SOAR Leadership

SOAR invites representatives of all stakeholders into the conversation about an organization’s Strengths, what the organization does well; Opportunities, what are the possibilities, innovations; Aspirations, what gives people purposeful work that reflects what they value.

Jacqueline Stavros
Jacqueline Stavros

An article written by Professor Jacqueline Stavros of LTU’s College of Business and Information Technology has been named a “feature choice” article in the scholarly journal Appreciative Inquiry Practitioner: International Journal of Appreciative Inquiry. The article details Stavros’ SOAR approach to strategic thinking, planning, and leadership at organizations. SOAR stands for strengths, opportunities, aspirations, and results. It is a method of creating strategic plans and strategies through shared conversations, collaboration, and commitment to action by all stakeholders—it engages everyone in an organization along a mutually agreed path. It differs from the traditional SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats), which is typically a topdown approach. SOAR builds on an organization’s strengths and produces greater results than spending time trying to correct weaknesses, Stavros says.

In the article, Stavros chronicles where and how SOAR emerged, and how it is being used all over the world for disruptive change, particularly in the era of COVID-19. Three case studies from SOAR strategic planning exercises are also cited, including one Stavros led on LTU’s campus in the summer of 2019 for the United States Army’s “Team Warren” ground vehicle operations. In August 2020, she did it again with her co-faciltators and codesigners, Toni Benner and Keith Schweizer—this time virtually, with the support of LTU’s eLearning Services department and the videoconferencing application Zoom.

Appreciative Inquiry is an organization development model invented in the 1980s, based on the idea that organizations are created, maintained and changed by conversations, and claiming that methods of organizing were only limited by people’s imaginations and the agreements among them.

Stavros is one of the field’s leading practitioners, and the co-author of several books on the topic, “Conversations Worth Having: Using Appreciative Inquiry to Fuel Productive and Meaningful Engagement,” and “The Thin Book of SOAR: Creating Strategy that Inspires Innovation and Engagement.”