Three Models of Leadership

February 29, 2008

The Committee on Administration presented a session at the national meeting in Salt Lake last November to a standing-room-only audience. Titled Herding Cats or Thrown to the Wolves? Leadership and the Department Chair, the session focused on approaches to leading a music program, especially as it relates to working with faculty. Because of its success, we decided to publish some of the sessions materials for all members of the Society. This essay presents the sessions theoretical foundation, that of exploring three models of leadership and their application to administrative work in music. The presenters in November, and the authors here, are Karen DeMol (Dordt College), Keith Ward (University of Puget Sound), and Richard Green (Miami University). 

Keith Ward, Chair, Committee on Administration

Servant Leadership

Servant leadership is a leadership model gaining increasing attention and favor in academe. Its approach lies in leadership growing from the desire to serve and the experience in serving. In this model, appointment to a position of chair, dean, provost or president does not necessarily prove that one is a leader, but rather presents an opportunity to become a leader.

The process of becoming requires both serving and allowing oneself to be served. Central in this serving is understanding and valuing the diversity of peoples gifts, talents, and skills, regardless of official job descriptions. The serving leader recognizes these gifts, values them, polishes them, and enables them. The serving leader allows those gifted ones themselves to lead in situations for which they are specially equipped. According to Max De Pree, a central quality of leadership is the ability to abandon oneself to the strengths of others.1 Put differently, in this model leadership roves. Like soloists in a jazz ensemble, individual strengths are allowed, enabled, and encouraged to shine while the leader steps back. Servant leadership thus requires and builds community. It grows from a sense of shared purpose and shared values, enabling consensus decision-making and promoting ownership of situations, solutions, and outcomes. It can result in a group saying with satisfaction, We did it ourselves!

A second important quality of a servant leader is that of giving direction to the efforts of the whole, of articulating and maintaining shared values and goals that point a certain direction. Even if the goals are reached by consensus, it is this leader who gives certainty and purpose to others.

Servant leadership has no methodology; it is an approach caught rather than taught and often intuitive. Its principle advocates and authorsRobert Greenleaf and Max De Preeinduct their readers into an understanding of the approach through a wealth of examples, situations, and stories in which servant leadership was manifest. One story important to Greenleaf that captures the heart of servant leadership comes from Journey to the East, by Hermann Hesse. The story tells of a band of men on a mythical journey to the East...The central figure of the story is Leo, who accompanies the party as the servant who does their menial chores, but also sustains them with his spirit and his song. He is a person of extraordinary presence. All goes well until Leo disappears. Then the group falls into disarray and the journey is abandoned. They cannot make it without the servant Leo. The narrator, one of the party, after some years of wandering, finds Leo and is taken into the Order that had sponsored the journey. There he discovers that Leo, whom he first knew as servant, was in fact the titular head of the Order, its guiding spirit, a great and noble leader.2

Leo, and all servant-leaders, embodies two roles that often are seen as antithetical in our culture: the servant who, acting with integrity and insight, encourages and develops the strengths of others, and the leader who is trusted and gives direction to the whole.

Principle-Centered Leadership

This theory of leadership is championed by Steven Covey. According to Covey, principle-centered leadership is informed by three core beliefs: natural laws exist behind principles, these laws are practiced from the inside out, and our work will be influenced by the law of the harvest. Because none of us sees the world as it is but as we are, we use frames of reference that Covey terms as maps to construct our own perceptions of reality.3 These experience-produced perceptions, notes Covey, are in turn influenced significantly by our feelings, beliefs, and behavior.4 In such an environment of multiple realities, Covey asserts we must operate on principles, which, unlike maps, are objective, external, and not controlled by subjective values.5 Coveys natural laws, or basic principles, are fairness, equity, justice, integrity, honesty, and trust. Unlike maps, which, according to Covey, become inaccurate and obsolete, chart only the known, and describe instead of give vision, these principles are more like a compass: they give direction; they guide us. They enable, asserts Covey, fundamental transformations of individuals, relationships, and organizations.6

Coveys second core value, practicing these principles from the inside out,7 asserts that these principles must be fundamental to us. While they may be external in their universality, they have value only as part of our core beliefs that is, when they are not viewed or experienced as outside a persons character but instead as essential qualities that define it.

In explaining his third core value, the law of the harvest, Covey turns analogously to the farm. On the farm, notes Covey, there are no shortcuts. One must prepare the ground, plant seeds, cultivate them, weed them, water them, and nurture their growth and development to full maturity, ultimately leading to a bountiful harvest.8 Similarly, leaders must think less of fixing things and more about building things. They must plan, create, nurture, sustain, and weed, allowing their programs to unfold, adjusting where it demands, and keeping in mind the harvest at the end of the process. Such a mindset places focus in iterative processes, of going over the same landscape as it evolves, and of developing meaning, value, and a sense of contribution to an end result whose benefits go beyond personal gain.

