Social scientists are increasingly using narrative research to more accurately capture the stories of the individuals we study. For leadership researchers who strive to eventually predict outcomes such as leadership emergence, leadership effectiveness, follower satisfaction, trust, and performance, narrative research allows additional insight into the stories of potential leaders. In our earlier blog about seeing leadership moments, we discussed how small moments of leading can impact our leader identity. Narratives are a way for leaders to reflect upon past and present events, and could lead to additional leadership discoveries.
In Torrill Moen’s (2006) article on the narrative approach, she recalls how another social scientist, Edward M. Bruner, highlights how narratives can relate to one’s life.
“A life lived is what actually has happened. A life experienced consists of the images, feelings, sentiments, desires, thoughts, and meanings known to the person whose life it is. A life told is a narrative or several narratives influenced by the culture conventions of telling, by the audience, and by the social context.” (Moen, 2006; p. 63).
The leadership life told includes the social aspects of leadership – others’ reactions to you as a leader can help solidify or undermine your leader identity. But only the leader knows of the experiences that drive their behaviors. Writing a narrative helps the leader to reconcile personal thoughts and beliefs with the reactions of others.
As leadership professors, we can require our students to write their own leadership narratives and to build reflection into our coursework. The challenge for working leaders is to find time to continue this process. The active nature of reflection upon a narrative allows leaders to be more mindful about the effects of their leadership behaviors. Additionally, it may uncover additional opportunities for development or patterns of behavior that should be reviewed. Consistently taking the time to reflect ensures a closer match between the life lived, the life experienced, and the life told.
So, how do you start writing your narrative? And how do you ensure it is capturing what it should capture? A good narrative relies on the following foundation:
This spring, I have asked my students to collect narratives of leaders they observe. I encourage our readers to also start writing down your leader narratives, thinking through your experiences, including the context, and taking the extra step of capturing as many voices as possible to enhance your leadership development. I think you will all find that the time you take for reflection will result in more mindful leadership emergence.
Written by Michael Palanski
Photo by Japheth Mast
One of the most effective ways to drive to performance is to build self-efficacy, or the fundamental belief that oneself is capable to performing a particular task. But how can we build self-efficacy in ourselves and in others? Research on self-efficacy shows us that one of the best ways to do is is through enactive mastery.
Enactive mastery involves creating a situation in which people can experience a “small win” which becomes a catalyst for further performance. For example, on the very first day of my ninth-grade Latin 1 class, our teacher, Mr. Tuscano, wrote the following sentence on the board, and challenged the class to translate it:
“Roma in Italia est.”
It didn’t take a Latin expert to figure out that Rome is in Italy. So within the first two minutes of class, we had already translated an entire sentence! This exercise was the very definition of a small win and became a touchstone for the more difficult learning ahead.
As another example, my two youngest children have recently begun taking skiing lessons. I’ve noticed that one of the primary goals is to quickly get the kids into a position where they can turn and stop. With commands like “pizza!” and “cookie!”, the kids are able to ski the bunny slope by the end of their first lesson. Their burgeoning confidence leads to enjoyment and motivation to continue to improve. (And, trust me, any experience that leads to a 4-year-old wanting to put the skis on again is a win!)
So, as you are thinking about how to build your own self-efficacy, what are some ways you can set yourself for some small wins in order to achieve enactive mastery? Likewise, how can you help others create similar situations?
Written by Rachel Clapp-Smith
Image by Tyler Smith
We suggest in our research that a person’s leader identity, i.e., how one sees him- or herself as a leader, is multi-layered and stems from three different levels: individual, relational, and collective. We are not the only leadership professors to suggest this, in fact, there’s a rich area of literature and research focused on this very concept. But, if you are like most people we talk to, these academic labels don’t mean much until we explain. So, let me explain…
Think of yourself as an individual embedded in a family or group of friends, which is embedded in a community, school, or organization. You might consider an image of a small circle inside a larger circle, inside yet a larger circle. Each circle is a level or layer of identity. As an individual, you have certain personal characteristics that you bring to the table as a leader: you might be extroverted, charismatic, trustworthy, optimistic, or any other trait, value, or strength that you individually possess. That is your individual level of your leader identity.
The next circle is the relational layer. The identities you have here only exist because of your relationship to another person. You may say “I am a parent,” which is an identity that is only possible because you have a child and only came into existence for you on the day your first child was born. Up until then, that particular identity did not exist for you (although it may have been a future planned identity, but that is entirely different, and worth it’s on blog post).
The third level of leader identity is the collective layer. This means we see ourselves as members of groups, and our membership to those groups are particularly important to our sense of self as a leader. For instance, I am a New Englander, and although I do not currently live in New England, this membership is nonetheless very strong in how I see myself as a leader. I know that much of how I act and think stems directly from my identification with New England. Furthermore, when the Patriots are in the Super Bowl, my identification with New England requires that I lead this particular collective in my area in a way that is representative of the collective – I connect the local collective by hosting a party with lobster rolls, clam chowder, and whoopie pies (and you are invited if you live near me and are from New England).
See how powerful these layers of leader identity can be? Each one is an important part of who we are and how we lead. Everyone is an individual, with relationships, embedded in collectives. The magic is in understanding how these many layers contribute to who we are as leaders. Take a moment to think about each layer and write down the pieces of each layer that are the most influential in how you see yourself as a leader.
Ever have a really bad day at work and find your spouse getting crabby too? What about sharing a story to your coworkers about how you were really proud of your kids and it lightened the mood?
Recent theory and empirical support has suggested this happens through a spillover-crossover model. First, spillover occurs, then it crosses-over to others in our network.
Spillover: We bring experiences, thoughts, moods and self-perceptions from work to home and vice versa. What happens at work affects me while I’m home. What happens at home affects me at work.
Crossover: The experiences, thoughts, moods and self-perceptions that spillover from one domain to another have implication and effects on other people in our networks. So my work experiences not only affect me, but also my family members. What happens in my family affects my co-workers and boss too!
How does this happen? There are three basic ways that crossover occurs:
Taking this together, it makes a lot of sense and we can easily relate to spillover and all three types of crossover. Without much thought, we know this is true because we’ve lived it. So what’s the point? I think there are a few main take-away points and ponderings.
1. Crossover effects are stronger in close relationships. So as to avoid the weight of someone else’s world, we might be tempted to distance ourselves. However, the very act of caring, listening, and responding with empathy, has benefits for ourselves and others. Remember in close relationships, we take the god with the bad. And research suggests, helping other people (called a tend-and-befriend response) has physical and psychological benefits to our own stress response, and even longevity.
2. This should create an awareness in our own management of the boundaries between work and home. Are we “kicking the dog” for our frustrations at work? What can we do to transition from one role to becoming truly present in the other role?
3. As leaders, managers, and employees, are we aware that our actions at work have implication not only for our employees, but also for their friends and family? If we were truly cognizant of this, would it change the way we lead?