Home Concepts Concepts of Leadership Dynamic Leadership: An Expansion of Self Determination Theory

Dynamic Leadership: An Expansion of Self Determination Theory

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The Overlay of Polarities and SDT

To understand the overlay of Polarities and SDT, we created a generic example of one common Leadership Polarity which is Leading with Heart and Leading with Backbone.  The chart below shows a visual representation of the quadrants where SDT focus areas lay and the areas which are not addressed in SDT but are visible through a Polarity lens.

Chart Title: SDT leadership behaviors through a Polarity Lens

I.       Upside of Leading with Heart

(Traditional SDT supportive behaviors that correlate to engagement)


III. Upside to Leading with Backbone

(Not addressed by SDT)

POLE 1: Leading with Heart POLE 2: Leading with Backbone
II.     Downside to Leading with Heart (overuse)

(Not addressed by SDT)

IV. Downside to Leading with Backbone (overuse)

Traditional SDT thwarting behaviors that correlate with disengagement

Our research was to validate SDT’s supporting and thwarting behaviors (represented in Quadrants I and IV) and to identify other leadership behaviors that also impact engagement but not addressed in SDT (represented in Quadrants II and III). One of our hypotheses was that behaviors in Quadrant II would correlate with disengagement and behaviors in quadrant III would correlate with engagement, thus presenting a potential new assessment for measuring leadership effectiveness.

How We Conducted the Research

The following is for those who are interested in how we conducted the research. If you care more about the application and more of a “trust-the-process” kind of practitioner, feel free to skip to the next section.

To conduct our research, we sent out a survey to 182 working professionals across the U.S. asking them to rate 36 leadership behavioral items. These items were broken into four categories aligned to the chart above. We assigned 18 behavioral items to each pole, nine were related to the upside and nine were related to the downside. All of the items were examples of common leadership behaviors seen in the workplace and included behaviors that aligned to SDT’s psychological needs of relatedness, competence, and autonomy. The survey respondents were asked to rate each item to the extent that the leadership behaviors, if exhibited by their own managers, would increase, decrease, or have no impact on their own level of engagement.

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