Archive for January 2, 2014

Outline of James 4

January 2, 2014 Leave a comment
  1. The Sources of Conflict
  2. The Antidote to Arrogance
Categories: james, outline

Leadership Without Easy Answers by Ronald A. Heifetz

January 2, 2014 Leave a comment

I received a copy of this book at a Network Team Institute in Albany last November.

My impressions of this book are heavily influenced by my experiences with the Regents Reform Agenda implementation here in New York.

First, it is interesting that Albany has set its eyes east for inspiration. The Harvard researcher Dr. Daniel Koretz, along with Dr. Howard T. Everson from CUNY, provided the NYS Education Department the data analysis necessary to set “college-ready” marks on Regents exams in Algebra and English. This book, too, comes from a Harvard professor.┬áThis does not make the books claims invalid, but it does bias my view.

Second, the book paints with broad strokes and illustrates principles of leadership with surprising detail. This is an impressive accomplishment.

I found the author’s analysis of three different types of leadership situations very useful:

Situation Problem definition Solution and implementation Primary locus of responsibility for the work Kind of work
Type I Clear Clear Expert Technical
Type II Clear Requires learning Expert and individual Technical and adaptive
Type III Requires learning Requires learning Individual > expert Adaptive

Dr. Heifetz’s distinction between technical and adaptive leadership behaviors is also extremely insightful:

Social function Technical problem Adaptive problem
Direction Expert provides problem definition and solution Expert identifies the adaptive challenge, provides diagnosis of condition, and produces questions about problem definitions and solutions
Protection Expert protects from external threat Expert discloses external threat
Role orientation Expert orients Expert disorients current roles, or resists pressure to orient people in new roles too quickly
Controlling conflict Expert restores order Expert exposes conflict, or lets it emerge
Norm maintenance Expert maintains norms Expert challenges norms, or allows them to be challenged

The author then suggests the following elements of effective leadership:

  • identifying the adaptive challenge
  • keeping distress within a productive range
  • directing attention to ripening issues and not diversions
  • giving the work back to the people
  • protecting voices of leadership in the community

Finally, Dr. Heifetz provides the leader seven steps to handling the burden of leadership:

  1. get on the balcony
  2. distinguish self from role
  3. externalize the conflict
  4. use partners
  5. listen, using oneself as data
  6. find a sanctuary
  7. preserve a sense of purpose

It is this final point, leading from a strong sense of the importance of the work, that begins and ends the author’s thesis and analysis.

Without purpose, it is impossible to judge the value and effectiveness of a leader’s work.

At times, I shook my head wondering how our leaders in Albany plan to implement these concepts. I see New York repeatedly implementing technical solutions to adaptive problems.

Although this book was dense and difficult to get through, I highly recommend it. It is deep and wide.

Categories: book review, Leadership
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