to higher levels along the full range of leadership, such as embracing the four Is of transformational leadership discussed later in this book, has been so strongly endorsed in the accumulated research that the original message to develop to the highest end of the range remains firmly in place.

    Yet, there have been many important nuances, variations, build outs, and applications that were not yet born prior to 1999 that have enriched what we consider the full range of leadership and its development. I have highlighted below 10 concepts that I did not place enough emphasis on back when this book was first written. I use hindsight to weave these now into the revised version of this book. My top 10 include:

    • We are all validated once we achieve certain personal goals. This form of validation then raises more confidence so we can lead ourselves and others. This learning may occur on our own naturally, by receiving feedback from others, or through some combination of both. Validation through science helps us determine what we said was true is true. Validation is a central organizing concept for developing leadership and what we might call our authentic leader self. It helps each of us determine if what we think is true about our self is indeed true.
    • I have come to realize how important taking ownership is to the core of what makes leaders successful. To have followers that fully own their roles and responsibilities in a way that readies them to lead is an extraordinary accomplishment of leadership. In fact, I think it is the central outcome of transforming leadership and why followers choose to become leaders in terms of formal or informal roles.
    • So much of the field of leadership has focused on leadership as a one-way street—top down. Of course, I should not be surprised that we are still using the terms boss and subordinate in everyday conversations in 2010, but I am. What we do not use enough is leading up, nor is it promoted enough. I ask myself the question, and of you as well, how do transformational followers lead up?
    • I have come to realize that someone can be a pretty effective leader by just being authentic. One could be a very effective, authentic transactional leader who is respected and someone who consistently achieves expected performance. Becoming authentic is, in my view, the ultimate human journey, which I never fully appreciated back in 1999.
    • Although the work on transformational leadership was clearly geared toward positive forms of leadership, I never fully realized how central positivity was to the work we were promoting. This insight has driven nearly a decade's worth of work on what constitutes something that got labeled psychological capital—hope, optimism, resiliency, and efficacy.
    • Transparency. And that is all I have to say about it. More seriously, this is one of those slippery concepts that you think you have understood until one day someone says, “You think you are transparent, and I think you are just rude.” With transparency, we are all smarter and faster in terms of enhancing what we know and do not know.
    • Although not completely off my radar screen 10 years ago, I never realized how customized leadership development needed to be in order to optimize development for each individual leader's potential. This has led me to explore how the developmental readiness of each individual factors into accelerating his or her leadership development and the readiness of the organization.
    • Ten years later, shared leadership still mystifies me. What is it? How is it created and sustained? Why is it important? And how can we develop it, if indeed I believe my own rhetoric that all leadership is shared, which I frequently say it is?
    • Distributed strategic leadership has become a core interest area of mine, as I have learned through my practice that leaders at all levels struggle with disseminating the strategic intent they have or, even more complicated, that their organization possesses. How can leaders take the kernel of strategic intent at the top and translate it down and across throughout a complex, geographically distributed organization frequently spanning multiple cultures? This was only marginally covered in the writings done on indirect leadership in the first version of this book. I will only be able to minimally address this issue in this version as well, as there is relatively little work on the topic thus far.
    • Leadership in the extreme is likely not exactly the same as leadership in the broad range of normal challenges. There are people who must lead and follow in the most extraordinary circumstances—repeatedly. These circumstances usually put their lives at risk, our lives at risk, or both. How do they do it? How do they prepare to do it? What can we do to help? Ironically, one might argue that the genesis of transformational leadership is oftentimes in the cauldron of dramatic changes and crises, yet it was not until recently that I began to consider how these extreme contexts impact leadership and its development.

    Assuming this is your second pass through this book, here we go again, traversing through the full range of leadership and its development. If it is your first pass, no worries; you will get the insights I left out last time and the essential points that have stood the test of time. For those of you who did read the original version, I do not know how far you have developed in the past decade—that has always been something you must own. What I expect to do here is trigger some new ideas and ways of pursuing them that can add to what I hope has been a rewarding leadership-development journey. This time around, I would like to start focused more on you first and then address our relationship, which was previously Chapter 1 back in 1999. I begin with the concept of validation as it centers all of the work I do as a researcher, practitioner, leader, and follower.

