Leadership for the Common Good: Tackling Public Problems in a Shared-Power World


When it was First Published in 1992. Leadership for the Common Good presented a revolutionary approach to community and organizational leadership in a shared-power world. Now, in this completely revised and updated edition, Barbara Crosby and John Bryson expand on their proven leadership model and offer new insights and guidance to leaders. This second edition is a practical resource for a new generation of leaders and aspiring leaders and includes success stories, challenges, ...
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When it was First Published in 1992. Leadership for the Common Good presented a revolutionary approach to community and organizational leadership in a shared-power world. Now, in this completely revised and updated edition, Barbara Crosby and John Bryson expand on their proven leadership model and offer new insights and guidance to leaders. This second edition is a practical resource for a new generation of leaders and aspiring leaders and includes success stories, challenges, and real-world experience.

Today's leaders cannot work in a vacuum. They must include others, navigate politics, and find common ground among diverse perspectives. Leadership for the Common Good offers an integrated approach to shared leadership and shows how to tackle the complex problems facing today's organizations and communities. Crosby and Bryson provide guidance, offer hope, and show leaders how to thrive in constantly changing environments. Step-by-step, the book explains how to identify issues and challenges within organizations and communities, facilitate change in public forums and decision-making arenas, and explore and implement solutions.

Leadership for the Common Good is filled with practical information, real-world examples, negotiation techniques, and networking strategies that will inspire leaders and help to mobilize collective action.

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Editorial Reviews

The authors offer their concept of public leadership, explaining the dynamics of a shared-power, "no-one-in-charge" world, and detailing how their approach can be used to build coalitions that solve problems. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781555424800
  • Publisher: Wiley, John & Sons, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 1/28/1992
  • Series: Public Administration and NonProfit Sector Series
  • Edition description: 1st
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 464
  • Product dimensions: 6.33 (w) x 9.28 (h) x 1.46 (d)

Meet the Author

Barbara C. Crosby is an associate professor at the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, University Minnesota, Minneapolis. She conducts workshops on, and has written extensively about, leadership and public policy, women in leadership, and strategic planning. A frequent speaker at conferences and workshops, she has conducted training for senior managers of nonprofit, business, and government organizations in the U.S., United Kingdom, Poland, and Ukraine.

John M. Bryson is a professor of planning and public affairs and associate dean for research and centers at the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. He consults widely on leadership and strategic planning with public, nonprofit, and for-profit organizations in the United States and abroad. He is the author of Strategic Planning for Public and Nonprofit Organizations and Creating and Implementing Your Strategic Plan (with Farnum K. Alston), both from Jossey-Bass.

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Read an Excerpt

Leadership for the Common Good

By Barbara C. Crosby

John Wiley & Sons

ISBN: 0-7879-6753-X

Chapter One

When No One Is in Charge The Meaning of Shared Power

If there is no struggle, there is no progress.... Power concedes nothing without a struggle. It never did and it never will. Frederick Douglass

We live in an era in the history of nations when there is a greater need than ever for coordinated political action and responsibility. Gro Harlem Brundtland

Anyone who tries to tackle a public problem or need sooner or later comes face to face with the dynamics of a shared-power world. Consider the public health officer or physician picking up the signs of a new disease affecting gay men. Or perhaps you're an elected official concerned about all the unemployed men congregating on the streets of your district. Perhaps you're a successful businessperson who realizes the environmental destruction caused by industry will ultimately lead to disaster. Perhaps you're a university teacher or administrator who believes the university isn't prepared to serve the growing numbers of retirees who could have many years of productive life ahead of them.

Or you may have no professional role related to these issues; you may be the sister of a man dying of AIDS, you may have lost your job, you may be the homeowner who finds out your water supply has been contaminated by a nearby factory, or you may be someone wondering how to have a satisfying life after sixty in anageist world.

