Monday, August 17, 2015

Self-Action Leadership Model: A Construction Metaphor

I have always been fascinated by construction. When I was growing up, my Dad was, among many other things, a general contractor. From ages three to seven, I was the ultimate “Daddy’s Boy,” and eagerly followed Dad around wherever he went, especially when our excursions involved trucks, heavy equipment, power tools, lumber, and concrete or mortar. My interest in construction principles and processes remains alive and well to this day.

Beautiful Houston, TX skyline
I have also always been enamored with skyscrapers and big-city skylines. Growing up in a rural community in the middle of the sparsely inhabited mountainous deserts of the Four Corners area of the United States, skyscrapers were nowhere to be found (unless you consider mammoth rock formations to be skyscrapers). Perhaps this geographic isolation fueled my fervor to eventually visit these elusive cityscapes—an ambition I have vigorously pursued.

Over the years, I have had the extraordinary opportunity to visit nearly every major metropolitan area in the United States, Canada, and Great Britain. From the matchless dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London to the cavernous crevices of Lower and Midtown Manhattan; from the unique urban spreads of Chicago and Toronto to the endless beach towers of Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach Counties; from the spectacular Southern skylines of Atlanta, Dallas, and Houston, to the breathtaking West Coast construction of L.A., San Francisco, Seattle, and Vancouver, I have been continually entranced with and inspired by these magnificent urban centers. I have also been privileged to speak and teach in many of these cities, including inside some of their skyscrapers. Along my many journeys all over the English-speaking world, I have marveled at the architectural achievements of the Occident, and the ambition, courage, innovation, prosperity, and greatness they represent.

Bank of
America Plaza

Atlanta, GA
This lifelong interest in construction and skyscrapers led me to design the SAL model using a skyscraper construction metaphor. While I admire many of the buildings I have had the chance to see or visit, my all-time favorite is the Bank of America tower in downtown Atlanta, Georgia. I therefore asked my graphic artist to design the SAL Model’s image to resemble this paragon of Peachtree Street.

Just as there are certain laws, principles, and practices of engineering and architecture that apply to the sound construction of physical structures, there are likewise certain Universal Laws, True Principles, and sound practices that govern successful long-term living.

Over 100 years ago, the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow taught us that we are “all are architects of Fate.” Self-Action Leadership provides you with the incredible opportunity to both design and construct your own life. What could be more exciting and engaging than developing and directing your own destiny?


The purpose of the SAL Model is to organize disciplines and create habits that empower the successful undertaking of Self-Action Research, or SAR. Self-Action Research is, simply stated, action research applied to the self. Action Research (AR) is a four-step cyclical process of successfully identifying and strategically solving organizational problems. AR involves “four core processes.” [1]

Process 1: Planning:  Deciding how to deal with a problem

Process 2: Acting:  Implementing your plan

Process 3: Reflecting: Paying attention and recording what is happening

Process 4: Observing: Analyzing outcomes and revising plans for another cycle of acting [2]

Self-Action Research, therefore, is action research applied by, to, and for the self to gain self-awareness, aid self-improvement, solve personal problems, and earn Existential Growth.

The purpose of Self-Action Research is to strategically apply SAL principles in an effort to achieve specific, targeted objectives related to your own personal development. In this sense, life itself is, or ought to be, one, grand SAR project filled with many smaller SAR initiatives aimed at earning Existential Growth. [3]

The SAL Model incorporates the “four core processes” of action research by providing four analogous steps to take, or habits to develop, to earn Existential Growth. In addition to these four umbrella stages or habits, 21 sub-steps are also presented.

Image of the four stages of construction (and their 21 sub-steps) and the four processes of SAL (and their 21 sub-disciplines) can be viewed below, respectively.


The 4 Stages of Constructing a Skyscraper

[1] Kuhne, G. W., & Quigley, B. A. (1997). Understanding and Using Action Research in Practice Settings. In A. B. Quigley & G. W. Kuhne (Eds.), Creating Practical Knowledge Through Action Research: Posing problems, Solving Problems, and Improving Daily Practice (Vol. 73, pp. 23-40). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. Page 25.
[2] Ibid.
[3] An outstanding example of a venerable self-action leader who dedicated his life to Self-Action Research is Mohandas Gandhi. He wrote about his many SAR projects, or his “Experiments with Truth,” in an autobiography—a book I highly recommend to all self-action leaders.

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