    In sum, so again, for whom is this revised book written? The same group as last time, but now it is a decade later. It was written for any level of leader, follower, and team member in any organization large or small that is operating in any culture. The principles associated with a full range of leadership potential are expected to be universal across levels, organizations, and cultures.7

    Acknowledgments

    I wanted to thank Linda Hietbrink, Latia Lau, and Khanh Nguyen who work with me at the University of Washington's Center for Leadership & Strategic Thinking for their help in preparing the final manuscript for this book. Their work is always exemplary, on time, and supportive of what I do. I also wanted to thank my copy editor Heidi Crossman, who made the words, the sentences, the structure of the sentences, and their meaning much better than I could have done on my own in revising the final manuscript that went into press. Finally, let me thank every single leader, follower, and peer that provided me with a life's worth of experiences that I enjoyed the first time around in my life stream, the second time around in the first edition of this book, and now the third time with this revision.

    Dedication

    Hello, Dolly, / this is Louis, Dolly, / we ‘re so glad to have you back where you belong. / You're lookin’ swell, Dolly, / I can tell, Dolly, / you keep glowing, you're still growing, you're still going strong.

    (From Louis Armstrong's rendition of “Hello, Dolly”)

    For my mother, Esther Greenspan, or Dolly to her friends and family, who taught me as her son that the most vulnerable people in this world often possess the greatest strength in their ability to love others with all their heart and with little expectation for any return. I have come back to where I started, realizing how important your kindness has been to my development. Every year of my life, your light is much brighter for me than the last, and today I add ten more years to my life stream versus the last time I published this book. I am forever your follower in both my mind and heart.

  • Notes

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    About the Author

    Bruce J. Avolio

    Marion B. Ingersoll Professor, Executive Director, Center for Leadership and Strategic Thinking

    Michael G. Foster School of Business, University of Washington

    Dr. Avolio has an international reputation as a researcher and practitioner in leadership. He has consulted with public and private organizations in North and South America, Africa, Europe, and Southeast Asia, as well as in Australia, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, and Israel. His research and consulting includes work with the militaries of the United States of America, Singapore, Sweden, Finland, Israel, and South Africa.

    Dr. Avolio is a fellow of the Academy of Management, American Psychological Society, American Psychological Association, and the Gerontological Society. He is the former president of both the Society for Human Resource Management Foundation and the Organizational Behavior Division of the Academy of Management.

    Dr. Avolio has published 10 books and over 125 articles on leadership and related areas. His books include Transformational and Charismatic Leadership: The Road Ahead (Elsevier Science, 2002), Full Leadership Development: Building the Vital Forces in Organizations (Sage, 1999), and Developing Potential Across a Full Range of Leadership: Cases on Transactional and Transformational Leadership (Lawrence Erlbaum, 2000). His newest books are Leadership Development in Balance: Made/Born (Lawrence Erlbaum, 2005), The High Impact Leader: Moments Matter in Authentic Leadership Development (McGraw-Hill, 2006), and Psychological Capital: Developing the Human Competitive Edge (Oxford Press, 2007) with Fred Luthans and Carolyn Youssef.

    Dr. Avolio has worked with government agencies on national leadership development projects and with governments at the state and local levels. His current projects include

    • working with public healthcare leaders to design a leadership institute for healthcare providers and educators,
    • working on a 4-year project with the U.S. Veteran's Administration (VA) on strategic leadership development and ownership, and
    • working on several contracts, including a $300K contract with the U.S. Military Academy at West Point to investigate ethical leadership development; a $730K contract to conduct a longitudinal investigation of leadership development with military officers, and a $186K contract with the VA to examine how taking ownership and developing leadership produce better healthcare results.

    Dr. Avolio's latest interest and presentations focus on the following:

    • How do we accelerate authentic leadership development for maximum impact on performance?
    • How do we use the positive psychological capacities of leaders to accelerate change?
    • How do we show decision makers the return on development investment in leadership?
    • How can we develop leaders and leadership to effectively operate in extreme contexts?

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