When any of these people, whether professionals or concerned citizens, try to do something about these public problems, they may soon have the feeling of being stuck in a quagmire. They clearly cannot wave a magic wand and make everything better. Today, anyone who's involved in the fight against AIDS realizes that a host of groups and organizations need to be part of any new initiative to reduce the incidence of the disease or deal with its effects. Anyone who digs deeply into the causes of local unemployment soon finds that causes of the problem (and therefore the solutions) are tied to governmental systems, specific employers, economic institutions, schools, individual experiences and aspirations, and voluntary organizations. Anyone who tries to attack environmental destruction, reform a university, or help a society become more humane likewise soon realizes that many individuals, groups, and organizations have contributed to or are affected by the problem or need at hand, and somehow these individuals, groups, and organizations, as well as many others, will have to be part of any significant beneficial change.

This chapter elaborates our understanding of this complex, no-one-in-charge, shared-power world. To begin, we describe two contrasting types of organizational structure, planning, and decision making: what might be called an "in-charge model, and the shared-power model. Then we explain more fully our view of public problems and shared power. We explore the causes and consequences of today's shared-power world and highlight some leadership opportunities and responsibilities in this world. Along the way, we introduce some people who have been engaged in leadership for the common good as they wrestle with public problems such as AIDS and environmental destruction. You will also have a chance to think about a public problem that is important to you and begin analyzing it in light of a shared-power view of its context.

Two Types of Organizations, Planning, and Decision Making

An enduring "ideal" organizational structure is the hierarchical pyramid, or bureaucratic model, which might be called the "in-charge organization." At the apex of such an organization resides an individual (president, CEO, director) or small group (board or top management team) that establishes organizational direction, determines guiding policies, and sends directives downward to a group of middle managers, who in turn translate policies and orders into more specific orders that are passed down to the large number of lower-level workers. Embedded in this ideal type is the assumption that the organization "contains" a problem area, or need, and engages in highly rational, expert-based planning and decision making to resolve it. The organization efficiently and effectively handles the problem or fulfills the need (Weber, 1947). Peter Marris talks about this form as a means of managing uncertainty and displacing risk downward (Marris, 1996).

Increasingly, however, this organizational structure is proving inadequate, both as a reflection of how organizations really operate and as a model of the forms most suited for today's interconnected, interdependent world. Thus another ideal type, the networked organization, has emerged. In this view, the organization itself is often a network of units, departments, and individuals; moreover, the organization is part of a variety of external networks that are fluid and chaotic. Organizations viewed in this way are part of a "multi-organizational field," or "multiactor network," of overlapping domains and conflicting authorities (Feldman and Khademian, 2000; Klandermans, 1992). Anyone who wants to influence an organization's behavior has to understand and design these internal or external networks. See Figure 1.1 for representations of an in-charge organization and of two types of networked organization.

Let's consider the example of U.S. physicians who detected unusually virulent forms of skin cancer and pneumonia among gay patients in their clinics and hospitals in the early 1980s-notably Linda Laubenstein in New York City; Marcus Conant, a dermatologist affiliated with the University of California at San Francisco; and Michael Gottlieb, an immunologist and assistant professor at the University of California at Los Angeles. The physicians soon realized as they talked with local colleagues that other physicians were encountering similar patients, who were dying because no treatments worked. Already Laubenstein, Conant, and Gottlieb were operating within a professional network. They spread their net further, however, as they sought to learn more and alert others to their observations-turning to local public health officials, the national government's Centers for Disease Control, and medical journals. Now the relevant network extended to doctors' offices, clinics, university departments, journals, and public health departments. The network expansion continued, as these and other doctors worked with gay rights activists to help raise money for research into the cause of what appeared to be a new, lethal, sexually transmitted disease. New gay-led organizations emerged to support the people suffering from the new disease and promote needed research and education. The gay press began covering what their writers called the "gay plague."

