Formal Training for the Informal Leader

Gabel, S. (2014). Expanding the scope of leadership training in medicine. Academic medicine89, 848-852.


Stewart Gabel (2014) in Expanding the Scope of Leadership Training in Medicine defines leadership in both formal and informal terms. Formal leadership is defined by a specific position, role, or title that one holds such as director, executive, president, or chair, while informal leadership is based on ones ability to affect change and attitudes in a non-title given role. For example, an informal leader would be a coordinator in higher education who does not have very many leadership responsibilities because of their title, but implements change through their personality and other interactions with both internal and external populations.

Qualities and characteristics found in formal leaders are a mastering of technical, financial, or regulatory formalities, positional based power, expert knowledge or education, and social and material awards and rewards (Gabel, 2014). While characteristics typically found in an informal leader are, powers derived from personality, relates to many co workers, have clinical competence, often times does not have formal leadership role (Gabel, 2014).

Gabel (2014) makes it known that not all informal leaders aspire to become a formal leaders. Often times an informal leader does not want the responsibility of making tough choices where they are the sole reciprocator of the outcomes, positive or negative. Extra responsibility may result in more working hours causing a change in lifestyles and may place greater time restrains on one’s personal life.

In the vast majority of organizations, informal leadership is the most common type of leader. It is for this reason that Gabel (2014) makes a point that there should be formal training for individuals in this type of role. The author emphasises the importance of transformational leadership training for informal leaders.

Transformational leadership focuses on idealized influence, inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation, and individualized consideration (Gabel, 2014). With basic training in these areas, an individual often times has higher ethical standards, strong communication skills, and are often able to inspire others to hold similar values (Gabel, 2014). It is important for informal leaders to have these skills as they are often times the greatest contact for other employees and outside populations. Even if at the moment, an informal leader does not want to take on a formal leadership roles early in their career, having the skills and competencies provided by transformational training, could help the informal leader later on in their career if they choose take on a formal leadership role.


The organization of the article was sequential having a very clear beginning, middle and end. It beginning with the descriptions of both formal and informal leaders and the roles they play within an organizations. Gabel (2014) almost immediately lays out his argument for formalized training for informal leaders and then builds his theoretical argument throughout the work. After stating basic definitions and his argument, Gabel (2014) breaks down qualities commonly found in both types of leaders, the different type of leadership and power, types of leadership styles, how to train informal individuals and then finished with his concluding remarks.

Although the piece is helpful with distinguishing between types of leaders found in a work environment, it contains little more than broad ideas. The paper lacks empirical data, direct examples, and does not provide a clear way of implementing formalized training programs. The work seems to lack rigor and substance to support its claims. The author also frequently relies on statements such as “informal leaders potentially are able…to motivate others” (Gabel, 2014, p. 850, ) due to their personality, however he never seems to address which traits helps one motivate others.

The ideas presented seem reasonable and logical making it easy to follow and understand. Essentially, the piece lays a foundation on to which to build research and outcomes. This article by Gable (2014) seems to act as a springboard to inspire individuals to begin thinking about their work environments and the roles each individual plays. It also begins to get the reader to think about how one would go about creating a program that would benefit each type of leader. Gable’s (2014) findings simply point out that we are all charged with being leaders at one point in our professional lives and we should know how to handle the leadership role with the assistance of formalized tools when the moment arises.

Personal Use

I would have to agree with the author that there should be a formal training in transitional leadership skills annually for employees. This article inspired me to look at the potential formalized leadership training could have on the College of Medicine – Phoenix (COM-P) staff. When establishing a growth plan for COM-P, I now may look at employee’s thoughts on professional training programs. This article also helped me realize that there are no current formalized training programs at the COM-P campus and no one to my knowledge has any plans of implementing one. This article helps me think about the types of leaders present on the COM-P campus and how to begin to establish and operate a professional program that would benefit employees on campus.

I believe that by possibly establishing a program available to informal leaders on the COM-P campus, that staff would have greater access to resources that could help them succeed in their current role, but possibly provide extra skills and access to other roles they may be interested in. I also believe that by providing a training, staff member may also experience a greater feeling of acceptance and overall happiness in their work environments due to being able to expand one’s skills set.

