Frames generate scripts, or scenarios, to guide action in high-stakes circumstance.
(Bolman & Deal, 2017, p. 323)
The four frames are really preferences. We are capable of operating in all four frames. I may be more comfortable in the structural frame compared to the human resources frame, however, I am capable of doing both. It is figuring out when I may need to step out of my comfort zone and implement a new frame. Then when I determined that I cannot stick a square peg in a round hole, am I equipped to actually use the intended frame?
It is clear to be a successful leader, one has to be adept at shifting between and using all four frames. Even operating in only two of the frames is not sufficient. Each of the frames has advantages and disadvantages. The same frame cannot be used at all times for all situations. It is just not feasible.
One may be able to use their top two for a bit, but at some point, it will be critical to tap into your third or fourth. This is more draining. It takes more energy and effort. It requires conscious attention.
Your top two frames can happen almost subconsciously. You naturally slip into those modes. But to use the other two frames, there is more work that needs to be done.
Practice, practice, practice.
We can only make this happen if we take the time to reflect on our situations, decisions, and actions. There has to be a recognition that mistakes will be made. We have to take into account multiple perspectives. Our own lens is clouded by our salient identities and life experiences. We are better served to take a moment to think beyond our initial thought. A deep breath before responding or reacting. A slight pause to collect one’s thoughts and ideas. You do not make a better decision by responding first.
As leadership theory continues to shift towards transformational, relational, and collective models, the capacity to move among the four frames becomes more critical. But perhaps even more importantly is self-efficacy. This is where practice comes in. The more opportunities one has to practice, the more comfortable one will be in moving from frame to frame. Many times people have the capacity but lack the self-efficacy.
Even more so, as highlighted by Bolman and Deal, there are differences in culture and genders when it comes to leadership. As the world becomes more accessible to all, it is imperative for leaders to take on greater perspective taking.
Though not highlighted by Bolman and Deal, there is significant literature around differences between gender and race/ethnicity when it comes to leadership development in college-aged students. The Multi-Institutional Leadership Study has been conducted since 2009 and has produced numerous articles as to how students differ on the Seven C’s associated with the Social Change Model of Leadership Development. Granted the SCM is only one leadership model and is specific to college-aged students, it does provide evidence that leadership development cannot be approached the same way for all people. There is a nuance to what depths and breadths of experience and opportunities may be more beneficial to students based on their identity.
Therefore, if one is looking to change an organization, rushing in, moving, and changing things, people, structures, symbols is detrimental to the longterm prospect of success. Just because something worked somewhere else does not mean it will work here. Cultures are different. The successes and problems are different. The people are different. What is significant is different. The structures are different.
As UNF finds itself in the midst of a presidential transition, things will likely change. The Board of Trustees provides the vision and the President is asked to make sure it comes to fruition. The President may have discretion as to how the vision is achieved and therefore sets priorities based on their ideas with ample input from other constituents including students, faculty, staff, alumni, donors, and community members. But anytime change occurs, each frame will experience difficulties. With practice and experience, we can shift our frame to another perspective. If we understand the script we are most comfortable with, but also read the scripts for those other frames, we are more likely to be successful in changing tides.