The network grew even more as evidence emerged that the disease was affecting drug addicts and Haitian New Yorkers, and that it was being transmitted to hemophiliacs through the blood products they received. Now hemophiliac organizations and the blood bank industry were involved. Before long, the physicians became part of local-to-national networks, what Robert Quinn (2000) would call an adhocracy, of clinicians, infectious disease researchers, local elected officials, and gay activists who were putting pressure on members of Congress, top officials in the Reagan administration, and even the president himself to channel resources toward the effort to identify the disease and control its spread.

The organizational structure that best fit the developing AIDS crisis is illustrated in Figure 1.2, in which the problem is represented by the amorphous large blob. Within the blob are many individuals, groups, and organizations, represented by the dots, circles, and triangles-in other words, the stakeholders in the problem. (Of course, in the case of the AIDS crisis, the actual picture would be immensely more complicated since a tremendous number of people, groups, and organizations were involved.) The solid and dotted lines between some of the stakeholders represent respectively the formal and informal connections, or networks, among groups and organizations. As time went on, newly created or newly involved groups and organizations would be added to the picture.

Note that the problem spills far beyond the boundary of even the existing networks. No single person, group, or individual is "in charge" of the problem, yet many organizations are affected or have partial responsibility to act. In effect, they have a share of the power that is required for remedying the problem. Of course, this is not to say that all organizations have equal power (they don't) or that power is shared equally (it isn't). The organizations come in various sizes and structures, from large hierarchies to loose networks. In such a shared-power situation, part of the battle is just gaining rough agreement on what the problems are. Indeed, some of the organizations may have radically conflicting aims. The physicians trying to marshal resources to combat AIDS would have encountered some groups and organizations, such as conservative "family values" groups, that they might have wished were not involved. To the conservative groups, the real problem was gay lifestyles. In another example, public health officials who realized that practices at bathhouses frequented by gay men were a major contributor to the rapid spread of the disease faced intense resistance from bathhouse owners against any restrictions on the operation of their businesses.

In addition to coping with supportive, neutral, or hostile organizations, change advocates encounter existing networks that may be supportive, neutral, or resistant to their proposed changes. The AIDS crisis developed in the midst of a formidable set of networks, including those of officials in the Reagan administration, scientific and public health associations, groups of bathhouse owners, the gay press, and the blood bank industry. Some of the networks were political alliances, such as those between gay activists and politicians in San Francisco or among some U.S. senators and the right-wing Moral Majority.

To coordinate action and make headway on resolving a complex public problem, the organizations involved need to be aware of the whole problem system and recognize that it has to undergo significant change. The change advocates have to engage in political, issue-oriented, and therefore messy planning and decision making, in which shared goals and mission are being developed as the process moves along. New networks must be created, old ones coopted or neutralized. These networks range from the highly informal, in which the main activity is information sharing, to more organized shared-power arrangements (which are described more fully in the next section).

Further (as with the AIDS crisis, which has now reached global proportions), no matter what is done the problem is not likely to be "solved" so much as "re-solved" (Wildavsky, 1979), "dissolved" (Ackoff, 1981; Alexander, 1982), "redefined" (Mitroff and Featheringham, 1984), "continued" (Nadler and Hobino, 1998), or "finished" (Eden, 1987). Many people have power to thwart action in such a world, but few have the will, faith, hope, and courage to say yes to new initiatives. The result is that even powerful people can feel frustrated and impotent.

In a no-one-in-charge world, planning and decision making are often very different from the "rational planning approach associated with bureaucratic hierarchy (Simon, 1947). The rational planning model, presented in Figure 1.3, begins with well-informed experts' setting goals (for example, eliminating AIDS by the year 2000, or cutting industrial air pollution by 10 percent). Policies, programs, and actions are then developed to achieve the goals. The assumption is that once the actions are taken, programs and policies will be implemented, the goals will be achieved, and the problem solved. The model makes sense, but it works well only when there is consensus on the goals, policies, programs, and actions needed to solve a problem. Moreover, it presumes agreement on how a problem should be defined, as well as what causes it.

