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Rechter Fellows

Thanks to the generosity of the Sam and Bonnie Rechter Family Trust, the Project on Positive Leadership has provided five Fellowships for conducting research or developing tools for teaching positive leadership in 2020. Another five will be awarded in 2021.

2021 Projects and Descriptions

Katherine (Kat) K. Bae, PhD candidate, Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan

Although the benefits of positive leadership (i.e., leadership that embraces ethical excellence and inspires followers to also exhibit such virtues) on followers are well-documented, some scholars have suggested that engaging in what are widely considered to be “good” leader behaviors is depleting to leaders themselves. In contrast to this depletion-based perspective of leader energy, my research aims to illuminate an enrichment-based perspective of leader energy, in which I propose that positive leadership can be inherently energizing and beneficial for the leader him/herself. I begin this line of investigation with a focus on one key responsibility of effective leaders: motivating followers. In short, the present research project takes a leader-centric approach to explore the question: When and why do positive leadership behaviors increase leaders’ own subsequent energy and motivation?

Isabel C. Botero, PhD, Director of the Family Business Center and associate professor of entrepreneurship at the University of Louisville.

Jocelyn Deamer, Program Coordinator, University of Louisville Family Business Center

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Sarah Snyder, MBA Intern, University of Louisville’s Family Business Center

Family businesses are organizations in which a family or a group of families have ownership and can make decisions about the strategic direction of the firm. They are an important source of economic growth around the world, and represent between 70% and 90% of all of the businesses around the world. However, we have a limited understanding about ethical behavior of family firms. A recent review of the literature in family business ethics suggests that this work has focused on three general areas: (1) understanding whether there are differences in the ethical behavior between family and non-family firms, (2) explaining why ethical behavior in family firms is different, and (3) understanding how ethics is introduced and developed in a family business. Positive leadership is an important form of ethical behavior that captures distinct and relevant virtues and that affects follower’s behaviors. Thus, in this study we want to explore family businesses as sources of positive leadership in our community. In particular, we want to explore how family businesses in our community engage in positive leadership and inspire family and non-family employees to become better and help our community. We will do this by surveying UofL Family Business Center members and other family businesses in the Kentuckiana region. This project will include at least two outcomes. First, we hope to better understand the role that our family business members have in the well-being of our community. This is important because it can give us a benchmark to share with governmental agencies and can help promote the importance of family businesses as community members. As part of this outcome, we are submitting a paper for publication. Second, we hope to develop a lunch and learn program to help family members learn from each other and find new ways of helping each other and our community thrive.

Lauren Locklear, PhD candidate, University of Central Florida

One’s immediate supervisor is an important source of feedback and recognition. Although employees expect and desire high levels of appreciation from supervisors—behaviors that signal recognition and value of another person—they report feeling less appreciated at work than in any other domain of life (cf. Kaplan, 2012; Luthans, 2000). At the same time, supervisors report that they thank their subordinates very frequently. Given this disconnect, the purpose of this study is to examine the relationship between supervisors’ expressed appreciation and subordinates’ felt appreciation. Specifically, I first investigate antecedents and outcomes of appreciation (dis)agreement in the supervisor-subordinate relationship. To do so, I examine the influence of supervisor and subordinate role expectations for appreciation on expressed and felt appreciation in dyads, as well as examine the influence of appreciation (dis)agreement on relational outcomes. After establishing the construct of appreciation agreement, in a second study I suggest that the disconnect in supervisors’ and subordinates’ perceptions of appreciation might be due to the illusion of transparency—the tendency for people to overestimate the extent to which others can discern their internal states, understand their expressions, and comprehend their communications (Gilovich et al., 1998)—and suggest a feedback intervention to reduce or eliminate this bias (cf. Fischoff, 1982; Whiteside & Barclay, 2018).

Dejun “Tony” Kong, PhD, associate professor in management, University of South Florida Muma College of Business

In order to cultivate trust-centered ethical leadership in students and practitioners and help them better exhibit excellence in ethical leadership, we need an assessment tool, helping them better understand their strengths and weaknesses and customizing training/development plans. Therefore, in this project, I seek to develop and/or validate measures assessing self-awareness, social mindfulness, and a virtuous mindset in relation to ethical leadership (i.e., evidence-based approach to leadership teaching/training). First, I plan to develop a new scale of self-awareness and validate it in relation to the existing self-awareness scales and ethical leadership scales. Second, I will assess a measure of social mindfulness in predicting ethical leadership. Third, I will develop a new self-rating scale of a virtuous mindset. The foundation for this project is interdisciplinary—including social psychology, organizational psychology, management, and ethics.

