Leader Roles and Effectiveness

Subject: Sociology
Pages: 6
Words: 1771
Reading time:
7 min
Study level: PhD


Dialogue and reflective dialogue entail reflecting with others using language. On the other hand, leadership is a democratic approach that encompasses ‘leaderful’ practice, which contains humanistic principles. There must be a change agent in all leadership practices. In the same way, the agent is a coach in the realm of individual and interpersonal affairs (Raelin, 2010). This literature review looks at the scholarly and practical literature on personal and interpersonal leader roles and effectiveness, according to the double loop learning theory. It discusses interpersonal dialogue to bring out its position in discovering different characteristics by relying on others and the self. The paper then applies the information to various organizational situations to show the importance of understanding individual and interpersonal changes and their contribution to organizational change.

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Key arguments from scholars

In an exposition of self-referential as a powerful mechanism for individuals experiencing leadership tasks, the findings of Kristiansen and Bloch-Poulsen (2004) showed that self-referential interpretations occur in actual, relational, and dialogic action. It shows that the perspectives of other people become a person’s ownership in the categorization and ways of relating unknowingly. People then stop questioning when their reality is the only one that counts. Thus, in examining the concept further, one has to look at the notion of having a tendency to enforce one’s establishment of truth on others.

Theories of reflection and reflective practice explain the concept of a person’s thoughts and behavior. They also encompass learning from experience or experimenting on ongoing activities. Theories follow manifestations of careful listening, active questioning, and openness to potentially profound changes that are happening to a person’s belief (Nehring, Laboy, & Catarius, 2009). Reflection implies looking back on what was done and extracting meanings that can influence future experiences.

Kristiansen and Bloch-Poulsen (2004) also argue that when a first and second-person reflection on self-referentiality occurs, it leads to an improved third-party inquiry. This applies to dialogic action, as well as the research process, given that one must be vulnerable to self-transformation for him or her to encourage continuous scheduled transformation in others. The transformation can also extend to whole structures of activity. In this case, traditional power forms only move through unilateral forms, which cover coercion, logistics, charisma, and others. However, the exercise-only occurs in situations that support mutual vulnerability with transformational power. One considers the key components of dialogue as voice, listening, respect, and suspension when looking at dialogue as a mechanism for transformational power. Respect is the acknowledgment of the value of differences and identities of participants, while a suspension is a willingness to raise and consider assumptions or perceptions that influence a member without being bound.

Learning takes two forms, one being a single loop and the other one being a double loop. In the first case, a person’s objective is only necessary while questioning it is not. In the double loop case, a person can observe his or her thought process. The person then understands the potential of trying different ways of pursuing a goal or trying out a different objective (Parker, Kram, & Hall, 2012).

Key arguments from a practitioner-oriented point of view

Scholars have long focused on the conversations that lead to healthy and productive workplaces. Consequently, many organizations are already using some frameworks to promote dialogue. As an example, they construct learning labs, ‘microworlds’, simulations, and team activities to allow organizational members to cultivate the practice of dialogue throughout the organization (Berge, 2002). In fact, organizations can view all conversations as dialogic, which is a form of the interrelatedness of self and others. The focus then moves to leadership, with an aim of creating a supporting system that ensures the authority of partners in dialogue does not jeopardize double-loop learning. One way is by sharing and rotating leadership roles, which bring out collaborating leadership (Raelin, 2003a).

Critique of underlying assumptions

Many assumptions about dialogic action and self-reflection, as well as transformational power as highlighted in the articles cited in the previous section succumb to generalizations. Many studies show the importance of various ways that participants use to develop meaning and understanding. They end up recommending structures to improve the exercise of dialog and transformational power without highlighting the issues involved, which can be threatening or embarrassing to the participants. A framework that works in one organizational setting does not necessarily carry on to another. There has been an argument by Argyris (1994) that process solutions are not sustainable because they just look at action strategies, instead of looking at the underlying knowledge, as well as any biases or drivers of the observed and intended behaviors.

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In practical applications, there is a need to understand that unrealistic or unmet expectations, as well as lack of motivation or failure to engage, can jeopardize intentions of exercising transformational power in the leadership. Given that power and discourse shape and covey concepts organizing people’s experience of the world, an implication of achieving universal awareness and collaboration in leadership appears farfetched (Marshak & Grant, 2008). Individual shortcomings have the power to affect the emotions of the peers. It is unfortunate that scholars and practitioners sometimes neglect the emotional being of individuals when evaluating and implementing various strategies for peer coaching. In fact, many studies succumb to using surveys as instruments of empirical discovery, but they fail to consider the intangible nature of leadership interactions (Le Fevre & Robinson, 2015).

Insights for practice and scholarship

It is important to think of the behaviors that constitute the culture when thinking about changing organizational culture. A deeper look into the motivations and limitations that individuals and groups experience in bringing out those practices is also crucial. There should be specific methods that deal with knowing, saying, and sustaining aspects of dialogue. The methods should be able to handle the challenges associated with the three levels, where the last one is about the sustainability of the solutions created (Ben-Hur, Kinley, & Jonsen, 2012). There is a strong need for methods or interventions that look at leadership from a plural perspective, where actions are linked to everyone in a community instead of just one operator (Raelin, 2003b). Antonacopoulou and Bento (2004) noted the need to look at leadership as a practice and not consider it as an already formed process. Instead, it must always be a learning practice for all the involved parties. The fact is supported by Isaacs (1993), who claims that dialogue as part of collective leadership should never end as it infers people thinking together.


