Primarily concerned with “purpose, vision, and direction,”1 leaders focus on the “‘where’ and the ‘why’ rather than the ‘how.’”2 But how does a leader accomplish such a complex and high-level task?

This seven-part series on leadership will cover leadership fundamentals and change theories; leadership theories, styles, and approaches; and guiding principles and visioning. It will also cover topics such as communication, team development, strategic planning, building capacity, and reflexivity. These articles are intended to be used together and offer a conceptual framework and guide for incorporating theory into practice. The purpose is to inspire productive and rewarding analysis of current leadership practices, with the goal of encouraging perpetual leadership growth.

Often, an adjustment in leadership approach is prompted by internal or external changes, pressures, or opportunities, or some combination of these forces. Although these reasons for change are certainly logical, they are also highly reactionary. An alternative approach is to adopt an action-oriented attitude toward fine-tuning leadership practices. This “continual optimization” approach leads to increased process efficiencies, enhanced outputs and, perhaps most importantly, increased satisfaction among team members.

A general approach to leadership will include the leader's dedication to both personal and team development and to molding the cultural environment in which the team functions. These responsibilities rest on an indispensable foundation of trust built by the leader while working with and for the team.

Effective leaders are assiduous in their desire to grow and learn from experience. They reflect on their own successes and failures and those of others in the interest of continuously developing leadership acumen. Leaders should be the antithesis of passive learners, actively engaging with other leaders around them and incorporating their stories of decision making, delegating, engaging with people, and setting visions into their own practice.

Leading through change is the ultimate test, as it relies on a leader's ability to engage with others, commit to a vision, and persevere to see the vision through. By understanding and considering one's leadership practice in the context of leadership and change theories, cultural shifts become more easily surmountable.

Change leadership theories generally fall into three categories: leader-centered, follower-centered, and change-centered.3,4 Establishing a taxonomy for leadership, especially change leadership, allows for discussion and reflexive analysis based on a common vocabulary. Empowered with an understanding of how to approach change leadership, it becomes easier to establish tactics to anchor desired change in the organization's culture and to ensure broad and successive adherence to the change.

Existing change leadership theories suggest the following sequential steps to “ensure momentum for change is not overwhelmed by the inertia of existing culture and practices and to make certain the change is real and permanent.”5

  1. Establish a sense of urgency

  2. Create a guiding coalition

  3. Develop a vision and strategy

  4. Communicate the change vision

  5. Empower broad-based action

  6. Generate short-term wins

  7. Consolidate gains and produce more change

  8. Anchor new approaches in culture6

By following these steps and “not moving on to the next until the previous has been solidly accomplished,”7 leaders will be able to effectively institute their desired change and ingrain it into the organizational culture.

Leading through change crystalizes the need for effective leadership. Conceptualizing one's leadership practices begins with establishing a common vocabulary rooted in theory. This serves as the foundation upon which the bridge between theory and praxis is built and empowers leaders to institute lasting and meaningful change. The next article in this series will expand on the change leadership theories covered in this article to include more specific leadership theories, styles, and approaches.

1.
Kee,
James E.,
and
Newcomer.
Kathryn E.
2008
.
Transforming Public and Nonprofit Organizations: Stewardship for Leading Change
.
Vienna, Virginia
:
Management Concepts
.
2.
Shoemaker,
Alexis.
2022
.
Leadership in Research Insights and Business Intelligence: A Conceptual Framework and Guide
.
Baltimore, Maryland: Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, Advanced Academic Program
,
Johns Hopkins University
.
3.
Worth,
Michael J.
2017
.
Nonprofit Management: Principles and Best Practices. 4th ed
.
Los Angeles, California
:
SAGE Publications, Inc.

1. Worth, pg. 109.

2. Worth, pg. 109.

3. Worth, pg. 124.

4. Kee and Newcomer.

5. Worth, pg. 125.

6. Worth, pg. 125.

7. Worth, pg. 125.

Alexis Shoemaker is a Senior Specialist of Technology & Standards at the Consumer Technology Association (CTA). She is responsible for the management of CTA's Artificial Intelligence Committee, Audio Systems Committee, Television Manufacturers Caucus, and Video Systems Committee, and their associated working groups that develop standards, bulletins, and other technical publications. Prior to joining CTA's Technology & Standards Team, Alexis served as a Sr. Analyst in CTA Market Research. There, she focused on self-driving vehicles, health technology, and artificial intelligence. Alexis holds a Bachelor of Arts in anthropology from Scripps College and a Master of Science in Research Administration from Johns Hopkins University.

This series represents excerpts and expanded analysis from the author's master's capstone project submitted to Johns Hopkins University, titled Leadership in Research Insights and Business Intelligence: A Conceptual Framework and Guide.

Alexis Shoemaker is a Senior Specialist of Technology & Standards at the Consumer Technology Association (CTA). She is responsible for the management of CTA's Artificial Intelligence Committee, Audio Systems Committee, Television Manufacturers Caucus, and Video Systems Committee, and their associated working groups that develop standards, bulletins, and other technical publications. Prior to joining CTA's Technology & Standards Team, Alexis served as a Sr. Analyst in CTA Market Research. There, she focused on self-driving vehicles, health technology, and artificial intelligence. Alexis holds a Bachelor of Arts in anthropology from Scripps College and a Master of Science in Research Administration from Johns Hopkins University.

This series represents excerpts and expanded analysis from the author's master's capstone project submitted to Johns Hopkins University, titled Leadership in Research Insights and Business Intelligence: A Conceptual Framework and Guide.

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