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The Leadership Spectrum: I. Three Primary Perspectives and Practices

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Domain of Information

The domain of information is entered whenever we attempt to find out more about the current condition in which the client find herself. In seeking to identify this information, we act as researchers, asking questions that can be answered by a systematic collection of information. For example, if a college wants to know which of four academic programs are potentially most attractive to a particular group of prospective students, then a sample of these students might be asked to indicate under what conditions they would be likely to enroll in each of these four programs. The information obtained is valid if the students have been honest, if the right questions were asked and if the sample used was representative of the entire pool of potential students. If the information is valid, then the college should be able to state with some confidence which of the academic programs is most attractive to this population of potential students.

In understanding the current situation, however, we (individually or collectively) must not only seek information that is valid. We must also seek information that is useful. It must relate to the target that the leader and her team wish to reach. Thus, if the target concerns increased financial viability for a college, then a market survey will be of little use, even if the information obtained were valid. It is only useful if the costs associated with each of the four programs also can be determined, along with the acceptable tuition levels for this population of students regarding each of the four programs. It is surprising to see how often information is collected that relates only marginally to the problem faced by an organization!

Many realistic plans can be established, and problems can be solved through the systematic collection of valid and useful information. This lies at the heart of rational, linear planning and modern management processes. In other instances, unfortunately, effective leadership cannot exclusively be based on information about the current situation. Many organizational decisions, particularly those involving people rather than machines, center, at least in part, on conflicting goals, objectives, or desired outcomes. Attention must shift from the domain of information to that of intentions. This domain is likely to be particularly important in today’s society, where conflict in values and purposes is so common.

The Domain of Intentions

The domain of intentions is entered whenever we attempt to understand and clarify our personal or our organization’s mission, vision, values, or purposes. While research prevails in the area of information, clarification prevails in the area of intentions. Unlike traditional approaches to the clarification of intentions, which tend to emphasize enforcement or modeling, intention clarification focuses on the way in which mission, vision, values, and purposes come into being. As we or our organization becomes clearer about intentions, we will begin to produce solutions that are more and more consistent with these intentions. The process of clarifying intentions becomes richer and more profound as each of us moves toward greater maturity. A mature intention is freely chosen; it is not imposed (an imposed requirement is part of the situation). A mature statement of mission, vision, value, and purpose is prized and affirmed; this statement serves as a guiding charter for one’s department or organization and is repeatedly acted on in a consistent and persistent manner.

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