Leadership Part 1: Building and Sustaining Success
Superior leadership can be the greatest single factor in an organization’s success. Leaders help to produce the stability and focus that organizations require to achieve and to maintain goals - the difference between mediocrity and greatness. Successful leaders create organizations that are dynamic, yet continuous. They understand complex systems of order and their fundamental components: hierarchy, structure, and stability. They endeavor to engage balance in these essential areas to help to ensure success and sustainability. Consequently, those leaders that develop an explicit system of hierarchy and a clear purpose infused with shared beliefs are better able to maintain success in the face of ongoing challenges.
Strarrat (1993) remarked that, “For better or worse, leaders seem to ‘make’ history. The understanding of social institutions and social movements, indeed, of whole societies, seems tied up in understanding the leaders of those institutions, movements, and societies” (p. 9). Although these remarks were made while analyzing major global leaders, all leaders have the opportunity to make significant contributions even in the smallest domains. Global change is often built one block at a time, from the ground up.
Many leaders realize their success through their ability to identify with their constituency, often as symbols relating to critical ideologies or concepts. The ability to step-up when an organization most needs it can create a socially fortifying moment, a chance to reinvigorate common goals, beliefs, and values. It is the revitalizing power of these shared moments that can change the course of history.
Since all leaders have the power to change the social landscape, from those who run large corporations, to those who run small schools, a foundation in social theory can be beneficial in understanding the essential principals that govern and maintain successful, functional organizations. This foundation need not be an abstract collection of esoteric concepts; it can be a simple theory of order easily applied to the problems faced by most leaders, a general theory of social order focused on continuity and sustainability.
In the world of education the performance of leaders is dependent on variables that in many cases are unique, both in public and private education, in which certain legal and ideological restraints affect every leader. But if it were possible for leaders to grasp the mechanisms of social order that encompass all social systems, be they large or small, it might offer potential solutions to the myriad problems that threaten the stability required for sustained success, since without order progress cannot be achieved.
How do leaders create and maintain the order necessary for systemic success? Hierarchies of Purpose explains the process of maintaining a social system that I uncovered while writing my doctoral dissertation. Understanding this process can help develop leaders who, quite simply, are more aware of the social foundations of the organizations they inhabit and by using this knowledge are better able to exercise positive change while maintaining the successes they have worked so hard to build.