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November - December 2009
In This Issue
Q & A with Will Salyards:  "I get things done and others look to me for direction but I'm not as aggressive as some in our division." The result is that I sometimes feel I will be passed over for promotion." "Any suggestions?"

Current Trends in Leadership Thought or Practice: Neo-institutional Theory and Leadership: Why What We Don't See Matters.

Thought and Comment: We Aren't Independent: Three Inviolable Laws of Moral Leadership.

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Meet Will Salyards PhD

Will's initial training was in Christian ministry and began with ten years of apprenticeship that was completed through graduate school at Fuller Theological Seminary. As a church leader Will has led the formation of non-profit religous corporations, congregations and their organizations through change, and mentored other leaders. As a business leader he has served corporations as Director of Marketing and VP of Marketing and completed doctoral work in Leadership Studies at Gonzaga University. Currently he serves as lead pastor to Shepherd of the Hills Church in Shingle Springs, CA and advises leaders and their organizations undergoing change.

Will's research area is the sociality of narrative and its use in organizational change. You can view articles of academic interest and other information regarding Narrative Leadership at and

Q & A with Will Salyards

"I get things done and others look to me for direction but I'm not as aggressive as some in our division." "The result is that I sometimes feel I will be passed over for promotion." "Any suggestions?"

Summary: Provides a perspective on our approach to leadership. Briefly reviews the Leadership Approach Model.

Just as there are differing theories of leadership there are likewise different approaches to leading. However, unlike the embrace of a particular theory the appr
oach we take to leadership probably has more to do with natural bent than a choice we make. To explain this I have borrowed a construct from Jim Dethmer. As regards interrelationships within organizations Jim posited that we deal with each other in one of three ways: corporately, communally, or causually. That is, corporate expectations have more to do with individual performance whereas communal expectations undergirds individual relation while causal expectations support those of individual commitment.

In an attempt to explain effectiveness within leadership but avoid narrow definitions of style I discovered that Dethmer's rubric had application in the following way: Like the three situational approaches to interrelations - corporate, community, and cause - one's approach to leadership can also be a dominant trait but not necessarily its sole expression. That is, in a given leadership situation we, by default, take either a corporate leadership role, a community leadership role, or a cause leadership role. Corporate leadership is marked by its down-to-business performance and results orientation while community leadership will take longer to achieve a result so long as people's experiences and lives are enhanced. The cause approach to leadership while not blind to either performance or relation is concerned with either only as it relates to the leader's sense of what the cause is. I refer to this way of understanding our leadership as the Leadership Approach Model.

The leadership approach you mention may be that of a corporate leader yet you must know that the behavior of the leader doesn't entirely define the approach s/he is exhibiting. For example, a leader who in their manipulation or dominance of people is considered to be aggressive, while possibly a corporate leader, can be masking other issues. With that said, you may find that your approach to leading is through the lens of community. If so, aggressiveness and the alienation of people that a corporate approach can engender would not suit you. What is key is to determine your approach, sharpen the skill sets that make it effective, and to be comfortable in your own skin.

Have a question about leadership or leading change? Send it to  

Current Trends in Leadership
Neo-institutional Theory and Leadership

Demonstrates the influence of societal institutions upon our leadership.

Currie, Lockett, and Suhomlinova have completed research that underscores the role of environment upon our leadership. In their article, "Leadership and Institutional Change in the Public Sector: The Case of Secondary Schools in England" (The Leadership Quarterly, 20, (2009), 664-679), they make the case that rather than being isolated to either personal characteristics or situation,
leadership can be an amalgam of these but with another added: the environment in which the leader serves.

Their work is grounded in neo-institutional theory, a
theory that posits the practices of our organizations are affected by the institutions within society. Among these are institutions with power to regulate and thus manipulate conformance and those that reify values and define what is normal. The use of the word "institutions" doesn't refer first to buildings or organizations but to an idea or ideal through which the accumulation of permissions to wield influence over human agency has become a structure of power over that agency. Examples of two such can be government and culture. 