All in all, I believe that this article was great at sparking a lot of new ideas in regards to leadership and professional development, which are topics that I can look at when collecting data at the COM-P campus. This article also gave me a new branch in types of leadership which I can examine in my study as I begin to further develop my action research project.

A Brain for Business

Rock, D., & Sctiwartz, J. (2007). The Neuroscience of Leadership, 10–17.


Concentrating on three main parts of the brain:  the prefrontal cortex, the basal ganglia, and the amygdala, Rock and Schwartz (2007) explain some of the functioning of the brain and implications for leaders of change.  The prefrontal cortex is where working memory resides and where new information is processed.  The basal ganglia is used in routine activities that we know how to do well without a lot of conscious thought and links simple behaviors from different parts of the brain.  If someone wants to change a routine or process that is already well-known, he has to concentrate on that change until it is embedded in his memory.  This means he has to override what is stored in his basal ganglia, a low-energy part of the brain, by using his prefrontal cortex, a high-energy part of the brain.  This expenditure of energy and effort causes an actual physical sensation of discomfort.

The brain also has the ability to detect “errors” or patterns that are different from what is expected.  The unexpected input causes the brain to give “strong signals that use a lot of energy, showing up in imaging technology as dramatic bursts of light” (Rock & Schwartz, 2007, p. 12).  These bursts of energy alert the amygdala, which is where the primal emotions of fear and anger are located.  They also take energy away from the prefrontal cortex.  So, when something is different from what we expect, we reduce the energy used for logical thought and increase the energy used for fear or anger.

The implications are that change is truly physically painful as high-energy areas of the brain are at work. Change arouses the basic feelings of anger and fear, which can inhibit learning. Focusing on new behaviors is powerful and can actually change the pathways in the brain, especially if the focus is repeated until the change has moved from the prefrontal cortex (working memory) to the basal ganglia (long-term, automatic memory).

Strengths and critiques

This is a well-organized article that takes a dense subject and makes it understandable.  With the projected audience of business leaders, the authors probably assumed that the readers do not know much, if anything, about brain functioning and research.  The practical, clear advice delineated in each section is supported with brief technical explanations of the workings of the brain.  Everyday examples help exemplify the technical points.

This is a unique contribution to the field of business management because few authors combine the fields of management and neuroscience.  The authors,

Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz, M.D. and Dr. David Rock, are unique because they come from different fields, yet their collaboration is essential for applying the findings of brain research to other fields.  Dr. Schwartz is a psychiatrist who has done research on brain functioning, concentrating mostly on brain imaging and obsessive-compulsive disorder, and Dr. Rock is an international business professor who has written articles and speaks widely about the implications of brain research in business.

The main drawback of this article is that the studies that contributed to this body of knowledge are not identified with in-text citations nor with an end-of-paper bibliography.  Schwartz & Rock are respected in their fields and are reliable sources of information.  The researchers for various studies are noted in the text, but direct reference to a particular journal is not included.  Perhaps Schwartz & Rock did this by design so that the article would be more accessible to the general public and to business professionals who are not academics.


I think this article informs some of the work of Dr. Michelle Jordan.  In our class discussion with Dr. Jordan (2014), she pointed out that uncertainty can be productive and is essential for learning.  However, in a study of uncertainty in a robotics task in fifth grade collaborative groups, one student, Roy, had difficulties with interpersonal skills as part of his group seemed to ignore or chasten him.  Jordan and McDaniel (2010) comment, “So salient was Roy’s need to resolve his relational uncertainty that he seemed unable to attend to the robotics task” (p. 24).  Roy’s brain was reacting to an “error” where what was happening in his group (they were ignoring him) and what he expected were different.  His brain is now using a large amount of energy to relay error messages and to activate the amygdala, the home of primal fear and anger.  This use of energy reduces the ability of the prefrontal cortex to process the higher-order thinking necessary to attend to the engineering problem.

Further study

This article focuses on the implications for business management and change.  However, the field of education can also benefit from this type of study.  It was a good place to see how neuroscience can inform practices in another field.  Many of the ideas are directly applicable to an educational setting.

