The Leadership Perspective

With the central importance of maintaining the Management Perspective in mind, let’s shift our attention to point “0” within the Helping Triangle. At this position, there are a myriad of web-like connecting lines going out in all directions. We are focusing here only on the six lines within the local Helping Triangle, starting with the connection between points “0” and “A” between point “0” and potential clients.

At a minimum, this connection passes along to potential clients information about the agency and its services. It also passes along information from potential clients about their needs and interests that may be served by the agency. The connection influences potential clients to access agency services and influences the agency to adjust its services to better fit with the needs and interests of potential clients. The 0-A connection does much more but the simple point here is the connection is definitely necessary. The agency cannot succeed without it.

There are two questions to ask and answer for this and each of the other connections with point “0.” If the connection is successful, what will the outcome be? We have to know why we need the connection and how we know when it is working. If the connection is not successful, what will the outcome be? We have to know the potential effect and cost of not establishing and maintaining the connection. For the 0-A connection, not having it would likely mean the agency would not have any clients in the future; and without clients…. I’m sure you can fill in the missing details here. Clearly, not having the 0-A connection is unacceptable.

Turning focus to the 0-1 connection point “0” with the Initiators it is important to understand initiation is not a one-time activity. Although the First Mover may or may not continue his or her activities within the Helping Triangle, the Initiators stay at least available even if not continuously active. The 0-1 connection keeps the Initiators current with agency activities, plans, resource requirements, and effectiveness with clients. Moreover, the connection keeps the agency current with the views and interests of the Initiators and their constituents. We can likely think of other tasks only accomplished through this connection; but the key point here is careful and continuing attention to the 0-1 connection is essential for long-term agency success. To neglect it is to risk not having capacity external to the agency to initiate renewed support from the authorizing entity and additional support from other authorizing entities. …

Leadership Without Management | Management Without Leadership

It is tempting to think we have to choose between the Management Perspective and the Leadership Perspective. An agency should have one or the other but not both. The easy conclusion is it should have the Leadership Perspective. Leadership certainly has more pizzazz than Management. Given the choice between being a leader and being a Manager, most people choose being a leader every time.

This is the problem with such a simplistic view. Although having the Leadership Perspective is important, so is having the Management Perspective. An agency cannot function adequately and certainly cannot excel without highly competent Management. As pointed out in Chapter One, some type of regulatory mechanism is required to transfer and account for the expenditure of the financial and other resources. This requires people who do the fiscal work of the agency. There is
a governing mechanism maintaining the agency’s connection with the authorizing entity. This requires people who manage this connection. There is a
management mechanism to develop and oversee local policies and implementing procedures for day-to-day operations. This requires people who develop, implement, and oversee those policies and procedures. There are qualified
staff and appropriate facilities to do the work of the agency and to deliver the supports and services for which the agency exists. This requires people to manage these personnel and operations functions. There are
mechanisms in place through which the agency reports to the authorizing entity, maintains accountability, and provides other required data and information. This requires people who assure the systems and processes are in place to accomplish these tasks. …

The Leadership Perspective

Understanding the Leadership Perspective starts with re-focusing on the Helping Triangle, as shown in Figure 2A. There is point “A” Potential Clients, point “B” The
Authorizers, and point “C” the agency. As we consider the Helping Triangle as seen in Figure 2-A, we see the focal point is at the center of the triangle at point “0”. It is not at any of the three corners or on any of the three sides.


As Figure 2B illustrates, draw a straight line from point “A” passing through point “0” to the mid point of the line connecting “B” and “C”.


Next, as Figure 2C shows, Draw a straight line from point “B” passing through point “0” to the mid point of the line connecting “A” and “C”.


Now, as Figure 2D shows, draw a straight line from point “C” passing through point “0” to the mid point of the line connecting “A” and “B”.


Finally, as Figure 2E shows, label the mid point between “A” and “B” as “1”, the mid point between “B” and “C” as “2”, and the mid point between “A” and “C” as “3”.


As we go clockwise around the outside edge of the Expanded Helping Triangle as seen in Figure 2E, we have “A”, “1”, “B”, “2”, “C”, “3”, and back to “A”. “0”is inside the Helping Triangle where the internal lines cross.

Imagine we are at point “0” inside the Triangle as shown in Figure 2E. There are six lines radiating out from our location at point “0”. They connect us to potential clients and the First Mover “A”, the Initiators “1”, the Authorizers “B”, the Implementers “2”, the agency “C”,to the Providers “3”. – I refer to the Helping Triangle as illustrated in Figure 2E as the Local Helping Triangle.


Now recall the analogy of the eco system. There are numerous other organisms – other agencies, organizations, individuals, and entities outside the local Helping Triangle and many of them have local Helping Triangles of their own. From our position at point “0” we also connect with many of those outside organisms. Conceptually, draw a connecting line between point “0” and each external individual or entity potentially affecting or affected by what happens within the local Helping Triangle. The result is a spider web like figure with multiple dimensions. “Human services is not a single services delivery system but a complex web of helping agencies and organizations whose primary goal is to assist people in need.” Woodside & McClam, 2009, page 15 We are located at point “0” within the figure, at the center of the complex web of helping agencies and other important stakeholders. From there, we have what I call the Leadership Perspective. – I reference the multidimensional Helping Triangle with its web of connections as the Expanded Helping Triangle or simply as The Helping Triangle.

