A revolution, a cause, and an objective are ideals without leaders to facilitate them. There are all varieties of leaders, yet at the core, at the heart of each effective leader lies the need to make the world a better place (Kouzes & Posner, 2007). In response to this vision, certain ordinary individuals live extraordinarily to inspire others in the name passion, goodwill, and hope. To breathe life is the literal definition of the word inspire (p. 143). While completing objectives lines the path of transforming vision into reality, the vision must always transcend individual tasks:
“Leaders help people see that what they are doing is bigger than themselves . . . It’s something noble. It’s something that lifts their moral and motivational levels. When people go to bed at night they can sleep a little easier knowing that others are able to live a better life because of what they did that day”(p.135-136).
It is through an internal exemplary passion for an external good that a leader is bread and born; caring deeply for something and someone is the foundation of what it means to be a leader.
In this paper I will convey my leadership philosophy through what it means to be an effective leader and the methods by which such success is attained.
Self-Transcendence (Carey, 2005, p. 2) involves infecting others with an inspiring vision. It is not a leader’s role to force his or her vision upon others, rather to inspire a shared vision. Through appealing to the beliefs of others, a mutual vision of the future is created, demonstrating transformational leadership (p. 4). A leader who focuses their emphasis on the on the needs of the human component recognizes the systematic dependence between the individual and the organization or objective (p.4). For Freire, prescription is “the imposition of one individual’s choice upon another, transforming the consciousness of the person prescribed to into one that conforms with the prescriber’s consciousness” (Carey, p.4). Prescription (Carey, 2005) is not the means through which people are inspired; inspiration comes from the heart, a mutual passion that is appealed to and directed outward for the greatest of good.
The fundamental basis of a vision is its meaning.
“What truly pulls people forward, especially in the more difficult times, is the exciting possibility that what they are doing can make a profound difference to the future of their families, friends, colleagues, customers, and communities. They want to know that what they do matters (Kouzes & Posner, 1987, p. 134).
An effective leader is able to recognize and connect with this in others unifying one another in a common bond. Visions are not about dollars and cents; they are about ideals- hopes, dreams and aspirations (p. 132). A revolution represents unity, optimism, and ambition; without these things at the soul’s core, one cannot inspire, lead, or make the world a better place. People are not moved by capitalism, rather, “the ideals of world peace, freedom, justice, a comfortable life, happiness, and self respect are among the ultimate strivings of our existence” (p133). While solutions to primary objectives may not contribute to all of these ideals, a shared vision captivates through revealing tangible means to positively change the world; “In making the intangible vision tangible, leaders ignite constituents’ flames of passion” (p. 141).
Developing a Vision
According to Yukl, “The research on charismatic and transformational leadership indicates that a clear and compelling vision is useful to guide change in an organization” (2007, p. 295). If leaders are to inspire radical change, they must first have a vision that is attractive enough to justify the sacrifices and hardships the change will require (p. 295). The vision acts as a constant link between the past and the future, and the mutual belief that it will be realized someday (p. 295.) A vision should be simple and idealistic, an image people can grasp, hold onto and strive for rather than a complex plan with quantitative objectives and detailed action steps (p. 295). Constituents must be challenged, yet still believe the objective is realistic; if a vision doesn’t challenge, it’s reasonable to imply that it wouldn’t make the world a better place; if it’s impossible, then it is nothing. Yukl emphasizes,
“The vision should be meaningful and credible, it should not be a wishful fantasy, but rather an attainable future grounded in the present reality. The vision should address basic assumptions about what is important for the organization, how it should relate to the environment, and how people should be treated” (p. 295).
