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Inspiration index

Defining leadership

Leadership's relationship to management

Qualities of leadership

Leadership approach

The life of an organization

Corporate storytelling













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This section contains inspiration and references in the areas of leadership and organizational development that we hope you will find inspiring and useful.

Defining Leadership

Current literature on leadership development characterizes the leader as a coach, facilitator and guide. Images of leadership have shifted from expert, director, and controller to catalyst, information sharer, and coordinator. Leadership in learning organizations is also often described as based on cooperative and collaborative partnership approaches.

In the Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary (2000) you can read that a leader is a person that leads a group of people, an organization. There is an interesting difference about the description about leadership from being a leader.  In the dictionary leadership is described as qualities and skills.

Wikipedia described leadership as 1/ The process of leading, 2/ the concept of leading and 3/ as those entities that perform one or more acts of leading. It also defines “leadership” organizationally and narrowly as the “ability of an individual to influence, motivate, and enable others to contribute toward the effectiveness and success of the organizations of which they are members. 

Peter Senge writes that in business today, the word leader has become a synonym for top manager. He writes further that if leadership is simply a position in the hierarchy then, in effect, there is no independent definition of leadership. Instead, he would like to describe leadership differently, as the capacity of a human community to shape its future and especially to sustain the significant processes of change required to do so. (Peter Senge, 1999)

Leadership’s relationship to management

Some commentators link leadership closely with the idea of management; some would even regard the two as synonymous.

“Leadership occurs any time one attempts to influence the behaviour of an individual or group, regardless of the reason. Management is a kind of leadership in which the achievement of organizational goals is paramount.”

A clear distinction could provide the following definition;

  • Management is power by position

  • Leadership is power by influence

(Heresey, P. Blanchard, K. 1982: page 3)

Qualities of leadership

Studies of leadership have suggested qualities that people often associate with leadership. These include;

  • Guiding others trough modelling (in sense of providing a role model) and trough willingness to serve others first (compare follower ship)

  • Talent and technical/specific skills at some task at hand

  • Initiative and entrepreneurial drive

  • Charismatic inspiration – attractiveness to others and the ability to leverage this esteem to motivate others

  • Preoccupation with a role – a dedication that consumes much of leaders life – service to a cause

  • A clear sense of purpose (or mission) clear goals – focus – commitment

  • Result orientation- directing every action towards a mission- prioritizing activities to spend time where results most accrue

  • Optimism – very few pessimists become leaders

  • Rejection of determinism – belief in ones ability to make a “difference”

  • Ability to encourage and nurture those who report – delegate in such a way as people will grow

  • Role models – leaders may adopt a persona that encapsulates their mission and lead by example

  • Self knowledge

  • Self awareness – the ability to “lead” (as it where) ones own self prior to leading other selves similarly skills, one cannot (in general) teach attitude.

  • Understanding what others say, rather than listening to how they say things- this could partly sum this quality up as “walking in someone else’s shoes”. 

Leadership approach

In the Oxford advanced learners dictionary you can read that approach for example means to “Move near” in distance or in time. Approach is also connected to “doing”

Lee writes (2003) that human beings are in many ways a product of their experiences. Whatever natural characteristics we are born with, we are powerfully shaped by our upbringing and other life experiences. In response to those experiences we develop distinctive patterns of being, feeling, thinking, relating and behaving. When identifying those patterns, and making them conscious, allows managers to make a choice and being able to connect the personal journey to the practical journey. (Lee. 2003)

For me leadership could be described as an art; how we execute our leadership.

Bateson (1972) writes about the artist that the sensations and qualities of skill never can be put in words, and yet the fact of skill is conscious. He says that the artist’s dilemma is of peculiar sort. He must practice in order to perform the craft components of his job, but the practice has always double effect. It makes him on one hand, more able to do whatever it is he is attempting; and on the other hand, by the phenomenon of habit formation, it makes him less aware of how he does it. (Bateson 1972).

Bateson (1972) describe the evolution of communication and that a very important stage in this evolution occurs when the organism gradually ceases to respond quite “automatically” to the mood-signs of another and become able to recognize the sign as a signal; that is, to recognize that the other individuals and its own signals are only signals, that can be trusted, distrusted, falsified, denied, amplified, corrected and so forth. He writes further that the phenomenon of “play” could only occur if the participants were capable of some degree of meta communication, i.e, of exchanging signals which would carry the message” this is play” ( Bateson, 1972) I would like to ref to leadership as a “play” a play where some rules are set more or less clearly and to become successful the followers and the leaders from my understanding must “play” it together. The understanding of the “play” always develops and if connected to how Campbell& Campbell ( year)  defines organisations as “constructed on momentary basis” the play and leadership as a phenomenon must be understood on momentary basis, and from the context of “shared meaning”.

The life of an organisation

You can describe an organisation as a system created by the energy of the people in the organisation. People use their energy in the best way they understand to fulfil the goals of the organisation. All these people with all their resources co create the life of the organisation and they all interact with each other in different ways.

