What? Since returning to graduate school I have heard and read individuals who consistently communicate that we are experiencing a “rapidly changing world” and, thus, we are not preparing students for this new world. Some have even said that previously tested leadership models or theories do not take into account the volatile environment in which all segments of our society now operates. Let me first start by saying, I think the world has always changed at a rapid pace. Having recently read The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Kuhn (1962) I feel more confident in saying this and sounding somewhat intelligent. Change is inevitable, but I tend to think that the problems we wish to solve are becoming more complex.
So what? So you are probably saying what in the heck did that rant have to do with leadership? I used the above statement regarding the complexity of problems as the segue way to talk about the parallels (that I see) between problem solving and the study and practice of leadership. As evidenced, by our course readings, the focus of leadership studies has evolved to focus more on followers and the distributed nature of leadership. I think the strength based approach speaks to this shift in leadership in the sense that the complex problems of our day will require the collective efficacy of teams rather than the individual’s efficacy of a “great men” or “great women.” The shared leadership, co-leadership, team leadership, and distributed leadership speak to the importance of the cognitive diversity that is needed to solve 21st century problems.
Now what? I think I had a (mini) epiphany this week when I was able to see the relationship between the strengths based approach, the collective leadership models we studied, and my core belief that all leadership is situational. My ability to weave these approaches, models, and my core beliefs together speaks to my interest in social networks and the value that each node (individual) brings to the table. This unit has made me realize that leadership functions can be spread across multiple individuals or teams and leadership does not always fit neatly into a hierarchical structure. This weaving of approaches has informed my leadership philosophy in that I realize we all have strengths and different perspectives that we bring to the table and these differences make the group collectively stronger and better able to lead and solve problems.