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Chapter 4: Technique 1: Authentically Respecting Stakeholders

Inner leadership involves some complex and unique concepts. In essence it relies mostly on using the common values most people intuitively accept. One of these values is respectful, caring, even loving, behavior toward followers. Respecting coworkers is critical to the leader’s success. Successful inner leaders have internalized feelings of respect and enjoyment in working with all stakeholders in the common enterprise, and they show it. Leaders who treat members of their work community with old-fashioned courtesy and respect reap rewards of increased member commitment (Johnson, 1999), better productivity, and increased involvement.


Of the various focuses of preparation inner leaders need to internalize, perhaps the most critical is learning to respect (Lombardi, 2000) all their coworkers. The key to success in using any of the techniques described in this part is in the need for leaders to prize each person and the capacities of each individual stakeholder. Respecting all the people with whom they are in interaction is critical to success here. Inner leaders have adopted the philosophy (Crosby, 1996) of inner leadership and have internalized feelings of respect, caring, and enjoyment—even love—in working with others in the common enterprise.

Leaders Love Followers

Caring is defined as feelings of concern or interest for another (Fiedler and Chamers, 1974). It is a part of the idea of consideration, one of the two traits of leadership coming out of post–World War II research. The other is initiating structure (Bass, 1981). Respect also implies caring. It is nothing more than the Golden Rule in the workplace. But the caring must be authentic. When leaders trust their followers by letting them function without tight controls, they create a follower perception that leaders really respect and care for them (Gibb, 1978). Trusting followers see the leader as open, interested in them, and worthy of their reciprocal trust. While openness is risky, leaders’ willingness to be open enhances their inherent trustworthiness. Caring leader behavior communicates the leader’s willingness to serve the needs of followers, as well as corporate goals.

The most significant definitional characteristic of inner leaders is that they relate to every person in their work community in ways that enhance that individual. This kind of leadership requires specific behavior that actualizes people values. Inner leaders respect their followers enough to seek opportunities and create systems to share planning, decision making, and work methods determinations with them. This caring behavior includes common courtesy toward others, listening to understand, and otherwise showing consideration for the ideas, actions, and opinions of others (Braham, 1999). It is seeking out stakeholders and counciling-with them. Leaders who value those they work with have a penchant for close interaction with them. The several specific techniques leaders use to operationalize this people-oriented values leader model ask leaders to esteem the uniqueness and capacities of each of their stakeholders. The central techniques are described in this chapter. They are elaborated in the activities following this discussion and, indeed, through this resource.

Trusting Followers

Hertzberg’s (1966) research confirmed that Douglas McGregor’s theory Y (1960) ideas were correct. When inner leaders treat employees as McGregor specified in his theory Y—with a basic respect and confidence in their ability and desire to work to a high standards of effectiveness and responsibility— they are more productive and hard working. Implicit in this factor is the idea of mutual trust. Trust is vital to any organizational action. It is the lubrication that allows all parts of the organization—and all individuals—to interact smoothly (Fairholm, 1994). Leaders must trust their followers, and the followers must trust their leaders if they are to lead. Inner leaders rely on the good will of their followers to do what is needed. Force, authority, formal structural roles, and other negative sanction systems cannot substitute over the long term for basic mutual trust relationships.

More and more, leaders are called upon to develop trust relationships with their followers (Palmer, 2001). Such a relationship is built on many things, among them is the need to articulate clear goals, sound policies, and a basic love and respect for others (Lombardi, 2000). Leadership based on core spiritual values of leader and led take place in a culture supportive of relationships characterized by factors like these, factors that are sensitive to the needs of both the followers and the leader. Leaders care for their followers, they respect them, and they like them as friends (Caill, 2000).

A Whole-Souled Concern for Others

The character of stakeholder groups is changing. Highly educated workers are becoming the norm. They are more aware of general conditions in society and of the specific development patterns in their organizations. They are also aware of and work to achieve their own potential and satisfy all their needs, if possible, at work. They want to use all their capacities in ways that benefit them and their several communities of interest—family, career, religion, social group(s), and friends. And they expect their leaders to be proactively helpful in this effort.

Followers seek development of their own capacities and talents for success in each of these communities, either directly or as by-products of their work. Leading this kind of coworkers asks leaders to consider them as a whole, not just as discrete bundles of skills, knowledge, and abilities they need to do some work. The leader’s role is expanding to encompass concern for this kind of growth of the total person of each stakeholder who wants to lead, and increasingly is capable of leading, the corporation—or parts of it—him or herself. As these workers become the norm in the workplace, inner leaders will have to share their leadership with these almost coequal stakeholders.

Learning how to do this is a new leadership technique for many, one for which few have received formal training in the required skills.

Helping Followers Improve Themselves

Equally important in leader preparation is the acquisition of the skills useful in changing other peoples’ values and behavior. Helping followers mature is essential to the idea of inner leadership. Inner leaders see each follower, customer, and client as unique. They relate to each person in ways that enhance that individual (Lombardi, 2000). This kind of leadership requires the leader to adopt a mind-set that values people and that actualizes their common values. It is egalitarian. The leader seeks out opportunities and systems to share planning, decision making, and work methods determinations with each individual to add to that person’s personal capacities to make a contribution and to help them mature into their best selves.

Focusing Self and Group

Part of this caring technique is focusing the attention of the group members on what they (the leaders) think is important. Centering the group on behavior that reflects the vision the leader has set defines a key element of inner leadership skill. The key here is that the vision is intended to realize the leader’s needs whether or not it also realizes corporate needs.

The literature is beginning to describe a variety of behaviors common to this new leadership. Bennis and Nanus (1985) identifies four major skills inner leaders demonstrate as they behave in their relationships with coworkers of all kinds. He says leaders have acquired skill in managing self, the work community’s attention, its meaning, and its level of trust to help insure they accomplish their personal aims. They exercise these skills so followers can fully participate in doing the work the leader wants done. People want to make a difference, and if leaders let—help—them do it, they gain adherents to their vision objectives.

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