Monday, May 23, 2011

Moral Leadership Chapter 5 Creating a State of Flow at Work

  • We humans are driven not only by self-interest but also by our emotions, values, and beliefs, and by the social bonds that emerge from our identification with and membership in various groups.
  • It has also been argued that the failure of leadership can be linked directly to our obsession with self-interest and to our resulting neglect of emotion and social bonds.
  • By focusing on performing for someone else's approval, corporations create the very conditions that predestine them to mediocre performance.
  • School leaders have a moral obligation to do whatever they can to arrange the context of work in a fashion that allows teachers and students to be meaningfully involved.
What is Rewarding Gets Done
  • Two fairly independent sets of job factors that seemed to be important to workers
    • One set of factors affects whether people are dissatisfied with their jobs
      • If administrators take care of these factors, so that they are no longer sources of dissatisfaction, workers' performance will improve to the level of "a fair day's work for a fair day's pay."
    • The second set of factors, called motivators, seem not to cause dissatisfaction or poor performance if neglected or even absent
      • The motivators, however, seem to motivate people to go beyond the "fair day's work for a fair day's pay" minimum contract
  • Three psychological states believed to be critical in determining whether a person will be motivated at work:
    • Experienced meaningfulness: "The extent to which a person perceives work as being worthwhile or important, given her or his system of values."
    • Experienced responsibility: "The extent to which a person believes that she or he is personally responsible or accountable for the outcomes of efforts."
    • Knowledge of results: "The extent to which a person is able to determine on a regular basis whether or not the outcomes of her or his efforts are satisfactory."
    • (Hackman, Oldham, Johnson, and Purdy, 1975, p.57)
  • When the three psychological states are present, people are likely to feel good, perform well, and continue to perform well, in the effort to experience more of these feelings in the future.
Experiencing Flow at Work
  • The key to intrinsic motivation is an optimal experience that he calls flow, "the state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience itself is so enjoyable that people will do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it"
  • To experience flow, one must be convinced that one's skills and insights are strong enough to cope with the challenges at hand. The matching of skills to challenges is critical, for this is a condition of growth.
  • Few teachers following a script are challenged to work anywhere near their abilities.
  • If we want to harness the power of the work itself as a substitute for leadership, then teaching jobs will have to be redesigned, and systems of support will have to be developed in a way that helps teachers work in conditions of job enrichment.

When we work for someone else's approval, we destine ourselves to mediocrity. To raise the performance, the conditions must exist where people in the organization do the work for intrinsic reasons, professionalism and moral obligation. This can be developed by addressing two factors: making sure the environment is positive and motivators that encourage growth. Leaders have an obligation to encourage this meaningful involvement in the environment by creating meaningfulness, encouraging responsibility, and communicating out the results of the efforts. This creates a state of flow, where people work for the love of the job.

I feel the concept of Flow in this example can be synonymous with confidence, as described by Rosabeth Moss Kanter. She describes confidence as the state of the organization when leadership is shared amongst the organization. She describes confidence as the development of three traits: promoting responsibility, cultivating collaboration and encouraging initiative. These traits create successes, which when strung together build to a state of confidence. Flow is similar to this concept, in that motivation and meaningful involvement encourages the organization to work as a team, stringing wins together so that the people in the organization do the right things because the culture says the right things must be done, breeding a confidence in one another and the organization.

Works Cited

Sergiovanni, T. (1992). Moral Leadership. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.


  1. Nice work!!! Moral leadership is about taking a gander at yourself in the mirror and having the capacity to let yourself know that you have made the best decision. Thanks for sharing with us.

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