Salisbury University Evolution of Leadership Theory Discussion

     The Women’s Agency of Salisbury offered a full range of services to women including counseling, educational interventions, and career development programs.  Services were offered by a combination of professionals, paraprofessionals, and volunteers with important self-help and peer counseling components of most programs.

     The one agency program that depended solely on professional service deliverers was the health center; located in a separate building but overseen by the same board of directors and administration. The health center dealt with a variety of women’s health needs and offered family planning and first-trimester abortions. Although the medical services were provided by physicians and nurse practitioners, all counseling was provided by women with degrees in social work, psychology, or counseling.

     For the abortion clinic, the approach worked very well. Each woman who came in for an abortion procedure talked first with a counselor who took a medical history, answered any questions about the procedure, and explored the woman’s readiness for taking this step. The process of exploration sometimes led women to reconsider their options. Certainly, the decision-making process was enhanced.

     The program was placed in jeopardy when severe and unexpected cutbacks in funding for the total agency took place. There was no consideration of eliminating the abortion clinic itself. The cutbacks, however, were to affect the counseling aspect of the program. By cutting the number of professional counselors from nine to three, enough money could be saved that the number of women served could remain constant. The agency’s administrator also chose to limit the intake counseling interviews to twenty minutes each. In that time, the necessary medical information could be obtained and information about the procedure given.

     The reaction to the cutback was immediate and strong. All of the professionals associated with the abortion clinic recognized that the suggested change in staffing patterns would be devastating, not just for the women losing their jobs but for the organization itself.

     From the clients’ viewpoint, the problem involved the fact that they would be deprived of the opportunity to consider their decisions with assistance from skilled helpers. Although they would have factual information, the psychosocial dimensions of the process would not be explored and some of them might regret their decisions, which could have lasting negative effects.

     The change also seemed serious in terms of the well being of the professionals still offering service. No longer would they have the opportunity and time to provide empathy and help to people in crisis. Instead, they would be spending their time with person after person, giving and getting information in an assembly-line approach. They would not be able to stay with patients through the medical procedure or provide emotional support later. Instead, they would remain in their offices, maintain business as usual, and probably burn out in a short period of time.

Reflection Questions:

Using the Hoefer material covered in this course and your own experiences in organizations, respond briefly to each of the following items.

Given the reality that the agency had to survive with fewer resources, what two or three other options could have been implemented in response to the financial cutbacks and what would have been the pros and cons of each option?

What two or three leadership actions might have been appropriate to guide the organization through this financial crisis?

What organizational change tactics could have been used to better decide on and implement the preferred financial adjustments in terms of effects on female service recipients and effects on staff?  

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