Once the Leadership Team completes the steps and activities discussed in this chapter, it has a Leadership Perspective from which it can successfully participate within the agency’s incorporating environment. Through its Initiators and Authorizers, the agency develops and sustains sufficient resources and auspices to continue operations. Through its Implementers and agency Management, it assures services are in place to serve its clients and that those services and agency operations conform to accepted regulations, standards, and guidelines. Through the agency’s services structure and its Providers, the agency works to assure the help it provides is the help its clients need and deserve. Through its connection with and attention to potential clients and to those who may refer potential clients to the agency, the likelihood people in need will be better able to cope with their needs, problems, and vulnerabilities down the road increases. Further, everyone associated with the agency is better able to contribute to the success of other people and organizations in ways far beyond the agency’s narrow responsibilities. Only when all participants in the human services community succeed can an individual human services agency make a difference consistent with its full potential.
I hope the point has been made the Management Perspective and the Leadership Perspective are not the same and they both are required for agency excellence. I also hope the point is clear neither is more or less important than the other. Both are essential perspectives from which to pursue agency excellence. Let me reiterate one other critical point here.
Help is only helpful if it helps. Everything we do should support and further the success of our stakeholders in general and our clients in particular. Nothing we do should jeopardize their success or serve any other purpose. As I said in Chapter One, the point of developing a human services agency is to help people cope with the needs, problems, and vulnerabilities in their lives. Everything we do should further this outcome and nothing we do should interfere with achieving the outcome.
The standard is simple. Do the right things right, the first time, on time, every time, one client at a time. What is the right thing? This is also simple. Make sure the help we provide is help that truly helps.
Pause to Consider
I include this excerpt (adapted from Schneider, Crow, & Burtnett, 2000, p. 7-8) as an important perspective on agency leadership and on the importance of solid connections with external stakeholders. Schneider applies the leadership concepts to a child protection setting; but they apply equally to any human services agency and its incorporating environment. The key concepts are subsumed within the strategic triangle (Moore, 1995): value creation, enhancing the authorizing environment, and operational capacity building. An explanation of the three legs of the strategic triangle is instructive.
Value Creation: Stakeholders within the agency and external to it value the protection of children, i.e., the agency’s clients and its services. Value creation starts with supporting and increasing the level of importance agency stakeholders attribute to the agency and its activities. How well does the agency serve its clients?
Enhancing the Authorizing Environment: When the agency and its activities are legitimated and supported by key stakeholders, other members of the human services community, the media, and the general public, the authorizing environment the incorporating environment – is agency friendly. The agency has substantial authorization to effectively address key issues and to take advantage of excellence opportunities. A commonly asked question is, How much authorization is needed to move forward? Fortunately or unfortunately, the answer is, Enough. Accurately and consistently gauging how much authorization is enough is a core skill distinguishing traditional managers from the new leadership. This leadership requires a sustained effort to build individual relationships with all authorizing stakeholders. Leaders constantly assess the authorizing environment, assure stakeholders have accurate and complete information, and attend carefully to changing needs and interests.
Leadership also requires risk-taking. Leaders must know when to move forward and when to consolidate past advances before moving forward. They have to carefully assess how much pressure the environment can productively tolerate, internally and externally. They then maintain the vital level of pressure needed to support the new adaptation, no more, no less.
This is not especially difficult or risky, if the leader never makes mistakes, never confronts controversial issues, never makes unpopular decisions, never disappoints influential people, and never pursues change faster or in directions that cause discomfort. Under those restraints, the authorizing environment would be quite stable.
If, instead, the leader does make occasional mistakes, does irritate and frustrate people at times, and does make unpopular decisions and take controversial actions, the authorizing environment can become very volatile. At those times, the leader must draw on authorization reserves. Along with authorization when things are going well, leaders must maintain authorization reserves for the more difficult times that inevitably come. This means continuous enhancement of the authorizing environment is not only a good idea, it is required just to stay even.
Operational capacity building: Operational capacity refers to the internal and external resources required to do what needs to be done. This includes enough people who have the necessary skills and competencies as well as sufficient access to needed hard and soft resources. Moreover, both internal and external people and resources are required to adequately and appropriately serve agency clients. No single agency has the internal or organizational capacity to do the job alone. It requires the collective resources and efforts of all stakeholders. Continuous capacity building is not just important; it is an essential difference between agencies that achieve excellence and those that do not.
Which is more important: value, authorization, or capacity? The reality is without value, there is no authorization. Without authorization, there is no capacity. Without capacity, the agency produces nothing of value. If nothing of value is produced, there can be no authorization.
Unless an agencys commitment is to aggressively pursuing all three legs of the strategic triangle concurrently, the effort will fall short and the clients for whom it is responsible will not be helped. Whats more, to achieve the level of excellence agency clients deserve and must have agency leadership must be:
· Mission-focused, understanding the agencys mission incorporates its primary value creation potential;
· Externally oriented, understanding although there are important internal stakeholders, the primary stakeholders in the authorizing environment are external to the agency;
· Opportunity seeking, understanding capacity building is, in large measure, dependent on the leaders ability to recognize and exploit opportunities to appropriate resources in the service of its clients.