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The Courageous Leader in a Modern Organizational Context

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In a modern organizational context, there is a style of leadership that focuses not so much on personal bravery in defending the organization against an external enemy (common in a premodern organizational context) as on the capacity of the leader (as manager) to instill organizational bravery in those with whom this leader works – this is a process of EMPOWERMENT. The “enemy” doesn’t reside outside the organization. It resides inside the organization and can take on many forms. The enemy might be manifest in rivalry between different departments inside the organization or in the misunderstanding that exists among individuals or groups within the organization. The courageous leader who is operating in a modern organization is effective if she can manage the conflict between these departments, groups or individuals. At an even more profound level, the enemy resides within the power differentials that operate within virtually all organizations. Those who are “in power” control things and those who have little power feel as if they are pawns or victims of this power differential. The modern leader of courage can be effective if she can help increase the sense of power among those who typically feel powerless. She EMPOWERS as a leader and manager.

Trained for Management

While modern leadership of wisdom that focuses on the sharing of knowledge usually comes with ongoing education, we are more likely to find that empowering managers receive training in the use of specific tools that enable empowerment and that help a courageous manager struggle against the “enemies” that exist in the competition and misunderstanding that is found within the organization. The tools for engaging effective management of courage are tactical more than strategic. There are essential four sets of modern managerial tools that lead toward empowerment: (1) communication, (2) conflict management, (3) problem-solving and (4) decision-making. I have written extensively about these four sets of tools in other publications, but will offer a brief summary here.

The tools of communication that an effective manager of courage can learn through an intensive training program include: paraphrase (and other active listening skills), group facilitation (with a focus on gate-keeping—the equitable distribution of time among all group members), and (in recent years) emotional intelligence (with a focus on the sharing of information about oneself and empathy for the feelings and concerns of other people). The tools of effective conflict management include negotiation (and other interpersonal facilitation tools), assertiveness (and other related communication tools) and group facilitation (with a focus on managing the difficult, self-oriented team member).

There are a wide variety of tools available in the area of problem-solving. Some are oriented toward systematic and rational problem-solving (such as the Kepner-Tregoe tools that were so popular in the corporate world during the late 20th Century), while others are oriented toward creativity and originality (such as the tools of brain-storming, Synectics and reframing). In the area of decision-making there are tools that range from the highly structured procedures for conducting meetings (building on the tradition of Roberts Rules of Order) to more humanistic tools associated with the processes of consensus building (such as those exemplified in the Future Search process).

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