In a study that tracked the work of school administrators tasked with introducing a "results oriented" leadership to their schools, they noted that the preferred and commonly accepted form of leadership for
administrators was a "moral" leadership that valued "wider social goals" over test scores. These two, results oriented leadership and moral leadership, in effect, reflected the public face of two institutions: the former representing the government and the latter the educational culture. Though the administrators had good reason to conform to the government's demands - such as sanctions against their schools - in those settings where students were socially deprived, they chose to express leadership in support of the environment that fostered them: the educational culture and its insistence upon a moral approach to education.

It should not be concluded that the
administrator's sole reason for rejecting the government legitimating their leadership was an unconscious need for acceptance by their faculties. Yet it does underscore the importance of environment upon our leadership and as importantly what we believe about the ultimate goal of that leadership. Further, it suggests that we are products of the environment that shaped our beliefs but also of the one in which we serve and from which we take cues regarding our service.

For those leading organizational change
the implications can be sobering. In this instance, the administrators were to counter the culture of their organization and in the process effectively negate decades of permissions that had come to govern human agency. Not all organizational change is so dramatic yet leading people to create a new story about themselves and the organization that defines them can be. To say it requires sensitivity of the leader is not fair to the tremendous strain s/he is placed under. Rather, it is essential for the leader to know themselves and in that knowing be fully aware of their values and what animates them.

Thought and Comment

We Aren't Independent

Discusses three moral links between leaders and members.

Some time ago I was reading the Ten Commandments - you’ve probably heard of them - when it came to me that the ten could be categorized under four broad headings. What emerged appeared to be principles I could live by and that were especially useful for getting along in life. This is the second of the four.

   We Aren’t Independent

It’s probably doubtful that anyone wants to be truly unconnected to other people. So to say that we aren’t independent may not have much force at least until we understand what it is from which our existence cannot be severed. And what is that? It is the obligation to recognize our Creator and our creation and represents the commands to recognize no other God, to not worship an idol, and to not misuse God’s name.

    Don’t tune out just yet. Sermon this is not.

The first command reads, “You shall have no other gods before me,” and is grounded in the real demand that some relationships between parties are and must remain restricted. The same concept is used to form the basis of marriage and established the idea of one person for one person. There is much to take from this but perhaps one key point is that the command informs us that to remain in relationship requires we have regard for the feelings of others. In effect, relationship is not relational until our actions are prescribed by concern for how those acts impact another. By necessity this limits what is permissible; by default it defines the degree of independence.

It seems that if we practiced this first idea the warning against having an idol wouldn’t be necessary. So why is it there? Actually the basis for what seems repetition is a call for relational integrity and in this way: as conformance without desire is lifeless so too are relationships maintained only for expediency. Ever had an expedient relationship? We practice them with work colleagues, extended family, problem but necessary people... you get the idea. The goal is to know them just enough to expedite our task but no more. The problem is that it makes us independent of their life-world and eventually of them as a person. While refusing mere expediency in our relations doesn’t mean we’re to carry the world’s problems it does admit that the concern dictating our response toward another is likewise to animate our feelings toward them. In other words, we’re to engage the person of the relationship and not just the task.

First, we’re to have regard for how our actions impact another. Second, we’re to engage the other in a knowing way. So what is this third about not misusing a name? It bears the thought of speaking falsely. This is an untruth told not necessarily to deceive but spoken when there is no basis for it. It’s the difference between saying you didn’t when you did (that’s deception) and that the company is fine as the attorneys prepare for bankruptcy (that’s without basis). In point, those in relationship with Israel’s God could not use his name to vouch for their deceit or empty speculation. For me, this bears upon our relational self in a very important way: it means that I cannot see people as objects for the accomplishing of my goals, that once again the same regard for the feelings of others requires that I not, through language or acts, use them in ways that are deceptive or without purpose.
In brief, my independence is limited that in attaining my ends those of others not be undermined.

These three commands limit me in good and necessary ways. My leadership is constrained by the obligation to
recognize the feelings, person, and end of those I serve with and those upon whom I bear influence. They remind me that I am not alone nor are my desires paramount. In reality, I’m not independent.

William J. Salyards Copyright 2009 All Rights Reserved

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