Heifetz Paper


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Heifetz Paper

  1. 1. Heifetz & Linksy Paper 1 Running head: LEADERSHIP ON THE LINE: A REVIEW Heifetz & Linksy: Summary and Conclusions Michael Parent Cohort XI Seton Hall University
  2. 2. Heifetz & Linksy Paper 2 Heifetz & Linksy: Summary and Conclusions Does accepting the role of a school leader mean that you have authority – a knowledge base that allows you to be viewed as the single entity that has all the answers to problems? Does your role as a leader mean that you must be the single source and producer of solutions to challenges in the system? These are questions that arise after reading Leadership On The Line. Heifetz and Linsky offer a prescription for leaders who find themselves engaged in an arena where challenges are plentiful and where expectations for leaders to accept and meet challenges are high. With this comes the tendency for leaders to attempt to solve problems alone. But Heifetz and Linsky suggest that leaders need to address issues, what they call “adaptive challenges”, by engaging in a new style of leadership. “Adaptive challenges” are problems that are not easily solvable through expertise or standard operating procedures. These challenges require more than simply employing an “expert” and directing them to solve the problem. Responding to “adaptive challenges” requires leaders to experiment, discover, and adjustment with many persons and institutions or organizations within a community. As stated by the authors, “To meet adaptive challenges, people must change their hearts as well as their behavior.” (Heifetz & Linksy, 2002, p. 127). However, with this new inclusive method of problem response comes a fear of loss of control within a community or organization. Due to the fear of loss, some organizations resist dealing with adaptive challenges by attempting to marginalize, divert, attack, or seduce leaders who attempt to enact
  3. 3. Heifetz & Linksy Paper 3 change. I have witnessed this firsthand. In one district I worked for, a new Director of Curriculum attempted to include community and professional organizations in the development of a new programming for the high school. When he announced that teachers alone would not be the sole power of the committee, he was quickly attacked within the circle of power. Before his new approach even took hold, the initiative was dead in the water. Heifetz and Linksy would say that this administrator failed to “get on the balcony”. “Getting on the balcony” means being able to identify adaptive challenges. The overall strategy of “getting on the balcony” suggests that the leader will need to discover where the members of the community are on the issues raised by a challenge, listen to participants, and reach interpretations about what the participants are saying. The leader must also watch for clues from key actors that the change process is becoming too much for the community. Clearly, the Director Of Curriculum I worked with did not scope out the political landscape prior to his decision to create change in a new way. Heifetz and Linksy suggest that a leader needs to map out the political landscape prior to engaging in the change process. My experiences have lead me to conclude that many leaders lack an understanding of effective leadership. Many begin their roles with enthusiasm and promise. Yet after a short while they seem to lose faith in their ability to promote, orchestrate, and survive change. Thus many simply settle in to the organization with very little hope of ever facilitating change. Heifetz and Linsky have developed a blueprint for leaders that will enable them to effectively maneuver through adaptive challenges so that lost leaders may
  4. 4. Heifetz & Linksy Paper 4 again be found and renewed.
  5. 5. Heifetz & Linksy Paper 5 References Heifetz, R. A., & Linksy, M. (2002). Leadership on the line. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Publishing.