Also, I would like to go back and delve in to some of the actual scientific studies mentioned.  The field of neuroscience is still new.  Much of the research is recent and more implications may be found as the research advances.


Jordan, M. E., & Mcdaniel, R. R. (2010). Managing Uncertainty During Collaborative Problem Solving in Elementary School Teams : The Role of Peer Influence in Robotics Engineering Activity, 00(2002).

Rock, D., & Sctiwartz, J. (2007). The Neuroscience of Leadership, 10–17.

Leadership and Uncertainty

I read the article by Jordan and McDaniel (in press) in terms of not just how elementary school students can deal with uncertainty, but also how adults also manage uncertainty. While their article focused on elementary students, I kept wondering if that type of uncertainty and learning through peer interactions occurs in adult learning communities as well. As an individual moves into a new community of practice, he/she will experience uncertainty (Wenger, 2000).  I thought about the fellow classmates of the elementary students as fellow peers in a learning community and drew a correlation that perhaps joining a new community begins with uncertainty and that a leader has a responsibility to understand that uncertainty.

Communities of practice help people thrive and manage uncertainty.  Those that have established the norms and culture for a group set the stage for how someone can be successful within that group. Collaboration is a strategy which can enables learning about a culture. An individual learns who is in charge, how decisions are made, and what outcomes are expected (Wenger, 2000). These peer interactions are very influential, as discovered by Jordan and McDaniel (in press) in their study of elementary students. Learning can occur as a result of this lack of balance of power.

Social supportiveness was closely evaluated in the study by Jordan and McDaniel (in press). The social supportiveness helped the students deal with uncertainty while completing the project task. A factor that influenced whether a peer responded in a socially supportive manner was prior experience with the individual expressing uncertainty. The social support varied based upon whether a student wants something from a fellow student who was expressing uncertainty. If not, the uncertainty was dismissed. If so, the need was addressed. The socially supportive responses were more likely to occur when one’s peers were also uncertain or believed the uncertainty was appropriate to the situation at hand.

In terms of leadership, the authors found that framing the uncertainty helped the students move through the uncertainty. Awareness about the community of practice can then help a leader understand how to introduce someone into the community. The other readings this week, though, highlighted the lack of awareness that people outside of marginalized groups may experience as a result of trying to exist within a white community.

I believe a leader should ensure all members of the community are thriving, engaging, collaborating, supporting, etc. What do you do, though, if you don’t have the opportunity to relate to people within the community or even understand that social support is being offered? Is leadership then a function of realizing whose knowledge you are including or not including? And, is leadership ensuring the social support needed for community members to engage and succeed? These were some questions that came to mind as I reviewed the articles this week. As we begin to learn about the communities we plan to study, perhaps action research, as outlined by Bautista and Morrell (2013) can suggest a model by which leaders can learn more about the communities they lead and determine methods to provide the social supportiveness which can enable learning and success by the community members.


Bautista, M., Bertrand, M., Morrell, E., Scorza, D. & Matthews, C. (2013). Participatory Action Research and City Youth: Methodological Insights From the Council of Youth Research. Teachers College Record, 115(100303), 1­23.

Jordan, M. E. & McDaniel, R. (in press). Managing uncertainty during collaborative problem solving in elementary school teams: The role of peer influence in robotics engineering activity. Journal of the Learning Sciences. doi: 10.1080/10508406.2014.896254

Wenger, E. (2000). Communities of Practice and Social Learning Systems. Organization, 7(2), 225–246.


Leadership and Innovation

Arizona’s education system is failing our students, with “85% of high-growth, high-wage jobs in Arizona [requiring] some form of higher education and work experience” (Expect More Arizona, 2014) yet “53% of Arizona’s graduates do not qualify to enroll in our state’s public universities (Expect More Arizona, 2014). It is clear that drastic changes need to be made to Arizona’s education system but where do we start? The key to excellent schools is exceptional leadership at every level: administration, teachers, and students. Yesterday, I asked a colleague, who is a leader at a local Title I school district, about the successes and struggles at the schools in his district. As we discussed the nineteen schools, the conversation continuously circled back to a dialogue on strong leadership at all levels. If the success of students depends on leadership, what qualities do academic leaders have to possess?

