Authors: Leslie Ann Fox and Katharine Gratwick Baker
Publishers: Care Communications Press
ISBN 978-0-9820512-3-8

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Leslie Ann Fox, MA, RHIA [Registered Health Information Management Association], FAHIMA [Fellow of American Health Information Management Association], is co-founder and CEO of Care Communications, Inc.. (2009, p.269) Ms. Fox teaches the Bowen Theory to post-graduate students at the Center for Family Consultation in Evanston, IL., as well as, organizations across the country.  She pens a regular column for Advance for Health Care Professionals. Some of her business application articles have been highlighted in other industry magazines and she has contributed a chapter to one other book titled Triangles: A Bowen Family Systems Perspective.

Katharine Gatwick Baker, MA, Ph.D., LICSW has contributed to numerous books and articles on a broad range of topics. (2009, 269-70) She has previously been an executive coach, strategic planner, and speaker for leadership seminars on organizational learning and time management. Ms. Baker currently consults for a firm in western Massachusetts where she also serves on several boards. For more information about both ladies please visit their web site:

Leading a Business in Anxious Times marries the Bowen Theory to Systems Theory. (2009, p.11) The term “reciprocity in leadership” was introduced in Chapter 1 meaning the exchange of information between leaders and followers. (p.15) Systems Theory hinges on the interconnectedness of an organization as a whole. The Bowen Theory invites us to see the emotional side of an organization. So the “reciprocity of leadership” would tie the emotional side of business to how it operates as a whole. Systems thinking shows how each departments input/output affects the outcome/productivity/bottom line for the entire organization, but taking time to understand the emotional side of business interactions can also lead to enhanced operation on all levels.

The general idea behind the information in this book is to teach business associates (both leaders and followers) how to better collaborate and build upon their strengths in order to maximize opportunities while minimizing their weaknesses to lessen threats. Doing so requires a certain level of emotional intelligence, as well as, honesty and flexibility by all parties involved. The authors say that [paraphrase] businesses who survive in these tumultuous times are those that continue to “reinvent themselves” and stay flexible. (2009, p.17) And that “Great groups and great leaders create each other..”.

For some businesses to reap the rewards of this information they will need to engage in “new ways of thinking, observing, and acting..”. (2009, p.18) Leaders must take the first step in this process by taking an honest assessment of their own abilities and shortfalls. (p.19) The authors use the term “anxiety” synonymously with concern in the business sense. (p.23) When leaders or followers are anxious they react instead of acting which in turn creates conflict, both on a personal and organizational level. Reacting is usually done before the people have all of the facts to make decisions on which course of action is best in any given situation. Reacting is usually an emotional action or reaction. Managing anxiety/stress/conflict/emotions can lead to increased productivity and performance, at the personal and professional level.  

For leaders to effectively manage anxiety/stress/conflict they must become aware of their emotions/thoughts/feelings, develop good listening skills, and always ask probing questions. Being collaborative/inclusive and flexible allows leaders to react to subtle changes in the organizational environment such that they are able to achieve their organizational goals. (2009, p.38, 67) Fox and Baker write about “triangles” that develop in organizations when conflict/anxiety exists. Triangles amplify anxiety and magnify the stress or conflict level in the entire organization which leads to a decrease in performance. The authors present tips on how to de-triangle your organization to lessen anxiety/stress and conflict and improve operational effectiveness. (p.39-55)

Fox and Baker (2009, 69) say that [paraphrase] stable organizations are less anxious and more flexible. Leaders in a systems based environment have struck a balance between their individuality and togetherness of their peers within the company. (p.83) Obviously some people are better equipped to manage this approach than others and the authors call this “differentiation”. (p.107) Differentiation is the emotional baggage that each person holds over from family/life experiences and translates into their organizational environment and interaction with co-workers. As people age their emotional intelligence level usually increases, but this increase can also be achieved at younger ages with the right mix of executive coaching and motivation for personal change.

These authors have spun two previously separate theories, at least in the business environment, together in a cohesive fabric that helps people and organizations understand how family/sibling relationships merge into our work relationships and how those interactions relate to productivity and job satisfaction. It is jam-packed with stories/examples of other organizations who have suffered some of their highlighted pitfalls and emerged to be productive, effective, and more profitable organizations in the end.

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