Writing the vision on paper is not enough; an effective leader must use romantic language and metaphors to bring a vision to life. Yukl claims, “A successful vision makes the typical dull, abstraction mission statement come alive, infusing it with excitement, arousing emotions, and stimulating creativity to achieve it” (p. 296). Kouzes and Posner identify leadership as a performing art, “It’s no longer enough to write a good script- you’ve also got to put on a good show. And you’ve got to make it a show that people will remember” (1987, p. 150). Visions are images of the mind, impressions and representations; they become real once they are seen in the mind’s eye (p.145). Through the use of symbols and rituals, images act as windows to the world of tomorrow (p.146). People are taken back and drawn to beautiful things; a shared vision enables individuals to be a part of something great, something that they may not independently be a part of. Describing the act of portraying a vision Kouzes and Posner write, “Just as architects make drawings and engineers build models, leaders find ways of giving expression to our collective hopes of the future” (p. 145). Regardless of the creativity of one’s imagination, all people have the capacity to transcend space and time allowing others to see places they’ve never been before (p. 146)
It is the goal of an effective leader to liberate his or her constituents from their dependency. Unlike the transactional leader (Carey, 2005, p. 8), the transforming leader uses insight “to facilitate the follower’s own developmental growth toward the logos, thereby converting the follower into a leader” (p. 8). Through this process a leader is demonstrating respect for the freedom and dignity of the individual, empowering (Carey, 2005, p. 11) them to be better. Elaborating on this idea Kouzes and Posner claim, “Leaders accept and act on the paradox of power: you become more powerful when you give your own power away” (p. 251). Imagine leading an army of men that felt weak, incompetent and insignificant; would it not be in the battalion’s best interest for the men to feel strong, capable and efficacious?
Feeling powerful comes from an innate sense of being in control of your own life (p. 252). Through shared vision and empowerment, constituents are stronger because they believe in what they are doing, and they believe in themselves. Part of this belief based process comes from encouraging followers to express their ideas and concerns, “This gave them the opportunity to present their ideas in a safe environment which, in turn, allowed them to be more confident and articulate advocates” (p. 253). There cannot be an open exchange of ideas if constituents fear they will be ridiculed or judged. By encouraging the voice of the follower, the leader recognizes his or herself within the follower, fighting to be released. An effective leader must believe in his or her followers:
“Through the empowerment phase the leader helps the follower in finding his or her own voice, and leads the follower to the realization that he or she has valuable gifts to offer the organization, and convinces the follower that the organization wants these gifts to be used” (Carey, 2005, p. 11).
The collaboration (Carey, 2005, p. 11) process allows an organizational community to grow. The emphasis of this phase is on how to share those gifts in working with others and on finding a common ground of agreement to enable the organizational community to grow (p. 11). The final phase in the development of an effective leader for Carey is dialogue (2005, p. 11). “Dialogue goes beyond empowerment in putting oneself forward, beyond collaboration in finding common ground, to ‘being transformed into a communion in which we do not remain what we were’” (p.11) This final transformation represents the ultimate goal of an effective leader. The follower becomes the leader in the realization of a shared vision through empowerment, “But human activity consists of action and reflection: it is praxis; it is transformation of the world” (Freire, 2000, p.125).
Passion is the fuel that burns at the core of an effective leader. Without passion and emotion, a leader is just man, but with it, he or she becomes a vehicle by which greatness is achieved. An effective leader must be authentic in nature; he or she must believe in their cause, and in their followers. As a visionary, a leader must inspire or breathe life into his or her followers, appealing to their desire for purpose; to make the world a better place. Through clear construction and communication of a shared vision, a leader sacrifices power in the transformation process liberating constituents facilitating organizational community growth.
Carey, M. L. (2005). The five frames. Retrieved February 27, 2009, from
http://jesuitnet.blackboard.com/webapps/portal/frameset.jsp?tab=courses&url=/bin/common/course.pl?course_id=_32_1 [MM2] Spokane, WA: Gonzaga University.
Kouzes, J., & Posner, B. [MM4] (1987). The leadership challenge: How to get extraordinary things done in organizations. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Yukl, G. (2001). Leadership in organizations. Paramus, NJ: Prentice Hall.