Session 3 B

Elevating Leadership: How Ombuds Can Improve Organizations through Developing Leaders

Time: Tuesday 10:15 AM – 11:25 AM

Presenter(s): Caroline Adams, University Ombudsman, University of California, Santa Barbara; Caitlan Hendrickson,  – Learn more about these presenters by visiting the presenter page.

Level: Intermediate


Ombuds are in a unique position to provide a valuable and impactful service in their organizations by working to help leaders reach their potential. Individuals of all types use the services of the ombuds office. Often the ombuds office is seen as a place only for those who have little influence in our institutions, the voiceless and invisible. We can be equally useful for individuals with broader responsibilities, and may actually have greater influence on the overall culture and health of the institution in this capacity. Ombuds are sometimes referred to as the “moral compass” of an organization. Through upward feedback, ombuds provide data for leaders to inform their decision-making. Ombuds can capitalize more fully on this role by helping leaders build the capacity for greater strategic visioning and better decision-making. In this way, ombuds act somewhat like an internal executive coach. This has great value for the institution, providing a more affordable option for executive coaching while taking advantage of the organizational knowledge of the ombuds. It also can elevate the perceived value and importance of the ombuds office, providing increased security for the office. Most importantly, ombuds can help leaders become more caring, ethical, perceptive, and effective. By reaching leadership, ombuds can multiply their positive effect on the institution. In order to develop leaders, we need to understand different leadership philosophies and leadership skills. Social science is constantly developing in this area, and providing more exciting prospects for leadership potential. By gaining an understanding of the possibilities, ombuds can help leaders reach a new height. This session will provide an overview of research and theory on levels of leadership, including the work of Torbert, Cook-Greuter, and others. Participants will learn how to classify leaders in their organizations and how to identify certain blind spots to nurture leaders’ advancement. Finally, participants will be called upon to discuss the application and implementation of coaching leaders specific to the ombuds role. We will discuss any implications of this work to the standards of practice and any potential pitfalls. We will also discuss engaging with partners in the organization and the potential opportunities of this work.

Learning Objectives

  1. Understand the impact that ombuds can have on individuals and organizations through applying leadership theory, and understand the importance of knowledge of leadership when coaching leaders.
  2. Learn about leadership theory and recent developments.
  3. Learn how to apply the theory in the specific context of ombuds work, to gain awareness of potential pitfalls, partners, and opportunities.
Return to Conference Schedule