Applications of Messick

Messick’s leadership theory about the legitimacy rings true in this congressional office. Messick’s theory is a culmination of five different facets of leadership which play into the perceived legitimacy of leaders. The first portion of his theory relates to what a leader provides their followers. First up is vision and direction; this refers to the ability for a leader to form a cohesive, coherent story of where we are as a team and where we hope to be. Our Congressman and district director have made it clear that our focus must remain on the constituents and their needs. Further, the leaders of our office made it abundantly clear that our work must remain separate and independent from campaigning; that our focus must be on helping those in need. Next, Messick posits that leaders must provide protection and security in order for their continued success. Our district director creates an environment that is safe for interns to go out on a limb and increase our political knowledge. We are consistently challenged in our casework assignments as well as in our policy focused assignments in a climate dedicated to learning. Messick’s third criterion for legitimate leadership is the ability to make followers feel that they can accomplish things that wouldn’t be possible without the leader’s presence. I’ve written about a few personal contributions this summer and I honestly believe that my staff supervisor and district director set me up for success in a way that wouldn’t be possible without their presence. For example, the Veterans issues case that I described in my last post was an experience I couldn’t imagine handling if it were not for the presence and example shown by my supervisor. The fourth criterion that Messick lays out is the ability for a leader to cultivate an environment of inclusion and belonging. From day one in this office, I immediately felt a part of the team through my interactions with my district director. She made it clear from the beginning that she and the staff were excited to get to know me and to create a space where I could contribute and learn a lot. Finally, in Messick’s theory of legitimate leadership, leaders provide their followers with the ability to feel pride and self-respect. As aforementioned, I knew from my first day in the office that my supervisors cared about me as a person and cultivated my potential.

One thought on “Applications of Messick

  • July 11, 2019 at 11:04 am

    You’ve done a good job here elaborating on each of the elements that the leader provides the follower in Messick’s theory and have provided examples to illustrate how the leaders in your organization have embodied/employed these elements. For the paper this fall, you’ll need to pick a theory and do a deep dive and should you pick Messick’s, this is a good first step in setting you up for this paper.

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