Leadership Trends: Consultative leadership emphasizes interactive inquiry

Published in the Phoenix Business Journal on June 29, 2021

“Millions saw the apple fall, but Newton was the one who asked why.” Bernard Baruch, an American financier, statesman

No leadership style is unchanging. During the past 100 years we have moved from Theory X Leadership (dictatorial), Theory Y (loose reins), Theory Z (X or Y as needed), Transformational (building employees and teams), Situational (use the best style needed for a given circumstance), to Customer-Focused Leadership (everything for customers).

More recently Servant Leadership is a style that places employees first such that happy employees build happy customers. Southwest Airlines has practiced Servant Leadership successfully in all the 50 years of their amazing business.

What’s next?

Consultative Leadership is in the spotlight as a newer model for leadership success, and it has some notable characteristics:

Inquiry is the primary means of establishing, maintaining, and changing direction throughout the organization. Appreciative inquiry upholds respect and dignity for all in the process. Everyone feels like they matter when they are asked for their inputs. Everyone learns that it is far more admirable to ask for help instead of “going it alone.”

The leader supports everyone in the organization to reach out appropriately for inputs about problem solutions, new ideas, organizational changes, risk, and more. The synthesis of ideas gained builds people, teams, and the organization. All people can have a voice and get feedback in the process. Employee, manager, leader relationships are strengthened.

Consultative inquiry can be accomplished in-person, online surveys, video, telephone, or a mix of these methods. Final decisions are still made by the respective managers and leaders. Leaders and managers are less a “tell-do coach” and more a “business mentor” in fostering the consultative leadership model. 

Example – Northern Arizona University

Recently, NAU hired a new President, Dr. Luis Cruz Rivera, who was President of Lehman College of The City University of New York and Executive Vice Chancellor and University Provost of the 25-campus system. Even before taking his office in Flagstaff, he began a series of consultative sessions, both remotely, and in person at the NAU campus, He has been taking in significant input from a wide collection of NAU leaders, managers, employees, students, community members, and others. Dr. Cruz Rivera has established the groundwork for the strategic vision direction of this great University

Click here to read this article on the Phoenix Business Journal site.