Category Archives: higher education

Are they doing it wrong, or just differently?

One of the four I’s in the Bass model is Intellectual Stimulation.  Bass says that transformational leaders involve followers in working through problems and encourage them to find innovative solutions.

While this makes sense, it’s not always easy to do.  I’ve worked with many leaders that have a very difficult time letting people do things in new or different ways.  An important question is to ask “are they doing it wrong, or are they just doing it differently?”

If someone’s approach is going to yield the needed results, within an appropriate time and budget, give them the autonomy to proceed and help them evaluate the new process. You may find that it’s an improvement.

But what if it’s not better?  I worked with a department that saved a lot of time by skipping several unnecessary process steps. Or at least it was working until it was time for the annual report to the regulatory agency. Suddenly those steps were critical and there was a lot of work to re-create them.

When considering intellectual stimulation, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do they clearly understand the goals and boundaries of the problem?
  • How can I help them see the big picture?
  • How can I encourage them to generate creative solutions and support their efforts to try new things?
  • What assumptions may be getting in the way?
  • What barriers can I eliminate?

How did it feel when one of your leaders challenged you in this way?  How can you provide that for others?

Dee Anne Bonebright

 

 

 

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Transformational and Transactional Leadership

Whatever your role, knowing how to be a transformational leader and how to be a transactional leader is important. While you may spend more time doing one or the other, it’s important to understand and use both skill sets.

A distinction is often made between “leadership” and “management.” In my mind, this is similar to being “transformational” and being “transactional.” For example, this 2011 article in an international management journal described some of the differences.

  • Leadership thinking focuses on people and looks outward; management thinking focuses on things and looks inward
  • Leadership goal-setting creates a vision; management goal-setting executes plans
  • Leadership creates change; management implements change
  • Leadership trusts and develops people; management directs and coordinates people
  • Leadership sees the forest; management sees the trees

As management expert John Kotter points out in this conversation, organizations need both superb leadership and superb management. In your leadership role, sometimes you have to be a transformational leader who can create a vision and inspire people to follow it.  Other times, you may need to be a transactional leader who can provide specific feedback to help people get the day-to-day work done.

Dee Anne Bonebright

 

 

 

The time is right!

Devinder Malhotra, the new interim chancellor for Minnesota State, has stated that there has never been a better moment in time for our leaders to make a profound difference. Due to the challenges we face, the complexity of a system of colleges and universities, and the incredible difference our schools can make in the lives of the people of Minnesota, now is the time to be a leader.

One type of leadership Malhotra was highlighting is defined by Bernard Bass in his groundbreaking book, Transformational Leadership.  Transformational leadership works well in exceedingly complex organizations made up of diverse and challenging work groups that need to feel empowered to succeed in times of great uncertainty. Sound familiar?

Transformational leadership is best recognized by the impact it has on people in the organization. This type of leadership causes people to trust, respect, and even admire, their leaders. Transformational leaders:

  • Hold positive expectations for their people and show their people that they believe they will succeed.
  • Focus on and demonstrate that they care about their people’s personal and professional development.

Can you picture the leaders who have made a difference in your life through their transformational leadership?

Todd Thorsgaard

Transformational leadership

This year my talent development colleagues have been engaging our chief human resources officers in conversations about transformational HR. The conversations are meant to support human resources leaders as we begin a system-wide effort to move key transactional work to regional service centers. The move is designed to create efficiencies in our system and assist HR leaders so they can spend more of their time doing strategic work at the local level.

As we go down that path, it begs the question, what do we mean by transformational? Our HR community has agreed upon a discipline-specific definition of transformational HR that includes mastery of the following leadership competencies:

  • strategic leadership and partnership
  • organization development
  • employee engagement
  • diversity, equity, and inclusion
  • change management

Still, the core idea of transformational HR builds upon transformational leadership itself. With that in mind, we thought it might be helpful to discuss the broader concept of transformational leadership this month. We’ll explore the following questions:

  • What exactly is a transformational leader?
  • What differentiates transformational from transactional leadership?
  • Why does it matter?

We’ll also explore some of the characteristics of transformational leadership in our blog posts.

Before we dig in, tell us your thoughts on transformational leadership. What does it mean to you?

Anita Rios

 

 

 

Choices and new beginnings

Sometimes leaders know they need to make a new beginning, either personally or for the organization, but they can’t figure out how to start.  There may be many options, and sometimes these options are complete opposites.

We’ve written several times before about managing polarities – the kind of decision making that needs to happen when there are two opposing options, both of which have positive benefits.

A natural tendency is to look for some sort of compromise. But sometimes the compromise results in an outcome that doesn’t satisfy anyone. In their new book, Creating Great Choices: A Leader’s Guide to Integrative Thinking, Jennifer Riel and Roger Martin talk about ways to get out of the trap of either/or thinking and come up with new solutions.

So what does that have to do with Legos? As Riel describes in this interview with Harvard Business Review, the executives at Lego had to make a difficult choice related to the movie. Should they hold on to creative control and protect the brand, or should they give creative control to skilled professionals who would create an exciting movie but might not serve the brand well?

The executives came up with a new solution that resulted in a blockbuster hit. It was a win for Lego and for the creators of the movie. (Check out the interview to find out what that solution was.)

Is there an area where you are feeling stuck in either/or thinking? How can you look at the problem in new ways?

Dee Anne Bonebright

Making a reset

I have a confession. A few minutes ago I finished a task that I’ve been procrastinating about for several weeks. It took less than 15 minutes and I’m sure I’ve spent more time than that adding it to to-do lists and thinking about it. It feels great to finally check it off!

That step was part of some new habits that I’m working on. I decided I would start managing my time differently, and so far it’s working. I’ve been able to make significant progress on some big projects as well as get little things done.

To celebrate my “accomplishment,” I went into the break room for some tea and met a colleague who was excited about some new time management techniques her daughter learned from her piano teacher.  Not only was it making practice much easier, but mom had also started using the techniques in her work and home life.

Sometimes we can make our own new beginnings. Attending a class, reading a book, or a conversation with a piano teacher can create a spark that makes us want to make a change.  Whatever the reason, it helps to tell someone about your new goal. It keeps you accountable, and it means someone else will notice your success.

What new beginning would you like to make?  What’s one step you can take to get there?

Dee Anne Bonebright

 

New beginnings

 “The beginning is the most important part of the work.” – Plato

Working in higher education for the last 30 years, September has always signaled new beginnings for me. The beginning of the new school year. New energy with students on campus starting classes. And new leaders who are joining the enterprise of educating students and leading our institutions. In my department, this season signals work with my team on new work plans and projects that support our mission. It is an exciting time as the academic year gets underway.

On a personal level, this blog post represents another new beginning. A year ago, I crashed my bicycle and suffered a traumatic brain injury that kept me out of work for nearly a year. I’m thrilled to be returning to work (albeit part-time and slowly). It is truly a new beginning for me as I rejoin my colleagues at work and learn how to adapt to the realities of my slow recovery.

You might have noticed that Todd and DeeAnne kept the HigherEdge blog going until April of this year in my absence. It was a Herculean effort since they were also backfilling many of my duties while I was out on medical leave.  Now that I’m back to work, we are looking forward to posting articles on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays once again.

This month, we will be writing about all kinds of new beginnings:  new directions, new leaders, new coworkers, and new challenges. We invite you to join us by adding your comments to our discussions. If you like, you can start by sharing any new beginnings are you experiencing.

Anita Rios