The Management Perspective

Traditionally, we understand management as a set of functions along the right side of the Helping Triangle. The agency Board functions as the bridge between the agency and the authorizing entity or more typically, the Board and its CEO share this function. In turn, the CEO is responsible for the agency’s internal structure and connects the agency with the Board and authorizing entity. Within the agency, the CEO is in charge of and accountable for all internal activities and functions. He or she may delegate most of those functions and activities to subordinate staff members; but the CEO is the internal governing authority.

Let me clarify three terms I use in this and later chapters. The terms are accountability, responsibility, and authority. All accountability, responsibility, and authority within a human services agency are vested in the agency Board. The Board is accountable to the Authorizers. This means the Board is answerable to the Authorizers for whatever the agency does or does not do. The Board is obligated to do that for which it has been authorized and to refrain from any actions or activities for which it has not been authorized or that violate law or other generally accepted conventions for human services agencies. Its accountability is explicit or at least implicit in its agreements with its Authorizers. It is accountable. “Accountability refers to the obligation that is created when a person accepts duties and responsibilities from higher management. The delegate is responsible to the next higher level to carry them out effectively. Accountability flows upward in an organization.” Mosley, Megginson, & Pietri, 2007, page 128

Responsibilities are that for which the Board is accountable. They are the tasks and associated outcomes reasonably expected of the agency. The job of the agency is to…. The tasks and activities completing the statement are the Board’s responsibilities. Authority is, then, the right or ability to access resources, organize and manage the agency eco system, and to take whatever additional, reasonable actions necessary to carry out the Board’s responsibilities. We discuss these concepts later in relation to delegation and policy development; but suffice it to say accountability, responsibility, and authority collectively represent the auspices delegated to the Board by the Authorizers. – Note human services agencies typically have multiple Authorizers to which they are accountable, including the primary authorizing entity as well as governmental, oversight, and regulatory entities. …

Outcome Drift

How can we better understand Outcome Drift?

On the surface, the Helping Triangle suggests a static model where the elements remain constant over time. Were this the case, containing outcome drift would be a very complex but less daunting process than it actually is. The reality is the elements of the model are not static and the interaction among the elements is also not static. They are, in fact, dynamic and more or less unstable.

If we focus on potential clients, at least two factors change over time. First, the coping difficulties potential clients are experiencing change. Their circumstances and situations change as does their ability to adequately cope. This combined change leads to minor to significant change in the problems needing supports and services. Additionally, the specific people in the potential client group change over time. This adds to the dynamic nature of the issues needing attention. The people being helped today are not the same people who will need help tomorrow. What they need today is not quite the same as what they will need tomorrow. Services appearing to be a good fit today may fit less well tomorrow. …

Agency Creation: Iteration Two

In Iteration One, we saw human services agencies are the end product of a complex process, starting with the action of the First Mover who sees people potential clients experiencing difficulty coping with their day-to-day circumstances. The First Mover recruits the Initiators who pursue auspices and associated resources through the Authorizers. The Implementers then develop the elements needed to create a human services agency where appropriate supports and services are available to the people who need them. The Providers then encourage use of the services by appropriate clients. If all goes well, potential clients are reclassified as clients, service provision proceeds, and the Helping Triangle is closed.

The First Mover and the potential client are at point “A” on the Helping Triangle. If developing a human services agency were not the preferred outcome, the First Mover could simply talk with the potential client and then do something they both thought might help. Instead, the First Mover turns away to enlist the assistance of the Initiators shown along the left side of the triangle. Even if potential clients participate in the Initiator group, and they frequently do not, there is a serious, potential misfit between the person/problem and the problem/solution. …

Pause to consider: Create a Human Services Agency

As an exercise, develop a brief sketch showing the key elements of the Helping Triangle you might use to create a human services agency. For this exercise, answer the questions below, limiting your answer to each question to a paragraph. Here, a brief sketch will suffice.

What is the name of Your-New-Agency?

Who are the Potential Clients for Your-New-Agency; why do they need human services?

Who will you recruit to join you as Initiators for Your-New-Agency; who will help you get and keep authorization for the agency and why do you think they will help?

What entity will be Your-New-Agency’s primary Authorizer; what entity or organization do you expect to provide primary authorization, auspices, and resources for the creation and operation of the agency and why do you think it will support your initiative?

Who will be the Implementers for Your-New-Agency; which people and organizations will be actively involved in the implementation phase following authorization?

Once Your-New-Agency is opened, who will be the Providers; who will deliver the agency’s services and what other personnel resources will be needed to operate the agency?

How will you assure Your-New-Agency successfully connects with Potential Clients; what strategies will you use to make sure the people needing help actually receive the help they need?

