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An Overview of People-Centered Performance Leadership

BY MARK W. HARDWICK, PhD.

“Leadership emerges at every level of every organization. The general view that leaders exist only at the top of an organization is far from reality. Often leadership is exercised more effectively by those without impressive positions or titles.”     - Clark and Clark

Over the last few decades, consultants, teachers and researchers in the fields of organizational development and management have been seeking the answer to the question: What are the best practices and most effective styles of leadership? 

Over 5000+ studies, articles and books exist in the current leadership literature. Even so, there remain many models, theories, and opinions of what constitutes leadership with little agreement about what is effective leadership. Some think it is trait/character-based (“Great Man” theories), others think successful leaders adapt their behavior to meet the demands of the situation (situation and task/relationship theories); others think that the essence of leadership is what we do to produce results; and so on.

“The new ethic of leadership requires that growth of those who do the work is the primary aim…the leader’s role is one who goes ahead to guide the way.” - Robert Greenleaf

Yet, effective leadership remains an amorphous and “fuzzy” theoretical concept.  Effective leadership and “best practices” are a lot like quality and great art: everyone wants it, but everyone has their own idea about what it is and how to produce it.  Therefore, leadership is defined in the “eye of the beholder.”

The purpose of this white paper is to provide a synthesis of the findings and valuable insights from these models of leadership.  Combined with many years of consulting for non-profit and Fortune 500 organizations, our model is both a theoretical and practical framework for putting leadership into action.  The People-Centered Performance Leadership (PCPL) framework will provide the comprehensive and overarching structure needed to support training and development of effective leaders.  PCPL is based on the concept that leadership is built on self-understanding, sustained by continuous learning, nurtured by ever-growing relationships, open communication, and results to produce high and productive performance and making a personal commitment to make things happen.

Critical Components of Leadership

Quest. A difficult endeavor involving an ongoing search for which the outcome is unknown, but the possibility of great reward exists.  The quest provides an imaginative and passionate picture of what is to happen in the future (vision).  It provides meaning and purpose for members by defining an appropriate course of direction for the organization (mission).  The key components of quest are the ever popular and confusing vision and mission.

Strategy Formulation. The development of a clear direction to get work done and a method for achieving specific results.  As a “flexible and focused” process, a plan provides a clear set of goals and opportunities that can be linked to the quest.  Gathering information from a situation analysis and reviewing community imperatives and campaign goals helps develop the plan.

Partnering. The ability to forge temporary and long term alliances, unique relationships, and connections with individuals and groups that can provide support and resources for implementing strategic plan goals.

Action. T he process of helping individuals and teams put into movement and maintain interest and motivation in accomplishing planning goals. It is essentially translating the demands of the situation into results.  Without the ability to implement through adaptive and responsive actions, a leader cannot be effective.

Sources of influence and skills for effective leadership

Learning. The individual and organization receives, initiates, and interprets feedback from the environment into opportunities for developing skills, gaining information, and solving problems.

Empowerment. Individuals and teams are treated with respect and dignity to do their work.  People have the confidence, skills, authority, and desire to collaborate and align with others and share information to accomplish organizational goals and quest.  Self-direction and accountability are key components of empowerment.  They create a sense of ownership, responsibility, and loyalty to the organization.

Communication. Provides a common language based on collaboration and cooperation.  The focus is providing tools and tactics to support leaders in managing change and building trust in interpersonal relations.

Commitment is at the heart of the People-Centered Performance Leadership model.  Members of the organization share a set of beliefs and values that create a sense of identity, ownership, and responsibility to carry into action a pledge for action.  Commitment is about making choices and keeping promises.  It requires the ability and skill to be clear on your purpose and priorities.  It results in a greater resolution to the quest and an increased capacity for loyalty and trust.