While, for my last “Theories in Action” post, I chose to focus on the leadership theories that applied to the nonprofit leaders I interviewed for my summer project, I now wish to focus on the leadership theory that applies most strongly to my experience interning with the Fieldstone Leadership Network. I find myself constantly circling back to this idea when thinking about the internal and external operations of the network. That idea is the theory of transformational leadership, first conceptualized by James MacGregor Burns. Not only do I think my colleagues and supervisor subscribe to this theory of leadership, but I also think my interviewees see Fieldstone as an example of applied transformational theory. By breaking down Burns’ definition of transformational leadership, I intend to give examples of how the Fieldstone Leadership Network exemplifies and promotes this type of leadership.
To Burns, a transformational leader aims to achieve significant, positive social change. From my experience working with the network, it is clear that my supervisor Janine Mason embodies what it means to be a change agent. Janine creates this positive change by enriching the capabilities of other nonprofit leaders in San Diego. Programs such as weekly learning groups are a great measure of this positive social impact. Furthermore, as founder and director of the network, Janine strives to inspire collaboration among leaders in order to achieve mutually held goals in the nonprofit sector (which also fits Burns’ definition of a transformational leader).
In addition, Burns’ definition of a transformational leader emphasizes the fact that leadership is a reciprocal process between leaders and followers. This aspect of transformational theory is where I see the most overlap with both the message and the internal leadership of the Fieldstone Leadership Network. My supervisor always stresses the importance of reciprocity when describing the work of the network. Members of the network receive valuable and lasting leadership skills, and on the flip-side, they give back to the network by helping other nonprofit leaders who may be struggling. This concept of reciprocity appeared numerous times in the interviews I conducted for the network. When asked about how the network has touched or impacted their leadership during the pandemic, many interviewees mentioned how being a part of the network allowed them to connect with and aid other nonprofits that they may not normally interact with. For these reasons, I believe that transformational leadership is essential to the effectiveness of the Fieldstone Leadership Network.