Due to my passion for Title I Arizona schools, I am going to focus my discussion on the leadership of schools that contain a large population of low-income and minority students. First and foremost we need our educators to re-evaluate how they perceive our students, according to Tara Yosso in her 2008 article, “educators most often assume that schools work and that students, parents, and communities need to change to conform to this already effective and equitable system” (p. 75). Unfortunately, this is not the case and many of our schools are underperforming and lack the leadership required to offer an excellent education to all students. We need to have an approach to education that is culturally relevant and views our students as culturally wealthy learners. In order for a change to be made all educational leaders must possess the following qualities: ability to understand different cultures and the capital they bring to the table, competence to help others achieve success by recognizing individual strengths, capacity to give all people a voice, faculty to help create constructive moments of uncertainty, and ability to create an environment that is positive and culturally relevant to allow all to achieve access, excellence, and success. If these leadership skills begin at the district level, I believe there will be a trickle down effect into school and classroom leadership. Each of the qualities is relevant in the support and growth of a diverse staff and student body.

Outstanding leaders are able to put aside a deficit approach to thinking and begin looking at the cultural capital, which is the “accumulation of cultural knowledge, skills and abilities possessed and inherited by privileged groups in society (Yosso, 2008, p. 76), that all of our students and staff possess. According to Yosso (2008), we need to begin empowering people of color to recognize their cultural capital and use it as a resource to assist in higher achievement. Administrators, teachers, and students of color come with a significant amount of “cultural wealth through at least 6 forms of capital such as aspirational, navigational, social, linguistic, familial, and resistant capital” (Yosso, 2008, p. 77). It is in the best interest of all leaders, whether it is an administrator, teacher, or student, to recognize the extraordinary advantage that cultural wealth can offer to the school and assist individuals in the process of recognizing theses traits. A great leader strengthens the community they are working with by empowering all parties to utilize all traits that they possess. It is time for our leaders to “restructure US social institutions around those knowledges, skills, abilities, and networks” (Yosso, 2008, p. 82) that all individuals possess.

Strong leaders not only empower individuals they work with to explore and utilize their cultural capital, they also make a conscious effort to give a voice to all members of the community. Encouraging individuals to have a voice, leads to innovation, thought provoking conversations, and progress in the school system. If all parts of the community of practice feel as if they are heard, they will continue to discuss important topics and help push towards positive change.

Along with valuing cultural capital and giving all individuals a voice, leaders must also be able to manage uncertainty, especially if they wish to see growth, progress , and innovation within the educational system. Uncertainly is defined as “an individual’s subjective experience of doubting, being unsure, or wondering about how the future will unfold, what the present means, or how to interpret the past” (Jordan & McDaniel, n.d., p. 3). Managing uncertainty is important to problem solving and community building, which makes for a stronger community of practice. Leaders must “generate productive uncertainty when they [encourage others to] problematize disciplinary content and actions” (Jordan et al., n.d., p. 5) in order to assist in the learning and growth process within a community of practice. If there is a high level of confidence in regards to problem solving, a greater number of individuals in the community will attempt to address issues and take positive action steps towards solutions.

If our education system saw an improvement in leadership at the district, school, and classroom levels, we would see a higher level of academic excellence, access, and impact. If we are to improve our education system we must start with the leaders and ensure that they possess the skills required to help all community members reach their maximum potential and continuously strive towards excellence. When leaders are equipped with the skills necessary to empower participants of their community of practice, we will begin to see higher levels of student engagement, encouragement of all individuals to use their cultural knowledge, and more culturally relevant material in the classrooms.



How it Affects us. Expect More Arizona. Retrieved 06, 2014, from

Jordan, M. E. & McDaniel, R. (in press). Managing uncertainty during collaborative problem solving in elementary school teams: The role of peer influence in robotics engineering activity. Journal of the Learning Sciences. doi: 10.1080/10508406.2014.896254

Tuhiwai Smith, L. (1999). Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous peoples. New York: University of Otago Press

Yosso, T. J. (2005). Whose culture has capital? A critical race theory discussion of community and cultural wealth. Race Ethnicity and Education, 1(8), 69­91.

