Teaching Authentic Adaptive Leadership and Organizational Strategies Using a Case Study

By Brimhall, Carrie L.; Greif, Toni Buchsbaum | International Journal of Strategic Management, February 2013 | Go to article overview

Teaching Authentic Adaptive Leadership and Organizational Strategies Using a Case Study


Brimhall, Carrie L., Greif, Toni Buchsbaum, International Journal of Strategic Management


1. INTRODUCTION.

Teaching leadership skills and strategies is challenging because of the fundamental disconnect between leadership theory and the complex environment in which leaders must make decisions with significant consequences. Though difficult, building a strong linkage between classroom learning, and the intuitive strategy necessary to lead a successful organization is critical; it is not enough to merely tell students about the characteristics of successful organizations. Using case studies allows faculty to show students the complex dilemmas in action within an organization, placing students in a position to model resolutions through their proposed actions (Herremans & Murch, 2003). In the Xerox case study, the leadership topics in exploration encompass the skills required to forecast changes and opportunities in the global business economy and the strategies necessary to lead a complex organization through reinvention, innovation, and repurposing. In the rapidly changing business landscape, organizations can reinvent a business model through disruptive innovation (Voelpel, Leibold, & Tekie, 2004). Although required for viability, the Xerox process of reinvention was purposeful, strategic (Gharajedaghi, 2006), and focused on the adaptive and authentic leadership of Anne Mulcahy and Ursala Burns. Authentic leadership, as a multidimensional construct, draws on multiple fields of theory including ethics, leadership and transformation (George, McLean, & Craig, 2008). Authentic leadership is a process by which leaders, such as Mulcahy and Burns, incorporate psychological capacities, and organizational context promoting self-awareness, and positive behaviors centered on authenticity (Algera & Lips-Wiersma, 2012). The question of organizational repurposing is relevant to organizations because of the rapid pace (Vaill, 1989) of volatility, change uncertainty, and ambiguity (Johansen, 2007).

Adaptive leadership is a process by which leaders mobilize organizational members to tackle tough challenges and flourish in new ways. Organizations focused on adaptive leadership create a culture which values diversity. Adaptive organizations rely less on central planning and the views from the top leadership. The organization creates norms that enable the organization to meet the ongoing stream of new realities, opportunities, and pressures (Heifetz, Grashow, & Linsky, 2009). Xerox has created a culture of empowerment and adaptability evidenced by the recent corporate expansions, outsourcing, and new product lines.

2. TEACHING ASSUMPTIONS AND THEORETICAL UNDERPINNING

The teaching approach can be applied to any organization because of the complex, technologically connected, and interrelated nature of the world (Gharajedaghi & Ackoff, 1984). Leaders can utilize the strategies of a complex global company within smaller organizations as well. The ability to recognize the indicators of repurposing and reinvention as well as the leadership strategies to reinvent and remain authentic at all sites of an organization with intentional leaderly behaviors (Raelin, 2003. The lens leaders use to view the world will help or hinder their ability to make good strategic decisions, even on a local level (Kanter, 2011). The paradigmatic assumptions that have shaped the educational philosophy of this approach values the importance of critical thinking and problem solving in life and career success as well as self-direction, initiative, and motivation as key elements of learning. The approach recognizes learning as a process by which students need to be present and motivated in order to succeed. The prescriptive assumptions are that critical thinking requirements should be included in the assignments and discussions and also the assumption that students who are motivated will meet a high bar of expectation. The approach drives students to think critically about scenarios, planning and development as part of knowledge acquisition (Mezirow, 1990). …

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