The consensus and agreement implicit in the rational planning model are very hard to come by in a no-one-in-charge, shared-power world. The dynamics of this world accord more closely with the political decision-making model articulated by Charles Lindblom in a series of classic articles and books (Lindblom, 1959, 1965, 1977; Braybrooke and Lindblom, 1963). This model (Figure 1.4) begins with issues, which almost by definition involve conflict, not consensus. The conflict may be over ends, means, timing, location, political advantage, or philosophy-and it may be severe. If the effort to resolve the issue produces policies and programs, they will be politically rational; that is, they are acceptable to a dominant group of stakeholders (Stone, 2002; Flyvbjerg, 1998). Over time, more general policies may be formulated to capture, shape, or interpret the policies and programs initially developed to deal with the issues. These various policies and programs are, in effect, treaties among the various stakeholders, and although they may not record a true consensus at least they represent a reasonable level of agreement (Sabatier and Jenkins-Smith, 1993).

To illustrate the political decision-making model and its difference from the rational planning model, let's consider the experience of Mark Stenglein, a county commissioner for the Minnesota county containing Minneapolis; and Gary Cunningham, the county's planning director, as they wrestled with the issue of unemployment among young African American men in the county.

Stenglein's Hennepin County district includes the northwestern part of the city, one afflicted by concentrated unemployment and poverty. In recent years, the area also has become home for many African American residents of Minneapolis. As he drove through the area in 1999, Stenglein wondered about all the African American men he saw standing on street corners in the middle of the day. At the time the state's economy was doing very well, and he questioned why these men weren't working. He approached Gary Cunningham and asked him for an explanation.

One might have predicted a confrontation between the two men-a conservative Euro-American raising questions about the behavior of African American men with a public servant who himself was African American and had a long history of working on behalf of that community. Cunningham did remark that he had recently been in an area of Minnesota hard hit by shutdowns in the mining industry and had seen lots of white guys standing around on the streets there.

Nevertheless, Cunningham saw a chance for fact finding and proposed a formal inquiry. He already knew that although many African American men in Hennepin County were doing very well in terms of employment, financial success, and leadership roles, a substantial number were in trouble. He already knew many of the statistics:

Each year 44 percent of the county's African American men between eighteen and thirty were arrested, mainly for minor offenses.

Only 28 percent of male African Americans in the Minneapolis public schools were graduating on time.

The death rate among young African American men was twice that of their white counterparts.

Moreover, a host of goals, objectives, policies, and programs had been established for these men over the years. Schools had set graduation targets, public health agencies had programs aimed at improving health care for African Americans, the court system had specific objectives for processing cases, and so on. Already, an array of government and nonprofit organizations were involved, as well as some businesses participating in hiring and retention programs. Yet none had made a real dent in the group's high unemployment, low education level, and terrible health conditions. Moreover, given the conflictual history of U.S. race relations, almost any proposed solution to problems affecting African American men was likely to invoke old and acrimonious debate over civil rights, the legacy of slavery, racism, affirmative action, welfare policy, and personal morality.


Excerpted from Leadership for the Common Good by Barbara C. Crosby Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

1 When no one is in charge : the meaning of shared power 3
2 Leadership tasks in a shared-power world : leadership in context, and personal leadership 34
3 Leadership tasks in a shared-power world : team and organizational leadership 64
4 Leadership tasks in a shared-power world : visionary, political, and ethical leadership 108
5 Policy entrepreneurship and the common good 156
6 Forging an initial agreement to act 197
7 Developing an effective problem definition to guide action 216
8 Searching for solutions in forums 242
9 Developing a proposal that can win in arenas 267
10 Adopting policy proposals 290
11 Implementing and evaluating new policies, programs, and plans 312
12 Reassessing policies and programs 340
Resource A Conflict management 393
Resource B A guide to oval mapping 395
Resource C Seven zones 399
Resource D Forums, arenas, and courts 401
Resource E Future search 427
Resource F Initial policy retreats 433
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