Teaching Leadership and Organizational Change through an Appreciative Inquiry-driven Reflective Process

By Ken Zakariasen and Kristin Zakariasen Victoroff.

Published by Journal of the World Universities Forum

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Leadership and organizational change, at the University of Alberta’s School of Public Health, is taught through active learning modules using an adaptation of the Organization Development (OD) inquiry method of Appreciative Inquiry (AI) to guide analyses of “real life” leadership practices and leading change cases. AI has four phases, i.e., Discovery (discovering the best of what is), Dream (imagining the best of what could be), Design (designing what will be) and Destiny (making the new design become reality). The heart of AI is the “unconditionally positive question” focusing on strengths and possibilities. For example, in analyzing a leadership practice against Kouzes and Posners’ research-based standards, one could ask, “In what ways did this leader most effectively ‘challenge the process’?”, followed by, “How could this leader transform their leadership practices to increase their effectiveness at ‘challenging the process’?” Such questions are asked for each of the five key leadership practices, and for the eight stages in leading change (Kotter). These questions delve into discovery and dream phases, and are followed by “design” questions, e.g., “Which are the top three areas where improvement in their leadership practices would have the biggest impact on improving their leadership effectiveness?” The data from such questions suggests individualized leadership learning agendas. The “destiny” phase is about a leader’s personal implementation, and isn’t included in our AI adaptation. This AI-guided analysis is used by each student to develop and submit two extensive papers which they also present to their peers and instructors for discussion. These are complemented by a prepared case study of a major leadership and change intervention, interactive exercises regarding emotional intelligence and most effective/least effective leader correlations, a values clarification exercise, and personal experience critical incident reports. Student feedback, particularly on the AI-guided learning experiences on leadership practices and leading change, have been consistently positive.

Keywords: Leadership, Organizational Change, Active Education, Appreciative Inquiry, Case Development and Analysis

Journal of the World Universities Forum, Volume 5, Issue 3, pp.23-32. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 222.226KB).

Dr. Ken Zakariasen

Professor and Project Lead, Leadership and Organizational Change Studies Initiative, Department of Public Health Sciences, School of Public Health, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada

Dr. Ken Zakariasen is a Professor in the School of Public Health at the University of Alberta. He is the Project Lead for the Leadership and Organizational Change Studies Initiative, the focus of which involves both graduate and executive education training programs for current and future leaders in healthcare. Dr. Zakariasen has served as an academic in five universities, including 13 years as a Dean of Faculties of Dentistry and Health Professions. He received his BA, DDS, MS, and PhD degrees from the University of Minnesota, an Advanced Management Program Certificate from the Harvard Business School, and his Master of Science Degree in organization development and analysis from Case Western Reserve University, as well as the Certificate in Developing Leadership through Emotional Intelligence. Dr. Zakariasen’s academic and consulting work is in the area of leadership and organization development, particularly in healthcare and universities. He focuses on innovative whole systems approaches to organizational change, and leadership and leadership team development.

Dr. Kristin Zakariasen Victoroff

Associate Dean for Education and Associate Professor, School of Dental Medicine, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio, USA

Dr. Victoroff is Associate Dean for Education and Associate Professor at the Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine. She received her BSc and DDS degrees from Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, and her PhD in organizational behavior at Case Western Reserve University. Her doctoral research was in the area of emotional intelligence, a research focus she has continued. She also initiated a unique leadership training program for dental students at Case Western Reserve University.

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