Appreciative Leadership: Defining Effective Leadership Methods

By Lewis, Darlene; Medland, Jacqueline et al. | Organization Development Journal, Spring 2006 | Go to article overview

Appreciative Leadership: Defining Effective Leadership Methods


Lewis, Darlene, Medland, Jacqueline, Malone, Sarah, Murphy, Michael, et al., Organization Development Journal


Abstract

This article reviews the literature on effective leadership styles. It explores the use of Appreciative Inquiry (AI) as a tool for effective leadership in four case studies. Interviews were conducted with those four leaders and two others that had utilized AI to discern their leadership traits. A model of effective leadership based on the work of contemporary authors such as Mantel, Gergen and Cooperrider was used as a conceptual framework.

Given the paucity of available data on what truly characterizes effective leadership, this paper posits that appreciative inquiry can serve as a transformational tool for organizational leaders. Thus, the leaders and the organizations wherein they practice can become more effective. The paper begins by describing the search for effective leadership in the 21st century. Then, the unique role that appreciative inquiry plays in driving organizational outcomes is revealed through a discussion of various case studies in leadership. The focus is on appreciative leadership as executed in various healthcare settings throughout the Chicago metropolitan area, including a description of a developmental model for 'appreciative' leaders used at an agricultural firm. The paper concludes by addressing those attributes common to 'appreciative' leaders with a focus on how to sustain change following the use of appreciative inquiry.

"There are a lot of studies on leadership, but very few on effective leadership." This surprising statement was echoed by W. Warner Burke Professor of Psychology and Education and former Chair of the Department of Organization and Leadership at Teachers College at Columbia University during his June 8, 2004 presentation at Benedictine University in Lisle, Illinois. Burke referenced a study that 60 to 70% of U.S. employees are dissatisfied with their supervisor, and concludes that the principal problem facing business today is poor leadership. Formal training in the development of people skills appears to be a fundamental factor in this effective leadership void.

A keyword search of the term "effective leadership" in the text of all articles published over the past five years in the Academy of Management Executive, the Journal of Learning & Education, and the Harvard Business Review yielded only a few "hits," indicating that Burke's assertion may be accurate and points to the need for further study of this critical dimension in business.

What exactly is leadership? In a survey of the literature on leadership, Bryman (1996) surmized three elements common to most definitions: influence, group and goal. He also presented four stages of leadership theory and research: the trait approach, the style approach, the contingency approach, and the new leadership approach. Does the new leadership approach provide proper skills and education to set up the leader for success? Does an effective leader have the chance to succeed with only exhibiting two of the three key elements? Education and training can launch this process effectively with very limited time and effort from both internal and external company resources.

Lacking in the leadership research conducted to date are empirical studies based upon data from workers who view their current supervisor or organization leader as effective. The distinction between leaders in general and effective leaders in particular needs to be investigated further.

How often would visionary, charismatic or transformational leadership emerge from the data? How often would the positive organizational constructs of transcendent behavior (Bateman & Porrath, 2003), courageous, principled action (Worline & Quinn, 2003), or authentic leadership (Luthans & Avolio, 2003) emerge? Consistent with the theme at this year's Midwest Academy of Management meeting, one construct that might very well be suggested by the data is a leader's ability to improvise, or to act in what Hatch (2000) calls 'jazz time' (Purser, Bluedorn, & Petranker 2005). …

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