Brad Shuck, EdD, associate professor and Program Director in the Human Resource and Organizational Development Program, University of Louisville

Dr. Rajashi Ghosh, associate professor of Human Resource Development (HRD) and Department Chair of Policy, Organization, and Leadership (POL), School of Education, Drexel University

The purpose of this project is to research and develop the Compassionate Coaching Leader Index (CCLI). Using an exploratory interpretivist lens, our team will interview leaders identified as compassionate in varied organizations (for-profit and nonprofit) who also have experience in highly stressful situations. Our interviews will be used as the basis for developing the CCLI, which will be further refined through field work in later stages of our project. The CCLI will be a leader facing index drawn from the recent work of Shuck et al. (2019), who examined the phenomenon of compassionate leadership and their tool, the Compassionate Leader Behavior Index (CLBI; e.g., integrity, accountability, empathy, authenticity, presence, and dignity). An index assessing leaders’ enactment of coaching with compassion can help to understand how effective leaders avoid compassion fatigue that may result from empathizing excessively and overcommitting in their role. There remains a growing need for compassionate leaders in all sectors to help organizations and employees cope with the pandemic and address the call for heightened awareness of social justice and equity, while simultaneously avoiding states of fatigue. Given the historical background of this time and space, an understanding of how leaders can enact compassion and sustain that compassion instead of becoming vulnerable to vicarious traumatization through fatigue is strongly warranted. This new tool could lead to insights about how leader development programs could be framed around the lens of positive leadership through compassion.

2020 Projects and Descriptions

Structured Ethical Reflection for Business Applications

Mary Brydon-Miller, PhD, professor, Educational Leadership, Evaluation, and Organizational Development, University of Louisville

Mark M. Leach, PhD Department Chair and professor, Counseling and Human Development

Ethical business leadership in the 21st century must include a commitment to addressing the issues of climate change and the environmental impact of our actions.  While individual behavioral change is important, the kind of substantive action that is required if we are to halt the advance of climate change and find ways to mitigate the impending impacts climate change will bring depends in large part on the responses of larger public entities.  But creating a culture within which sustainability is considered a core component of business practice requires a shift in thinking that places concern for the environment at the center of organizational decision making.  Decision-making is often considered a linear, rational process, though an increasing amount of research literature indicates that the decision-making process is influenced heavily by emotional, contextual, and non-rational factors. The Structured Ethical Reflection (SER) process provides an opportunity for business leaders and their teams to identify core values and how they are put into practice. While we believe this process is applicable across all areas of business, we plan to focus our initial work on this application of the SER process for Chief Sustainability Officers and other organizational leaders with a remit to address environmental issues within businesses, and in particular on local business and industry leaders in the Greater Louisville area.

Identifying, Testing, and Developing Ethical Leadership Characteristics

Dr. Brian Barnes, senior lecturer, philosophy and Ecoreps Director, University of Louisville

My goal is to develop leadership tools from and directly integrated with the fundamental structures of Richard Paul’s critical thinking tools, particularly The Intellectual Traits. I will create a framework for profiling business and education leaders through the use of readily-accessible and high-quality critical thinking tools, all of which can provide immediate insight into human thinking processes and strategies for improvement. My research will show that there is a close relationship between Intellectual Traits and many characteristics of modern leaders, all of which can be usefully discussed through the lens of critical thinking.

Ethical Leadership Assessment Tool

Dr. Nina Esaki, assistant professor, Graduate Social Work, Springfield College

The research study I will be conducting entitled “Inspiring Ethical Leadership,” will use participatory action research to develop a practical Ethical Leadership assessment tool for the human services field to inform impact investing, identify areas for leadership improvement, and to maximize the well-being of both staff and clients. Ethical leadership is for the benefit of those who interact directly with leaders, including followers – such as staff and clients, and is key to the long-term “thrival” of humanity across the globe.

Leadership Coaching

Robert S. Wainner, PT, PhD, Chief of Talent Development, Confluent Health

Leveraging professional group coaching to help high-level leaders clear out mental clutter, connect their head with their heart so they can get “unstuck,” execute and realize a competitive advantage in both work and life.

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