Modern corporate and social life has isolated most people from their traditional communities of family, farm, and neighborhood—the source of personal, intimate spiritual regeneration. Now workers spend most of their waking day in work-related activity and, as a result, have lost or diminished the impact on their behavior of traditional sources of personal spiritual rejuvenation (Bolman and Deal, 1995). They are searching for alternatives to traditional— family or church—sources of strength. Some are beginning to ask the work community and its leader to supply this need. They are responding by creating cultures and work communities that support and honor the whole person of all workers, not merely their economically valuable skills and knowledge.
Cultural features shape life experiences, historical tradition, social class, position, and political circumstances. They are powerful forces that define the group and that resist change (Reynolds, 1987). Inner leadership is unique in specifying a specific culture centered around a few leader-set values that delimit both individuals and the group and that define group membership and delineate those values members will not compromise. The work-community culture they create is not so much the official system of announced values as it is the whole range of shared models of social action containing both real and ideal elements.
A variety of factors affects work-community culture, including the goal context and the channels of communication used. The ambient corporate culture is also reflected in the behavior of work-community members, as are official documents and the verbal expression of what ideal behavior should be. Even humorous renderings help determine a work-community’s culture. Culture is importantly dependent on the actions of inner leaders. The inner leader’s goals, vision, values, and behavior provide crucial clues about what the work community will expect and accept. Often they are more powerful in shaping group member action than official policies and procedures.
The inner leader’s task in creating and maintaining a dynamic culture is essentially a values displacement activity (Bjerke, 1999). Leaders engage in action to alter members’ values and behaviors that support their conception of what the work community is and can become. Obviously, each leader and each group develop uniquely. Analysis of American work groups, however, suggests that the following values define much of the essential nature of work-group life:
Respect for all people evidenced by placing priority on fostering freedom of choice, justice, unity, and stakeholder satisfaction.
Values of high-quality performance in all aspects of work done.
Values that foster team approaches to task activity, that delegate more discretion over their work to the team and to individual team members.
Values that encourage the formation of traditions that foster and inculcate core spiritual values.
Inner leaders practice values-based leadership in a work-community culture that also promotes clarity of vision. This culture encourages and rewards effective performance throughout the work community. It fosters program or task champions. A central feature of this kind of a work culture is close interaction between leaders, workers, and customers at all levels. These systems and values emphasize concern with process rather than product and with people over either product or process (Porter, Sargent, and Stupack, 1981). Such a culture focuses on one service or product system as opposed to multidifferentiated service systems.
Building community is a critical inner leadership task. This task needs to engage the people making up these communities in meaningful work, in work that ennobles them and their customers. As the workplace becomes a community in which members live much of their productive lives, the task increasingly becomes one of making the work community not only productive but personally inspiring and attractive to followers.
The resurgence of the idea of community in the workplace is a reaction against a controlled social process that robs people of their sense of self and substitutes a senseless conformity to a sterile, abstract, and spiritless system. As people come to recognize the power of their work in shaping not only their own lives but those of their children, they are forcing business to change—to be more accommodating to human moral, even spiritual, values.
No one can buy a worker’s citizenship in the work community. It is voluntary. Freedom of action—autonomy—is a prime value implicit in work-community citizenship. If inner leaders use authority, that usage must fall within the followers’ “zone of acceptability” or members will resist it (Barnard, 1968). Work community citizenship is defined, in part, as acceptance of the inner leader’s values. The association is either an ethical association or a contractual, economic, or social one. In any case, inner leaders define their workers’ association in the work community not by mere membership but by acceptance of the community’s values and commitment shown by action in accord with them.
Similarly, obligation, consent, and participation are also elements of community membership and characteristic of the work community the inner leader builds. Citizenship entails both rights the work community must honor and responsibility to the community to be involved, committed, and supportive.
Community citizenship is a mutual relationship with opportunities and duties on both sides. Whether the relationship is total or limited to task, this kind of work-community association asks both inner leader and follower to accept common values and act according to them. Values become the adhesive of citizenship in the work community. The inner leader becomes a custodian of the community values system.
Rather than looking to the family and the small social neighborhoods of the past to recognize and legitimize spiritual values and needs, many workers are looking to their work—its structures and leaders—to provide those needs. Changing a group of workers into a community of like-minded people involves inner leaders in new tasks and mind-sets. This activity focuses on developing interpersonal skills that increase cooperation and build better relationships and group functioning. Understanding the need and developing the skills to get along with others more efficiently and improve working relationships are critical to achieving work-community goals and increasing worker productivity.
Creating a work community involves leaders in several important creation and implementation techniques as they invent a unique culture for their own work community. These techniques do not constitute the full range of expertise needed by inner leaders. A review of present-day literature, however, points to the following kinds of skills and techniques inner leaders need to master to accomplish their culture-creation goals. Taken together, these functions begin to flesh out the inner leader techniques of community creation as they apply in this context.
