Research insights and business intelligence are the cornerstones of informed business decisions. When these functions within a company are led effectively and work well, their value speaks for itself.

To address the challenges of leadership, especially change leadership through programmatic growth, this column has provided a conceptual and theoretical framework and guide for effective leadership. Thus far, I have elucidated concepts ranging from leadership fundamentals, leadership theories, change theories, guiding principles, and visioning to communication, team development, strategic planning, and building capacity.

In this final installation of the column, I will discuss how to conduct a reflexive, metacritical analysis of one’s own leadership practices. Taking time to engage in reflexive analysis allows for more effective incorporation of the theory-based actions I have discussed, augments existing practices, and inspires productive and rewarding growth.

Effective leadership requires reflexive self-awareness. This process includes identifying strengths, weaknesses, and one’s position in the fabric of the team and the organization. Leaders serve as the fulcrum for the creation of guiding principles and a vision for the team and are relied upon to set forth a roadmap for the team to follow.

Underpinning the leadership function is the need for perpetual revisitation and fine-tuning of one’s vision and strategy. This metacritical analysis operates on three levels:

  • It brings to the forefront guiding principles that might otherwise be lost in the day-to-day shuffle.

  • It encourages a habit of perpetual reflexivity and makes adjusting to new circumstances and information easier.

  • It models positive metacritical behavior and demonstrates a willingness to learn and develop.

To conduct this analysis, leaders can borrow from metrics used in other aspects of business. For example, you can employ one or more quantitative, qualitative, outcomes-based, activity-based, short-term, and long-term measures.1 

Ultimately, reflexivity is a necessary facet of transformational leadership.

“Transformational leadership, as the name implies, is leadership that changes people,” says James MacGregor Burns.2  “Transformational leadership inspires and enables people to grow, both morally and in terms of their levels of motivation. It empowers individuals to go beyond self-interest and pursue goals that are in the common interest. Transformational leaders accomplish this by developing a relationship with followers and tapping into their personal values in a way that matches them to the values of the organization.”3 

This form of leadership requires the practitioner to examine, re-examine, and revise their leadership techniques to best fit the changing dynamics of team research.

Leadership literature reveals four frames that provide context for transformational leadership and drive home the importance of intentional consideration of oneself and one’s team. The four frames are as follows:

  • Structural, which focuses on structures and formal relationships;

  • Human resources, which emphasizes interpersonal relationships and worker morale;

  • Symbolic, through which a leader may see events, rituals, and stories as central to his or her work; and

  • Political, which recognizes the inevitable interplay among the organization’s important constituencies.4 

By employing reflexivity as a core practice of leadership in agile and fast-paced research and business intelligence environments, leaders ensure their practices effectively cater to and support the group and their goals.

Against this backdrop, I will leave readers of this column with two recommendations:

First, engage with literature on leadership. This will ensure you stay up to date on leadership theories, styles, style theories, approaches, and change theories. This commitment to constant improvement leads to better performance, not just for you but for your team.

Second, take time for reflexivity and actively engage in your own growth and development. Get off the metaphorical treadmill and take time to engage in metacritical analysis of your leadership practice. During this time, you should revisit and fine-tune your guiding principles and vision. The act of investing in yourself ensures your leadership practices are effectively supporting the success of your team and the ultimate realization of the vision. Do this regularly (perhaps once per quarter), with a more dedicated effort put forth at the beginning and end of the year.

Ultimately, I hope this column inspires productive and rewarding engagement with the practice of leadership.

Alexis Shoemaker is manager of research and consumer insights at SKIM Group, a global decision behavior and insights agency. She holds a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and a master’s in research administration. She is the author of Leadership in Research Insights and Business Intelligence: A Conceptual Framework and Guide, published in 2022.

Alexis Shoemaker is manager of research and consumer insights at SKIM Group, a global decision behavior and insights agency. She holds a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and a master’s in research administration. She is the author of Leadership in Research Insights and Business Intelligence: A Conceptual Framework and Guide, published in 2022.

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NACRO
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Nonprofit Management: Principles and Best Practices
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Worth,
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