Four Formidable Frames

Bolman, L. G., & Deal, T. E. (1991). Reframing organizations: artistry, choice, and leadership. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.


In Reframing Organizations by Lee Bolman and Terrence Deal (1991), they use four common organizational frames – Human Resource, Political, Symbolic and Structural – to explain how to effectively organize, operate, utilize and change organizations and their work teams. The human resource frame explains how the feelings of individuals, teamwork relations, tailored skills, and work reflection assist an organization and its employees through human interaction and emotional development. The political frame describes the contest, conflict, negotiation, coercion, compromise, and a vie for power within individuals and institutions. The symbolic frame depicts the creativity, cultural, vibrant, social, and ceremonial aspects of leaders within organizations. The structural frame show us that standardization, supervision, hierarchy, stabilized environments, coordination, and organization can be extremely beneficial to the success or demise of an institution.

The frame work concept relies on these four frames to help explain why some businesses fail while others succeed. The same applies for the teams that manage these organizations. Bolman and Deal guide the reader through real world examples pointing out the chinks in many organizations structure. They then use these frames to illustrate how companies can better adapt and promote success in different institutions through using not just one frame independently, but by acting as a multiframe institution where all four frames are being used in many different facets.

At the end of the book, The authors provide a case study analysis of a new principal at ‘Richmond’ high school. They show a dysfunctional school system and decisions that were made over a several year period. Bolman and Deal (1991) then break apart the high school case study and explain how the different frames were used or could be used to assist in developing the high school further.

Validity (Strengths and Critiques):

When it comes to the data, the authors focus mainly on the implications of previous institutions successes and downfalls. Bolman and Deal (1991) use examples from a variety of professional fields from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to Mcdonalds, and from Harvard University to the FEMA response to Hurricane Katrina. The authors rely little on abstract thoughts as they use real world examples to show the use of their organizational frames. The data also does not look at organizations as isolated beings, but as players in the same arena. This allows for a better understanding about the complexities of major business industries and allows for a better application of their ideas into common workplaces. However, it is important to point out that Bolman and Deal seperate the public and private sectors in their analysis as they believe each model interacts and deals with in a different type of organization manor. Bolman and Deal (1991) also acknowledge that specific people can often be the demise or saving grace of an organization to to their mastery or “artistry” of the individual (p.220).

The organization of the book is excellent. There is an introduction to the book and framing concept, a reflection on the information and examples used to support the concept, and then very detailed chapters that provide an in-depth look at each frame and how specific examples have used or not used that particular frame. The authors wrap everything up with a look at multiframe uses, ethics and the influence of external factors on all organization.

I believe that this concept is imperative to the education body of organizational development. Not only were many diverse examples of companies, schools, and businesses used, but the concept works for both the physical institution and employee development. By providing only four frames, it makes it easy to apply the information to personal situations, and provides an easy tool for evaluating a way to restructure organizations.

Personal Use:

This book, Reframing Organizations, is one of the reasons that I decided to focus on organizational structures in higher education. I seem to be able to see the practical application of their information. It was the first time that I saw how there are so many pieces to an organization that require constant attention and maintenance. It helped me to see that the basic hierarchical structure to an organization is not what makes or breaks a company, but the people, the companies ethics, the use of different talents, and the ability to manage in an ever changing environment. These are all factors that I will now have to consider when looking at organizing a growth plan.

I can use the frame concept as a springboard to develop a growth plan for the College of Medicine – Phoenix. The book gives me many different examples of great ways to help a business succeed or adapt, but nothing specific on developing growth models. However, Bolman and Deal  provide all the tools necessary to create a growth model through their examples and structural frames. For example, I can use this notion to show the importance of proper structure and team development. I can research different policies that have been implemented to make sure they are ethical and fully developed. I can also use the frame theory presented in this book to see if the Academic Affairs  and Student Affairs departments at the College of Medicine – Phoenix currently are using all the frames appropriately. If they are not, I can help to build the new frames into a new growth model. If the frames are being implemented correctly, then I can help build upon them and see the continuation of their development.