Bonus: Management Excellence

All management is based on guiding principles; and the effectiveness of management derives from those principles. This is true whether the principles are appropriate or inappropriate, reasonable or unreasonable, consistent or inconsistent. Similarly, the derivative nature of management holds whether the guiding principles are vague or well-defined, followed faithfully or haphazardly, applied day-to-day by managers who are highly skilled or fundamentally incompetent. Effective management, then, is a product of:


  • Guiding principles that are appropriate, reasonable, and consistent;


  • Managers who clearly understand the guiding principles, faithfully adhere to them, and who are fundamentally competent.


It follows from this that the effectiveness of an organization’s management is a product of the Principle/People equation:


  • Principles + People = Outcomes. …

Agency Creation: Iteration One

As a project transforms from an ad hoc initiative by a concerned group of people to a mature human services agency, there are many points at which things can and often do go astray. These range from the relatively minor and inconsequential to points where the process shifts significantly off the intended track. What the Initiators intend is only more or less realized. At times, the result has little but a vague relationship to the original intent. Let’s explore the creation process for human services agencies and see how things go right and how they go wrong. …

The Helping Triangle

The Helping Triangle developed in this chapter is what
Legerton and Castelloe 1999 call an organic model, “…one developed primarily through active participation in social life e.g., primarily through practice rather than independence from social life e.g., primarily through academic reflection.”  In the Introduction, we saw how people helping people represents human services at their most basic level. You see someone in distress and decide to do what you can to help. Perhaps you recruit a few of your friends to pitch in and help too. Usually this ad hoc human services provision works fine and you and your friends move on with your lives. Sometimes though, this generous level of help is insufficient. There are more people needing help than you and your friends can manage, you have other priorities, you do not have the resources needed to provide the help people need. Instead of just walking away, you decide to create a human services agency with sufficient resources to provide the needed help on an ongoing basis. Help will be there for the people who need it, when they need it, for as long as they need it.

Perhaps this does not seem like anything you will do or can do. If asked If not you, then who? You answer They will. This clearly puts you with the majority. Most people do not notice the distress of others and most of those who do simply walk away. The good news is a few people do notice and a few of those who notice choose not to walk away. If you are among those who choose not to walk away, understanding the Helping Triangle as explained in the iterations below and in later chapters enables you to create a human services agency that can and will provide the help the people in distress need. The model is a product of many years of trial and error; it is an organic model known to work in real world situations. It will not help you decide if you will stick around and help; but if you do, understanding the Helping Triangle makes it likely you can do what needs done. With this assurance in mind, let’s consider how human services agencies are created. For alternative perspectives and approaches, see Brueggemann, 2006 and Netting, Kettner, & McMurtry, 2008. These authors focus on macro social work which is generally inclusive of the concepts and processes incorporated into this organic model. Additionally, Fauri, Wernet, & Netting, 2008, provide a thoughtful collection of case examples highlighting macro practice within a variety of situations and contexts.

How Do Human Services Agencies Develop?

Even though a group forms with the intention of providing supports and services for people experiencing a defined cluster of problems or issues, a human services agency likely will not develop For most service provision, an agency is neither appropriate nor needed. We can think of this basic delivery strategy as ad hoc service provision. This may happen somewhat spontaneously when a few concerned people see an individual or family is experiencing difficulty and struggling to manage. Everyone just pitches in and helps, contributing whatever resources and expertise they can bring to the specific circumstances. …

What Are Human Services Agencies…?

As we saw for human services themselves, there is not unanimity about exactly what a human services agency is. There is consensus about the basics such as its being an organization providing human services for an identified group of people and about its providing those services at no cost or at least an affordable cost to the recipients. “Most human services agencies are entirely or partially funded through grants from local, state, or federal government. Many others are private nonprofit groups often sponsored by religious denominations that raise money from fees, public appeals, and from philanthropic foundations. A smaller but fast growing type of agency is the private profit making one.” (Mandell & Schram, 2003, page 11) Our focus here is on the first two but not the third. We are interested in government or nonprofit funded human services agencies. The agency services may be provided by paid staff or volunteers, may include material items such as food and clothing, may include professional services such as medical or legal, may include resources such as housing or transportation, and may range from help with completing tax forms to child care, from a furniture bank to after school tutoring, from counseling to summer recreation. If the organization provides accessible services, resources, and opportunities to people who would otherwise not have access to them, it qualifies in the present context as a human services agency. A human services agency enables the delivery of human services, regardless of its governmental or non-governmental status, the specific services being provided not withstanding. The same holds for its particular affiliation or source of support. …

What Are Human Services?

“It would be helpful to provide an official or generally accepted definition, but there is no such thing.” (Burger & Youkeles, 2008, page 8) Defining human services is not simple. The term has evolved over many years and has no specific meaning on which everyone would agree. In general though, services are things some people do to help other people. It is no more complicated than that. If you do something to help me, you are providing a service. The question is then, What is a human service? …