Inner leaders rely on a strong values orientation as the basis of their work culture. They initiate action to adopt a formal set of basic beliefs to inculcate values they want their stakeholders to honor. This technique sometimes includes use of symbols to explain and re-enforce desired values. It also embodies the declaration of and subsequent institutionalization of these values in relations leaders have with both workers and customers. Values setting also asks leaders to persuade stakeholders to accept these values as their own. The leader’s job is to gain control over this cultural change process by facing problems and developing innovative solutions in terms of these values and the following situations.
Responsiveness to customers, adjusting to satisfy small differences in demand.
Supporting innovation wherever it is found in the group.
Inspiring change through actions to replace traditional controls and substituting an inspired vision, leadership by example, and being an involved visible leader.
Simplifying systems and structures, redirecting systems effort toward quality, innovation, and flexibility.
Inner leaders undertake formal programs of long-range strategic issues identification and planning for their implementation as a way to try to understand where the work community is in today’s world and, more important, where it can be in the horizon future. Strategic plans operationalize the vision—a self-definition of the future of the work community—and guide subsequent implementation tasks.
Change is ever present in any work community given the ubiquity of technological improvements, system restructuring, and the rapid evolution of corporate policy and customer demands. Such change places pressures on inner leaders to change to stay competitive. They initiate such change and accept changes made by others and help their stakeholders feel comfortable with the adaptions they need to make to accommodate change.
Effective customer service is a result of well-trained people performing direct customer contact whether in person or on the telephone or Internet. Creating a service focus, therefore, involves inner leaders in both direct contact with stakeholders and indirect influence to more effectively and sincerely support and serve them. The need to efficiently deliver such service increases the need to use effective programs for managing job pressure and rapid change. Inner leaders serve their stakeholders as they develop their personal energy and cope with both the physical and human resources making up their work community. A service orientation asks inner leaders to institute change, improve their coping skills, and organize support networks to help their followers. It asks them to also differentiate useful job stress from dysfunctional job pressure and otherwise do what is necessary to let their followers increase their efficiency and improve overall individual and unit productivity.
Inner leaders create and adopt patterns of action within the work community that facilitate desired levels of performance and interrelationships among members. In this way, they help create a work climate supportive of their own values. These patterns of action become criteria measuring performance against desired vision results. The leader’s task is to generalize the action patterns so all concerned understand them and automatically act in conformity to them. To be useful in building community, these patterns of action should be clear, exacting, feasible, and desirable. They become visible symbols of the work community’s self-definition. Inner leaders set these action patterns, teach them, live them, and inspire their followers to live them.
Ensuring that members understand, accept, and adapt to the parameters of the work community’s culture inner leaders desire requires them to continually council and guide their followers. Building community, like most inner leadership tasks, is a mentoring task that includes inspiring members, encouraging teamwork, facilitating cooperative joint action, counseling, sitting in council with them, training, and in other ways shaping member behavior in desired ways. Inner leaders make use of an array of skills, including motivating others, delegating tasks, encouraging teams, managing time, solving problems, making decisions, setting performance norms, and improving morale and efficiency.
Building community involves the leader in a variety of tasks the result of which is continual adaptation of the established work community as the ambient situation dictates change is needed. The requirement here is expertise in changing to team-based structures that underscore the need for developing the skills to help members get along with one another. It also asks inner leaders to develop effective working relationships critical to achieving community goals and increasing productivity. In doing this, inner leaders function in supportive relationships to enhance cooperation and teamwork in understanding and then implementing problem-solving processes. Inner leaders place priority on developing cooperation skills and applying these skills in operational problem solving situations.
Team-building techniques embody the important concept of participation. Teams involve employees in the key decisions about what and how the team’s work is to be done. Team building is about getting work done in concert with others. It concerns changing work-community members and focusing them toward a common purpose, excellence in performance, and people-oriented coleadership. Team relationships help the work community identify with and support the leader. They help the group identify and create positive action characterized by service, communications, and opportunity (Santovec, 2001). They also allow members to align with the community’s culture and the purposes of the team. Team building increases member commitment. It leads to synergy in individual and the work community actions (Kelley, 1992). Teams are formed in groups where the following is present:
A commitment to improvement.
A generalized motivation to change.
Perceived power to make changes.
A realistic expectation of tangible end results.
Willingness to risk trying new ways to work together.
Willingness and ability to diagnose relationships.
Acceptance of feelings and attitudes as useful in working together.
Ownership inspires followers. To foster it, leaders must allow followers some control in their work and let them know what the work community is about. Ownership is grounded in self-control; the perception that the individual can independently determine factors in his or her work environment or tasks. If we treat all employees as coleaders, they will become coleaders.
Several implementation practices inner leaders use include these:
Create small problem-solving teams.
Insure that information goes to as wide an audience as possible.
Seek solutions as low in the work-community hierarchy as possible.
Don’t overcontrol. Allow coworkers some resources to do their job their way.
Decentralize to the maximum extent possible.
Create leaders at several levels in the work community.
Create a climate of individual dignity, challenge, and opportunity to be successful.
Create a sense of individual and work-community worth.
Reward success, not conformance or mere energy use.