A major challenge in interpersonal leadership will always be finding ways to increase leader effectiveness and implement the ideas correctly. Important elements to consider will be the desire to win, a wish to maintain control of the conversation, and an ability to minimize or limit negative emotions. Overall, the literature shows that leadership is relational work, where both scholars and practitioners need to consider the leadership interactions. It requires an understanding of factors that are not easily captured by surveys.

Part 2

Left hand column

My thoughts and feelings What we said and did
I would rather be doing something else than being in the conversation Them: So, what brings you here (looking the other way while talking)?
Me: How are you? I need to have the minutes for the previous meeting because the deadline for reporting is due.
Please don’t go into your know-it-all mode, I wish I did not have to deal with you Them: You are kidding. This must be another ploy to show how you are good for the boss to pick you again.
I can also play rough Me: Suit yourself. You can fill the forms and finish the report; either way it is due tomorrow evening before the meeting.
Them: Hey! Be slow, how about I give you the minutes?
Was that too difficult to do for you Me: Okay
The results: I get the minutes and the other person loses power over me.

How I might approach difficult conversations in my work environment differently from having experienced this activity

In the future, I will consider the motivation of the other person and then use it to open the conversation when approaching such conversations. This should lead me to experience less resistance and allow me to direct the conversation, rather than be reactive (Raelin, 2010).

“What I have learned about myself and my likely inferences about others that can help you improve your reflective leadership”

I now realize that dialogues that are not confrontational do not appeal to me. Moreover, I am more efficient when I work with people who are outspoken. Nevertheless, I also know that I can be good at mimicking the moods of other people in conversations. It can be a good thing if it can help me achieve my goals. However, it also shows that I am vulnerable; I can easily forget my intentions and get muddled into arguments that transform mutual action into a one-sided action.

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“Explanation of how the exercise exhibits double-loop learning and describe specifically any social and psychological impediments (Argyris 1994) that prevent this type of learning in my case”

The exercise is important in exploring the issue of obtaining minutes of the last meeting. It shows how the participant can see the subject and the actions taken towards the issue in the way that they interact with double-loop learning. For example, in the exercise, there is the reaction that I develop due to the responses I am receiving during the conversation. This exercise brings out the knowledge of these reactions to show the way one method is working or not working concerning the subject of the conversation.

From the reflection, I can identify the shortcomings of my approach and consider other ways that I can use to approach the same situation. With double-loop learning exercises, the subject and thoughts about the subject come alive to shape the continuous reaction to the subject and the experience of focusing on the issue. Social settings and organizational norms can also facilitate or hinder the expression of thought-out alternative ideas and actions (Argyris, 1994).

How this case and the “Left-Hand Column” might support my work on the action research project

I can change the values and assumptions that affect my action and use them as ways of influencing reaction and action by peers in a mutual work environment using the case and “Left-Hand Column”. I have to consider other solutions to problems other than settling for the most direct and natural ways of finding a solution. The exercises have been informative in showing other applications of my knowledge in questioning past assumptions, which can provide useful insights for future engagements in the project.


Antonacopoulou, E., & Bento, R. (2004). Methods of “learning leadership ship”: taught and experiential. In J. Storey (Ed.), Leadership in organizations: current issues and key trends (pp. 81-103). London: Routledge.

Argyris, C. (1994). Good communication that blocks learning. Harvard Business Review, 72(4), 77-85.

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Ben-Hur, S., Kinley, N., & Jonsen, K. (2012). Coaching executive teams to reach better decisions. Journal of Management and Development, 31(7), 711-723.

Berge, J. K. (2002). Dialogical wisdom, communicative practice and organizational life. Communication Theory, 12(4), 375-397.

Isaac, W. N. (1993). Taking flight: dialogue, collective thinking, and organizational learning’, Organizational Dynamics, 22(2), 24-39.

Kristiansen, M., & Bloch-Poulsen, J. (2004). Self-referentiality as a power mechanism. Action Research, 2(4), 371-388.

Le Fevre, D. M., & Robinson, V. M. (2015). The interpersonal challenges of instructional leadership: Principals’ effectiveness in conversations about performance issues. Educational Administration Quarterly, 51(1), 58-95.

Marshak, R. J., & Grant, D. (2008). Organizational discourse and new organization development practices. British Journal of Management, 19(Supplement 1), S7-S19.

Nehring, J., Laboy, W. T., & Catarius, L. (2009). Connecting reflective practice, dialogic protocols and professional learning. Professional Development in Education, 36(3), 399-420.

Parker, P., Kram, K. E., & Hall, D. T. (2012). Exploring risk factors in peer coaching: A multilevel approach. The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 49(3), 361-387.

Raelin, J. A. (2003a). Collaborative leadership. In Creating Leaderful organizations: How to bring leadership in everyone (pp. 189-205). San Francisco, CA: Berret-Koehler.

Raelin, J. A. (2003b). Collective leadership. In Creating leaderful organizations: How to bring out leadership in everyone (pp. 125-134). San Francisco; CA: Berrett-Koehler.

Raelin, J. A. (2010). The leadership fieldbook: Strategies and activities for developing leadership in everyone. Boston, MA: Davies-Black.