Dunham and Pierce's Leadership Process Model
Taking an Intelligent, Long-Term Approach to Leadership
Leadership is about setting direction and helping people do the right things. However, it can involve so much more than this!
In particular, leadership is a long-term process in which - in a very real and practical way - all actions have consequences, and "what goes around comes around."
Dunham and Pierce's Leadership Process Model helps you think about this, and understand why it's important to adopt a positive and long-term approach to leadership.
This model highlights the dynamic nature of leadership.
We'll look at the model in this article, and we'll explore why it's so important to understand it. We'll also look at how you can apply the model's lessons to your own situation.
What is the Leadership Process Model?
The Leadership Process Model was developed by Randall B. Dunham and Jon Pierce, and was published in their 1989 book "Managing." You can see our interpretation of the model in figure 1, below. (We've redrawn this for clarity.)
Figure 1 - The Leadership Process Model
The model shows the relationship between four key factors that contribute to leadership success or failure. These are: 1.
The Leader: This is the person who takes charge, and directs the group's performance. 2.
Followers: These are the people who follow the leader's directions on tasks and projects. 3.
The Context: This is the situation in which the work is performed. For instance, it may be a regular workday, an emergency project, or a challenging, long-term assignment. Context can also cover the physical environment, resources available, and events in the wider organization. 4.
Outcomes: These are the results of the process. Outcomes could be reaching a particular goal, developing a high-quality product, or resolving a customer service issue. They can also include things like improved trust and respect between the leader and followers, or higher team morale. Most importantly, the model highlights that leadership is a dynamic and ongoing process. Therefore, it's important to be flexible depending on the context and outcomes, and to invest continually in your relationship with your followers.
Essentially, everything affects everything else. In a very real way, negative actions feed back to negatively affect future performance, and positive actions feed back to improve future performance. Note:
Dunham and Pierce used a different format for the diagram illustrating this model. You can see their version in Chapter 9 of the book "Leaders and the Leadership Process."
How to Apply the Model
Pierce and John W. Newstrom highlighted several ways that you can apply the insights from this framework to your own development as a leader, and to the development of your people:
1. Provide Regular Feedback
Probably the most important thing that the Leadership Process Model highlights is how important it is to give good feedback, so that your team can grow and develop.
When you give feedback to your team, it influences the context and helps to improve the outcome. This then cycles back to influence you and your team in a positive way.
Regular feedback also helps you take your people in the right direction, as outcomes and the context change.
2. Be Aware of Actions and Reactions
The model makes it clear that, no matter what you do, your decisions, behavior, and actions directly affect your followers. Every action has a reaction. You, your followers, the context, and the outcome are all tied together in a dynamic relationship.
As a leader, it's essential that you keep this in mind at all times. There will be consequences when you say something thoughtless, or lash out at a team member, even if you don't see them immediately. Those consequences might include diminished performance, reduced morale, increased absenteeism, and accelerated staff...
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