Wilberforce: Agent of Change

“It is not revolutions and upheavals that clear the road to new and better days but… someone’s soul, inspired and ablaze” (Pasternak in Holladay, 1999). Such inspired leaders are rare, but memorable in the annals of history. Komives (2016) introduces the concept of a ‘change agent’ who “serves as a catalyst for a group, stirring people up [for] positive change” (p. 398). These leaders either create or inherit a change potential and have the ability and power to lead that change effectively. The internal motivation of someone who is ‘inspired and ablaze’ with passion can affect change in the most stubborn of situations.

“It is not revolutions and upheavals that clear the road to new and better days but… someone’s soul, inspired and ablaze.”

William Wilberforce is a wonderful example of a truly inspired soul, determined to complete the tasks he saw laid out for him by God. We are all familiar with his crucial role in leading the charge toward the abolition of the slave trade in the British Empire, but few of us really know his whole story and what depth of character he exhibited in every area of his life. As was oft repeated in class, the ability to create real change has the prerequisite of first changing and developing one’s self. Continue reading “Wilberforce: Agent of Change”

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The Values of a Leader

“In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. But, in practice, there is.” – Yogi Berra, n.d.

In the short-term, a common purpose can motivate a team of people to accomplish a set of tasks toward a specific goal, but legacy-grade change can only come from a group bonded by shared values. These values can supersede any differences in strategic policies and can unite, for example, entire countries. “Values strengthen the whole fabric of leadership;” even through external conflicts and internal strife, these values can help to “sustain the mobilization and deepen the empowerment of followers” (Burns, 2007, p. 212).

Accounting principles are based on values such as accuracy, integrity, and independence. The maintenance of these values

Continue reading “The Values of a Leader”

The Burns Paradox

Which came first–the leader or the follower?

In Burns (2007), a paradox between leader and follower is introduced and discussed. This paradox is based on the premise that occasionally (but more often than we might think), the roles of “follower” and “leader” could be reversed. Especially depending on the context of each situation, a leader in one area of life might find themselves a dutiful follower in another (Burns, 2007, p. 171).

The question is posed: “how do we distinguish conceptually between leaders and followers?” To personalize this question, perhaps we can think of instances in our own lives when we’ve played the role of ‘leader’ for one group–perhaps as a parent or older sibling at home–then we turned around and followed a leader of another group–perhaps our boss at work or a teacher. The distinction between these roles is clear, aided by a change in location and people. But what about a time when this distinction might be less apparent? Think, perhaps, of a military relationship between a private and a sergeant. There exists rigid hierarchical structure, to be sure. How often might these rigid roles become fluid in the heat of battle? (Burns, 2007)

Burns (2007), resolves this paradox in part by separating people with “unrealized wants [and] unexpressed attitudes” from those with “strong motivations to initiate action” on the other. By this definition, one person could very well be both a leader and a follower in any situation. Their leadership initiative would depend upon their natural motivations.

As a student employee, I can see this in action. Even though I am at the bottom of the totem pole within the organization, I am still making an impact in students’ lives through the decisions I make. I still manage to lead my coworkers to a small extent by encouraging them to engage in office-wide activities or by giving constructive feedback to my supervisors. My passion is the creating of community, so I express leadership through my initiation of activities that would promote community–even while I follow the job-specific leadership of my superiors.

These experiences have led me to realize how vital the flow of information and relations is between a leader and their followers. Komives (2012) examines what is necessary for an organization to experience transformative change. It starts with an individual understanding of the purpose behind organizational decisions (Komives, 2012).

She makes the point that “when leadership is not done in secret and imposed upon followers but is a collaborative and empowering process between leaders and followers, the organization can accomplish more than ever thought possible” (Komives, 2012, p.106). In such an organization, the commitment of each individual follower to organizational goals makes each of them a leader on some level.


References

  1. Burns, James MacGregor (2007-12-01). Transforming Leadership. Grove/Atlantic, Inc.. Kindle Edition.
  2. Komives, Susan R.; Wagner, Wendy (2012-06-14). Leadership for a Better World: Understanding the Social Change Model of Leadership Development. Wiley. Kindle Edition.

That Thing People Do…

I mean the act of “thinking of others.” We all do it. Walk past a person on the street who is shivering and hungry and think “Oh poor soul, who’s going to feed them?” Or, for the people who never walk on streets like that, when your friend has an upcoming birthday and you think “Ah, they would love this extravagant gift!” but when the special day comes, you realize that you haven’t left yourself time to make that thought a reality and they end up getting a gift card–if you have time to get to the store. It’s all forgiven, though, because it’s the thought that counts!

Good King Louis XVI also lived by that philosophy, just wanting to “do well by his people” (Burns, 2007, p. 100). History shows how that thought counted… In 1789, the 35th year of his reign, the bloody French Revolution began. I suppose three and a half decades of hierarchical privilege wasn’t long enough for him to make that thought a reality for his people. Continue reading “That Thing People Do…”

Change Begins With Us

The story of Ferdinand de Lesseps was an inspiring read. The completion of the Suez canal began with his vision to literally change the world. Yet even his great passion for the project could not alone support the change he sought. First, he petitioned the government of England to back his venture. When that failed, he attempted to stir the emotions of society and foster popular support. When that failed, he struck out on his own and, with the blessing of an Egyptian official, sold shares to the public to fund the canal (Burns, 2003).

“Pulsifer shares the story of a wise monk who said:

When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world. I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to change my nation. When I found I couldn’t change the nation, I began to focus on my town. I couldn’t change the town and as an older man, I tried to change my family. Now, as an old man, I realize the only thing I can change is myself, and suddenly I realize that if long ago I had changed myself, I could have made an impact on my family. My family and I could have made an impact on our town. Their impact could have changed the nation and I could have indeed changed the world (Komives, 2012, p.105).”

This monk recognized the impossibility for the average person to change the world without first Continue reading “Change Begins With Us”

Slaves of History

          Are you in control of your own destiny?

Philosophers throughout history would say not. James Burns (2003) analyzes the thinking of men such as Karl Marx, Leo Tolstoy, and Herbert Spencer—19th century philosophers from Germany, Russia, and Britain respectively—in his book Transforming Leadership. Whatever our character traits might be or whatever guiding principles we adhere to, “life happens,” as it were. Endless happenings affect our daily lives. Some we can control or mitigate for while others are inevitable.

As Burns (2003) points out, “if these are unsettling questions in our private lives, imagine how complex and urgent they can be in society as a whole, Continue reading “Slaves of History”

Change Poem

Goodbye Mother, Goodbye Father!
Off I head to be a world changer!
With all you’ve taught me here I go
Christ’s love and light everywhere I’ll sow.

Transfer year, joining clubs galore.
No time for roommates, I’m out the door.
I’m perfectly angelic, purposefully naïve.
I know I’m ‘better-than’ whatever they believe. Continue reading “Change Poem”