What if people don’t feel connected to their tasks? What if there is conflicts and misunderstandings?

What if their resources could be developed further and if the goal for the organisation could be more clear?

Difficulties will always appear and everyone can not always agree with each other. But you can will small changes create prerequisites so that the conflicts become easier to take care of and to develop collaboration. Every one is skilful in his or her own way and there are a lot of skills to explore in every human. If you find all these abilities what a source to use on the behalf of a successful, creative and healthy organisation.

The idea of Senspero is to inspire to find and develop the skills there is in organisations and from this develop the organisation. To do this you also need to develop yourself as a leader, to be brave to do new things and to take new steps. You need to create framework for creativity and growth and clarify goals at the same time as you can not control the unique outcome/results of the process.

Leadership is a fantastic position for creating this growth, through small actions a conscious approach you can make a huge difference. The systemic thinking and a social constructionist approach allows new ways to use the life giving forces in an organisation to fulfil work.

“A sea of change is taking place in the world of leadership, organizational studies, community development, management and consultancy. Traditional ways of thinking, problem solving and acting are being supplemented and super ceded by creative methods growing out of systemic, social constructionist, pragmatist and appreciative leadership methods. This move into the post modernist context creates new forms of action and reflection. The new leaders, persons in positions of authority and trust are developing abilities in communication, questioning and reflexivity, managing future visions and action researching to create transformation of environments for fulfilling work.”(2003. KCC Foundation)

Corporate storytelling – The strengths of storytelling and imagination in organisations

As long as there are people there also will be stories. As managers and consultants we have the opportunity to find and focus on the good stories in the organisation, stories that people are proud of.

Why do we want storytelling in organisations? Storytelling is a way of communication and many of our core function in our organizations are based on communication. You have to involve people in the goal, to make them feel a part and responsible for their own actions, organisations also want to create values that are going to guide and grow. To make people able to see in what direction the company and organisation are heading they have to know the direction. To make people feel that they are important they also have to recognise that they are important for the whole.

The role of storytelling and its relationship to knowledge has been a part of our history since we sat in the caves and told each other's stories around the fire.

Senspero focus of how stories as a way of communicating are an important part of building organisations, creating meaning, maintain good qualities and stability and at the same time support organisations and communities in change and development.

Storytelling is an art that has followed human beings through the all of our history. Over the whole world and in every culture stories have been the obvious media to share and spread knowledge, experiences and values.

The ancient art of storytelling started when we started to speak, probably even before that with our body language and through pictures.

What is new today of the art of storytelling is the purposeful use of storytelling/narratives to achieve practical outcome with individuals, communities and organizations.

Learning today depends on communication, people don’t just copy. The kind of stories that is useful in organisations works both ways and makes people feel that they are a part of the story and important for the development of the story.

Meaning could be seen as socially constructed through language and agreed understanding. Storytelling as communication takes place in a two way interactive relationship.

A good story engages emotionally and it can be transported between people and through time. The story also enables us to get new perspectives and to see new opportunities.

Different kind of focus

Stories from the past highlight the importance of building on trust and a ground for development. To find out what is important for people.

 Stories of the present highlight creation of collaboration, clarity a shared language. They also show how values are translated into action and communicating, how they are noticed in different parts of the organisation. Stories of the present create who we are.

Stories of the future support us to create the future we would like to have. It also creates opportunity to invite people into this co created future when sharing stories of how it will be noticed. When doing so people feel that they are important for the future and become more engaged and tales more responsibility to get there.

Whether you are working with stories from the past, in the present or for the future it’s crucial to listen to what people say, we all have to be recognized as someone that has something to contribute with.

And all these kinds of stories are an important part of creating meaning, the sense of who we are and who we want to become. It is the stories that give live to the organisations.

The meaning is created by the stories that are told in the organization

  • Create awareness about what we are doing – highlight how we are connected

  • Communicate our values and how they are lived

  • Becoming aware of our skills and abilities – stories about what has been working well, things we are proud of, how we have lived our values

  • Creating clarity – where are we heading and how will it look like when we are there

  • Creating a shared meaning and hope for the future

Images can help us to enable us to represent our feelings visually. By giving expression to feelings that may otherwise be repressed, visualization and storytelling can contribute greatly to our emotional well being.

We can indeed turn things over in our minds and as a means of reality testing and problem solving this is often superior to rational logical strategies. In this way it is possible to imagine specific activities. It is an old belief that images also have direct physiological effect. So how do we want people to feel in our organisations?

Visualisation has been used to stimulate creative thinking and to train decision making and problem solving skills. Visualisation could also be described as the heart of creative management. It can be used to train people in the art of managing changes , and in developing new ways of thinking about organizations and management. It is not impossible to develop new styles of organizations and management while continuing to think in old ways.  What Gareth Morgan calls imaginization is an invitation to re image ourselves and what we do: This way of invent evocative images or stories that can resonate with the challenges at band and help motivate and mobilize people to achieve desired goals or to cope with the unknown is becoming a key managerial skill.


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