Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Written by: on April 5, 2013




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The New Social Imaginary of Leadership

The other day I was at Starbucks having a great conversation about best and worst bosses. I found myself evaluating the different leaders I served under. The best boss I ever worked for was named Steve. Steve cared for the people who served under him. He listened to me and my ideas. He supported me and let me run my department my way. Steve had a great ability to communicate the big picture; he let us know where we were going and had the knowledge to get us there. Together we were able to start new programs, improve on resident care and we were able to build a new model Skilled Nursing Center. He was able to create a synergy with our leadership team that created many successes that we would not have been able to do individually.

On the other hand, my worse boss was the exact opposite. He did not know what he was doing. He did not communicate or listen. He made changes without getting our input and he created silos and not synergy. He was a micro manager. His name was Joe.

This dialogue is an example of a social imaginary (Taylor, 2004). Taylor explains social imaginaries as “the ways people imagine their social existence, how they fit together with others, how things go on between them and their fellows, the expectations that are normally met, and the deeper normative notions and images that underlie these expectations (Taylor, 2004, p. 23).”  Taylor explains the public sphere is one of three aspects of the social imaginary. This is the common space where the dialogue or public debate occurs to form the imaginary story. This could be TV news, a conversation at Starbucks, a Facebook comment or a blog on the internet.

The leadership narrative has changed through the years. Centuries ago, it was the King or the Church. Throughout the industrial revolution, it was a strong leader who led through top down commands. Today, leadership is faced with global competition and disruptive technologies. In order to create a competitive advantage, leadership needs to cultivate synergy with employees in the company.

How do leaders create synergy among employees? The Starbucks conversation needs to continue. In my mind, leaders need to win the right to lead; to obtain the permission of employees to lead them. Leaders can do this by creating an environment where employees are cared for, listened to and asked to share their ideas about solving problems. Leaders also need to demonstrate integrity by doing what they say they will do, be honest, be visionary (forward-looking), inspiring and competent (Kouzes, Posner, 2007). Synergy demonstrated by high functioning teams has proven to be more efficient, created happier employees and created more productivity and better profit margins (Covey, 1989).

How about entering into our Starbucks conversation about your Best Boss experience: Who was your best boss and why? Who was your worst boss and why? How have you seen leadership change over the years?

Covey, Stephen. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1989.

Kouzes, James M; Posner, Harry Z. The Leadership Challenge. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2007.

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