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Developing the Leadership Perspective

With the central importance of maintaining the Management Perspective in mind, let’s shift our attention to point “0” within the Helping Triangle. At this position, there are a myriad of web-like connecting lines going out in all directions. We are focusing here only on the six lines within the local Helping Triangle, starting with the connection between points “0” and “A” – between point “0” and potential clients.

At a minimum, this connection passes along to potential clients information about the agency and its services. It also passes along information from potential clients about their needs and interests that may be served by the agency. The connection influences potential clients to access agency services and influences the agency to adjust its services to better fit with the needs and interests of potential clients. The 0-A connection does much more but the simple point here is the connection is definitely necessary. The agency cannot succeed without it.

There are two questions to ask and answer for this and each of the other connections with point “0.” If the connection is successful, what will the outcome be? We have to know why we need the connection and how we know when it is working. If the connection is not successful, what will the outcome be? We have to know the potential effect and cost of not establishing and maintaining the connection. For the 0-A connection, not having it would likely mean the agency would not have any clients in the future; and without clients…. I’m sure you can fill in the missing details here. Clearly, not having the 0-A connection is unacceptable.

Turning focus to the 0-1 connection – point “0” with the Initiators – it is important to understand initiation is not a one-time activity. Although the First Mover may or may not continue his (or her) activities within the Helping Triangle, the Initiators stay at least available even if not continuously active. The 0-1 connection keeps the Initiators current with agency activities, plans, resource requirements, and effectiveness with clients. Moreover, the connection keeps the agency current with the views and interests of the Initiators and their constituents. We can likely think of other tasks only accomplished through this connection; but the key point here is careful and continuing attention to the 0-1 connection is essential for long-term agency success. To neglect it is to risk not having capacity external to the agency to initiate renewed support from the authorizing entity and additional support from other authorizing entities.

It is also worth noting in passing there are always other Initiator groups within the greater environment who are advocating for other agencies, other approaches, and alternative strategies for responding to the needs, problems, and vulnerabilities of the potential clients at point “A” on the local Helping Triangle. There is competition for available resources, support, and authorization. If we ever neglect the Initiators in the local Helping Triangle, it should come as no surprise when we realize the agency in which we are interested no longer has the authorization, auspices, support, and resources it needs to survive.

The 0-B connection – point “0″ with the Authorizers – is similarly essential to the agency’s continuing success. Through the Management Team, the agency assures compliance with the requirements and expectations of the authorizing entity and reports on its achievements, progress, and problems. Beyond this, a solid leadership connection with the Authorizers themselves is essential. As with other connections with point “0”, the 0-B connection is a person-to-person connection. The Authorizers and the agency connect at a relationship, face-to-face level, letting the Authorizers know they are respected and valued beyond the fact they control potential agency resources and authorization. The 0-B connection enables interaction at the interpersonal level and provides opportunities for the agency and the Authorizers to develop trust, confidence, and an understanding of each other’s sincerity.

An additional value here is sooner or later something is going to go wrong on the agency side of the relationship. When this happens – and it will – the agency can only draw on accumulated good will and a solid relationship to weather the storm while the issues get resolved. There are other reasons to assure a good 0-B connection; but the reality is the agency simply cannot afford to neglect the connection.

Let me note in passing the agency should be constantly scanning for new or expanding opportunities to respond to the needs and interests of potential clients, Initiators, and Authorizers. Through those interpersonal connections, information and opportunities emerge to meet the needs and support the interests of those stakeholders beyond what the agency is already doing. Additionally, opportunities emerge to suggest services and activities with which the agency could assist that may not have occurred to the stakeholders. The connections are always two-way streets. Think of this scanning as opportunity seeking. It is a necessary element in any agency’s continuing success.

This also holds for the 0-2 connection. Implementers are people first and then they are Implementers. They are responsible for assuring the requirements and expectations of the authorizing entity are met, the agency is in compliance with external requirements and expectations, and the agency successfully does what it is expected to do. These responsibilities can and sometimes do have a rigid, authoritarian quality about them and may be difficult to accept. Nonetheless, the people-to-people connection must remain in the foreground of the interaction. The agency sincerely wants the Implementers to succeed and always makes it as easy and comfortable as possible for them to do what they have to do. Opportunity seeking applies no less to Implementers than to others in the Helping Triangle.

The value of the 0-C connection may be less clear. Does the agency connect with itself? It may seem like this is what the 0-C connection is – the agency connecting with itself. It will help to think about the agency as a service delivery entity. Point “C” is where it takes care of its day-to-day responsibilities and provides services to its clients. There, the Management Perspective is dominant. Concurrently, the agency operates at point “0” where it assumes the Leadership Perspective and pursues its leadership opportunities. The connection enables an exchange where each perspective informs and influences the other. For example, input coming through point “0” may prompt agency Management to make adjustments and accommodations to improve the perceptions of potential clients, Initiators, Authorizers, or Implementers or enable them to interact with the agency more easily and comfortably. Conversely, input coming from the agency through point “0” may help potential clients, Initiators, Authorizers, and Implementers make changes or take actions increasing the agency’s capacity to serve its clients or support the interests of its stakeholders.

The 0-3 connection – point “0” with Providers – is the connection most frequently neglected. This connection potentially provides Providers – the people actually providing services for clients – connections with potential clients, Initiators, Authorizers, and Implementers seldom available to them. At the same time, since the connections are two-way, stakeholders have a much closer connection with Providers than is otherwise the case. Further, the connections are interpersonal and often face-to-face. An interesting effect of this is both Providers and Stakeholders become people with names, personalities, and lives outside of their narrow roles in each other’s perceptions.

The importance of the Leadership Perspective from point “0” is likely now obvious. It incorporates a very complex set of activities and interactions requiring a high level of knowledge and expertise. As we conceptually add all of the myriad connections beyond the local Helping Triangle, it is also clear competently and successfully adopting the Leadership Perspective is a major commitment of time, energy, and resources from the agency. For all but the smallest agencies, it is not a one-person task. It requires a skilled team – the Leadership Team – committed to establishing and maintaining the necessary connections at the convenience of the stakeholders and assuring those connections serve the interests of both the agency and the stakeholders.

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