Principle-centered leadership is not a technique, but a way of being. It is characterized, according to Covey, by continual learning, service to others, positive energy, belief in other people, balanced lives, a view of life as an adventure continually unfolding, synergistic thought (the whole is more than the sum of its parts), and a commitment to self-renewal.9 Turning again to the compass, Covey asserts that a principle-centered leader will analyze continually how well their values, perceptions, beliefs, and behaviors align with true north principles.10 Similar to servant leadership, such a leader also knows that people want meaning, a sense of belonging, of doing something that matters.11 A principle-centered leader, according to Covey, empowers people, knowing that people are the most valuable asset to any organization.

Here are five ways Covey suggests that principle-centered leadership can transform a swamp into an oasis.12 Your organization should be like a farm and follow the law of the harvest; you must build a sense of internal security in yourself (inside-out); you cannot empower people who are dependent you must empower them; you must work toward creating a common vision that focuses on the purpose of the enterprise, quality of life (sense of belonging and feeling of meaningful contribution to the enterprise), and shared mission; and finally, quality initiatives are based on the principle of continuous improvement.

Sacred Hoops

It has been over a decade since Phil Jacksons book, Sacred Hoops, was first published, and it is still cited on bibliographies relating to leadership and corporate management.13 Although the setting of the story is an NBA locker room and a basketball court, the story told really has more to do with a man, gifted with remarkable personal insight, who creates an amazingly effective style of coaching that taps into his own strengths and inspires a uniquely talented, and fiercely independent, group of super-stars.

What has Phil Jackson to do with the job of managing a department of music? It is that successful coaches innately embody a talent for leadership that goes beyond the ability to score points in a game. And, conversely, so it is that great musicians (music educators, musicologists, etc.) do not always become successful music administrators. It takes something else to be a successful department chair; i.e., something more than the outstanding talent of a musician.

Early in his coaching career Jackson realized that he could succeed as a coach only through the extraordinary efforts of others, and only then when all others around him cooperated respectfully as a team. His style of leadership became unique because of the tone he set of mutual respect and cooperation among all players and insistence that they all abide by it. He also learned when to step back as a coach and to trust the instincts of his players. Like a servant leader, he figured out when it was important to give the players an opportunity to decide the strategy and when to support their decisions. He also had an instinctive sense of how to deal with people who had enormous egos.

Jacksons approach to leadership can apply to us as leaders of academic programs. As Jackson points out in the book, most leaders tend to view teamwork as a problem in social engineering: take group X, add motivational technique Y, and get result Z. However, Jackson believes that the most effective way to forge a winning team is to call on the personal need of all players to connect with something larger and better than themselves. This is because, for Jackson, creating the environment for a successful team requires the individual involved to surrender self-interest for the greater good so that the whole adds up to more than the sum of its parts.

Jackson wanted to give everyone on the Bulls from the stars to the 12th player on the bench a vital role on the team. He sought to inspire everyone to be acutely aware of what was happening at each moment of the game all over the court, even when the spotlight was on someone else. I think we can find application of this attitude to our own situations. How, for example, do we convince faculty in one area of the department that were going to put resources this year into another area in the belief that it will enhance the strength and reputation of the entire department? Just as our goal must be to improve the reputation of our institution, we may assume that all faculty would prefer that our music program become stronger, better, and more selective. As chairs, we must find the way through a style that emphasizes our own personal strengths and helps all faculty achieve the goal of improving the department for faculty and students alike.

Jackson realized that the team would need more than Michael Jordan, perhaps the greatest athlete ever to play the game, to win a championship. He describes a moment early in his career with the Bulls when Jordan approached him privately, pleading with him to make the other players step up their involvement in the offense. It was then that Jackson realized that the only way to create opportunities for Jordan was to involve the four other players on the court all of the time. Even with a superstar on the team, success depended on all others to work hard to be their best, too.

Jacksons style of leadership owes a lot to what James OToole calls value-based management.14 Similar to servant leadership, this style of leadership enlists the hearts of the team through inclusion and participation. These leaders listen carefully to their followers out of respect for them as individuals and try to develop a vision that they will embrace because it is based on their highest aspirations. To be effective leaders one must begin by setting aside that culturally conditioned natural instinct to lead by push, particularly when times are tough. Similar to principle-centered leadership, [l]eaders must instead adopt the unnatural behavior of always leading by the pull of inspiring values. Good advice for us all.


1 Max De Pree, Leadership Is an Art (New York: Currency/ Doubleday, 2004), 9.
2 Robert Greenleaf, Servant Leadership: A Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness (New York: Paulist Press, 1707 and 2002), 21.
3 Steven Covey, Principled-Centered Leadership (New York: Fireside, 1991), 9.
4 Covey, 109.
5 Covey, 94.
6 Covey, 19.
7 Covey, 31.
8 Covey, 17.
9 Covey, 33-39.
10 Covey, 20.
11 Covey, 177.
12 Covey, 278-87.
13 Phil Jackson and Hugh Delehanty. Sacred Hoops: Spiritual Lessons of a Hardwood Warrior. New York: Hyperion, 1995.
14 James OTool, Leading Change (New York: Ballantine Books, 1996).

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