'Transformative' leadership incorporates justice
Gonzaga University's School of Leadership Studies moves students beyond "command and control" leadership to awareness of just, equitable, inclusive leadership models.
As the nation today seems divided on leadership models—power over and power with—a new book expands on "transformative" leadership, a concept developed by Carolyn Shields of Wayne State University in 2010.
Leadership models sound theoretical, but they describe how individuals, organizations, communities, societies and nations function.
Historically, different models have been practiced and studied: authoritarian, bureaucratic, laissez-faire, executive, team, situational, managerial, democratic, authentic, charismatic, consultative, spiritual and servant. Other concepts are transactional, transformational, transforming and transformative.
It may seem like just words, but the words define relationships and goals of an approach, which inform when and how people act.
Kristine Hoover and James (Jim) Mohr recently co-wrote a chapter in the book, Transformative Leadership in Action: Allyship, Advocacy and Activism, published by the International Leadership Association (ILA), an association of professionals and academic schools of leadership studies. The book, edited by Jacklyn Bruce and Katherine McKee of North Carolina State University, is a collection of chapters on transformative leadership.
Kristine's and Jim's 15-page chapter is on "Developing Learner Identities through Countering Othering."
"Othering is the process when we define and secure our own positive identity through stigmatization of an other, creating 'us' and 'them' or 'in-groups' and out-groups," she said.
Kristine, director of the Institute for Hate Studies at Gonzaga for five years and associate professor of organizational leadership, said transformative leadership "is an interactive leadership process that encourages ongoing learning and curiosity."
Jim, the vice chancellor of student affairs at Washington State University, a Gonzaga leadership studies doctoral graduate and director of the Institute for Hate Studies from 2008 to 2010, values the thinking behind transformative leadership, because it includes "a clear commitment to justice and equity in organizations."
"Transformative leadership focuses on shared values and understanding," Kristine said. "It calls everyone into the work of leadership as a communal process, emphasizing we are relying on one another for leadership and not on any single person."
Jim said the premise of a leadership approach invites critical thinking on how an organization operates. Basic premises are found by asking: Do the organization's policies and practices justly and equitably distribute power, interconnection and relationships?
"Othering plays a role," he said, noting that transformative leadership requires "thinking about how our actions affect other people."
Kristine said today's division and injustice drive people to seek change and that requires moral courage.
"For generations, transformative leadership skills have been taught in ally, advocate and activist communities as in faith communities, organizer camps, field offices, classrooms and kitchens," she said.
The book invites readers to do self-work and offers a road map to 21st-century leadership skills, she said.
In the chapter, Jim and Kristine say transformative leadership is a way to build bridges between communities to counter othering, overcome inequities, produce justice and undo prejudice "by deeply valuing the richness of the human experience and asking where that richness is missing in our lives in places we support and frequent," Kristine said.
Their focus is to help learners build a foundation for people to see the other as meaningful and to honor each person's uniqueness.
"A transformative leader commits people to action, converting followers into leaders and leaders into change agents," Jim said.
It's about leadership for the common good to establish systems that sustain an organization's values and remove barriers to achieving goals, Kristine said.
"Today's struggle calls for accountability and moral courage," she said. "We need to offer a critique to achieve a healthy society. A critique needs to be in balance so shame and fear do not impede progress toward promise and hope.
"The greatest learning happens at the edge of discomfort, when we are being stretched by intentional conversation. Critique is not about shame, but about accountability linking us to where we want to be: the promise of the beloved community," she said. "Accountability is critical to decentering whiteness by bringing in more perspectives to understand how the world can work for all of us."
As an example, she pointed to the need to consider gender perspectives and experiences in rules for tenure. Rather than having rigid rules and deadlines based only on meritocracy without considering different life experiences, a university can value the enrichment of human life, such as women taking off time to have children, rather than completing tenure within six years.
"We learn by bringing all voices to the table to understand how we are organized as a society and as neighbors to create a world that allows all of us to flourish," she said.
Kristine said the focus is on conversation and dialogue with the goal of learning, reaching an "aha" moment, rather than necessarily coming to consensus or agreement.
"Dialogue is different from debate or arguing, which serve a different purpose," she said. "Neither is a shouting match based on different facts.
"Transformative dialogue invites people who are intentional about listening, feel safe and are ready to communicate," she said. "It is about relationships and dignity.
"We ask people where they can learn about their own backgrounds and the experiences of others—reading books, attending performances, watching documentaries—and observing where a diversity of people are and are not, then exploring why. This is work for all of us as part of transformative leadership to build skills and behaviors to create welcoming communities," she said.
At the end of the chapter, Jim and Kristine raise questions to invite readers into discussion to learn from others, think about their biases and challenge their assumptions:
• What support do people need to live up to their values?
• How do people have integrity and authenticity as leaders committed to a purpose bigger than themselves?
• What choice do people have to engage in leadership to take a stand in an organization for justice and equity?
• How do people create more equitable organizations?
"With transformative leadership, we can create a climate in which diverse voices are not just present, but also are heard and draw attention to issues," Jim said.
"We need to look at how we can change as individuals because if we change as individuals, we change organizations," Kristine added. "When I look at my values, biases and assumptions, I can see how I other others and how there are new ways to interact, so policies and practices are relationship-based."
Transformative leadership changes relationships to change how organizations function, she said, adding that while Gonzaga's School of Leadership Studies considers various theories of leadership, transformative leadership names justice and equity, which are needed to move society toward "the beloved community."
Transformative leadership calls for individuals to be part of a rich fabric of solutions, rather than being "white knights" or "white saviors."
Transformative leaders are "upstanders, rather than bystanders, calling people to action," said Kristine.
"We hope people will know their actions can shape what happens," she said, "and how we can build understanding when we seem to live in different worlds with different values and different information/facts."
While the book is geared for those in higher education, she said it offers tools and insights for anyone.
"The skills lead to better organizations, better society and better government," Jim said.
For information, contact Kristine at 313-3665 and GIHS@gonzaga.edu or Jim at 358-7526 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright@ The Fig Tree, January, 2021