Action Wheel Leadership

Leadership Metaphors

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The leadership metaphors resources page teaches the leadership metaphor view that life is a marketplace. Each leadership metaphor represents one of the Action Wheel dimensions of leadership as developed in Dr. Robert Terry's book Authentic Leadership: Courage In Action.  


Leadership Metaphors Resources

Action Wheel Dimension: Resources

Leadership Metaphor: Life Is A Marketplace

The market metaphor thrives today. Margaret Thatcher in the United Kingdom and Ronald Reagan in the United States advocated it. It is the metaphor directing much of both the breakup of the Soviet Union and the development of the commonwealth that is replacing it.

The roots of the market metaphor lie in the Newtonian and Copernican revolutions, which depicted the universe as a perpetual motion machine (Capra, 1982). We have only to consider the mechanistic concepts of supply and demand, marginal utility, and cost-benefit analysis to realize the impacts of the Newtonian and Copernican world views on economic theory.

Etzioni (1968) states that the atomistic and aggregate approach to interpreting life experience, used by many economists, "explains the state of a society, economy or policy in terms of properties, relations, or actions of micro-units, rather than in terms of their super-unit macroscopic relations" In other words, the market view focuses on a particular interrelation of parts.

Persons or resources relate to other resources through a variety of voluntary contracts or exchanges. Anything that challenges this free exchange is a threat to the workings of the market. The sum of the parts, working freely, equals the good of the whole. From this atomistic perspective, a term like the common good is the sum of all the exchanges of all the private actors producing private goods. Common goods is a better description of the desired result than is common good.

Leadership in this dimension focuses on individual and organizational competency. The leadership challenge is to assure that the right people are hired for the right jobs and they have at their disposal the right tools and information to do the work. Leadership must demonstrate the discipline needed to provide accurate and honest performance information about the organization.

Leadership Metaphors Resources Core Ideas:

  • Mastery of Resources: Building core competencies is the mastery of resources: getting them, distributing them, counting them, justifying their importance and enjoying their existence. Knowledge and skills are critical resources.
  • The consistency between goals/outcomes and resources is important. Since new situations continually emerge, leadership in this dimension provides predictability in changing situations through knowledge, experience and practice. The organization should experience a positive return on its investment.
  • The Resources Dimension focuses on personal and organizational competency building: expert knowledge, technical mastery, matching specific tasks to specific kinds of expertise, targeted competencies, reflection and skill building.

Leadership in the Resources Dimension:

  • Requires tight agreement on direction and high certainty of outcome.
  • Builds the expertise and technical foundation for the other dimensions.
  • Builds consistency in the environment, clarity of task, stability and trustworthiness in the workforce.
  • Success is judged by outcomes since preoccupation with results is a focus.
  • Leadership in this dimension might be ethical or unethical.

In this dimension, the critical skills are tied directly to tasks in the work place and building core competencies. Leadership focuses on the skills required to excel in the job at hand, whether it is being a doctor, nurse, lawyer, carpenter, plumber,teacher, secretary or computer expert. The leadership key is to tie skills to task accomplishment, not just skills in general for leadership in general. Leadership skills in this dimension rooted in the mechanical metaphor, are often referred to as "hard" or "soft." Hard describes technical content; soft refers to managing people.

Core Competencies on the Leadership Metaphors Resources Dimension:

Personal Skill Building

Thousands of programs across the nation and the globe sponsor and teach leadership skills. Often the skills fit other dimensions such as listening, conflict management, speaking and goal setting/strategic planning. In this dimension, the critical skills are tied directly to tasks in the work place.

Organizational Skill Building

There are four ways in which the Resources Dimension is critical:

  • Leadership works in a relatively stable environment with tight agreement on direction and high certainty of outcome.
  • Experts are needed to construct the technical base for others to build upon.
  • Clarity of task and skill in a clearly defined bureaucracy that is stable and trustworthy can build character in the work force.
  • Getting results is still often the ultimate criterion for success.

Hiring and Retaining Competent People

These twelve questions measure the core elements needed to attract, focus and keep the most productive employees. From First, Break All the Rules: What the World's Greatest Managers Do Differently

  1. Do I know what is expected of me at work?
  2. Do I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right?
  3. At work, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?
  4. In the last seven days, have I received recognition or praise for doing good work?
  5. Does my supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about me as a person?
  6. Is there someone at work who encourages my development?
  7. At work, do my opinions seem to count?
  8. Does the mission/purpose of my company make me feel my job is important?
  9. Are my coworkers committed to doing quality work?
  10. Do I have a best friend at work?
  11. In the last six months, has someone at work talked to me about my progress?
  12. This last year, have I had opportunity at work to learn and grow

Related Links:

Leadership Metaphors

Leadership Metaphors: Existence

Leadership Metaphors: Structure

Leadership Metaphors: Power

Leadership Metaphors: Mission

Leadership Metaphors: Meaning

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