The Landscape of Leadership Building Relationships

By McCaslin, Mark L. | Journal of Leadership Studies, Fall 2001 | Go to article overview

The Landscape of Leadership Building Relationships


McCaslin, Mark L., Journal of Leadership Studies


Executive Summary

The landscape of leadership is inhabited with purpose, opportunities, and relationships. This paper sought to illuminate the relationships aspects of this landscape. While it is difficult to gain complete understanding of the landscape by an examination of its various aspects, such an examination is offered here as a starting point. To gain a more complete understanding of leadership it is positioned as a metamotivational value. From there the approach to the various levels of relationships are examined. This was but the first step in building a holistic theory for developing human potential through the leadership dynamic.

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Leadership has a distinctiveness surrounding its nature. It is without exception a higher order value, concept, or condition. Leadership, as a higher order value, sets itself apart from human nature by being unchanging, incorruptible, and unyielding in principle, while inspiring hope, creativity, and empowerment to unmet human potential. In searching for the farther reaches of human nature Abraham Maslow (1971) stated the following tenet: "On the whole ... I think it is fair to say that human history is a record of the ways in which human nature has been sold short. The highest possibilities of human nature have practically always been underestimated." This tenet holds for leadership as well. In most instances in today's organizations leadership has been demoted from its true nature. Taken as a higher order value it may yet be possible to purify leadership's promise and in turn realize the highest possibilities of human nature.

There is good reason to believe that leadership has a set and higher order pattern to its nature. In contemplating the nature of leadership Burns (1978) asked a critical question: "Supposing we could find species-wide commonalties among hierarchies of wants and needs, could we also find common stages and levels of moral development and reasoning emerging out of those wants and needs?" Burns was attempting to build the case that leadership brings an opportunity to raise all people to higher levels of morality and expectations. As such, he was positioning leadership as a higher-order metamotivational value. So defined, leadership must have a common and unchanging foundation. Common because it is available to all, and unchanging because it only functions effectively as a higher order value of human interaction.

Metamotives of Leadership

In its ideal form leadership would be represented by the metaneeds, or metamotive values of what must be beautiful, good, perfect, just, simple, orderly, lawful, alive, comprehensive, unitary, dichotomy-transcending, effortless, and amusing (Maslow, 1971). In describing the theory of metamotivation Maslow (1971) referred to self-actualizing individuals, having gratified their basic needs, "are now motivated in other higher ways, to be called `metamotivations'" (p. 289). Maslow's use of the prefix "meta" was beyond the traditional postitivist meaning of "after" or "with". His usage took on a much more spiritual meaning, more transcendental in its reference. "Motivated in higher ways" demonstrates a desire to move beyond current levels of expectation and beyond our fears. What Maslow (1971) was seeking were answers to what he referred to as the "Jonah Complex":

We fear our highest possibilities (as well as our lowest ones). We are generally afraid to become that which we can glimpse in our most perfect moments, under the most perfect conditions, under conditions of greatest courage. We enjoy and even thrill to the godlike possibilities we see in ourselves in such peak moments. And yet we simultaneously shiver with weaknesses, awe, and fear before these same possibilities. (p. 34)

Leadership, as we know it today teeters on this fulcrum. Is leadership the path to our greatest potentialities for creativity, our metaneeds? Or, is it truly only a myth created to satisfy our fear of our highest possibilities? …

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