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The current conceptualization of holistic leadership serves as the theoretical underpinning for the above-referenced model. The model can then be used to assess organizational climate as well as individual readiness to adopt the kind of practices that produce learning organizations and empowered participants. More importantly, the theory and corresponding model offer concrete strategies for producing the aforementioned results — something that continues to be needed by leadership practitioners.

Daft, R. L. (2008). The leadership experience (4th ed.). Mason, OH: Thomson/South-Western.

In this respect, the supervisory and managerial leadership units serve critical functions. The supervisory level underscores that all leadership relationships in a holistic leadership framework have a supervisory component that will either undermine or reinforce the salience of holistic leadership principles by virtue of the extent to which supportive psychological climates are established and maintained. The managerial level of function serves as the conduit through which individual psychological climates become organizational climates.


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2 For more information on the Holistic Leadership Competency Model, contact the author.


The dictates of holistic leadership apply to any and all leadership units individually and collectively with the understanding that all leadership units are ultimately a collection of "I" units. Therefore, all levels of functional performance as the phrase resides within the complete definition of holistic leadership theory, refer first to the individual capacity to perform as a member in different leadership units. Thereafter, as those leadership units self-organize or are organized externally, holistic leadership theory dictates how Weam (and some team) level leadership units function when formally structured.


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The multidirectional and interdependent nature of holistic leadership suggests that it is unilaterally applicable across a range of settings and contexts. To be practical, however, this premise requires a unifying construct that is described here as the leadership unit. The leadership unit, for purposes of this theory, is deemed to exist in one of four forms that often operate simultaneously. They are:

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Holistic leadership does not conflict with existing hierarchical structures. Rather, it recognizes that collaborative development within a Weam context (i.e., an organizational setting) is best supported within a stable structure so that development at the I-unit level can occur in place. In addition, every type of leadership unit within a Weam context must be able to associate the responsibilities of its assigned function(s) with the broader mission if the mission, vision and values are to be internalized for consistent practice by constituent members. A clearly identifiable structure supports this requirement.

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The definition of holistic leadership theory presented here infers the demonstration of a commensurate level of leadership on the part of all participants in the leadership process. Consequently, functional performance emerges as a primary concern that must be further segmented into two categories - functional leveland level of function.

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Individually-focused developmental activities also build the functional capacity of the organization by extending the range of talent and expertise available internally. This is an indispensible requirement of any participatory approach that seeks to respond to the inherent vulnerabilities highlighted by situational theories. For all members to have greater access to participation in the conditions of their engagement with an organization, all members must have access to developmental opportunities that will enable them to participate competently and effectively. It is the principle of participant development as a requisite element of leadership practice that distinguishes holistic leadership theory from its paradigmatic counterparts.