Reading & Web Resources

Web Resources

International Leadership Association

The International Leadership Association (ILA), is a global network for those who research, practice, and teach leadership. The ILA promotes a deeper understanding of leadership knowledge and practices for the greater good of individuals and communities worldwide.

Liberating Structures

Liberating Structures include and unleash everyone.  This site, profiling the work of Henri Lipmanowicz and Keith McCandless, includes 33 different methods as alternative ways for people to work together during meetings, planning and training.  These methods are designed to include everyone.

Plexus Institute

Plexus Institute is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation founded with the purpose to address real-world challenges through the advancement and diffusion of ideas and practices rooted in the principles of complexity.

“Fostering the health of individuals, families, communities, organizations and our natural environment by helping people use concepts emerging from the new science of complexity.”

Reading Resources

Burns, J. M. (1978).  Leadership

We have often referenced this book in our leadership studies.  It is a seminal work in the field and a classic text for anyone seeking to understand executive decision-making, the dynamics of influence and moral leadership.  In this book Burns introduces the highly influential theory of “transformational leadership,” stating that the best leaders are those who inspire others to come together toward the achievement of higher aims.  What we like best about Leadership is Burns’s clear love of the lessons to be learned from the past, and the fascinating case studies drawn from history and his extraordinary experience.

Fletcher, J. K. (1999). Disappearing acts: Gender, power, and relational practice at work.

In this important work Fletcher exposes how organizations ignore and devalue or, as she describes it, are “disappearing” vitally important organizational behaviors typically attributed to women.   The behaviors frequently encouraged in organizational goals and values, such as collaboration, empowerment, emotional intelligence, and nurturing are exactly the activities that organizations need for success.  Yet, Fletcher reveals to us that these activities are the same that often keep woman from advancing.  Fletcher’s research suggests that, in spite of the organization’s defined goals and aspirations, these critically important relational behaviors were viewed as unfavorable; under the surface they stood in contrast to the powerful norms, power arrangements, and behaviors we continue to reinforce.  Fletcher found that all-important relational behaviors are forced to do battle with the gender-linked images of good workers and successful organizations that we often hold dear. Recognition of Fletcher’s work has significant meaning for organizational change and transition.  This “disappearing” of critical behaviors undermines efforts toward organizational growth and change by withholding recognition, muting, and in some cases punishing those that exhibit the relational behavior that fuels organizational change.

Bolman, L. G & Deal T. E. (2008) Reframing Organizations: Artistry, Choice and Leadership 4th ed.

We have often used Boleman and Deal’s four-frame model for examining organizations in our consulting work.  The model looks at organizations from different metaphorical perspectives facilitating new insights for the client.  It sees organizations as factories, families, jungles, and theaters or temples: The Structural Frame – how to organize and structure groups and teams to get results; the Human Resource Frame – how to tailor organizations to satisfy human needs, improve human resource management, and build positive interpersonal and group dynamics; the Political Frame – how to cope with power and conflict, build coalitions, hone political skills and deal with internal and external politics; and the Symbolic Frame – how to shape a culture that gives purpose and meaning to work stage organizational drama for internal and external audiences, and build team spirit through ritual, ceremony and story.

Heifetz, R. A. (1998). Leadership without easy answers.  

Heifetz builds on the task and relational or dual perspective of leadership with the publication of this book.  In this work Heifetz introduced his theory of “adaptive leadership,” a people-based theory focused on how to build “adaptive” versus “technical” capacities in societies and organizations.   According to Heifetz, adaptive leadership wrestles with the normative questions of value, purpose, and process.  It is about the change that enables the capacity to thrive.  The author argues that leadership most commonly fails because leaders treat adaptive challenges – those involving changes in people’s priorities, beliefs, habits, and loyalties – as if they were technical problems.  Heifetz encourages us to define leadership as an activity, thereby allowing for leadership to occur from multiple positions in a social structure.  He warns that to assume “leaders are born and not made” fosters self-delusion and irresponsibility.

Heifetz, R. A., & Linsky, M. (2002). Leadership on the line: Staying alive through the dangers of leading.  

In Leadership on the line, Heifetz warns that leadership is dangerous.  He tells us “when leadership counts, when you lead people through difficult change, you challenge what people hold dear – their daily habits, tools, loyalties, and ways of thinking – with nothing more to offer perhaps than a possibility.”  Heifetz ponders the dangers of leadership and change, the hard and often unpopular decisions that must be made, the retribution that will be sought, and the importance of taking these risks for the sake of our organizations, communities, and societies.  He reminds us that leadership is worth the risk because the goals extend beyond material gain or personal advancement.  Through good leadership you can improve the lives of people around you.

Johansson, F The Medici Effect: What elephants & epidemics can teach us about innovation

The reflection on how diverse thinking can result in breakthrough innovation. This work describes the power of ideas at the intersection of disciplines and cultures. It makes a compelling case for leveraging organizational diversity to tackle the most difficult challenges. The Medici Effect shows how breakthrough ideas most often occur when we bring concepts from diverse fields together, and offers examples of how we can turn the ideas we discover into path-breaking innovations. It is a primer for creative teaming in organizations.

Hicks, D. (2011). Dignity: Its essential role in resolving conflict.

An excellent work in the field of dignity, this is a powerful book that has made an indelible impression on us and our work with leadership and change. Hicks eloquently explains that leadership is recognizing and accepting the value and vulnerability of all living things.  “…it is about living our lives in a way that he promotes each other’s physical, psychological, and spiritual well-being and expands our humanness.”  This book is a must read!

Kegan, R., & Lahey, L. L. (2001). The real reason people won’t change. Harvard Business Review, 79(10), 84-92.

We marvel at this work for its window into the human and deeply personal reasons we and the organizations we care about resist development, even when the goals are critically important and the path forward clear.  As described in the jacket cover, Kegan and Lahey show how our individual beliefs – along with the collective mindset of organizations – combine to create a natural and powerful immunity to change.  By revealing how this mechanism holds us back, Kegan and Lahey give us the keys to unlock our potential and move forward.

Lipmanowica, H.., & McCandles, K. (2014). The Surprising Power of LIberating Strucutures: Simple Rules to Unleash a Culture of Innovation

Smart leaders know that they would greatly increase productivity and innovation if only they could get everyone fully engaged.  So do professors, facilitators and all change-makers. The challenge is how. Liberating Structures are novel, practical and no-nonsense methods to help you accomplish this goal with groups of any size.

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Whitney, D., Cooperrider, D. & Bloom, A. T.  The power of appreciative inquiry: A practical guide to positive change

A philosophy that lies at the heart of our consulting process, this book describes the internationally embraced approach to organizational change that dramatically improves performance by engaging people to study, discuss, and build upon what’s working – strengths – rather than trying to fix what’s not.  This is a how-to book, that provides a menu of eight results oriented applications, along with case examples fom a wide range of organizations to illustrate Appreciative Inquiry (AI) in action.

Case Studies

Our work includes large scale projects, team interventions and more. Click below for samples of recent projects.

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